The Maker's Dilemma, TEDx Ubud & An Antidote to ‘Total Work’

PLUS: Do You Even Meditate, Bro? The Fed-Ex Letter Hack and a Conversation with a Remarkable Afghan Refugee

Ahoy Curious Friends 👋

🤔 The Maker’s Dilemma // A couple of weeks back, I received an unexpected call from a friend back in London. The unexpected catch-up call ended with an even more unexpected job offer. This is the story of how I navigated that decision making process between heading back to London for a dreamy full time role or keep hacking through the unknown wilderness of side-projects here in Bali?

🌴 TEDxUbud: Why Talk about Grief to 500 People? // Over the last two years since Sophie passed, I’ve experienced powerful, embodied moments of joy and aliveness, felt deeper connections forged with friends and family and received truly immense gifts from leaning into the grieving process. Here are some short reflections on my TEDx talk.

👨‍🎓 If [This] Then [Breathe] // Over thirty of you curious humans have signed up to be guinea pigs for the online course that I’m building, thank you! That's enough of a signal for me to begin making it! (psst… reply to this email with ‘I’m Curious’ to learn more and potentially join the first cohort)

📝 Journal Prompt // There are exactly eighty days left of 2019, and with that in mind, I’ll leave you with the question that my wise housemate Danielle asked me as I was navigating the job decision mentioned above and invite you to take a moment to close down your eyes and feel into whatever arises:

“Imagine feeling into a space of abundance, you have all of the time, resources and credibility that you need, forget all scarcity: where do you see yourself and what would you be working on?”

Stay Curious Out There,


p.s. Please forward this link (or tweet) to a friend who might appreciate these musings. You can also support my enthusiastic flailing and future creations by casting a vote of confidence in my direction and becoming a Curious Humans subscriber.

Left: preparing to talk at TEDxUbud to an audience of 500 + twice as many mosquitoes // Right: Plotting dreams for 2020 in Yoshino, Japan during a StudioD FOCUS retreat (Photo Credit: Craig Mod)

🙋‍♂️ Eight Ideas Worth Sharing…

🌎 1 // My Conversation with an Afghan Refugee

One of the TEDx Ubud speakers was a remarkable 20 year old called Abdullah Sarwari. Four and a half years ago his family came to Indonesia to seek refuge, where he then realised that they weren’t allowed to work or study here (there are 14,000 refugees in Indonesia alone).

After the talk he told me the story of how there were professional ‘smugglers’, officials open to bribes and how at every point in their journey they were both relying on the kindness of strangers but also liable to being exploited, not having any rights recognised in Indonesia. Along with his sister he also started a school that provided free education to over 300 refugee children.

It was a shot of perspective about both how fortunate most of us are to have the passports we do in the west and how much important work there is to be done to create universal basic human rights, regardless of where people are born.

☕ 2 // How to Get Coffee Meetings with 50 Fortune 500 CEOs

One of the most interesting humans I met in Japan was an enigmatic Harvard Business Professor who wrote a book about White Collar Crime, interviewing 50 corporate execs (from the Enron fraudsters to McKinsey inside traders and the likes of Bernie Madoff).

I cheekily asked if I could be his ‘research assistant’ so that I might get an email address as well, enabling me to also get in touch with famous people. He laughed and said that that wasn’t his approach…

Instead for each exec, he printed out a short letter requesting a call at their earliest convenience, which he sent by the most expensive urgent $200 Fed-Ex delivery so that when it landed on their assistant’s desk the following morning at 7am, they would immediately hand it on to the busy CEO thinking it to be of extreme importance.


🧘‍♂️ 3 // Do You Even Meditate, Bro?

On of my favourite online writers Oshan Jarow, wrote this thoughtful and poetic post titled: ‘Why I Meditate’, exploring his relationship with cultivating stillness.

Whilst coaching friends and family in meditation, the question of ‘why do it’ and motivation inevitably comes up over and over again, albeit in different forms.

Of course, there are the numerous scientific studies revealing health benefits—high achievers pointing to meditation as giving them a mental edge, talented creatives surfacing deep insights through sitting practice and many more who have healed and processed trauma from getting to know their own minds.

But I love the non-instrumental perspective that Oshan takes; framing attention as art:

"I meditate because attention is my art form. I’d even wager that much of what we call art — paintings, novels, poetry — are secondary, byproducts of rarefied attention. Attention, then is the primary art form."

