Jonny Miller

David Whyte on Courage, How to Make Incredible Decisions & The Best Things I Found in 2023

Published 5 months ago • 4 min read

Happy 2024 Curious Humans!

As David Whyte likes to say:'“What you can plan is too small for you to live. What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough for the vitality hidden in your sleep.”

So this year, may you remember to make space for curiosity & remain open to a future more wondrous than your present self could comprehend.


🎙️ David Whyte on Courage as a Measure of Our Heartfelt Participation with Life

I'm starting the year by republishing a conversation with the philosopher-poet David Whyte over four years ago.

I found myself revisiting his timeless book Consolations’ and rediscovering wisdom that felt appropriate for these times — which has remained within an arm's reach of my bedside ever since I first discovered it.

This book (which I've bought as gifts for friends more than any other) ratcheted open my mind to a new perspective on the definitions of words like Ambition, Courage and Heartbreak, that I thought I previously understood.

I’m unsure how to even begin to describe exactly what David does. On paper, he's an acclaimed poet, a writer, and a philosopher.

But to my mind, after having spent a magical week with him on the Irish Atlantic coastline on one of his poetry walking tours, I feel like he's a true elder with a deep philosophical curiosity and gift for weaving together our inner and outer worlds in what he calls 'the conversational nature of reality’.

It’s a wide-ranging conversation, and towards the end, we cover some really interesting ground on the questions he believes we’re living our way into as a society and how childhood is the act of growing older whilst adulthood is the act of growing younger back into body back into our birthright visionary experience of the world.

👨‍🎓 Make Incredible Decisions in 2024

One of the phrases I heard many times last year was 'thank you for introducing me to the work of Joe Hudson, it changed my life...'

I've listened to almost the entire Art of Accomplishment podcast archive, and many of the ideas shared have radically changed how I show up. One of those ways is how I go about making decisions.

I took part in the pilot cohort of their Great Decisions course. I can attribute some of the good fortune I've experienced personally + professionally over the past year to the ideas I first learned from this bootcamp.

I'll share two of the core ideas here that most resonated with me:

Firstly, contrary to popular belief, it is the emotional center of our brain, not the intellect, that makes every single decision in our lives (I've since written an essay on this), and doing the work to understand under-the-surface emotional drivers of decision making is honestly 80% of the work. i.e. what makes us scared of certain outcomes and how not to be driven by that fear.

Secondly, having personal decision-making principles that we live by and relentlessly test to use as a north star in the big decision moments makes a huge difference. Here are six of the principles that I experimented with during my time in the course:

Spoiler: as with all of their courses, exploring decision-making is, in some ways, their trojan horse for teaching a way of being that will help you to be more in tune with your emotions, gain more awareness of the patterns that get in the way, and create deeper alignment with life.

The AoA team has kindly offered a rare discount just for the Curious Humans community (please don't share publicly) use the code CURIOUS to save $200 on the enrollment fee, applications close in 4 days.

👨‍🎨 Watch Me Learn Design in Real Time

Nate Kadlac is a prolific designer + teacher, and he's helped fellow design n00bs like myself learn the basic principles of good design and look less like amateurs messing around in Canva templates (I'll speak for myself here).

I've loved following his newsletter for a while, and he generously offered to help me come up with a brand new design for my Nervous System Mastery + Podcast YouTube thumbnails — and the best part is that you're all invited.

You'll get to see Nate share his craft in real-time, the tools he uses, the 80/20 design principles he's figured out, and ideas for how you can apply these for your own creations — be that podcast art, newsletter graphics, or anything else that you're moving pixels around for.

🙋‍♂️ Et. Cetera (2023 round-up)

📚 Best Book I Read: 'The Creative Act' by Rick Rubin — imagine if the Tao Te Ching and the Artist's Way had a book baby. It's a timeless read written by a true creative ans spiritual genius (buy)

🎧 Most Fascinating (and Long) Podcast Episode: Rick Rubin (again) in conversation with Huberman and Dr. Jack Kruse. It gets deep into the weeds and Jack can be a little overly provocative at times, but boy is it fascinating (part I + part II)

🎙️ Most Contrarian Podcast I Enjoyed: 'The Emerald by Joshua Schrei' — this is a blend of spoken word poetry with deeply researched and highly provocative prose. I would recommend starting with the episode 'Animism is Normative Consciousness' (listen)

🛒 Best Purchase Under $40: gymnastic wooden ring set — I use most days for either hanging upside down (with gravity boots) or simple calisthenics practice, also very travel friendly (link)

👨‍🎓 Best Online Course I Took: Ultraspeaking was hands down the best online learning experience I've encountered, and I have a high bar! It's a powerful self-development course sneakily positioned as public speaking training (link)

📝 Parting Words

What to Remember When Waking

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake, coming back to this life from the other more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world where everything began, there is a small opening into the new day which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live. What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others. To remember the other world in this world is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth, you are not an accident amidst other accidents you were invited from another and greater night than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window toward the mountain presence of everything that can be what urgency calls you to your one love? What shape waits in the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea? In the trees beyond the house? In the life you can imagine for yourself? In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

– David Whyte

Jonny Miller

Curious Humans & Nervous System Mastery

Championing adventures in radical inquiry & self-experimentation.

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