May 10, 2021

Lifecamp Newsletter #14

Why you should trust your gut, the science of sleep, and how to stop doomscrolling

Hi folks,

How’s it going? Last issue, I said that March felt like a long month, but boy has April flown by. I have had a productive month building a daily writing habit around the ten-minute sprints I mentioned last month. Not long after starting these daily sprints, I discovered the Ship 30 For 30 writing program, which encourages people to publish 30 short essays in 30 days. The idea is to keep them under 300 words, so they fit on a single phone screenshot.

That format marries my goal of writing shorter articles around single ideas with my daily writing sprint habit, so I couldn’t resist giving it a go. I am now three weeks through the program and have been really enjoying it. 300 words doesn’t sound like a lot, but sticking to such a tight word count is challenging. It has forced me to sharpen my thinking and writing, come up with daily ideas, and make tough decisions along the way. It’s also allowed me to write in a more narrative style, which is lots of fun.

To give you a flavour of the kind of essays I have been writing, I’ve included one below. They are loosely based around the idea of macro lessons from micro experiences. If you want to read more, you can see all of them in this Twitter thread, which will be complete with all 30 essays in a week or so.

Trust your gut

A couple of years ago, I bought a beautiful second-hand convertible coupe. I only owned it for two months, but it taught me a valuable lesson.

At the dealership, I asked to pay by credit card because I wanted the extra consumer protection it gives.

The sales assistant told me the dealer wouldn’t accept credit cards due to a recent fraud incident. Their story didn’t quite ring true, and my gut told me something was off. Unfortunately, the dealer wasn’t present, so I couldn’t probe any further. But I really wanted the car, and I had negotiated a significant discount, so I agreed to buy it. I phoned the dealer, who let me make a small deposit on credit card and pay the balance by bank transfer.

After reviewing the paperwork at home, I found a mechanic’s note suspecting a head gasket fault. And, before long, the telltale signs emerged; leaking coolant, emulsified oil, sudden drops in power, dodgy heater.

I took the car back for inspection. The dealer fixed the heater and assured me the head gasket had been tested and was fine. I took him at his word, but the problems persisted.

When I called him, he stonewalled me and began telling blatant lies. I learned he had a history of ripping people off with faulty vehicles, so I sought consumer advice. Luckily, that credit card deposit gave me the right to seek a full refund. I opened a case with my credit card company and returned the car.

My credit card company pressured the dealer, who eventually conceded and refunded me in full. And the valuable lesson I learned? Instead of buying the car, I should have walked away as soon as something didn’t feel right.
Always trust your gut—it knows more than you think.

The science of sleep

While gardening the other day, I listened to a fascinating conversation between Lex Fridman with Andrew Huberman on the science of sleep. They touched on the ideal length (more isn’t always better), sleep’s impact on performance, the role of dreams as therapy, creativity vs productivity, and how to break past the mental barriers that make us want to quit. I think many people will get a lot out of this entertaining conversation. Here’s a link to the YouTube version, but you can also download the audio through your podcast app.

How to stop doomscrolling

If you have a less than healthy relationship with your phone, you might want to watch this video from Tim Ferriss, which contains some hardcore tips on how to use your phone and prevent it from using you. Be warned, he recommends deleting your social media apps. For what it’s worth, I’m pretty good at staying off social (except Twitter), so I have the apps on my phone, but I find turning off notifications and keeping my phone on silent to be invaluable. That way, my phone isn’t nagging me for attention, and I can engage with it on my terms.

Book of the Month: On Writing Well

I expect most non-writers would overlook this book, but it has something to offer everyone. Though it is a book about technical writing advice, it is not aimed at professionals. We all regularly write emails, messages, and business documents, so being able to write well is in our interests. The chapters on business writing and general principles alone make the book a worthwhile read. 

But this book offers valuable advice beyond just writing. “Writing is thinking on paper,” says Zinsser, and so it is also a book about organising your thoughts. A good hack for thinking more clearly is to work on improving your writing, which again makes this book valuable for people who don’t consider themselves to be writers. 

A lot of Zinsser’s advice is about structuring your writing and making it relatable and enjoyable for readers. The book’s lessons can also be used to learn how to prioritise what is important to us and how to build human connection in a general sense.

As you would expect, it is exceptionally written, and Zinsser’s sharp wit makes for an enjoyable, enlightening read. It is an essential read for writers, and non-writers will learn plenty while being entertained too.

Final thought

For all the strategising, brain-racking, second-guessing, and hard work we do to try to get ahead, it’s good to remind ourselves that we can’t do everything alone. Sometimes, we need to rely on others, either by asking for their help or for an opportunity that we can’t grant ourselves. So I leave you with this quote from the inimitable Gary Vee:

“You never know what can happen when you just ask.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

Until next month,