🏢 4 // Antidotes to ‘Total Work’: The Way of Wonderment (WW) & the Way of Loss (WL)

I have been diving into the thoughtful essays of the practical philosopher Andrew Taggart and recently asked him how he thinks about conveying the essentiality of stillness and silence to those who are deep in the ‘Total Work’ mindset.

Our twitter exchange led to this post of his ‘Coming To The Other Side Of Total Work’ which I thoroughly recommend reading. Here’s a teaser:

“Yet it is life that, through some event, is the best teacher, life that may split one open, life that can provide the aptest pointer… It is necessary for him to experience an opening, a rupture. If he does, he shall soon discover that the opening is only the beginning. Through the portal lies the Mystery.”

🖥️ 5 // Email Apnea & Why ‘Take a Deep Breath’ is Bad Advice

As you’re reading (or perhaps skimming) this newsletter, ask yourself: how is your breath? Is it shallow and in your chest?

If you are like the vast majority of smartphone tapping humans then the answer is yes, and you might even be holding your breath—a phenomenon known as ‘email apnea’ defined as:

Holding one’s breath unconsciously while reading an email.

So many of us do it and it keeps our bodies in a state of low-level stress or anxiety as opposed to slower diaphragmatic (belly) breathing which is a cue to calm and relax. I have been devouring everything breath-related in recent weeks—from peer-reviewed journal papers to several thousand year old yogic literature—and I have learnt so so much that has real practical value (hence why I feel compelled to create an online course).

For the TEDx talk I gave last weekend, had I followed the traditional advice of ‘taking deep breaths’ to calm down, this actually would have activated my sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and would have led to my feeling even more nervous before the talk.

(related: CO2 isn't a waste gas. It's responsible for red blood cells releasing 02 into our cells... when we soften our breathing more 02 gets to the cells)

Instead, I practiced 10 minutes of alternate nostril breathing (I call this ‘Dim Hof’), in through the left for a count of 5, then out through the right for a count of 10 and a short pause after the exhale.

I could literally feel my heart rate slowing down in my chest and a wave of calm washed over me, conveniently moments before I was called to step out into the big red dot on-stage.

❣️ 6 // Our Cuckoo Clock Hearts

There is a quirky animated film that I watched many years ago called Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart. I watched it several times, but I don’t think I fully understood the message until recently.

Jack the protagonist was born on the coldest day ever. Due to the extreme cold he is born with a frozen heart which will not beat. But the attendant midwife saves his life by replacing his heart with a fragile yet functioning cuckoo clock.

But she tells him three rules to prevent his untimely death: he must never play with the hands of the clock, lose his temper or fall in love.

The final scene (sorry, spoiler) has Jack throw away his key, choosing to feel love even though he risks death doing so.

I think I realised that we're all Jack—when we love what death can touch, it will explode our heart, but that’s the point.

Maybe, that’s why we’re here.

🍂 7 // If Trees Acted Like Humans

You would see them reaching down with their branches and raking up all the leaves to hold onto them for security. Wouldn’t you feel bad if you saw the trees doing this, holding all their leaves to themselves as if they were in an existential crisis?

This is our tendency as humans, to pick up the pieces of our fallen identities, beliefs and theories—holding on for dear life. What if instead we let it all go, trusting that Spring will arrive in due course.

📝 8 // Advice For Starting Out on Creative Projects

Whilst trying to find a suitable starting point for the How to Human project, I reached out to a wise mentor, who generously replied with this wisdom that I wanted to share—as a reminder to both myself and any of you who may find yourselves at the beginning of a new creative endeavour:

“What I can say to you is that I started with one idea and everything else emerged. And perhaps you can work with your fear by realizing you don't have to start with a complete complex vision. You need to know where and how you want to begin, or what comes next out of what you're doing now, and make THAT happen. It's worked for me/us to let the project be emergent as a matter of principle."

🧠 Et Cetera

🦇 Bats argue (a lot)

😂 A million nameless joys

😺 Real life Schrödinger's cat

🐘 Elephant-assisted backflip

🐝 Wasps are mind-controllers

🐙 Watch an octopus dreaming

🌳 How and why to do nothing

📝 Good advice from storytellers

🏄‍♂️ The surfer’s secret to happiness

👨‍🎓 Rise of The Intellectual Deep Web

🎻 A midsummer morning adventure (video)

🎵 Canon in D performed on rubber chicken

🍄 How psychedelics create the Overview Effect

📚 Curiosity depends on what you already know

🕷️ Spiders fly hundreds of miles using electricity!

