Hello thoughtful humans! ❄️
I’m writing to you from Utah. Currently bundled in 2 sweaters, watching snowflakes waltzing outside, and listening to Lazy Cat Jazz.
I got a chance to visit Arches National Park this past weekend and remind myself of how very small my human problems are relative to nature’s timescale.
Nonetheless, it’s a practice I think i’ll bring to every “travel destination” going forward.
Onto today’s newsletter:
- a checklist to get through tough emotions
- my favorite house slippers of all time (via a new section of this newsletter where I review wellness products!)
- an assortment of thought-provoking articles: from anti-goals to an at-home meditation retreat itinerary
Who isn’t a fan of simple decision making?
Especially in our career and projects - we cost-benefit, 2x2, compartmentalize and analyze our way to clean solutions.
But here’s something I don’t often share..
In the realm of dealing with large influxes of emotions in my personal life, my natural default is ambiguous complexity. When it comes to these areas, pure objectivity is hard to grok in the moment.
Whether it’s contemplating the ultimate meaning of my life, letting go of a relationship, or surmounting a huge personal challenge.. in matters of passion - the charade of a dozen former, current, and future selves clamor to take the soap box in my pre-frontal cortex. They make their case with the ferocity of a roman orator at the cusp of gulping hemlock.
May I present to you:
- Teenage self - self-conscious and insecure
- Productivity obsessed self - anxious about wasting another second in deliberation
- Avoidant self - constantly seeking comfort and Netflix
- Ego-centric self - self-preserving and closed
- Open self - constantly growing and learning
- Dutiful self - attending to the expectations of others and society
- Mindful self - scurrying to lay tracks of metaphorical space before the unfolding thought train
- Wise self - calmly shaking her peppered head at everyone else
- and many more..
Basically, it’s a circus in there.
And every self will attempt to influence and curtail my problem-solving process.
Yet a part of me enjoys the nauseating kaleidoscope of voices.
I sit in the audience, while each self pleads its case. As I get thrown into each alternating story, I get to revisit a part of me that was once very real. The multi-faceted ego feels vindicated, despite its contradicting testimonials.
If time traveling existed, it would be at the crossroads of these voices. If planes of reality ever merged with its fabrications, it would be during these time-warping performances.
At the end of each rumination, every self is heard, but no decision is made. As satiating as the deliberations were in real-time, I’m back at square one.
In other words, it’s difficult to cleanly analyze matters of passion with these selves taking center-stage.
And so, I’ve worked hard over the years to meet these thoughtstorms with mindfulness, egolessness, and now..
a checklist! ✅
Today I want to share a blueprint to help you work through messy emotions.
I first learned about the power of checklists through Atul Gawande, a surgeon and professor at Harvard Medical School.
In his book, “The Checklist Manifesto”, he argues that no matter how expert you may be, well-designed check lists can improve outcomes. (Including the ones used on his surgical teams to save lives)
Gawande begins by making a distinction between:
- Errors of Ignorance - mistakes we make because we don’t know enough
- and Errors of Ineptitude - mistakes we made because we don’t make proper use of what we know
Failure in the modern world, he writes, is really about the second of these errors - the kind we make when we forget what we already know.
I.e. Competent doctors forgetting to ask a key question during a high pressure moment, Airplane pilots forgetting to QA a single engine prior to taking off, etc.
Applied to our emotional lives, you can spend years in therapy becoming acquainted with the contours of your automatic thought patterns and mental traps like the back of your hand. You can learn all the strategies and mental frameworks to get through these tough emotions.
Nonetheless, if what you know escapes you in your darkest hour, what good is it?
Drawing on years of reflection, coaching, and personal error - I made a checklist recently to help me work through difficult emotions, and I hope it will help you too.
The Checklist ✅ to Get Through Anything
disclaimer: I’m not a therapist. This is just a list of what has personally worked for me.
#1 Acknowledge and thank your past, current, and future selves for their input 🙏
They provided you guidance and protection at one time. They can all be true. They can all not be true. It’s okay to hold contrasting viewpoints in tandem. Look at them from a distance, but don’t merge your current sense of self with them.
#2 Get out of your head & into your body 🧠 → 🧘♂️
- ✅ Where does the emotion show up in your body? give it a name, texture, and color. I.e. my anxiety is purple, spongy, and is named Agatha.
- ✅ Realize these emotions are not you. You are not your thoughts, no matter how real they feel. Some helpful ways to think about your thoughts:
- You sit before a fire. The fire represents your mind. Logs represent your thoughts. You can choose to throw logs in to make the fire larger, or abstain and just be with the fire.
