Letter #36 from a Learn-it-all
How journaling changed my life, why I didn't ship, discovering my grandpa's videographer skills, unplugging for 60 hours, Subject Matter podcast launch
Hello fellow learn-it-all,
Greetings from outside Detroit, Michigan!
To my American friends, happy (belated) Thanksgiving. To all of my readers, many thanks to the 161 of you for deciding to come along for the ride. I am grateful to you all. If you are joining these letters for the first time, welcome to our weekly exploration of what I have learned from living life and perusing the Internet. You can catch up on the past letters here.
So, what's in store for this issue?
A 4-minute Youtube video explaining why I’m obsessed with journaling
An archived article on why journaling changed my identity
A confession on how I didn’t publish 5 Ship It’s last week
Why my grandpa would have made for a great YouTuber back in the 80s
Lessons from unplugging from technology for 60 hours over the holiday
Three insightful reads about being sober, gratitude, and the inner game
Exciting news about Subject Matter’s podcast launch
A thought-provoking question to dive deeper while giving gratitude
One of my mom’s favorite phrases to use
A picture explaining why I have probably gained a few pounds these past few days
Now, let’s jump into letter 36. Enjoy!
Some things I’ve learned from…
🗣️ Part-time Youtuber Academy
As I mentioned in last week's edition, for Ali Abdaal's Part-time YouTuber Academy I would be sharing this week a video on one of my favorite things. This video is just over 4 minutes long and explains why I started journaling back in 2006 and how it is transitioned to my daily practice today. Here it is:
Here's a template I made that shows some places you can begin with prompts and ideas. Use what is helpful and come up with what is most useful for yourself.
Up next in this course is my assignment of filming a 60-second video called a "Short". I'm thinking I might do it in the topic of the book I read over the weekend. More on that below in the third section of 📖Reading.
🖊 Writing from the Archives
Speaking of journaling and my video for my Youtube channel, I thought this would be a great time to resurface one of my favorite essays I wrote over the summer on Why Journaling Transformed my Identity.
🚢 (not) Shipping
So I have a confession. I feel like a failure. I set out this goal to ship for 100 days and this past week my system failed me.
The inspiration wasn't coming to me and I ended up dreading to write each day. When I wait to begin in the evening, I completely let it slip my mind and make sleeping a priority instead.
This is no surprise that I wasn't inspired to write at the end of the day because it is when I am low-energy and ready to go to bed. It is best for me to start my day sitting and writing. Then I randomly come back throughout the day while on a walking break to add, edit, and distill.
As much as I look back on the 90 days I have shipped, it's still not easy to ship every day even though my past self made it look easy. It still takes time to write them. Rather than forgiving myself and forgetting, the lesson here is to set yourself up with a system that works.
Nevertheless, I've written for 90 days and have 10 left to go before I get to 100! This means churning the wheels to crank them out and making time to finish.
On Thanksgiving evening, I watched hours of old VHS tapes that my Aunt and Mom dusted off recently after being discovered. No one in my family had ever seen this footage before. My grandpa was an avid videographer with his huge floodlit film video camera. It was enjoyable to see Dziadzia progress in his filming abilities back in the 80s. My mom was 24 in some of the videos. I am currently 24. It was beyond weird and to hear her voice sound so similar to my own.
My dad asked me if I’d want to be friends with that girl in the videos I saw. I said, "Heck yes!" My mom could have taught me so much at the time about being a waterskier, traveling and lessons learned from being one of the few women moving up the ranks at General Motors.
My favorite clip was when Dziadzia set up a tripod and filmed himself driving golf balls across his backyard. He said he did it so that he could improve by watching the footage after. I loved the reactions after he struck each ball assessing himself. I don't remember how foreign he sounded with his heavy Polish accent. This could have been PRIME vlogging material if YouTube existed back then.
Dziadzia passed in 2006, when I was 10. One of my first entries in my journal was on this day. What I would do to sit down and talk about his upbringing in the Polish underground, family, and life decisions with him today.
🔌 Unplugging from Technology
Back in May, I did an experiment mentioned in letter 8 of going 24 hours off the grid unplugged from technology inspired by Charlie Bleecker. My findings from then were:
Increased willpower for other things with the decisions of social media out of the picture
Appreciation of the outdoors and having a feeling of total disconnect in the woods without a phone in my pocket
Replacement of my desire for novelty with an increased appreciation for nuance and the present moment
The power of a break from focused attention with a walk outside without a podcast playing
Patience to problem solve on my own instead of relying on Google for instant answers. There can be power in delaying the answer because you think about it longer. Speeding to the answer is not always the solution.
This time around I went for 60 hours with my phone and laptop powered down. I would like to add to this list of what I have found this go around:
The realization that I probably rely on my note-taking system (in my Roam database) too much to capture everything. It’s OKAY if some ideas fly away. Trust that if they’re that important, they will come back.
I don’t have nearly as much “thinking” time when I fill pockets throughout my day with my phone.
