Never Normal Newsletter

Taking a Year Off, 10 Days of Silence, and a Very Long Walk

This week I’ve got a new Never Normal podcast episode to share!

How to Take a Year Off and Balance Your Life with Vikram Seth

By day, Vikram Seth is a Senior Economist working on renewable energy at Shell. By night, he is the co-founder of Bounce Bhangra, an award winning combination of high energy cardio and Indian dance.

At heart, Vikram is a philosopher. Someone who spends much of his time thinking deeply about life and the meaning of it all.

In this episode we talk about how Vikram has cultivated balance between a demanding career, his personal passions, and his spiritual side.

In this episode we discuss:

  • “The Great Resignation” happening now. Why are workers quitting jobs?
  • What is a sabbatical?
  • What forced Vikram to re-evaluate his life and confront his own mortality
  • How do you arrange a sabbatical with your boss?
  • The two things you need to do before you can ask for extended time off
  • “Hunting like a lion” at work
  • Managing your schedule and your energy to do your best creative work
  • How to play to your strengths and gain leverage in negotiations at work
  • So you’ve arranged a year off… now what? How should you use that time?
  • A fateful first stop in Dubai… Leaning in to serendipity and where it leads
  • What a 10 day Vipassana silent meditation retreat teaches you
  • How to get out of your head and back into your body and much, much more…

You can find this and all other episodes of Never Normal here on my website, as well as on YouTube, and by searching for Never Normal in your favorite podcast app.

Getting Caught in an Upward Spiral

Upward spirals are one of those patterns that, once you become aware of them, you start seeing examples everywhere.

I heard Balaji mention the concept in his second interview with Tim Ferriss, and it came up again in my conversation with Vikram.

The idea is that some processes or systems are neither purely linear or purely cyclical.

Think of the number of leaves on a tree. If you look at just one year, you would see a cycle — growth in the spring and summer, followed by decay in the fall and winter.

On the other hand, if you were to zoom way out to a timeline of decades, you would have a graph that goes up and to the right (as the tree gets bigger and has more leaves).

The reality, at least while the tree is alive, is more like a combination of the two, an upward spiral as the tree goes through cycles based on the seasons and grows larger over time.

Weight training at the gym follows a similar pattern. Some days you lift, and some days you rest. But over time, you lift more and more.

Just Walk it Off…

Last week I wrote about New Year’s Resolutions and Annual Reviews. If you’re still looking for something to commit to this year, how about walking more?

I aim for 11,000 steps each day myself and most days I do at least that many. Once upon a time that would have been a big effort, but it’s basically automatic at this point.

For me, walking is an antidote to all the time I spend sitting in front of a computer. I find that if I don’t walk enough, I end up feeling stiff or sore and generally irritable.

But if you need a little more convincing, don’t just take it from me…

The Guardian recently published an Op-Ed tribute to putting one foot in front of the other: Walking is a glorious, primal pastime (also a reminder that in England, everything, including walking, has a class-association).

And GQ ran a piece last April that asked, How Fit Can You Get From Just Walking?

After four months following those guidelines, my friend dropped 43 pounds.”

I think walking is probably the single most underutilized tool in health and wellness,” says nutrition coach and personal trainer Jeremy Fernandes.

Best of all, the BBC shared the story of The woman who walked around the world:

Initially, she set out with a plan, but quickly realised the detours make the adventure.

A perfect description of a great walk, travel, and life.

That’s all for this week. More soon…

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I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

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