🧠 Our brains use attention filters, not a spotlight

📛 Why 'taking a deep breath' is bad advice (podcast)

💬 Gaining perspective through untranslatable words

🤝 50 ways to be stupendously generous (more ideas here)

🎨 Would you make your art if you were the last person on earth?

📝 Parting Poem

The Shadow

What is the question,

you are scared to ask?


Tell me of the shape

That your shadow casts.


You must turn around,

Seek your seeker.


Find the courage

To meet it's gaze,

And speak its true name.

The Joyful Absurdity of Existence


Kon'nichiwa (こんにちは) from Kyoto 👋

🇯🇵 Less than 12 hours ago I landed in the home of geisha, tea ceremonies, kimono and 2,000 temples. Already, I love the juxtaposition of it’s calm stillness with the endearing earnestness of the people. I’m giddy with intrigue to explore this Shinto universe, the zen gardens, onsen and seemingly entirely new ways of orienting in the world (I also have no clue what I ate for dinner last night but it was delicious).

🤯 But in the meantime, I could not be more enthused to share this mindmeld of a podcast conversation with you. I've been listening to Cory's podcast the Astral Hustle for years now. As well has being one of the deepest thinkers I’ve come across— I tend to think of him as the Alan Watts of the 21st century.

🔥 This conversation with Cory really lit me up. We bounced between the role of humour in spiritual exploration and what he calls the 'upside of impermanence':

"To have that level of understanding about consciousness or being you must inherently have the same, you must have a grow sense of humor about it because like that level of macro comprehension is not possible without seeing the absurdity of it all and in the natural elicited response from that is laughter."

📝 We also dive into some of the more practical aspects of meditation—how it changes the way we experience the world and allows us to get out of our own way and begin to author our own future:

"The fragments of the self that are shattered you know the different pieces of you that exist within they’re the broken pieces of the mirror that been through the meditation or through creating the space they have the space to start to reconnect into one singular piece of mirror of yourself so that you can look into it and quote-unquote reflect and then begin to understand what you are and then begin to author your future."

📚 We didn't have time to cover it in this episode but Cory has a background in music and produces Binaural Beats, which I've been using daily for the last few months to both meditate and focus at work. You can find these, as well as the lowdown on his superb new book 'Now is the Way' – which is available as of today over at 

🎧 You can find our full conversation by searching for Curious Humans in any good podcast player or clicking the play button above. The full transcript is also available on Medium here.

❤️ If you enjoy this conversation or if these updates bring any joy to your days please consider sharing this newsletter with a friend who might also enjoy it, or you can become a supporter of all things Curious Human by clicking below.

🙏Thank you. I appreciate you.

Tiago Forte on Intuition, Breathwork & What it Feels like to Have a Second Brain


What is this Jonny, two emails in three days?!?

Don’t worry… consider this is less of a multi-course feast and more of a bite-size, snackable morsel in the form of the latest curiosity-inducing podcast episode—which is one of my favourite conversations to date with productivity polymath Tiago Forte.

🤯 We had a wide-ranging conversation on everything from the connection between external brains & intuition... to Tiago's experiences using meditation & breathwork to process anger and a vision for one day building a new type of school in Brazil.

🍄 You wouldn’t imagine that productivity systems and psychedelics usually pair well in a conversation, but it turns out that they do!

❓ Tiago's parting question for you was: "What would you do if your freedom and pleasure were essential to the freedom and pleasure of the world?"

🎧 You can listen on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Castbox, and now directly from this email in the player above thanks to the Substack wizards. Enjoy!

Listen on itunes

📝 You can also find a full transcript of the conversion here

🤔 Tiago is one of the most interesting people I follow on Twitter and I would encourage you to do the same if you spend time in the Twitterverse.

🙏 I’m so grateful to those of you who have already left a rating + review over on iTunes. As I’m mustering up more courage to invite future curious humans onto the show, these ratings + reviews really make a big difference for enticing more interesting people to join.

Leave a Review

The Opposite of Distraction isn't Focus

PLUS: Life Philosophies, The Emergence of a Sensemaking Tribe and Why Our Brains are Wired to Deny Mortality

👋 Mahalo Curious Adventurer

It always brings me joy sitting down to write these newsletters. I think I figured out (one of many) reasons why—the process of assembling my thoughts creates a common thread amidst the enthusiastic flailing of what can feel like disjointed days—this coherence-making is like a life raft for a perpetually curious mind, or perhaps like a conductor to bring rogue soloing musicians into the same key.

