Don’t Listen to Me 00: The pilot

Welcome to the pilot episode of Don’t Listen to Me! As the title suggests, I go through my favorite pilots from Maverick down to Captain Jimmy “Check me out, I’m gonna try something” Wilder. Here are the show notes.

Extra Credits — Making Your First Game: Minimum Viable Product: These are the kinds of videos I want to make. I actually linked to this six months ago, when I said I wanted to make weekly videos. It’s like I took a journey and came back around to exactly where I am right now. Like the Alchemist, but worse.

Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin: I finished listening to the audiobook recently. Here’s one of her posts on the difference between abstainers and moderators:

You’re a moderator if you…
– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something

You’re an abstainer if you…
– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits

 

And if this has you think about food you might want to check out…

Robb Wolf on Gretchen’s podcast “Happier”: They discuss Robb’s latest book, Wired to Eat. (Check out  my book notes.) Robb Wolf popularized the paleo diet and is one of the reasons paleo and CrossFit are closely associated. (Though he’s not officially associated with CrossFit anymore.)

Dorian Yates on The Tim Ferriss Show: The thing that’s stuck with me is that he explains (46:20) that he’d give it his all for a set amount of time and if he didn’t place top-5 in his next contest he’d give it up as a competitive bodybuilder. He recognized that it’s pretty apparent if you have what it takes and that you don’t place 15th one year and work your way up to 1st.

He placed second and went on to be one of the best bodybuilders in history.

He also says he had can’t-sit-on-the-toilet soreness in his legs for something like 3-5 days a week for 20 years. That’s what it takes.

Tristan Harris on Sam Harris’s show “Waking Up”: They discuss technology and how it’s designed to capture our attention. Tristan leads Time Well Spent, which looks into how we spend time in our digital lives. They have a few tips for setting your phone up to create some friction in getting to apps that you don’t want to spend too much time using.

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans: This book is about applying product design techniques to build a life well lived. It’s sort of like applying Time Well Spent concepts to your real life. One exercise I enjoyed was the Energy/Engagement map (PDF) — you list activities and rank them for energy and engagement.

I apparently enjoyed it so much that I subconsciously stole it to create the “Do you enjoy it?/Does it go toward your goals?” grid.

The best advice I can give today: Don’t listen to this… go listen to something else!

Journal: My first video

Saturday —
I’m writing some of this on the train.

I got pretty excited after making a video with content almost entirely made on my iPad: The Grid of Activities. (That’s my own post and the video is embedded.)

I doubled down on making things with the iPad. Literally. We’ll sort of. I just bought an iPad Pro 9.7″.

I’ll do a comparison sometime but this will be good. Eventually the next gen version will come out and I’ll have a good idea of which size is best for me.

I’m going to try to make this journal post each week and it’ll strictly be a journal. It’ll be the place where I blog about blogging.

Otherwise I’ll work on posts about single topics.

Every week I’ll mark two files as favorites in Ulysses. One for the journal and the other for the topic post. This is the focus I need.

Well, one is sort of unfocused and the other is very focused.

You can build a habit by being mindful until it’s mindless. I’ll try to build an audience of millions or dozens by being mindful and mindless, but in different places.

Enjoy the rest of my more mindless writing.

Sunday —
I’m writing some of this at the gym. Why? I’m between sets right now and don’t usually write anything between sets. It reminds me of an article that I re-read this week: Fuckarounditis, by Martin Berkhan:

“The problem at the core of the fuckarounditis epidemic is the overabundance of information we have available to us. If there are so many theories, articles and opinions on a topic, we perceive it as something complex, something hard to understand. An illusion of complexity is created.”

I’ve had a bad case of it at the gym. I read this five years ago and have about the same body as I had five years ago. I’m a little stronger, but definitely not demonstrating five years of progress. That’s frustrating.

I’ll try re-reading this every week so that I don’t look back five years from now, still frustrated.

The new setup, and my journey into screencasting/vlogging/YouTube-starring—

I have a better setup for recording my hand and screen while making things on the iPad. (I told you, I got pretty excited about this whole video thing.)

