Journal: A podcast and a video, just as planned

I’ll probably put this at the top of every newsletter for the next 70 weeks: Check out Active Recall on iTunes! It’d be great if you could leave a review. (Shout out to Jerry with the first review.)

I managed to continue with the goal of making one podcast post and one video post. If, in a  year, this site has 52 podcast episodes and 52 videos capturing things I learned from a year, then it’ll be beyond worth the time and effort being put in.

Active Recall ep. 5 — The Obstacle is the Way

iTunes link

We’re going strong! Also, Wally recorded an episode with a friend of the pod: Jason. We’ll edit that and add it as a minisode. We might start experimenting with some short episodes. Because we only have like 5 listeners to alienate. And two of them are me and Wally so it’s only like 3.

We went over Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way which introduced me to stoic principles a couple years back. They helped me get through a somewhat rough (well, first-world rough) time and those principles continue to be valuable tools.

One recommendation of Ryan’s that we didn’t follow: Please, Please, For The Love Of God: Do Not Start a Podcast

Make it easy, sustainable, and consistent: Tim Ferriss and Chase Jarvis — Active Recall Sketchnotes

YouTube link if you just want to see the video (and subscribe!)

I just looked at a post from a couple weeks ago that goes over the same episode: Make it Easy. I’m not sure if I thought I kept that in Evernote or what, but now I have two posts about the same topic. Oh well.

I read through Mike Rohde’s Sketchnote Handbook and have been taking inspiration from that. I’ve also been skimming the AsapSCIENCE book. I picked it up at Amazon Books, which just opened in New York a couple weeks ago.

If you like bookstores from the past you’ll like the bookstore from this future.

And now, a link from the internet

The Shop Featuring LeBron James, Draymond Green, 2 Chainz And Guests

This entire thing was way better than I expected. I was expecting some kind of extended Bud Light commercial.

That link should open up to Maverick Carter talking about Bill Belichick loving the process, not the outcome. There’s a lot more in the video. I mean, it’s half an hour. Some other things that stuck out:

1.) Draymond Green says he’s the type to remember every play from every game but Game 7 last year was a blur.

2.) LeBron talks about a college team and them running the flex offense the entire game. He said ‘flex offense’ like everyone would be familiar with it like a pick and roll. I don’t think more than half the people in the shop knew what a flex offense was. I didn’t know what it was, so I checked out what Coach Daniel had to say about the flex offense. (He got a great shout out on the B.S. Report last week.)

3.) They talk about best athletes of all time and whether or not a football player can be it. They’re one person on an enormous roster. But that’s not the issue LeBron has with it. He points out that a quarterback doesn’t play both sides of the ball. Tom Brady doesn’t play for half of every game.

4.) They discuss the music industry and independent artists like Chance the Rapper. They mention No Limit, Cash Money, and a lot of other people who were successful without signing with major labels. They don’t get the credit. They point out that Chance might get the credit, but for first more people need to succeed with his model.

2 Chainz explains why people still sign traditional deals, no matter how awful it is in the long run. It wasn’t a dream to create something sustainable long term. The dream was one million dollars, all at once. It was to get a record deal.  

That’s a wrap. Up next week…

I’ll try sticking to the plan for another week.

  • Podcast: Creative Confidence — Wally and I will be going over Creative Confidence, a book about design thinking. 
  • Video sketch summary of a podcast: Austin Kleon and Chase Jarvis — I’ll be summarizing takeaways from an episode of CreativeLive


Make it easy, sustainable, and consistent: Tim Ferriss and Chase Jarvis — Active Recall Sketched

Last year, I listened to this Tim Ferriss and Chase Jarvis interview. I originally listened to it on Tim Ferriss’s podcast, not realizing it was really from Tim Ferriss’s appearance on Chase Jarvis’s CreativeLive show. The day after listening to the episode, I started writing a daily post and continued to 100 days.

This year, I’ve spent weeks and weeks jumping around from different types of projects. I’ve finally gotten focused and am trying to make one podcast episode (with my friend Wally) and one sketchnotes video each week. I thought it’d be good to listen to this episode again and make sketchnotes about it.

What would this look like if it were easy?

Tim talks about starting his podcast and talking to other podcasters. He looked at patterns between them and had a focusing question: what would this look like if it were easy? People often quit podcasting because post-production takes so long. To avoid that, he decided his show would be long-form interviews with minimal editing. He’s gotten to over 200 episodes so that seems to be working.