- You sit before a stream. The stream represents your mind. The leaves on the stream represent your thoughts. You can pick up leaves and put them back down.
- You look at clouds in the sky. Each cloud represents a thought. You can name the cloud or let it float by.
- Use 3rd person when your journal or talk, instead of 1st-person singular. You become a subject to be observed. i.e. She thinks this vs. I think this.
- ✅ Take 10 deep breaths. Use this Calm breath bubble for guidance.
#3 Become aware of physical deficiencies 🌦
Are physical and largely external factors contributing to your current emotional state?
- ✅ How much did you sleep the night prior? Sleep deprivation impacts mood (Harvard)
- ✅ How has your information diet been recently? consuming news releases cortisol in the same way it would if the event happened in real-time. (Uni. of Netherlands)
- When did you last:
- ✅ Eat? There’s a high correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function (Harvard). Also, I don’t need studies to tell me that hangry-ness is a real thing.
- ✅ Exercise? improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain (Univ. of Nebraska)
- ✅ Go outside into nature? forest environments promote lower sympathetic nerve activity than city environments. (Chiba Univ.)
- ✅ Meditate? Participants in an 8-week meditation program showed permanent structural changes to the brain that improved their stress response. (Princeton)
- ✅ Do your self-care routine?
#4 Become aware of your mental bias’ 🤔
Are your past experiences biasing your current reaction?
- ✅ What would you tell a friend going through the same thing? What would you tell you if you were your own best friend? If you loved yourself unconditionally?
- ✅ What does your heart, mind, and gut say? (Usually, the gut knows best)
- ✅ Is your reaction driven from fear or love?
- ✅ What’s the softer emotion underlying that fear? eg. you’re angry but underneath that is a feeling of loss
- ✅ How can you address the softer emotion instead?
- ✅ What insecurity is surfacing now?
- ✅ Are you projecting your fear or insecurity on another person or situation?
- ✅ Pain x Resistance = Suffering. We can’t control pain, just resistance. What are you resisting instead of accepting?
- ✅ What past painful experience could be contributing to your current reaction?
- ✅ Do the circumstances back then still hold today?
- ✅ What painful experience of underlying softer emotion is a person you’re in conflict with grappling with?
#5 Does your perspective change as your time travel ⌛️🔮
- ✅ Imagine a past you that felt this way. What would you tell your former self, knowing what you know now?
- ✅ What would your future self tell you today?
- ✅ In what way could this challenge be helpful for your growth? Why would the universe want this to happen to you?
- ✅ Recall the last time things went to shit, but everything turned out okay, if not better. Why would this time be any different?
- ✅ If you died tomorrow, next year, or in 5 years - would this still matter?
- ✅ Wait 24-48 hrs before deciding. Almost anything gets better if you give it time.
That’s all I got for now but i’ll be continuously adding to it in the notion version of the checklist. If you have anything else to add to this list I’d love to hear it!
Wishing you and all your selves well.
NEW! section where I review wellness products. I will give my most honest takes 🙏
Everlane ReNew Slippers - 9/10 - unsponsored
One wouldn’t normally consider slippers as a wellness product. However, for me they are, as I’ve been blessed with perpetually icy feet.
Recently i’ve taken up the philosophy of buying ordinary household items that are high quality and spark joy. These slippers are hands-down the bougiest slippers i’ve owned. Yet they have repaid themselves 5-fold in their up-leveling of my “work from home” suit and foot temperature. The only downside is that the white gets dirty quite easily, but nothing a quick scrub can’t take care of.
Anything you want me to review? reply to this e-mail 💌
At critical moments in time, you can raise the aspirations of other people significantly, especially when they are relatively young, simply by suggesting they do something better or more ambitious than what they might have in mind. It costs you relatively little to do this, but the benefit to them, and to the broader world, may be enormous.
In a dataset of 45 million nights measured by the Oura Ring, analysis revealed that the pandemic led to a significant drop in average night-time resting heart rates when compared to 2019.
It could be that lockdown has given our bodies what they crave – consistency and alignment with their natural rhythms. You may not realize it, but, when you’re feeling your best, it’s probably on those days when your lifestyle has aligned with your body’s natural rhythm.
Under pre-pandemic ‘normal’ circumstances, many of us were out of alignment with our circadian rhythms, plagued by a phenomenon known as “social jet-lag” where you go to bed and wake up later on weekends than weekdays. This discrepancy causes us to feel fatigued or “jet-lagged.”
