The Inescapable Nature of US News

“As a European, I’m getting increasingly tired of American influence, from media, politics, work & lifestyle etc. It is overwhelming how much input is coming from US when it doesn’t relate to my expe…”

A thread from @jelenajansson

I saw this thread a few days ago and empathized. America has influenced my life and culture in many ways through my whole life but it feels increasingly ever present. News is perhaps the most effective example where I can tell you all sorts about the ins and outs of American politics now (and yet I deliberately avoided studying American politics when at university and chose different modules on other political systems). Perhaps this is purely due to America’s profound influence on the rest of the world, and yet surely that is self-fulfilling: the more America is reported on, the greater its influence. Looking at the rising influence of Qanon conspiracies in UK and Germany with anti-mask and anti-vaccination movements, its absurd that inventions to defend the explain away the US President’s incompetence have become global.

There’s nothing wrong with sharing about culture and influence and there is a lot I like about the states, but the 24/7 US News and Culture is becoming too much.

Future You Is Dumb (sorry!)

Back when I was a teacher, we had to fill in a register and record of work. This helped other teachers know what we had done in the last class and so they could prepare material for the following class. Some teachers saw this as unnecessary as they never shared classes, and so when they were off sick they would be contacted several times to find out what on earth they had been up to for the last few months. Most teachers included a few rough notes and some references to materials that could be helpful up to a point. I made it my aim to help my future self…who is an idiot.

I have a bad natural memory; I forget almost everything. It’s one of the reasons I love pen, paper, and task management apps — they have helped me avoid many problems. However, putting a note down doesn’t always help my future self.

A note can be useful, or it can be confusing.

When writing a note we are prone to the “curse of knowledge” where we assume that our future self will have the same information at hand that we do. That is rarely true. Instead, we will have a whole different set of memories and data clouding our perspective.

Assuming that our future self is a dumb idiot who won’t remember a thing is a great way to write a note that will be useful in the future.

And it was also a great way to write notes in records of work that helped teachers who had to cover classes.

Blessed are the Seekers of Justice and Peacemakers.

³Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. ⁴Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. ⁵Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth. ⁶Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. ⁷Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. ⁸Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. ⁹Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ¹⁰Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. ¹¹Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. ¹²Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

A Thought on Cancel Culture — There's a Lot We Don't See

I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot and don’t have clear ideas. I both think that there is good and bad within this movement (and that it’s both new and old). One recent idea I had is that we focus on those who have been cancelled. We don’t notice the times when people aren’t “cancelled” because there was no outcome. That’s why don’t mention however many events a controversial speaker went to, only the ones that were cancelleed. On the other side, we don’t know about all the terrible acts that people carry out and face no reprecussions for.

How to Be a Genius [It's Not What You Think]

In Greek mythology, a genius wasn’t a person, it was a spirit who came and inspired the creator. But over time, we started to call people of intelligence and creativity geniuses. Elizabeth Gilbert would like us to return to this Greek idea and take the pressure off creative people to perform.

I think we could take a different route.

We could choose to inspire others. We could choose to take on the role of those spirits and offer encouragement and prompts.

We don’t need to do anything spectacular, but just offer a little spark to help.

We can all be geneses.

My Simple Trick to Tackle Writers Block

It never cease to amaze me how often I’m stuck, unable to start an article, section, or sentence and I tell myself > “Just write what the point is that you want to make, just clarify the thought.”

and sometimes I write exactly what should go there. Most of the time, however, it sucks.

But now I know what to write.

🔗 The Big Three - The Accidental Creative

The Big Three - The Accidental Creative > Keeping a shortlist of open creative loops in front of you consistently will help you stay focused on what matters, and prompt your mind to be looking for potentially useful creative stimuli in your environment.

I’m reading (well, listening on Audiobook) The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry and he shared this simple idea above.

I love it.

