🦊 Quick Brown Fox #3

Hi friends,

Happy 2020 🎉, and welcome to the latest edition of Quick Brown Fox! I’m Salman, and in this newsletter I share out my latest writing, learnings, and the best resources I’ve found online.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday break! When I sent out the previous edition, I was exploring the red rocks of Arizona. After I got home, I spent some time reflecting on 2019, and identifying some goals for myself as we head into 2020. I’m usually not one to make “resolutions” for the new year, but I do believe it’s worth taking a moment to check in and give some thought to where we’re trying to go.

In an effort to make these goals a bit more real, I decided to share some of them with you here. Let’s get into it!

Writing Momentum

The biggest goal for me, by far, is to continue my writing momentum. My goal is to continue both with publishing blog posts (ideally 2 per month) as well as writing this newsletter (once a month). I think this is going to be my most difficult goal — often I’m able to start on a project because I’m fueled with energy and excitement from doing something new. Once that novelty wears off, though, it becomes a lot more difficult. I’ll need to consistently remind myself of the benefits of writing online, so I can keep up the momentum.

I’d love your help with this goal! Whenever you see a post or some words in this newsletter that resonates (positively or negatively), let me know. Learning and connecting with you is a big part of why I’m doing this. The other major motive for me is to learn about myself — my hope is that through regular writing I can get a sharper lens into what areas and ideas I’m truly passionate about in the long run.

Meaningful Conversations

One of the great experiences I had in 2019 was an increase in deep, meaningful conversations with friends and peers. This usually happened in a smaller group (often one-on-one), and I discovered a number of people in my life who helped me grow through these conversations. These mostly happened by chance, and so they didn’t happen too often.

In 2020, I want to be far more intentional about facilitating these kinds of conversations in my life. Specifically:

  • Setting up Zoom calls (on the calendar!): Usually I find that the people I really want to talk to are not always around, so I settle for the usual “let’s catch up next time you’re in town / I’m visiting.” I’ve found that video calls are a great way to get past this barrier. It may not be as good as in person, but it’s a lot better than never / rarely talking, and I’ve also found it’s significantly better than phone calls.

  • Traveling to visit / taking short trips: This one is more challenging to facilitate (likely won’t do more than 2-3 trips in a year), but again it goes back to being more intentional about it. If you leave it up to chance, it’ll never happen.

Make the life you want to live.

Mental Clarity

A couple of years ago, I realized that I was using my phone too much. I found I felt constantly distracted, and overwhelmed by the endless influx of information. I was also wasting a lot of time and energy that could instead be channeled to creative work or fulfilling activities. So, I made a bunch of changes that really helped taper this down. They worked wonders — I was calmer, more present and far less anxious.

Since then, I noticed I’ve regressed a bit. In 2020, I want to double down on those changes. Unless I do so, I won’t have the time & energy to work on my other goals (like writing). Here are some examples of the changes that have worked well for me:

  • No phone in bedroom (most important of all)

  • Disable phone at night (e.g. 9pm to 9am) — you can use Airplane Mode, DND, Downtime, etc. to do this

  • Set aggressive limits for app usage (especially social media) — use ScreenTime/similar to monitor and progressively reduce your daily usage

  • Daily journaling — especially helpful to clear your mind before bed

  • Daily meditation — excellent way to start your day with calmness

I’m actually pulling together some of these into a longer post about different techniques, why they work / don’t work etc. Let me know if you’re interested!

Writing With Pictures

If you know me, you know I love to draw. I made some great progress in last couple of years (you can see some sketches on my Tumblr). I studied many areas of study in classical illustration — figure drawing, perspective, lighting and shading, gesture drawing, and some character design. I started to draw lots of fun characters (including the Quick Brown Fox himself!), and even published a few comics.


…Sadly, I haven’t kept up with drawing as much as I’d like. After reflecting on it, I realized that I had set a goal to draw comics, but a goal of drawing itself isn’t enough. I needed to have something to say with the comics.

Drawing was my medium, but I still hadn’t found my message.

Still, I love drawing and want to keep doing it (more than the occasional sketch). I did some brainstorming, and discovered an opportunity for me to combine two of my interests and goals — writing and drawing: I want to start drawing illustrations & comics as part of my blog posts! This will give me clear motivation and direction for what I’m drawing, while also bolstering the quality and impact of the writing.

I recognize that there will be significant resistance to doing this. I already encounter the usual resistance to writing, and now I’d be adding on the additional resistance of drawing something too. Double resistance! It’s a tough ask, but I want to challenge myself and see where I come out. If you have any ideas or recommendations, I’d love to hear them! I really hope I can use drawing to bring more life to my writing in 2020.

Building Habits

One major lesson I’ve learned: If I want to achieve a long-term goal, I have to build a set of habits that work towards it. For most of the goals I’ve noted above, I’ve established habits that facilitate growth/movement in each of them. I’ve started using the Lights Spreadsheet from Ultraworking to track my habits, and so far it’s working really well. I’m tracking things like daily meditation and journaling, weekly writing and drawing, as well as regular exercise.

Another thing I’m working on is waking up earlier (yes, I track that too!) — an early start gives me the time I need to hit those morning goals, but boy do I struggle with it. I’m definitely not a “morning person”. Even so, I realized if I want to make progress on the things I care about, I just have to suck it up and do it. Oh, and sleep a little earlier too…

BTW, if you’re looking for a hands-on guide on building good habits, check out Atomic Habits by James Clear.

That’s all for this edition! I hope you enjoyed these insights into my goals for 2020. I’d love to hear about any reflections you had about 2019, or planning you’ve done for the coming year — you can share them by replying directly to this email.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you at the next Quick Brown Fox!