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Letter #16 from a Learn-it-all

5 min

Sailing the Great Lakes, minimalism, altMBA, and living a good life in the book of the world

Hello fellow learner,

Greetings from somewhere on Lake Huron.

I sailed the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island race this past weekend traveling about 290 nautical miles across Lake Huron (between Michigan and Canada). This was the fourth time I had sailed this annual race and I never know what to expect as most sailors do not. That is part of the beauty of the sport. Sailing has helped me overcome my fear of planning while simultaneously not planning at all. More to come on this experience after I have time to process and reflect on the experience.

Now, let’s sail into letter 16 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

Some things I’ve learned through…

📚 Doing

I had my orientation call for altMBA which is an intensive, 4-week online workshop designed by Seth Godin for high-performing individuals who want to level up and lead. The program starts in eight days, and I am beyond excited. I signed up to invest further in my education, and I had been following Seth's blogs and Akimbo podcasts. I wanted to learn from the community of like-minded individuals. I’m most excited about experiencing the non-traditional ways of learning and to create projects.

I was sent the above eight books a couple of weeks ago before the program starts. Receiving this sturdy package felt like Christmas!

🎬 Watching

I watched the film The Minimalists on Netflix. The main storyline is of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus on their book tour for Everything that Remains. Both of them realized they were caught up trying to buy happiness defining success according to others by filling the void of not feeling happy. Like most of the western culture that has a high quality of life, Joshua and Ryan had default habits of consuming and craving even more things.

They evaluated every item on whether it serves a purpose, adds value, or brings joy. If it doesn’t they let it go.  Joshua and Ryan intentionally choose to live more with deliberately less. We are confused about what makes us happy and think that material possessions will create a satisfying life.

Be more deliberate with decisions and redefine what success means by curbing the destructive appetite to have more. Imagine a life with less and create an intentionally simple life. Choose to love people and use things. Not the opposite.

Side note: Ryan and Joshua identify themselves as huggers everywhere they stopped on their tour. I realize life this past season of COVID-19 must be challenging for them and other huggers in the world lacking this form of connection. *Inserting a virtual hug to you*

📖 Reading

I read this quick piece by the co-founder of Y Combinator, Paul Graham called Being a Noob. It really resonated with me because noob was my older brother's favorite word in high school and so it was my nickname. I thought it was a bad thing to be one but Graham argues that the more you feel like a noob, the better.

He explains how there are two different sources of why we feel like a noob:

1. Being stupid

2. Doing something novel

He believes that the feeling of being a noob is inversely correlated with actual ignorance. Being a noob means that we are rushing to be competent and seek answers to problems at the cost of discovering another one. Our brains are wired as hunter-gatherers, but now we should challenge to be more of noob locally to be less of a noob at a larger global scale. Ignorance is not the answer.

🖊 Writing

I wrote a poem called Differently-Abled. I found it in my archives from a college creative writing course I took back in 2016. I wrote it during a stage of anger with discovering that I learned differently than others. I ended it with hope for acceptance in the future of finding my own path to where I am now.

🎧 Listening

I listened to a conversation between the authors and meditation gurus Sam Harris and Scott Barry Kaufman on living a good life and human well-being. Kaufman's favorite psychologist that he closely studies is Abraham Maslow.

Maslow developed the hierarchy of needs from 1943 to 1954 around what motivates people. To my surprise, Maslow never drew the popularized pyramid below.

Though commonly perceived this way, life is not like a video game where you level up the pyramid. In Kaufman’s book, Transcend, life is not like a mountain or pyramid. It is like a sailboat. First, we need to focus on having a safe and secure boat with connection and self-esteem, and basic needs met. If severely deprived of basic or psychological needs, the boat has holes and can't move in the desired direction. Once the boat is secure, we can open the sails, and face the vulnerable unknown of the sea, moving with purpose and direction within the sails.

Transcendence is not static like the Maslow pyramid because it doesn’t show the point of wisdom is the integration aspect. there can be pseudo transcendence.

Kaufman’s definition of healthy transcendence is:

The harmonious integration of the whole self in the service of realizing the good society. it is the connection of self and world.

There is always fear and uncertainty present but we need to consciously choose growth. There is no such strategy as pseudo growth or shortcuts to self-actualization.  You have the choice to be in fear of a lack of certainty or to explore the possibilities, accept your humility, acknowledge your tendencies, and fulfill your potential.

🌟 Quote to inspire

"As soon as my age permitted me to pass from under the control of my instructors, I entirely abandoned the study of letters, and resolved no longer to seek any other science than the knowledge of myself, or of the great book of the world” - René Descartes

🔎 Word to define

Rhumb Line: the path of the shortest distance between two points on the surface of a sphere. In the navigational context, it means to sail continuously on one course, following a rhumb line.

This is used as a strategy of a sailboat to travel the shortest distance, but it is not necessarily the fastest course. Sailing is art and science for this reason that technology, rationale, and intuition compete with how to proceed forward during a race.

💭 Question to ponder

Picture this: your home is on fire.  The fire truck is on its way. All your loved ones have escaped. What five material items bring you the most value and joy to your life that you would rescue?

I appreciate you reading this! If any of the ideas resonated or you have feedback to improve, feel free to leave a comment, replying to this email, or sending me a message on Twitter @JenVermet.

Never stop learning 😁

Until next week,


P.S. if you're interested in hearing what my cousin sang to me to help me get up on my waterskis this week, listen here.

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