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Creators' Corner #20 - a dose of Stoicism and the value of single tasking

John Nicholas
John Nicholas
5 min read
Creators' Corner #20 - a dose of Stoicism and the value of single tasking
Photos of the week: I met up with some of my oldest friends for a road trip across Scotland last week. The enthusiasm was high, the locals were friendly and the wee drams of whiskey were delightful. Clockwise starting top left: hike up to Arthur's Seat (Edinburgh), Aberlour, Loch Ness (sadly no sighting), trail run on the Isle of Skye (a highlight), Portree, the Oban Distillery, Glasgow City Chambers and the Glenlivet Distillery.

Hey team 👋. Welcome to the 7 new people who signed up this week. This brings us up to 173 subscribers. Here's the previous edition of the newsletter for those who missed it.

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It's good to be back after a brief writing hiatus. The time off has given me time to reflect on what I want to achieve with the newsletter.

My mission: to encourage more people to start creating online. Every week I will share the best tips, advice and motivation to help you to become a creator.

Line-up this week:

  1. Quote of the week
  2. Two lessons from the Stoics
  3. One tip for other creators
  4. Thread of the week
  5. Meeting online friends IRL

1. Quote of the week

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer the negative elements in your life, don't sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy!” — Dale Carnegie

This quote reminds me of the Man in the Arena by Theodore Roosevelt. Get out there and bring your ideas to life.


2. Two lessons from the Stoics

I'm a big advocate of Stoic philosophy and the positive impact it can have on our lives. Stoicism comes down to controlling the controllables, fostering virtues of character (instead of chasing material gain) and maximising positive emotions.

Here are two Stoic lessons that have helped me strengthen my mindset and can help you strengthen yours:

I. Negative visualisation:

Unhappiness is the gap between 'what we want' and 'what we already have'.

Exercise: Imagine that you lose that which you hold most dearly. Your loved ones, your health or your home. In this way, you appreciate the things you take for granted. You close the gap between what you want and what you have.

I'm currently plotting my next career move. After a few rejections from companies I really wanted to get into, I felt despondent. Why didn't they accept me? Why couldn't I land the role that excited me? Why do other people have it all figured out with big, fulfilling careers?

When these thoughts creep up, the negative visualisation makes me realise that, despite the rejections, I already have a lot going for me. I'm in a happy relationship. My body and mind are fit and healthy. We have food on the table. I get to write and share my ideas online. The rest is just extra.

“The easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have.” ― William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

II. The Last Time meditation

Exercise: For everything you do, there will be a last time. There will be a last time you can go for a run. Or the last time you will speak to your parents. Or the last time you can enjoy that taste of ice cream. Whenever you're doing something, imagine this could be the last time you're doing that thing.

Similar to the exercise above, this meditation makes you appreciate your life and the things you are able to do. It's a reminder to be grateful for your current circumstances, as good or bad as they may seem to be. Enjoy the present moment instead of dwelling on the past or dreaming about the future.

These exercises may sound depressing, but they can help us lead more positive lives.

In the same way a vaccine creates physical immunity by exposing us to a small dose of an inactive virus, these lessons develop psychological immunity (and a happier life) by exposing us to a small dose of negative thoughts.


3. A tip for other creators: single tasking beats multitasking

Studies on multitasking found that it:

  • Negatively impacts our working memory,
  • Causes us to make more mistakes, and
  • Causes us to take longer to complete simple tasks.

Single tasking puts you back in control and increases the quantity and quality of your output. As Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, says:

“To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction. Put another way, the type of work that optimizes your performance is deep work.”

Fortunately we can set up our environment to limit distractions. Here is my tech stack for doing deep, uninterrupted work:

Summary:

1. Switch to do not disturb

2. Turn on the Forest app on your phone

3. Turn on focus time on the Cold Turkey web extension on your browser

... and wait for the flow state to hit you.


4. Thread of the week

This thread from my writing buddy Adi went viral last week.

With over 16k likes, Adi broke Twitter and added 3,000 followers and 500 newsletter subscribers.

Highlights:

  1. Content: Adi shared hard-hitting lessons from a tough phase in his life. He got out of a job he hated and quit habits that were making him sick. There is something admirable about people that come back stronger after hitting bottom.
  2. Delivery: He packaged his lessons in an easy-to-read format. He used spacing and bullets instead of large walls of text. His hook (lead-in tweet) makes you want to read more.
  3. Virality is a good thing: we owe it to the world to share our stories. If your story happens to go viral, it can help more people. Biggest win: people messaged Adi telling him they reached out for help after reading his thread. Wow!

5. Meeting online friends IRL

The internet is a wonderful place. By writing online, you can send out a signal and find people with similar interests.

“If the 2010s were about online dating, the 2020s will be the decade of online friendship.” – David Perell

During my trip to the UK, I had the opportunity to meet two online friends in 'real life'! Tobi Emonts-Holley (who I mentioned before) in Edinburgh and Charlotte Grysolle in London.

I met both of them through Write of Passage and we have kept in touch through regular Zoom calls and check-ins. Tobi has helped tons of people with advice on leadership and parenting (see his website here), while Charlotte is my go-to person for all things growth mindset (see her website here).

It was incredible to meet these two fellow creators in the flesh. Long live online friendships and finding your tribe!

Hiking through Bonaly Country Park - Tobi's backyard. He also hooked me up with a copy of Endure by Cameron Hanes, which I can't wait to get stuck into. Sadly Charlotte and I didn't take a picture, but I promise it happened ;).

Have a great week and happy creating.

-- John


P.S. you can respond directly to this email. I would love to hear from you.

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John Nicholas Twitter

Actuary and creator.

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