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.

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.

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!

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.

Mind map: Book note process

I’m trying to capture a system for books from end to end: picking a book all the way to a book notes post.

Journal: What I’m listening to, reading, and watching

I wrote most of this on the way to San Francisco. I’m finishing this on a train home from Flushing. I did some of the drawings between 5-8am on a few of the weekdays.

What I’m listening to

I increased my Audible subscription to two credits each month. I got a few books for my trip.

Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Need, by Margot Leitman, is about, well it’s in the subtitle. Leitman used to teach storytelling classes for the Upright Citizens Brigade’s education center.

I live by the UCB theater but haven’t gone to a show yet. I’ve been meaning to go with my girlfriend and this is another reason to. Leitman doesn’t currently live in New York, but the UCB storytelling show (The Nights of Our Lives) is still on every week.

Oh yah, I mentioned I started recording voice notes and private podcasts. I don’t have guests to interview so I just yap into a microphone. It’s a form of storytelling, so I want to improve. (Even if it’s only to entertain myself.)

I’m a few chapters in and it seems to be exactly what I’m looking for.

What I’ll eventually be listening to

Start With Why, by Simon Sinek, is about inspiring others and being inspired by asking “Why?”

That’s a guess based on the synopsis. I haven’t started listening to it.

The more I work on this blog with a handful of readers, the more I’m considering why I’m doing it. Not that I don’t enjoy it, but I’m looking for a little guidance in steering this ship. It takes time and energy so I want to make sure it’s worth it. I’m grateful that this doesn’t need to be a source of income at all.

What I stopped listening to and am listening to instead

I stopped listening to Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman. It wasn’t boring or bad. I stopped because fiction and narrative nonfiction still don’t seem to work for me. If I’m listening to something for entertainment, I’ll first reach for a podcast.

On that front, my brother pointed me to Hardcore Game of Thrones. (The first few episodes are on SoundCloud for free.) Hardcore Games of Thrones is a parody of Hardcore History. It treats Westeros history as if it were as real as medieval history.

It’s so good. HGoT gives me the same thing I was looking for with Norse Mythology. I don’t have to pay as much attention because I already know most of what I’m listening to.

What I’m reading

Here’s my current rotation of Kindle and hardcover reading.

  • Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling by Bret Hart: Still working on this. One of my first memories ever is going to American Video (a video rental place in Japan) with my brother and dad. We were looking for the latest Bret Hart compilation VHS. (Likely this Coliseum Home Video production). Someone rented it out right before we got there. That’s first lessons in disappointment. Anyway, I’ve read far enough that I’m now getting to WWF pay-per-views and matches I grew up on.
  • Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: I’m enjoying this. It’s got me thinking more about which activities I should prioritize to have a joyful life. Like when I was reading Snow Crash, I had to remind myself a few times that it was published in 1990. Since then, I imagine flow has become even harder to achieve. I got a paperback version of this. It’s reminded me of how different reading paper is. I can’t switch to social networks or to other books.
  • Art Before Breakfast by Danny Gregory: I should’ve bought a paperback version of this also. I’ve been buying a few drawing books but now I need to start applying them. Art Before Breakfast is a good reminder that even a few minutes of drawing will add up.

Every day has a dozen dull moments—fill each one with a quick sketch. A dozen sketches a day means that in ten years you’ll have done 43,829 drawings. Then you’ll be getting somewhere.

What I’m Watching

“Who else could get us to do this other than Kanye?” Some guy I didn’t know was asking his friends. “He got us staring at a brick wall at 1am.”

A lot of cool things happen in New York. It’s one of the reasons I decided to move here. Then I learned many of those cool things are very exclusive or have a gigantic line. This time, it seemed to pay off. I was about to sleep, saw a tweet about projections for the debut of Kanye’s “New Slaves”, got out of bed, and walked a few blocks to one of the corners listed.

We waited. And waited. We checked our phones to see if the other corners got the projections. They did, so we waited more, thinking the street team was making their way north through the city. We waited.

People left, convinced that they skipped our street corner for time reasons. The next day I found out we had the address wrong. The projection was one avenue over. Kanye somehow got us all to watch a brick wall.

Anyway, Big Little Lies somehow got me to watch hours of moms bickering.

Journal: Eating, habits, and Wrestlemania

Okay so I said I would schedule a newsletter and post last week because I was going to be in Austin for a friend’s bachelor party. I followed through on half of that: I went to Austin for a friend’s bachelor party. Lots of fun.

I’ll ramble about four things from the week.

