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Best of 2021
Avthar's Weekly Wisdom #69 (12/26/2021)
I thought I’d be writing to you today from my home country South Africa, but omicron (and subsequent US travel restrictions) had other plans. However, I’m grateful to be writing to you today from my cozy apartment on this rainy day in New York City, accompanied by my coffee and morning green drink.
Welcome to a special year-end edition of my newsletter. Today, as per tradition, I curate my most popular and most loved creations of the year.
This year I published 33 email newsletters and 16 blog posts. I also completed the first season of the Learn with Avthar podcast. I also recorded a new podcast with my friend Delano, which we’ll be releasing in January 2022.
You can find the Best of 2020 here. Onto 2021:
Five Most Viewed Blog Posts
South Africa. Costa Rica? Princeton!: My educational journey as a global citizen – I’m often asked, “How did you go from being a public school student in South Africa to graduating from the number 1 ranked university in the United States?” I wrote this essay to answer that question. It’s the most personal essay I’ve ever written. I hope my story inspires you to stay true to yourself and embrace forging your own path as you strive to achieve your goals and pursue your purpose.
52+ Lessons from Writing for 52 Weeks Straight – This essay marks a major milestone in my creative journey. Every week for a year, I wrote and published a newsletter (the one you’re reading right now!). I reflected upon everything I learned during the journey (like how hitting Hacker News' front page didn’t make me happy) and came up with 86 musings on writing, content creation, the mind and life.
Evergreen Annual Review Questions – Every year since 2014, I've conducted an end of year review. The practice has helped me take stock of my life, reflect on the ups and downs of the past year, and re-orient myself toward living a successful, authentic and peaceful life. Here are the eight best sets of annual review questions that I use, collected from Tim Ferriss, Shane Parrish, James Clear, Ramit Sethi and other top performers and coaches. I hope they help you review, reflect on and reorient your life.
Learning How to Learn: The Critical Skill You Never Learned in School – To help all humans actualize their potential, I believe what’s needed is a shift away from emphasizing specific material and toward the process of learning, empowering people not just with knowledge of maths, economics or physics, but with the skill of learning how to learn and an understanding of how they learn best. Read on to learn what “Learning how to learn” is, how it transformed my life and how it can do the same for you, no matter if you’re a student, working professional or entrepreneur…
Essential Reads for 2021 – It’s said that you’re better off reading the hundred greatest books of all time, over and over again, rather than reading every new book or trying to read as many books as you can. I pondered what my greatest books of all time would be and which of them I’d want to re-visit in 2021. These are the books that made my list.
Eight Most Viewed Emails
Amor Fati – It means “love your fate” or more simply, love everything that happens. Not just tolerate it. Not grin and bear it. Not just accept it. But to love it. To welcome it. To embrace it. Read on for how navy seal Jocko Willink, MMA coach Firas Zahabi and best-selling author Ryan Holiday taught me to love my fate and embrace amor fati as a way of life.
How to Cleanse Your Information Diet – The information we consume shapes our brain and thinking in much the same way as the food we consume affects our body composition and energy levels. High quality information that’s aligned with our goals will help us think clearly and achieve more, while junk food information will lead us to the mental equivalents of malnutrition and obesity. Here’s how to optimize your information diet for achievement, clarity and peace.
Cleansing Your Information Diet Pt 2: Case Study – “You want to really think about what kind of information you’re consuming, and you want to be very thoughtful that it's information that encourages you to do more.” To make the effects of an information diet more concrete, let’s look at a case study of how a budding entrepreneur’s information diet impacts their pursuit of creating a successful company.
22 Books for Ambitious Young People – These books have helped me throughout the academic journey that’s taken me around the world: They helped me reach the heights of the International Physics Olympiad despite attending a public school in South Africa, helped me adjust to and excel in the notoriously difficult International Baccalaureate while at UWC Costa Rica, and helped me graduate with a degree in Computer Science from Princeton University. The ideas, frameworks and life lessons from these books continue to aid me as I navigate the tech startup world in the USA, while trying to live a peaceful life of contribution.
Good Enough For Now – One of my shortest, but most impactful reflections of the year: It means that where we are - while not perfect or the state we want to be - holds lessons, opportunities and rewards that are worthy of our time, attention and presence.
Managing Oneself – “You have the privilege of deciding how you can make the world better. How can you use your strengths, way of performance and values to achieve meaningful results in a given situation?” That and six other questions from what might be the most useful business book ever: “Managing Oneself” by Peter Drucker - the writer, teacher and consultant who revolutionized business management.