I often think about what Derek Sivers has to say about identifying things that are obvious to you and amazing to others.

I know how to make screencasts. Not excellent screencasts, but recording a couple screens and cutting it together isn’t a huge deal for me now that I’ve had some practice. It’s obvious to me and maybe not amazing to others, but it’s at least not obvious to others.

There are some amazing artists on YouTube who share their digital art process. I can only be half of that, by sharing my process. Now that I’m all set up, I’m hoping I can make some cool videos about using the iPad for creative work.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to relate to others who were just like me: I wanted to use my iPad to be more creative, more often. With no intention of painting masterpieces.

Here’s my first attempt at showing the process: Making things with an iPad Pro: Paper, Procreate, and Keynote.

Next up, I’ll thank my millions of subscribers in my journey to become a creative and give away an eBook in exchange for an email address but then also sell eBooks with links back to my newsletter sign-up page.

And that’s the time when I’ll start saying I use an iPad Pro and also am The iPad pro.

Thank you for joining me at the start of my journey.

Activities — Do you enjoy it? Does it go toward your goals?

Stealing ideas from Stealing Fire. In Stealing Fire, Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal write about flow and other states of ecstasis. They lay out steps for “hedonic calendaring”, where you end up with a schedule of your best activities that happen daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. Part of it is ranking activities you enjoy:

“Step Two: Use the Ecstasis Equation (Time X Reward/ Risk) to rank this list for value. Think daily sun salutations versus an annual ultramarathon, or a ten-minute meditation versus a trip to see a Peruvian shaman.”

Some other inspiration: In Designing Your Life, Dave Evans and Bill Burnett also suggest listing out your activities to create a gauge in four life areas: health, work, play, and love.

Making a list at all is a good exercise. Seeing everything on one page can be eye-opening. Some things look more wasteful when you see them side by side with a productive, fun activity that you’ve told yourself you don’t have time for. With limited time, it’s important to be deliberate about picking activities. (And scheduling them to take it a step further.)

With free time in the morning, I’ve been thinking about how to spend it and the factors involved. I’ve been using a different equation that’s narrowed down to a couple questions:

  • Do I enjoy it?
  • Does it go toward my goals?

It’s a simple grid for ranking activities. Let’s take a look at the four quadrants of the grid.

Things you like doing that go toward your goals: Do these more. This is where you want to spend most of the day. Think harder about this too, because some leisure activities might be very much going toward a goal of building a great relationship.

A solid example for me is playing basketball. I enjoy it (even if I’m not very good) and it’s good for my health. Though this does make me think of the risk factor from Stealing Fire. In that I can’t do this all day or even every day because then I’d have no knees.

Things you don’t like doing that don’t go toward your goals: Don’t do these. Easier said than done, but knowing what’s here in the first place is the first step toward not doing them.

One example for me was reading Hacker News. It’s an incredible resource and a great community. Those things also make it very addicting.

For me it was having a highlight reel effect similar to feeling like all your friends are always traveling or partying when through other social networks. You can only read about so many mega-successful startups before you start feeling like you’re not working hard enough or you don’t want it enough.

I was spending hours on HN and content found through HN. So I stopped.

You might be spending time in this quadrant and not realize it.

Things that go toward your goal that you don’t enjoy: This is an important area. Time spent here probably goes most toward your goal. I’d also describe this as the “I don’t enjoy doing it but I enjoy having done it” area.

Doing some deliberate practice? You’re probably in here.

You grow here but it’s also important not to spend too much time here.

It’s like those RPGs where you lose HP walking through poison gas but you know there’s a treasure chest somewhere there. As long as you don’t spend too much time there, you’ll be rewarded.

You can also find a way to make these activities more enjoyable.

Things you enjoy that don’t go toward your goal: These are your activities that are purely leisure. You have to stretch pretty hard to explain how they might go toward a goal. In a way, they go toward all goals because they help you recover.

It’s important to watch out for spending too much time in this area and the previous area. Too much time working on purely productive will lean to burnout. Too much time here might mean you’re not moving toward any goals.

