Mike Newton — In Presence of Tea: A Conversation on Mindfulness, Creativity, Art, Anime, and Sharing Moments That Matter (#37)

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We are here to learn and do something. And what are we here to learn and do? We are here to practice. And what are we practicing? We’re practicing living.

Mike Newton

This is one of the most important conversations I’ve had on the podcast.

This is a conversation about tea.

It’s almost 2 and a half hours long because we had to cover restroom clams, tea that tastes like compost, isolation, loneliness, the meaning of life, J-rock, happiness, nootropics, chemicals, bodies, hurry, anxiety, wine, coffee, God, sake, beer, seasons, anime, overwork, stillness, books — everything you’d expect when two perfect strangers meet. This conversation summarizes everything I love about podcasting.

How can a simple warm beverage be so profound, so elusive, beautiful, subtle, and wise? Is there anything useful we can learn from such an unassuming liquid? Those are the questions I asked myself as I went into this conversation with Mike Newton (@thetealetter), creator of The Tea Letter, a blognewsletterYouTubechannelPodcast about tea culture.

GO FOLLOW MIKE EVERYWHERE

The Tea Letter Blog, Newsletter, and YouTube channel

Mike Newton on Twitter

Mike Newton on Instagram

In this episode we cover…

  • (7:00) My attempt at homebrewing Pu’er tea over a stove without a teapot or kettle
  • (8:00) A tour of mike’s tea setup, and his tea of choice
  • (10:00) Tea as a hobby: “Low floors, high ceilings, and wide walls.”
  • (12:00) Life lessons from the practice of tea (we circle back to this point a lot).
  • (15:00) “Tea makes time real.”
  • (20:00) Are you awake at the wheel?
  • (23:00) What led Mike to discovering the practice of tea? How has tea helped him alleviate anxiety?
  • (26:00) What does Mike do and use to prepare the perfect cup of green tea?
  • (32:00) How does the preparation of tea, and the tea room itself, reflect the season?
  • (36:00) What are the differences and similarities between tea and coffee?
  • (43:00) How to reuse leftover tea leaves
  • (45:00) Mikes mission to spread the lessons from tea culture
  • (47:00) Happiness, doubt, and art
  • (53:00) A history of the World in 6 glasses, how the drinks we love define our culture
  • (55:00) How does tea create community?
  • (58:00) Nuance: coffee, tea, sake
  • (1:07:00) “You can spend a lifetime drinking Oolong tea and nothing else.” A lesson on what makes tea…tea.
  • (1:12:00) Why do we like what we like?
  • (1:16:00) The one thing about tea that shook Mike to his core
  • (1:20:00) What, philosophically speaking, is in a cup of tea?
  • (1:28:00) “Now we’ve arrived at the core of it.”
  • (1:33:00) Book recommendations
  • (1:37:00) Thoughtful reading, drinking, and living
  • (1:44:00) What constraints does Mike apply to do his best work?
  • (1:48:00) Scheduling empty space to boost productivity and think clearly
  • (1:52:00) Thom Yorke, Masaaki Yuasa, Satoshi Kon, FLCL, etc.
  • (2:11:00) What does Mike do to get unstuck?
  • (2:13:00) Sendoff: the final message

Mentions

The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō

From Mike’s blog: Getting into gongfu tea

In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki

John Daub

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

white2tea

Cliff tea – Oldwaystea

Organic Chaga Tea by Buddha Teas

David Perell

Ryan Holiday

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Carl Jung

The Bhagavad Gita

The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner

Tea in Japan by Paul Varley and Kumakura Isao

Wind in The Pines by Dennis Hirota

The Japanese Way of Tea: From Its Origins in China to Sen Rikyu by Sen XV Soshitsu

Wabi-Sabi by Beth Kempton

In Rainbows by Radiohead

Asian Kung-fu Generation

Masakatsu Takagi and Mamoru Hosoda

Kenshi Yonezu

Sakanaction

Jon Hopkins (the musician)

Coheed and Cambria

Masaaki Yuasa, Tatami Galaxy, and Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

Satoshi Kon

FLCL (the greatest anime of all time)

Jed Henry

The Four Pillars of Chanoyu

Please enjoy! Cheers, and here’s to your good health.

