I’m launching a new virtual session on embracing a polymath life: The Polymath Advantage! I’ll be giving a talk on why specialization can be problematic, and how building cross-disciplinary mental models can help you differentiate. There will also be some Q&A, and you’ll have an opportunity to chat with fellow aspirational polymaths. You can watch this 2-minute trailer to learn more, and RSVP here for the event which will be held on Thursday, April 29th at 9AM PST. Hope to see you there!
The launch of this new polymath session got me thinking about the journey that led me to this point. It’s been almost a year since I published The Polymath Playbook. A few days after sharing it in QBF #20, the essay took off and brought more than 800 newsletter subscribers in a matter of days. It feels like ages ago now (especially given pandemic time-warping), and I realized this moment might be a good time for me to reflect on my goals for this newsletter.
I recalled Robin Sloan’s advice for newsletter-ers: “A personal email newsletter ought to be divided into seasons, just like a TV show.” It made me wonder: What season am I in now, and where do I want to go next? With this frame in mind, it became clear that I want to double down on using QBF as a creative journal.
Treating this newsletter as a journal isn’t a huge shift from my current approach. Since the beginning, I’ve avoided typical growth advice. Still, I’ve learned that even small mindset shifts can have major impacts on our lives.
Compare these two approaches:
“Creative Journal”: Reflect on the past week, collect outputs from my creative process, and share them in a letter.
“High-Growth Newsletter”: Publish a weekly newsletter filled with the best content on creativity, and distribute it to as many people as possible.
Both might intersect in content, but are very different in approach.
With #1, I feel relaxed. I get to pause once a week, look back at what happened, peer within myself, and make sense of what I find. Some folks will find these learnings valuable, but not everyone will. And that’s okay! That’s the beauty of life — we are all unique, with our own tastes and interests.
With #2, I feel pressured. I have to deliver polished, high-value content week after week. This can be a high-reward exercise to do with a newsletter for a variety of reasons, but in my case (and, as Robin might put it, the ‘season’ I am currently in) I find this approach laborious, stressful, and frankly no fun.
I’ve been trying to do some kind of mix between #1 and #2, and it’s been exhausting. I needed to clarify my focus and find better alignment with my intent for the newsletter. Marc Lesser defines two kinds of exhaustion:
The “good” kind is when we feel well-used, like at the end of a full workday, or any activity, when we've been fully engaged, where our intentions and actions are mostly aligned. I usually feel great and tired at the end of these days and love the feeling of being "well spent" – a good kind of exhaustion.
The other kind of exhaustion is when your intentions, feelings, and your activity are out of alignment.
I resonated strongly with the second kind, and it’s clear it was due to a lack of alignment with my intent for this newsletter. I want these letters to be fun for me, and I know that if I have fun writing them they’ll be more fun to read. Going forward, I’m going to focus on #1, and treat this letter more explicitly as a creative journal. It may be a subtle shift, but even as I write these words, I can actually feel a bit of tension release from my shoulders.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to stop and “find my why” with writing. I previously shared an essay, Why Bother, telling the tale of my search for a deeper reason to share my work in public. I suspect I’ll need to revisit this lesson time and time again in my creative journey, so here’s a reminder for my future self:
Strive for clarity in creation and transparency in communication.
If I do this well, my work will garner stronger alignment. Its signal will become sharper, and it’ll resonate more with those who are tuned into it. Most importantly, I’ll have more fun doing it.
I’ll leave you with this collection of Egrets (compiled by Vinny Thomas) forming the most unexpected alignments:
Until next time,