Aloha fellow learn-it-all,
Greetings from Petoskey, Michigan ❄️
Happy new year and I hope you are all off to a healthy and happy start 🌟
Neither the cold snow nor Omicron nor my broken laptop charger killed these letters off (just yet).
I decided to postpone my letter last week.
In other words, I skipped writing to you all for the first time in 91 weeks.
Wow. That was weird.
There can be as many excuses I'd like of not feeling up to writing or curating anything. Or that I had been relieved from my quarantine and wanted to hit the slopes and was too tired after to make it back. Nevertheless, I'm back.
Postmortem of my decision to miss last week, I realize how much I rely heavily on these letters to act as a forcing function to reflect each week. I don't know what the science is behind the sneaky publish button but without it, my week's reflection felt like a bunch of fluff. Not distilled. Not pretty.
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 312 learn-it-alls:
Now, let’s dive into letter 92 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!
✍️ Letter to my Future Self Exercise
Back in letter 80, I assigned you all an assignment to write a letter to your future self. The time has come to open that goody if you have not yet.
I started this exercise last year and first shared it in letter 27.
If you're keen to learn more about this exercise, I wrote this blog:
What a behemoth I wrote last year. Thank you Mom for printing it out. I've been stewing up a storm of marginalia on it.
If you never saw it, here's my 2020 annual review. I'm still writing up and diverging for my current one.
So far, four of my 2021 lessons have been...
- Unleash crazy ideas from my mind into the world through journaling.
- Permission from anyone but myself is unnecessary.
- My body is smart and I need to listen to it more often.
- Life is better when we bring out our inner child.
I had mixed feelings about whether to do a 2021 Annual Reflection because it feels laborious. Though, I know it's so rewarding, especially given that I can say without a doubt, this past year has been the favorite of my life. I don't want to leave any golden nuggets lying on the floor.
If you'd like to start a reflection alongside me, respond to this email and let's be accountability buds 😊
📚 Annual Review Resources
Fear not if you have never done one before, below are more resources than you could ever need. I recommend choosing one and going for it. My intention is not to create analysis paralysis for you.
Here are four frameworks from people I admire:
- James Clear answers these questions:
What went well this year?
What didn’t go so well this year?
What am I working toward?
—> You can find his past reviews here.
- Anne Laure Le Cunff created this template last year that I found helpful with different buckets similar to James Clear
- At the start of 2020, I joined Tiago Forte's Annual Review Collective workshop where we used this template. It has a step by step framework and goes into the weeds.
- Khe Hy has a Notion template with some really quality questions I am liking. My favorite: what makes me come alive?
My version currently is opening letters to myself, and rereading old journals, my past writing on my website, past newsletters, monthly reviews, and what came of attempts at trimester reviews.
I’m starting to simplify the process and asking questions similar to James of what I want to stop, start and continue doing more of.
For additional inspiration of annual reviews, here are five below:
- Mark Manson explains here why he thinks it's better to focus on skills rather than goals
- David Perell's 9,000 word review is well-worth the read in my opinion. I like how he breaks down his decision making
- Resolutions for a Life Worth Living: Attainable Aspirations Inspired by Great Humans of the Past Issue by Maria Popova in Brain Pickings
- Salman Ansari shares his process with simple steps of reviewing and reflecting
- In Tiago Forte's 2021 Annual Review I particularly resonated with his six favorite problems near the end
Happy reflecting 🥸
I discovered Ask Polly newsletter a few months thanks to my marvelous roommate's curious eye. I kid you not, I have read every post from her a couple of times. She answers so many of the existential questions that are top of mind for me.
I enjoy reading her writing as much as the evening bowl of peppermint stick ice cream I scooped myself after shipping this.
Yesterday, she posted "What Should I Do With My Life". It was just what I needed to read. Inside the issue was also a painting of the black lava bridge by Georgia O’Keefe that I saw in Hana, Maui. I scratched my chin and thought it was a similar sight from what I wrote in letter 76. I got extra excited about that.
