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Letter #22 from a Learn-it-all

6 min

virtual graduation, moving, kayaking the river, a letter to Boredom, Sir Ken Robinson, Sara Blakely, strength

Hello fellow learner,

Greetings from Chicago!

My altMBA program ended and it was a special time with me and 237 other graduates across the world. Who knew virtual graduation could be so fun? Each of the eleven cohorts presented a farewell gift and I got the honor to recite a part of my classmate's poem. It was lovely.

Apart from graduation, I moved this past weekend a mile northwest from where I previously was. Not all too far though it’s still a move. Lots of boxes and stairs and building furniture. Shelves of books and journals really do add up.

Now, let’s dive into letter 22 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

Some things I’ve learned through…

🛶 Kayaking

I went kayaking with some college friends down the rivers of Chicago. It was the first time I had been downtown since March when I went to work in the Willis (also known as Sears) Tower. Time is a funky thing—it feels like it was a year ago. It has only been five months.

While kayaking under the bridges I heard cars bustling overhead. I saw the train slowly pass over yonder. Ginormous tour boats cruising by with loud guides on the mic. The waves made me scared my kayak would flip. As I people-watched from the river, I felt small seeing the hustle and bustle of the city on a Saturday afternoon.

Navigating through the river made me realize I really don’t know the names of the streets well. If I was randomly plopped on the map, I’d feel like a Shiba Inu dog with a deficient homing tracker. I moved to Chicago almost a year ago, so I need to gather my bearings more intentionally and not get lost.

🖊 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.

Inspired by Liz Gilbert's letter she wrote to fear that I shared in last week's edition, I did a similar exercise this past week. I created an imaginary person in my head as the emotion I was feeling. I would visualize talking to them. My favorite piece from the past week was my letter to Boredom.

I decided to call a truce with Boredom. We can't be best friends but let's still be friends.

Forcing functions - Any task, activity, or event that forces you to take action and produce a result. We need to force our present self to make our future self proud.

A letter to my Intuition - Thank you for ridding my doubts and showing me the way. I trust you. You help me see my inner child. The part of me that feels so far away yet has been there all along.

A letter to my Resistance - I appreciate you reminding me that I am a challenger. You are not my barrier to achievement. You help me recognize the scary things worth doing.

Strengths are subjective - Why is the way I see myself so different than how others see me? Are they more objective in comparing me against my past self than my own self?

🎬 Watching

I re-watched a favorite video with Sir Ken Robinson on changing education paradigms. He was a creativity expert that challenged the way that children are educated. Robinson championed ideas on how to radically rethink school systems, think creatively, and defining different types of intelligence.  He peacefully passed away at the age of 70 years old a couple of days ago.

In this animation video from a decade ago, Sir Ken Robinson lays out the link between 3 troubling trends: rising drop-out rates, schools' dwindling stake in the arts, and ADHD. He believed that children are getting medicated as routinely as the fad in the 1950s and 1960s of those who received tonsillectomies. There is a trend with children for overdiagnosis of ADHD that has created an epidemic. We are all living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth. Attention is precious and fleeting. School is boring and students get penalized for having distractions.

The paradigm shift is intriguing around individualizing course curriculum for students. To have it based apart from their "date of manufacture" (their age) as a product in a factory. Everyone doesn't learn at the same pace based on their age or in the same work environment or at the same time of the day. He proposed going in the direct opposite direction of standardization for educating.

🎧 Listening

I re-listened to one of my favorite podcasts of Sara Blakley getting interviewed on How I Built This on how she built her company Spanx. This is the episode that really got me interested in listening to more. Sara Blakely is the youngest female billionaire in America. She is one of my favorite women business leaders that I look up to.

I admire most in her story is her courage and confidence. She kept getting back up.  Law school didn’t work out after failing the LSAT twice, working at Disney World, and selling fax machines door-to-door.  She chose to go down a different path.

The idea came to her as she cut the legs off of her pantyhose to wear under white pants. Blakely struggled to find a manufacturer that would buy into her product idea to build a prototype. They were all men, so they didn’t get why she wanted to disrupt the industry. One of them finally partnered with Blakely after his three daughters vetted that Spanx was something needed for women.

Blakely didn’t share her business with family or friends because ideas are most vulnerable in their infancy and ego is invited into the mix. You spend time defending it instead of pursuing it. She committed $5,000 to start her company. The rest was sweat equity to self-teach herself to write a law patent and pay acquaintances to buy the Spanx off of the limited space that Neiman Marcus allowed her.

On Blakely’s thinking with creating her company’s name in her car from Spanks —> Spanx:

Kodak and Coco-Cola are the two most recognized names in the world. What do they both have in common? They both had a strong “K” sound to them, and I had friends that were standup comedians. I knew that the “K” sound makes the audience laugh. I need to have my invention with this sound in it for good luck.

She had fears that peers would tell her she's wasting her savings, or that if it was such a great idea why didn't someone else already invent it? She went for it anyway and never looked back.

🔎 Word to define

Strength: the capacity to withstand great force or pressure. The quality or state of being strong; ability to do or to bear; capacity for exertion or endurance, whether physical, intellectual, or moral

Every day that I run I get reminded of my strength. My Nike Run Coach Bennett won’t let me forget it. The improvement proves that my body physically and mentally can do more than it previously did.

Strength is built with obstacles. You can stay safe in your comfort zone or choose to get stronger.

🌟 Quote to inspire

“Ideas are precious gifts. They come to us anytime, anywhere. You have to capture them the moment they arrive.” -Sara Blakely

💭 Questions to ponder

The saying goes that time flies when you’re having fun. I agree and believe there must be more of a science to it. What events go by really fast for you. Why is that?  Is it because you are fully in the present moment? What are the patterns?

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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