👨‍🎓Deep Work Bootcamp // I’m officially building a course! It’s going to be an online bootcamp teaching breathwork + meditation energy management techniques alongside deep work rituals for remote workers. The curriculum is still mostly in my head but if you’d be interested in becoming indistractible please reply with the words: ‘I’m Curious’. Or if you know anyone who might appreciate being a guinea pig for this please forward on this email.

🎙️Casting Pods of Joy // Excitement for podcasting is at an all-time high. I’ve recently posted two great episodes: with NASA astronomer Kevin Hainline and 12-year old eco-fashion founder Hanalei Swan, with many more compelling conversations in the pipeline.

TEDx Countdown // It’s officially too late to back out of my TEDx Ubud talk in October, although my friend Arthur is kindly helping me commit it to memory using mnemonics and good old fashioned index cards.

🙋‍♂️ How to Human // I’ve begun drafting a book proposal (an intimidating process) but in all honesty, my sense is that it feels like this project wants to become a podcast (at least initially). So I’ve started exploring funding model possibilities and reaching out to potential podcast networks—if you have any ideas or suggestions along these lines please do let me know.

📝Recent Interview // I was interviewed here by Tomas Lau and enjoyed the process because… well it's always flattering to be asked, but mostly because it's a chance to reflect on important questions like 'What’s one question that helped you understand the world better?' Or 'How do you manage time?'

🇯🇵Japan Explorations // I’m counting down the days until my first trip to Japan, exploring Nara, Osaka and Kyoto with fellow Curious Human and good friend Paul Millerd. So if you consider yourself a Japanophile, please do share any recommendations for us in any of these places.

I’m typing these words in-between freedives, so if the content below in this particularly newsletter deviates off-key more than usual… let’s just blame the oxygen deprivation.

As always, stay curious out there!


p.s. Curious Humans *almost* has 1,000 subscribers. Not that I’m motivated by such arbitrary numbers... but I can't deny my OCD tendencies and one-thousand-readers would bring disproportionate satisfaction. So please forward this link (or tweet) to a friend who might appreciate these musings.

Two New Podcast Episodes 🎙️

#009 // Life Lessons from 12 year Old Conscious Fashion Entrepreneur Hanalei Swan 🧒

Hanalei is a conscious designer, international speaker and world traveller... and she's just turned 12. Most kids are asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Hanalei was asked:

“What do you want to be now?”

This question changed her perspective on what she could do at such a young age, and instead of thinking she had to wait to become a fashion designer until she was 20 or 30, she decided to do it now and started designing at the age of 7 years old. If you ask me, our future is in good hands... it's the 'grown-ups' that have the catching up to do!

Listen to Hanalei

#010 // Astronomy as a Lens to Understand Yourself with Kevin Hainline 🔭

This was one of those spontaneous conversations that made me feel grateful for having started a podcast… it was with NASA astronomer Kevin Hainline, recorded sitting next to a stream up in the Spanish pyrenees.

We went completely off the deep end and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that he changed the way I look up at the night sky and sent me into a rabbit hole of researching how different cultures around the world tell stories about the constellations they see. Here’s a sense of what to expect:

"The stars are a set of templates that we put our own hopes and fears and non understandings and stories on and it’s really fun to find the ones that cultures that never talked with each other because they were separated by vast distances had the same thing."

Listen to Kevin

Seven Ideas Worth Contemplating 💡

1 // The Opposite of Distraction Isn’t Focus 🤦‍♂️

The opposite of distraction is intention. And sometimes your intention might be to say go for a walk and deliberately allow your mind to wander. And that’s okay!

Many of you will have come across the term ‘Deep Work’, Cal Newport’s philosophy of removing distractions and carving out uninterrupted hours of focused output.

But the reality is that our mind sends more internal notifications (also called thoughts) than Email, Twitter and Slack combined (approximately 50,000 of them daily).

So the real challenge for prolonged states of creative ‘deep work’ is training our awareness to not be pulled from our intentions.

Susan Sontag believed she had 'attention surplus disorder’. The more I dig into this subject the more I feel that it is almost foundational to everything else and in my experience the reward of meditation practice has been exactly that ‘attention surplus’ which leads to a greater depth across all areas of life.

I believe that the quality of our life experience increases in proportion to our capacity for delight, and our capacity for delight increases in proportion to our quality of attention. Therefore, consciously working on the quality of our attention, like a muscle to be trained, is one definitive way to enhance our experience on this planet.

2 // Our Brains are Wired to Deny Our Mortality 💀

From the ancient Stoic ‘memento mori’ skulls and Ernest Becker’s writing on the ‘Denial of Death’ to more recently Tim Urban’s ‘Tail-end’ post and a multitude of Death Clock chrome extensions reminding us of how many days we '(likely) have left on the planet. In my opinion, one of the most powerful sentences in the entire Buddhist canon is:

“Death is certain. Its time is not. What to do?”