A lot of productivity advice suggests cutting TV and video games out entirely. I’ll defend video games pretty hard (it’s a reliable place for finding flow and keeping in touch with long distance friends), but even TV has its place. Again, the key is making sure not to watch too much of it.

That’s the grid. I don’t have a name for it. Make your own:

  • Write a list of 20 activities you did this week
  • Map them against each other based on how much you enjoy them and how much they go toward your goals

(If you don’t have goals in mind, well, that’s another post.)

I’ve got a few more thoughts on this that I might write about, like changing activities to go more toward the top left. One example: if weightlifting alone isn’t super enjoyable then CrossFit might make it more fun with he same goal. Another example: if the shows you watch don’t go toward any goals maybe you should watch something more productive.

Or don’t, because giving up Game of Thrones to watch more TED talks just seems wrong.

Coming soon, but for now I’ll spend some time playing Xbox. You know, deliberate practice. Or was it for my goal to keep in touch with out-of-state friends, or was this just a leisure thing…?

Catch you next week!

Mind map: Book note process

I’m trying to capture a system for books from end to end: picking a book all the way to a book notes post.

Journal: What I’m listening to, reading, and watching

I wrote most of this on the way to San Francisco. I’m finishing this on a train home from Flushing. I did some of the drawings between 5-8am on a few of the weekdays.

What I’m listening to

I increased my Audible subscription to two credits each month. I got a few books for my trip.

Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Need, by Margot Leitman, is about, well it’s in the subtitle. Leitman used to teach storytelling classes for the Upright Citizens Brigade’s education center.

I live by the UCB theater but haven’t gone to a show yet. I’ve been meaning to go with my girlfriend and this is another reason to. Leitman doesn’t currently live in New York, but the UCB storytelling show (The Nights of Our Lives) is still on every week.

Oh yah, I mentioned I started recording voice notes and private podcasts. I don’t have guests to interview so I just yap into a microphone. It’s a form of storytelling, so I want to improve. (Even if it’s only to entertain myself.)

I’m a few chapters in and it seems to be exactly what I’m looking for.

What I’ll eventually be listening to

Start With Why, by Simon Sinek, is about inspiring others and being inspired by asking “Why?”

That’s a guess based on the synopsis. I haven’t started listening to it.

The more I work on this blog with a handful of readers, the more I’m considering why I’m doing it. Not that I don’t enjoy it, but I’m looking for a little guidance in steering this ship. It takes time and energy so I want to make sure it’s worth it. I’m grateful that this doesn’t need to be a source of income at all.

What I stopped listening to and am listening to instead

I stopped listening to Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman. It wasn’t boring or bad. I stopped because fiction and narrative nonfiction still don’t seem to work for me. If I’m listening to something for entertainment, I’ll first reach for a podcast.

On that front, my brother pointed me to Hardcore Game of Thrones. (The first few episodes are on SoundCloud for free.) Hardcore Games of Thrones is a parody of Hardcore History. It treats Westeros history as if it were as real as medieval history.

It’s so good. HGoT gives me the same thing I was looking for with Norse Mythology. I don’t have to pay as much attention because I already know most of what I’m listening to.

What I’m reading

Here’s my current rotation of Kindle and hardcover reading.

  • Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling by Bret Hart: Still working on this. One of my first memories ever is going to American Video (a video rental place in Japan) with my brother and dad. We were looking for the latest Bret Hart compilation VHS. (Likely this Coliseum Home Video production). Someone rented it out right before we got there. That’s first lessons in disappointment. Anyway, I’ve read far enough that I’m now getting to WWF pay-per-views and matches I grew up on.
  • Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: I’m enjoying this. It’s got me thinking more about which activities I should prioritize to have a joyful life. Like when I was reading Snow Crash, I had to remind myself a few times that it was published in 1990. Since then, I imagine flow has become even harder to achieve. I got a paperback version of this. It’s reminded me of how different reading paper is. I can’t switch to social networks or to other books.
  • Art Before Breakfast by Danny Gregory: I should’ve bought a paperback version of this also. I’ve been buying a few drawing books but now I need to start applying them. Art Before Breakfast is a good reminder that even a few minutes of drawing will add up.