Creativity insight so often comes by looking at problems from a different perspective or noticing a connection with something else. Keeping a list in front of you with three problems where you need some insight helps invite these connections and perspective shifts.

I’m trying it, and I’ll report back.

Epic vs Apple thoughts: Whoever wins, we lose.

Apple is in the wrong: the App Store needs to change.

Epic’s solution does nothing for me as a consumer and sounds terrible. Epic is acting “holier than thou” although they are clearly working for their own bottom line (which as a business they should work towards!).

I actually feel that Spotify has greater reason to be upset with Apple due to Apple’s direct competition and default service. I suspect letting different apps be the default (including music etc) and more out of store payment options would solve the main issues. I also think that my solutions wouldn’t address Epic games at all. The ability to purchase in app coins is an activity I’d like to see discouraged and Apple taking a 30% cut might encourage more off page purchases and slow down impulse coin buying.

Epic’s marketing campaign makes me like them even less. Taking action to encourage being banned and then raise other issues is all about trying to appear the victim in the court of public opinion. It’s false weakness though when they have justified complaints.

So basically, I don’t really like Epic, their campaign nor their solution, but I’m hoping that there will be a good outcome for consumers and smaller developers that keeps the advantages of the App store.

🔗The end of secularism is nigh - UnHerd

The end of secularism is nigh - UnHerd

All of which should serve as a wake-up call to the West that it is not only its financial, economic and military muscle that is currently atrophying. So too is its ability to market its culturally conditioned assumptions as universal. The concept of the secular is not, as many in West like to think, a neutral one. Quite the opposite. As the very word betrays, it derives from the distinctive theology and history of Latin Christendom: for ‘saeculum’, the word given by the Romans to the endless flux of things, was counterpointed by St Augustine and his heirs to the religio, the ‘bond’, that, so Augustine had taught, joined the pilgrim Church on its journey through the centuries to the radiant eternity of the City of God.

I thought of the XKCD standards comic, where people try to unify things by a standard but just add another competitor in the process. I wonder if that’s how the future will see secularism. Admittedly many different religious systems have already passed away (which is different from the standards comic), and I’m sure there are other issues I haven’t thought of.

Malcolm Gladwell on His Dad Asking Dumb Questions

The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Malcolm Gladwell (#168) > My dad is a great question asker. And my father has this, and I’ve spoken about it many times, of his many gifts, one in particular, as a kid, always had the biggest impact on me, which is my father has zero intellectual insecurities. So this is the only thing he has in common with Obama. He and Obama are the same way. It has never crossed his mind to be concerned that the world thinks he’s an idiot. He’s not in that game. So if he doesn’t understand something, he just asks you. He doesn’t care if he sounds foolish. He will ask the most obvious question. And it was without any sort of concern about it.

And maybe it’s because my dad is a mathematician. So he has this thing that he knows he’s really good at. And so he’s home free. If you have a PhD in math, you’re home free. … Yeah. And it’s like if you look like an idiot because you don’t know anything about basketball, who cares? So he asks lots and lots and lots of dumb, in the best sense of that word, dumb questions. He’ll say to someone I don’t understand. Explain that to me. And he’ll just keep asking questions until he gets it right. And I grew up listening to him do this in every conceivable setting. My father, here is this guy with his PhD in math. He made friends with all of these farmers who were our neighbors who were all drop outs.

I can’t remember where I heard about this quote (not from Tim’s podcast) but I’ve been trying to apply it. Ask questions “Do you mean… Sorry I don’t understand.” I’ll report back on the results.

A Case of Messy Head

Now and then I get messy head. Where my brain seems to cycle through the million things I need to do. I try to slow down and focus on what matters, but my head struggles to make sense of things as it jumps from loop to loop until it resets and starts again.

The cure is to slow down, pray or meditate, write down a list of what’s on my mind and just start with one thing. I know this from experience, but I also know (like today) that It doesn’t always immediately help. It usually requires some time and a good nights sleep (or two) before clarity comes.