Yet it seems as if – in order to gain perspective on what truly matters – our brains need constant reminders of our own mortality.

So I was fascinated to find this paper on how the brain is wired to shield us from existential threat,which essentially demonstrates for the first time a ‘plausible neural-based mechanism of death-denial’.

3 // You Have Three Brains 🧠

At least according to the Australian aboriginal tribe who assert the belief that we have three brains: one in the stomach area, one in the heart area and of course the one we have in the head.

An octopus has decentralised vertebrate brains, and our hearts and stomachs are formed in the womb before the head… so this isn’t such an out there idea.

But the two lower brains tend to get far less airtime. The challenge for the Aborigines is to create balance and greater awareness between these three centres.

It turns out that our state of wellbeing (and brains) is largely influenced by the largest nerve in our body: the vagus nerve, and there is an increasing amount of science showing the remarkable connections between how emotions change the physical shape of our heart and the physiological benefits of heart / brain coherence.

So perhaps the challenge for us always-on, phone-addicted apes is to build external brains and meditation practices that clear away mental clutter and enables deeper wisdom or insight to emerge.

4 // A Better Way to Treat Wrong-doers ❤️

I came across a moving perspective on life practiced by an African tribe whose birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind.

That’s already interesting, but then when this happens, the woman goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come.

When the child is born into the tribe, the entire village community learn the song of that child. It is sung through rites of passage or as a way of honouring that child in times of celebration. But this is what I found most powerful:

If at any time in that child’s adult life they commit a crime or act from a place of anger, then that individual is called into the centre of the village where the entire community forms a circle around them. They then sing their song to them.

Wow. Clearly there are implications here for the way that we in the west treat those who have committed crimes, but I’m more interested in how we punish ourselves when we slip up.

When one of our aspects of self acts out of line – maybe we respond in anger shouting at someone, or maybe we fall short of our own high expectations – what if instead of beating ourselves up (the equivalent of the punishment model) we could instead sing our own song, and remind each other of who we truly are, and that these cycles of forgetting and remembering are part of the human curriculum.

5 // Have You Defined a Philosophy of Life? 🤔

You might not think of yourself as a philosopher. But you still have a philosophy of life. This is what essayist Andrew Taggart makes the case for:

“The crux at the heart of this approach is that the unexamined life entails not knowing oneself in a very real sense.

The point is that if we don’t explicitly examine our driving beliefs and have introspective practices then there’s a good chance we’re still living life in default mode. My most recent podcast guest Tiago Forte, shared how he stumbled into his own practical philosophy that can be summarised as one of servant hedonism.

Perhaps most impressively, Curious Humans reader Buster Benson, has created his own ‘Book of Life’, which is essentially an operating manual for his personal belief system (I’m also excited for his upcoming book on productive disagreements).

Finally, Stoicism is also seeing a revival in recent years I believe precisely because it offers a practical philosophy to orient ourselves in an increasingly uncertain and chaotic world.

NB: For those of you looking to cultivate a bit more more self-reflection, my friends at Holstee have just launched this thoughtful Reflection App that I’ve been beta-testing and enjoying immensely 💯📱

6 // #GameB: A Sensemaking Tribe Emerges 🌎

Rumi once wrote:

'Sit, be still, and listen, because you're drunk and we're at the edge of the roof',

This feels like where many of us are at personally and collectively (if you're brave enough to follow the news).

Beneath the surface noise, there has been a movement growing – seeded in a handful of podcasts and now coming together as a tribe on Twitter and elsewhere under the umbrella of ‘sensemaking’. It’s an exciting corner of the internet that I’ve been following, mostly via the Rebel Wisdom and Future Thinkers podcasts, but now seems to be picking up real momentum.

At first glance the conversation around what’s known as #gameb can feel dense, inaccessible and frustratingly slippery but it’s worth investing some time into because to me at least, it feels like a very thoughtful group of people are asking what it might look like to navigate the convergence of meta-crises facing our planet today and how we could possibly transition into what Charles Eisenstein calls a ‘story of interbeing’.

For the best primer on this sensemaking world, I’d recommend listening to either this conversation with Jamie Wheal on the Future Thinkers podcast, or this Rebel Wisdom intro video to their new series on ‘Collective Intelligence’.

And for those of you interested in going deeper, there is a shared Google Doc here listing some of the sensemaking concepts / resources and if you want to go down a deep #gameb rabbit hole click here.