Every day has a dozen dull moments—fill each one with a quick sketch. A dozen sketches a day means that in ten years you’ll have done 43,829 drawings. Then you’ll be getting somewhere.

What I’m Watching

“Who else could get us to do this other than Kanye?” Some guy I didn’t know was asking his friends. “He got us staring at a brick wall at 1am.”

A lot of cool things happen in New York. It’s one of the reasons I decided to move here. Then I learned many of those cool things are very exclusive or have a gigantic line. This time, it seemed to pay off. I was about to sleep, saw a tweet about projections for the debut of Kanye’s “New Slaves”, got out of bed, and walked a few blocks to one of the corners listed.

We waited. And waited. We checked our phones to see if the other corners got the projections. They did, so we waited more, thinking the street team was making their way north through the city. We waited.

People left, convinced that they skipped our street corner for time reasons. The next day I found out we had the address wrong. The projection was one avenue over. Kanye somehow got us all to watch a brick wall.

Anyway, Big Little Lies somehow got me to watch hours of moms bickering.

Journal: Eating, habits, and Wrestlemania

Okay so I said I would schedule a newsletter and post last week because I was going to be in Austin for a friend’s bachelor party. I followed through on half of that: I went to Austin for a friend’s bachelor party. Lots of fun.

I’ll ramble about four things from the week.

I wrote an extra post this week: I didn’t send it out as a newsletter. I decided I’d stop numbering the journals/issues and just track the numbers on my own. I thought it might help me stop writing about writing and blogging about blogging. There’s a place for that but sometimes I need to try focusing on just writing about whatever the topic is. Oh yeah, the post. The post is The four pillars of health. In the past I might’ve just titled it “Book notes: Wired to Eat” then tag and categorize it properly. I share some thoughts from reading Robb Wolf’s Wired to Eat.

What I’m watching: Wrestlemania 33: During one night of the bachelor party, we made burgers and watched Wrestlemania. I haven’t watched a wrestling pay-per-view with friends since middle school. Undertaker had a streak but it wasn’t The Streak yet. Most of us had not watched wrestling in a while. But all of us watched wrestling as kids.As an adult, it’s always great learning someone watched wrestling growing up. You know that person, at some point in their life, could suspend their disbelief to be entertained by giant men pretending to fight each other.

It brought me back to when we were all growing up. That’s when my friendship with the bachelor was built. We weren’t watching it for the irony or anything. We watched it for the art that it is.

The Undertaker retired. When I was a kid, he was 100% the deadman. He went through his phases but was still the deadman. I’ve changed my gimmick up more than he has since then. When the Undertaker debuted, I was 4. I’m 30 now. And just as willing to sit down with my best friends to find entertainment in giant men pretending to fight.

Mindful now, mindless later: I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before. I’m really enjoying it so far. I read The Happiness Project a few years ago. She’s described it this way: The Happiness Project is about finding what made her happier and Better Than Before is learning to make those happy things a habit.

When establishing a habit, you start by being mindful about it. With the proper approach you can find proper motivation and build the environment and trigger. Then it becomes mindless. You’re going to have habits one way or another. Why not make them go toward your goals?How have I applied this in the past? I write and post pretty consistently. I’ve removed as much friction as possible. I can write anywhere on a lot of devices. I switched from Jekyll to WordPress — trading some nerd cred to think just a little bit less anytime I want to post something. (Sometimes thinking a lot less without the temptation to tweak HTML & CSS.)

My motivation has become more and more intrinsic. I… just like writing. Having a blog lets me create goal markers. Making it even more enjoyable. If I was driven strictly by extrinsic metrics reader count or revenue, I would’ve stopped 175 posts and $1.67 ago.

(Thanks for the continued support to my two subscribers. You know who you are. And you know who each other… is? “are”?)