I wrote an extra post this week: I didn’t send it out as a newsletter. I decided I’d stop numbering the journals/issues and just track the numbers on my own. I thought it might help me stop writing about writing and blogging about blogging. There’s a place for that but sometimes I need to try focusing on just writing about whatever the topic is. Oh yeah, the post. The post is The four pillars of health. In the past I might’ve just titled it “Book notes: Wired to Eat” then tag and categorize it properly. I share some thoughts from reading Robb Wolf’s Wired to Eat.

What I’m watching: Wrestlemania 33: During one night of the bachelor party, we made burgers and watched Wrestlemania. I haven’t watched a wrestling pay-per-view with friends since middle school. Undertaker had a streak but it wasn’t The Streak yet. Most of us had not watched wrestling in a while. But all of us watched wrestling as kids.As an adult, it’s always great learning someone watched wrestling growing up. You know that person, at some point in their life, could suspend their disbelief to be entertained by giant men pretending to fight each other.

It brought me back to when we were all growing up. That’s when my friendship with the bachelor was built. We weren’t watching it for the irony or anything. We watched it for the art that it is.

The Undertaker retired. When I was a kid, he was 100% the deadman. He went through his phases but was still the deadman. I’ve changed my gimmick up more than he has since then. When the Undertaker debuted, I was 4. I’m 30 now. And just as willing to sit down with my best friends to find entertainment in giant men pretending to fight.

Mindful now, mindless later: I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before. I’m really enjoying it so far. I read The Happiness Project a few years ago. She’s described it this way: The Happiness Project is about finding what made her happier and Better Than Before is learning to make those happy things a habit.

When establishing a habit, you start by being mindful about it. With the proper approach you can find proper motivation and build the environment and trigger. Then it becomes mindless. You’re going to have habits one way or another. Why not make them go toward your goals?How have I applied this in the past? I write and post pretty consistently. I’ve removed as much friction as possible. I can write anywhere on a lot of devices. I switched from Jekyll to WordPress — trading some nerd cred to think just a little bit less anytime I want to post something. (Sometimes thinking a lot less without the temptation to tweak HTML & CSS.)

My motivation has become more and more intrinsic. I… just like writing. Having a blog lets me create goal markers. Making it even more enjoyable. If I was driven strictly by extrinsic metrics reader count or revenue, I would’ve stopped 175 posts and $1.67 ago.

(Thanks for the continued support to my two subscribers. You know who you are. And you know who each other… is? “are”?)

I started a private podcast: Where “started” is “pressured friends into listening” and “podcast” is “audio files of me rambling for 20 minutes”. Though that probably does qualify as a podcast. It’s the Wild West out there.I mentioned that I’ve been recording voice notes. I was recording more and more. I was starting to feel myself so I went long once and thought it wasn’t bad. I sent it to a friend then a couple more. One of them enjoyed it.I can see why so many people make them. It’s fun. It’s a good change of pace to yap into a microphone for twenty minutes instead of re-writing a sentence over and over. (Just kidding, I re-write once at most then scratch my head. Remember kids, good is the enemy of “it’ll do”.)

I’m off to San Francisco this week. I’ll bring my camera along to try and take a morning walk if possible. Or a walk after work. As always, we’ll see.

How I want to start my mornings

I’m writing at the gym. I wonder if there’s like a matte display cover for the iPad Pro 12.9″. I can see my reflection better than I can see my face. Okay I switched to the white theme and it’s much better. Here’s what I did this morning:

  • Get coffee with Amy: It’s important to do things every day to build a relationship and this is my most important relationship.
  • Walk to the gym: Walking first thing in the morning is good also for circadian rhythms and things like that.
  • Audiobooks or voice recording while walking: This is the idea of pairing things. If I do something I enjoy (listening to an audio book or recording a voice note) while walking, then it makes walking more enjoyable.

    I understand walking in itself can be enjoyable. If you’re mindful about it or even if not. But walking from place to place isn’t always the most fun activity. Pairing it with something fun seems like a good idea.

    I’ve been using Just Press Record and Evernote as different tools for keeping an audio journal. I’ve also been recording directly into ScreenFlow when I’m at my desk to make private podcasts. I’ve been working on a system. I think I’m going to use Just Press Record when I’m out and about. I’ll use Evernote for organizing and tagging book notes and doing things where the output is eventually text. I’ll use ScreenFlow like I do already, for recording long-form audio. (Eventually I’m hoping this transition to like 2 minute videos. We’ll see)

  • Morning workout: I’ve been following the 5-day split outlined in Bigger, Leaner, Stronger. Getting to the gym 5 days each week seems around where a goal should be. It’s attainable but also not easy.