On days like today when more things keep coming in as the day goes on, I get worse cases of messy head. But even the process of writing this post is part of the remedy. Acknowledging that I’ve been here before, I know what it is and clarity will come.

My head feels better already.

🎧 Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and David Epstein Talk Range & Resilience

🎧 Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and David Epstein Talk Range & Resilience A fun discovery having recently read Ego is the Enemy and Range. One of my favourite parts is when David gives the advice he recieved on how to become a writer. >“Go live on a russian fishing boat for 5 years.”

The point being “live a life worth writing stories about.” It reminded my of a writing course I took. Instead of producing great writers, it seemed to churn out writers who wrote about writing. I remember discussing it with a friend at the time and he commented that the problem was there were too many people who wanted to say something, without having anything to say. I keep thinking about that critique, I know it has been true of me. In fact, six years ago it made me take a pause from writing. I knew that I needed to start having more experiences to write about. I don’t think I’m perfect in this respect, but I am keen to aware doing the thing about the thing situations (i.e. writing about writing, sharing about how I’m productive in my business about productivity, making sketchnotes about sketchnoting.) There’s nothing intrinsicly wrong with any of that, but it’s certainly a path that leads to really strange stuff.

A List of Mentors

Yesterday, I started a list of my mentors in Obsidian.

This list is split in two, Long-term mentors (those who have much to glean from) and temporary mentors (those who are teaching me a specific skill or approach).

I have pages for each mentor in Obsidian so I can see the beautiful knowledge graph that emerges as I learn more from each person and create additional notes.

With very few exceptions, I have no actual relationship with these mentors. Instead, they mentor me through their blogs, books, podcasts, and other content. My approach has been inspired by how Ryan Holiday, Derek Sivers and Patrick Rhone approach unoffical mentorship.

At the same time, I do have an offical mentor here in Krakow. Going for coffee and lunch with him is a fantastic opportunity to learn.

Some thoughts on Substack - Yeah...it's okay

Greg Morris asked for my opinion on Substack as I have been using it for my newsletter Learn Create Share. I started to type a response but when I wrote “Substack review” as a subheading, I knew it was a blog post. So here it is.

TLDR - yeah, it’s okay.

“I’m using it because I had set it up (I moved from revue as [Substack] has no subscriber limit for free) I like it but think I may move but I’m trying to focus on doing the newsletter and not think too much about the tool) it’s so easy to get into tool mindset and so avoid creating.”

Substack’s philosophy

Substack is different from a lot of email services in that it’s not really an email service. It’s a way for writers (and content creators) to get paid by dedicated fans. Substack makes money by taking a cut off payments to its users. Users get these payments by offering benefits to subscribers or simply asking. Substack encourages exclusive content as the way to encourage payments but doesn’t make it mandatory, you could just ask. In exchange, Substack gives its users a free platform with email, that’s also hosted online on a .Substack.com subdomain and even throws in a beta feature of podcasting. It’s worth noting the way they make money as that influences substack’s approach and services.

Substack really wants you to charge for your email

To get some custom header features, you need to accept payments. I’ve considered setting up optional payments just to get this feature but…

Substack wants you to charge a proper amount

I tried to make a dollar amount plan, Substack said no. It had to be $5 a month or more, with a minimum of $30 for a year plan. Both are entirely reasonable price points and also probably show how Substack gets charged on credit card payments and so smaller amounts may cost it too much. At this price, some people may support out of the goodness of their heart, but really, you’ve got to offer something extra.

Exclusive content.

What’s Substack like as an email service?

It’s good. It does the job. You have basic web formatting with h1, h2, strong, em, and all that jazz. You can add links, you can make buttons, insert images and videos too. There aren’t any web embeds of content (which can cause issues if you copy and paste embedded content from a notion embed preview) but you can certainly make a good looking email.

Is Substack a blogging service or a email service?

