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.

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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).

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Impostor syndrome makes no sense

The accountant who’s writing a novella behind their boss’s back feels “safe” behind a spreadsheet than on a call with a publishing house. “I’m not an accountant,” they say. And yet they show up everyday to keep being one.

We’re less fraudulent doing something we hate, and more fraudulent doing something we love.

This makes no sense.

Drop in! What to do when things get slow

In 1992, riding a skateboard up and down a half-pipe wasn’t cool. The world turned its attention to street skating. Something with more edge, more rebelliousness, less polished and less about sponsorships and money.

But that didn’t stop a scrappy kid in Carlsbad from riding his skateboard everyday. Because Tony Hawk knew that if the world decided that vert skating was cool again, he would be ready.

In 1999, Tony Hawk landed the world’s first 900.

What will you do when things get slow? Will you wait for the world to tell you what’s cool and what’s not? Or will you tighten your bearings, wax the rails, and drop in?

The Penguin Latte Podcast #14 – Andrew Barry on Flow States, Life in South Africa, Good Books, and Living Curiously

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Recording this episode was like frolicking in a bounce house for adults.

Andrew Barry is one of the most humble and joyful people I’ve ever met. He’s completely shattered all of my previous notions about what a CEO “needs” to be: fast-talking, a phone in each hand, scheduling meetings and forgetting their child’s birthday parties. Andrew’s life is proof that no matter how busy you are, there’s always time for a little curiosity. (Or in Andrew’s case, much curiosity.)

So, who is Andrew Barry? He’s the CEO of Curious Lion – a company that helps clients scale and improve their online learning. Andrew is also an avid blogger who writes about creativity, education, decision making, and group learning.

This is a far-reaching and wide ranging conversation, much like Andrew’s own openness to the world and it’s people. We talk Zen philosophy, Aldous Huxley, meditation, writing, music, flow states, life in South Africa, and so, so much more. We could have spent hours talking about every nook and cranny about life and growth. So expect to see Andrew on the podcast again sometime in the future.

Please enjoy!


This episode is brought to you by The Hey Penguin Newsletter. Each week, I send out an email about creativity and self-improvement. I also include extra goodies like previews of podcast episodes, drafts of future posts, and my thoughts on art, life, books I’m reading, and more! No two issues are the same. Sign up by clicking here.

The Penguin Latte Podcast #12: Shelby Smith on Lessons From Failures, Language Learning, and Having the Courage to Get What You Want

Today I’m joined by the bold and adventurous Shelby Smith.

Shelby Smith (@CoShelbySmith) is head of user onboarding for LingQ. She’s also a writer who discusses leadership, language learning, self-development, and why it it’s important to stand up for yourself to get what you want.

Listen on Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Watch on YouTube

Talking Points

  • Shelby’s backstory with the entrepreneurial spirit (2:30)
  • “I’m a day one listener of The Tim Ferriss Show” (6:00)
  • Action is the missing ingredient / Life in Ecuador (9:00)
  • Learning from having a failed business (15:00)
  • “I wrote that I was psychic” / How to handle job interviews if you never went to college (18:00)
  • Suggesting what companies do wrong (35:00)
  • What it was like to go for a year without social media, and all the unexpected changes that came from doing that [I can’t believe this is even a talking point] (41:00)
  • “Build a personal relationship with your ideas” / Experience with Write of Passage (1:00:00)
  • Shelby’s guiding principles (1:07:00)
  • On learning languages (1:15:00)
  • How we elicit meaning in language (1:25:00)
  • What’s the work you do that feels like play? (1:30:00)
  • When was the last time you were in flow? (1:35:00)
  • When do you feel dissatisfied? (1:38:00)
  • The final question (1:42:00)

Books

The Four Hour Workweek

The Art of Learning

Deep Work

Principles

Discipline Equals Freedom

People

Tim Ferriss

Jocko Willink

Josh Waitzkin

Samuel Hulick

Cal Newport

Ray Dalio

Richard Turner

Other

LingQ

Duolingo

The Penguin Latte Podcast #11: Deepu Asok on Meditation, Yoga, Drawing, and Happiness

Meditation is that state where you are no more. Your sense of Self is gone.

If you ask an artist where his work comes from, if he’s a generous artist, he’ll say, ‘I don’t know where it comes.’

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Deepu Asok is the author and illustrator of the wonderful and enlightening Visual Wisdom newsletter. He’s also the host of a podcast called The Happiness Hypothesis. He’s got a serious eye for designs that pop.

Deepu and I were dming over meditation and spirituality. But he had to get going, and asked to continue our talk over zoom some time. I said sure. And of course, I asked if he wanted to record our talk for the podcast. He said yes. And so, here we are.

Please enjoy my conversation with the wonderful and wise Deepu Asok!

