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Letter #21 from a Learn-it-all

5 min

signing up for a half marathon, labeling, smiling, addressing fear head on, chaos, opportunity cost

Hello fellow learner,

Greetings from Chicago, Illinois.

It has been a crazy week! I was fortunate to have had yet another awesome learning group and this was my last full week of altMBA sessions and projects.

I have met some pretty incredible folks in this cohort that I am looking forward to staying in touch with after this course ends. I have some noodling to do to reflect and everything that took place because it has been action-packed with some emotionally driven conversations.

Now, let’s dive into letter 21 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

Some things I’ve learned through…

💜 Doing

I signed up to run a (virtual) half marathon with my friend Sara who I met in altMBA. We both set the date of November 21st, 2020 to run this virtually together. We will both be supporting the Alzheimer's Association. If you are interested in helping to support my fundraiser here is the link. I appreciate all donations so much. It is a cause that is near and dear to both of our hearts <3 The longest distance I have ever run in my life is 10 kilometers, so doubling it is a scary thought. I see this courage spreading to other areas of my life, so I'm running with it! This was not on the books at all for 2020. I know I wouldn't regret facing this challenge.

What pushed me over the edge was Sarah's encouragement and the fact that: scientifically, if you can run a half-mile, you can run a mile.  If you can run a mile, you can run two.  If you can run two miles, you can run four.  So if you can run 6.6 miles, you can run 13.1!  (I’m not kidding about this BTW!)

🖊 Writing

This week I reinforced my daily writing habit and shared 5 Ship It posts. Each of the pieces is less than 400 words. I explained my rationale behind starting it here. My favorite piece was I love & hate labels. I compressed it down into this Tweet:

Here are the previews of my other Ship Its:

Being literate ≠ being a reader - School teaches kids how to become literate. It does not teach them how to become readers. I’d argue that school traumatizes readers.

Identity goals - The more action is taken, the less likely I am to feel like a fraud when I call myself a runner.

Reactionary - You can be smooth sailing in life and then all of a sudden a car hits you in the dark. You can’t plan for that.

Why personally develop - To improve awareness of identity. Its discovering potential to enhance the quality of life. It contributes to the realization of dreams and aspirations.

🎬 Watching

Holy moly this is such a powerful and tear-jerking 16-minute short film. A smile can be so powerful. I've been practicing to get better at interviewing for jobs lately and when I smile it takes so much of the stress away. I think it is absolutely worth watching, especially if you are going through tough times.

There is absolutely no way one can watch this whole film without starting to smile. We need more people to be smiling in this harsh world. I started doing it more intentionally. While running by people. While checking out at Trader Joes. On family Facetimes. During long pauses on Zoom calls.

🎧 Listening

I have been listening to the audiobook Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, who is also the author of Eat, Pray, Love.

Creative living does not mean pursuing all of the arts. It means living a life more strongly driven by curiosity and courage as opposed to fear.

Fearless means you don’t know what being scared means. You need your fear. Evolution did well to install fear into us. Make space for your fear. Allow it to live and breathe because the less you fight it, the more it relaxes. The welcome letter that Gilbert writes to her fear especially resonates with me:

Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you'll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I'm about to do anything interesting-- and, may I say, you are superb at your job... there's plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are a part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still -- your suggestions will never be followed.

I like how Gilbert is acknowledging the emotion, but still taking agency over her life. What emotion has been bopping around that you want to speak to?

📖 Reading

I read On Confidence written by the School of Life. It explains how the difference between success and failure comes down to confidence. Without it, it is challenging to make the most of our potential.

I absolutely loved the section highlighting how everyone is a fool. It is what it means to be human. Our humility never leaves us.  In reference to the Dutch scholar and philosopher:

However well-schooled he himself was, Erasmus remained - he insists- as much a nitwit as anyone else: his judgment is faulty; his passions get the better of him; he is prey to superstition and irrational fear; he is shy whenever he has to meet new people.

Pure chaos is shown below in Pieter Brugel's painting of Dutch Proverbs:

25 Dutch Proverbs Guaranteed to Surprise and Delight

It serves as a reminder of inevitable ridiculousness. Looking closely at the painting, there is a man throwing out money, squatting on fire, biting a pillar, and smashing his head against bricks.

We need to risk possibly looking stupid even at the risk of not appearing normal. We are all nitwits so experimenting more and having more acts of folly isn't actually as risky as it seems.

🔎 Word to define

Opportunity cost: the value of the lost opportunity. The benefit of the thing you could have done instead of what you're doing now.

Seth Godin explains, "how much does it cost to go to Stanford Business School? Well, there's the out of pocket costs, things like tuition and housing, but there's also the cost of the job you gave up to go."

Whether we acknowledge it or not, with every decision that we make, we are foregoing other opportunities. Even deciding to stay and do nothing means saying no to other options. It is up to us to figure out which ones make the most sense based on our values.

🌟 Quote to inspire

"Why tip-toe through life to arrive safely at death?" - Ludacris

💭 Question to ponder

When in your life could you smile to spread a little bit more joy to those around you?

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

Never stop learning 😁

Until next week,


P.S. if you're interested in watching my dog Paisley get a free blow out yesterday watch here. Thank you to my dad for sharing.

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