When trying to post daily, I also put a lot of effort into making things easy. I automated a lot of things so that publishing was easy. Then I over-automated things and it got hard again. Eventually I moved things to WordPress to prioritize that idea of making things easy.

I started a podcast with a friend and we’ve made some choices to make it easy, like going long. We’re learning as we go along and are trying to figure out the right amount of outlining and planning. There’s a balance, because too much planning turns it into a not-easy thing. Too little planning makes recording sloppy and then post-production turns into a not-easy thing.

Is this harder than it needs to be?

Tim presents that question to identify things in your system that could be made easier. Those are the things that are harder than they need to be. Another reason podcasters quit podcasting is that the equipment setup creates too much friction to want to record new episodes. Lots of beginner tutorials suggest different mixers, digital recorders, audio editing programs, hosts.

It gets complicated. It can be harder than it needs to be. What did Tim focus on? Intelligible and loud enough. That’s it, because most people will listen through headphones while doing something else. Sure, you can have audio quality that’s unlistenable. Unlistenable is a very low bar that you can hop over with a USB mic (or even stock iPhone headphones) and Audible for software.

Nobody’s favorite podcast is their favorite because of audio quality.

Now that I have a decent process for podcasts, I’m really focusing on figuring out how to make these sketchnote videos easier. Using Procreate, I can make really engaging visuals but it can take a very long time. With Keynote I can record video but editing requires some back and forth. Now I’m using Notability and Screenflow. Things still aren’t quite easy, but I’m getting closer.

Some things should be hard

Tim’s hard work is in batching things. His first best-seller, The 4-Hour Work Week, popularized email batching. He batches podcasts also, doing 2-3 interviews on Monday and 2-3 interviews on Friday. They’re released weekly so that already gives him a month and a half of content. It’s sustainable and consistent.

I want my hard work to be learning to present thoughts clearly and improving at storytelling. The other things are unimportant and I can try my best to make them easy. That way I have more time to focus on the important hard things.

Sum up

Ask these two questions:

  • What would this look like if it were easy?
  • Am I making this harder than it needs to be?

They both go toward the same end: making things sustainable to create content consistently.

I made it to episode 4 of my podcast with Wally. This is episode 3 of the videos. I’ll make sure to ask those questions so I can get to episode 4, 5, and then 10 and 20.

Active Recall ep. 5 — The Obstacle is the Way

This week’s book: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. We tried following a lot of the advice in the book and it continues to be helpful.

(On the other hand, we didn’t follow some of his other advice: Please, Please, For The Love Of God: Do Not Start a Podcast)


00:00 — Wally goes to Disneyland, Ces doesn’t renew: We start this off with the usual weekly updates. Wally talks about his trip to Disneyland. Ces gives an update on fitness and nutrition.

04:40 — Listener questions! How do you keep things balanced?
Wally grabbed a question from an offline conversation during the week and we run it as a listener question. We set up an email address for actual listener questions.

10:50 — Book intro: The Obstacle is the Way (TOITW)
We start talking about The Obstacle is the Way, which we’ve both found really useful in our lives during hard times. We try talking about when we specifically apply these things in the past

21:53 — TOITW: Will and Vegeta
Ces goes long on a bad Dragon Ball Z analogy.

28:50 — TOITW: Terrell Owens’s 3 Ds
Wally takes a concept from an NFL receiver and changes what the letters stand for to create the premise of our future ebook littered with newsletter links.

38:54 — Wally offers Ces a donut
One episode ago, Ces talked about having non-coffee dessert Frappuccino. He continues giving unsolicited nutrition advice.

47:56 — Quote vs. Quote — Wally claps BACK
Wally closes the show with a great quote from the book. Ces rambles.

Links —

Pull-ups for your brain, studying effectively, and skill before passion: Cal Newport and Pat Flynn — Active Recall Sketched

Cal Newport is the author of Deep Work, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, and How to Become a Straight A Student. In his interview with Pat Flynn, Cal goes over lessons from each book and goes a little bit deeper on Deep Work. Cal says that his books follow his life. As his career progressed he wrote about what he was going through.

Pat asks Cal when he started thinking about performance. Cal says he knows exactly when it was and it was sophomore year of college. When writing How to Become a Straight A Student, Cal interviewed top students and looked for patterns between them.

His main takeaway: active recall is the single best way to study. Re-reading a chapter? Waste of time. Active recall is the whole ball game.

(Yes, this is where I got the title of these videos and the podcast!)

