Issue One

Greetings and welcome to issue one of Unsure. I’m Nathan Fitzsimmons and this is my experiment.

I tried my hand at blogging and found I had little to say. My latest post draft has been rewritten a few times and it still doesn’t convey anything of value. Which begs the existential question: as a gen-X white male, if I’m not podcasting, blogging, or at least tweeting, what am I even doing? The answer is, of course, an email newsletter.

Don’t worry, it’s not one of those newsletters (where I wax eloquent about everything going through my head). Instead I want it to be one of those other newsletters (where I collect interesting, beautiful, or thought-provoking art, music, writing, and ideas from others). Most issues may contain an intro similar to this one. But unless I have something worth contributing, I’ll let the works of others shine here.

I’ll publish about once a week, definitely no more and probably less. Expect each issue to highlight up to half a dozen excerpts and links to my currently favorite content (cringe). Unsubscribe when you’ve had enough. Reply to the email if you’d like to engage. There are no ads, but I may include links to interesting products, jobs, or other newsletters. Those are my rules, hold me to them.

I hope you enjoy.

Nathan


My kids will attest to the fact that ever since I discovered and immediately purchased the black weight of Hannes von Döhren’s Brandon Grotesque, I’ve used it for everything. It works for signage, posters, titles, and even logotype. It feels elegant, but not too serious. I could see it in the front window of a good restaurant or titling a comic book. My latest use was titling my first short film, a new hobby.


My approach to what I do in my job—and it might even be the approach to my life—is that everything I do is the most important thing I do. Whether it’s a play or the next film. It is the most important thing. I know it’s not going to be the most important thing, and it might not be close to being the best, but I have to make it the most important thing. That means I will be ambitious with my job and not with my career. That’s a very big difference, because if I’m ambitious with my career, everything I do now is just stepping-stones leading to something—a goal I might never reach, and so everything will be disappointing. But if I make everything important, then eventually it will become a career. Big or small, we don’t know. But at least everything was important.

–Mads Mikkelsen, Actor

What a stark contrast to the (generational?) tendency to use jobs as short-term career stepping stones. I may err on the side of spending too much time at a job, but there is something noble about single-minded focus even if you can’t see how this thing leads to the next thing. The next opportunity will come when you least expect it but how you approach what you do now will make the next thing and the thing after that all the more successful.


If I were forced to recommend a single newsletter you should subscribe to, it’d be Kai Brach’s weekly Dense Discovery. He created it as a spin-off of the excellent Offscreen Magazine and every issue includes great art, fonts, long reads excerpts, and random app recommendations. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that whatever direction Unsure ends up going will be at least a little bit inspired by Dense Discovery.


It happened at the mall
Grand finale of stranger things
The kid in me remembers how it feels

To be grown, but not enough
For a child who starts to see
The blossom of a life just beginning

So take me to the mall
And wash me in the stream
The devil's in the details, baby

Send the children off to war
Drafted by poverty
The senator's son is safely sound asleep

Aw, but let us forget the war
And buy something pretty
Change the channel

Create the illusion of real safety
The lord is at the mall
And the demons are in the trees

The devil's in the details, baby
Growing up at the mall
Amidst the fruits of slavery

We all stand complicit in the greed
Going to Sephora
To find a different face

With enough paint, I'll disappear without a trace
From the TV, I learned it all
And I practice what they preach

The apple don't fall far from the tree
I'm uploading my heart and soul
As this world sinks into the sea

The devil's in the details, baby
I have no word for god
I'm down on my bended knees

Praying to whoever might could save me
Look beyond my eyes
And tell me what you see

Can you see the truth beyond the fear?
Though fleeting, they may seem
Our thoughts and our deeds

Are carved in stone and steel for all to see
Look back on our actions
Will we ever be redeemed?
The devil's in the details, baby, oh, oh, oh

–“The Devil’s In The Details” by My Morning Jacket

When repetition isn’t working, David Cain recommends taking a completely different approach to learning.

What all this means is that when you want to get better at something, “Keep plugging away / get the hours under your belt” is generally poor advice, unless you’re already using a relatively effective approach, which is unlikely if you’re struggling. Plugging away will only make you more experienced at doing the thing in the same ineffective way.

Much better is to rebuild the skill entirely with a different approach, one that directly addresses your perennial snags. Instead of slowly getting better at your familiar, limited way, you embrace the awkwardness of learning an unfamiliar but stronger method, as though you’ve never done the thing before at all.

–David Cain in “How to Level Up” at Raptitude

If at first you don’t succeed, change your approach.