So This Is My Why | Issue 22

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Hey STIMYers!

​Here’s the backstory to this week’s STIMY guest:

I came across DJ by chance on my LinkedIn feed, where he had done a recent interview with Gagan Biyani (founder of Udemy & Maven).

What intrigued me from that post was that:

  • Gagan had taken 3 years off prior to starting Udemy; and
  • DJ had founded a research project/movement called the Sabbatical Project to discuss/research on about all things… sabbaticals.

Now I had come across sabbatical stories scattered throughout the virtual realm before, but never in one place. So the fact that someone was seeking to create that dedicated space and start a movement had me reaching out to connect.

Oh, and if you have a spare moment or two, would you mind please filling out this feedback form? It helps me figure out what to offer on STIMY as we even 2022.

Now onto STIMY’s latest episode!


STIMY Ep 63: DJ Didonna

Episode page header STIMY podcast DJ Didonna sabbatical project founder

After completing his MBA at Harvard Business School, DJ Didonna spent the next 7 years of his life pursuing his dream job in microfinance.​

The problem?

No one ever told him that it was possible to burnout from doing what you loved.

And that first four-month sabbatical, which saw him complete a 900-mile Buddhist walking pilgrimage in Japan, kickstarted his journey into all things sabbaticals.


  • 4:08 Doing an MBA at Harvard Business School
  • 8:58 Burning out from doing a job you love
  • 10:01 Burning out versus just needing a vacation
  • 12:13 Guilt
  • 15:10 Completing the 900 mile (1200 km) Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan
  • 24:00 Founding the Sabbatical Project
  • 27:33 Is there such a thing as a sabbatical that’s gone on for “too long”?
  • 33:11 Getting in touch with your inner self
  • 34:20 Testing your assumptions with others
  • 35:52 Has anyone ever regretted taking a sabbatical?
  • 37:19 Sabbaticals help to fight FOMO
  • 38:03 How to structure a sabbatical
  • 40:08 Designing a system to capture your learnings from your sabbatical
  • 45:24 Forced sabbaticals
  • 46:56 When people should think about taking sabbaticals (without waiting for burnouts or something bad to happen in life)
  • 50:42 Functional workaholism

​Other places to listen to: Website, Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Listen Notes

Looking for past STIMY guests? Check out:

  • Cesar Kuriyama: Founder, One Second Every Day – mentioned in DJ’s interview as he was inspired by Stefan Segmeister’s TED Talk, which promotes taking many mini retirement breaks & retiring later
  • Dr Julian Tan: Head of Esports & Digital Business Initiatives at Formula 1, London
  • Rahul Chaudhary: MD of Chaudhary Group – on inheriting a 150-year-old family empire in Nepal

STIMY Episode 54 is a Russian paper artist & illustrator.

Pioneering contemporary paper quilling, she uses thick, coloured paper to compose stunningly detailed 3d portraits.

Her work is owned by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Hermés, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Paramount Pictures, Country Music Association, The New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, New York Observer, and Issey Miyake. She also designed the official poster for the 2015 Wimbledon Championships, designed a Google Chrome theme, created a Forever stamp design for the United States Postal Service in 2016 and Christmas 2017 stamps for New Zealand Post.

In 2019, she was named a “Breakthrough Star” by Creative Review and featured among other leading UK-based artists in the BBC programme Making Art Work: First Idea to Final Piece.

Favourite Finds of the Week


If you haven’t already heard, one of the biggest fundraiser project is currently going on.

It’s being run by 2 mega YouTubers – MrBeast & Mark Rober (more on him later) – who aim to raise $30 million by the end of 2021 to remove 30 million pounds (14 million kg) of marine debris from the ocean.

They have just surpassed the halfway mark!

You can find out more in the link below.

YouTuber: Mark Rober

With 20.3 million subscribers on YouTube, Mark Rober is one of YouTube’s biggest and also most ingenious stars.

He’s NASA trained, but has been producing a ton of interesting, science-backed projects that he films and posts on the platform.

Some of my favourite videos:

  • Backyard Squirrel Maze 1.0: Mark spent a couple months creating a literal obstacle course for the “rodent-sized Simone Biles” to complete to win a treasure trove of walnuts. It’s 20 minutes long, but trust me – you’ll be hooked. Its 84 million views can’t be wrong.
  • Backyard Squirrel Maze 2.0: Because 1.0 was such a success, Mark is back with Part 2. And even crazier courses inspired by Mission Impossible (including a control button that the squirrels must press to lower a ladder from the top)!
  • World’s Largest Jello Pool: Because it’s everyone’s dream to jump into a pool of jello. Who knew how much work it would take thou?!
  • World’s Largest Devil’s Toothpaste Explosion: Mark’s journey to creating one of the most epic parties I’ve ever seen.

e-Conomy SEA 2021 Report

The e-Conomy report by Google, Bain and Temasek is out and it has some interesting findings:

  • 60M new digital consumers joined the internet economy since the pandemic started;
  • 9 out of 10 new users in 2020 will continue to use digital services in 2021;
  • When it comes to repeat online purchases, food category is the stickiest, and electronics is the least.

Person: Traf

Back in STIMY Ep 26 with Cesar Kuriyama, Cesar mentioned how one early morning Tweet he sent to Jon Favreau (director for Ironman 1 & 2) resulted in his app being featured in Jon’s 2004 movie, Chef.

With designer/founder Traf, something similar happened.

He tweeted about a set of icons he had created. Said tweet went viral, he made $100k in a week for 2 hours’ worth of work. And even got featured on Marques Brownlee’s (MKBHD) channel, which of course sent his earnings to the 🌙.

Upcoming STIMY Guests

  • Daniel Flynn – Co-Founder, Thankyou

Also, do you know anyone with an interesting/inspiring story? Or someone whose backstory you’d love to hear?

Feel free to hit me up @ sothisismywhy(at) 😊

Until next week!

Ling Yah

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