The Last Sunset of the Year

For those of you that know me, I’m all about adventures. This past year has been full of strange experiences, adventures, laugh attacks, heartbreak and discovery. Change has been my only constant and I’m glad to have finally found a home in sunny and beautiful California.

I moved here September 1st, 2018. Being in a new place for over a complete year, you collect a lot of experiences, even more surprisingly, I traveled a lot. I went to San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Diego, Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, DC, Boston, NYC, Cleveland, South Bend, Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, and Gamboa, Panama. Here’s some of what happened this past year.

me and Katya

In March, I was just coming out of a relationship and threw myself into work. I started pulling late nights; not even leaving our warehouse laboratory and instead falling asleep on the couch upstairs. I was depressed but working harder than ever; avoiding going home to our tiny apartment. My air mattress was under our kitchen counter — we had four people in a two-bedroom.

I still believe

It was cozy but we made it work. I kept making trips up to the Bay Area to fundraise for Spira while meeting clients and catching up with old friends. We attended Expo West (a giant food extravaganza) in Anaheim and signed up loads of clients who were interested in our ingredients. I even got a chance to party with John Cumbers twice! Once for Yuri’s Night, and another time for Betaspace.

Betaspace 2019 was ridiculous. I can’t wait for Mojave 2020.

In April we hosted the first Betaspace event in the Mojave desert. This is my prom pic from the event (thanks Tep)! It was insane. We set up a martian colony in the desert and had people from NASA, SpaceX, DARPA, etc having a rave and talking about how to enable life on other planets. I immediately hopped on a plane after we blew up a van, and flew across the US to Atlanta for my cousin’s bat mitzvah. My light-up sneakers nearly caught fire and I tore a hole in my pants I danced so hard. Luckily I had a spare change of clothes for my speaking gig at AgLanta.

Some of the AgLanta crew

After a quick jaunt to NYC to speak to an incredible group of artists for the Dirt & Debt residency, and seder with my cousin’s new fiance, I flew back to DC, drove to visit Richmond, and jetted back across to LA. I was traveling so much it was making my head spin. Luckily I had a constant string of visitors to keep me company while I was home. Katya, Xavier, Tessa, Joanne, Brandon, Christine, my parents, Chelcie, my cousin, aunt and uncle, Jenna, Sara and countless others visited. Little did we know that our work-life situation was about to change.

Xavier being wowed by the building next door to our apartment

In May the rest of our team was supposed to pack up their cars in Virginia and drive out west. The plan was to meet Surge in SF and drive down the pacific coast highway to LA, a reprisal of what I did with Greg when I moved down.

On the drive down we witnessed some of the best nature had to offer

Sadly, while I was in San Francisco, we got news that all of the tenants of our warehouse were being evicted all at once. We stuck to the plan and drove down the coast, arriving to pack up all our stuff and move into my buddy Cory’s lab down the street and the Soylent Innovation Lab.

Kicked to the curb!

Luckily, we had just raised some money so the team landed on our feet. Both Pierre and Surge were now out on the best coast with Peter and me and we were unstoppable. We started making sales and going on wild adventures around the city and into the wilderness surrounding LA.

Peter making deals and feeling feels

The summer flew by. I started a band with my buddy Jake, went fire spinning with Adam, the team took a trip to the Salton Sea, we brought on the brilliant Sasha Fishman as an artist-in-residence, snuck into the Hyperloop Challenge at SpaceX, had a few wild nights downtown and late nights working in the new lab.

Fire spinning with Adam

Nearer towards the end of the summer, we won the Ignite22 Challenge through Braid Theory that gave us access to a MASSIVE incubator program in San Pedro called Altasea. The team now had a more permanent place for us to work and live in the future.

Altasea. It’s ~400,000 sq ft. HUGE.

With a permanent spot secured, I started traveling again. I went to Ephemerisle, a “Burning Man on the Water” started by the Seasteading Institute. Since I’ve been an ambassador for the past 5 years, I figured I might as well check it out. It was wild. Brilliant people recreating society on the Sacramento River delta. I highly recommend going — I didn’t last very long and was crashing at my friend Catherine and Laurel’s place nearby before too long.

The main deck/dance floor of Ephemerisle

I swung through San Francisco to see Sara, Tim, Wren and go to a Planet Home event. I returned to LA to take a perfume class at the Institute for Art and Olfaction, and celebrate my sister’s birthday. It was at this time that my car started having trouble (although Muriel is still chugging along, 2020 will probably be her last year).

