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🤹‍♀️Letter 111: Why are you learning so many different things?

8 min

We are students of life, the lost art of the hobby, sailing a Cal 20, Mark Twain

If you are new here or missed last week's edition, you can catch up on the past letters here. This week I learned how to make dumplings and how to have fun doing it. If you are reading this for the first time, I’d love you to sign up below to join the other 364 learn-it-alls:

Aloha fellow learn-it-all 👋

Greetings from Diamond Head, O'ahu, Hawai'i 🌺

*pretending to be a plant to photosynthesize the sun*

I was making dumplings last night with some new friends. We were feasting. Talk about a food coma. I’m still feeling unwell. No regrets.

One fella, in particular, I was speaking with kept drilling me on why I was learning so many different things. It sounded to him like I should be near burnout. When it's actually quite the opposite.

I can't imagine life any other way.

It'd feel dull if I only had one project in my life. Curiosity is the antidote to boredom which leads me down the path of many interests. Sure it's a bit chaotic, but I prefer it this way.

It might not be the most efficient way to live, and sure, on my death bed, there are going to be so many skills I never used again like learning how to tie a bowline knot in the dark behind my back or how to say "Thank you very much" in Fijian or being able to sing the song of the US presidents, BUT I still liked learning these things. I don't regret it at all.

Why is that?

I optimize for fun.

In doing that, I am happy to share my interests with others. This sounds obvious, but I’m sharing it anyway: all of my friendships in Hawaii are centered around shared interests. Out of happenstance, I met my roommate surfing, who became the emotional rock that encouraged me to continue being courageous. All of my friends today were intentionally cultivated rather than leaning on some school network, existing club, community, or job. I didn’t have any mutual friends when I moved here. My whole entire social well-being rested on my ability to share skills to connect.

It's not always easy though. It takes courage to be an outlier. My rational mind screams at me most days saying: “What is the return on this investment??”

We live in a world that is obsessed with production and efficiency. In actuality, that is not what life is about. These are all learned conditions to be utilitarian.

Now, let’s dive into letter 111 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

❓ Question to think about

Why are you learning so many different things?

🖊 Writing

Context: We are Students of Life was originally published on May 24, 2020. It has been over four years since I left formal schooling. What I wrote here over two years ago is much of the foundation of who I am.

On May 18, 2018, I chose to sit in the rain after waiting four years for this day.

It was the day of my college graduation ceremony and I walked across the stage to receive my Bachelor of Science degree in Finance. It was a bittersweet close to this chapter where I grew to be comfortably challenged.

There was certainty in school. I didn’t know what life would be like after leaving the confines of college. I had spent four years in a safe environment to pursue the necessary credits for the guaranteed outcome of graduation. If I checked the boxes of the required courses and received the passing grades, I would come out from Miami University of Ohio with a diploma. This outcome was thanks to professors that guided the way and counselors who helped shepherd me. I felt safe.

The environment of universities makes it seem obvious what we are supposed to do. There are spaces everywhere to study.

A college is a magical place where habits are formed from your surroundings because the norm is to be a student. It is gratifying to be surrounded by like-minded individuals. The students are all determined to come out from it with the same goal.

This diploma proved that we played the game of school. Being compliant with the preset requirements was rewarded. They proved that we can finish what we set out to achieve. It showcases being a learner. Success is proven at the game of school with the diploma as evidence.

With the diploma hanging on my wall, my preconception of specialization as the next step was unsettling.

So many components change after leaving the confines of college. The entrance into the scary “real world” is made. There is no course curriculum. There are no office hours to ask the all-knowing professor who can help answer your questions. There is no game with rules on how to achieve it. There are no formal evaluations to know how you are doing.

Did you get an A over the last four months in your personal, professional, and social life?

After leaving school, these are all evaluated by different factors. The lack of objectivity and structure is scary. It was handed to us on a platter in education for the majority of our life. After leaving we need to figure out what those factors are and what we find important. In school, we are given preset beliefs of what it means to be successful. By doing this, we start to believe that there is only one way to achieve it. We start to believe that preconceived beliefs are the way to become accomplished.
This is not true.

