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🐬 Letter 67: Swimming with Dolphins, Hard Decisions, Waiwai, Reflection

6 min

What have I been most proud of that happened in the first 6 months of this year?

Aloha fellow learn-it-all

Greetings from Waikiki, Hawai'i 🌺

Happy (belated 4th of July)!

This holiday typically involves a lot of red, white and blue festivities and adult beverages. This year it went a little bit differently. This is the first time (in too many years) that I haven't been hungover after. Why?

I was at the airport in Honolulu with my new friend Angelica who was my tag team partner in welcoming the 35 college students for the new session. Not going to lie that it was draining but simultaneously exciting to be the first person to welcome them all onto their new adventure. First impressions are key. I never thought I’d be one of those people with a pickup sign at an airport. I was one. It was cool.

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

Now, let’s dive into letter 67 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

🖊 Writing

As it's been about half way through the year I've been starting to do a review to see how to recalibrate my life and live with more intention.

If you missed my annual reflection at the start of the year, here it is.

The handful of words that I chose to be guiding pillars of my year were play, intentionality, and experimentation. I want to figure out how to double down on these or change them if needed.

🎬 Watching

I watched the TED Talk How to make hard choices with philosopher Ruth Cheng. I found it to be extremely topical for me. Why? Decision making is a topic I am endlessly fascinated by. It takes a mix of judgement, emotional intelligence, guttural instincts, and rationality. It's only from making a bunch of decisions that wisdom can be gained.

Much of my life I have always veered towards the rational decision maker. Heck, I made a pro con list for whether I wanted to actually go study at the University of Amsterdam five years ago. I thought of so many cons that tipped the scale against why I should go. On paper, it didn't make sense but that didn't matter because I knew I'd regret it if I didn't go even though it was scary. A similar model is why I chose to move to Hawaii.

Cheng introduces this concept of making decisions from alternatives that are on par where they are not directly comparable as less than, greater than or equal to. Each of our decisions from what we choose to eat in the morning, what we wear, where we live, and how we make money are an expression of who we are and what we stand for.

Our decisions are what dictates who we create ourselves to be. Cheng points out that there rarely is a best choice. We need to look internally rather than reacting to what the world wants us to choose. That is likely the most risk averse. With this comes the tendency to be a drifter:

People who don't exercise their normative powers in hard choices are drifters. We all know people like that. I drifted into being a lawyer. I didn't put my agency behind lawyering. I wasn't for lawyering. Drifters allow the world to write the story of their lives. They let mechanisms of reward and punishment --pats on the head, fear, the easiness of an option --to determine what they do. So the lesson of hard choices: reflect on what you can put your agency behind, on what you can be for, and through hard choices, become that person.

I've definitely been there as a drifter. Going through the motions and feeling like I was doing what I should be doing on my track in finance. I was doing what was expected of me to do. So how can we prevent ourselves from being drifters?

Reflect on your decisions and create reasons that supports who you want to be rather than settling for reasons that were given to us. Hard decisions are a human condition to celebrate as they create who we are each day.

🏖 Waikiki Update

I just left my first week living in a hostel. I've previously stayed in one for away swim meets in high school and in Barcelona with my brother. This was different though. It wasn't with anyone I knew. It definitely took a bit of getting used and I had a great experience. You get to meet so many adventurous folks many of which have this energy about them. They value the experiences they have, the connections made and the stories to share.

I went out to the west side of the island to Mākua Beach to snorkel with dolphins. To be honest, I was skeptical they'd actually be there with my luck (or lack thereof after getting a J-walking citation). My skepticism was hammered when I saw them. It was quite the sight. I couldn't believe my eyes. There was a pod of about 7 or so. They were spinner dolphins known for their ability to spin multiple times in one jump. A bunch of them were babies. It looked like they were holding hands together underwater. They were apparently sleeping and just swimming around in loops.

There's something about just seeing these families snuggled up to each swimming that was adorable. I could sense the care they had for each other even as their brains are half dormant while sleeping.

🔎 Word to define

Wai: Fresh drinking water. The kind of water that is necessary to sustain life, water for the growing of crops and sustenance of people.

Waiwai: abundance; wealth, riches, assets, property, value as a noun or to be wealthy, to be rich, to be valuable, to be useful.


Wai, Māori word for "water" or "river", used as a common prefix in New Zealand place names.

Early Hawaiians considered water not only as a natural resource which was used to feed their taro fields but also as something much more valuable. It is no coincidence then that the Hawaiians placed much value on this precious resource; it was so precious, in fact, that the very word for goods, property, assets, valuables, value, worth, wealth, importance, benefit, and estate is "waiwai" meaning, lots of water.


Water is wealth, so never take it for granted and visit your hydration stations regularly.

🌟 Quote to inspire

"Ships don't sink because of the water around them. Ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don't let what's happening around you get inside you and weigh you down." -Goi Nasu

❓ Question to think about

What have I been most proud of that happened in the first 6 months of this year?

📷 Photo of the Week

This was after I saw the dolphins swimming. I was in shock. Mother nature is really neat. I’m so grateful that I know how to swim. To be by water each day. For the Aloha spirit. This decision to be in Hawai’i. I can already feel a shift happening. It’s hard to describe just yet what exactly that is.

🙏 Shoutouts

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. If you want to learn more about who I am, I welcome you to visit my online home.

Never stop learning 😁

Mahola 🌺


👣 Footnotes

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