Just in case vs Just in time – Here’s a cool framework I picked up as a learning coach at Princeton University: Most things we learned in school are “just in case”. Things like facts, figures and dates -- they often leave us wondering, “Why am I learning this? When is this ever going to be useful?”. In the real world, most learning is done “just in time”. It’s when you learn something that helps solve a problem you know you have. Or when you deepen your knowledge about a topic you’re curious about.
What is Success? – “The important thing about success is that you need to have defined success for yourself. And as far as you can help it, try not to go about living with someone else's or society's definition of success. In South Africa, we worry too much about what the ‘Uncles and Aunties’ are thinking.” That and four other lessons I learned about success, failure, overcoming fear, and entrepreneurship.
Six Most Listened to Podcasts
Nic Voge: Helping Princeton students learn, Procrastination, Self-worth (Podcast, Youtube) – This episode is with the person I call the most for learning advice: Nic Voge. I worked under Nic as a learning coach at Princeton University and he’s one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met when it comes to learning and education in high performance, high intensity environments.
Veda Sunassee: Leadership lessons, Reflection techniques, Empowering Africa (Podcast, Youtube) – Veda Sunassee is a leadership and education expert. He has spent most of his career building the next generation of young African leaders through his work at the African Leadership Group, African Leadership Academy and African Leadership University.
Rhodes Scholar Jordan Thomas: Grit, Discipline, Serving Humanity (Podcast, Youtube) – Jordan Thomas hails from Newark, New Jersey, USA. He graduated Princeton University with a degree in public and international affairs. He's a Rhodes Scholar, and earned his Masters degree from Oxford University in social intervention and policy evaluation. He was previously Chief of Staff to philanthropist Ray Chambers and is currently enrolled at both Yale Law School and Harvard Business School for a unique JD/MBA dual degree. Jordan is motivated to do work that most directly promotes equal opportunity, social mobility, and justice for all.
Yaw Owusu-Boahen: No-Code, Career Hacks, Founder Lessons and Diversity & Inclusion in Tech (Podcast, Youtube) – Yaw is a Ghanian-born, American entrepreneur. He was formerly the director of the Immerse Pre-Accelerator for BIPOC founders, as a leader of the founder inclusion team at Bubble. Previously, Yaw co-founded LMNS, an equal-opportunity hiring platform for digital marketers, and was a consultant at the prestigious Bain and Company. Yaw is a graduate of Princeton University, with a degree in Public Policy and International Relations.
Danny Miranda: Pursuing Your Highest Version (Podcast, Youtube) – Danny Miranda is all about pursuing the highest version of himself and helping others do the same. He's the host of The Danny Miranda Podcast, where he's interviewed folks like entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck, writer Polina Marinova, YouTuber Ali Abdaal and entrepreneur and author Kamal Ravikant. He's also the author of Tuesday Treasure, a newsletter that's nutrition for your brain.
Shamay Agaron: The Neuroscience of Wellness, Wearables, and the Brain-Body Connection (Podcast, Youtube) – Shamay Agaron is a Princeton-trained neuroscience researcher and science communicator. He's also the author of Friday Brainstorm, a popular newsletter that makes neuroscience accessible and actionable to everyday people.
Two Interviews with Me
I had the pleasure of being interviewed twice this year. I spoke about a wide range of topics related to entrepreneurship, career growth, success and fulfillment:
Finding Balance as a Technology Entrepreneur with Springtide Research Institute – “25-year-old Avthar describes the tech industry as a place of fulfillment for engaging problem-solving and being of service to others. He highlights the ways his current boss has built a positive work environment for offering constructive feedback and points to other trusted adults who have invested in his personal growth throughout his youth and young adulthood.”
How to Embrace Change with The Thrive Hive – “Today's Guest is Avthar Sewrathan, A South African, currently based in New York, Technology Entrepreneur and Princeton alumni. He believes in using technology to empower people. Avthar talks about the opportunity that comes from having access to an Ivy League school, such as Princeton, and the valuable lessons gained from his initial tech start-up journey. He is passionate about self-mastery, entrepreneurship, health, and happiness. In this episode, Thashen, Nicole, and Avthar discuss how perseverance and persistence are key factors in success. We chat about the caveman mentality, the internal scorecard of success and so much more.”
I am so grateful for everyone who reads this newsletter. If you’ve enjoyed it, please do share it with friends, family and coworkers. I wish all of you happy holidays and a Happy New Year and I’m looking forward to a fantastic 2022.