Just like in the movies

In the movies, actors take a beat before saying their next line. Pick any of your favorites, and you’ll see this trick in action. You can see this even in movies with complicated dialogue.

This works, one hundred percent of the time, because it breathes life into empty space. This works because you cannot help but use split-second silence to project what you think will happen next.

How do you direct a great movie? By creating a tension that makes everything else in the audience’s life irrelevant. Sorry grandma, I can’t answer your call. Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson are having a moment.

But we don’t speak like this. We don’t like empty space. We don’t like silence. Silence is scary. Silence is awkward. We don’t like awkward. Awkward is a signal that who we’re speaking to doesn’t find us interesting. And so we hardly give the other person enough time to finish speaking before we chime in with our half-baked brilliant insight.

So are the actors trying to imitate how people actually speak?

Or are we trying to imitate actors?

Speed shaving

This morning I caught myself trying to shave as fast as possible. My rationale: this bodily regulation is unnecessary and detrimental to my goals of being successful; shaving is a waste of time, and so I need to shave as fast as I can.

What’s a bigger waste of time? Boring stuff you have to do because you’re an animal with hair? Or a project with too many oversights because you were in a frenzy?

“The sacrificial pancake”

The Rule of Suck: the first one is going to be very, very, embarrassingly not so good.

What to do?

Do the next one. And the next one after that. On and on, serving up hundreds of works to an audience who trusts that you’ll get it right — eventually.

Here’s Paul McGrath (great name), on pancakes and what they teach us about creativity. I told him on Thursday that this was my favorite read of the week. It’s now Saturday, and I’m still standing by that statement.

The Penguin Latte Podcast #21 – Jamie Russo: Entrepreneurship for Positive Change and How to Spread A Million Acts of Kindness

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Warning: my guest today is a very, very kind person.

Today on the podcast I’m talking with Jamie Russo (@jamierusso), creator and writer of the Goodnote newsletter. I love Goodnote! And to think of it only as a newsletter would be a mistake. Goodnote is a proxy for Jamie’s quest to spread 1 million random acts of kindness. He’s using his writing platform as a means to an extraordinarily compassionate end. Check out these little blue postcards he mailed me. If you’d like one, reach out to Jamie on Twitter by clicking here.

We talk writing (as I usually do with my guests), volunteering, why Jamie cares so much about people, working with compassionate companies, helping people at scale, the benefits of walking, how to use entrepreneurship as a force for positive change, how to find your guiding force in life, and much, much more.

I had so much fun talking with Jamie, and at the end of our talk my cheeks were sore from smiling so much. You won’t want to miss this one. Please enjoy!

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Watch on YouTube


This episode is brought to you by my weekly newsletter, Hey Penguin. Hey Penguin includes tips for improving yourself through creativity, plus a bunch of extra goodies like drafts of blog posts, art I’m digging, letters from my audience, and previews of podcast episodes. Sounds good? Click here to subscribe and get the next issue delivered straight to your inbox on Sunday.

Philosophy Means Love of Wisdom

That’s ‘wisdom’ – as a verb.

The old philosophers treated their bodies and brains as the object that wisdom would act upon. They treated wisdom as something transformative: something that would change the way they thought about themselves and the world.

And that’s exactly what wisdom is supposed to do. Wisdom is that which changes the way you think about yourself and the world.

Philosophy really means love of change. Love of transformation. Love of growth. Love of curiosity. Love of the person you are, and the person you could be.

But now, we’re getting dangerously close to turning wisdom into a commodity. Post a hashtag about how many books you’re reading this week, and you’re guaranteed at least ten hits of dopamine. I can’t tell if we’re rewarding people for discipline, or for taking pictures of well-known books.

It’s not hard to be wise. I can teach you how to be wise on one step.

  1. If everyone around you is thinking the same thing, think about something else if it’s appropriate to do so.

Correct: While everyone gets angry at the problem, you think about how to solve the problem.

Incorrect: While everyone cries at the funeral, you daydream about that Chipotle Burrito you ate for lunch yesterday.

I sat down with my buddy Pranav Mutatkar to talk about wisdom, where to find it, and why we should read old philosophers in a short (20 minute) conversation. Pranav is an excellent podcast host. He’s curious (the most important part), quick, smart, and knows how to hold a conversation no matter what format.


(*Pretend I didn’t write this in the middle of the lockdown.)

