Books I Read in 2020.

I made it a goal at the beginning of the year to focus on reading more books. I used to read a lot, but over the last several years I have been distracted by articles and short reads I stumble across on social media and haven’t focused as much on a good book. I began to miss that feeling of small accomplishment I have when I finish a book.

Little did I know that 2020 would give me ample opportunity to hunker down at home and read. This year was a blend of plowing through some familiar comfort books during the pandemic as well as attempts to re-educate myself as a white man on how the world actually functions, plus some other books that felt important to check out.

If I had to pick out a couple of outstanding books, I would say: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson is one of the best books I’ve ever read and helped me rethink how our society functions around race and class mobility (or lack thereof). Ministry For The Future by Kim Stanley Robinson is a must-read and frames climate change against a narrative science-fiction structure that brings a sense of urgency that is hard to achieve in non-fiction.

I went through some phases where I couldn’t focus on reading because of how much was going on in life and society, or times when I became frustrated because I had three different books on the go and couldn’t finish any of them because I was so distracted, and then nice, long stretches when I was very focused and just couldn’t stop reading. Ah, 2020.

Plus I almost began and ended the year with a book by a Klein, which feels like a nice pair of bookends. 

Here’s my list:

  1. Why We’re Polarized – Ezra Klein
  2. The Inconvenient Indian – Thomas King
  3. Set The Boy Free – Johnny Marr
  4. The Sport and Prey of Capitalists – Linda McQuaig
  5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  6. The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe – Douglas Adams
  7. Life, The Universe and Everything – Douglas Adams
  8. So Long and Thanks For All The Fish – Douglas Adams
  9. Mostly Harmless – Douglas Adams
  10. Kafka On The Shore – Haruki Murakami
  11. Me and White Supremacy – Layla Saad
  12. White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo
  13. So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo
  14. How To Be An Anti-Racist – Ibram X. Kendi 
  15. Why Fish Don’t Exist – Lulu Miller
  16. Policing Black Lives – Robin Maynard
  17. Make Change – Shaun King
  18. Caste – Isabel Wilkerson
  19. Born A Crime – Trevor Noah 
  20. The Skin We’re In – Desmond Cole
  21. The Martian – Andy Weir
  22. Golden Gates – Conor Dougherty
  23. Creativity – John Cleese
  24. A Good War – Seth Klein
  25. The Ministry For The Future – Kim Stanley Robinson 

If any of these look good to you, enjoy! I’ll start 2021 with Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo, which I’m excited to start.

Happy New Year!

Looking on the Brightside.

Over 13 years ago, I left a permanent job to take a 3-month contract doing digital project management and marketing at Vancity. It probably wasn’t the “responsible” thing to do, especially seeing that my wife and I had an eleven-month old at home. Yet, it was the totally responsible thing to do – responsible to a higher purpose.

I had realized some time earlier that I needed to live a life that reflected my values. My work had been a major disconnect from my values. I had spent several years working in digital marketing in Seattle, Los Angeles and Vancouver, and I was feeling more and more weary of helping to sell more shoes, motorcycles or movie tickets to truly terrible movies (and a couple of really truly amazing ones too). This wasn’t how I wanted to spend my life.

I feel incredibly grateful to Vancity for giving me a job where purpose and productivity are so easily married. I have received many opportunities within the organization – I mean where else could a digital marketing manager be promoted and shift roles and shimmy around and end up in charge of business banking and community investment? Amazing!

But all good things must come to an end.

In mid-June I will start a new adventure as CEO of Brightside Community Homes Foundation, one of the province’s largest not-for-profit affordable housing providers. Brightside is dedicated to making housing accessible for those who struggle to meet the demands of market housing in Vancouver, one of the most unaffordable cities on the planet

After many years of working in community investment, I am extremely excited to move from an important enabling role, providing financial support to local businesses and organizations, to delivering services and helping tackle the affordable housing crisis in my home city.

The people at Vancity I want to thank and recognize are just too numerous to mention. Leaving the people is always the hardest part, and the people at Vancity – as well as those I’ve met in the wider Credit Union movement over the last decade – are magnificent. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without them.

I am thrilled to join the team at Brightside to help play a larger and direct role in ensuring our neighbours and community members have safe, stable and appropriate housing. I am excited about the work ahead and to help create meaningful impact in our community.

An update on my book.

Back in September, I wrote a post about a book I had been wanting to write for quite some time, but had been making no progress on. It was called Everything I Learned About Leadership I Learned From Filmmaking. I focused on stories interweaving those lessons from early in my career making low-budget independent films to my lessons today as a credit union executive.

I declared back in September that I wanted to have a first draft done by the end of 2018. I put this on my blog because I wanted people to know my intentions and to hold me accountable for meeting my objective of finishing that first draft.