Sara and I took a trip to California’s Great America

We heard about DEFCON, a cybersecurity conference, and on a whim, decided to drive to Vegas for the weekend and sleep on my friend Herzon’s floor. Pierre, Surge and I packed into a car and jetted across the desert, arriving at 4am. We ended up hacking the hackers and just wandering around, never getting tickets. It was AMAZING. I am definitely going back.

Our boy band photo, feat Cafe Mocha

We then packed up and moved down into a big blue house in San Pedro. The house was built in 1887 and it’s magical. So far we’ve been loving it here.

BIG BLUE. This mansion was built by George Peck in 1887

For my birthday, I decided to do something different. I hopped on a plane to Panama for Dinacon. That short week changed me in ways that I’m still trying to understand. The idea of getting a group of scientists and artists together in the jungle and just setting them free to create for a month is brilliant. I think I’ll incorporate some kind of retreat like Dinacon into my life every year.

On a night hike discovering glowing mushrooms and sneks at Dinacon

I flew back in to move our stuff down to Big Blue and then drove back to Vegas for Biohack the Planet. Josiah always throws a good party. I got a magnetic implant in my fingertip, and connected deeply with some great people. I’m excited to go back next year.

My magnetic implant. It tingles whenever I’m near an electromagnetic field.

Time for travel again. My cousin was having an engagement party in Cleveland with my family so I flew to Cleveland next. We had a great time and I’m so excited to be there in NYC for Matt and Elizabeth’s wedding in January.

Playing with Electric Sky in South Bend with Gabe and Heather

I had a string of pitches in the midwest so I decided to go from Cleveland to Minneapolis for the AgInnovation Showcase and to see Muneera, drive down to Madison to visit my friend Jacob, then head east to check out Bioblaze, Gabriel’s lab in South Bend and finally pitch at Foodbytes! in Chicago before flying back to LA for an interview with Peter Diamandis. Whew. Even writing that made me tired.

Having a fuckin’ Catalina Wine Mixer

I was home for a week for a Catalina wine mixer with Katya and Rachel, before hitting the road again to present at Synbiobeta and hang out in San Francisco. After Synbiobeta, I flew cross-country to get a little wild in Boston with my DIYbio fam for the Biosummit, going to the 99 biohackers party in the Media Lab basement. I think I slept a collective 6 hours that entire week and discovered a newfound love for Tiki bars.

TIKI TIME

I stopped in to NYC for the TFF Challenge launch party, and to visit Herzon, before going to DC for Sukkot. FINALLY I could head home and stay there for a few months.

TFF Launch Party!

We got a shipping container and started retrofitting it into a laboratory. Baby blue number 2 is parked across the street while they’re doing warehouse retrofits at Altasea. It was good to get into a routine and build some of the systems and processes our company needs to grow.

Our shipping container lab

Halloween was fun playing fruit ninja with a pumpkin and ripping my pants (again). I went to San Diego for the first time to visit Bre and Katie. We had a wild weekend at a trailer park bar and I got a chance to climb a mountain see some beautiful sights around San Diego.

Two of my favorite people

Jesse and Jordan moved in with Pierre, Surge, Matt and me. It’s been a full house but I’ve been exceptionally grateful for having all of them around, especially during Thanksgiving when, with the help of Ann, we threw a bash for the neighborhood. I’m so happy about the little community we’ve been cultivating here and feel so welcome in San Pedro.

Thanksgiving table settings

I’ve felt so comfortable that I’ve started putting on events. The first annual Nic Cage film fest went well, and we’ve already begun planning the second. I even got a chance to teach a class at the Institute for Art and Olfaction on how to Biohack Smells. My students learned how to cultivate a microbe that could produce banana, pear and orange scent with the right precursors.

Teaching the class how to streak

That brings me to now. The colder winter months have slowed things down to give me a bit of perspective. I’ve spent the past month working on myself, Spira, my relationships and community, spending time with family and taking a longer view on what really matters in life.

New Year, New Bucket List, New Lessons Learned

This is my map of LA:

Each one of those tiny green flags is a place that I want to go, an adventure waiting to happen. I’ll write a post about them all eventually. Luckily I’ve surrounded myself with an amazing community here in San Pedro so there are plenty of people to go exploring with, and tons of laughter and deep conversations ahead of me.

I’ve had a call to action for awhile:

“Make your life a story worth telling.”