A few tips from Day Zero of Performative Speaking

Lighting. Clothing. The speed of your voice. Are you looking at the camera, or looking down at the ground? Sit up straight, but don’t stiffen up like a skeleton. Is there anything distracting in the background?

These details matter. You might have groundbreaking ideas, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t convince anyone to put their phone in their pocket while you speak.

Performative Speaking is only just beginning. I’ve already learned much from Robbie Crabtree about why good presentation matters as much as having good stories.

The Wrong Way to Read and the Meaning of Insight

Your mind, like your body, needs the nutrients and vitamins of good ideas in order to survive and thrive. But as we grow older, our ego turns our head away from good ideas like the child avoiding the choo-choo train of a spoonful of peas.

Good ideas aren’t found out there. They’re found in here, in you. Wisdom means nothing to those who don’t listen. To really read a good book, you first need to actually want to read it. Your own inclination comes from within, not from without.

Therapy is a waste of time (for the client and therapist) to the person forced to go to therapy. “I, according to so-and-so, need help.” That never works. The same is true of reading.

You need to understand your motivations for reading a book. Are you thinking of buying this book because Barnes & Noble says everyone in your town is reading it? Do you want to read because that’s what smart people do? Is the self-improvement regime court ordering you to read a book because if you don’t, then you must be a loser? Or do you want to read because there’s something you need to figure out?

There’s a mistake in assuming all answers come from the outer world. Yes, good books help, but how you approach the bookhow you read the book – matters more than what the book is about. Are you reading so that you can show off to your friends? Are you reading just to confirm your barely stable mental model of the world? Or are you reading because you’ve been wearing a dunce cap your entire life, and you’d like to be less of a dunce?

Ask yourself: are my actions in the outer world strengthening, harmonizing, feeding my mind with the proper nutrients?

The outer world nourishes your inner world only when your inner world is understood, and by understood I mean that it is respected: your inner world — your psychology — is never fully understood.

To have insight is to question your reasons for doing anything other than eating, drinking, defecating, and breathing.


P.S: I turned 26 yesterday. Thanks to all who sent me birthday wishes, and big thanks especially to those who sent me some good books. I super appreciate it.

The Penguin Latte Podcast #20 – Uri Bram on Publishing a Newsletter with 50,000 Subscribers, How to Enjoy Writing, and Statistical Errors We Make Everyday

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Warning: what follows is a communion of two souls in a chance encounter.

Uri Bram is the publisher of The Browser — a weekly newsletter curated by Uri and his team, read by over 50,000 subscribers. He’s written two books: Thinking Statistically and The Business of Big Data. Uri is also the designer of three games: Lettercat, Person Do Thing, and Days Old.

Uri and I had never spoken before we recorded this episode. And neither had I heard of The Browser prior to two weeks before this post. The morning I discovered their work was the morning I became brighter, smarter, more entertaining, or at the very least, half as much as the folks working hard to produce the world’s favorite curation newsletter.

I kept scrolling through their site.

I was floored.

Their website is topnotch. The giraffe mascot is cute as all hell.

Most important, they collect only the finest, most entertaining and thought provoking articles on the Internet. I’m incredibly impressed at their high bar for quality. I promise that any article chosen by their hard working team is worth the read. This isn’t your typical buzzfeed bullshit. And nor is it as high brow as The New Yorker. The content they collect is fun, interesting, hilarious, and full of humanity. Reading articles from The Browser is now a part of my evening reading routine. It’s making me less stupid, and it’ll make you less stupid, too.

In this conversation, we discuss Uri’s writing process at length. Uri’s a much more experienced writer than I am. And I learned so much about how difficult it is to organize hundreds, if not thousands of ideas in a book. We also discuss content curation (not creation), and why The Browser is world-class at it, game design, meditation, getting unstuck, going for walks and getting out in nature, how regular people can benefit from learning statistics, and much more.

So grab your favorite coffee and please enjoy our talk!

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Listen on YouTube


This episode is brought to you by my weekly newsletter, Hey Penguin. Hey Penguin includes tips for improving yourself through creativity, plus a bunch of extra goodies like drafts of blog posts, art I’m digging, letters from my audience, and previews of podcast episodes. Sounds good? Click here to subscribe and get the next issue delivered straight to your inbox on Sunday.