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Watch on YouTube

Does The Penguin Latte Podcast remind you of fresh presents on Christmas morning? If so, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts/iTunes. It takes all of 60 seconds (61 if you’re feeling extra spicy). Reviews make the podcast 1% better. If 500 of you leave reviews, the podcast gets 500% better. Plus, I love reading all of your juicy comments. Thanks!

This episode is brought to you (and powered) by Flow State Coffee!

My buddy Greg Frontiero started a company that sells products designed to put you in that groovy sensation called Flow. His first product, Flow State Coffee, is some of the best coffee I’ve tasted. Plus, it doesn’t make you feel like you’re about to have a heart attack after drinking 6 cups of it (I’ve tried).

https://cdn.substack.com/image/fetch/w_1456,c_limit,f_auto,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2Feb475f86-5e80-41f4-959b-7d9ecc8d9a83_600x200.png

Use this link to buy a bag with code PAUL automatically applied for a discount.

Worse is not better than good.

What is the most important tool that every creator needs?

Is it diligence? The perfect cup of coffee? The silence of dawn before the family wakes up? Is it sight? A brain full of magical ideas? A handy-dandy notebook to write down those magical ideas? Ambition? A network of High Class Connections?

Nope. None of that.

The most important tool is restraint.

I understand that this is paradoxical. How can you hold back, while simultaneously pouring every gallon of your genius into the work? Like all paradoxes, the answer is in the balance of two seemingly opposite forces.

Restraint equals taste. Taste means knowing that if you add more to this, you’ll end up making it worse. Worse is not better than good. Nobody wants a worse chair than the one they’re sitting in now.

Creative people love having the freedom to come up with ideas. It’s what creative people are do: come up with ideas. The C in creativity means Comesupwithideas. It’s fun to come up with ideas. I’m sure you know someone who (whether they know it or not) identifies as an Idea Guy. Creativity? Psh. Easy. Just slap on some more Ideas. Boom. Better.

But what about maximalism? What about the awe of complexity? Some of my favorite works of art and music feature many moving parts. Complex systems in art and machinery are beautiful because complexity is hard to manage. How does one manage complexity? With intent. With care. With restraint. Complexity does not mean cacophony. Complexity does not mean chaos for the hell of it. Complexity only appears chaotic. And then we get used to it. Complexity and restraint are like yin and yang. Can’t have one without the other.

Creators must choose between making something stellar, or making something mediocre. If they tell you that you should have added more to it, they might be right. More gusto, only if the actor is too timid. More dissonance, only if the violinists sound too clean. More sauce, only if the chicken is too dry. Simply adding more ‘ideas’ does not make something better. Artists that know when and what to hold back are artists that care.

School taught us that the one thousand word essay is the benchmark. It’s easy to get cynical about this somewhat arbitrary standard. I used to repeat myself so that I’d have enough words on the page. But, stringing together a thousand words is not the point. The one thousand word essay is a test of exploration. It’s about depth, nuance, connecting the dots. It’s about seeing the invisible, and adding your perspective. If you can write that many words without backtracking, without regurgitating (not restating), without copying what you said before, then you understand restraint.

Dalton Mabery — Faith, Consistency, and Productivity with Intent (#36)

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“I’ve got to offload everything I’m doing, and just focus on a couple different areas.”

Today on the show I’m joined by Dalton Mabery (@daltonmabery). Dalton Mabery is digital creator with a podcast, blog, and newsletter in which he regularly shares tips on digital productivity, good books, faith, and time management. Recording this conversation was like attending a personal masterclass in auditing my time. Dalton is one of the hardest working creators I know. He’s got drive, ambition, and endless creativity. Fans of my episodes with Chris Jordan and Nate Kadlac will appreciate this one.

This episode pairs well with a light roasted coffee and a notebook.
Seriously, grab a notebook. You will need it.

Timestamps

  • 8:00 Dalton’s upbringing
  • 11:00 How has faith influenced the way Dalton lives and works?
  • 14:30 Why is it so hard to kick back and relax?
  • 18:00 How did Dalton begin his creative career?
  • 24:00 Picking the right projects, removing dead ends
  • 26:10 What is the most difficult problem Dalton has solved?
  • 28:30 What does Dalton’s morning routine look like?
  • 32:00 How does Dalton get unstuck?
  • 33:45 What’s for breakfast?
  • 34:30 How does Dalton stay focused throughout the day?
  • 36:00 Boundaries and constraints
  • 37:00 What advice would Dalton give to new creators? + book recommendations
  • 42:00 Who or what inspires Dalton to keep creating?
  • 46:00 On The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry
  • 52:00 What habits are the most important for Dalton?
  • 54:00 More book recommendations
  • 56:00 What are the most profound epiphanies or realizations Dalton has encountered?
  • 1:00:00 What keeps Dalton up at night?
  • 1:03:00 What makes something urgent?
  • 1:06:00 How starting creative projects shows headhunters that you’re accountable.
  • 1:11:00 When was Dalton last in Flow, and what was he doing?
  • 1:13:00 Dalton’s last message to the world
  • 1:16:00 Why do introverts start YouTube channels and podcasts?
  • 1:23:00 The sendoff

