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.

Make it easy

Books can affect you differently depending on when in your life you read them. Bad example: Oh, the Places You’ll Go! will be different for a high school graduate than it will be for an elementary school graduate.

Podcasts aren’t exactly at the point where you hand a graduate a card that says “Congratulations, listen to this.” followed by like a URL.

One episode has had that kind of effect on me: episode #159 of The Tim Ferriss Show, where he chats with Chase Jarvis. If this episode were a book, I’d sit it face out like people do with A New Earth or Unlimited Power. Or Web of Spider-Man #100 when I was graduating elementary school.

I’m writing this as a note to myself if I have the following thought: I’m trying to be creative and I’m struggling right now. Why am I doing this again?

Just listen to the first fifteen minutes if you’re short on time. Ferriss says two things that really motivated me. One is about starting his podcast:

“What would this look like if it were easy?”

To stay true to this question, Ferriss chose long-form interviews to keep editing to a minimum. He didn’t fuss around with equipment because perfect audio quality isn’t important for interviews. His rule: make it mono and loud enough.

This episode was released in May 2016. Chase Jarvis was on an earlier episode in May 2014. In those two years, the podcast went from one of Ferriss’s experiment to his main creative project. It quickly became one of the most popular podcasts, period.

The second thing that’s stuck with me is also about keeping things simple. Ferriss talks about setting easy writing goals to build momentum:

“Your goal should be two crappy pages a day. That’s it. If you hit two crappy pages, even if you never use them, you’ve succeeded for the day.”

The first time I listened to the episode, I decided to write and post daily for 100 days. After finishing that, I continued with 1-3 posts each week up to now.

I learned to show up. Recently, I’ve been recording podcasts and creating video presentations. I want to do another “X something in X days” project.

I’m not sure yet what the format will be. What I do know is that I can build momentum by making it easy.

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.

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.