Weekly Review Issue no. 6
On feeling more happy and alive, misunderstanding fear and anxiety and focusing on what you want to see more of
Hello! Welcome to 2023, and the first Weekly Review from me. As ever, I hope you’ll find one thing that makes an impression and stimulates you. If you enjoy this newsletter and think someone else might enjoy it, please feel free to share online or send to someone you think will also enjoy it. I think it’s important that we all have multiple nodes of connection with different perspectives to the issues we face today, and multiple sources of inspiration. I hope this is a reliable source of both.
This week for me
My first week back to work after a few weeks off for Christmas and Hogmanay. I ended up with norovirus which really took the joy out of seeing out the year in a pleasant way, but on reflection it felt really quite symbolic to violently purge what was a very difficult and challenging year for me. I had enough of 2022. Bring on 2023!
I’m taking my time on taking up all the expected energy that a New Year offers. My Year Compass is completed, but I don’t feel the need to rush into starting any of my resolutions: we are still in the depths of winter, and somewhere between the Solstice and Imbolc. My hair and beard are at their longest they’ve been in years and I am taking deep nourishment from being slow and restful (despite the best efforts of my nearly-2-year old daughter).
Research on the edges
It is not only the large tech players who have failed to deliver impact at scale in healthcare. Newer healthtech entrants—who collectively received more than $40B in venture funding in 2021 alone to fuel their respective efforts to “fix” healthcare—have also struggled to make their mark. And while their approaches are different to the tech giants’, the underlying reason for their lack of traction is the same: they are unwilling to deal with the complexity of the healthcare system on the whole.
The outcome of this is a dizzying, disjointed solution space that puts the onus on patients to navigate hundreds of disparate apps, logins, and systems for each specific care need. Not only is this an untenable patient experience, it is also making healthcare’s fragmentation even worse.
This is a good overview of the problems those of us who work in healthcare/tech face. You’re either too big and have wrong incentives or too small and unable to meaningfully eat away at the problem. What to do…
When it comes to these questions, we do not see the “what” as the limiting factor in global health. We have cutting-edge technical interventions and innovations, we have the deep technical skills, we have the aspirations and motivation. Rather, it is the “how”. In particular, how do we collaborate to problem solve in ways that can have more equitable and transformational impact? We believe some of the answers to these questions are in how we complement the existing, deep technical expertise among those working in global health with the capabilities to also work effectively in the context of high complexity and constant change.
This means cultivating new capabilities to actively engage with the multiple dimensions and interconnections that define the polycrisis in which we now live and work. It means moving beyond linear thinking and solutions, and instead practicing complexity thinking: a mode of problem-solving that can enable us to collectively consider and work with multidimensional interactions among people, places, policies and processes within and across systems.
Well, this acts as a good counterpoint to the problems above: recognising the dependencies and understanding enmeshed problems of complex systems gives us a chance to actually work on the problems that matter, and give us a good chance of moving the needle.
One day I’ll be gone, my body consigned to the earth or turned to ash. Sooner or later I’ll be forgotten. Truly accepting that revivifies life. It doesn’t make every moment wonderful, but knowing I will die is a source of strength to endure the difficulties, and a spur to be more present for all that is good and precious in life.
A good short reflection by Monica Ali on reframing death as not a source of fear, but a source of inspiration and motivation.
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If this is the age of anxiety, LeDoux is our Lewis and our Clark: It was LeDoux who laid down the first map of what is called the brain’s “fear circuit,” the regions — centered on the amygdala and its adjacent structures — that together give rise to our ability to respond to threats and danger. But with his new book, he wants to redraw that map. After years of scientific research (and two previous books), LeDoux is convinced that, in part owing to his own work, a pervasive misconception has spread through neuroscience and trickled down to popular understanding of science, leading astray our understanding of fear and anxiety: These days, most people think that the fear circuit gives rise directly to the emotions of fear and anxiety. LeDoux is convinced it doesn’t — and that this distinction matters a great deal.
This feels like another one of those, the more we learn, the less we know-type things. I do find it useful to appreciate that our scientific understanding of the fundamentals is constantly in flux and that there are no fixed points of knowledge on how our minds work. Again, on the recognition of the complexity of human consciousness, there’s just too much going on to feel that one thing will explain it. Science is another language, another facet to the bigger thing that can help us work with things like core human experiences like fear and anxiety.
Many writing exercises can be very helpful in beginning to think about death. Surprisingly, they all awaken the wish to live a better full life. Here are three powerful writing prompts to get you started:
Imagine you’ve lived a long life and are on your deathbed. What advice would you give your younger self?
Imagine you just found out you have a few months to live. What would you do differently?
Imagine a close friend is taken away from you suddenly. What do you wish you had told them?*
A practical follow-up from the Ali article, some exercises that may help you as we start afresh with a new year and hopes for a happier, more enlivening year.
I have a thing for One Hit Wonders. I think they are the best. They are obviously and clearly, bangers. But more than that I love the fact that a group - and it is usually a group - of folk coalesce to make something amazing. Captured in a bottle. A moment in time. Talents, timings, zeitgeist all smashing together for One Good Thing.
Little Baby by the Blue Rondos is my current go-to One Hit Wonder. A bunch of 17-year olds in 1964 put together a few singles before quickly disbanding. Little Baby is their gift to the world.
I love the fact that a very short lived teenage garage band from Islington still resonates 59 years later. It’s timeless: melancholic, catchy, short, satisfying. Enjoy!
As a counterpoint, in the spirit of keeping things slow and wintery, I present Tony Scott’s Music for Zen Meditation And Other Joys, also from 1964. Described as the first New Age record, it is very peaceful and contemplative.
🤔 Last thought
This is my mantra for 2023. I am focusing my time and energy on creating new space for a new thing. It’s been in me for the past year at least, deep in the soil, finding some sources of nutrients. I can feel a shoot finding its way to the surface. I think after a while you will see a pattern of what I’m reading and researching through this Review about my direction of travel, and I can’t wait to show and share more in time. It feels very important, and the times are urgent, and as Bayo Akomalafe says, “…let us slow down.”
Happy New Year. I wish you all the best for this time ahead ✨
“We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”