Nov '19 Learning Roundup: "Shoulding" On Yourself, Keeping Plants Alive, and Lying to People on Gmail

Nov '19 Learning Roundup: "Shoulding" On Yourself, Keeping Plants Alive, and Lying to People on Gmail

Two major roadblocks have stood in my way of personal growth lately:

  1. Forgetting what I learn ← kind of annoying
  2. APPLYING what I learn ← not just annoying, INFURIATING.

It's infuriating because I am consuming all. the. time. Listening to podcasts, having engaging conversations, receiving professional feedback from my direct supervisor. And by fault of human cognition. an incredibly embarrassing % of this probably gets lost in the same mental black hole as the food I had for breakfast last Thursday.

I have no control over one of the root problems to this: information overload— I'm bombarded with some 34 GB of information a day, so naturally signal gets lost in the noise. What I DO have control over is a filtration system. My running hypothesis is that through the right approach to information capture, organization, and sharing, my brain won't leak valuable insights like a sieve (or even if it does, I'll have captured it externally)

I'm committing (for now) to publishing a monthly roundup of actionable life lessons I've captured: from podcasts, articles, books, conversations, events. I hope these roundups serve three aims:

1) Filter learnings for interesting-ness

If a life lesson isn't worth my written endorsement, it isn't worth my attention. The true test of of an experience is whether you would share that with others. My reputation matters, so I piggyback that social pressure to focus on the best ideas.

It's the difference between a restaurant that has you thinking "meh, ok, I'm full", and a restaurant you are DYING to hold your wedding reception at.

Once I've externalized, these roundups hopefully generate discussion. The learnings that resonate most with my audience warrant more digging into in further conversation.

Another plus: refining my understanding through explaining, ala the cliche: "you don't really understand something unless you can teach it to a five year old."

2) Internalize knowledge + make fun of my past-self

When I was in college, I kept a poster of "best quotes" written in the bathroom so I would stare at it every time I had to pee. I can STILL recite many today:

Man cannot recreate himself without pain, for he is both the sculptor and the marble - Aristotle(?) but (s/o to my homie Ryan)
If we get on a treadmill and start competing for who can run harder/faster/longer, two outcomes will happen: either I beat you, or I die - Will Smith (paraphrased a bit...)
Chasing a snake that bites you only drives the poison further. - Unknown

These roundups essentially externalized a "breadcrumb trail of growth" for me to look at whenever relieving myself :)

On laughing at myself: I'm serious. One of my favorite things to do is look back on a prior version of myself and chuckle at my naivety—it's why we find "letters to future ourselves" or time capsules so entertaining. I expect most of the ideas that I muse on here to not lead to any meaningful life change. (In 2013, I collected learnings on how to smuggle in a hedgehog from out of state because they're illegal in California and Osker and I wanted one for our dorm room). 80% of these learnings will not last the test of time.  But the 20% that do? That show up again and again and again? That connect and revolve around a central theme? That's money.

3) Deliver value to my community

My greatest joy: recommending or teaching something to someone, and then coming back later with"that was life changing". Documenting my learnings lets me replicate that experience at scale. Perhaps a reader agrees my 10/10 tip on discrete nose picking is truly a 10/10. OR, because "one man's trash is another's treasure", a finding that I don't find compelling is a huge source of inspiration for someone else. Learning is most powerful when publicized; if I'm not super clear on the benefits of a learning or it supporting evidence, I omit.

These posts let me embrace idea utilitarianism, a bias towards life-improving, actionable knowledge. Specifics over cliches. As E.B. White espouses, the best writing is specific not vague. An illustration of this: "eat a good breakfast" is cliche, and eye-roll worthy. "Eat 20 grams of protein with 20 minutes of waking up" (Thanks Tim)" is replicable and testable.

Idea utilitarianism doesn't mean reject advice that's not income generating or quantifiable. In fact, I usually value the "touchy feely", more — I send new newsletter subscribers "The Tail End" (primer on why we should cherish the little time we have left with our parents) and "Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person" (critique of the Western notion of finding "the one"—hint: they don't exist!)

Without further preamble, here is my collection for November 2019 [No source indicates I forgot or I came up with this myself]


Foam roll your lats: they one of the most important muscle groups to self-care for. Interesting-ness: 7/10. Utility: 8/10 Source: Ben Greenfield - Nerdy Ways to Lose Fat, Build Muscle, and Maintain a Nice Body as you Age

  • The lymphatic system is simultaneously one of THE most important organ systems and one of THE least discussed in school. It's our body's way of and flushing out toxins; however it has no automatic circulation mechanism like the heart serves for blood pumping.
  • As a result of this, we can experience incredible health benefits simply by compressing tissue in some of our largest muscles. The lats in particular, because of our sedentary lifestyles, don't get a lot of natural motion (unlike our glutes and hips) so you should tend to them intentionally.


Ditch S.M.A.R.T Goals for F.A.S.T. Goals. Interesting-ness: 6/10. Utility: 8/10 Source: Daniel Pink - Smarter, Better, Faster

  • Google SMART goals if you're not familiar. F.A.S.T Goals are Frequently reviewed. Ambitious, Specific, and Transparent. It provides guidance for not just defining the goal but executing on it, which is WAY more important.
  • Under these guidelines, I have to clarify for myself how I will review an intention that I set + I have to implement some sharing mechanism so other people can hold me accountable.
  • A corollary of this is to include both a baseline AND stretch version of a particular goal. This creates both a ceiling and a floor.
  • Example: I want to redesign my website this week
  • Baseline: I want to reorganize my blog posts for mobile readability
  • Stretch: The above PLUS create custom animations that make the photos for my blog fade in and out of saturation (got this one done! Check and mouse hover anything)

Stack BAD habits with GOOD habits. Interesting-ness: 8/10. Utility: 7/10

  • I don't check social media notifications before hitting my morning journal. By imposing this restriction: I get to piggyback the dopamine-ridden urge for social validation and funnel that into focusing on accomplishing important, but way less exciting actions. Other applications I want to try to implement using this, foam rolling while watching Youtube, eating all my veggies in the day before any starchy carbs.

