Categories
Upstartist Diaries

My Favorites from 2021

Now is a great time to look back at 2021, learn from its highs and lows, and set our sights on making 2022 a banner year.

Each year around Christmas, I also thank creators whose work inspired and changed me. Most creators hear from 3% of their audience – if they’re lucky. Personally, I know how much one note from a reader can brighten my day. Who knows? Maybe your one review will fuel your favorite author, podcaster and YouTuber to keep making stuff.

In that spirit, I’d like to share with you my favorite books, podcasts and creators from 2021.

Books

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

The best book I read this year. Housel’s thesis is that when it comes to investing, how you behave is often more important than what you know. This book helped me clarify my investing approach and relationship with money. I wish I had read this book in my 20s.

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I’m only halfway through the audiobook, but Taleb has permanently tatooed his idea of antifragility on my worldview – it’s hard not to see the fragility of systems around me, and how we need to design more ideas, products, and systems that thrive on chaos, as nature does. As a reader (not a friend), I love Taleb’s blunt critiques and unapologetic tone. I imagine him as a Cheshire cat, grinning, disgusted at the world’s nonsensical ways of living.

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

Psychologist Hendricks writes about our “upper limit problem:” artificially limiting our abundance, success and love because of four hidden fears 1) the fear of being fundamentally flawed 2) the fear of being disloyal and abandoning our roots 3) the fear of being a bigger burden and 4) the fear of outshining others. While I disagree with some of his arguments (i.e. sickness is our fear embodied), I believe this is a capstone work summarizing four decades as a practicing psychologist and coach.

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Robert L. Moore 

Although most of us men lean towards one archetype, we can draw tremendous power and insight from invoking and inhabiting all four ancient archetypes. 

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

A stunning thinker and writer, Harari writes 21 essays on humanity’s biggest problems, from technology to terrorism to education. His essay on “Meaning” is the darkest piece I’ve read in years; I’m still struggling with its implications. Nevertheless, I find his historic framing of issues and ensuing insights breathtaking. He shares my deep belief that “in the 21st century you can’t afford stability. If you try to hold on to some stable identity, job or worldview, you risk being left behind as the world flies by you with a whoosh.”

How I thank authors: leaving reviews on Amazon (biggest bookstore) and Goodreads (shows up on Google searches).

Podcasts

Pivot with Kara Swisher & Scott Galloway

During a challenging year, Kara and Scott were my voices-in-the-background for 2021. When I was on lockdown for four months, I would cook and eat with them, and sharpen my lens on big tech, business and politics. I appreciate their banter, disagreements and guest lineup. For me, Pivot is peak edutainment. 

How I thank podcasters: leaving reviews on Apple Podcasts & Spotify to boost discoverability.

Creators

Chef Javier Plascencia 

I first met this man as he hovered over me, mixing steaming hot lamb barbacoa on a stone plate. A good friend had invited me to a La Reina launch party in Beverly Hills, and the chef, after preparing the six course meal, sat down next to me for dessert. He was magnetically understated. I was taken by his grounded, soulful presence, and easy charisma from a being a master craftsman of the senses. The next day, I found out that he had pioneered a new cuisine – Baja Mediterranean – and has over 10 restaurants in Tijuana, Baja California and the US. It’s been a while since I’ve had such a big man crush.

Actress, Writer, Producer Issa Rae

I’ve watched a lot more TV back home in Los Angeles, and Insecure is my show of the year. Beneath the humor and hip soundtrack lies characters unusually raw, relatable and (often times, literally) naked. What I love the most though, is how the show portrays Los Angeles – a character itself – and the gray, non-binary situations we all face grappling with adulthood.

YouTuber Ramin Nakisa – Pension Craft

Pension Craft has been one of the few places online that I’ve been able to find clear, sound investing advice. A former asset allocation strategist at UBS bank, Ramin tackles subjects like inflation, the global economy, and ETF portfolio construction in a measured and thoughtful way – he is the anti-Jim Cramer. I appreciate that he shares his knowledge so generously, and insists on a Patreon-based subscription model to stay aligned with his audience of small, individual investors.

How I thank creators: follow them and refer them to others, like now!

Apps

Spotify

I’m happy to hand over $9.99 each month for their playlists and discoverability engine. Their product is almost too good to be true – all the world’s music at your fingertips with algorithms that make discovering new artists you like insanely easy. I spent countless weekends as a teen treasure hunting at used CD stores. Now, I can just tune into my “Discover Weekly” and “Release Radar” playlists. I’ve paid for Apple Music, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music, and Spotify is by far my favorite music streaming service.

How I thank apps: leaving reviews on App Store and telling all my friends. 

Thank You

Thanks for following along here in 2021. Many of you have supported my podcast over the past two years, and helped launch my book this year – truly a life dream. You’ve held the space for me to do what I love: write and host. Thank you! I’m looking forward to bringing some new energy and ideas to the site and podcast in 2022.

Wishing you a healthy and happy holidays,

Darren

Las Vegas Graffiti
Las Vegas Arts District (November 2021)

Leave a Reply