Journal 19: Frank’s Neo-Xanga

Every week or two, I change my mind about which direction to take this blog.

I started by posting daily, then thought I wanted to put together short videos (and then didn’t make any), then I thought I’d focus on learning to draw, then I tried focusing on book notes, then I said I’d do photo walks every few days. Lately I’ve been trying to focus on the newsletter and share three excerpts from things I’m watching, reading, or listening to.

I’ve been testing recording voice notes through the week to do some parts of writing while walking around. They’re supposed to act as rough first drafts but now I have a bunch of rough first drafts I’m putting off parsing through. I think it’ll be useful but I need to build a system around it.

I started listening to the audiobook version of Designing Your Life. It reminded me of the value of prototyping and testing. Where I slip up is failing to factor results into my future actions. I find out something doesn’t work, then wait a few weeks and I try it again without really changing much.

It’s been a few weeks, but my enthusiasm for drawing is back. Today I went to a coffee shop and drew for 40 minutes. So I’m thinking I might draw more and have the newsletter be primarily my thoughts on learning to draw. So I might test this out next week. I’ll draw something about New York and write about it. Then start an Instagram account and build up some momentum. Then get sponsored posts and kiss this old life goodbye!

Or not, but I’ll keep trying things out. What I’m learning is that my enthusiasm for any particular direction will have ups and downs. But having consistent enthusiasm for putting work into this blog is encouraging.

Oh yeah, steering this back to drawing, here’s what drawing New York things might look like.

Drawing New York: Ikinari, East Village

The other week, my girlfriend and I went to Ikinari. It’s a Japanese chain where you order meat by the gram and eat standing up. You go to the meat counter, tell them what cut you want (rib eye, sirloin, or filet) and how many grams you want. They give it their best guess, cut it, weigh it, then cut off a piece to get it to your requested weight.

(This might be the best hand I’ve drawn.)

You got to your standing table and they bring the steak out with corn and onions cooked on a flat top.

I enjoyed it. If you want a good steak in a casual setting, it’s a great spot. I’ve heard the wait is getting longer and longer. I like most food, which becomes a problem when talking about food places. Introducing my how-long-would-I-wait-in-a-line rating: I’d wait 25 minutes to eat here.

For calibration, here are some places off the top of my head and their ratings, given about 15 seconds of thought.

  • Shake Shack, Madison Square Park: 15 minutes (But if it were my first time then I’d wait for however long.)
  • Hometown (AYCE hot pot and BBQ): I waited 3 hours with a friend that turned into 2 hours but we went to a bar nearby during the wait so definitely take that into account. Completely worth it.

Now I want to make a giant spreadsheet. I’ll stop here for now.

Re-reading books and remembering they’re a part of us

Last week, I wrote about Naval Ravikant’s appearance on Shane Parrish’s podcast. Ravikant skims a lot of books. He describes books becoming a part of you:

“I don’t know about you, but I have a very poor attention. I skim. I speed read. I jump around. I could not tell you specific passages or quotes from books. At some deep level, you do absorb them and they become part of the threads of the tapestry of your psyche. They do kind of weave in there.”

Ravikant says that he finds himself re-reading as much as he reads new material. In one of Tim Ferris’s podcast episodes, his guest asks when he’ll stop with the podcast. Tim says that he still loves doing it because he gets to talk to so many interesting people. But he does acknowledge that the amount of knowledge and his current library could be abstracted to provide guidelines for anyone to live a good life.

At a certain point, I feel like I’ve read enough books to have the guidance to live the life I want to live. I’ll probably be better off reading an old book that I know is great than diving into an old one. So I’ve started re-reading some of my favorite books from the past few years.

It’s always shocking seeing how much I’ve forgotten from the books. If it’s been a year or more, it’s almost entirely a new book. Sometimes I barely remember any specific passages but I know they’ve had lasting influence on me. It’s similar to how all our early lessons are a part of us even though our memory is very faulty.

Enthusiasm and happiness

A good way to remember things from books I’ve read is to just browse through my highlights. I’ve highlighted pretty heavily in Kindle books for the past few years. This week, I took a look through my highlights from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Here’s something she wrote about enthusiasm, expertise, and practice.

“Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, it turns out, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice.”

She’s comparing enthusiasm and ability to mastery. It’s interesting to think that when I first read this, I probably entirely agreed. (“Follow your passion!”) Now I think it’s closer to a chicken and the egg thing.

If enthusiasm comes first, then you’ll be able to master things that you like. People say to think about what you liked doing as a kid and that’s what you’re really passionate about. However, I loved video games and would never want to be a professional gamer. Watching behind the scenes of high-level sponsored gamers, I get the sense that it isn’t much fun in tournaments or in training. It seems like… work.

If ability comes first, you’ll practice enough to get good at it. You’ll then become enthusiastic about it because you’re good at it. The things we loved as kids were also usually things we were good at. I liked video games and was good at them. Computers were sort of like games in that you have some kind of control that changes things on screen.

Making websites has been my job for the past few years. I didn’t know what a website was until I was eleven. Was I enthusiastic about them? Only for consuming them. Did I have innate ability? I got good math grades but had no experience with computers.

In that case, enthusiasm and ability grew together: I learned to make them and became enthusiastic about making them, built my skill up, and got more enthusiastic about making them.

Follow your passion and you’ll want to practice enough to master it. Or practice something enough and you’ll get good enough to have real passion for it. They… both make sense. If instead of making websites I was building my writing and thinking skills up, I might be able to parse this and make a better point.

But I want to focus on drawing, so here’s an egg.