I started a private podcast: Where “started” is “pressured friends into listening” and “podcast” is “audio files of me rambling for 20 minutes”. Though that probably does qualify as a podcast. It’s the Wild West out there.I mentioned that I’ve been recording voice notes. I was recording more and more. I was starting to feel myself so I went long once and thought it wasn’t bad. I sent it to a friend then a couple more. One of them enjoyed it.I can see why so many people make them. It’s fun. It’s a good change of pace to yap into a microphone for twenty minutes instead of re-writing a sentence over and over. (Just kidding, I re-write once at most then scratch my head. Remember kids, good is the enemy of “it’ll do”.)

I’m off to San Francisco this week. I’ll bring my camera along to try and take a morning walk if possible. Or a walk after work. As always, we’ll see.

How I want to start my mornings

I’m writing at the gym. I wonder if there’s like a matte display cover for the iPad Pro 12.9″. I can see my reflection better than I can see my face. Okay I switched to the white theme and it’s much better. Here’s what I did this morning:

  • Get coffee with Amy: It’s important to do things every day to build a relationship and this is my most important relationship.
  • Walk to the gym: Walking first thing in the morning is good also for circadian rhythms and things like that.
  • Audiobooks or voice recording while walking: This is the idea of pairing things. If I do something I enjoy (listening to an audio book or recording a voice note) while walking, then it makes walking more enjoyable.

    I understand walking in itself can be enjoyable. If you’re mindful about it or even if not. But walking from place to place isn’t always the most fun activity. Pairing it with something fun seems like a good idea.

    I’ve been using Just Press Record and Evernote as different tools for keeping an audio journal. I’ve also been recording directly into ScreenFlow when I’m at my desk to make private podcasts. I’ve been working on a system. I think I’m going to use Just Press Record when I’m out and about. I’ll use Evernote for organizing and tagging book notes and doing things where the output is eventually text. I’ll use ScreenFlow like I do already, for recording long-form audio. (Eventually I’m hoping this transition to like 2 minute videos. We’ll see)

  • Morning workout: I’ve been following the 5-day split outlined in Bigger, Leaner, Stronger. Getting to the gym 5 days each week seems around where a goal should be. It’s attainable but also not easy.

    A challenge I often have in the morning is deciding between writing, recording, or going to the gym. The first two always seem more fun. If health is a priority, I’d need a lot of justification to say the first two are better than going to the gym.

    I’m going to work to make it as mindless as possible to get to the gym.

  • Sauna meditation: The advantages here are two-fold. The sauna is relaxing. It’s another carrot for going to the gym. Likely a better one. It also gives me a place to meditate. Whether it’s an ideal meditation environment is up for debate. It has one big advantage: absolutely no digital distractions. Today I sat for 10 minutes.
  • Writing: As mentioned at the top, I’m writing at the gym right now. Doing everything before this put me in the right mindset for writing. I’m also at a location with no distractions. I don’t know anyone here. The cafe area I’m sitting at is huge, comfortable, and I’m facing the water.

    I don’t worry about “should I be doing something else instead” because I took care of other priorities already.

I should probably report back tonight to say how the rest of the day goes. It seems like starting off on the best foot possible. This was a great morning1. It’s up to me to make it a routine.

  1. I read The Miracle Morning a couple years ago. The acronym in the book is SAVERS, which was something like… let me look this up. I want to see how many of the letters I’m hitting without deliberately having that in mind. Okay it’s silence (check), affirmations, visualization, exercise (check), reading (check if audiobooks count), scribing (check).Which leaves affirmations and visualization. I’ll do affirmations as a voice recording on the way to work. I haven’t really tried visualization. I’ll read up more on it.

The four pillars of health

Note: This would be Journal 21 or Issue 4, depending on how you’re counting. I’m going to stop numbering these. Eventually I’ll stop writing notes explaining that I’ve stopped numbering these.

After reading Tools of Titans earlier this year, I wanted to prioritize my health. If I really want to prioritize health, my daily choices should go toward that. Including media consumption. I’m trying to read and listen to less about productivity/career/business and more about fitness/nutrition/meditation.