There can be a lot of engagement in conversation or on a walk where historically my phone’s mere proximity could create a lost train of thought.
I don’t always need Spotify. CD’s and singing in the shower are cool too.
The great thing about unplugging is that it allowed me to go back to pen and paper to jot my thoughts down throughout the day and have a lot of time for reading. There is a mine of gold in our brains of ideas that we need to explore and stop seeking novelty all the time.
📖 Three Readings
(1) Lessons from being sober for 1 year
I mentioned in letter 33 how I joined the Compound Writing Community. I had the opportunity to edit David Vargas's essay on his First Year Sober. It is a powerful essay about vices, socialization, and identity transformation that I highly recommend reading. It is clear, concise, and engaging. I found it extremely relatable since I used to drink heavily as well for similar reasons of wanting energy and liquid courage as someone who was (and still usually is) shy. I loved it when I heard my drunk persona name "Jenny V" chanted at parties and bars. That ship has sailed and Vargas sums it all up quite well why we are better off.
(2) Giving thanks for the hard things in life
Another thought-provoking essay I read this week from one of my favorite writers Ryan Holiday who introduced me to stoic philosophy. In this essay Here’s How to Give Thanks—Not Once a Year—but Every Day, Holiday reminds us to dig below the surface. To thank not simply for what is easy and immediately pleasing, but also the things you never asked for, the things you worked hard to prevent from happening in the first place.
When Holiday journals every morning he admits that:
"I try to find ways to express gratitude not for the things that are easy to be grateful for, but for what is hard. Gratitude for that nagging pain in my leg, gratitude for that troublesome client, gratitude for that delayed flight, gratitude for that damage from the storm. Because it’s making me take things slow, because it’s helping me develop better boundaries, because some flights are going to be delayed and I’m glad it wasn’t a more important flight, because the damage could have been worse, because the damage exposed a more serious problem that now we’re solving."
(3) Why the Inner Game inside our minds is critical
Over the weekend I picked up a book that my friend Katelyn recommended to me a while back from her list called The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance. I am so glad I got around reading it, though I am still distilling my notes and I am beyond excited to share them with you next week!
My friend Ravi summed up the big idea quite eloquently why he recommends this book to his clients: that within we have tremendous innate potential, suppressed by overactive ego; is timeless.
Perhaps I could make my short video about my favorite parts of this book. What do you think? I would love to know your response below in a comment or response to this email.
As part of one of my newer roles as a part-time content manager for Astutely Media, I have been helping to write and produce its podcast. The third season of Subject Matter launched this past week! There will be two episodes each week (around 10 minutes each) now until the end of March.
This season's focus surrounds helping business leaders build powerful relationships with empathetic communication. It is hosted by Ben Bradbury, the Founder of Astutely, who delivers timeless truths and practical wisdom on creating connections with customers, employees, investors, and more.
It’d mean a lot to me if you followed along and tuned in by subscribing below:
🔎 Phrase to define
Get your goat: Make you annoyed or angry; to irritate someone.
The etymology: Goats were placed with racehorses to keep them calm. When ne'er-do-wells wanted the horse to race badly, they removed it. They 'got someone's goat', so the horse became unsettled and ran badly.
Example using the word: If I wanted to get my mom's goat, I would leave my voicemail box full so that she can't leave me any messages.
🌟 Quote to inspire
“If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you'll never enjoy the sunshine.” –Morris West
💭 Question to ponder
What hard thing(s) are you grateful for that has happened this year has helped make you the stronger person that you are today?
Thank you Ryan Holiday for inspiring this question.
📷 Photo of the Week
Rest easy knowing that I most probably gained some weight with this plate full of delicious food. My favorite dish? My Aunt Linda's stuffing or the mashed potatoes.
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,
P.S. - Don’t grind your teeth as much as me where you have to get fillings for holes in your molars from too much stress that you get sent to see your dad for fillings.
If you’re reading this because someone shared this newsletter with you or you clicked a link somewhere, welcome! I’d love it if you subscribed below to receive future updates:
Enjoyed the read as always, Jen. Great job on the video. You should totally make a video about The Inner Game of Tennis. It's such a fantastic book. And you're natural on camera. You'd make a great YouTuber, the kind of YouTuber (should I be capitalizing that T?) who makes viewers smarter, wiser, healthier. It's been so spectacular seeing you grow through all your newsletters, videos, and projects. Keep it the hell up Jen!
To answer that last question, I'm grateful for the tribulations of working to make it on my own as a digital creator. I've had tremendous support from my friends (who also double as podcast guests). I quit my job at a grocery store recently, a stable paycheck. Felt like my world was ending, that I wouldn't have food in my belly or a roof over my head. But now I'm working with Andrew Barry on his show, and have some sponsors lined up for my podcast. Just have to keep at it. Can't predict the future. But we can predict that opportunities will come as long as we're open to them, right?
Cheers, Jen, and here's to your good health this week. Can't wait for your next issue.