small sustainable notes

writings of a personal documentarian

Flitting through the pages of “Hacking Your Education,” I was searching for answers of how to go about getting a career without formal credentials. When you have to navigate how to go about your own life, independent of formal and parental guidance, solely on your own learning experiences and expertise, it takes a while. A lot of “throwing-spaghetti-at-the-wall” type action.

Lying, I said to myself that it was too late when I poured over the pages of Dale Stephen's “Hacking Your Education” Jonathan Levi's “The Only Skill that Matters,” Michael Ellsberg's “The Education of Millionaires,” James Altucher's “Choose Yourself” and William Bennett's “Is College Worth It?” I just wish I discovered sooner other pathways to learn and make money other than the traditional answer of “learn a whole lot of subjects to become well-rounded” or “go to college” I wish my parent's discovered the value in an alternative education system even earlier than college age, such as the Montessori school format, or the value of “unschooling.” Regrettably, I don't possess any domestic, mechanical, and financial skills because I was never taught [I'm not stating this as an excuse, only as a reality]. Even more frustrating to me, I feel like my time was wasted at school because they were teaching subjects that I don't actually use in my own life, that I have never used, that I don't care about.

What's the purpose of being “well-read?” What's the purpose of learning natural science and ancient Greek mathematics? Giving speeches? The MLA format? And Latin would make me better at learning French?

Yeah, right.

When I left the first college I attended, full of frustration, that was the question. Looking down on specialists, they told me their reasons, but I couldn't personalize it for myself. I couldn't form my own reason. When you are learning, you have to find a powerful reason.

There's a lot of subjects that I've either taught myself for a little while or dabbled in. But by far, the best topic I've ever taught myself was learning how to learn.

Over the years, I've enjoyed taking back all those hours. And still enjoying it.

When I was about 14, I wrote a huge fantasy novel. Not knowing any techniques, I enjoyed the process itself. At 14, I tried writing out. Discovered I had fun. That I enjoyed the process and not just the result. Back then, I wish I became even more obsessed or that someone encouraged me to build up my skills and spend less time stressing out about grades. I wasn't planning to go to college when I graduated high school. The two topics outside of school that I was learning about was French and how to employ memory techniques, but it didn't go any further than reading a book. I wish I had explored more during that time.

Now, in 2024, I am learning how to write. And I can employ the memory techniques and learn French whenever I choose.

Another thing that I found out, while in high school, was that I like French. I discovered that I felt joy in learning it. I wish I became obsessed as well. What I have realized is that you can learn the skill even if you aren't quite sure where it's going to end up [provided it is something you actually enjoy]. I wasn't sure what I would do with it and thus became distracted.

After high school, one of my mistakes was that I was thinking long-term, not necessarily short-term, when it came to careers, freedom, and money-making methods. I thought, “I will hone a skill or do research at my parent's home, then I will move out with at least some knowledge and skill.” The problem was, it was not a place conducive to learning.

The environment in which you learn is very important. It needs to happen in a less stressful environment. But the environment was too stressful for me. So when I did eventually move out, I didn't have much skill and knowledge that I could confidently apply, either in a business or a job. Business was appealing to me [especially after listening to hours and hours of “The James Altucher Show” in 2017] but I didn't have any skills or knowledge that I could build a business around.

At 30, I feel like I have been “catching up” in life a lot. My method of fighting this frustrating feeling is going back to what gave me energy and where my talents are. Maybe it will work again. Here, in Utah, I am constantly learning independence. Which is empowering and something I can add to my self-learning list.

Making my way through Nicolas Cole's book “The Art and Business of Online Writing.” Here is what I am learning so far:

-Online Writing is defined by writing on specific platforms that already have an active audience. Building an audience is an ongoing process so that you when eventually publish your product, you will already have an audience who will be more than happy to pay for your content.

-practicing your writing in public is how you get that data [likes, shares, comments, views]. Data gives you insight into what is resonating and not resonating with your readers which will help to inform your content for next time and increase your reach.

