Solitude, Reflection, Gratitude

Avthar’s Weekly Newsletter #18 (8/30/2020)

Hello from New York City!

I spent the past week on a mini-retreat in my apartment, focused on solitude, reflection and gratitude. While I usually use my vacations to visit family back home in South Africa, COVID-19 and US travel restrictions have conspired to make that impossible right now. 

I took the opportunity to reflect on 1 year of working at Timescale, goals for my career and developer advocacy role, as well as my vision for this newsletter and soon to be launched podcast. I also took stock of how I’m doing with my health, relationships and internal state.

A highlight of the week was leading a workshop on time management and prioritization for high school students in their final year at United World College Costa Rica. Rather than lecture students on tools and tactics, I wanted them to reflect on their goals and blockers, tap into their peer group as a resource for help, and leave them with a collection of tools and resources to explore later. It was great to see the students leaving the workshop a little more confident and better equipped for the year ahead.

📚Here’s a link to the handout I created if you’d like to learn more.

I also had the pleasure of talking with fellow creators Dylan and Henry (from Smart Nonsense), as well as recording episode 1 of my new podcast, with guest #1 being my old friend from Princeton, Agustin Zavala, who’s working on the biotech investing podcast Biotech Bros. I’m excited to share both of those podcasts, as well as a vision for my writing, speaking and creating with you in the next 2 weeks!

Finally, I did my monthly ‘longer’ fast of 36 hours and read up on supplements to make extended fasting safer and more bearable recommended by Dr Peter Attia. He recommends sodium for general electrolyte levels, magnesium L-threonate to help you sleep and phosphatidylserine (PS) to calm adrenal glands.

What’s in this week’s newsletter?

This week, I share some insights I had on the importance of solitude, reflection and gratitude, which I found during my time off. 

There’s also a new segment called Curation Corner, where I share 3 thoughtful, inspiring and interesting things which I enjoyed this week!

As always, let me know which parts spoke to you by replying to this email or hitting the comment button.

With gratitude, 


Solitude, Reflection, Gratitude

🧘🏽 On Solitude

We’re solitude deprived thanks to our phones

In the modern world, we spend very little time alone. While we might not be physically around other people, we have a constant stream of their thoughts into our heads, thanks to our phones and social media. Other’s thoughts enter our heads, whether we give them permission or not. As a result, we seldom have time to explore our own thoughts, since we avoid them by fleeing to avenues like social media during boredom and discomfort.

Solitude gives you time to follow thoughts to their source and debug the mind

Spending time alone gives you time to actually listen to the voice in your own head. Solitude gives us time to fully explore and trace our thoughts to their source, allowing us to find the root of fear, anxiety and satisfaction and why it arises in the mind. 

Journaling to understand problems

Performance coach Kapil Gupta says that “The solution to any problem lies squarely deep within the problem.” He goes on to say that you shouldn’t try to solve your problems, should understand the problem, look where it comes from and get to the root cause.

An unexpected benefit of this time off was being alone with my thoughts and noticing what came up.

I kept a journal: whenever a problematic thought popped up in my head, instead of avoiding it, I wrote it down, since I actually had time to pull on the thread and see where it went.

I asked myself, “Where is this coming from? Am I experiencing a symptom of something that has a much deeper cause?”.

I learned the value of periodic solitude and will try to integrate it into my daily and weekly routines. As always, I’ll share how it goes.

🔎 On Reflection

Interrupting the momentum of daily life

Making time to reflect interrupts the momentum of your daily life and allows you to decide if you’re happy with the direction in which you’re heading.

Reflection can be useful to strategizing about how to win the race, but it’s also useful for ensuring that it’s a race you want to run and win in the first place. 

Rather than being swept away by the current of my habits and routines, I used this time to ask the most important questions regarding my career, health and relationships.

For example, I wasn’t happy with how often caught up with external measures of success for my newsletter (Twitter followers, subscribers, website visitors etc), so I thought about how I can craft an internal scorecard for my creative pursuits and do things for my own reasons. 