Cal wrote So Good They Can’t Ignore You early in his career as a professor. It’s a book about starting your career and picking something to pursue with your work. It takes a stance against the popular idea of following your passion. Instead, Cal argues that you should first focus on skill. Becoming very good makes you passionate about it. In turn, you’ll really enjoy your work.

When thinking of things I’ve changed my mind about in the past few years, this book comes to mind. I was pretty deep in the camp of following your passion and doing what you love.

There’s something to the idea of working on things that interested you when you were younger. However, it’s difficult to have a thriving career doing things you love and enjoy the entire time. Getting there requires a little more than faith and passion. Surfing in your free time is a lot different than teaching surf lessons to Wall Street guys on vacation.

(I also like what Derek Sivers has to say about balance. You can pursue both money and art but keeping them separate might be a very good idea.)

Cal’s most recent book is Deep Work. Last year, I read a book a week but Deep Work actually affected my life the most. I learned to evaluate work I spend time on and identify which are most important.

I also started thinking about focus as a skill rather than a trait that we’re born with or not. I became more aware of how addicting technology can be. I started finding blocks of time for undistracted work. I’m still working on improving this. It’s the one thing I can do to increase my effectiveness.

Cal describes deep work as a skill not a habit. You start with shorter blocks of deep work. Then you can increase the amount of time until you’re able to focus for long blocks of time.

One trick to help with this is scheduling your distractions. Pat points out that it’s like a cheat meal when dieting. You can push on a little further without giving into a distraction. There’s a set time when you’ll be able to check your phone, check your email, or check social media.

Sum up

Here are some tips for every step in your career:

  • Use active recall if you’re learning something new (and hey, use Active Recall as well!) 
  • Understand the connection between getting good at something and being passionate about it. 
  • Find undistracted blocks of time to do deep work in. it is a skill not a habit or a trait you are born with.

As a form of active recall, I’m making videos and podcasts. I’ll try deepening my knowledge while sharing it with other people. 

Journal: Active Recall

Here are some things I made this week and some thoughts about making them. I hit my goal to have one podcast post and one video post.

Active Recall Podcast, ep 4 – The Slight Edge
Still the most fun I’ve had making something for this blog. Wally and I keep on with the book-a-week format and discuss The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson.

Active Recall Sketchnotes, ep 1 – recapping lessons from Drama and Lewis Howes
I did some sketchnotes summarizing things I learned from listening to an episode of Long Story Short. It’s Drama’s podcast and he had Lewis Howes on as a guest. I’m trying to figure out how to title these things. I definitely don’t want to mislead people into thinking I actually talked to Drama or Lewis Howes. (Though it’d be great if I actually did.)

I want to share podcast episodes I like with other people. Of course, it’d be great if the people from that podcast checked out the video and amazing if they shared it with their audience. If I keep making one each week for six months, I’d estimate one of the podcasters would share it with their audience.

Totally fine. I want to get better at distilling information and making videos that can keep people’s attention. Podcasts are a good source of new content to pull that information from.

The pitch: It’s like Tools of Titans, but way worse, in video form!

I’m working on the accompanying post, but here’s a video I made the other night: Pull-ups for your brain (YouTube link). It’s about an episode of Pat Flynn’s podcast with Cal Newport as a guest.

Making worse videos, consistently –

I’ve figured out logistics for the podcast, but not the sketchnotes. Wally and I have a decent process. We’ll at least be able to record audio and share it with others. Whether it’s good or not is the harder part. As for the sketch videos, I’m figuring things out.

Each video looks like it will take 2-3 hours to make, including the initial listen. Right now I make a slide deck instead of a script and use the deck to remember talking points. It’s part of the reason the videos end up longer than I want. It opens up opportunities to ramble and I make the most of those opportunities.

The videos themselves are just too long right now. I’m aiming for 3-5 minutes and they’re more like 6-8 minutes. It might just mean trying to pull one single topic to talk about instead of 3 or 4.

I did a tiny bit of research of other people making similar videos. Aka I looked for behind-the-scenes videos of ASAPscience and PictureFit. They start with a script and audio and do the visuals after. (Oh yah, there are tons of whiteboard videos that outsource to places that animate fake hands drawing clip art. I don’t want to do that.)

I’m trying to remember the same focusing question I’ve used for the podcast: what would this look like if this were easy?

I’ll try starting with a script. It’s stepping toward not-easy but the trade offs might be worth it. My goal is to be consistent and good enough.

Have fun, help others, and meditate: Lessons from Drama and Lewis Howes — Active Recall Sketched

I recently started listening to Short Story Long, a podcast by Chris ‘Drama’ Pfaff. Drama is the founder of Young and Reckless and also appeared on MTV’s Fantasy Factory and Rob & Big.

