Dec '19 Learnings: "Reading less on purpose, no Internet 'till Noon, perfect low-carb burritos"

Dec '19 Learnings: "Reading less on purpose, no Internet 'till Noon, perfect low-carb burritos"

December marks the second month of logging learnings in Notion---rounding up a decade feels particularly helpful for anyone looking to learn more, focus better, and drop old vices as we enter 2020.

Personal Development

1. Drill new habits by practicing the motions of cue ->response 10-15x (James clear; can't find exact link, might have been in an email newsletter but see repository of his most read ideas here)

  • If you're trying to floss more, literally go and practice flossing and then brushing a whole bunch of times once you set the goal.
  • Drilling is an intensely consistent part of peak sports performance; yet almost nobody does it when rehearsing we play out our life.
  • James' definition of "a habit = an action you frequently and automatically do in response to your environment". The only way to QUICKLY frequently and automatically do an action is to practice that action. I could either wait an entire month so I can practice 30 reps of waking up and meditating first thing, or I could lay down in bed, get up to an alarm sound, and hit the cushion.

2. Use semantic "in the past, I've __________" instead of describing yourself with present-tense labels (Forgot source)

  • Here's two sentences
  1. "I have a bad temper"
  2. "In the past, I've struggled with my temper"
  • The first is declarative, definitive; it makes the speaker out to be a victim of their own making. The second is still honest, and self-aware, but recognizes that every moment, every conversation is a new chance to reinvent oneself

3. Read less books, work actively with their contents (Me)

  • I know everybody says "Bill Gates reads 50 books a year, Elon used to read 2 a day, blah blah blah." I'm not interested in reading volume for the sake of volume. I read books (at least non-fiction, which is 90% of my consumption) to enact radically life-altering actions and perspectives in my life
  • To that end, I've considered dramatically slowing down the rate at which I read and making active practices of the knowledge gathered to apply them.
  • Some Ideas:
  1. Read one page at a time, if I am confused about something, put the book down and dive into a Wikipedia rabbit hole (Naval Ravikant does this). It forces me to understand what's on the page rather than memorize language I will regurgitate later
  2. Create book summaries to drive SEO content. I google book summaries a lot; so do a lot of other people. After discovering Nat Eliason through his summary of Denial of Death, I'm starting to think summaries could be a reliable traffic driver.
  3. Leverage book summaries into relationships with authors. Haven't personally tried this, but I could imagine, ALA my favorite strategy, the ____________, reaching out to an author saying "hey I've summarized your book for my audience, would love to conduct a quick email interview with some followup questions"


1. "If you are not embarrassed of your first launch, you shipped too late" (Common silicon valley trope, I've just had this resurfaced to me recently)

  • Always a good reminder to always be publishing. Unlike with physical products, in the age of the Internet, versioning is free. I can share a half-finished edit of a blog post to this newsletter group and update it next week for the website at no cost.
  • This helps me avoid Parkinson's law; tasks will swell to the amount of time you allot to them. By using the filter of "what do I need to finish with this piece of content to actually publish?" I avoid a lot of twiddling

2. Great ideas are unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and framed by stories (Made to Stick by Dan Heath - Derek Sivers Summary)

  • What makes certain ideas spread? Sivers distills Dan Heath's best seller into the 5 components of a good message
  • Love this section:
  • "Ken Peters, principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced that the entire faculty will travel to Sacramento next Thursday for a colloquium in new teaching methods. Among the speakers will be anthropologist Margaret Mead,... etc"Most students rearranged those facts into a basic AP one-sentence headline. Finally the teacher said, "The lead to the story is 'THERE WILL BE NO SCHOOL ON THURSDAY!'"