A great place to start is Robb Wolf’s latest book, Wired to Eat: Transform Your Appetite and Personalize Your Diet for Rapid Weight Loss and Amazing Health. It builds on guidelines he popularized in The Paleo Solution.

Wired to Eat is about finding out what works for you. In his podcast appearances, he says he used lean closer to there being One True Way. But he saw more and more that the answer was often “it depends”.

The best I’ve felt was when I was eating around 80-90% paleo. Then I tried white rice out and seemed to digest it pretty well. It became part of my mental model of paleo. Then things got off the rails because I can eat a lot of rice, and I did.

White rice is my best example of “it depends”. I can digest it well, but now I know it’s something I’ll eat way too much of.

Wired to Eat has a great chapter looking beyond nutrition. Your food is one pillar of four. The other three are movement, sleep, and community.

Move move move

Nutrition and fitness go hand in hand. Here are some guidelines from Wired to Eat:

Most days: Get out and move. As much as you can, doing as many things as you can. You don’t need to exhaust yourself. Make it fun and “leave a little in the tank” so you are not so tired and sore that you either do nothing for a week or give up entirely.

I’ve been walking more. I’ve tried different activities while walking to make walking without a destination an activity itself. When there is a destination, the walks feel shorter and are more enjoyable.

I re-joined my old gym because it’s the nicest gym I’ve been a part of. It’s not a chore to go there. I sit in the sauna as a reward for lifting weights. They have basketball courts so I enjoy shooting around once in a while. Once in a while I play pick-up. (And am sore for a longer while.)

I’m trying to work yoga back into my schedule because it’s hard, I learn a lot each time, but it also lets me keep something in the tank.

I’m trying a lot of things to find a lot of things I enjoy so that I’ll move more.

Eight hours is good, but you can do more

I’ve generally been pretty good with sleep. We have blackout curtains the bedroom, I have blue blocker goggles, I spray myself with magnesium after a shower at night (learned that from Shawn Stevenson’s Sleep Smarter), I have apple cider and honey before sleep, and on and on.

Im doing a lot of small things but miss a big one: I often don’t sleep early enough. From Wired to Eat:

You may think sleeping midnight to eight A.M. is as good as ten P.M. to six A.M., but studies show this is not the case.

I’m going to work on this. I know 10:00am might not be realistic, but my goal is usually midnight which often means 12:30am or 1:00am. Shooting for 10:45pm will work well.

Make some friends

From Wired to Eat:

Some are pretty active, others less so, but the key point is that you like the activity and enjoy the community: yoga, martial arts, CrossFit, a walking or running group, an art class, a language class, volunteer work, etc. I don’t know what the right fit is for you, but I strongly encourage you to find ways to improve your social connectivity.

I want to apply this in some way and have been trying a few different things. I’ve mentioned that I started doing yoga. I haven’t gone back to the studio in a while (my ClassPass subscription ended). I tried Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a couple times. I’m still trying it out to see if it’s something I want to keep trying out long term.

That might be hard to find, but it might be worth the search.

I took a few yoga classes earlier this year. I’ve taken CrossFit. I’ve taken a couple Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes. I’ve been playing basketball every few weeks. I don’t know which one I want to do regularly. Basketball is highest on the list as far as which activity I enjoy. It’s also the one that’s the least in my control—I could play pick-up at the gym but then it becomes an activity I don’t enjoy. (I’m short.)

I’m also thinking about non-fitness communities. In 18 Minutes (check out my book notes), Peter Bergman describes some steps to figuring out your best activities.

Look at the activities you do alone and figure out if you can (and want to) do them in a way that includes other people. For example, join a garden club. Or a reading or meditation group. Or write something that other people read. If you can (and want to) make them activities that include other people, keep them on the list. If not, then cross them off.

Along with media input, I know my own output is important also. If you’re writing about something, you end up thinking about those concepts a lot. I’m going to try writing more about being healthier and happier.

I can’t wait to show you my future six pack and the happiness I gained in the journey there. (Affirmations, baby!)