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Letter #6 from a Learn-it-all

5 min

Hello fellow learner,

Greetings from the Vermet household in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

Here is letter #6 from a learn-it-all!

I am grateful to be able to celebrate my mother’s birthday today. This is the first time in 9 years that all five of my family members have been together to celebrate it since 2011.  (I’m featured second from the right)

Please bring your attention to the cake my mom is holding. My younger sister, Stephanie, and I baked it. It is the first double-decker cake I have ever made. The bottom layer is chocolate and the top layer is funfetti vanilla. Over the surface, we frosted it with coconut butter-cream and topped her off with toasted coconut. My brother was absolutely astonished that three whole sticks of butter are necessary for the frosting. Cooking is a skill I have ways to go to improve, and this was a success for me! (you can ask Steph).

Some things I’ve learned through...


To be honest, I am in shock that it is already May. April flew by with each day feeling like Groundhog Day, and I feel like I didn’t accomplish enough. After being laid off from my job due to the consequences of Covid-19, I find myself falling into a bit of a slump. I created a monthly tracker to feel more accomplished with what is within my control.

This is a new process I am trying out. I have listed seven habits above and I will aim to achieve at least three of them each day. These habits are things that I know I will look back on and feel good about myself for doing. Let me know if you would like a blank version, and I would be happy to send you a copy.


I wrote about Why journaling has transformed my identity. We take time to check how we look in the mirror, but do we take time to check in with our mind or heart? My journal is my best friend. When I write each day on one of her graph-papered pages, my ideas become real. Thoughts and feelings come and go, but ones that I handwrite are exponentially more significant. It allows me to be honest with myself. If you don’t know where to start, I have given examples of what I’ve learned after starting this habit on April 1st last year.


I watched a video on the school system in the Netherlands. Like most educational systems, everyone starts in the same primary school from ages 4-12. After this, Dutch students get tested to be put onto one of three different tracks: MBO (Trades School), HBO (University of Applied Sciences), or WO (Academic Univerity). If a student would like to be put onto a higher track of education they can be re-evaluated to choose an alternate path. Though, it is normal to be on any of the tracks— there is no societal stigma for being on one path versus another.

Once graduating from VWO (secondary education or high school), the student can choose a university to go to. It doesn’t have a selection procedure based on grades compared to how competitive it in the US feeling like life or death. My high school experience would have been much different— I had tunnel vision that my grade directly correlated with which of the twelve universities I would gain admittance from. Something else that is different is that everyone attends public school even the royal family.


I read The Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar by James Marcus Bach. He writes about the differences between self-education and institutional education. James developed his own education to become an expert computer software tester and he shares his thinking behind his experiences. Some of my favorite passages are:

The pattern I experienced at Apple would be confirmed almost everywhere in the computer industry: most people have put themselves on intellectual autopilot. Most don’t study on their own initiative, but only when forced to do so.

It dawned on my that success is not about what you know, it’s about what you can discover and create. It’s not about what you are, but what you are becoming and can cause to happen. It’s about learning.

He realized that his definition of furthering his education to ensure quality work was different than his peers. They sought after a new piece of paper for attaining status, while he wanted to earn it through sustained learning.

In one of the other companies I worked for, just after I joined, I asked in a meeting what people did to develop their expertise. There was an uncomfortable silence. I asked again. Then one fellow  spoke up, rather irritated. “James, these are the finest people I’ve ever worked with. How dare you imply that they aren’t expert enough?” I was surprised to hear this, since I have to work hard to maintain my own competence.

James did not wear a badge of honor for being in the room already like the surrounding know-it-alls. His integrity showed his struggle. To him, integrity means living consistently with how you present yourself to others.

Word to define

Schoolism: a way of education where anyone can learn from instructors from anywhere in the world. To Jame Marcus Bach, schoolism is the belief that schooling is the necessary and exclusive way to get a good education. What does schoolism mean for you?

Quote to inspire

“For someone like me, it is a very strange habit to write in a diary. Not only that I have never written before, but it strikes me that later neither I, nor anyone else, will care for the outpouring of a thirteen year old schoolgirl.” — Anne Frank

Question to ponder

Think of an example in your life when you respond to a situation in an automatic way. What change can you make to break this pattern?

I appreciate you reading this and would love it if you contacted me directly via my email with any ideas you’d like to share. I’d also be happy to send you my productivity tracker or help you start building your journaling habit.

Stay safe and I’ll see you next weekend,


PS- I am so glad that I didn’t accidentally leave my cake out in the rain like Donna Summer


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