Skinner Layne is the Founder and Chairman of Exosphere.
I’m not interested in giving a detailed account of my life story. I’m not sure anybody is interested in reading it either. We can’t really get to know somebody by reading their CV or biography anyway. We can only get to know people by relating to them, and relation requires physical proximity. So much of our life has been dis-intermediated by technology that I fear we are emerging into an age when authentic relationship is foreign to the human experience.
My life is animated toward reversing this trend in my daily interactions and in my work at Exosphere. If you read a small handful of writings, you will learn more about me than if you had a minute-by-minute breakdown of my 30 years to date. Those writings, which you will see me refer to frequently, are:
- Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck
- The Different Drum, M. Scott Peck
- A World Waiting to Be Born, M. Scott Peck
- You Are Not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier
- The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
- The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
- The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen
- Sickness Unto Death, Søren Kierkegaard
- I and Thou, Martin Buber
- Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson
- A Psalm of Life, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- If, Rudyard Kipling
- The Gods of the Copybook Headings, Rudyard Kipling
also by William Blake’s Ancient of Days and Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, as well as the complete works of William Blake, John Donne, G.K. Chesterton, The Desert Fathers, the Spanish Mystics, and others.
William Blake’s Ancient of Days
There are many other influential works of literature that have shaped my life, and as a voracious reader, I am consistently encountering new thoughts that challenge my assumptions about the world. But I also am constantly barraged with new experiences that challenge my assumptions, and I hope I continue to remain open to interpreting new ideas and new experiences with as little bias as possible, that I might contribute to the defragmentation of the human race.
Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son
I consider myself a very non-traditional Christian, not because of what I believe or don’t believe, but rather what I see as being important and unimportant in the Christian narrative. I will write a separate essay about this at some point in the near future, but I believe that The Christ is the archetype for mankind for the way he related to people, and did not shun authentic human contact even in the face of the pain caused by the existential realities of life: boredom, anxiety, alienation/loneliness, absurdity, and meaninglessness. He bore the burden of human flesh as The Divine Personality, knowing the bliss of the alternative, making the pain all the more acute. He advanced against the darkness and in his advance brought light to the world. If this is not what we are doing each day, we are doing life wrong.
Stars colliding in the universe, a metaphor.
My own life has been characterized by making a lot of mistakes, attempting not to repeat them (but often failing), and when I am at my best, using the wounds I have collected along the way to commiserate with others about the struggle of existence. I have gone through periods of hard-heartedness and hard-headedness that have severely damaged my relationships with other people, and I am in a daily battle with my own ego and its incumbent selfishness. Through both success and failure in business, I have developed a melancholic disposition toward money and its effects on people (myself included).
I have been involved in successful political campaigns, starting multiple companies, taking one public, dealing with regulatory investigations, consulting for NASDAQ-traded companies, advising energy & mining projects in South America, and since 2012 have been dedicated to building Exosphere.
A beautiful J.M.W. Turner piece
Since 2008 I have been a pilgrim in a foreign land, living in South America and decentering my experience from the traditional meta-narrative of the American entrepreneur. I have learned more about myself during this time than I ever thought imaginable. To say it’s not all been roses would be almost comical understatement. But even in that, I have learned to find comedy (in the Greek sense) in all around me, although my often-curmudgeonly disposition doesn’t let on.
I am gay and grew up in a conservative Southern Baptist family in Arkansas only to move (by way of Texas) to one of South America’s most conservative Catholic countries.
I love dogs (and all animals generally), play the violin, am trying to become good at Chess (though failing), love wilderness backpacking & rafting, writing poetry, sipping whiskey, conversing, thinking, reading, learning, and helping people solve problems.
Much of my time has gone into navigating and watching others navigate a world of moral insincerity while trying to make sense of it and establish some framework for living a virtuous life characterized by integrity and not compartmentalization. This is decidedly difficult.
I think all rules we make for ourselves in life should take the form “You should always do X, except when you shouldn’t.”
I think we should re-consider our rules at the end of every day. We shouldn’t live to be happy, but rather to live fully. And we should never live in fear.
Life should be part adventure, part pilgrimage, and part drudgery. If you don’t have elements of all three, you are avoiding part of your essential humanity.
Me, adventuring in Alaska a long time ago
This is where I have come from, and this is who I am today. I hope it will not be who I am tomorrow. If you want to know more, just ask– skinner [at] skinnerlayne [dot] com