#6: Quotidian enchantment

Plus a Japanese coastal homestay, the taste gap and do men even know when they feel sexy?

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Venkatesh Rao calls for freelancers to practice “transactional enchantment” as a way of managing our psyches “in an increasingly weird world”. While I disagree with Rao that younger generations are disengaged from the world (Gen Z seem pretty engaged to me), I liked his argument for “trying to bring an enchanted perspective to everything you do, whether it is drafting an invoice, looking for gigs on Twitter, or writing a newsletter”. See also Casper ter Kuile’s The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices.

When talking about transactional, or everyday, enchantment, Rao states: “it’s not about magic or woo”. Would it be so bad if it was?

I believe this quotidian enchantment can be accessed through woo, or magic, and that’s ok. Mary Retta writes beautifully about shame, cancel culture and woo: “the “woo-woo” feelings we are meant to be ashamed of are grounded in a shared cultural imagination, an ability to envision a world where love, connection, and kindness are valued and prioritized”.

We’re not talking about capitalism’s version of enchantment (Goop). We’re talking about the approaches in Rao’s Child (id) column (below): relentless weirdness, abundance, universal/ personal, enchantment. These sound a lot like magic and Retta’s “shared cultural imagination” to me. Enchantment means “being under a spell”, after all.

Freelancers have more liberty to pursue enchantment, but it’s a universal need. Transforming the mundane into the magical is practised through connection to purpose and seeking belonging. Rao does this through writing. I do it through all kinds of practices, which those in the Parent dimension might class as woo (for example, seasonal living). It’s not just about freelancers surviving in an “increasingly weird world”, it’s about all of us re-making the world to advance justice and equity. For this journey, we need more of us need to spend time in the Child dimension and there’s no shame in using magic and woo as portals to access it.

A black and white sketch of a bird
I read in this post that anyone can draw a bird in three easy steps… you can be the judge of whether this is the case. A little bit of notebook enchantment in-between all the to-do lists.

Reading, watching, listening

Re-reading Tom Nixon’s post about how authority works in creative endeavours. I’m looking forward to reading Tom’s new book, Work With Source: Realise big ideas, organise for emergence and work artfully with money.

Samira Shackle’s compassionate piece about Covid-19 sceptics. Shackle’s long read about the Gatwick drone is also brilliant.

A fabulous interview with Brian Stout about the patriarchy, masculinity and liberation: “Here I am, 38 years old, married for 12 years, and I don't actually know when I feel sexy… I believe reconnecting with our bodies and listening to what our bodies are telling us is, for men, actually a pretty radical act”.

Olivia Laing’s Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, kindly lent to me by Iona. I harbour a painful desire to write an autotheory memoir, my favourite nonfiction genre. Then I read Laing or Maggie Nelson or Philip Hoare and an unbridgeable taste gap springs up between what I love and what I create.

I want to visit this Japanese coastal homestay, hike with the pet goat and join the musical jamming sessions. Made out of recycled shipping containers, the homestay is “a small utopian experiment centred on building ephemeral communities and art”.

All six seasons of Line of Duty. 2004’s Bodies is Jed Mercurio’s best work, with both shows exploring how systems engender bad behaviours.

This popular song of 2016 shimmied into my awareness last week. I am using it to prepare emotionally for a vaccinated summer.


I gave a short talk about some of my fave organisational design topics: asynchronous working, Zoom and our nervous systems, Bad First Drafts, inclusion and remote work, the role of identity and personal beliefs in designing how we work. Watch the ten-minute talk or read the 20-second summary. As always, I’m struck by what happens when I do public speaking.


Wild garlic and Jerusalem artichoke tart, loosely modelled on Rosie Birkett’s recipe, with carrot and red cabbage slaw. Spiced carrot soup. Aubergine and courgette Thai green curry with roasted beetroot. In my parents’ garden: Easter Sunday roast lamb, followed by Claire Thomson’s almond Bakewell pudding. A Yard Sale pizza. A very extra banana bread with chocolate chips, walnuts and coconut flakes, drizzled with tahini and honey. A vegan dark chocolate, almond and sea salt Easter egg.

Still cooing over

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