If you’re happy with your current trajectory in life, reflection can help you isolate the most important things which can propel to better achieve your goals. If you find that something isn’t working, it gives you the impetus to make a change.

Periods of reflection help orient you: ensuring you’re going down the right path at a pace you’re happy with. 

Reflection helps minimize regret

Reflection helps you minimize regret by forcing you to look at the long term consequences of your current actions and the path you’re walking. 

You can take time to project forward and ask yourself “If I carry on this way, will I end up in a good state in 1 year, 5 years or 10 years time?”. If you’re not happy with the place you see yourself in, then you have the opportunity to change and figure out how you can prevent that bad outcome. 

One of the biggest regrets in life is recognizing you’re going down a disastrous path, but not doing anything about it and going down that way anyway, whether it's in your career, family life or personal life.

Reflection helps minimize regret, as it can stop you from journeying down a bad path.

🙏🏽 On Gratitude

Gratitude is the recognition of the abundance in your life. Our lives aren’t perfect, but there’s always things we can be grateful for. 

I took time to focus on what I can be grateful for in life right now, taking the perspective of myself from 10 years ago in order to view my current life with the correct perspective. 

Despite the problems going on in the USA right now, I’m grateful to be healthy, doing work that's refining my strengths at Timescale and having a vehicle to give and serve in this newsletter and other creative outlets, like my website and upcoming podcast. 

Curation Corner

Here are 3 thoughtful, inspiring and interesting things which I enjoyed this week:

⚽ #1: Alphonso Davies:  From refugee camp to Champions League Winner

Alphonso Davies is a 19 year old Canadian footballer. This is the story of how he went from living in a refugee camp in Ghana after his parents fled civil war in Liberia, to winning the Champions League (the highest team honor in club football) with the one of the most prestigious football teams in the world, German club FC Bayern Munich. 

➡️ Watch on Youtube

(Bonus: Checkout his interview after winning the final! )

🧠 #2: Kapil Gupta and Naval Ravikant on Conquering the Mind

In this conversation, Kapil Gupta (advisor and coach to top performing athletes and CEOs) and Naval Ravikant (technology entrepreneur and investor), delve deep into the mind and the inner terrain. They talk about the danger of prescriptions, how all solutions lie in understanding problems themselves, and how you can overcome the problem of having problems in your life.


“A human being becomes his environment and that is why it’s absolutely critical to savagely and surgically arrange one’s environment in a way that is in accordance with where he wants to go.

If a person is exposed to truth on a regular basis–and not prescription...Then that becomes his norm. That becomes the way that he thinks. His brain begins to rewire itself. There isn’t a single amount of work that needs to be done. There isn’t a single amount of psychotherapy that needs to be done. No medications. The human body treats itself. It all depends upon the input. It is all about one thing and one thing only: exposure.

You become that which you are most consistently exposed to.”

👓 Transcript

➡️ Watch on Youtube

📏 #3: Only measure yourself by this standard by Jocko Willink

In this video, former Navy seal and leadership author Jocko Willink talks about how he measures success for himself.  What I found most interesting is he has a healthy relationship to comparing himself to others, rather than one of shame. He uses the achievements of others to inspire and educate himself, but still squarely focuses on his internal scorecard.


Echo: Who’s standard should one measure themselves by?

Jocko: It’s everyone and no one…

I will compare myself to others and see what they’re doing and if it's working. I’ll ask myself “how close can I get to that greatness”.

But the reality is that my glory...happens in the darkness of the early morning...

➡️ Watch

🎉 If you enjoyed this newsletter, please do subscribe and share it with friends, family and coworkers who would enjoy it too:

Share Avthar's Weekly Wisdom

Let me know which parts spoke to you by replying to this email or hitting the comment button:

Leave a comment

I hope you have a week full of success, happiness and peace. 

Thank you so much for reading!