Here are four of my top quotes from her piece:
- On how I can harness my self-improvement tendency to work in favor towards an optimized life:
You just have to know your own desires, understand your requirements for thriving, and remain suspicious of your knee-jerk overachiever optimizing while also using that go-getter, overachiever energy to pursue things/people/careers that YOU PERSONALLY VALUE AND ADMIRE.
2. On not putting the people you admire on pedestals, nobody has all the answers:
This is what people who are successful at the jobs you admire sometimes teach you, just by opening their mouths. You ask them for advice but they have none. They don’t own the keys to the kingdom! They simply remind you of who you are and what you do. Because they know that’s where happiness comes from: a place of faith in what you have to offer. You observe the world and look for what’s broken. You witness what could be redesigned or reinvented. You listen to people who are thriving, and you watch people who are following their joy, instincts, and deepest principles.
3. On how I want to observe life and solve problems:
Mostly what I admire is people who look around and decide something is missing and then resolve to fill in the gap somehow, with something exciting and unique that connects people to each other.
4. On how life is a grand adventure and we need not explain ourselves (in a tone that reminded me of writer Mark Manson):
It’ll be frightening no matter what you choose. You’ll doubt yourself. You’ll wonder if it’s all a mistake. But that’s part of taking big risks, which is also part of who you are, which is a big part of why people tell you the world is your oyster so often. They don’t mean that you’re here to become the king of the world. They mean that you’re here to have a big adventure. So tune into your truest desires and needs. Shake off the guilt. Forget what the world wants from you. Don’t explain yourself. Move toward exuberant energy, and be who the fuck you are.
🔎 Word to define
Meraki: Describes doing something with soul, creativity, or love
When you put “something of yourself” into what you're doing, whatever it may be with passion, with absolute devotion, with undivided attention.
Other tangential use cases you might’ve heard this before:
- Cisco Meraki - a cloud-managed IT company
- Meraki TV - a lifestyle show for Greeks living in Australia
A Modern Greek word, derived from the Turkish “Merak” (Labor of love, to do something with pleasure), is applied to tasks, usually, creative or artistic tasks but can be applied to any task at all.
Similar to how my sister Steph bakes her Christmas chocolate caramels with meraki, I aspire to cultivate more of these pursuits in my own life.
🌟 Quote to inspire
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” - Leonardo da Vinci
❓ Question to think about
What makes me come alive?
📷 Photos of the Week
I got some quality skiing on the slopes with my sister and cousin in northern Michigan. They are drastically better than me at the sport despite my older age.
I certainly got a workout in. It’s a funny feeling when you know the plan is to go down the more challenging black diamond, and then when you see the vertical drop, your stomach tells you otherwise. I could tell my brain was jumping out of its skull when I told it this was for fun. It feels like a similar effect when I jumped out of the boat into the ocean to swim with a shark: WHY am I doing this again?!?
I survived the mighty Michigan ‘mountains’ and now remember why I love it so much (to watch me shred into the new year 🤪).
Since my family left, I am up here alone reading, reflecting, and planning. I’ve got some lovely company of my parent's golden doodles, Paisley and Polo. They are such playful snow dogs.
I was walking my dogs in the winter wonderland woods and came across another doodle and owner.
The owner asked if 7-year-old Paisley was a puppy because of how much more playful she was than his shy pup. It’s odd how we equate youth with play.
You can have just as much play while old as in your youth. It’s a choice to cultivate your inner playful ‘puppyness’.
- To Steph Smith for sharing the word to define on Eunoia that was built in 24 hours. It has 500+ untranslatable words by 70+ languages
- To Heather Havrilesky for answering so transparently and entertainingly the questions of her readers
- To Khe Hy for sharing the question to think about
- To my cousin Matthew Abar who is moving to Miami, Florida for his first ‘adult job’. If any of you know much about finding housing there, please let me know as his lease recently fell through.
- To my mom for loaning me her much more snow-proof car. If you're reading this I appreciate your all-wheel drive and always catching my typos
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 😁
On all the noise in the world and why we need to nurture what is meaningful:
You cannot actually be a failure until you have the courage to take action:
On why I'm tempted to revert back to a flip phone so that I will actually call people:
On how I have been overly analytical in my decision making:
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