-Cole incorporated his personal stories into his writing on GameRiot [a”social blog” for gamers], becoming one of the most popular writers on the site. He then discovered Quora, which he used everyday, writing Quora answers [because they all turned out to be creative writing prompts]. He was by no means an “expert,” just shared his story with anyone, in the hopes of it resonating with someone. He only answered the questions that he felt comfortable answering, based on his experiences. A copywriter by day, he took whatever he learned from that job as inspiration for his Quora answers. He didn't focus on his credibility [something I am working on] and instead focused all his energy into making his story relatable. Questions popped into his mind like: When did you learn the answer, what had happened in this experience...? He also combined his past learning experiences with what he learned that day at work.

-When Cole did go viral with a Quora post that ended up on the front page of Reddit, that's when he launched his own website and put out a product [an ebook based on the viral topic/story he shared], not the other way around. When he found out what people wanted, and not what he thought they wanted.

-After he reached “Top Writer on Quora” status, a major publication asked him to write for them. Cole discovered ghostwriting when one of his followers on Quora sent him an email asking if he would be interested in ghostwriting his book. He saw Cole's conversational writing style, thinking this would be a good fit for his business book. This is another good reason to practice in public.

-Perhaps my favorite insight from the book so far is that writers are all operating within a specific category. The goal is to find out what category you are writing in and to get as specific as possible. The ultimate goal of success in online writing, an alternative to competing with someone else in the same category, is to create your own category [something that is really exciting to me!]. Right now, I think my category is” learning”, broadly speaking, because what I am doing is documenting what I am learning. This blog consists of topics about mastery/skills/rapid learning/language learning/writing/online courses. It's about my personal story of learning in order to improve my professional life and to build marketable skills for the workplace.

If I gain more experiences and knowledge in another category of things I learned, then that can be my category, tailored to a specific audience. There's a lot of topics I've learned at the surface level to obtain a specific result, that I can go back to and master the application, sharing my experiences and insights with readers along the way.

These are: -copywriting -learning a language -female health/menstrual cycle -how to go about dating -how to start an online business -accelerated-learning techniques/mnemonics -marketing[in general, not specifics] -how to get a job in the informal job market -how to be productive...

A lot of people in my past have told me that I have a lot of knowledge. This learning phase is all about implementation, experimentation. Not so much tons of input, as I already have that. I'm more focused on output now. And that output includes online writing using the advice from this book.

■ What I've been up to for the past two months:

-taking another break from social media: I took a 3 month break last summer and now I am taking one again in order to focus intensely on learning how to write. To look at my phone less. Bask in feeling better

-making my room & bathroom cozier/decluttering/online shopping/figuring out better grocery items for my better skincare regime/buying better products for my better skincare regime: fleece leggings, new jeans, kitchen supplies...

-adjusting to an improved skincare regime

-taking action on changing my local job

-selling a musical instrument

-reading the books “Burnout” “Soundtracks” “The Dip,” a couple romance audiobooks, “Nothing Personal”

-practicing visualization, stretching techniques

-deciding to no longer do certain activities/plans [or taking a break from them indefinitely]

-taking care of my old car

-not consuming content from YouTube and podcasts so I can learn how to write well without distractions [and actually read the books I bought]

■ An update on what I am currently doing:

-doing a daily writing prompt: set the timer for 25 and start going. That's enough for me right now. My only intention is to start a writing habit

-recovering from burnout: just doing the activities that make me feel good. Offline time, daydreaming, re-watching shows...

