Letter From Future Swells No. 65

Finding the Right Balance Between Digital and Nature

Fifteen years ago I began my personal digital transformation project during a one-year sabbatical from Silicon Valley. I had worked day and night for almost a decade within the Internet industry, first in Stockholm then London, and finally in Silicon Valley, and managed to save up a little bit of cash. One of my many dreams was now walked into reality and it was time for rest and reflection. 

“Digital living will include less and less dependence upon being in a specific place at a specific time, and the transmission of the place itself will start to become possible.” – Nicholas Negroponte

One question began to occupy my recently freed up mind: what is the real promise of digital technologies? Up until then, it was mostly a side project for most people, something that was fun on a personal level but not really life-changing. I became obsessed with the idea of working from anywhere and organizing everything in my life via the Internet. I wanted to know what living on the digital edge felt like and went all the way; from dematerializing and digitizing everything to becoming a full-time digital and global nomad. 

I clearly took it to the extreme and almost went over the edge which if you are a dreamer and seeker is a very seductive adventure but can also be extremely dangerous. In my quest for the ultimate freedom, I became arrogant, reckless but also lazy. I only cared about pixels and the future and forgot how wonderful the real world is to live in, especially sharing a physical home with someone you love. 

“Man enjoys living on the edge of his dreams and neglects the real things of the world which are so beautiful. The ignorant and indifferent destroy beautiful things merely by looking at the marble. Things that remake the soul of him who understands them.” – Auguste Rodin

After five years galavanting the world I first settled down in Los Angeles and then right before the pandemic in Encinitas. These past few years have all been about materializing and undigitizing, especially the past few months since I moved into the beach shack. I spend less and less time online and more in life and nature. I feel I’ve now gotten a good handle on what I’d like to use digital for and how I’d like to live close to nature and spend every day by the ocean, on the beach, and in the water. A post-digital modern work-life balance if you will.

When the pandemic was declared last year on March 11 I was quick to discover three new trends: digital living in local communities with a focus on personal well-being. I followed my own advice and created an 18-month plan (as per Bill Gates’ advice) to transform and grow as the old world that I knew was no longer accessible. I got a piece of superb advice from a very dear friend of mine to refocus all my energy on my powers and passions which I did every single day. That advice refocused my energy from what was going on outside myself to my inner being and skills.

“There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

I was very lucky to have moved to the countryside and ocean where people are more scattered and mostly living in the outdoors, thus minimizing the risk of getting infected by the virus. I sure didn’t plan the move based on the pandemic but I do believe that the universe conspires to guide us if we are humble, grateful, and patient. That said, at the end of the day, all work is personal and needs both clear intention and hard work. Good things and new opportunities only emergence after the hard work has been delivered.

I still believe that digital technologies can create more freedom in our lives – within space, time, and attention. I’ve previously shared how I have been hacking the workday to create a positive flow and an everyday worthwhile experience even in times of corona. Today’s schedule is not as rigid as last year’s as most of my daily activities have become everyday habits and rituals: surfing, workouts, Spanish classes, writing, photography, and work projects. After a year of literary blood, sweat, and tears life is now flowing really well.

“The idea is that flowing water never goes stale, so just keep on flowing.” – Bruce Lee

I still believe that Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 true fans theory is at the core of what the Internet is about from a making-a-living perspective. Add the maker perspective to this and you have what I believe is the future of work: personal, hands-on, creative, passionate, purposeful, decentralized, and network-based work. And this is exactly what I’m experimenting with through this freemium newsletter, the book I’m writing, my new photo store, and a few other projects.

I believe the future belongs to the maker as we are now becoming our own managers by working from home and becoming more independent from larger hierarchies and organizations. That is not to say that the large corporations are not needed, just that they will become much more automatized through digital technologies like artificial intelligence and need fewer human employees.

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” – Peter Drucker

The trick I believe is to figure out a new interdependence, a new balance, and a new interface between oneself and the rest of the world that is not only relying on the physical world but also on the opportunities of the digital world. We need to upgrade ourselves and how we think, feel, and operate so that we can really benefit from the exponential opportunities that the bits offer. Spirituality and science have always been two sides of the same coin. Just ask Albert Einstein.

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." – Albert Einstein

I’ve explained my newly upgraded schedule in a members-only post as it might not be interesting to everyone. In the meantime, feel free to browse my new photo store where I’ll be making some of the photographs I post on Instagram available for viewing and sale. I love the whole process of writing and making photos and eventually, there will be a photo book capturing the life I’m living here at the beach. But first I need to finish the book “Fewer Better Things” and that, my friends, is the toughest challenge I’ve ever pursued.


Little Free Library: Love the small library boxes around my neighborhood that offer book trading for free. There is always a new discovery to be had.

Lupin: A fantastic Netflix show with the enormously talented Omar Sy from The Intouchables who plays a gentlemen thief. Captivating.

Sanford Shapes: Locally handcrafted wooden skateboards that ride like a surfboard. Planning to give one each to the grommets for their birthdays.

Price Comparison: Jerry is a new price comparison service for insurances that are using Artificial Intelligence to find the best deals.

Cheaper Cell Service: A low burn rate creates new opportunities and by switching to Visible I’ve cut my monthly cell bill by almost 70%. They have what they call a Party Plan where the more that join the cheaper the service. Starts at $40 and drops to $25 per month. Only two spots left.

Much love,

Per Håkansson

Encinitas, California