Talking Points

  • On different schools of meditation and yoga (3:00)
  • The benefits of doing yoga before meditation (11:00)
  • Why meditate? (14:00)
  • “Philosophy doesn’t transform you. Practice transform you” (21:00)
  • “The lion is trying to help you, but it doesn’t know how.” (28:00)
  • On Happiness and work (37:00)
  • Three types of work (43:00)
  • Selling on Gumroad (50:00)
  • The differences between drawing and writing (55:00)
  • “You’re paying for the organization of the ideas” / Constraints (1:00:00)
  • Art vs Content (1:07:00)
  • On books and reading (1:16:00)
  • Wishful thinking (1:23:00)
  • Flow in drawing (1:35:00)
  • Constraints (1:40:00)
  • Final questions (1:46:00)

Mentions

Books and articles

Civilized to Death

The Art of Learning

Living Buddha Living Christ

Flow

Linchpin

This Is Marketing

Atomic Habits

Show Your Work!

Getting Things Done

Thinking Fast and Slow

Mind in Motion

Autobiography of a Yogi

Ladders of Wealth Creation

People

Inner Engineering

Thich Nhat Hanh

Carl Jung

Alan Watts

Naval Ravikant

Seth Godin

Nathan Barry

Austin Kleon

Derek Sivers

David Perell

Tiago Forte

Other

Indie Hackers

The Penguin Latte Podcast #10: Salman Ansari on The Lost Art of Having Fun

Every idea you have, every concept, every word, every utterance, every tone…all of that is influenced by those around you anyway. You’ve got to acknowledge that and embrace that and ask, ‘how can I mix those together?’ Each of us is a completely different combination.

Listen on Spotify | Apple Podcasts | YouTube

Salman Ansari (Salman.io) is an illustrator, animator, and author of The Quick Brown Fox Newsletter.

Salman has a heart of gold. I promise that you’ll finish this podcast with more inspiration than you had when you started. He’s one of those rare souls who knows how to do what matters in life without taking himself so seriously. Every time I interact with him, I feel a radiant golden energy enveloping me in a reassurance that it’s okay to be myself. I hope you feel the same way after listening to our conversation. Please enjoy!

Talking Points

  • Giving advice on Twitter (3:00)
  • “Insecurity work” (5:00)
  • Layers in writing (8:00)
  • “The hardest part of writing is talking about myself” (13:00)
  • Aren’t we all polymaths? (20:00)
  • “Being yourself isn’t the most effective growth strategy” (26:00)
  • Salman’s experience with teaching (31:00)
  • Monetization for content creators (35:00)
  • Platforms, communities (41:00)
  • DJ Salman (44:00)
  • “What am I doing right now that would be fun to explore in a new way?” (49:00)
  • Getting inspiration from animation teams and comics (51:00)
  • On web-comics (55:00)
  • Creative constraints (58:00)
  • The benefits of reading older books instead of newer books (1:01:00)
  • Influential video games (1:05:00)
  • Authenticity as a buzzword/ Permission to be yourself (1:10:00)
  • Learning to be comfortable with questions, not answers (1:17:00)
  • Using tools in the right context (1:25:00)
  • Play (1:28:00)
  • Is it irrational to make art? (1:32:00)
  • “What do you mean why?” (1:38:00)
  • Leisure: The Basis of Culture (1:40:00)
  • Meditation (1:45:00)
  • Start with “I don’t know” (1:55:00)
  • Parting thoughts (2:07:00)

Mentions

The Courage to Be Disliked

Don Hertzfeldt

The Polymath Playbook

Status Regulation and Anxious Underconfidence

Spirited Away

Teenage Engineering

Studio MDHR

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

SHEN COMIX

Studio Rare and The Making of Goldeneye 64

Undertale

VVVVVV

Intimations by Zadie Smith

Elizabeth Gilbert

Aldous Huxley

Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Carl Jung

What to do if you don’t have “three years of experience”

I know I’m late in saying this, but the Internet is 4w3s0m3s4uc3. I’m getting help for my new consulting service from an experienced consultant in Australia. A generous young teacher from India improved my resume. And I had a two hour conversation with an artist from Wichita.

For many, it seems like the biggest barrier to doing good work is “three years of experience required.” But we can work around that.

How?

By seeking people who have the experience. By being curious enough to ask them the right questions. And by being so enthusiastic about the work it’s almost overwhelming.

It doesn’t help to start by asking, “what should I do with my life?” because you “sort of” know the answer already. By asking someone what to do with your life, you’re seeking permission to do what you’ve always wanted to do.

Instead, try, “I really like what you’re doing. I want to do the same. But I’m not sure how to go about doing this.”

And how should you express your enthusiasm without stepping over boundaries? It’s like I said before. Ask the right questions.

If you don’t have “three years of experience” yet, enthusiasm and curiosity are your greatest assets.

For our amusement

Why should we make anything at all?

For our amusement.

And if we’re making things for our amusement, does that mean we shouldn’t share anything we make?

Of course not. Experiencing art we enjoy is like looking at a mirror. And as creators, we’re making mirrors for people to look at and see something we can’t see.

Some of us look at the mirror and notice technical finesse (or error). Some of us look and see emotions we can’t put into words. And some of us hear the subtle tempo changes.

The artist knows more about their art than the audience does. That is, until the artist shares their work. It’d be overwhelming for the artist to know all the ways the audience might experience the art.

When your work is out there, it’s out there. It’s impossible to control how the audience appreciates your art. To be upset that your art wasn’t well received is to be the mother who’s upset their kid didn’t want to live the way mother wanted them to.