7 // Give Up Your Seven Most Treasured Things 😨

Re-acquainting myself with some of Joseph Campbell’s writing I came across what he described as one of the most interesting experiences of his life. He tells the story of how two professor friends facilitated a ritual that begin with asking:

‘What are the seven things for which you feel your life is worth living?

Then you were to gather seven little objects, small enough to hold in your hand that represented each thing.

That evening, the small group which included Joseph, made their way down a wooded road to the mouth of a dark cave. At this entrance was a man wearing the mask of a dog (representing Cerberus at the gates of hell).

Cerberus put out his hand and said, ‘Give me that which you least cherish’.

Which Joseph did and then proceeded through an enormous cave, along the way being asked to surrender the remaining six treasured objects one by one, and wrote about how the order by which he chose them was revelatory.

I intend to write more about this, but there’s something that feels immensely potent in this ritualistic ‘de-attaching’ of yourself to these things (both physical and psychological) that reminds you that your sense of joy and connection isn’t contingent on anything external, and paradoxically frees you to love and appreciate them even more deeply.

Et Cetera

😲 10X Time

🎈 Balloon obsessions

📆Calendar scaffolding

😴 The Dim Hof method

😃From FOMO to JOMO

👨‍🏭Sought after jobs in 2025

👵 How to be a good ancestor

🥗 The future of food is indoors

📚City bookstores per 100,000 people

🚆 Commute Noise pollution visualised

📝 Mark Manson’s Take on Vulnerability

👨‍🏫 The High Existence Podcast Playlist & PhD

🎧 Heartfelt meditative story with Krista Tippet

🧠 Why we genuinely only use 10% of our brains

🌎 Remote Work is here to stay + scripts to make the leap

👑 Glorious return of the internet’s most loved philosopher king

Parting Poem 📝

Stars combust,
Planets arise
Oceans form
A whale sings
Hazel saplings
Braving winter,
Cannot fathom 
The sweetness of Spring.
New life unfolds
Midwifed by spirit
Into this lineage of 
impossible happenings.

Wow, you made it to the end… if you’re feeling a little more curious than before, consider supporting my projects to join the growing league of curious human subscribers and get access to bonus content below.

Writing Prompts, Freediving, Sparketypes & Other Recent Obsessions

PLUS: Eight Courses to Level Up Your Life, Designing a 'Jedi Warrior Program', Kosmic Consciousness and more mind-expanding ideas!

👋 Hey Curious Human

😋 Oh hi there // Please feel free to feast on this month’s buffet of brainfood below in one sitting, or you can open in a browser to savour each nourishing mind-morsel one by one.

📝 One Word Writing Prompts // Inspired by David Whyte's book ‘Consolations’ (I cannot recommend this book enough) I started a WhatsApp writing thread with a couple of friends sharing our reflections on words that resonated. I decided to open up the first six words as mini writing prompts. In case you would like to contribute your own definitions the first six are: Persistence, Compassion, Trust, Commitment, Shadow and Play.

📲 Curious Humans Podcast App // I’ve been enjoying (bordering on obsessed) with Glide recently—it’s a tool that lets you build beautiful mobile apps just from a spreadsheet. Here’s the Curious Humans podcast app I built (in less than an hour). I then built my friend a custom meditation app in the back of a taxi. It’s genuinely so much fun to play with!

🐠 Freediving Adventures // As mad as it sounds, there is something ineffably blissful about taking in a deep breath and sinking down to the bottom of the ocean (managing 37.5 meters on my deepest dive last weekend). It feels like like high stakes meditation practice whilst getting a giant hug from the ocean (here’s a short poem I wrote about the experience).

😳 TEDx Talk // I’ve taken the plunge and committed to giving a talk at TEDx Ubud in October exploring my journey and insights from navigating grief. If you happen to be in Bali please do come along (use “friendsoftedx” to get a discounted ticket)

🙏 Meditation Teacher Training // An interesting thread emerged on Twitter around the tangible benefits of meditation practice’. I especially liked this response from the CEO whisperer Jerry Colonna: ‘I suffer less from the vagaries of my emotional life. Most days, I'm able to find my ground even while feeling groundless.’

❓ Question I’ve been Pondering // How much am I being held back and missing out on unexpected joy and opportunities due to my (ego’s) incessant need to “steer the plot” of my life rather than paying attention to life’s currents and embracing their slipstream? How might I trust life more and what would that look like?

Okay that’s all for now folks. Stay curious out there!