Life Lessons

1. When you say yes to something, list all the things that means you are saying no to (Gary Keller, the one thing, summary)

  • Opportunity cost is everywhere, and plays an ESPECIALLY big role on time constraints set by commitments. This is a huge problem area for me; I often have 2-3x the creative projects that a sane person should keep up, and even though my ego likes to maintain that perception, it's often counterproductive to me actually accomplishing.
  • This reminds me of Peter Drucker's idea of don't set priorities, set posterities, aka your not to do list
  • Linkedin following or even building up subscribers for my email, focusing on podcast

2. True wealth = no longer trading your time for money (Nathan Barry)

  • When I was younger, I used to hear about my father's description of a lawyer's typical going rate at a big firm, anywhere from ($300-$1000 an hour) and my jaw would drop. Having been exposed to more business models, it's now clear to me that if you can productize your service, you can decouple your earnings from always having to churn out work.
  • A corollary of this: by profiting off of your most lucrative income streams (let's say, putting the burners on a bunch of rental properties), you can invest hours in an activity that would otherwise give you very low hourly rate but lots of intrinsic enjoyment.  (let's say, making sh*tty clay sculptures)

Wellness and health

1. Turn off Internet after dinner, don't turn it back on until after lunch the next day (Craig Mod)

  • "The medium was no longer the message--it was just an asshole"
  • Since you ALL need another reminder to put down the dang IG feed in the morning, here it is :) I'm struck by Craig's command of the written language. He strings you along an incredible Odyssey of the mind for fighting the attention algos. Practically speaking, when I've tried waking up and conducting offline activities; I've found my thinking, writing, socializing, choreographing SO MUCH clearer. Starting to suspect writer's block is a symptom of the Internet.
  • I can't keep Internet off before Noon on weekdays, but I can implement this in two other smaller practical ways: 1) No Internet before Noon Saturdays and Sundays and 2) No internet during pomodoros expect for websites I NEED for research which I will prepopulate into tabs

2. Bring sunflower seeds (salty) and super dark chocolate (sweet) to fight sugar cravings at work (My therapist)

Random life hacks

1. Use collard green leaf wraps for burrito substitutes (Utility depends on how many burritos you eat)

  • Been running a Whole30 for the month of January, and one of the biggest problems of low-carb nutrition is the lack of flavor vehicles (as Brooke fondly refers to bread, chips, and tortillas).
  • Let's be honest, lettuce wraps are garbage. They're flimsy, disintegrate easily, and spill sauces all over your lap. COLLARD GREEN WRAPS THOUGH, those are the heavy-duty Big Brother of lettuce wraps, and they make for some real great substituting.

2. Copy and paste these invisible spaces in these brackets {⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀} for line breaks on Instagram posts. I've been rekt by the formatting that Instagram implements.

  • NOTE: You must make sure to delete the space at the end of a period of a line. ← that one, otherwise the next line will not be skipped.

Business (mostly takeways from Bain)

1. Email back new workstreams with a confirmation of receipt and expected response time.

  • You're probably saying "Wtf Michael, how do you not already do this?" but in all honesty, I did not until my supervisor on this case at work gave me feedback about the mental relief you provide when responding with a simple "Got it, will send back a review back to you by 5PM".
  • I brought the point to Phil, my therapist, who's an ADHD specialist — he calls this technique personal PR, and it's particularly important for ADHDers (is there a better word for that?) who without bookmarking social accountability pieces like this can get stuck into personal black holes and external perceptions of laziness and unreliability

2. Probe and protect team sustainability very early on.

  • My current project is by all means not a burner, but our first week we got hit by a client request that had us in the office until 10-11PM a couple nights in a row. Our manager responded swiftly with a team check-in and a follow-up conversation with the client/partner to help mitigate the risk of a similar surprise again.
  • This signaled a lot of things: that caring about sustainability is not just lip service, it's an actively tended to process. It also communicated that she was willing to risk career capital to stand up for team experience, an incredible leadership move and one I will be stealing

Curiosities to explore next month

1. Algorithm for selecting books

  • If books take me, on average 10-15 hours to complete, they constitute a HUGE time investment, and not one that should be taken lightly. I'm trying to develop a rough set of heuristics for deciding my next books. Quick thoughts: a filter of "will this change my life" and also grouping 2-3 consecutive reads on the same topic

2. Hierarchy of knowledge

  • Similar to above, wondering if I can distill a "Mazlow's hierarchy of knowledge" for prioritizing knowledge acquisition over a lifetime. I'm imagining social skills and "learning how to learn" are the most fundamental.