💭 Letter 46 from a learn-it-all

Twas a think-weekend success!

Hello fellow learn-it-all,

Greetings from Petoskey, Michigan.

I'm still alive!

I realize I am sharing this two days behind my normal schedule. I initially had guilt for missing this because I haven't missed a Monday for the past 45 weeks. This was intentional though. I'll explain more in-depth later on. For now, snowy pictures of my drive up here. It’s pretty to admire from afar when you're not in the thick of it, like my poor snow boots that trekked me through the deep snow.

If you are new here or missed last week's edition, you can catch up on the past letters hereIf you are reading this for the first time, I’d love you to sign up below to join the other learn-it-alls:

Now, what's in store for this issue?

  1. An explanation of what a think-weekend is and why the hell I left behind my marvelous technology for 60 hours

  2. Four anecdotes on (1) a snowplowing saga (2) mindful walking, (3) tick-tocking clocks, and (4) my voice sounding strange

  3. Three thoughts I pondered on snow plowers, snowy roads, and rotten fruit

  4. A foreshadowing of a birthday present to you all next week

  5. Revitalize your career course came to a close

  6. A quality that great conversationalists have

  7. A quote from one of my favorite authors on being a student

  8. A question to get you thinking about your own potential think-weekend

  9. A selfie with me, myself, and a white frosted pine tree

  10. Some shoutouts to a book launch along with a rap video and a course launch

Now, let’s dive into letter 46 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

🧠 Think weekend 2021

I didn't realize that this was actually a thing before doing this. I thought I was being original to intentionally devote time to myself for a retreat without technology. As Auston Kleon would call it a "practical sabbatical". As I was driving six hours north to Petoskey, chatting with my friend Ben, he said "OHHH you're doing what Bill Gates does every half-year.” Here’s Bill Gates below:

Twice a year, I get out of the office, breaking from my normal routine, for much needed “Think Weeks.” By actively disconnecting and looking at everything from 50,000 feet, I am able to effectively reflect, reset, and clearly rethink my goals and aspirations….For each “Think Week,” I create a life to-do list, do a lot of research, and think through big ideas and challenges deeply. Going through this process has been enlightening.

I packed up a lot of fruit, some hot cocoa, a whiteboard, some journals (old and new), nine books, a yoga mat, and lots Duraflame logs in case the heat didn't work like last year.

The rules were no iPhone or laptop for 60 hours. Minimal expectations, other than to think.

My intent: I always feel inundated with media and managing my time to be productive. It's comforting to realize I don't need it. It's merely a desire to use the tools I have in my life.

This was only half the mess. There were many more stickies around and markers everywhere. It was a fun type of mess.

I was finally settling into the normalcy of no notifications or screen time. I didn't have the temptation and it was great. I accepted it for what it was. The first day I felt like I was fighting it and needed to fill the void with social media.

Apart from all my fun writing, reflecting, and reading, I want to share four anecdotes that you might find valuable or entertaining.

  1. A snowplowing saga

  2. Mindful walking

  3. Tick tocking clocks

  4. My voice sounds stange

❄️ Snowplowing saga

This piece of art below doesn’t look like much. But oh it is. It took me all of the too many hours to admit to creating. Then the next day it all got ruined as it snowed again.

I'm grateful to the big red snowplow that helped me create this masterpiece. She died halfway in. Of course at the very end of the driveway. The manual start wouldn't work. I got out 5 extension cords to trail to the apron of the driveway. For a thrill, I tried again manually. What are the odds after my treasure hunt in the cabin and garage for chords? Then she died again and the electric start was no hope either. This fine piece of machinery was so heavy she wouldn't budge without being propelled with the engine on.

I was beyond tempted to go find my phone that I locked up in the bomb shelter of the basement to go google what the hell I was doing wrong. Or to call my dad. I resisted the urge as that’d be game over for my think weekend without screens.

That's when sure womanpower came and I tried to finish up the other half of the driveway with a handy dandy shovel. As I was shoveling I realized that it might not be a user error. Maybe the machine is out of gas. Huzzah! That was the problem. Coincidentally I found a tank of gas in the garage and that was the juice that was needed to finish the job. I hadn't been this proud of shoveling this much snow in my life before. 22 whole inches.