-improving my Wix site: I started a Wix site last summer for my service-based business. I was going to share rapid learning strategies to local learners. I got a few testimonials from local learners [I found them through a group] that I posted on my old website [after doing sessions with them], as well as my landing page. Even set up a 'Calendly' where people could book me for Zoom calls. But now, this new Wix site is a hub for my future creative CV/resume. I am thinking of adding a page for my service-based business. Familiarizing myself with all the tools and features Wix provides is a whole learning project in itself

-deciding not to do copy-writing full-time: learning how to write copy was not a waste of time but when I think about doing it full-time, the thought doesn't make me feel good. I would like to use that knowledge for a potential side-hustle. Who knows what I could use it for. The beauty is that I don't know. But I know that that learning project was useful

-back in May 2023, I took notes on how to learn a skill quickly. I am referring to these notes to effectively learn the craft of writing

-reading “The Art and Business of Online Writing” by Nicolas Cole

-listening to the audiobook “Write for Your Life” by Anna Quindlen

It took a while [two months!] to check off those annoying but necessary to-dos. Now that I have less to do, I can focus on writing in this blog again on a bi-weekly basis. I feel excitement to continue my learning project because learning gives me so much joy. To read books, to blog about what I am learning, to apply the knowledge using accelerated-learning strategies. To tap into my creativity again! To write and edit my personal experiences into a story format [the project I was working on last September]. To log into LinkedIn again, write there, network there, and learn about innovative and interesting companies [continuing the research I did near the end of October].

Within the past week, I've completed research on both local and nonlocal companies that align with my current interests. I've been fascinated by some companies and people [mostly writers] doing amazing work. In my notebook, I've written down the ones that fascinate me the most, separating them into the two categories: local & nonlocal.

Primarily, I've found these companies and writers by way of the 'Search' feature on LinkedIn. I also used Google Search to find environmental companies in Utah, checked the Utah Business Magazine search bar for more companies, followed the companies & the people that my connections & followers on LinkedIn follow, and the 'People Also Viewed' feature on LinkedIn.

I've also pinpointed the copywriters that I would like to meet up with [both locally and on Zoom] for informational interviews or 'coffee chats.' I did this in 2018 with workers in tech, specifically developers. Had a great time learning from them.

Lastly, referring to the companies and people that I am naturally drawn to, I've written down the patterns and what they all have in common. These included creativity, creative solutions, edtech, language, storytelling, travel/remote work, learning/curiosity, sustainable marketing, and sustainable travel. Topics and hashtags that I wasn't interested in pursuing I also wrote down on another list for reference.

Currently, I am in the process of building my network on LinkedIn, reading more of 'This is Marketing,' learning about the most fascinating companies I've found in my research, and messaging writers and business owners [both local and nonlocal].

Excited to continue taking action using the mountains of advice I've accumulated about getting a creative job the non-traditional way.

I'm using this timeline [from one of my virtual mentors] to help me:

one of my personal experiences written in story form:

Tried not to think about it, time slipping by. What was happening to me? Why was I so emptied of energy? I had it before.

I said this to myself as Yulia Zivert's voice blasted through my gummy earbuds, while working on the rooftop of the hotel I was currently employed at. Gazing at Salt Lake, I felt the afternoon sluggishness in my bones, despite having two sugary coffees that morning. Roots Coffee, Blue Copper, I don't remember. But it was the caffeinated state that kept me up throughout the day. I pressed the forward button to change the song on my Spotify playlist.

I let the combination of sounds burn into my brain. Glancing again at Salt Lake City, the sun painted its golden hues upon the burnt bricks of the vintage warehouses and against the afternoon mountain haze. Wiping the dusty windows, my mind, with every attempt, receded farther and farther away from the American West, while each word of russian, blew up my eardrums, transporting me to the East.

I embraced that completely. Before, I would have wanted to mold myself too much into a persona that didn't entirely fit me, but after each month, losing energy, I decided to go back to those activities that I had done before, those activities which afforded me sparkles of euphoria and energetic emotions in times of stress, such as learning languages, creative writing, and pilates. Those activities transported me to a different state. So I continued to listen to russian electronic in order to drown out the emotion stored inside of me, sometimes after an awkward date last night or a stilted conversation from a Meetup event.

