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Letter #18 from a Learn-it-all

6 min

Summertime in Chicago, Ship It, Mr. Miyagi, breathing better, and the polymath playbook

Hello fellow learner,

Greetings from Chicago, Illinois 👋

It is wonderful to be back after quarantining in Michigan since mid-March. It is so beautiful here, and everything I heard about summers here is beyond accurate! I am so fortunate to live near Lincoln Park and  Lake Michigan. It really makes me appreciate the season of summer and make the most of it outside.

Now, let’s leap into letter 18 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

Some things I’ve learned through…

🚀 Doing

This past week has been craziness in the best of ways. I've been retaking the Write of Passage course (third time's a charm). And this past week completes the first week of my altMBA cohort. I've been engrossed in online classes and community and loving it!

Specifically, in altMBA, we had three prompts to complete. These varied from brainwriting and brainstorming 99 non-profit business ideas to group coaching with making a smart decision. Cheers to my learning group this week! Caroline, Swapna, Sean and Patricia were great collaborators to be teamed up with.

🖊 Writing

I mapped out through Zig Ziglar's seven steps to set a personal goal that made me uncomfortable as a part of altMBA as well. I decided this would be to publish each day of the week a 'Ship It' post on my website. This is a challenge to become more courageous learning in public and compressing it down to less than 300 words. I consume and journal every day, but I am hesitant to share an equivalent amount. I want to be a persistent and consistent creator. I look forward to updating you on these posts in the future for this experiment. Here's Why Ship It and Defining True Character.

1. The Goal: Get in the habit of sharing more openly by publishing 1 compressed idea, less than 300 words every weekday, on my website beginning on July 23rd.

I have been publishing a blog post each week since I started this newsletter, so this will be my 18th post and letter to you all. I will try my best to keep up these publishing cadences. In the meantime, I'll be calibrating along the way. Thank you all for being my accountability partners!

🎬 Watching

I watched the classic '80s movie Karate Kid on Netflix. It's about a friendship that blossoms from Daniel LaRusso, a high school boy, learning karate from his apartment's maintenance man, Mr. Miyagi. It's really inspiring how Mr. Miyagi sees Daniel struggling to learn karate by book to defend himself against the bullies at school. He needed to learn with a teacher. Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel in the seemingly pointless manual labor of sanding his floor, waxing his cars, and painting his fence and house. This pivotal moment is when all it all came together for Daniel-san.

I caught a lot of great lessons from the effective teacher-student relationship. Some main lessons from Mr. Miyagi are:

No such thing as [a] bad student. Only [a] bad teacher.
Wax on. Wax off. Breath in. Breath out.
[The] Lesson about balance is not about karate only. [The] Lesson for [a] whole life. [If] whole life has a balance, everything better.
Time for karate pact. I promise [to] teach karate. You promise [to] learn. I say. You do. No questions. Now do your part.
[The] secret to punch is to fit all the power in [the] whole body one inch inside your hand.
Trust [the] quality of what you know, not [the] quantity.

🎧 Listening

I listened to author James Nestor get interviewed on NPR on How The 'Lost Art' Of Breathing Can Impact Sleep And Resilience (Recommended by past BASB classmate Jennifer). I was shocked how integral breathing is with every second we've been living life yet it’s rarely a common topic to learn about. Some key takeaways include:

On how nasal breathing keeps our body balanced as opposed to mouth breathing:

The nose filters, heats and treats raw air. Most of us know that. But so many of us don't realize — at least I didn't realize — how [inhaling through the nose] can trigger different hormones to flood into our bodies, how it can lower our blood pressure ... how it monitors heart rate ... even helps store memories. So it's this incredible organ that ... orchestrates innumerable functions in our body to keep us balanced.

Nestor shared how in school, we learn that evolution always meant the survival of the fittest, but it doesn’t. It means change. Humans have been changing for the worse. After Nestor studied human skulls, all humans across the world over the past 400 years have drastically changed to have smaller jaws. Today, 90% of people have crooked teeth but this was not the case before the morphological changes. Due to industrial foods, we chew less, so our nasal passage is clogged. Now we have orthodonists, braces, and headgear (if you were preteen Jen).

We are born with organs that we for the most part keep what we are born with. However, through lung exercises, people can train their lung capacities do achieve the unthinkable.  The freediver world record of holding a single breath underwater is over 12 minutes long. Wow!

📖 Reading

I read a truly relatable piece by my friend Salman Ansari on the Polymath Playbook. He explains how many people miss the nuance that A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one. He is an inspiration to me with his diverse experiences from his foundation within engineering to being obsessed with animation and previously being a DJ. I have highlighted my favorite parts below.

On being an inner fox:

I also got a boost of confidence from a book called Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin. The book is a major source of inspiration for the generalist approach, and contrasts two proverbial animals: the specialist hedgehog and the generalist fox.
The key advantage that polymaths hold is their ability to develop mental models from different fields and apply them to solve problems in a unique way. This enables them to differentiate from their competition. Further, it creates opportunities for them to find truly meaningful work by pursuing their passions.
The world seeks to label us, categorize us and pack us neatly into boxes.

But we are humans, not objects. We are viscous. We dance around the lines between solid and liquid.

We change and evolve. We ebb and flow. We shrink and grow.

Fluidity is the essence of our humanity.

🔎 Word to define

Polymath: a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning. As defined by Salman, they engage in extended learning across disparate fields, and apply their learnings to connect ideas and solve problems in unique ways. By nature, they’re well suited to thrive in a constantly changing environment.

🌟 Quote to inspire

"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes ... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. ... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things. ... They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do." -Steve Jobs

💭 Question to ponder

What do you love doing that you could spend all day ‘working’ on for free? How could you be paid?

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,


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P.S. if you're interested in a pump-up tune to start your week, listen here!


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