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Creators' Corner #23 - wins, losses and dealing with uncertainty

John Nicholas
John Nicholas
5 min read
Creators' Corner #23 - wins, losses and dealing with uncertainty
Pics of the week: my running team and I took part in the Salomon 'Run of 22' 10km race on Monday. It was a great event with the best support crew (pictured top right). The Berlin Marathon training continues... my legs are dead after clocking 99km this week.

Hey team 👋. Greetings from Munich!

Welcome to the 3 new people who signed up this week. This brings us up to 188 subscribers. Here's the previous edition of the newsletter for those who missed it.

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Line up this week:

  1. Quote of the week
  2. Wins, losses and dealing with uncertainty
  3. Five things you might like

1. Quote of the week

Keep inspiring others:

"At critical moments in time, you can raise the aspirations of other people significantly, especially when they are relatively young, simply by suggesting they do something better or more ambitious than what they might have in mind. "It costs you relatively little to do this, but the benefit to them, and to the broader world, may be enormous." - Tyler Cowen

2. Wins, losses and dealing with uncertainty

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while.

I've had tremendous luck and success this year. Especially from writing and my online community (thanks to you guys). I'm really passionate about creating content and I would encourage more people to pursue online writing.

At the same time, I’ve had a rough time at work and finding a new job.

Life has a curious way of bringing us down to earth and leveling things out. It reminds us to take the good with the bad. It’s normal not to have everything go your way. Life is not linear. It’s more like a circle, where we move from problem to problem to solve. And that’s what makes it worth living. It would suck if it was all on easy mode. There would be no story to tell.

So for my story. The wins this year include meeting incredibly talented people, building a consistent writing habit, building an audience, getting invited to speak at conferences and getting invited to help friends with workshops.

But there have also been losses. I’ve been shut out at work after completing my two-year project and my search for a new job is not working out (yet). Which has cast some uncertainty over my future.

I don't want people to pity me. It's not the point of this exercise.

The point is to show a truer reflection of my life. It’s not always just win after win. There are also days when things don’t work out. On Wednesday, I heard I didn’t make it through to the next round for a job I felt qualified for. This was my 25th rejection over the last 6 months. I’m racking up those Ls and trying to get more comfortable with the “we regret to inform you” emails, but it still sucks. It makes you question your abilities and qualifications. I used to be a big deal in South Africa, where actuaries are sought after. In Germany, no one really knows what we do.

Despite the rejections, or rather because of them, I’m learning what works for me and what doesn’t. I’m not the same person I was six months ago. I am figuring out what I want from my next role. I know that I want to keep using my financial modeling skills, while doing more work mentoring people and keeping the writing going as well.

Eventually things will work out. It’s just shit to be in this space right now.

Instead of writing a reflection when I have my dream job in a few months (fingers crossed) and things are rosy, I wanted to share where I’m at right now. In the middle of the uncertainty. In the middle of this painful moment. Instead of hiding my losses, I want to reveal them.

For me, it's been important to find a way to deal with the setbacks and find a way to operate despite the uncertainty. To keep living and writing and being a good partner despite not knowing what I'll be doing next year career wise.

My motto is to control the "controllables".

When I was younger, setbacks rattled me tremendously. I struggled to control my emotions. When things didn't work out for me at school or in sport, I would throw a tantrum and blame my performance on external circumstances... my opponents, my parents, the weather... anything or anyone except me. As you can tell, I was a pain in the ass.

I don’t want to be that person again. That's my guiding light through these tough moments. I want to meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same. I don’t want to shift the blame. I want to look within, embrace the pain and see how I can improve in order to be better prepared next time.

I can’t control getting rejected from the jobs I’ve applied to, but I can control my reaction to the rejections. I can control my mood. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I can pick myself up and apply for another role and put on a brave face again.

And, in the bigger picture, I still have a lot to be grateful for. There are wins rolling in. I’m in a happy, loving relationship. We have a cute dog. I’m healthy and fit. Life is really good and work is only a component of it.

I'm happy I've finally found the courage to share this. Instead of displaying a curated version of my life where I'm giving advice and sharing win after win, it feels good to say I'm going through this thing and here’s the real me.

I hope you take heart from this. Maybe you’re facing your own battles. We’ll get through this and be stronger for it.


3. Five things you might like

  • 🧵 Thread: 10 visuals that will improve your mindset. A curation of my favourite visuals by the incredible Jack Butcher (Visualize Value):
  • 📚 Book: Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. Main lesson: unlike most modern productivity advice and "life hacks" would suggest, we're never going to complete all the tasks on our to-do lists. We can do many things, but we can't do everything. We need to come to terms with our "finitude" (our limits or bounds). While this may sound negative, it is oddly freeing and allows us to focus on the things that really matter. Practical advice: Keep a "done" list. Don't see your to-do list as a debt you need to clear by the end of the day to get back to zero. Rather start at zero and view everything you tick off as a win (a move further into the black).
“We’ve been granted the mental capacities to make almost infinitely ambitious plans, yet practically no time at all to put them into action.”
  • 🎙️ Gear: Rode NT-USB Mini microphone. My laptop speaker sucks. My bluetooth headphones are scratchy (like a dial-up internet cable). Switching to an external mic has made a big difference to the quality of my Zoom calls and recorded videos. It's all part of improving my virtual quotient (or virtual intelligence), a term I learned from Karaminder Ghuman. Be kind to your colleagues and your audience by improving the quality of your Zoom setup.
  • 🎥 Series: Under the Banner of Heaven. Adapted from Jon Krakauer's book by the same title and starring Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge and The Amazing Spiderman). The series is incredibly well produced. It provides a good rendition of the book, which explores the origins of Mormonism and the murder of a young mother and daugther by a fundamentalist Mormon group that splintered from the mainstream.
  • 💆 Stoic humour: Don't worry.

Until next time. Have a great weekend, happy creating and don't worry. You've got this.

-- 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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