For the past month, I've been reading Seth Godin's book “This is Marketing.” I picked it up because I wanted to get a meta-perspective on the new way to do marketing and thus infuse that ethical ideology into my copy.

We each have unique stories and motivations but in the same breath we are all the same, with the same desires and needs. Tapping into that is what copywriting aspires to do.

I learned that, for a while, marketing was advertising. Marketers just bought ads. But then, at one point in time, it changed. Now, anyone can be a marketer. Marketing morphed into aligning with tribes, creating ideas and promoting them in a shameless way, and learning to see through another person's eyes.

And the idea of getting the word out is the wrong way to go about marketing. No spam, no ads, no hype.

The alternative is to persistently and consistently create frequent stories and messages for the smallest viable market, getting these people in sync, thereby earning their attention, trust, and action. Messages and stories that they actually want to hear.

With an empathic approach, marketers don't expect consumers to solve their company's problem. It's more like they use marketing to solve others' problems. So it's understanding and unselfish in that aspect.

One point that stood out to me the most what that people don't really want about what you make. They are focused on how it will make them feel and what it will do for them. Focusing on the tactics and not on the outcome of assisting the aligned market achieve those emotions is the wrong street to go down. The right questions are “Who's it for” and “What's it for.”

But my favorite part so far is where Godin talks about story-telling and creating connections. Stories that resonate with our market, connections which help the market feel seen and heard. Actions that engage with the product and service create stories, connections, and experiences.

I'm halfway through the book. Excited to learn more.

After completing the copywriting courses in July, I realized that I would like to start becoming a writer by first practicing story-telling techniques using my own personal experiences. Since the end of July and the whole of August, I have messily drafted eight stories. I sketched out and attempted to express the emotions I had in those experiences. I referred back to the notes/lists that I've taken since 2018 when I wrote down the activities that I did that year and onward. Everything was disorganized, words and phrases in a discombobulated timeline. After writing those eight drafts, I decided to go back to the drawing board and actually organize all those notes.

I did this writing prep project for two weeks. Glancing at all the “I did” lists that I've made since 2018, I wrote onto another sheet of paper, a general list of all the activities that I did each year. A meta-perspective. Logging and listing in order to see what I've accomplished gives me a sense of perspective with where I am. Purging papers filled with overstuffed notes felt good, as if I was giving up on those outdated feelings, thoughts, and goals. I need white space to be a minimalist copywriter or any other writer that I want to be in the sustainable space.

At one point, I was looking at my “I did” list of the year 2021 at a cafe with an outdoor patio, complete with the wonderfully western haze of the mountainous landscape. Suddenly, I had a euphoric feeling. I remembered that all the actions I took in Utah for the past three years was so that I could learn how to take care of myself and improve myself in a whole new environment and use that novelty of the new environment to make a change in career/start an online business/practice self-improvement. Because of this positive perspective, I noticed that all the actions that I accomplished here were in service of getting back to the intention of moving to a new state in the first place. Not all of them were, for I got distracted in my original intention. Recalling my xenophile penchant, desire for a location independent lifestyle, interest in business, flair for writing, enthusiasm for languages, I remembered this place of pines and dry mountains and snowbound slopes is just a transitory phase. All the things I tried and which didn't work here helped me.

At the start of August, I attended a Lead Generation Marketing Workshop on Zoom hosted by a solopreneur and solo business consultant. I was still doing my local accelerated-learning business building project, but after the five-day intensive workshop, I decided to build it long-term, solely internet-based, and use myself as a test-subject, documenting my usage of these accelerated-learning strategies. After this workshop, I also realized that I want to place my business within the sustainability space and cater it to professionals looking to upskill in green skills. I created a six-part skill-learning system out of the accelerated skill-learning notes I wrote down back in May. Why not marry the futuristic workplace/skill-training with sustainability and accelerated-learning?

So now I resume my personal story writing. After writing out more first drafts, second drafts, I will edit them and post a few on here as well.