This past year has been a wild chapter. There have been ups and downs; the frantic action of becoming a complete person. I’ve changed and learned quite a bit. Here are some lessons:

  1. Put yourself first. Never set yourself on fire to keep others warm. For awhile I was putting my company first, then my relationships, then myself. No more. I didn’t realize that the self is the foundation for everything else.
  2. Consistent is better than talented. This relates heavily to habits and routine as those are the structures to enforce consistent behavior. Consistently good leads to great.
  3. You can create your own home. While bouncing around these past few years, I used to find home in other people. No longer. I’m making a community here in San Pedro. This is where I’m planting roots.
  4. Become indispensable. Work yourself out of a job. If you find yourself not making an impact, figure out a way to change or learn in order to keep on driving impact with your work.
  5. Control consumption in order to create. I call it “noise.” The constant buzz of other voices drowns out your own internal voice. Control it or it will control you.
  6. There is only make. You are what you leave behind. The things you create bring meaning into the world. Nothing happens if you keep everything inside.
  7. Experiment. As Feynman said: “If you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid.” If you’re not reporting, you’re not experimenting, and you’re not creating. Share as much of everything as you can, especially when you fail — then be sure to ask for help and you’ll get it because others have been following along.
  8. Keep going. Complete failure only happens when you give up. These two words are the most powerful for any creator.
  9. Speed impresses. The faster you go, the more you will gain the trust of those around you. It is important to refer to #2 when you’re determining how fast you can go.
  10. Refresh with nature. For me, I need to have a day each week when I go into nature and spend time in solitude. Just something I learned about myself or I go crazy.
  11. Exercise. Same thing here. I need to exercise each day or else I can’t sleep.
  12. Sleep. Eight hours does wonders and helps me create. If I have a routine, it’s easier. I’m still trying to figure out how to make it work while traveling.
  13. Play. “I think that the absence of play is the absence of any degrees of freedom, crudely. Anything that is fundamentally stochastic, as a huge amount of molecular interaction is, opens up the possibility of combining and not combining. Very little on Earth is tightly determined.Critters get good at play. They often learn to play with others from very early on. To paraphrase, Marc Bekoff says, “Look, the origin of ethics is here. It’s in the recognition of collaborative play and the exclusion of those who don’t know how to play, and the ethical behavior is essentially a play skill. It’s taking things up so as to remain safe enough to stay in the game.” The ongoingness of the game depends on its players knowing how to keep it safe enough to stay in, and the payoff of play is joy, basically.” Do ridiculous things just because it makes you and others happy. Be unconcerned with the opinions of others unless you infringe upon their joy.
  14. Change the rules to win the game. Zig when others zag. Make up your own rules, your own game and your own life to truly win.
  15. Extend your perception. I got a magnetic implant in my finger and people were confused. To me it’s always been important to expand my perception in order to gain more understanding about the world to make better decisions.
  16. Teach to learn. This year I had the good fortune to teach classes and mentor others. These activities cement your own knowledge and introduce new concepts that you would not have otherwise known.
  17. Make gifts for your future self. Create things that bring you joy or help you. This post is one of those documents.
  18. Pursue purpose over pleasure. Happiness is transient. Purpose is what modulates the ups and downs of life. Take all emotion willingly and feel it completely because it is instructive and wonderful to feel in the first place.
  19. Be. Don’t try. I visited Bukowski’s grave this year (it’s a 15 minute drive away from where I live). When you make a decision, commit. If I am going to be a specific type of person, I need to dedicate myself to who that person is, otherwise my decision is not honest.
  20. Honesty above all else. “The strength of a person’s spirit would then be measured by how much ‘truth’ he could tolerate, or more precisely, to what extent he needs to have it diluted, disguised, sweetened, muted, falsified.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche. Honesty cuts through bullshit and gives you a superpower to live simply, truthfully and unencumbered.
  21. Create movements. “This is perhaps [a movement’s] greatest measure of success: that it creates participants who have tasted this feeling of possibility, and who now know the truth of their own power.” Enabling others and showing them that they have power and possibility is what I mean when I try to make teams that are more than the sum of their parts.
  22. Learn from failure. Epistemic humility is a fancy way of saying that we must always keep in mind that we could be wrong or, at least, that we can always learn something from listening to the other side. This is key to being able to reflect and learn when and where your ideas have gone wrong.
  23. Routine. There’s 5 things I’ve been doing every morning:
    1. Get out of bed immediately, waking at the same time every day
    2. Hydrate. Drink a glass of water
    3. Exercise. Just 5 minutes doing squats or pushups wakes my body up
    4. Create. For me this involves writing but it should just be something you can pick up and work on within 10 seconds.
    5. Get outdoors. Leave your house ASAP.
    (6. Which is optional, have some breakfast unless you’re doing intermittent fasting)
  24. Lastly:

I don’t want to set many expectations for the coming year because here’s the thing about the future; it’s supposed to surprise you, otherwise how would you ever change? This past decade has been one surprise after another. I’m looking forward to new surprises in 2020.

Founder @spirainc - creating photosynthetic tech to tackle global challenges, starting with local production of industrial chemicals. @thatmre