🙋‍♂️psst. should you wish to inflict this inbox-imploding braindump on an unsuspecting friend... then forward this link (or tweet) inviting them to join.

🎙️ Weekend Listening: Latest Podcast Episodes

#007: Insights from a Year in Silence, Designing the 'Jedi Warrior Program' & Advice from the Dalai Lama with Joel Levey

"The Dalai Lama's advice to us was basically if you have the opportunity to work with people with tremendous amounts of power who lack the wisdom and the compassion to use that power wisely. If there's anything you can do to move them toward the capacity to use that..." – Joel Levey

Joel Levey was one of the first pioneers of mindfulness training back in the 70s, along with his partner Michelle, they worked with Google and NASA and co-designed a secret 'Jedi Warrior' program for the US elite special forces... in this conversation we touch on:

🙏🧙‍♂️ His thoughts on how to be curious in the face of suffering, why he chose to embark on a year of silence with his partner Michelle and advice that received from the His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

🎧Listen to the conversation with Joel

#008: The Big Wave Surfer Planting Seeds for Future Generations

"The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings."– Fergal Smith

Fergal Smith is a big-wave surfer and pioneering farmer, two words that don't often go in the same sentence. 

👨‍🌾🏄‍♂️ Ferg juggles his time between growing veg and paddling into 30ft slabs of Atlantic ocean swells! I spent a couple of days helping out at Moy Hill, getting my hands in the soil and helping the team fill their 90x veg boxes to be sent out that week. What I hope comes across in the conversation is Ferg's eloquent sincerity, the courage that it took and his vision to inspire a new generation of 'growers' and planting seeds for future generations (they’ve already planted 18,000 trees!)

🎧Listen to the episode with Ferg

🤯 Four Mind-Expanding Ideas for the Insatiably Curious.

1 // Elderhood in a Time of Trouble

When I first listened to this 7-part interview series it stopped me in my tracks. You can sense the depth of presence that Stephen brings to the conversation and the clarity that he brings to some of the most pressing questions of our current

“Wisdom is the place where knowledge is fired, forged, and annealed to become something of great beauty, useful to the world.

Human Culture is made when that beauty swells into life and dies to nourish a time we won’t live to see. 

Knowledge gathers wood and flint and gut. Wisdom conjures a cranky, playable fiddle from the gatherings.

People who have been bathed in the grief and love for life play some small magnificence on those fiddles together, and sing their unknown songs, and make human culture.” 

2 // How Life Happens

David is a champion of radical thought experiments and practical philosophy and this recent post of his on rainbows and sprinklers is one of my favourite examples.

Does this sound familiar at all?

“It’s not that we all think we’re the center of the universe. But our lives do tend to feel something like The Biggest, Most Pressing Thing Ever to Happen, when it’s really only a short thread running through a vast, endless fabric of happenings that is life on Earth.”

Right… me too 🤦‍♂️

He gently reminds us to try inhabiting a slightly less ego-centric approach:

“As far as I understand it, life always works this way, whether we recognize it or not. Life is nothing but moments, and every moment is nothing but another culmination of the universe’s incalculable ripples… yet the way we think about life seldom reflects that reality. We plan and worry and forecast and dread, all with an absurd sense of certainty, like we’re setting up snooker shots and we can see all the balls.

3 // Discover Your “Sparketype”

Whilst I have to admit that I’m a sucker for a good personality test, whether through craft or co-incidence, I felt like this one from Good Life Project podcast host Jonathan Fields helped me to shed light on a part of my identity that I hadn’t previously acknowledged… it’s powerful stuff!

His Sparketype test asks a series of question that seeks to uncover an archetype or “imprint” for work that makes us come alive.

I got the ‘Maven(Your Maven's fascination and yearning to learn might be expressed more generally, as a perpetual curiosity about everything and everyone) with ‘Scientist’ as my shadow archetype (driven by, and find a deep sense of satisfaction in the pursuit of an answer to a burning question, or the solution to a significant problem).

If you do take this test I’d be curious to hear if you find it helpful or insightful!

4 // Kosmic Consciousness

One of the audible books I’ve had perpetually plugged into my ear lobes has been this series of conversations between the philosopher Ken Wilber and Tammy from Sounds True audio.