Mentions

Notion — The app I use to organize my life

Evernote — The app I used to use to organize my life

Roam Research — A notetaking tool for networked thought

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The Problem of God by Mark Clark

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Entreleadership Podcast

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

Matt Ragland — 70/20/10 rule, videos on bullet journaling and productivity

Peter McKinnon

Jesse Driftwood

The Biography of Johnny Cash by Steve Turner

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Mastery by Robert Greene

Dead Poet’s Society

The Call of The Wild

Into The Wild

Fleet Foxes

Carl Jung (Introverts and extroverts)

Haus Alcohol

Verve Coffee

Copa Vida Coffee

Braim.fm focus playlist

Please enjoy!

Cheers, and here’s to your good health.

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Watch on YouTube

Does The Penguin Latte Podcast remind you of fresh presents on Christmas morning? If so, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts/iTunes. It takes all of 60 seconds (61 if you’re feeling extra spicy). Reviews make the podcast 1% better. If 500 of you leave reviews, the podcast gets 500% better. Plus, I love reading all of your juicy comments. Thanks!

This episode is brought to you (and powered) by Flow State Coffee!

My buddy Greg Frontiero started a company that sells products designed to put you in that groovy sensation called Flow. His first product, Flow State Coffee, is some of the best coffee I’ve tasted. Plus, it doesn’t make you feel like you’re about to have a heart attack after drinking 6 cups of it (I’ve tried).

https://cdn.substack.com/image/fetch/w_1456,c_limit,f_auto,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2Feb475f86-5e80-41f4-959b-7d9ecc8d9a83_600x200.png

Use this link to buy a bag with code PAUL automatically applied for a discount.

Blueberry Blogs in May

Listen to this riff and others like it on my podcast on Spotify

One of the most magical aspects of starting a blog is that you’re able to write about whatever you want to write about. For some of your audience members though, this is problematic. Audience member A liked what you wrote about yesterday, not what you wrote about today. Audience member B liked what you wrote about today, but didn’t care for what you wrote about the day before. (What you wrote about yesterday was garbage doo-doo caca.)

Seth Godin maintains that creators should know what change we seek to make, and for whom that change is for. This maxim applies to choices available to that ‘whom.’ As an audience member, you always have the choice to skip today’s post. If you’re not a fan of this week’s podcast guest, catch up on the backlog, or listen to a different podcast.

Have you ever been to a restaurant with a seasonal menu? That’s exactly what a blog is.
Blueberry pancakes in May, Raspberry pancakes in July.

Variety is not a limitation. It’s a genre.

People make babies.

If I were to ask you who you work for, you would point to someone. Them. That’s who I work for. This is the correct answer, even if you’re self-employed.

You never work for just yourself. You are always working for other people.

Who decides to become a phenomenal painter only to hide all their masterwork? That’s selfish. What, you’re going to become the greatest painter in the world, and nobody will be allowed to see?

Likewise, we eat not only to keep ourselves alive, but to give others the benefit of us being alive.

People make babies because babies are people. People are who we work for.

Anything is Writeaboutable — How to Write Everyday

Do what feels awkward until it feels normal.

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple

It’s the one year anniversary of my blog, so I recorded this for you. I love seeing adults do stuff that other adults think are reserved for smaller adults (kids). Don’t listen to those adults. Do something wild. Do something wicked. Start a podcast. Start a blog. Start!

This is a riff on writing and leading through creativity.

Please enjoy!

Note on audio: I’m so sorry about the fuzzy buzz noise in the latter half of this episode. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s ingrained in the recording. If this is driving you nuts, it’s driving me bonkers. I can’t stand to release an episode with wonky audio. But alas.