What makes the pandemic different? During social distancing, some of us have been able to close the gap between our lifestyles and our body’s natural schedule, taking steps towards improving our sleep and health.
a collection of tools @WAptekarI has found useful for processing emotions and having interpersonal interactions.
There’s an old saying that the first fifty years of the car industry were about creating car companies and working out what cars should look like, and the second fifty years were about what happened once everyone had a car - they were about McDonalds and Walmart, suburbs and the remaking of the world around the car, for good and of course bad. The innovation in cars became everything around the car. One could suggest the same today about smartphones - now the innovation comes from everything else that happens around them.
One take on this is that the next frontier around the phone is the human mind - that of which includes the evolvement of our mental wellness practices, purification of our digital content diets, and ability to manage our tech-induced dopamine and attention levels.
Loved this collection of questions Steve Schlafman used to interview his parents with. This is one of the things that I have categorized under not urgent but important for a long time. In 2021, I hope to finally transcribe my mom and dad’s autobiographies and these questions will be helpful to me in that process.
Algorithms control more of our experiences than ever before. What we watch on Netflix, what we listen to on Spotify, what gets recommended to us on Instagram, all of these choices are governed by software designed to learn our preferences and feed us more of what we want.
But what if those algorithms didn’t care what we wanted? What would life be like if we truly had no idea what was coming next? That’s the question Max Hawkins set out to answer a few years ago. This is his story.
Andrew Connor, Co-founder at Levels, shares his ongoing list of “Woo” belief in wellness that he has dabbled in. I'm impressed with the breadth at which he has explored and hope his list serves as a good jumping-off point for anyone interested in exploring more wellness tactics.
This is an ongoing list of practices and beliefs that I’ve benefited from that sound a bit woo, as a fun exercise into forming non-consensus belief. This is less of a judgement of the scientific support of these, and rather based on my and friend’s initial viewpoints. For many of these, I’ve found personal balance between what is scientifically known, what I’ve observed with n=1 experiments, and the costs of being misguided.
this book website gives you the 1st page of a random book without the title or author so that you can read it with no preconceptions! Great for discovering new recs.
Now where's the version of this for people?
- Get comfortable being alone and liking yourself
- It doesn’t have to be this way (i.e. rethinking retirement homes, communal living, IRL communities)
Andrew at Tiny Capital suggests that instead of creating goals for an ideal day. Think about the worst day imaginable and how to avoid it: create Anti-Goals
Our worst possible day looked like this:
- Full of long meetings
- A packed calendar
- Dealing with people we don’t like or trust
- Owing people things / not being in control / obligations
- Having to be at the office
Working backwards from there, we made this set of Anti-Goals:
- Never schedule an in-person meeting when it can otherwise be accomplished via email or phone (or not at all)
- No more than 2 hours of scheduled time per day
- No business or obligations with people we don’t like—even just a slight bad vibe and it’s a hard no
- Never give up voting control of our businesses, no favors from people who could need something from us (ensure the rule of reciprocity doesn’t kick in)
- Work from a cafe across from a beautiful park where we can come and go as we please with nobody to bother us
- Video conference or pay for people to come visit us
- Never schedule morning meetings, sleep in when needed
The purpose of a retreat is to follow a formal rhythm of practice that allows you to center yourself, tend your body, quiet your mind, see the present circumstances with clarity and freedom, and open your heart.
Here’s an example itinerary from Yashar:
With 15 to 30 minutes of yoga in between each sit: Arriving in Embodied Presencese (24 min), Coming Home with the Breath (20 min), The Power of Awake Awareness (93 min talk) , Big Sky Meditation (39 min) by Jack Kornfield.
Love this ongoing manifesto by Chia (a student at Yale) on following ones creative passions and not the crowd. She writes with a discernment and clarity that many 5x her age have not achieved:
Professionalism is a lie, build what you love, explore everything. In today’s age of creation, anyone who attempts to tell you otherwise is lying. You’ll end up seeking what you traded for the rest of your life.
The most prominent, meaningful thing I learned this year was that love and passion matter. Your interests matter. The things that make people laugh and love and shine, proven by numbers even if they’re unconventional, stand true. If I told my high school self to continue building projects and telling stories that mattered to me, I would have been far happier than I am today––and more successful at a craft that I’m ending up pouring all my hours to, anyway.
My favorite neuroscientist, Dr. Andrew Huberman, now has a podcast.
- Using Science to Optimize Sleep, Learning & Metabolism
- Master Your Sleep & Be More Alert When Awake
- How Your Nervous System Works & Changes