So what's the point of this story? You can rely on the old hardware up in your noggin. That's what cavemen did and look how far they brought us. You don't need Google as much as you think you do. It can needlessly break your concentration. Be patient and allow your brain to be resourceful.

🚶‍♀️Mindful walking

I kind of felt like I was a white walker in my mornings. Those characters in Game of Thrones had such calm essence to each of their intentional strides (though spooky). I found myself meditating of sorts while I was walking. I was even crazy enough to close my eyes for all of 10 strides until I walked straight into a pile. That was a great laugh for me.

I started out with a warm-up of counting three steps breathing in and three steps breathing out (all through my nose). I eventually made it to breathing five steps, holding for five steps, and exhaling for ten steps.

I learned this breathing technique from my swim coach growing up. Thank you, Coach Michalik (I wrote a story about him here). It made me near-invincible before swimming my main event. The 50-meter backstroke. I could kick butterfly underwater all the way up until I'd get disqualified. It's crazy how such a simple technique can open your lungs.

🕰️ Tick-tocking clocks

As I was stretching, I found myself hearing a bunch of tick-tocks. In retrospect, they are quite quiet, but when you are in the middle of nowhere with silence otherwise it becomes a pain. I went on a rampage to shut off or turn over all the clocks. This added up to eight. EIGHT clocks. No wonder I'm always tracking my time. I got completely uncomfortable not knowing what time it was. Is it time to make dinner? I can't do mental math to add up the hpoours of my sleep, so how good was my sleep actually? Was that pomodoro of reading too long? I have absolutely no idea how long my walks were. They each felt long, but I loved it.

I think it's beyond helpful to track time. Even if I weren't a consultant, I would still track my time. I have ever since I jumped in a pool and started racing the clock at age six.

It was leaps outside of my comfort zone to not have a clock. I realized so much of my day is structured around the time that I felt confused and lost. I had to listen to when I was hungry or when I felt tired to go to sleep. Much of my routines are triggered by a certain hour of the day rather than feeling. This isn't good or bad, it's simply a tendency. This is actually a tendency of Type 5 enneagrams. We are the "thinkers".

🤐 My voice sounds strange

I sang in the shower when I was into the second half of the 60 hours without human interaction. I realized that my voice sounded really funny. Only after one day, I had forgotten what I sounded like. It was kind of refreshing to be mute. I could just listen instead. It was sweet nothingness.

📖 Reading

I brought up nine different books. I like to have options of what to read based on what my mood is. I didn't expect these to be the ones I landed on. I read Austin Kleon's book from start to finish on Show Your Work. Wow, it was such a great change of pace with the graphics. I highly recommend it if you are at all skeptical about sharing your creativity or the power of learning in public.

I was knocked right off my seat cushion reading Think Again by Adam Grant. I preordered his book back in October and have (high-key) had a countdown until it came out. I cannot wait to share more in-depth book notes once I apply them to my life and type them up. For now, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.” — Adam Grant

Nobody’s Perfect, Charlie Brown is a comic book I brought for fun. Surprisingly, I surfaced a lot of content that could get repurposed into some provoking pieces on what’s wrong with how kids view school. Comic books are so great. Even greater when they simplified for children where there is no assumed context.

I found myself listening to 12 Rules for Life on the drive up here. Jordan Peterson is quite the narrator. He makes such a dense book come to life through audio for a much better experience. I also listened through Big Magic by Liz Gilbert during my drive up north. I can't wait to listen to it again.

Liz Gilbert gets me. I find myself going in circles reading from phenomenal brave female writers. Liz wrote a chapter on Brené Brown who endorsed Untamed by Glennon Doyle and The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. This was not planned people, I swear. I fell down here and as McDonald's ads say it best: I'm lovin' it.

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron is a 12-week course. I signed the creative contract in the intro so now I have no choice but to follow through on my efforts. She says you can do it by yourself, but I feel like it'd be more enjoyable with friends. If you’ve pursued this course or have been wanting to read it let me know and we can be accountability buds!

