Walter & Francis ep. 2: Grit

This week we talk about Grit, by Angela Duckworth. (Check out my full book notes here.)

  • I’m in California and Wally is in San Diego. We decided to record on a Wednesday morning to accommodate schedules. Not sure that matters since we haven’t really picked a day to consistently publish.
  • Our podcast is on iTunes now. I think it actually has been for the entire week. I thought there was an approval process or something. Now that it’s on there it feels sort of official. I have that iMessage drawing of Frankenwalt the Frankenstein monster. It feels a little too casual.
  • Tim Ferriss talks about how the average podcast only lasts like 3 or 6 episodes. I bet a lot of them thought “It’s the audio that matters” or that silliness is a part of it. By week 12 I want to make sure the listing and landing page looks way better. Actually I need a landing page at all.
  • I was scrambling to buy the Zoom H1 because I wanted to record in the hotel room. Then I remembered Tim Ferris’s rule for podcast audio: make it mono and make it loud enough. The EarPods are fine.
  • I bought the Zoom H1 but was recording on the EarPods. I’d love to see a chart of my success rate on Slickdeals with finding a good deal plotted against how many times I check and refresh the site. Truly a slot machine.
  • One day later I actually was walking over a highway. And yes, it was super sketchy. All to get In-N-Out. All worth it. On the off chance that you care what I think about In-N-Out vs. Shake Shack: both are great. Shake Shack’s beef is better. It’s also more expensive.

Walter & Francis ep. 1: Autotelic Exotelic

First of all, welcome and thanks for checking out the first episode of Walter & Francis. We’ve been talking about recording a podcast together and finally got around to doing it. If you’re checking this out, well, I probably know you by name. We recorded last week but this should be the first one that appears in iTunes.

(Ok ok on to the show notes — I’ll try to keep the blogging about podcasting in the weekly newsletter.)

Here are some topics we go over in this week’s episode.

Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi — 

I finished reading Flow a couple weeks ago and thought it’d be good to pick up Csikszentmihalyi’s other book. Speaking of…

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (also) by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi —

Great book. It’s from 1990 and things have probably gotten worse as far as distractions go.

Deliberate practice

If this is the 1000th time you’ve heard the phrase deliberate practice and you’re rolling your eyes, you’re exactly the audience we’re looking for. At least if you’re anything like me. I can’t get enough of this echo chamber!

We did it without mentioning K. Anders Ericsson or Malcolm Gladwell. (To be clear: I’m calling that out as an oversight, not an achievement.)

5 Whys and 5 Hows —

Judging by the results when I searched for 5 Hows, it’s not exactly an original idea. That’s fine.

Each week we’ll discuss topics from one book. I’m hoping one idea sticks out that I can write more about. If not, I’ll recap a few ideas. We got lucky this week and a topic came up: autotelic and exotelic activities.

Autotelic and Exotelic activities

A couple weeks back, I put a video and post together about mapping activities to a grid based on 1.) enjoyment and 2.) whether it goes toward a goal or not.

I created the grid by stealing ideas from a few places. Mapping ideas came from Designing Your Life and Stealing Fire. The two factors of the matrix likely came from reading Flow, which talks about autotelic and exotelic activities.

Autotelic activities are things we do for the experience of doing them. Exotelic activities are things we do that go toward a goal. If it’s completely exotelic, we likely wouldn’t do them if that goal was no longer relevant.

It’s a spectrum though, so things fall in between. Let’s look at weightlifting and running. Both are exotelic because they go toward health goals. Between the two, I’d say running rates higher on the autotelic scale. In my unscientific estimate, it’s more likely that someone would run to feel runner’s high than for someone to lift weights to feel the pump.

Let’s take a look at how you can move things along the spectrum.

Get so good they can’t ignore you

You can do autotelic activities and get good enough that you get paid to do it.

But you probably need to turn it into an exotelic activity first.

For example: playing basketball is one of my favorite things to do. It’s a guaranteed flow state a few times a month. If I want to do that professionally, I’ll need a time machine, different genetics, a different upbringing, luck…

…bad example. But let’s hang on to that time machine and rewind…

For example: reading is one of my favorite things to do. It can be entirely autotelic if I’m reading fiction and get engaged in the story. Nobody will pay me to do that. How can you get paid to read novels? You can understand the story deep enough to explain it simply to other people.

Jason Concepcion writes the excellent Ask The Maester column at The Ringer (and at Grantland prior to that). He understood the Song of Ice and Fire books deeply enough to explain things simply. He also had career capital as a writer to use that knowledge to be paid as a Game of Thrones expert.

When he read the first book, it was likely entirely an autotelic activity. When the sixth book in the series comes out, he’ll experience it both as an autotelic and exotelic activity.

