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❓Letter 121: Eight reflective questions from eight newsletters worth reading

7 min

Newsletter Curation, Dear Evan Hansen, Saturn, Garish

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:

Aloha fellow learn-it-all 👋

Greetings from Denver, Colorado ⛰

If you’ve got any recs, let me know:

I began writing this a couple of days ago from the lovely terrace that I appreciate greatly in my childhood home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. My parents have been showing me all of their projects from the new chestnut tree they hope to plant to the solar-powered bird bath newly installed. I sit next to these garish magenta flowers that my mom enjoys, as it reminds her of me in Hawaii. I notice that there are bully blue jays taking over the bird feeder and doggies following me around like my shadow enjoying my company.

I see such rich life all around me. I forgot how much I enjoy summertime in Michigan. I’m so glad my flight went smoothly to get me back to America safely from Holland.

Something that has made me feel better about posting less with my original perspective than I‘d like is that I am still buying myself time to reflect on what I've taken away from my three weeks in the Netherlands. The first week was celebrating a wedding. The second was reuniting with more family members (that I reflected on in Letter 120) and the last week, was a five-day road trip across the country of the Netherlands.

John Dewey wisely said, “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Now, let’s dive into letter 121 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

❓ Question to think about

What newsletters are worth reading?

📖 Reading

This letter is different than others.

I've been indulging in a lot of consumption of newsletters lately. I feel like I 'should' be enjoying a long book while traveling. But, instead, since I felt like my attention was sparring, I downloaded a bunch of newsletters and perused them in airplane mode on my phone.

What I've written up this week are some highlights from eight newsletters that I recommend and ❓Reflection Questions it provoked in me:

  1. Maybe Baby: #108: In fear of forgetting
    Haley Nahman took over 501 photos on her holiday to Italy. That adds up to six photos per waking hour over six days. She was so afraid of forgetting it that she found herself mindlessly capturing. I relate as I've taken over 1000 photos over the last three weeks in the Netherlands.

    ”Studies have shown that when you remember something, you’re likely remembering the last time you recalled it. Meaning that every time we look back, our present ever so slightly alters the past. Photos charge into this process as if to offer irrefutable evidence of what was, but they’re just as fallible.

    ’”trust that I’ll retain what I need to later, and if not, accept the price of a life fully lived.”’

    —> ❓Reflective Question: how can you notice your phone behavior with capturing memories and be kinder about the reality of life being forgotten?

Game of One: #14: Choosing where you live

Matt Yao points out feeling completely like a chameleon that changes themself to match the environment they are in. Completely agree with this as the fact that I feel like I have reinvented myself in life from numerous characters.

”I feel like a chameleon or Ditto (the Pokemon) - able to morph into a shape that fits the space, whether it’s big fast-paced city life in NYC or chill island life in Hawaii.”

—> ❓Reflective Question: What about you? What parts of you flex and which parts stay the same based on your environment? When do you feel like a chameleon?

  1. Dense Discovery: 200 / Four years of DD! 🎉
    In the ‘Worthy Five” spotlight curated by Kai, Madison Hanna is selected. Her recommendation for an activity worth doing:

    ”Memory-recording: when I find myself in awe of the beauty of a moment, I don’t pick up my phone. I take a deep breath and slowly ‘record it’ through each sense: the taste of the moment, the smell, the feel, the sound, and of course, the sight.”

    —> ❓Reflective Question: How can you memory-record in your life by having mindful moments of each sense?

Circle Three: 55 /Where We Are

Dan McGlinn wrote about a day in the life as Lex Friedman. He shared about a life model to make decisions are three buckets: the must haves, the nice to haves, and the don’t wants. In other words, while cleaning my room, my grandma would help me sort in (1) keep (2) give away (3) throw away. For Dan, these are:

“I have the must-haves like exercise, focused time, and communication. Then there’s the nice-to-haves: playing piano, watching a movie, or other creative breaks. Then there’s the can’t haves: overuse of social media or too many digital meetings.”

—> ❓Reflective Question: What do my buckets of importance look like?