There Are No Safe Drivers: A Car Almost Slammed Into Me at 65 MPH And I Didn’t Become A Self-Help Guru


It happened so fast that my brain didn’t get the chance to flash my life before my eyes.

“Hey, drive safe tonight, alright?” Said my buddy J.

“Yeah yeah, thanks, I will.” It’s the classic Californian mark of reassurance: I promise not to switch songs on Spotify while traversing the most dangerous place on planet Earth: The Interstate 5. (In California, we just call it “The 5.”)

I learned to drive when I was 19. I haven’t been in one accident. I’ve driven from San Diego to Tucson. I’ve driven from San Diego to Santa Cruz. And I’ve driven to L.A and back more times than I can count. Statisticians can work out the probability of me getting in an accident considering my track record of safe driving.

But that’s the problem. There is no such thing as safe driving. Not in California, anyways. Anyone who’s sane and living in the golden state knows this: driving on the freeway puts you at a higher risk of death than eating 6 Big Macs a day.

I drive safe. Other people don’t. And if everyone had that mindset, there would be less accidents. Instead, we get the opposite. We get people who drive under the mindset of, “everyone drives too slow [safe], so I need to get around them.”

That being said, I have no clue what was happening in the car that came inches away from slamming into my driver’s side windows at 65 miles an hour. It was 9:30 pm on a Monday. They could have been drunk. They could have been high. They could have been horny. I have no idea. The car showed up on my side so fast it was as if a wizard teleported them there.

I didn’t get the chance to watch my fondest childhood memories. The VCR operator of my mind’s eye couldn’t start the tape in time. The car regained balance in the next lane over, and left me feeling like this.

But I’m alive, breathing, and rubbing my Genie lamp wishing for Elon Musk to hurry the hell up and get self-driving cars to replace all these hurried, horrible drivers.

Half an hour later, I pulled up to my driveway.

I forgot I had left my GPS on.

“Welcome home,” it said.

Thousands of friends, parents, children, wives, husbands, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers flashed before my eyes.

How many are never again welcomed home?

Dumb mistakes I’ve made as a podcaster: polished is better than perfect

Done isn’t better than perfect. Done isn’t good enough.

Polished is better than perfect. Polished means you’re paying attention. Polished means you’re not rushing it. Polished means no multitasking* because if you do, you’ll let too many oversights through the gate of the publish button.

By all means, ship your work. Publish something. Start talking to us and show us what you know. But don’t keep us waiting while you wait for perfection to arrive from Amazon.

Here’s a few mistakes I’ve made as a podcaster. I’ve made these mistakes because I worked too fast on too many tasks at the same time.

  • I uploaded today’s episode of the podcast to YouTube with a clip of my screen recording a song I wanted to use for the intro.
  • A guest told me not to publish the video version of our conversation. A week later, I made a trailer for Twitter, Instagram, and my newsletter, using clips from the video version of our conversation. (So sorry, U.)
  • Episodes 19, 20, and 21 have/will have sloppy audio quality on my end. I’ve forgotten to run test recordings of me and my guest before starting the show. (Some have told me that audacity could help with this, but I’ve yet to look into it.)
  • I want to use this Blockhead beat as my podcast intro, but copyright exists. Thinking I could get away with it, I uploaded today’s episode with the song at the beginning. The episode isn’t on Apple yet, and I’m thinking it’s because I’ve used the beat without permission. I’m stubborn and I don’t like using stock music for anything I make, so I’ve sent Blockhead a cold email asking if I can use the track.
  • I’ve dwelt on mistakes longer than it took for me to see and fix the mistake. This is the worst mistake a creator can make. There’s few mishaps that take more than 5 minutes to fix. But you’re not careful, you could spend hours sulking over something you forgot to do. Don’t sulk. Fix it and move on.

Make stuff. Break stuff.

Fix the stuff you broke.

But don’t dwell on it. You wouldn’t cry over spilt milk, nor should you cry over a misplaced apostrophe, a broken hyperlink, or equipment left unplugged.

Because here you are, making stuff instead of not making stuff.

So please, go make stuff.


*I’m writing this while waiting for today’s episode to re-render. I don’t listen to my own advice that often.

On the bright side, I’ve yet to forget to press RECORD an hour into an episode. I shudder to imagine what I would do if that happened. I wouldn’t get out of bed for weeks if that happened. So, let’s make sure that never happens.