The final month is a time for reflection. December often makes me pensive, as I ponder how much can change in one calendar year, and what surprises a new year will bring. While there’s a jolting awareness that ‘12 months’ passes so quickly, it’s also surreal to realize that forgotten events from January or February indeed happened in ‘this’ year.
I’m grateful for everyone who kept up with my journey this year, either in person or by reading this site. Your attention has been more of a gift than I could ask from most of you, but if anyone happens to know Santa Claus, please send these requests:
3 Things from “Life”
1. A way to instill a love for reading in the rising generation. This year I’ve probably spoken to more people under the age of 12 than I had since I was in middle school. Most conversations happened while volunteering in literacy programs, where it was disheartening to discover how few kids actually enjoy reading. Books have enhanced my life in manifold ways, and I thought I’d be able to inspire that passion in children I worked with. Perhaps it’s too early to tell or perhaps my expectations were naive, or perhaps video games are too gosh darn addicting. Regardless I consider this a challenging (but important) problem worth solving.
2. A cure for blindness. In January I could not name a single blind person as an acquaintance; now there are many I consider friends. Serving the blind has been one of the most powerful experiences of my life. Paradoxically I feel they have given me so much — because few things in life are better than gratitude. Every day I walk home grateful for the simple gift of sight. I’m more aware of the role that vision plays in life’s joys — including traveling, dancing, romancing, or even just imagining things that are said. I’ve been awed by how my friends pursue these things without sight, but really wish I could offer them the gift of it, somehow.
3. American gun control that mirrors other enlightened nations. This year too many lives have been innocently and senselessly taken by guns. I recognize it’s a complex issue, and there are people I respect on both sides of the debate. But it’s my wish list, so there.
3 Things from “The Market”
1. Initial Public Offerings. Uber and Lyft finally decided to IPO in 2019, after a dozen years of “unicorn” status. I wish it were AirBNB (or GRAB) instead.
2. Societal perspective on ‘Big Tech.’ This year included lots of backlash against companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google. In Facebook’s case much of it is deserved. But in general, too many media and political resources have been wasted calling for these companies to change, or meet unscalable demands.
Instead of asking these companies to solve all the world’s problems because they’re wealthy, or pretending they haven’t already “won” their respective winner-take-all niches, society would be better served to recognize them as important platforms that create new economic opportunities, which are increasingly vital to our collective future.
I think the general populace overlooks how much opportunity these platforms create, and how much better things are than they used to be. YouTube enables artists to make money without traditional gatekeepers like record labels or radio stations. An aspiring clothing designer can earn money selling on Instagram without the investment (or uncertainty) that fashion school would require. Anyone can launch a product and reach its intended audience (however niche) via Facebook or Google advertising, without having to pay significantly more money for a national TV or newspaper campaign. And my favorite example is how someone used Amazon to self-publish a novel that became a major Hollywood film.
Success stories would be more common and commonly known if media and government better understood these platforms. But judging by 2018’s congressional hearings don’t hold your breath for this anytime soon.
3. An end to the trade war with China. This is not just because I have exposure to Chinese stocks. The trade war is bad for both countries and bad for the globe. To varying extents we are always pawns in larger political games, but if this one continues on its current trajectory, people may experience suffering of greater magnitude than a pullback in stocks.
Speaking of stocks, I’ll be back in January with a post on how the recommendations I’ve written about have fared over a full year. Until then, have a blessed Christmas and please consider who the day is about.
— Dec. 18, 2018