I only know him as Rob’s assistant and cousin on Rob & Big, and I’m not the only one. He talks about that on this episode. “People think I’m an idiot.” It only takes a few minutes listening to his podcast to see that he’s smart, driven, and insightful.

Lewis Howes hosts a podcast called The School of Greatness where he interviews top performers. He also has a laundry list of business and athletic accomplishments.

Lewis Howes has hosted his podcast for a few years now and right away flips it and sort of interviews Drama. He asks how it’s been in the months since Big Black passed away.

“Life’s tough, but you’ve gotta have fun.”

A few months ago, he had Big Black on as a guest on Short Story Long. That’s a great episode also. Particularly if you watched Rob & Big. Or even just know what the show was.

On his appearance, Big says that he promised himself he’d do the show until it wasn’t fun. It stopped being fun so he finished the season and was out of there. He had a kid and moved his family out of Hollywood.

Helping others and maturing in motivation

Drama and Lewis talk about how their motivation changed as they got older. Doubters are the best motivators. So many people are driven by trying to prove people wrong. It can be satisfying. The first few times.

Then it’s draining. You can’t just go from one chip on your shoulder to the next. Well, Michael Jordan could. What I’m saying is it’s probably not a good idea to be fueled by negativity.

When they got older, Drama and Lewis focused on helping other people. That eventually led to opportunities later where other people helped them. But don’t keep score. It’s not transactional. You build an audience by helping others. You make connections by helping others.

Meditate, visualize, and express gratitude

Lewis flips it on Drama again and has him talk through his goals for the next year. Then he asks what the biggest obstacle in the way is. Drama’s answer? “My brain.”

Meditation is one way to handle that obstacle. Lewis has meditated for many years and Drama has picked it up more recently. He says it’s helped him alleviate some anxiety.

Lewis also visualizes his day. He thinks about what challenges the day might bring and pictures the conversations he might have. It’s good preparation for going through the day.

To end his day, he expresses gratitude. I really liked this idea: you can be frustrated and grateful, but not at the same time. It’s good to be aware of that, so if you catch yourself feeling frustrated, you can express gratitude. Lewis says he and his girlfriend tell each other what they’re grateful for right before sleeping.

Sounds like a practice worth trying out.


Let’s make this long post short:

  • Have fun because it’s one of the best ways to get through tough times.
  • Look at where you might have negative motivation and think about how you might be able switch to positive, extrinsic motivation.
  • Be aware that your thoughts can be obstacles. They are also just thoughts and there are tools to deal with the destructive ones.

I’ll be listening to a lot more episodes of Short Story Long and School of Greatness and I recommend that you do too. Thanks for checking this out and make sure to check the video!

Active Recall ep. 4 — The Slight Edge

(Check us out on iTunes!)

Wally and I renamed the podcast to Active Recall. I explained some of the reasoning in this episode and in my previous newsletter post. This week, we discussed The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. Amazing book. Here are some other links:

Some additional notes about the book

This excerpt gives a good sense of what The Slight Edge is about:

The truth is, what you do matters. What you do today matters. What you do every day matters. Successful people just do the things that seem to make no difference in the act of doing them and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in.

Everything adds up. even the small things. Particularly the small things. Even if you don’t know think about the slight edge it still has an effect on you and has had an affect on you your entire life. This book brings awareness to the small things that you do everyday. These are the decisions you don’t think about often. 

There’s often a bad habit where a good habit might be. If they’re bad then you can work to change them or remove them completely. You can structure things and change your environment so that you make good decisions without thinking.

These daily habits complement deliberate practice. Deliberate practice means you’re trying to improve the skill efficiently. You work at it for a few hours each day. It’s hard and it it should stretch you. The Slight Edge talks about the time outside of your deliberate practice. Professional athletes work hard in practice. It’s structured and deliberate. The rest of the day is structured to do the small things right. It all adds up.

There’s a book called Will It Make the Boat Go Faster? I haven’t read it, but I did read a summary on Blinkist. It’s about creating a focusing question. It’s by a member of the Men’s Rowing Eight team that won gold at the 2000 Olympics. “Will it make the boat go faster?” could be asked throughout the day to make the right decisions, even for the small things. If you have a goal in mind then you can think of a focusing question that will help guide you to make the small choices that matter day in and day out.

You can set big goals for the future but you only get there one step at a time. Once in a while they’ll be giant leaps, but they’ll usually be baby steps. Make sure they’re going in the right direction.