Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.
A friend admitted his admiration a while ago. ‘I’d be lucky to read one book a month and you seem to read one in a day.’ That’s an exaggeration in absolute but not relative terms. I read a lot more but he’s a lot busier.
Luckily for both of us, it’s easier to read more, or watch YouTube videos or listen to more podcasts. The problem isn’t finding good stuff to consume, but prioritizing it. After reading more than a book a week, listening to untold hours, and having an eclectic mix of YouTube view history, here are some things I’ve found that work.
Get a foothold. Often it takes a snippet of knowledge to get started on a topic. Before I started watching the Nudgestock videos I watched a lot of Rory Sutherland. Watching Rory I understood the kind of things he was interested in and had some framing for what was to come. Each episode built my pyramid of knowledge. However…
Be okay not knowing. The a16z podcast is the most advanced show in my regular queue and I know nothing about “Damage-free Genome Editing — Next in CRISPR” or “What’s in the Water at the George Church Lab?” That’s okay. I listen if it’s interesting. If it’s not it means I don’t have a foothold. Listening to something familiar is like swimming in a lake and a paddleboat goes by. Anyone can heft themselves in, operate the controls, and tool around.
Listening to something new is like watching a cruise ship motor past. You can’t get on, up to speed, or understand it without a lot of studies. That’s fine, watch it pass. Part of lifelong learning is realizing that unlike school, none of this on the test, there is no test. You can always learn it later, or not at all.
Skip relentlessly. There’s no such thing as a bad book, just a bad book for you. I struggled for years to read Taleb before he clicked, whereas Tyler Cowen I could read every day. For podcasts, I’ll start every episode in my feed but skip until something sticks. You have no commitment to finish each book, episode, or video. Remember what Scott Malpass told Ted Seides, “At the end of the day we don’t really care much about what other people are doing. We’ve got our own risk tolerance, our own mission. We are going to do what we need to do for Norte Dame.”
That’s what your learning is too, what you need to do for you.
Designing. Good design is ‘paving the cowpaths’. Your goal to consume more shouldn’t be to absorb an entire curriculum but to make it a daily habit. Like finances or health, the small regular steps compound better. How can you design your day to make listening, reading, or watching easier?
- On YouTube, their recommendation engine is very good at suggesting new things. This cuts both ways. If you browse highlights, vloggers, or viral videos that’s what you’ll see. A new profile for ‘learning’ might do the job.
- On Podcasts, go for a walk. This is my favorite thing to do. There’s something about being outside that makes this all the more enjoyable.
- On Reading, choose your medium. The Kindle is great for battery life, portability (underrated by most), and focus. Also great is an old iPad where internet browsing is too slow to be comfortable. Or physical books if you’re one of those sorts. Find the design that fits you best.
Taking notes. A frequent question I get is, ‘How do I take notes?’ Much like good design, it’s what fits you. Lately, I’ve used, but not committed to, the Apple Notes app. Here’s a sample of the Epstein note:
Note taking is great too because it makes the information stick. If you’re hiring podcasts, books, and videos for education then it’s not just consumption that performs this job, but production too.
In that note, Epstein references kind and wicked environments and they’re good descriptors for learning in school and learning in life. School is kind where the things you practice will be on the test. Life is wicked where pop quizzes rule the day. You’re preparing for the latter, which means there’s no curriculum to study. Follow your curiosity to whatever weird podcasts, books, and videos you can.
Thanks for reading.