Hi! Welcome to the first issue of the Align Center newsletter. 

Every two weeks Align Center will present a curated collection of interesting links touching on simple living, learning, nature, mindfulness, design, sustainable entrepreneurship and healthy habits. 

My goal is to share ideas, stimulate discussions with curious people like you, and to help foster conscious communities dedicated to positive change. Big goals for a little newsletter, but every journey starts with one step. Let's begin!

◦ selected words

How Maria Popova of Brain Pickings Writes

I'm not a voracious reader - I average about a dozen books a year - but this year I've started a regular reading habit with a plan to read 26 books. But my system was broken - I wasn't remembering much of what I'd read. I thought, why invest so much time in reading (non-fiction mostly), when I can't make connections and apply what I've learned? So I'm studying how the best do it - and few connect the dots across disciplines and time like Maria Popova. - 12min read

Sketching the Secrets of the Brain

Father of neuroscience and polymath Santiago Ramón y Cajal has been compared to Darwin for his influence on science. The work of the Spanish artist, photographer, doctor, bodybuilder, scientist and inventor never achieved the same fame, but now his drawings of neurons and synapses are the star of a new traveling exhibit touring North America, including stops in Vancouver and New York. - 7min read

If Captain Fantastic Was a Pro Surfer

I couldn't help seeing the parallels between the life of Canada's first professional surfer, Raph Bruhwiler, and Viggo Mortenson's captivating role (not "interesting" - he'd say that's a non-word) in the Mosquito Coast-like tale of living in the wild. The father of two opens up about his part in growing the surf culture in Tofino, family life and survival in the Pacific Northwest's harsh conditions. Don't miss the short film featuring his parents and his home-schooled kids to get a window into life on the edge. (11min read + 7min video)

The Best Productivity System

Since reading The 4-Hour Work Week in 2008, I've been a huge fan of GTD (Getting Things Done) and helped people be more effective with their time. I've tried countless tools and methods, but last year one stuck. It's a simple method that combines the principles of time boxing, batching, W.I.N. (What Important Now), M.I.T. Most Important Tasks and minimizing distractions. The beauty is in it's simplicity - the challenge is sticking with it. - 6min read

If you're ready to try it, I recommend, or BeFocused ($6) on a Mac and Tomighty for Windows, or a simple kitchen timer. And if you're serious about this, it's worth the effort to read the original Pomodoro Technique paper by Francesco Cirillo. 31 page PDF (70min read)

In Defense of Shyness

I was once told to not be shy, act like someone who is not shy. So what evolutionary purpose does timidity provide? How did this complex emotion, often confused with coldness, shame and even arrogance, come to be? Was it a creation of our civilization? And has it recently reached epidemic levels due to the digital world? A new book and a thoughtful commentary puts the spotlight on this misunderstood emotion. (12min read)

◦ listen in

Lentils That Taste Like Chicken

If we think of animals as bio-reactors, converting plants to muscle tissue, can we use science to do the same, without sacrificing animals? That's the mission of Ethan Brown, who left a burgeoning career in clean tech to start a company whose mission is to create plant-based meats that look, cook and taste like the real thing. He counts Bill Gates and the founders of Twitter as investors, but he's yet to turn a profit. Be inspired by his drive and vision as he explains his struggles and motivations in a live edition of NPR's How I Built This. (26min podcast)

◦ eat well

7-Ingredient Vegan Cheesecake

A vegan, no bake cheesecake that's creamy and uses typical items found in your pantry. Dress it up with berries on top and it's a ringer for the blueberry vegan cheesecake at Montreal's popular raw restaurant, Crudessence.

◦ read slow

Patagonia's Philosopher King

From dodging park rangers to free-soloing the big walls at Yosemite, follow Yvon Chouinard's path from a community college drop-out, to a private detective and even a stint in the army before turning his eco-conscious, anti-corporate ideals into one of the leading outdoor clothing brands. (43min read / 8917 words)

◦ current read

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

From the psychologist whose research was the basis of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule, Anders Ericsson largely debunks this oft-quoted but oversimplified view on how to become an expert. Instead, the author presents scientific evidence on how purposeful (deliberate) practice is the path to mastering ANY skill, while largely putting to bed the idea that talent is something you're born with. Learn how to apply this to your own career or passions, and how to change education for future generations. (336p book)

◦ dig this

What I'm digging lately:

  • Abstract: The Art of Design - Netflix's original docu-series dives into the creative process and gets intimate with the artists behind the art. Episode 1? An illustrator!
  • Twin Solitude - Quebec native Leif Vollebeck's new album is featured on Spotify's 'indie albums worth a listen' this week. Title of the first track? "Vancouver Time"
  • Arrival (the movie) - Nerd out on linguistics and bigger themes in this not-your-usual space movie.
  • NYTimes Canada Today - Canada joins the U.K., India and California with its own dedicated weekly newsletter.

◦ humble thought

"At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.” - Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

◦ now.

With so much great writing instantly available and often via email, my FOMO has been on full duty, which puts it in direct conflict with a calm inbox. So last week I did something about it: I changed all my newsletter subscriptions to a separate email account. Now I dip in intentionally, instead of being interrupted by those juicy Medium recommendations posts or the latest from Wait But Why mid-day. Combined with Pocket and an RSS feed, I feel I'm making progress in keeping distractions to a minimum.

Are you working on any habit changes recently, big or small? I'd love to hear from you!

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With gratitude,

Have an interesting story, link or resource for the next issue of Align Center? A particular link from this issue resonate? Or just want to say hi? Reply or email, or let's get social on:
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