Ken is the grandfather of something called ‘integral theory’ – an ambitious attempt to create a “Theory of Everything” drawing on insights from ancient contemplative practices to more recent theories of developmental psychology. It’s kinda dense at times but deeply fascinating (and spurs my own interest in presenting a more accessible integral theory through the ‘How to Human’ project). Here’s a taste to whet your apetite from Mr. Wilbur:

"What do you do—what can you do—when someone you love dies? How do you face the stark reality of your own inevitable losses, aging, and death? This is when practice matters most. If you can illuminate your shadow issues, if you can balance your body with proper exercise and nourishment, if you can see multiple perspectives, if your nervous system can release tension, if you can open into contact with more life and truth—all of these factors will determine your immediate experience, how present and loving you can be with whatever is arising, and whether—and how wisely—you can use it to grow.” 

👨‍🎓 Level Up Your Life: Eight Online Courses You Probably Haven’t Heard of (But Might Appreciate!)

Online courses are the future of learning. There I said it. Your iphone is (among other things) a DIY university in your pocket. The future is increasingly uncertain and life-long learning is no longer optional. The only question is which courses will you take and how much time will you set aside for learning?

🤓 Course #1 // Learn to Become a #NoCode Genius from Ben Tossell’s Makerpad – The tutorials on this are worth the membership price alone (secret signup link here!) and the Slack community is also great place to get feedback on new side-hustle ideas.

💪 Course #2 // The Stoic Quest by Jon Brooks – integrating and gamifying Stoic principles into your life. Regardless of whether or not you take the course, This podcast episode will probably convince you to embrace Stoicism as a life-operating system in one way or another.

👨‍🎓 Course #3 // Design Your Own Practical Life-Management System by Arthur Worsley – Arthur is a good friend and one of the most impressively prolific learners I know. I can only aspire to his levels of output and am tempted to take his new course Tracktion myself (use code ‘curioushuman’ to save $499 on this)

🤔 Course #4 // Cultivating Sovereignty & Integrating your Shadow by the Future Thinkers Duo – Mike and Euvie are the hosts of my new favourite podcast. I love the way they’ve framed the curriculum for these two courses: “Gain deeper self-knowledge and develop the clarity of perception, sensemaking, and agency to live your life on your own terms.” (use this link and code jonnymiller to save 10%)

👨‍🏭 Course #5 // Become a Strategy Consultant with Paul Millerd – I’m grateful to Paul for pushing me to launch the Curious Humans podcast earlier this year, and now his has launched an impressive course sharing his insights from years working at McKinsey and BCG (gift pricing options available).

💫 Course #6 // Metaphysics & Mystery by Charles Eisenstein – Warning: this is probably not for everyone. But if you’re one of those weird types (ahem 🙋‍♂️) who wrestles with the nature of reality and consciousness and meaning in the early hours of the morning… then this might just be for you (gift pricing also available).

⚖️ Course #7 // Decision Making by Taylor Pearson – Taylor is one of my favourite longform writers on the interweb (explore his essays here) and this course dives into his research on transforming uncertainty into opportunity in our increasingly complex world (is there a more important skill to master?)

🦁 Course #8 // Make Your Myth by Erick Godsey – I discovered Erick via this episode of the Astral Hustle podcast and found his fascination with Jungian and evolutionary psychology contageous. His course (which I’ve enrolled in) is about cultivating a relationship to that part of yourself that the Greeks called your ‘Daemon’.

👩‍🚀 Et Cetera

📚Books for all ages

👋 Say hey from the future

🧠 Is consciousness fractal? (IMHO: yes)

👨‍🎨 Randomly generated design prompts

🔪 Cutting edge stuff (gyms made of knives)

❤️ Truly exquisite spoken word poetry (wow)

👨‍🎓 Five types of mentors you need in your life

🤝 A meta-analysis of the neuroscience of trust

🙏 How much would it cost to wake up the world?

💬 Insights into the realm of last words final words

😏 Why the erotic is an antidote to death (must listen)

🤯 This is what happens when two bubble rings collide

💰 Reasons to consider investing in a coach (twitter thread)

🤔 It's impossible to be curious and defensive at the same time.

😃 New favourite human to follow on Twitter @visakanv (here’s why)

🏫 Apply to join the Monastic Academy (I’m considering this for 2020)

🌠 Transcending rationality and embracing the mystery (podcast episode)

📝 Parting Poem

Joy says,
‘I am here, always.
Waiting for you to be
Soft enough
To seep into your heart.
Sorrow says,
I am here, always.
Waiting for you to be
Soft enough
To seep into your heart.
Heart says,
When my guard is down,
I cannot tell the difference,
Between joy or sorrow. 

🙏 Thanks for reading as always! If you’re feeling exceptionally generous and willing to invest in my future ramblings, you can become a paying subscriber of Curious Humans here.

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