A couple days ago, I completed three copywriting courses that I began two months ago, including writing down ideas [from my notes] about how I can practice these techniques.

In the course I discovered on 'Skillshare,' “60 Copywriting Lessons: Actionable Tips to Build a Career as a Copywriter,” I learned the concept of clarity and that it is better to be clear than creative. If my reader, your client, does not understand the 'call to action' at the end, then I've defeated the purpose of copywriting. Copywriting is not about self-expression, rather it is about communication and I want my readers to take action based on my persuasive “power words” and choice of wording. There's the conversational tone, focusing on genuine connection with the reader. The reader is more important than the creator of the copy. There are copy hacks and formulas that I learned about, such as the 'AIDA' writing structure, the mid-story start, the big idea and a few more. Another concept I learned about is to constrain the scope. Readers have short attention spans. Short meta-descriptions, short headlines, short paragraphs of 200-500 words. I also learned the '30 Psychological Triggers' that Joe Sugarman talks about in addition to Robert Cialdini's “6 Principles of Persuasion.” Will be using both while practicing this psychological and persuasive prose.

After the second read of my notes, I inserted a fun emoji [in my course notes] next to all the ideas that I could use to practice copy concepts and techniques [in order to use as a marker for my 'practice loops'].

Practice Loops for this course: using the 6 Principles of Persuasion in an imaginary or real story that I could write down, writing the five story-telling structures I learned about, getting ideas from my own experiences or an imaginary dramatic event, and using “power words” and sensory words in those stories.

For the Udemy Course: “How to Become a Certified Direct-Response Copywriter, there were also a lot of actionable takeaways but it was more introductory, with PDF resources after some of the videos. I learned about how it is better to write about benefits, not features [a lot of beginner copywriters and mainstream copywriters emphasize features but don't tap into the benefit that the audience will get], knowing the client comes first before becoming knowledgable about the product or service, potential headline ideas, the importance of a good headline, and the difference between sales pages and sales letters.

Practice Loops for this course: doing an exercise in benefits and features writing, writing an imaginary sales letter for a task that my customer who purchased something from me wants, and then offering another product for them, implementing the email template ideas in order to write an imaginary email.

In “Genuine Copywriting: Effective Copywriting that Gets Results,” on Udemy, the course emphasized market research before starting to write copy. I learned that you get the copy from the actual market research, that there's a difference between market study and audience study, and that surprisingly, clients don't need to be persuaded if it is good copy.

Practice Loops for this course: Using the copywriting template learned in this course to write sample copy, writing an imaginary sales page, and implementing the 17 steps to write an authentic landing page.

Now, this month, primarily offline, penning on paper, I plan on performing these practice loops. I've downloaded a lot of articles about copywriting onto my MacBook [which I will be referring to] so I don't have the buzz of the net to distract me as I write.

It's been a month and a half since I logged out of Instagram and Facebook. In addition to these socials, I haven't even been listening to podcasts because of the yearly accumulation of information overwhelm and opinion overload [I usually listen to podcasts at work and now I am allowing my brain to breathe]. Enjoying it so much that I am exploring ways to spend even less time online. I feel like my work steals time from me, Instagram and Facebook attempt to get my attention, and I remember so many hours wasted at school learning useless topics that it seems like a radical rebellion to aim my attention elsewhere.

Wrote down two columns composed of what I used to do online and then what I am honestly doing on it [with overlap because some I am still doing]. But with other activities, I crossed those off so that I can focus on more important activities that will get me closer to my ideal day.

I have a goal of 6 hours a day screen-time [learning a language, searching/downloading/printing piano sheet music, & copywriting]. I don't read as many blogs or articles anymore. The only online reading material I want to consume right now is related to copywriting and sustainability, specifically eco-lifestyle and ecotourism. I have a stack of books in my room, on my Apple Books TBR list, and recommended titles from a few of my favorite writers that I would rather consume. Last year and at the start of this year, I read blog posts & articles I saved on Pocket when I was still on social media. And I have exposed myself to so much information and possibilities through podcast listening [since 2017], that I just want to implement what I've learned instead of stagnating in a continual consumption cycle. For music, I still listen to synthwave, foreign pop music, and ambient tunes on Spotify.

