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


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.

Journal: New content and podcasts, podcasts, podcasts

New things from the past few weeks —
I’m back from California. I skipped sending the newsletter for a couple weeks, but I’ve been adding content. I’ve been using Evernote more and more and following what Josh Waitzkin said he does in the morning: free writing and then tagging it after he’s done. It’s slowly building up and I’m starting to connect ideas that share similar tags. It’s helping me generate ideas regularly and leading to more content.

  • Journal: Starting a podcast right as it’s becoming uncool to start a podcast — I didn’t get around to sending this to mailing list subscribers but it’s a newsletter. I started a podcast with Wally and this post goes over some of the thinking: reasons for starting it, the format we chose, and goals. 
  • Walter & Francis ep. 2: Grit — We made it to episode two so that’s an accomplishment. We even managed to stick to the format and talked about Grit, by Angela Duckworth, as our book of the week. Quick thought: it’s extremely fun making them. I set a 5:30am alarm and was excited to record so that’s a good sign. 
  • Make it Easy — I wrote this as sort of a marker to it being one year since I did my first post for the 100 days, 100 posts project. ( ) The podcast I wrote about in this post is a Tim Ferriss episode with Chase Jarvis where they talk about creativity. 
  • Don’t Listen to Me ep. 3 — I’m working through some solo podcast ideas. Not in a superkick-Marty-Jannetty-in-a-barbershop way, because Wally would clearly be our Shawn Michaels. More like the Mega Powers where each of us is still working solo matches. This episode isn’t great but it talks about a great Joe Rogan episode. Go listen to that instead.

I’ve stayed pretty gung-ho about podcasting. I bought a Zoom H1 portable recorder and am thinking through use cases for it. Pacing around the apartment talking into it seems to be a pretty good use case for looking pretentious (read: an asshole).

How I started listening to podcasts —
When I think back to how I started listening to podcasts, it was my brother telling me to check out Bill Simmons’s podcast. At that point, I had read all his columns but didn’t listen. Then Dameshek was on as a guest. And Carolla. And on and on from there.

Simmons has become an excellent interviewer over the years and his discussions with Kevin Durant and Aziz Ansari stick out for me for more recent episodes.

He didn’t always have interviews, though. From what I remember, his earlier episodes were usually chats with Cousin Sal, House, Jacko, and Dameshek. Like an interview, it’s two people but he’s known them for years.

We got feedback and we recorded —
A handful of people have listened to the podcast and given feedback. We tried to improve from all the feedback that we got and then ended up with an episode that’s not as good as the first two. Hopefully it’s a case where it feels like it’s bad but it’s actually better than I have in mind. Still need to edit it though.

Journal: Starting a podcast right as it’s becoming uncool to start a podcast

Just saw this on season 2 of Love:

This is turning into a journal of ideas that I’m enthusiastic about that changes every week. I was talking to a friend about that and was reminded that it’s completely okay. I want to be a special snowflake but bouncing from idea to idea is not a problem unique to me. Writing about it is good because there’s a chance that someone else can relate.

So what am I enthusiastic about this week?

Starting a podcast, this time with a friend —
I’m more excited for this than any of the other projects I’ve done on this blog. I’ve been recording a lot of audio notes for the past couple months. It was my way of doing active recall for different things I was reading, watching, or listening to.

Here’s a link to the episode: 001 — Walter & Francis: Autotelic Exotelic

Which sounds like some kind of science podcast. I can promise it’s dumber than that.

There are posts on this blog that I’m happy with, mostly going by how often I share each with other people:

Creating the first episode of the podcast took less effort and I’m as happy with it as I am with some of those posts above. Recency bias plays into that but I think that will remain true as we record more episodes.

I often think about what this blog’s content would look like in a year if I stayed with this or that approach. We plan to post every week so in a year we’d have a few dozen hours of recorded conversation. Even if we don’t hit 50 listeners, that’ll still be really fun for me to go back and listen to.

I’m grateful I can have balance and that I’m in no way trying to make this my main gig. This podcast was by far the most fun I’ve had creating content for this blog. Recording Test episode was also fun. That’s enough reason to keep doing it.

The format we have in mind: Talk about a book and write an accompanying post —
This might change. I might even bet on it changing. But it seemed to work well with the first one so we’re going to give it another shot next week. We’re trying to figure out possible segments and we’re starting broad and trying to figure out which ones work and which don’t.

I read a lot of books in the past year or two and I’ve written about some of them. I know a lot of the content well enough to talk about it.

The plan: each week I’ll review my highlights for a book I’ve already read. Wally will listen to it or read it for the first time. Then we’ll discuss it.

This week we talked about Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and the concept that stuck out was autotelic and exotelic activities. Next week we’ll talk about Grit, by Angela Duckworth.

Books often have activities to run through so we’re going to try to pull some of those out to talk through while recording. For example, this week we did the 5 Whys.

We’re hoping one or two concepts will stick out. I’ll write an accompanying post that goes a little deeper on that topic. (Along with the usual links you’d expect in show notes.)

