May 20, 2021

The Kindness of an Empty Space

Nearly every morning, I get up while it’s still dark. I sit in my favorite chair, open an app, and let a quiet voice guide me through a simple meditation practice.

And then I write.

I write about whatever comes to my mind. Sometimes it’s personal thoughts and sometimes it’s related to work. There are no rules. I just write.

Most of the time, the writing is brief—a few hundred words. Then I send it to a dear friend who’s generously offered to be my writing partner and file it away in a note-capturing tool called Roam.

The Kindness of Empty Space
That’s all. There’s no pressure. No need to be perfect or profound. I just get to be myself. I may challenge myself to write about a topic I don’t know very much about, or I may touch on a personal matter that merits deeper thought. Eventually, the inevitable longings for breakfast and coffee and the pressing needs of the day take over. So l turn my attention to yogurt, granola, bananas, blueberries, and a quick look at the news.

But for those few minutes, those words are all that matter. Well, not just the words—but the kindness of empty space, the freedom of ownership, and the feeling of possibility.

Writing As Reflection
Writing is about more than words. For all of Ei’s talk about learning through experience, reflecting through writing is actually one of the magic ingredients that makes experience so powerful. As the education reformer, John Dewey, famously wrote, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Starting Points for Reflecting On Your Experiences
Reflection is what helps you do better work with greater clarity. And though there is no way to capture all of the nuances of writing in one short email, here are a few of my favorite prompts to get you started:

For Personal Reflection

Write a letter to your 1-day-younger-self to explore what shifts you might make before your next day begins.

Dear [Your Name] from yesterday…

For Team Reflection

Here’s a thoughtful framework for bringing a team together around an important issue:

Challenge: Reflect on the challenge that’s bringing us to this place.
Action: Share the action(s) you’d like to brainstorm or propose.
Result: Share what you’re hoping to get out of the meeting.

Note: This piece by Aaron Wilson-Ahlstrom is a fantastic deeper dive.

For Setting Direction

What do you hope will happen tomorrow (or in the near future)?

Tomorrow will be successful if I (or we) do xx today…

Reflection, and specifically writing, can shed light on what you need next. Start somewhere and see what happens.

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