I was actually off of social media before [sometime in 2021 until the summer of 2022] but I went back on it to follow what a couple people I had just met were posting. Now I would rather have them just tell me what is going on in their lives. For me, it's exciting to share perspectives, imagine their story, and feel special because what they are disclosing to me is personalized.

On the net, I want to be writing copy for eco-conscious brands the majority of the time. Primarily copywrite for my clients offline in plain-text file. Taking notes in plain text files is something that I am experimenting with. I know I will be having to do research for copywriting, further extending my time on the net. Upping my language levels & building up 'Small Sustainable Learning' and 'Small Sustainable Notes' [including its presence on LinkedIn] are the secondary and third activities.

But I want to get even more radical and take a break from films & tv right now as well. This detox has made me realize just how much of the internet buzz in my life that I have allowed before does not appear to matter as much to my personal life as I originally thought. I am enjoying the feeling of missing out, but I want to miss out even more by not even being in the loop of what is playing in the theaters, streaming on tv, streaming on free movie sites. I enjoy not knowing the trends on social media, and I don't miss the emotion of disappointment when I didn't see comments & likes on my photos, not getting direct messages.

I am not saying the internet & podcasts should not exist, but based on what I know about myself, it's better for me to cut out the internet clutter in an extreme manner.

I feel proud of the progress I've made in my personal tasks and projects since being off of Instagram and Facebook. Spending 10+hrs consuming 3 online copywriting courses so far, attending local meetups, blogging, discovering my personal motivations for reducing screen time [burnout, information overwhelm, decision fatigue], starting to commute by bike to work, reading a paper book from the library, audiobook listening, organizing iCloud files and folders, practicing piano.

Currently in the process of a decision detox. For almost three years, since moving to Salt Lake, I've chosen to make several small decisions about how to operate in my new life. For example, how I want to live, what kind of products I want to buy, what stores to support. Last winter, I moved out of a less than ideal living & job situation.

It would be an understatement to say that I've experienced a bit of burnout. In fact, it's a little much. Too much.

Especially because I am shaking up my life again, by studying & skill-learning.

For the past week, I've implemented a number of dopamine & decision detox practices... Finishing one material/task/project before moving onto another. This looks like finishing one show before starting another one [Hulu's “The Great”], finishing one audiobook before starting another [right now it is romance/vacation-minded/foreign setting rom-coms], reading one paper book [just fiction right now because I read non-fiction before] Task-switching is off limits. No switching between podcast topics/shows, switching between unrelated tasks, switching between projects Focusing on sustainability-related/green skills/green jobs content & reading one blog at a time[no article reading unless it relates to this] Honing in on learning the skill of copywriting while ignoring others' successes [the main reason why I am off of social media for the summer] Choosing to listen to audiobooks on Libby and not Apple Books right now Choosing to read only the books that I have currently purchased/checked out from the library before starting others Keeping the phone on 'do not disturb' & 'airplane mode' until 11 am ['do not disturb runs from 7-11 am but I'm still testing this schedule out] Sleeping longer [and jumping into bed right when I come home from my 8-hour shift], taking a watermelon CBD tincture to calm myself, performing breathwork for 2 minutes [implementing 'the 2 minute rule'] Choosing to only have 'bulletproof coffee' at home [instead of making a decision to go a nearby coffee shop and then having to choose a drink based on what I feel like] Not having many tabs open on my browser as before Already deciding my 'offline activities' Already deciding the products I will buy locally & online & the brands I will support Not having certain apps on my phone to avoid information overload

Hoping that these practices will seep the stress out of my brain, reset my dopamine levels, and assist me in getting into the state of being laser-focused.

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