Go to talks to purposely get bored and use that to be creative. Interesting-ness: 9/10. Utility: 7/10

  • Last week, I literally went to a conference, zoned out for 6 hours, and had NO REGRETS, because I pulled out my computer about 1 hour in and churned out my entire newsletter. I have begun to put my ADHD-induced daydreaming to use, because a live event forces me to sit still and not physically wander while providing white noise for focus.

Life Hacks:

Use ice cubes for watering plants so that water comes out slowly. Interesting-ness: 9/10. Utility: 6/10 (depends on how many plants you own) Source: Brooke :)

Move all apps off homescreen except for "aspirationals" and manually search for all other apps by swiping down from home. Interesting-ness: 9/10. Utility: 9/10. Source: Indistractible - Nir Eyal

  • This has SINGLEHANDEDLY shifted my "swiping and unlocking my phone experience" from an automatic to an intentional decision-laden process.
  • My home bar: iMessage, Notion, MP3 Playlist of my own podcast that I'm editing, & Instapaper
  • My home screen: these are aspirational apps that encourage healthy, not mind-rotting activities Muse (meditation app), Upright Go (app for tracking posture), Timeular (time tracking).
  • Distracting apps: Instagram, Gmail. Google Chrome, all go on some random 5th page so that I have to purposely think through typing them out if I want to use the.

Stop using a default "downloads folder" and spend the 30 seconds to actually just save a file to where I will need it later. Interesting-ness: 3/10. Utility: 7/10

  • Don't need to elaborate much here but my life has become SO MUCH LESS ANNOYING without random files dropped in. It takes so little time to decide where I want something to be downloaded (assuming the right folders were set up pre-preemptively)

Add "Sent from my iPhone" for all my Gmail responses (even the ones sent from desktop). Interesting-ness: 7/10. Utility: 6/10.

  • Haven't personally implemented this as I think it's a bit borderline dishonest, but I am all for cutting down email time. Experiment with it and let me know how it goes?


Stack multiple books on the same topic and read them consecutively. Interesting-ness: 6/10. Utility: 9/10 Source: Nat Eliason- How to read More: finish 100+ Books This Year

  • If you just take ONE person's piece of advice verbatim, it's like copying somebody's lotto ticket numbers. If you take the time to investigate the top books in that field, triangulate and connect ideas, and build your own mental model, you are so much more likely to develop a holistic understanding of the topic.

Accept that when learning something, the majority of your time will be spent on a frustrating plateau, but then you will suddenly rocket in growth Interesting-ness: 8/10. Utility: 5/10 Source: James Clear - Plateau of Latent Potential

  • Our learning follows this curve. after ascending up a beginner's luck, you get stuck. But your subconscious is continuing to build on progress until finally a breakthrough occurs that had been building up the whole time.

Relationship Wisdom:

"Where this is conflict, there is unmet need". Interesting-ness: 8/10. Utility: 9/10. Source - Brooke ❤️

  • This has been an incredibly powerful reframe for myself to have more compassion for others when arguments get started

"Stop "shoulding" all over yourself. Interesting-ness: 8/10. Utility: 10/10 Source: Tara Brach.

  • Not much explanation needed here. Pain and inadequacy come from the word "should".

Be kind first, then right. Interesting-ness: 6/10. Utility: 9/10 Source: Haruki Marukami

  • "Always remember that to argue, and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are arguing against. It is painful to lose your reality, so be kind, even if you are right."


Marketing is applied empathy—if you're doing it well your business should be providing people things they already wanted. Interesting-ness: 7/10. Utility: 7/10. Source: Billy Bross on Email Marketing - Forte Labs Interview [Paywalled]

The world is efficient. There are no “get rich quick schemes”. If you think there is, its someone trying to get rich off of you. Interesting-ness: 8/10. Utility: 8/10 Source: Naval Ravikant on Joe Rogan - GO LISTEN TO THIS RIGHT NOW!!!

Distance to impact does not make work fulfilling - 73% of doctors would not recommend the profession to their kids. Interesting-ness: 7/10. Utility: 5/10


Meditation is really difficult to adopt in the West because we're already so isolated and lonely. Interesting-ness: 10/10. Utility: 4/10 Source: Isa Gucciardi, Sacred Stream

  • I've scratched my head for a long while for why it's so hard for people that I recommend meditation to (and also, why I find it so hard MYSELF to meditate with it consistently). As it turns out, in our workaholic, career-prestige-obsessed culture, encouraging more solitude is a point of friction for people because it usually stands to cut into our socialization time. In the east, meditation is culturally more integrated because solitude is a respite from the collective.

Curiosities to Explore:

We shouldn't be afraid of AI taking over the world, according to Naval (See above interview). Current development is, in his opinion, nowhere close to general AI (the singularity hype is meganerds "God Complexing" because they have lost religion and need some existential end-times to ponder about)

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Grounding—- the idea that modern life causes an imbalance of positive ions and we need to walk barefoot on raw earth to rebalance our charge. Sounds hippy dippy but I'm interested.