Get good enough that you can ignore everything else

You can do exotelic activities and get good enough that you do them just to experience it. The transition reminds me something from What I Talk About When I Talk About Running:

In other words, my muscles are the type that need a long time to warm up. They’re slow to get started. But once they’re warmed up they can keep working well for a long time with no strain.

Throughout the book he relates running to writing. With experience, it’s easier to fight through the strain because you know what comes after. Your body will warm up and the run becomes enjoyable.

Playing an instrument isn’t very fun after the initial novelty wears off. It becomes almost entirely exotelic for a while when you can only fail and learn a little bit at a time. With practice, you get through that, become competent, and can experience flow through playing music.

Then you can toggle the experience between exotelic and autotelic. You switch between practice and performance. (Even if the performance is jamming out in your bedroom.)

Sum up

It’s helping me think about the different activities in my life. I’ll remind myself that reading self-development books shouldn’t be an entirely autotelic activity. Otherwise, that time would better be spent reading a novel with a better story that doesn’t have to be loosely tied to some productivity principle.

It’s important to make reading an exotelic activity by applying what I’m learning. One way to do that is to write my own notes:

  • Autotelic activities are things we do for the experience itself
  • Exotelic activities are things we do for a goal beyond the activity
  • It’s a spectrum, so it’s rare for something to be strictly autotelic or strictly exotelic

See you in a week, where we’re planning to talk about Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth.

Don’t listen to me Ep 01 — The second pilot

Trying out voice dictation again. This seems to work pretty well with the Blue Snowball. like an right a bunch of content really quickly so I could probably put the podcast notes together very fast let me actually try that.

asapSCIENCE behind the scenes —

In this behind the scenes episode, the asapSCIENCE guys walk through their Studio explaining how they make episodes. They record their drawings on a whiteboard laid flat on the table. it’s a time lapse. They start with a script, record audio in a closet, then they do the drawings. A lot of people think they talk over the video but they put the drawings and animations to the audio.

I’m guessing that’s how most animation is done. I’ve been doing the opposite where I make a video and try to talk over it and the results were not good. Somewhere in between is having a presentation where I’m able to talk and also control which slides are being shown as I go along.

That works pretty well so I’m going to try that and then try to add the animation to certain parts of it.

I’ll just keep getting my reps in.

Clay Collins on Pat Flynn’s podcast: laddering up —

If you can’t convince someone to give you their email address it’s going to be very hard to convince them to give you their money. Pat says some bloggers get too focused on making contents. They post every day without making an effort to share it.

Last year I wrote 100 posts in 100 days. Now I think I would do 50 posts in 100 days where the other 50 days would be sharing the work. Or even 25 posts in 100 days. I would put the post together over 2 days and take 2 days sharing it.

I’m approaching 1 year since I wrote that first post of the 100. I explained why I wanted to write a hundred posts. I’ve been thinking about how I can do a second project like that.

Colin says that a good initial goal is to get to 2000 subscribers. He explains it in the context of getting to a seven-figure business. That’s not one of my goals but I still think that subscribers are important because it kind of confirms that the content I’m making has some value.

I might try to do 25 posts in 100 days while trying to get to 2000 subscribers. That sounds like a stretch, but it doesn’t sound impossible.

Joe Rogan #952 — Thaddeus Russell —

It’s over two hours long. He also talks about how the long format of podcasts is so good for learning about people. You don’t want to see the smoothed out CNN version of them. Even an hour sometimes isn’t enough.

Podcasts are a really interesting format. They talk about Hardcore History and Dan Carlin. Rogan says that Dan Carlin probably is teaching history to more people than any one person ever. His podcast gets millions of downloads so that might very well be true.

Because it’s two hours long they do go over a whole lot of topics and they go in depth on quite a few. Including boxing and academia. Russell is a teacher and he talks about paying attention to how a teacher was teaching and college rather than the subject itself. That’s kind of when he started to think that he might want to be a teacher himself.

Russell says that to teach you have to be able to take a topic and think through it entirely. Rogan agrees and mentions that he taught the entire time he was doing Taekwondo competitively.

Joe Rogan 882 w tom papa —

This is an older episode but it has resonated with me. I wanted to add the link and I’ll probably talk about this a little bit more in a future episode. Rogan and Tom Papa talk about setting goals and getting focused on them. You think that reaching the goal will make you happy but with your tunnel vision you completely overshoot the goal. Which means you are more successful than you initially thought you would be. The problem is you’ve gotten to a point where you’re not happy for other reasons. For instance, you might have burned out along the way.

UJ ramdas with Abel James —

I use the five minute journal app in a lot of ways: I use a PDF sheet, the app, and do a voice recording a few days a week where I go over the different questions. Remember: be grateful, focus on a few things each day, and use affirmations.

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!