    A challenge I often have in the morning is deciding between writing, recording, or going to the gym. The first two always seem more fun. If health is a priority, I’d need a lot of justification to say the first two are better than going to the gym.

    I’m going to work to make it as mindless as possible to get to the gym.

  • Sauna meditation: The advantages here are two-fold. The sauna is relaxing. It’s another carrot for going to the gym. Likely a better one. It also gives me a place to meditate. Whether it’s an ideal meditation environment is up for debate. It has one big advantage: absolutely no digital distractions. Today I sat for 10 minutes.
  • Writing: As mentioned at the top, I’m writing at the gym right now. Doing everything before this put me in the right mindset for writing. I’m also at a location with no distractions. I don’t know anyone here. The cafe area I’m sitting at is huge, comfortable, and I’m facing the water.

    I don’t worry about “should I be doing something else instead” because I took care of other priorities already.

I should probably report back tonight to say how the rest of the day goes. It seems like starting off on the best foot possible. This was a great morning1. It’s up to me to make it a routine.

  1. I read The Miracle Morning a couple years ago. The acronym in the book is SAVERS, which was something like… let me look this up. I want to see how many of the letters I’m hitting without deliberately having that in mind. Okay it’s silence (check), affirmations, visualization, exercise (check), reading (check if audiobooks count), scribing (check).Which leaves affirmations and visualization. I’ll do affirmations as a voice recording on the way to work. I haven’t really tried visualization. I’ll read up more on it.

The four pillars of health

Note: This would be Journal 21 or Issue 4, depending on how you’re counting. I’m going to stop numbering these. Eventually I’ll stop writing notes explaining that I’ve stopped numbering these.

After reading Tools of Titans earlier this year, I wanted to prioritize my health. If I really want to prioritize health, my daily choices should go toward that. Including media consumption. I’m trying to read and listen to less about productivity/career/business and more about fitness/nutrition/meditation.

A great place to start is Robb Wolf’s latest book, Wired to Eat: Transform Your Appetite and Personalize Your Diet for Rapid Weight Loss and Amazing Health. It builds on guidelines he popularized in The Paleo Solution.

Wired to Eat is about finding out what works for you. In his podcast appearances, he says he used lean closer to there being One True Way. But he saw more and more that the answer was often “it depends”.

The best I’ve felt was when I was eating around 80-90% paleo. Then I tried white rice out and seemed to digest it pretty well. It became part of my mental model of paleo. Then things got off the rails because I can eat a lot of rice, and I did.

White rice is my best example of “it depends”. I can digest it well, but now I know it’s something I’ll eat way too much of.

Wired to Eat has a great chapter looking beyond nutrition. Your food is one pillar of four. The other three are movement, sleep, and community.

Move move move

Nutrition and fitness go hand in hand. Here are some guidelines from Wired to Eat:

Most days: Get out and move. As much as you can, doing as many things as you can. You don’t need to exhaust yourself. Make it fun and “leave a little in the tank” so you are not so tired and sore that you either do nothing for a week or give up entirely.

I’ve been walking more. I’ve tried different activities while walking to make walking without a destination an activity itself. When there is a destination, the walks feel shorter and are more enjoyable.

I re-joined my old gym because it’s the nicest gym I’ve been a part of. It’s not a chore to go there. I sit in the sauna as a reward for lifting weights. They have basketball courts so I enjoy shooting around once in a while. Once in a while I play pick-up. (And am sore for a longer while.)

I’m trying to work yoga back into my schedule because it’s hard, I learn a lot each time, but it also lets me keep something in the tank.

I’m trying a lot of things to find a lot of things I enjoy so that I’ll move more.

Eight hours is good, but you can do more

I’ve generally been pretty good with sleep. We have blackout curtains the bedroom, I have blue blocker goggles, I spray myself with magnesium after a shower at night (learned that from Shawn Stevenson’s Sleep Smarter), I have apple cider and honey before sleep, and on and on.

Im doing a lot of small things but miss a big one: I often don’t sleep early enough. From Wired to Eat:

You may think sleeping midnight to eight A.M. is as good as ten P.M. to six A.M., but studies show this is not the case.

I’m going to work on this. I know 10:00am might not be realistic, but my goal is usually midnight which often means 12:30am or 1:00am. Shooting for 10:45pm will work well.