Show notes

The Practice by Seth Godin

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden

Rockets: A Year of Posts

Everything I know: Sacred Tips for The Restless and Creative

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple


Does The Penguin Latte Podcast remind you of fresh presents on Christmas morning? If so, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts/iTunes. It takes all of 60 seconds (61 if you’re feeling extra spicy). Reviews make the podcast 1% better. If 500 of you leave reviews, the podcast gets 500% better. Plus, I love reading all of your juicy comments. Thanks!

This episode is brought to you (and powered) by Flow State Coffee!

My buddy Greg Frontiero started a company that sells products designed to put you in that groovy sensation called Flow. His first product, Flow State Coffee, is some of the best coffee I’ve tasted. Plus, it doesn’t make you feel like you’re about to have a heart attack after drinking 6 cups of it (I’ve tried).

https://cdn.substack.com/image/fetch/w_1456,c_limit,f_auto,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2Feb475f86-5e80-41f4-959b-7d9ecc8d9a83_600x200.png

Use this link to buy a bag with code PAUL automatically applied for a discount.

Rockets: A Year of Posts

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.

Van Gogh

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of my daily blog. I knew I’d make it this far, but I didn’t think I’d come out alive.

But I’m still alive. I’m still writing.
And I’m only a little less terrified of showing up to serve you.

Writing a blog a day is the best decision that I make. It is the most spooky, gut-churning, I Want My Mommy thing that I do. I Want My Mommy because it’s a commitment. And commitments offer no place to hide.

There’s a billion blogs, but very few commitments.

We can take that statement and apply it to any medium.

A billion podcasts. Few commitments.

A billion newsletters. Few commitments.

A billion books. A billion workshops. A billion Chrome extensions.

The world does not lack good ideas. Everyone has at least one or two good ideas. Everyone has ideas that would launch them into a new life, a life bigger and better than any life imaginable — ideas that would launch them to the moon!

Ideas are like rocket fuel. But you can’t send a rocket to the moon without a launchpad. And you certainly can’t launch a rocket to the moon without brave, responsible individuals willing to take a risk, willing to bear criticism, willing to fall flat on their face.

Choosing to write in public everyday means choosing to fall flat on your face. Again and again.

But eventually, you will get used to the bruises.


If you’re new here, here’s some posts that people seem to like.

Making stuff is easy.

I’m setting the bar really, really low this year.

Everything I know: Sacred Tips for The Restless and Creative

One chance, many moments.

Ichigo ichie. It means one encounter, one chance. It’s a phrase from the Japanese tea ceremony, a ritual appreciation of presence, company, and joy.

One encounter with opportunity.

One chance to make it count.

Just one.

Every second, every minute, every hour matters. Not as an excuse to hurry, hustle, and chase. But because time is the dimension in which possibility resides.

Possibility.

It’s my favorite word. For one simple reason.

Possibility will always grant us an encounter with the chance of a lifetime.

The chance of a lifetime isn’t a callback from a famous movie studio. The chance of a lifetime isn’t the publisher agreeing to buy your book. It’s not your first run on new year’s morning. Nor is it the Hot Pocket cooked all the way through.

The chance of a lifetime is now.

If you mess up, don’t beat yourself on the head with a coconut.

One chance. Many moments.

Billions of everything

Fifteen months after A Tribe Called Quest released Low End Theory, Dr. Dre finished The Chronic.

Billions of hip hop records soon followed.

6 months after The Beatles released Please Please Me, The Beach Boys came out with Surfer Girl.

Billions more rock records since.

Billions of records. Billions of books. Billions of everything imaginable.

But who’s counting?

Not you.

We will never run out of music to play or words to write or podcasts to create. Though artists are bound by mathematics, though only a few notes harmonize well enough to write about, we will never run out of poetry. Because taste – the element constantly in flux – changes. Taste morphs, transforms, and births itself anew like a phoenix rising from the ashes. From generation to generation, artist to artist. Taste is the stopgap preventing us from running out of things to say.

When you were born, you brought with you from your journey out of the abyss a set of beliefs, perspectives, assertions. You brought a flare, a kind of pizazz that no one else has. It’s this pizazz, this flare, these assertions and beliefs that set you apart and parallel to the others that came before.

Apart because whatever you create is unique, even if it’s garbage. (At least it’s your garbage.)

And parallel because The Beatles had their assertions.

And Tribe had their beliefs.

And Andre Romelle Young had his flare.

And you have yours.