It’s… complicated. Unlike most email services which provide you with iframe embed forms, possibly landing pages and in rare cases web versions of emails that subscribers can view, Substack has a web archive on your Substack domain. In fact, you could use Substack as a blog which emails new posts to your subscribers. Unlike other blogging services, Substack provides very limited customization. You can adapt your about page, the description of benefits, some limited colour options, and set a custom subdomain. That’s basically it (I’m sure I’m forgetting something though).

There’s Podcast stuff?

I think I’m right in saying it’s still in Beta and I certainly haven’t tested it yet. Just like the email and blogging features, it’s completely free though. Unlike the email features, I have no idea how easy it would be to move to a different podcast host. Still, the potential is that you could run a media group who puts out articles, emails and podcasts all hosted for free and with multiple collaborators.
The price is building on someone else’s platform and the heavy encouragement to follow the exclusive content model.

What else is different about Substack

There are some other differences between Substack and other email service providers. - There is mo segmentation other than paid/free (no target email marketing for you!) - Substack has a real community about it including resources for writers, their own newsletter and even grants to support creators. - Substack has a leaderboard showing the most popular newsletters and publications from the week. This can help new subscribers to find your newsletter…but you have to get enough likes to get on the leaderboard…so the biggest newsletters profit the most.

Do you like using Substack

Hummmm. I don’t really know. I love how generous Substack is. You literally never have to pay to use it in exchange for Substack taking a cut of paid subscriptions. I don’t like how I feel like I have to offer a paid version of my newsletter and that I can’t set it up on my own domain nor customize the look and feel more. I think a premium version with those options would be very interesting but I understand that this is the monetization model they have chosen and it’s all about building their name, getting more users on, profiting off the ones who do build an audience who will pay.

Some aspects of creating a newsletter in Substack are really fantastic, but…other aspects are only okay. The editor is solid, but Ghost probably has a better one. It’s easy to create a newsletter with interesting links from the week like Learn Create Share, but Revue is probably better. The real distinction is the website articles but I would like to have more options over how they look.

So are you going to move email service provider?

My wife and I have some really exciting ideas about Learn Create Share. In fact, we hope to announce something that will really embody the name and ethos in the next edition of the newsletter, but I’m not making any firm promises yet. We probably could use Substack for that purpose but I have a Sendfox account that I may start using for this purpose. That would provide us with a couple of extra options (some limited segments) and we’ll have more control over the webpages and sign up forms etc. Sendfox has a pretty great pricing model too: there’s a limited free option, 5000 contacts for a $49 one time fee, and then an extra $10 a month for every additional 1000 contacts and to get extra features like no branding. Sendfox isn’t perfect either (sendfox branding unless you pay a monthly fee, even after the one time fee. Not as great an editor, etc) but it feels like the right choice for us now.

Regardless, one of the best things about email services is that it is easy to export a CSV file and then switch service. This really helps with ownership even if a service dies.

5 MicroBlog plugin ideas

I’m not a developer and I suspect that some of these might not be possible/easy to do, still here are some ideas for the better developers who use MB.
1. Hide post under 280 character from the main page 2. Sharing of some sort (I was thinking like the typical WordPress share sheet but options for read later or quotebacks, medium style highlighting etc would be cool.) 3. Third party commenting systems (I guess some people might like that. I wouldn’t really but I’m struggling to think of ideas) 4. Gated content (why not add a Ghost feature for kicks) 5. “Clapping” I kind of like this idea from Medium, it’s a fun interaction.

Hell Yes I'll buy Derek Sivers New Book

Derek Sivers new book — Hell Yeah or No — is now live on his site. You can only buy it through him and it’s $15 for the ebook and audiobook, or $19 for the paperbook as well as the digital formats. Last year I read and enjoyed [Anything you want] by Derek so buying this book was an easy, hell yes.
I love that he has the ability to publish this way, and the options here. DRM free digital versions, and you get them included with the paperback. I’ve wondered why Amazon doesn’t offer some sort of upsell of kindle and/or audiobook versions of a book when you buy a paper or hardback.

