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Letter #32 from a Learn-it-all

6 min

October review, Shipping it, effective education, the origin of a hack, missed opportunity, intentional learning

Hello fellow learner,

Greetings from Chicago!

Happy Halloween, happy November, and not so happy end to daylights savings time.

This weekend I went on a long stroll outside. The sun was out, so I was too. It was great to be out and about. I miss coming downtown and cannot say I do it often. It makes me realize that I wish I took more advantage of it while I worked my last job in the tallest building (Willis Tower) last year. I took the purple L line train 20 minutes each day into the city.

Here's a snapshot of everything in store for this issue:

  1. A reflection of October and what I loved, lacked and learned
  2. Highlights of my Ship It posts
  3. Perfectionism, effective learning, and tension from Seth Godin
  4. The definition and origin of a Hack
  5. Wise words from the inventor of the first-ever practical, and affordable home illuminator
  6. A question to get you thinking for the month of November
  7. A silly Halloween picture

Now, let’s dive into letter 32 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

Some things I’ve learned through…

🎃 Reflecting

Over the weekend, I did a review of the past month that flew by. It was extremely helpful to stop and pause. It's super simple and I highly recommend giving it a shot to recognize patterns in the actions that you take.

To follow the format of every 4th letter (like letters 28, 23, and 19). Some highlights include:

What I loved:

What I lacked:

What I learned:

🚢 Shipping It

I reinforced my daily writing habit and shared five Ship Its. Each of the pieces is less than 400 words. I explained my rationale behind starting it here.

This week my favorite pieces were:

🎧 Listening

I listened to Tim Ferriss interview entrepreneur, educator, and writer Seth Godin on The Game of Life, The Value of Hacks, and Overcoming Anxiety. Below I share my favorite nuggets of knowledge.

On the problem with pedagogy and teaching because people do not easily pick up dense information:

We learn things by becoming momentarily incompetent. We used to feel like we were in control, that we understood things and then all of a sudden, a new fact arises that counters what we know. In that moment, we’re feeling incompetent and that’s when most people quit. But then we get through it, and now we know something more than we used to know... Pacing that process is tricky.

On creating mystery and tension for effective learning:

The challenge is not to dumb it down, but to figure out what are the useful chunks of tension that you can create where someone can feel the tension, get through the tension, absorb it, and then be ready for another bit. Media challenges us because every once in a while, something breaks through that’s super dense, and like I wish I could write something that dense... It’s hard to get to where people will sit with you for that long.

On learning in his altMBA program and using tension:

The persistence of the cohort that you end up with is this increase in safety and enrollment, which are the two core elements of learning, that it will enable you to deal with ever more tension, which leads to more incompetence, which leads to the revelation.

Quality defines to mean meeting spec. There is a myth of quality and how it is another term for perfectionism:

Quality, if you want to be a perfectionist, is a great way to hide because you don’t want to be an enemy of quality. When someone says well I can’t ship this yet because the quality isn’t there, when someone says: Why are you racing through that? Don’t you want to put quality into it? We’re defenseless in the face of that.

🔎 Word to define

Hack: a professional who doesn’t care. (Seth Godin)

The hack has been beaten up enough times that he has emotionally disconnected. The hack has a short-term view, able to do what the client asks, without regard for how it will impact the culture or his long-term prospects. Serviceable is for hacks. Memorable and remarkable belong to professionals and hard-working amateurs.

Origin of a hack:

On the outskirts of London was a borough called Hackney. It was a place where they would raise horses. They didn’t raise thoroughbreds or extraordinary show horses. They raised just average horses at an average price.

If you got a Hackney horse, you probably did it because you were a hansom cab driver. That’s where your nickname came as being a hack. There’s nothing wrong with raising a hack. There’s nothing wrong with buying a hack. Being a hack is about giving the customer exactly what they want at a decent price.

Now a hack has been stigmatized to be a less than decent deed. It means either exploitation or a kick in the shins. Ouch. Apparently, shin-kicking is a popular sport in the South of England.

🌟 Quote to inspire

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

💭 Question(s) to ponder

What can you intentionally seek out to learn this month? What is the smallest thing you can do to achieve this? How can you make this happen?

I appreciate you reading this! If certain ideas resonated or you have feedback to improve my future newsletters, I’d love you to leave a comment, reply to this email, or send me a message on Twitter @JenVermet.

Never stop learning 😁

Until next week,


P.S. enjoy this picture when I hung out at King library as a first-year in college at 3AM in my favorite Halloween footie pajamas. Life has changed a bit over the years.

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