Make some friends

From Wired to Eat:

Some are pretty active, others less so, but the key point is that you like the activity and enjoy the community: yoga, martial arts, CrossFit, a walking or running group, an art class, a language class, volunteer work, etc. I don’t know what the right fit is for you, but I strongly encourage you to find ways to improve your social connectivity.

I want to apply this in some way and have been trying a few different things. I’ve mentioned that I started doing yoga. I haven’t gone back to the studio in a while (my ClassPass subscription ended). I tried Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a couple times. I’m still trying it out to see if it’s something I want to keep trying out long term.

That might be hard to find, but it might be worth the search.

I took a few yoga classes earlier this year. I’ve taken CrossFit. I’ve taken a couple Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes. I’ve been playing basketball every few weeks. I don’t know which one I want to do regularly. Basketball is highest on the list as far as which activity I enjoy. It’s also the one that’s the least in my control—I could play pick-up at the gym but then it becomes an activity I don’t enjoy. (I’m short.)

I’m also thinking about non-fitness communities. In 18 Minutes (check out my book notes), Peter Bergman describes some steps to figuring out your best activities.

Look at the activities you do alone and figure out if you can (and want to) do them in a way that includes other people. For example, join a garden club. Or a reading or meditation group. Or write something that other people read. If you can (and want to) make them activities that include other people, keep them on the list. If not, then cross them off.

Along with media input, I know my own output is important also. If you’re writing about something, you end up thinking about those concepts a lot. I’m going to try writing more about being healthier and happier.

I can’t wait to show you my future six pack and the happiness I gained in the journey there. (Affirmations, baby!)

Stopping numbering to try and stop blogging about blogging

I’ve stopped numbering these posts. One of the things I mentioned pretty often is that I don’t want to blog about blogging. Well the problem is that I do want to (like I’m doing right now). I just know it’s probably not the best use of time.

I’m going to try to write single posts around one topic again. One newsletter I look forward to every week is Eric Barker’s Barking up the Wrong Tree. Each week’s post is written around one topic. His latest is about 1500 words about positive self-talk.

Journal 20: What I’m skimming

Welcome to issue 3 or issue 20, depending on how you’re counting. I wrote new things this week, which I’ll probably share next week. Because I have a small backlog of writing that from previous weeks. Now I can finally practice scheduling posts.

I can also do some quick links to things right here. It’s like the honorable mentions of things you might want to take a look at.

What I’m watching — Jerrod Carmichael: 8 (HBO, trailer on YouTube)

A few weeks ago, I wrote notes for Jerrod Carmichael’s appearance on Tim Ferriss’s podcast. I didn’t realize he had a new HBO special until I was browsing HBO last night. If you liked Jerrod’s first special, you’ll like this also.

Oh and the Dave Chappelle Netflix specials are great also, but I’m guessing you’ve already seen them. Chappelle has a bit about going to a Kevin Hart show. I like Kevin Hart but a tier below Chappelle and Chris Rock. I really liked Kevin’s tweet responding to someone saying Chappelle is better.

What I’m reading

Next week I’ll share some things I’ve written about prioritizing health. I’ve been trying to shift my media consumption in that direction. I bought Michael Matthews’s Bigger, Leaner, Stronger on Kindle and Audible because they were on sale for a couple bucks. I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s great and the workouts look reasonable. Particularly amongst other material written for guys who are like 19 and function better with a hangover than I would now after 10 hours of sleep.

I also bought Robb Wolf’s Wired to Eat. He wrote The Paleo Solution, so that might give you a sense of what Wired to Eat is about. I always say that the time in my life that I felt healthiest was when I was following a paleo diet pretty closely. (I also was like 24 and functioned better with a hangover than I would now after 10 hours of sleep.)

If you’ve got time, check out Robb Wolf’s appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast.

The hodgepodge that comes from treating books like blogs and audiobooks like podcasts

In March, I’ve been experimenting with skimming more and not feeling the need to finish books from cover to cover. Oh yeah, so I’ve been reading:

  • Wired to Eat
  • Bigger, Leaner, Stronger
  • Hitman by Bret Hart (my favorite wrestler but man nothing is ever his fault according to him)
  • Born to Fight (MMA fighter Mark Hunt’s biography)
  • Flow (finally reading something by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi instead of something referencing him a dozen times)
  • Snow Crash (I finished this and it reminds me of Infinite Jest in that the writing and world-building is great but I needed to do some Googling to know what the hell happened)

And then an assortment of audiobooks:

  • Sapiens
  • How to Build Self-Discipline to Exercise
  • The Urban Monk
  • The Power of Thought
  • Designing Your Life
  • The Art of Possibility

What’s happened is that I’m skimming more but still feeling like I should read some of them thoroughly, which causes some kind of anxiety. I’ll stick to it for a few more weeks, but it seems to be a step back in practicing focus.