I want to thank a bunch of you for doing that. There are people who read that post who, when I saw them, would ask how the book was going and whether I met my deadline. For some of them it may well have felt awkward to ask me about my self-imposed deadline, but I truly appreciate them. It was their kind prodding that kept me going.

In fact, I got through not just a basic first draft but a decent second draft by New Year’s Eve. I was at a point where I could show it to others.

Posting about the book on my blog opened up an invite from a friend who works in Communications, asking if she could edit that early draft. Yesterday we met, along with my wife who is an excellent copy-editor and discussed where my book has strengths, where it really works, and where it falls short. I am very appreciative of her time and perspective and excellent feedback.

She and my wife helped me see the forest for the trees, and know where I need to go with my next draft. They helped me understand what was working and what wasn’t coming across on the page as well as what I had imagined.

So today I start my third draft, based on all their feedback and wisdom. My new goal, the new note I am putting my the digital fridge, is the end of March. By then, I will have that third draft done and will be ready to do a final shape-up to start approaching publishers.

Wish me luck, and I appreciate all your encouragement!

Putting a note on the digital fridge.

Back in October of 2012 I gave a talk at the CU Water Cooler Symposium in Nashville about the leadership lessons I draw on daily that I learned from my dozen years as an independent filmmaker.

I was really psyched about this presentation and when I came home from Nashville the ideas kept swirling around in my head. Between that October and the end of 2012 I started writing those ideas into a book I named after my talk: Everything I Learned About Leadership I Learned From Filmmaking. I put down the concepts I explored in my talk, plus a bunch more. I had a couple of incredibly productive writing months.

For some reason, as 2012 drew to a close I stopped adding to the book, and it sat abandoned. It’s not like I didn’t think about the book, quite the opposite I thought about it a lot, figured I’d get back to it some day, but that day was never today.

Since 2012 my career has progressed quite a bit and my leadership muscles have been stressed and tested and strengthened, and I think about those filmmaking lessons all the time. Recently, I began to feel that I need to revisit that book. Not at some vague time in the future “when I have more time,” but now, immediately.

I brought the book up on my computer a couple of weeks ago, the first time in an embarrassingly long time, and re-watched the talk (above) and found myself making time in my schedule to expand on where I started. I put energy into the book for the first time in several years. It felt very very good.

There is a concept I spoke about in my talk about putting a note on the fridge. When I used to make films there came a point where I knew I could continue to just talk about making a film, but if it was going to actually get made I needed to get serious. At that point, I would write a date on a note and stick it to the fridge. That date was the date when I would begin principal photography – when I would begin shooting my movie. And everything worked back from that date. I had to look at it every day, I would tell people the date – I couldn’t escape it. I used my embarrassment of public failure and letting down those who believed in me as a way to get shit done.

So, here I am using my blog as an electronic fridge and publicly declaring that by the end of the year, I will have a first draft of my book done. More drafts will be needed, more notes on the fridge will be required for future milestones, and a whole lot of work lies in front of me, but I need an initial deadline to get a first draft completed. I am using you, anyone who is reading to hold me accountable for completing that first draft.

Thanks, I’ll let you know how it goes…

Running for the Modo board, again.

It’s been three years since I first ran for the Board of Modo, our local car sharing co-operative. Serving on the Modo board has been an immense privilege and pleasure. It’s an amazing organization, a great board, incredible staff and an important mission. It’s what I’ll likely be speaking about at the upcoming Disruption ’17 by CU Water Cooler conference.

I’m privileged to have been the board chair for the last couple of years, and hope to continue serving the members as I run for my second term as a volunteer director. If you’re a Modo member, please log in and vote, and, hey, if you’re voting, please consider voting for me.

Here’s my election statement and video for my re-election…

I’m William Azaroff, vice president of community investment at Vancity and current chair of Modo Co-operative’s volunteer board of directors. I’m up for re-election this year, and I hope you’ll vote for me to continue serving Modo’s membership.

I’m extremely proud to be a part of the Modo board. In the three years since my election, we have successfully merged with Victoria Carshare Co-op, brought in new leadership and renewed our strategic planning process.

Patrick Nangle came to Modo from Purolator Canada, where he was also CEO. He is a values-based leader whose deep knowledge of business, operations and technology will move our co-op forward in the increasingly complex and competitive world of car sharing.

With Patrick on board, we have begun a new strategic planning process to map out which roads are right for us. We are at a pivotal time in car sharing. Our local co-operative has a strong brand, loyal members and solid partnerships; yet our competitors are multi-national corporations who have the deepest pockets imaginable. Disruption is everywhere. Electric vehicles have far longer ranges and more affordable price points; self-driving cars are emerging on roads; and multi-modal transportation is expanding and evolving. We need people on our board who can solidify a local co-op’s place amongst global players – people who can focus on competing against corporate giants while staying true to our core values.

I would be honoured to earn your vote to continue this good work on behalf of the Modo membership.