We borrow the definitions school gives us and need to redefine them for ourselves. After leaving school, it is just the beginning. Those classes you still want to take or learn about can still be pursued.

Your curiosity won’t fade away.

I didn't gloat long before I realized I wasn't ready to stop learning. I enjoyed learning too much to give it up.

It is now up to us to incentivize ourselves without the certainty of grades.

Because I am not enrolled in an institution, I technically am not a student. I have changed my mind -- I still consider myself one of life. Like a student in college, I still commit my resources to my education. Since I left college, I have come to realize that life is a school in a different environment.  Life should be seen as a classroom— we never leave it.

The attitude shifts from learning in the formal system of education versus in life. It is a privilege to become knowledgeable. The premise of education is to teach tools to set up the foundation of learning.

Since leaving school, I have shifted nine of my beliefs about what it means to be a student of life.

1. Be resourceful with who you know.

In 1st grade, my friends Kate and Kara learned how to do addition and subtraction from their older siblings. I was jealous that they had the advantage of getting to learn something before me. They jumped ahead in the curriculum.  Because of this, I felt that I needed to get extra help. I didn’t want to get left behind.

During my onboarding training in the summer of 2019, my peers and I gathered existing PowerPoint decks of business leaders who presented already, scrubbed their contents, and put them into a master file to use later on. By doing this, we didn’t have to start from a blank slate each time while creating a pitch deck or agenda for a meeting.

If you find a more efficient way to get things done, it is innovation. Being resourceful saves time. Solving a key problem in a timely manner gets rewarded.  Time is a limited resource. I learned that using resources, like an older sibling for math class is being resourceful.

To read my other eight changed beliefs, read the full article:

📖 Reading

My friend Brendan Stec wrote a piece on The lost art of the hobby. I am grateful to have provided some feedback on this piece especially as it ignited boat loads of interest in me.

In the world we live in obsessed with side hustles and getting rich-quick schemes, it’s so easy for the pursuit of something for enjoyment to fall to the wayside. I used to fear sounding childish to admit that I still like to make jewelry for fun. What’s the point of that after all?

As Brendan shares in the article, “The point of a true hobby is that it’s done for itself and not in service of some future productivity objective.”

I’ll never forget when in college my housemate’s grandma asked me what my hobbies were. I said I go to the gym, the bar, or house parties. I defined a hobby as something I did for fun. These had utility though, for my physical and social health (as inversely ironic that is).

Starting to think about a new hobby to start this weekend? Ask yourself: What do I wish I learned more about?

Dip a toe in or take swam dive into the deep end.

I’d love to know how it goes 😊

🌟 Quote to inspire

“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” - Mark Twin

📷 Photos of the Week

A few days ago, I took a Cal 20 sailboat out with my friend Carter Anne. She is a new sailor and impulsively joined the Waikiki Yacht Club. She confessed to me that she feels like an impostor as a member of a club where she doesn’t even like sailing.

There’s nuance here though. She’s only had a few lessons. Do you blame her for not feeling competent at it yet?

This goes with anything in life. The liability for a floating piece of fiberglass is frightening. The winds, waves, and tides are ever-changing. Sailing is a scary sport. Life is a scary sport too.

Carter Anne rigged, steered, docked, and de-rigged the boat while being calm and even smiling(!) I know there’s a sailor in her.

A silly connection side note: my dad grew up sailing his family’s Cal 20 so it has been around for a long time. In fact, it was designed and invented in 1961 the year my parents were both born.

🙏 Shoutouts

I appreciate you reading this! If ideas resonated, I’d love you to leave a comment, reply to this email, or send me a message on Twitter @JenVermet. Visit my online home if you forgot who I am. If you want to know what I'm up to right now, check my now page.

Never stop learning 😁

Mahalo 🌺


👣 Footnotes

On the beauty of Google Maps:

On the similarity between addiction, obsession, and passion:

On why crying is cool:

My high score with typing:

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