Shane Parrish and Naval Ravikant: Monkey mind

Ravikant talks about the monkey mind and throughout the podcast he talks about not being as angry as he used to be. He says that he would go through a lot of the same things but without the emotion and anger.

To be able to control the monkey mind you need to recognize that it’s there in the first place. When you sit down and meditate for the first time one of the things that you can accomplish pretty quickly is recognizing how many thoughts you have banging around your brain.

I’ve been reading Snow Crash and one of the excerpts I liked is where he talks about hearing some crazy story and taking all the facts in and what that process feels like.

Hiro puts his head in his hands. He’s not exactly thinking about this; he’s letting it ricochet around in his skull, waiting for it to come to rest.

Our minds really can be like those lottery things where all of the ping-pong balls are bouncing around. Or like the Crystal Maze where all the money is flying around in the chamber.

With enough meditation I’m hoping I can be more like bubble bobble where all the balls are organized and I can choose which one to focus on and move them around freely.

Being a straight-A student, even after school ends

I wrote about Cal Newport’s appearance on Pat Flynn’s podcast. I mentioned that they go through Cal’s history as an author. They talk briefly about How to Become a Straight-A Student, and Cal says that the one thing that matters above all others as a student is active recall.

In the past couple weeks since listening to the podcast, I’ve been recording voice notes to try applying the concept in a non-academic setting. It’s been good exercise just talking through post ideas to organize my thoughts.

That made me realize that these blog posts are very short essays. It struck me that How to Become a Straight-A Student might have some other useful tools.

It did. He talks about falling off the wagon:

To date, I have yet to have successfully followed any time-management system without interruption for longer than two months. I try, but inevitably I hit a rough patch. Typically, this happens during the few days following a really busy period—I’m so exhausted from the intensity of the preceding work that I find myself unable to even mention the word “to-do” without breaking into a cold sweat.

There’s value in knowing you’ll fall off the wagon. Mostly because you can prepare for it. He explains how a student can reset and get back on the system.

Let’s apply that elsewhere… say you signed up for a gym to re-prioritize your health. I’m trying to improve on planning workouts ahead of time. Now I know to also look for speed bumps where I’ll fall off the wagon and have a plan to reset and get back on it.

I’m going to a bachelor party in Austin in a couple weeks. There’s going to be barbecue in amounts ranging from mental guilt from eating to just plain physical pain from eating.

It’s a very, very clear speed bump. I’ve got a free training session as a sign-up bonus so I’m planning to schedule that for the week that I get back from Austin. Getting back on the wagon is easier with a little help, and I’ll be ready to be a straight-A student.

NAQ (Never asked questions): Why are you using voice notes for rough drafts?

I wrote about The Clown vs. The Editor as part of book notes for How to Write Funny by Scott Dikkers. Here’s my description of the collaboration between the clown and editor:

The Clown, being an irresponsible clown, hands this pile of scraps to The Editor and expects him to get to work. It’s better if the scraps have been sitting for a few days. Otherwise The Editor is aware that he’s actually me, except with much less face paint.

Getting to the first draft is important. Speed is good here. Authors call it the throw-up draft, the down draft, and many other names emphasizing that whatever’s going on the page is bad, and that’s okay.

I’m hoping that voice notes serve as a very first, very rough draft. A clown doesn’t sit at a desk at all. But he would certainly do some voice recordings.

I’ve experimented with dictating text. I would end up with giant walls of text that were unusable because I didn’t want to revise. Dictation meant talking out punctuation, which felt stilted. It was a middle ground that wasn’t thoughtful or fluid.

Voice notes are very fluid because you can’t self edit.

I want to make sure to stick to a process. I’ll use the right tool:

  • Working on ideas and organizing information: mind maps and outlines
  • Voice draft: record a five minute voice note
  • First draft: Ulysses

Five minutes is a good amount of time to feel out whether I know what I’m trying to say. It gives me time to reorganize a little bit. And it lets me go off on a tangent. When I hit five minutes, I can start a new note to either re-focus or go ahead and explore that other idea. Five minutes is short enough that I don’t feel like it’s really wasting any significant time, even if nothing usable comes from it.

For the past couple weeks, the recording part has been working pretty well.

Now I’m practicing going through voice notes and write a first draft. This is the beginning of a system I see a lot of promise in and plan to improve on in future posts.

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.