The never ending quest for the best note system

There are three note applications and systems on my mind at the moment.

1. Evernote

Old faithful. Despite some dark times, Evernote is still solid and reliable as it always has been. I’ve been on the beta recently and there are some good changes coming soon. Evernote still does a few things extremely well. - Capture (from webpages and other services) - Sync (I rarely have conflicts and notes show up almost instantly) - It’s everywhere - it’s easy to start with But, it doesn’t have some of the latest ideas like the two other apps I’ve been playing with.

2. Notion

Notion sucks as a note-taking/data storage app. The apps are slow web views and it never feels like you are working with text. Exporting notes isn’t easy and there is a steep learning curve… BUT - The organising tools are amazing - Collaboration is great - The whole idea of Databases is extremely cool - You can have notes and project management tools in one place I hate capturing data in notion, but I’ve been using it to organise writing my newsletter and it works so well for this. There is a web capture tool but it feels a bit awkward which sums up a lot of Notion. It’s cool but awkward.

3. Obsidian

Roam research, but local and using markdown files. I was just writing a note in Notion and wanted to make some relational notes as you can in obsidian. Unfortunately, Notion doesn’t work that way. I started using obsidian on my Work PC, with an iCloud folder so in theory, I can add markdown notes anywhere (using drafts on my iPhone) and I’ll get all the benefits of obsidian. but…
- obsidian doesn’t have a tool to save webpages - obsidian doesn’t have a mobile app (so it’s all just plain text on iOS) - obedian doesn’t connect to third-party services for easy imports I could probably save webpages as PDFs and then link to those files, but that isn’t quite the same.

So… what do you want to do?

I guess I could … - Use multiple apps, each for its own strength… But using one app would be simpler. - Settle for just Notion, not have relational notes (maybe they’ll come later?) and deal with the other issues. - Settle with Evernote and use a task manager (todoist?) for project management - Use Obsidian and be a cool tech guy who does everything in plain text…and maybe use PDF version of saved web pages…

Or maybe there’s another app like DEVONThink…but that’s an Apple exclusive…

🔗 The forgotten political roots of Bridge over Troubled Water - BBC Culture

The forgotten political roots of Bridge over Troubled Water - BBC Culture

Simon talked about using the primetime opportunity as a Trojan horse for “a home movie about where he thought the nation was”. Directed by actor Charles Grodin, Songs of America used the duo’s hits to soundtrack footage of riots, marches and the war in Vietnam, much to the horror of sponsors AT&T, who demanded their $600,000 investment back.

More after today’s post on Bridge over Troubled Waters.

The Transfiguration Sketchnote

I’ve been taking an intro to the New Testament class for the last couple of months. During that time we’ve been learning how to read a text in terms of textural, cultural and historical context using the transfiguration in Matthew as our reference point. Basically, the aim was to read the text as the author intended their audience to. On Tuesday we presented our text and our professor expanded on some points we hadn’t mentioned. This is a #sketchnote I made as he was speaking and describing how the climax of the transfiguration text and how it contrasts with the voice at Jesus’ baptism saying “listen to him”. Before the transfiguration the disciples say he is the messiah but don’t get that he must suffer, after they are distressed that he must suffer and die. Made with paper by we transfer on the iPad Pro.

The Easiest to Use

I’m weighing up three different email newsletter services.

I realy can’t choose.

And then I had a thought: > “When you can’t choose between two options, go for the one which is easier to use. The easier it is to use, the more you will use it.”

Suddenly, that decision doesn’t seem so tricky anymore. I suspect this principle would work for other tool decisions too.

P.s. Yes, I know there are times when you need “more power” and so the simplest isn’t the best. But you can only need more power if you’ve started using something, so start with simple.