Goals: Record one podcast a week with the 12th podcast having 1,000 downloads —
Our goal is to post one podcast each week and get to 1,000 downloads for the 12th episode.

I’m embarrassed because I looked back to a post where I wrote about 12-week goals. That was 8 weeks ago when I said my goal was to get, guess what, 1000 mailing list subscribers.

Let’s just say I probably won’t get to 1000. My main lesson? At the time, I realized I was just creating content without sharing it. I had a plan to share on other outlets but mostly just created more content that I didn’t share.

This is another opportunity to steer things in the right direction. I’ll keep sharing the process. Thanks for following along!

Journal: Learning

This is the 8th edition of the newsletter. I didn’t do the day by day updates this week.

I need to add a couple weeks of newsletter posts to the site. I’ve sent out a couple newsletters without posting them to the site. That feels like the first few broken windows. If I don’t fix that then it’ll slowly become more and more disorganized.

But that’s for later. Here are some thoughts from things I’m reading, listening to, or watching.

What I’m listening to: Skipping through The Art of Learning
I listened to parts of Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning trying to find a specific clip. Finding clips isn’t exactly solved with audiobooks.

With a physical book, you can flip through and usually track it down in a minute or two. With an ebook, you can search and find it. If you don’t know the exact phrasing then you’ll have to try a few different things. Some Kindle books have a zoomed-out horizontal scroll that’s getting closer to just flipping through a book.

With an audiobook, I could tap through each chapter hoping the audiobook chapters match up to book chapters and they say the title at the start. Then it’s a lot of skipping forward and skipping back.

If there were some kind of text search for audiobooks, that’d be great. I’m guessing there are good reasons that doesn’t exist.

At best, I would’ve bookmarked it with a descriptive note. Though I hardly write good notes for the bookmarks.

I never did find the specific clip.

What I’m listening to pt 2: The Art of Learning
Luckily, I remembered looking for that clip before and then I remembered I wrote about the clip last year. It’s about building a trigger for getting in the right mindset for performance.

I’m starting to make short videos explaining single topics. I have a bunch of posts from last year that are halfway there. Sometimes the idea is good but the writing isn’t. Or I wrote something organized but the idea isn’t great.

I’m going to try turning some old posts into videos. One of the first ones I’ll do is talk about building the trigger. The steps are roughly this, over a month:

  • Think of something that you do to relax that fully engages you and gets you into a calm mindset
  • Create a routine that leads up to that activity: listen to the same music, have a snack
  • Shorten the routine little by little: take it from 20 minutes to 15 minutes to 10 to 5 by listening to part of a song instead of the entire thing, taking a bite instead of eating an entire apple, etc.
  • When you can get into that calm mindset with a short routine, switch the relaxing activity to your performance activity.

Follow a routine leading to a plate of cookies for a while then switch the cookies up for a plate of steamed chicken and broccoli.

What I’m listening to pt 3: Josh Waitzkin on creative bursts

While trying to find that audio clip, I ended up listening to a different part of The Art of Learning. I’ve been thinking about what Josh Waitzkin has to say about creative bursts

He says he does half an hour of writing first thing in the morning, before his son wakes up. That was a few years ago, so I wonder what it might look like now.

I’ve been forgetting how useful it can be to just write for a block of time. I got pretty into the idea of Deep Work last year and was always looking for 2 hour blocks to do things.

30 minutes of writing can be very useful. If not for going toward a finished piece, maybe just for the value of doing something like morning pages.

Okay this is just a lot from Josh Waitzkin
Waitzkin appeared again on Tim Ferriss’s podcast and talks more about journaling (around 1hr34min).

Waitzkin says he uses Evernote and tags heavily. I’ve been trying to use Evernote more. I’m having trouble with separating things in Evernote from things in Ulysses.

I’ll give it another go in Evernote. If I open up Ulysses it’ll be to pull things in from Evernote and other places to actually write something that I’ll publish online.

Morning pages
The end of The Art of Learning has a bonus chapter which is his podcast appearance with Tim Ferriss. He asks Josh Waitzkin about his favorite part of the day and Waitzkin says he wakes up, does a “creative burst” and writes for half an hour, then he holds his son and talks to him and tells him how proud he is.

It reminded me that I’ve gotten a little bit away from writing. Sometimes I see something I can improve then swing too far in the other direction. I find out I enjoy writing in the iPad with the Pencil, so I stop typing things out entirely.

There’s still time in the day to just start typing freely.

Morning pages are something I enjoy doing that I find useful. Some idea usually comes out of a session. I’m going to start doing them again in some form. Maybe not strictly a daily routine thing, but three days a week could be good.

I happen to be trying today because I left my Pencil somewhere so I can’t currently draw on the iPad.

Often I end up thinking about the meta aspects of it and questioning if I’m in flow or not. Any moment you ask “Am I in flow” the answer is a resounding no. Maybe you were a minute ago, but now you’ve knocked yourself out of it.

ocus@Will has some new music
I still have a Focus@Will subscription. There were a couple times where I thought about canceling, because I wrote on the train a lot more and got annoyed that it didn’t have any form of offline mode. I actually did cancel once but learned I was grandfathered in for $6 and un-canceled.

