Welcome to another issue of Long Way Home🏡. Each week, I explore a topic related to creativity, emotional intelligence, and happiness. In addition to that, I share a few interesting links from the past week.
Beginning this week, however, I'm going to start sending just one link: the number one most important thing I consumed that week, to up the signal-to-noise ratio. We're bombarded with content all day, every day, and I want to make sure everything I send is worth your time.
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In this newsletter:
💫 - The Surprising Benefit of Writing a Newsletter by Vandan Jhaveri
🎥 - Rick Roderick's 8-part lecture series on Philosophy and Human Value (Lecture 1: Socrates and the Life of Inquiry) on YouTube
Let's get to this week's essay.
The Surprising Benefit of Writing a Newsletter
Each week, I run myself into the ground.
I rack my brain, trying to think of topics that exist at the centre of the Long Way Home🏡 Venn diagram.
When I question why I write the newsletter, I think back to issue #5, where I summarized the key reasons with the acronym GROW.
G - Generate more content
R - Remember/Relay what I learn
O - Online community-building
W - Write Better
Reading the list motivates me and helps me find my bearings. These are all things I have actively tried doing since this project's inception. At issue #30, however, I've discovered a new, unintended benefit worth highlighting.
The New Professional
In a rapidly evolving professional environment where technical skills are routinely made obsolete, a few fundamental traits are evergreen. Chief among these is the ability to communicate persuasively, disassemble complexity into its core principles, demonstrate persistence and professionalism, logically order arguments, and think critically about the world. A thoughtful newsletter writer can exemplify all these through their archive.
The resumé is passé. My newsletter archive doubles as a far more fascinating and revealing log of achievements that actually matter to employers.
We're aware professional successes are so easily skewed and exaggerated on traditional resumés, and we know so many accomplishments are actually team efforts. A newsletter, apart from editing support, is an individual accomplishment. It’s an individual's output. There's no ambiguity as to which parts of this newsletter are my doing—it's all me. As such, conclusions a reader may make about me through the newsletter are likely to be more reliable than those made reading heavily crafted bullet points in a resumé.
The Tip of the Iceberg
Cranking out weekly newsletters requires a lot more than just putting words on a page. Like founding a business, founding a successful publication requires resourcefulness and daily, nuanced decision-making. Demonstrating the ability to grow and sustain a newsletter exhibits the writer’s ability to consistently make good decisions amidst extreme ambiguity.
Further, after some months, any writer of a weekly newsletter begins to amass a repertoire that concretely shows their will and ability to continue learning and producing during their time away from work.
Here are some other unexpected skills required to run a successful newsletter in 2021:
Relationship-building with potential readers and distribution channels
Social media savviness
Collaborating with other newsletter writers on guest posts
Converting free readers to paid subscribers
A/B Testing to gauge reader interest and grow reader base
Demonstrating competence with web tools to design graphics and personalize websites/landing page
This doesn't even begin to touch on the most difficult part about writing a newsletter—the writing.
Writing Is Different
Clear writing is clear thinking. Anybody who confronts their own inadequacy, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, in an attempt to craft their ideas into something marginally unembarrassing is bound to have developed some cognitive conditioning. This is transferable. People who bridge the gap from amateur to professional by forcing themselves to show up and do the work even when they don't feel like it have grown accustomed to discomfort—a hyper-productive trait in all professional environments.
There's no hiding in writing. The soul of the writer comes through in all they write. When we read an unfocused piece marred with spelling and grammar mistakes and lacking a coherent thesis and structure, we can make some judgments about the mind of its writer. Conversely, beautiful and original writing that accompanies the logical progression of interesting ideas leaps off the page and signals a disciplined thinker.
Unlike with music or visual art or film, writing makes the writer naked. The only barrier between my mind and your mind is my ability to accurately represent my thoughts in words. If I do my job well, the thought that appears in your mind after reading a sentence will be nearly identical to the thought I had while writing it. It's the closest thing we have to telepathy.
Good writing can uniquely and accurately assess a host of in-demand professional competencies, and a newsletter puts those competencies on display in a way that a resume and cover letter never will be able to.
If you are an HR professional and have started a newsletter about cutting-edge ideas in your field, I, as a potential employer, can reasonably deduce that you are genuinely passionate about the work, are aware of and are consuming the leading publications in the HR space, and have likely connected with like-minded professionals through the newsletter. You may even opt to forward your newsletter to your team to keep them informed. All massively useful to any employer.
It's not imperative, however, for the newsletter to be work-relevant. Take LWH🏡 for example: I write about loneliness, ancient rock paintings and what some rare mold can teach us. Hardly related to healthcare, the industry in which I work and hope to grow. The fundamental skills that make for a good newsletter writer are common between all newsletter topics, and are all professionally advantageous.
Newsletter writers are developing a new type of personal brand that shows they are unafraid to explore their personal interests while developing an evergreen skill stack. The time of unidimensional cogs in a machine with identical professional ambitions is behind us. The internet has revolutionized how the individual can differentiate themselves from the group by democratizing access to that same group.
We have the urgent opportunity to make our skills, values, and interests known, indisputably and unapologetically, to anyone who gives us their attention. In 2021, we can all be somebody's favourite creator. The basic skills to do a job are now table stakes. The most worthy employers are searching for candidates who are primed with the fundamental traits to leverage unpredictable opportunities. A newsletter shows that readiness in a way little else can.
Professional gatekeepers want thinkers, builders, and feelers above simple practitioners. They want people prepared to create a more exciting, compassionate, and human future.
And that's the world in which I can’t wait to live.
🎥 - Socra-Tease
Rick Roderick, a philosophy professor at Duke University, was a popular in the 80's and 90's. I've recently wanted to learn more about the major Western philosophical schools of thought, and after some Googling, stumbled across praise for him and his lectures.
Professor Roderick is approachable, digestible, and above all, entertaining. Philosophy is intimidating, but he turns its roar into a purr. The thick Texan accent doesn't hurt, either.
A stand-out quote from the lecture for me:
What's a patriot? It's now a matter of debate. In 1954, it was not all that confusing and I'm old enough to remember people not being confused about it. I think people want it to be non-confusing again, desperately. They may want it more than they want money. The point is, philosophy of the dangerous kind, as opposed to the analytic, boring, academic kind, catches a society at a moment when it's insecure about what the terms that hold it together mean. Like "man", "woman", "patriot", and in particular, "human being". That is the human edge of philosophy. You catch society in a moment of danger when a set of terms that are very important to the identity of a lot of people are in question.