What are we doing here?

Let’s start from the beginning.

Why did I start this? Why am I still doing this? What’s my intention?

To improve the quality of others’ lives
(Ahhh, yes… hiding behind vague generalities, Trent!)


By sharing the ideas & practices that have improved the quality of my life

Who am I addressing? Who's my audience?

You - curious reader
Me - as I experiment with all of this myself

I started this by sharing my personal notes on books and podcasts with the close relationships in my life. Those first 10 summaries can be found on the website (notestomyself.com).

Since then, I've broadened the scope of what I shared to include personal musings. These personal writings, which I collectively refer to as “pieces," might be short stories, long essays, or poems. They're often inspired by a question, a quote, or a conversation. They might recount a lived experience. They likely use metaphors (nature, shapes, & sports are go-to's). Whatever form best communicates the idea.

I still send summaries as well, since books (& podcast guests promoting books) have historically been a pretty reliable way to communicate ideas. Shout out Gutenberg!

We are gathered here today to witness the sharing of my writer's vows.

I vow to be real.

To say the real thing. To say what I really mean. To be honest about my experience and how it's shaped my view of the world. The ideas are just empty words until the stories bring them to life.

I vow to make the pieces digestible.

Attention is the most sacred gift we have to give, so I don't take yours for granted. I have a tendency to be long-winded but ain’t nobody got time for that. So, I vow to write these ideas as succinctly as I can without sacrificing understanding or entertainment.

I vow to make these pieces easily referenceable.

Why is that important?

Because recall is what it's all about. One of my closest friends, Chris Cziesla, loves to remind me, “We know all of this. It’s really just reminders. The challenge is to recall the phrase or idea precisely in the moment when we need to hear it.” So here you go - always available in digital form to be referenced if you need it.

Also, email turns us all into a modern-day Sisyphus. "Inbox zero" is an illusory aspiration yet we all try anyway. I'm transitioning this from a simple email to a newsletter + website because I want you to feel free to delete emails, while trusting they can be referenced later on a website (see notestomyself.com).

Finally, exclusivity is overrated. I want to welcome others in if they're inspired to hit subscribe. When I started this summary-sending practice my intention was to share what I thought were good ideas with family & close friends. I kept it close because I trusted that they would still love me even if the summaries sucked. Opening it up means opening myself up to criticism. But fear is overrated (along with exclusivity), so here we are. If you’d like to share, then please do so.

And with those vows well-established, I say, "I do."

One of my old bosses, Andrew Dudum, used to say, "It's not real until you give it a name. Gotta give it a name!" (This was in the company-building context, but I guess it applies to baby-building too?)

So what's up with the name?

“Notes to Myself"

First, it's an ode to my cheeky lil secret... I write (nearly) all of these pieces on my phone, with my two thumbs, in the Notes app. Each piece starts by jotting down notes on books, podcasts, conversations, or everyday happenings. The stuff that sticks out to me, whether it's an interesting idea, a unique take, or a random observation. That's why I record the date of “idea inception.” The context is supremely relevant to the content.

Eventually, I revisit the note to try to digest what I saw or layer on my thoughts to what I heard. So it’s one part notebook, one part journal. Hence the conversational tone because it's a conversation with myself. I sure hope it doesn't read like a dry textbook or preachy sermon. And to flex my (nonexistent) vocabulary wouldn't be authentic because that’s not how I talk to myself. These are just my notes.

Then, much like taking lecture notes, the simple act of writing it down helps me recall it later. And, as Mr. Cziesla says, recall is what it's all about.

He also says, "We know all of this stuff..."

True. These ideas are not new. Our ancestors have already figured it out. The challenges and joys of the human condition remain the same throughout history. It’s simply the surface-level content that evolves. So, here we are, repackaging age-old truths in modern-day language.

These ideas are not mine. I won't pretend the pieces are the result of my unfettered access to a wellspring of divine creativity. I'll freely give away credit to whoever or whatever inspired the piece. You know all of this stuff. You might have inspired some of this stuff. I just took notes.

As if on theme, as I was about to click send on this email, I thought, "I should see if 'Notes to Myself' is used anywhere else." All I could do is smile when I discovered that a man named Hugh Prather published a book with the same name in 1970. Of course, I had to read it. And, of course, it was enlightening.

From his Introduction:
"Notes to Myself was essentially a stack of yellow sheets (which I called my diary) where I went to sort things out, where I put down my pains and problems, and my very deep longing to break through to some truth. In many of the passages I was guessing, but because I was trying hard to be honest with myself, I sometimes guessed right."

Hugh... that's me! That's this! Granted, I "sort things out" on the digital version of "a stack of yellow sheets" but iPhones weren't as popular in the '70s.

His ideas opened my mind, while making me feel understood.
"Fear is static that prevents me from hearing my intuition."
"My career will form behind me. All I can do is let this day come to me in peace."
"My trouble is I analyze life instead of live it."

That all-too-delightful feeling when a writer puts words to my unarticulated thoughts and I just want to yell out, "Hallelujah!"

Mr. Prather died in 2010 but his ideas survive him. My hope is that the name of this newsletter will amplify his message, one that I believe is worth sharing. (I would write a summary of the book but I would end up quoting nearly the entire thing, so I'll just encourage you to read it.)

The discovery of the book was a humbling reminder that 1) my ideas are not new and 2) that's ok. I would like to think that I came up with this witty name on my own... but maybe I didn't. Maybe I saw Mr. Prather's book on the shelf of a library in 4th grade and my subconscious locked it away for over a decade. Who knows? I certainly don't.

What I do know is that I'll do my best to pickup the baton where he left it. I'll do my best to share my experience and my truth. And in doing so, my intention is to contribute to the collective conversation of humans trying to figure this whole "life" thing out.

In closing, I'll share my gratitude.

First, a thank you to all of the people who have shared their inner thoughts publicly. Whether writers on the page or friends in conversation, their willingness, your willingness, to be vulnerable out in the open has changed my thinking and improved the quality of my life.

And thank you to you, my friend. A heartfelt thank you for reading thus far. Thank you for gifting me your attention. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for now becoming a part of my life. Thank you for letting me be a part of your's. Clayton Christensen once (indirectly) asked me (and millions of others), How Will You Measure Your Life? My answer to him: "the depth of connection with the people in my life." And by that measure, I wake up everyday feeling like the luckiest man in the world. So thank you.

With a heart full of love & gratitude,