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The Inner Circle - Issue #1

Why you might want to get a life coach, 3 things you should read this month, and the only 8 kitchen tools you need.

Sean Johnson
Sean Johnson
5 min read

This newsletter is for my inner circle. For the people whose opinions matter to me the most. It’s where I’ll be more open than normal. Where I’ll share what I’m excited about, what I’m processing. I’ll probably send once a month, give or take.You’re on this list for a reason. My hope is it will be helpful to you. If not, it won’t hurt my feelings if you unsubscribe. But I hope you don’t 😀.

In this issue:

  • Why you might want to get a life coach.
  • 3 things you should read this month (2 by me 😉).
  • The only 8 kitchen tools you need.

Why you might want to get a life coach.

When I graduated college, I wrote down a list of things I wanted to do in my career. They’re not as impressive as I thought at the time - anyone can call themselves a Creative Director, and a million dollar company is pretty easy to do.

Within 10 years I accomplished all of them but one. And in the process, I learned accomplishing goals doesn’t change anything about your life.

Things continue just as they did before. Often they just mean more responsibility and refraction of energy.Obvious perhaps. But when you’re super goal oriented, realizing they don’t provide meaning can lead to dark places pretty fast.

When you realize this, where do you go? For me, it led to a season of resignation. I stopped setting goals. If you already know accomplishing them won’t change anything, what’s the point of setting them?

But not having goals made me feel worse. My life, for the first time since childhood, lacked clear direction. And that felt terrible.

And so I did what might have made me squeamish only a few years prior.

I got a life coach.

A man I trust offered to help. We looked back at the circumstances (positive and negative) that shaped my life. At my personality and emotions from different angles, pulling out consistent themes. At the things that make my pulse quicken and my imagination light up.

Surprisingly, nothing fundamentally changed about my direction. But there were two insights that have been profoundly impactful.

1) I learned to be okay with myself.

I grew up in the evangelical evangelical, and there can be a lot of complexity and guilt around ambition. Often you have a belief that if you’re not digging wells in Africa you’re doing something wrong.

Maybe it sounds stupid, but I had a lot of that. It manifested itself in constant self-deprecation. In feeling like I’m a charlatan whenever I’d write or speak or sell or try to raise money.

I learned most of us have gifts we repress. Something happened at some point to make us think they were bad or wrong. But they’re probably not. And the points of gifts is to use them.

Just because you’re good at something and enjoy it and make money from it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Most of the time it can be used to make the lives of others better - even if that means something simple like being a better manager to your employees.

2) I learned (or am learning) to be process focused.

Goals are great. But their purpose is to be a compass, not an obsession.

Much better is focusing on process. The act of showing up every day, pursuing mastery of your craft. Doing the right thing at the right time in the right way.

It increases your chances of hitting the goal. But more importantly, you learn to be happy exactly where you are. You’re no longer only successful if you accomplish your big hairy audacious goal.

You’re successful every moment you’re doing the thing you’re meant to do.

Candidly, I’m still working on this one. It’s hard to rewire years of ingrained habits. But I’m getting better slowly.

I’ve built rituals into my day to try and get into a flow state more easily. When I find myself thinking about those big goals too much or beating myself up because I’m not getting there fast enough, I try to refocus on the task at hand. And I’m trying to truly enjoy the act of creating, resting in the knowledge if I show up each day and do the things I’m supposed to do, the goals will likely take care of themselves.

I think everyone should have a life coach.

We’re the most connected people in the history of time, and yet the most lonely. Most of us don’t have mentors, or close friends who can provide wise counsel. There are so many voices shouting at us from so many directions. Getting off course is super easy.

A good life coach will help give you perspective. They’ll help you cut away the overgrowth preventing you from seeing things clearly. They’ll help you focus and simplify. And, even if the course corrections prove to be minor, they’ll help you find a renewed sense of purpose.

If you’ve worked with one before and would recommend someone, I’d love to build a list of people to refer folks to in the future. If you share a name with me, I’ll send you the compiled list so you can do the same.

3 Things You Should Read This Month

Have Smartphones Ruined a Generation?

For anyone with kids. This is the most comprehensive analysis I’ve seen of how our teens are being changed by their phones. We’ve taken a pretty draconian stance on devices in our house - would be curious to hear your perspective.

5/25/150: The Secret of the Best Networker I Ever Met

Most of us aren’t nearly as effective at networking as we could be. This is the process an old friend of mine uses, and it’s changed his life.

Want to Get Ahead? Start Playing Politics.

Politics is really about execution. The best politicians tend to be the most effective in their organizations at making change happen. Here are 21 ideas for becoming better.

The only 8 kitchen tools you need.

Some people meditate. I cook.

I love doing challenging recipes. The focus it requires, the patience, the instant feedback loop, the joy when you’re finished and get to enjoy something remarkable.

For many cooking is daunting. But it shouldn’t be. Think of it like a practice, like yoga (or meditation.) Tasty, tasty practice.

One hurdle you might have is thinking you need a ton of tools. But you don’t. I do almost everything with these 8:

  1. A cast iron skillet. 25 bucks. Lasts forever. Non-stick. Can sear steaks and finish in the oven. I literally don’t have a grill - cast iron is sufficient.
  2. A dutch oven. Ideally ceramic. Also non-stick. Braising sounds fancy, but it just means cooking tough meat in fat for a long time at low temperature. Want to impress people? Do a braise. If you don’t want to spring for other pots, you can get by with this.
  3. Tongs. Silicon-tipped. Your most versatile tool for handling meat, noodles, etc.
  4. A good chef’s knife. A paring knife is useful as well, but you don’t necessarily need it. These two knives will do everything you need.
  5. A good blender. One of the two secrets to silky, refined soups and sauces. Spring for the Vitamix if you can.
  6. A fine-meshed strainer. Blend for longer than you think you need to, then strain. Removing impurities makes your food look and taste better.
  7. Lots of spoons. You should be tasting regularly. Keep them by your stove for easy access.
  8. Stand mixer. The KichtenAid is amazing. Obviously for dough. But can attach a meat grinder and make the best burgers of your life. Or a pasta attachment and make fresh pasta.

Thanks for Reading!

If you have ideas for how to make this better, please let me know. Thanks for reading this far. Hopefully we’re still friends 😀.
Have a great week!

-- Sean