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💭 Pondering three thoughts

  1. Be like a snow plower. Perhaps the seasonality of jobs can create acceptance for our own with the stages of our life. Similar to how my accountant friends have busy seasons for taxes, I saw so many snow plowers zooming around plowing driveways up the wazoo. It got me thinking: what they do when there isn't any snow? We all need to have different skills to lean on them for different seasons of life. How will you diversify your toolkit?

  2. Venture onto the snowy road. Learning online is much like feeling like you are on a snowy road by yourself. It isn't until you are near a fleet of other cars on the horizon that you feel less lonely. This is why I believe cohort-based courses are the best thing since sliced bread. You can see other's tracks. You're not actually friends but you're both going in the same direction. You get kind of sad when one of them exits the road even though the Blue Ford 150 has no name, you felt like friends with parallel motivations. The destinations are different but you both made up your minds to trek out onto the snowy roads, shift on the four-wheel drive, and get uncomfortable with the uncertainty ahead of the snowy road.

  3. Eat the rotten fruit. You don't actually know when fruits taste best until you un-peel them and take a bite. I left bananas in my car and they froze turning black. To my surprise, they were perfectly ripe. What else in my life looks rotten but is actually blossoming and waiting to be discovered?

🖊 Writing

I've been writing up an essay that I first journaled of 25 lessons learned from my life. I've nearly lived a quarter-life on this planet. That's a lot of revolutions around the sun. It's challenging for me to internalize that fact. I still feel like a kindergartener who forgot how to tie their shoes while other days I feel too serious and wish I could be more naive about life. I'm excited to share this essay with you all next week as a birthday present!

👩‍🏫 Course Managing

The cohort-based course I’ve been managing the past few weeks has ended. It was my first time ever managing a course, and wow wee, it was fun. There's great power to having guest speakers. They validate so many of the ideas shared already from a different angle hammering home why it matters so much in the first place. One of these guest speakers on the last session was fellow Write of Passage mentor Cam Houser, facilitator of the course Minimum Viable Video.

He shared about all things on how to master our virtual interactions. The top tips were video basics ALF: Audio, Lighting, and Framing. Stand out against other candidates by getting comfortable filming videos. It implicitly shows effort. That you are more than a resume. It goes above and beyond a cover letter to personally share your story. Cam inspired me as the course manager to even create a video myself for the students.

🔎 Word to define

Interesting: arousing excite, interest, curiosity, or emotion; holding, engaging or catching the attention

Etymology of the word: The first known use of interesting was in 1768. Originally meant "of concern" as a synonym of important. It comes from the verb interest, which originally meant "to induce or persuade to participate or engage." If you were interested in something, you were not willing to be a bystander; you felt the need to participate or engage.

Example using the word from Austin Kleon:

The word interesting the way writer Lawerence Weschler does: For him, to be "interest-ing" is to be curious and attentive, and to practice "the continual projection of interest." To put it more simply: If you want to be interesting, you have to be interested.

🌟 Quote to inspire

"When you feel like you've learned whatever there is to learn from what you're doing, it's time to change course and find something new to learn so that you can move forward. You can't be content with mastery; you have to push yourself to become a student again." -Austin Kleon

❓ Question to think about

What book would you cozy up next to a fireplace for a weekend and read from start to finish?

(For me this was Show Your Work by Austin Kleon)

📷 Photo of the Week

One of my many morning mindful walks featuring a frosted pine tree.

🙏 Shoutouts

  • Fellow learn-it-all Lux Narayan for launching his book Name, Place, Animal, Thing. Look here to learn more: NPAT.life

  • Lux also created a fun TLDR version of his book as a Rap -

  • To Write of Passage for launching their 6th cohort this past week. You can check the course out here.

  • Twitter friend, Danny Miranda for inspiring my 60 hours without technology after I came across his own experience for 5 days here.


I appreciate you reading this! If certain ideas resonated or you have feedback to improve my future newsletters, I’d love you to leave a comment, reply to this email, or send me a message on Twitter @JenVermet.

Never stop learning 😁

Until next week,

Jen


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