They’ve been adding tracks over the past few months. They added “Neuro space” which I described as a repeating iPhone alarm. (Which also worked pretty well once I got over thinking of it as that.) Today I saw they have “Einstein’s Genius”. It’s the soundtrack for a montage of what I like to imagine myself as when I’m writing and drawing. Doing deep research and finding insightful connections behind (previously) disparate ideas.

Anyway, this morning I was having trouble getting Snapchat to recognize a skull drawing as a face. With a little tinkering, I learned if I get Snapchat to recognize my face first then I can put video filters on the skull.

Journal: My first podcast

This is a running journal of thoughts. Parts of these might serve as drafts of future videos and posts. This week, I did a lot of planning followed by straying from those plans.

Monday —
I followed the plan I laid out for the week. I did some mind mapping and took a longer daily walk (this time on The High Line) to do a longer recording. The post will be about your body and mind as an API. Tomorrow I’ll set up the draft post with section titles. Then I’ll storyboard the video and record a draft version using the Notability storyboard.

Tuesday —
Today I strayed from the plan. Instead of storyboarding and doing a rough draft take of the video, I recorded a podcast and wrote some show notes. The podcast goes over five things that I’ve been listening to, reading, or watching.

This shows a lack of focus, but I’m pretty happy with how the podcast and show notes turned out.

Wednesday —
I strayed again. Instead of working toward the topic for the week, I recorded a screencast about making marker time-lapse videos. Not ideal.

Oh I did draw this skull and Snapchat recognized it as a face so I could put eyeballs on it.

Tomorrow I’ll do a draft run.

Thursday —
I strayed again. This time I re-drew an animation out of The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams. It’s a great book.

It made me think about if I’m practicing the right things with drawing. There’s something to the idea of getting good at painting regular clocks before painting melted clocks.

But for the most part, I want to draw good stick figures. I want to learn to tell a good story over many frames instead of going deep on one frame. Drawing simpler things could be good since I want to make a bunch of simple images as part of a video.

Back to The Animator’s Survival Kit. Williams explains different animation concepts and goes over an example frame by frame. I was one small step removed from just tracing the frames out of the book. I put each on a separate layer and recorded as I toggled layers on and off.

Friday: figuring out a focusing question —
As far as straying goes, I read a Blinkist summary for Will It Make the Boat Go Faster? and liked the idea of a focusing question. I’m trying to figure out what mine will be for this blog and other creative proejcts.

Potential focus questions I came up with:

I’m listening to Designing Your Life and a major concept in the book is The Good Time Journal. First you track your activities then you figure out which ones you enjoy doing based on how engaged you are during it and how energized you feel. Which makes me think of this question:

  • Are you having a good time doing this?

When I ask myself that, I get a good amount of clarity. I know it means the combination of engagement and energy.

This reminds me of some recent discussion of star ratings vs thumbs (I enjoyed Jason Snell’s thoughts on this).

Here’s a look at some of my morning activities and how they rank with this scale:

  • Making a podcast: I’m engaged and energized when making these.
  • Making a screencast: My highest engagement is recording the final version of a screencast.
  • Writing about one topic: This is research and outlining. At its best, it sets up a good opportunity for flow when typing the actual typing words in sequence. At its worst, it’s a draining activity of switching back and forth from writing and looking stuff up.
  • Writing without planning: I’m more engaged when I write without planning. I enjoy writing these journals more than writing a long article about one topic. They end up very ramble-y though. (Ahem.)

There’s a difference between enjoying doing something and enjoying having done it. Which seems to align with the enjoyment/toward-your-goals grid I wrote about last week. With “enjoying have done it” replacing “does it go toward your goals”.

I don’t always enjoy working out but I always enjoy having done it. It’s the same thing with photography for me. I enjoy having taken pictures but am not super engaged while doing it.

Even more examples: I enjoy having written and can be pretty engaged while writing. For podcasts, I enjoy having recorded them and am also more engaged while recording.

Highest on having-done-it: I enjoy having made a screencast. This allows me to draw on my iPad a lot. While doing this and drawing slides, I’m also thinking about the topic deeply.

Highest on engagement: I enjoy recording audio. It also serves as a rough pass at outlining ideas. Then I can write notes and add links to it.

Which leads to another idea I’m calling 3-2-1. Or 1-2-3.

  • 1 podcast: talking about things I learned from books, podcasts, or videos
  • 2 screencasts: one is for a single topic, the second is some making-of journal type iPad tutorial
  • 3 posts: the podcast and topic screencast get show notes posts. Then the third post is the journal that doubles as a newsletter. (Which you’re reading right now.)

I’ll try aiming to do this through June and re-evaluate from there.

Sunday —

I’ve been watching a lot of AsapSCIENCE videos. Most of them are 2 to 7 minute time-lapsed whiteboard drawings explaining science. The visuals are interesting with some fun stop-motion animation techniques.

I want to make something like that for topics that I cover on my blog. These would be things I’m learning from things I’m reading, listening to, or watching.

It’s still in line with what I described with the 3-2-1 idea. I’ll try this out next week.

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.