  1. Stretch: 15 / ⛱ On Process > Outcome & The Art of Effortlessness
    Charlotte Grysolle on shared personal examples of how she focuses on her process rather than the outcome for long-term focus and determination:

    ”Take this newsletter as an example: sure, it's shorter than usual, and I was supposed to send it out yesterday. If I had judged myself on the outcome, I would've failed and felt disappointed. Instead, I'm judging myself on the effort: writing something every day and sending out an e-mail every 2 weeks.”

    —>❓Reflective Question: How can I be kinder myself in the short term to be cognizant of the long tough road that is ahead? (we can use as much appreciation as we to make it worthwhile.)

Cullin McGrath: A state of the union, perhaps
Cullin McGrath writes on taking initiative. Have a bias for action like Derek Sivers explained that ideas are just a multiplier of execuation. It breaks my heart when people say “someday”. No just go do!

You can just do things. It sounds so stupid to say, but you just can.”

—> ❓Reflective Question: Where can you remove borders that are limiting what you believe you can do? (ex: I never thought living in Hawaii was possible until I removed the lie.)

Chris Guillebau - To Stop Comparison Anxiety, Decide in Advance What Success Looks Like 🤔

”If you build your life around always wanting more, you'll never have enough. The solution is to decide in advance what "enough" looks like. That way, you have a goal to aim for, and also a marker in which you can then reallocate your focus elsewhere.”

—> ❓Reflective Question: What is realistically enough for you in your life?

Out of the Blue: Our lovable limitations
”Some people feel heat more than others.” is what someone told Mari Andrew about how she was dying of heart in Miami, Florida.  I definitely relate to this as I’ve always errored on the sweatier side of the spectrum in relation to anyone else.  

”I stopped struggling to fit into a season that just wasn’t designed for my tolerance levels—at least in this part of the world. I freely opted out of August music festivals and July street fairs, knowing that I’d probably end the day very grumpy. I learned to speak up about my cooling needs.”

—> ❓Reflective Question: Where in my life personally, professionally or in a relationship can I better bring up what my needs are? (It’s not needy to communicate what you need– it’s mature.)

🎬 Watching

I watched “Dear Evan Hanson” on the plane recently. It's an interesting movie around the themes of mental health, craving for belonging in lonely high school times, and seeking hope for what the point of life is.

This past week I tried out writing a letter to myself saying “Dear Jen Vermet”. It felt too formal. It felt so formal. Too formal. I much prefer being casual with myself when I write letters to my future self.

🎧 Listening

This has been one of the go-to plane songs that I enjoy endlessly. How can sounds like these go through my eardrums and touch me without words? Life is truly miraculous that something like this can be created and I get the opportunity to experience. I’m infatuated with moments like these that on the surface say nothing, but deeper down, mean so much.

My favorite lyric:

”How rare and beautiful it is that we exist.”

🔎 Word to define

Garish: Showy

Dazzling; ostentatious; attracting or exciting attention; Gay to extravagance; flighty

Example: While sipping my tea on the terrace pointing at this Hawaiian' looking hibiscus, my dad said “Look at this garish thing! It’s overtaking Windy.” (in reference to the opening picture at the top of this newsletter)

🌟 Quote to inspire

"Life reveals itself most fulsomely in gaps and intermissions."- Roman Muradov, from On Doing Nothing

📷 Photos of the Week

I’m currently having an emotional hangover from the wedding I just came to Denver for in Golden, Colorada. These gals are all my sorority sisters from college I haven’t seen in over a year. We all used to live in Chicago but then spread apart. I’ve never felt so many expressions of joy, excitement, nostalgia, and sadness at the same time.

Moments I cried during this wedding include:

Stay golden out there, Ponyboy, and everybody.

🙏 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. If you forgot who I am, I welcome you to my online home.

Never stop learning 😁

Mahalo 🌺


If you’re reading this because someone shared this newsletter with you, welcome! I’d love it if you subscribed:

👣 Footnotes

On indulging in my curiosity:

On eating my last croissant in Europe:

Traveling in style:


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