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😎 Letter 84: Writing Studio, Walking Honolulu History Tour, Mind Blowingly Beautiful, Dunbar Theory, Pono

7 min

What activities in my life do I feel that my mind and body are in sync?

Aloha fellow learn-it-all πŸ‘‹

Greetings from Kona, Big Island of Hawai'i 🌺

I've flown over to Kona, the biggest island of the chain of islands in the Kingdom of Hawai'i a few days early before my half-marathon this weekend. I haven't gotten to exploring much yet since I got here last night, but wow even from the sky, the geography of this 55 minute flight over looks drastically different than where I've been living these past four months on O'ahu.

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 84 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

πŸ–Š Writing

For the Writing Studio, led by fellow Write of Passage Mentor Michael Dean, I have been typing away studying the different mechanics that go into writing. This week, we’ve focused on rhythm and controlling the delay in storytelling with suspense and reward.

I’ve diverging to form an essay that will be shared at the end of this four week course.

The reason I signed up is because ever since I started writing online about two years ago, I've always focused on quantity. I'm at a point where I want to stop to go on a deeper dive.

A couple weeks ago I shared the essay Do Nothing. I felt like I was only scratching the surface on this topic. I've been pondering it most of my young adult life and more intently for the last year and a half since writing about about Aesop's Fable of being a Grasshopper or Ant.

The themes I'm currently exploring in the Writing Studio are around the intersection of what's going on in productivity, leisure, sabbaticals, future of work, emotional intelligence, and self-reinvention.

If this is something that intrigues you that you have thoughts on, I'd love to read them and please respond with any questions you'd like to be answered on these topics.

🎧 Listening

I listened to Β a new podcast produced by TED: Am I Normal? With Mona Chalabi: How Many Friends Do I Need?. Usually I stray from using the word β€˜normal’ as I wrote in my 2020 Annual Review. It is frustratingly subjective with so many definitions. This pod is different though from a data journalist perspective where the numbers are given context and she argues that averages are far from the full picture.

Chalabi shares about her experience of having moved away from New York City back to London and dealing with a friend 'crisis' of hanging out too much with her mom as her uni friends are now wives and moms. I FEEL this. We all go onto different stages of life and it’s not as simple to connect with friends when that happens.

She converses with British anthropologist Robin Dunbar who is most known for his Dunbar theory on the magical number of 150. This is the 'average' number of relationship that a person can maintain.

Some insights this provoked are:

  1. How will everyone reset friendships in a healthy and safe matter with in-person meetups since this pandemic, if digital contact is merely a band-aid?
  2. On the range of relationships, if introverts tend to have about 100 friends while extroverts can have up to 300, where do I stand if I feel like my personality is ever-changing between the two?
  3. If my circle is now decreasing since reaching my social capital peak at age range 18-22, how can I still be optimistic? On top of that, why are folks within this age range the most likely to feel lonely while having the most friends? how much does emotional maturity have to do with this?
  4. If we can have friends serve three goals of being
    (1) dependable
    (2) fun
    (3) converse with
    am I better off trying to find people who can fill all three of these buckets? It it better to delineate friends across these goals?
  5. While writing out names in different zones of close friends, great friends, just friends and acquaintances, why did I forget so many people off the top of my head without checking my call logs, texts, emails, etc…?

πŸŽ™ Recording AudiOctober

I've been recording rather shorts Rackets this week. It's been a helpful creative constraint with storytelling to see how I can succinctly give context, action and a conclusion all within about 90 seconds.

My favorite Racket this past week was on a mind blowingly beautiful sunset I saw. The secret no one tells you is that all the psychedelic colors come out after the sun is set. To listen:

πŸ”Ž Word to define

Pono: something to authentically aspire to rather than to fully attain, mostly because pono means more than doing the right thing in a given situation, but rather living life with balance, harmony and integrity, seeking to improve the surrounding world.

It's in the state motto Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Κ»Δ€ina i ka Pono and translates to 'The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness'.

Translated from Hawaiian to mean 'righteousness', though it is a polysemous term that means it has multiple meanings where none of which are direct translation to English.

What's missing with the word "righteousness," however, is the balance and harmony pono connotes for Hawaiians. To be pono means to be in a state of harmony or balance with oneself, others, the land, work and life itself.

Other synonyms: Goodness, uprightness, morality, moral qualities, correct or proper procedure, excellence, well-being, prosperity.


The concept of pono is taught to Hawaiian children at a very young age since it is deeply ingrained in their culture. It is a guiding principle that is to shape their every decision. "Is it pono?” they ask. In other words, will what you're about to do help bring harmony and good into the world?

Pono is a large, diverse idea that encompasses a range of balanced, proper and good actions. It is also an idealistic one, in that everyone does something that's not pono once in a while. But the Hawaiian way is to keep reaching for pono in life by making righteous decisions each day.


Perhaps through seeking pono in my day-to-day life, I can leave everywhere a better place than I found it.

🌟 Quote to inspire

"The biggest risk to productivity is always the same: working on the wrong thing." -James Clear

❓ Question to think about

What activities in my life do I feel that my mind and body are in sync?

πŸ“· Photo of the Week

I pretended to be a tourist this week along with some lovebirds and other nerds while on a walking tour of downtown Honolulu. It took me four months, but I finally got around to it!

It’s never too late to be a tourist in your life. I recorded a Racket on this here.

I knew I had a lot of gaps in my knowledge of the history of Hawai'i and now my interest has been piqued all over again. So much to better understand.

Some things that popped out to me as turning points in Hawaiian history were:

Going on this tour reminded me of different types of curiosity that we have. I wrote this essay on this a couple years ago that still rings true today if you're seeking inspiration of how to cultivate more of this superpower.

πŸ™ 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 😁

Mahalo 🌺


πŸ‘£ Footnotes

On what self-esteem is:

On my love of writing and mailing notes:

On how I choose to form relationships in my life

On the first page I write in every single one of my journals:

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