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!

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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.

I’m taking a public speaking course and it’s going to change my life

Trying to escape communication is like trying to escape oxygen.

Everywhere you go, even when you’re alone, you’re communicating something. You’re always talking to yourself. In the Freudian sense, you’re always in a conversation with your culture and the ideal version of you. Other people expect you to behave a certain way (that’s culture). And that image of your ideal self (that’s ego), the “you” with an outstanding portfolio of work and an impressive collection of achievements, expects you to behave in a way that allows you to fulfill that portfolio of work and to collect all those achievements.

But you can’t do any of that unless you change the way you communicate with yourself and the people around you. Because the world reflects how you act. And how you act reflects how you communicate with yourself.

Communication is a superpower. History has seen phenomenal speakers use the power of words to manipulate entire countries into committing atrocities against innocent people. It’s because of this complicated history that people often see communication as manipulative. And they’re right. Communication is manipulative. But everything has a dark side and a bright side.

The bright side of communication is that we can use it as a force for good. Used with good intentions, communication is a powerful tool. It helps us do the risky work of telling others what we’re up to. It helps clear our muddy thoughts. It helps other people trust us, see us where we are, and enroll in the changes we’d like to make.

I write to figure out what I know. What I know informs what I intend to do each day. But if all I do is write, then nobody can understand me. Speaking is an extension of writing, and writing is an extension of thinking. All forms and methods of communication (writing, posture, speed, vocabulary, subject, intent, medium) are extensions of thinking.

I speak to figure out how I should share what I know with other people. I can’t enlighten and entertain people if I’m speaking like a walking corporate PowerPoint presentation. And so I’m pleased to tell you that I’ll be taking Performative Speaking, a public speaking course created by my friend Robbie Crabtree and his team.

Robbie’s a powerhouse. His command of the English language is inspiring. His understanding of story and narrative is at the level of mastery. He could have kept all his knowledge to himself. Instead, he’s sharing his 10 years of experience as a trial lawyer with those brave enough to enroll and put themselves on the hook.

This course is going to change my life. Not because I’ll be walking across hot coals, but because I’ll be doing something much scarier: talking about myself and my work in front of people I’ve never met.

If you’d like to know more about the course, and how it’ll change your life, click here.

And if you’d like to know more about Robbie, you can listen to my conversation with him by clicking here.

You means you!

Man, this You guy could do anything he wants,” I thought as I flipped through the pages of self-help book number 45.

The message flew over my head.

If a self-help author starts talking about you, they mean you — not some other guy named You.

Yes, you.

“What? Me? Oh, no — there must be a mistake. I couldn’t –“

Yes. Really. I mean you. You could start a business. You could learn to roller-skate. You could memorize 2,000 Kanji in less than a year. You could start a podcast and interview your favorite writers.

But only if you want.

How far you lean in when someone starts talking about your potential correlates to how much faith you have in yourself*. When you ignore them, stuff your head up in the clouds instead of paying attention, it means you’re not ready. Not ready to face the harsh reality of having a 1 in 8 billion gift. The gift of your perspective, drive, passion, and care.

How do you feel when you talk about your goals? Do you stumble over your words? Do you hunch over to defend yourself from an attack? That means you’re not committed. There’s still a part of you that’s stuck in the past. A part of you that thinks you’re still not capable.

You are capable.

Go make stuff.


(*I don’t have any statisticians to back me up on this, so I need you to go accomplish your life’s mission.)

The Penguin Latte Podcast #17 – Marketing as Self-Expression with Arielle Kimbarovsky

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Are advertisers evil? Are marketers the scourge of the earth, hell-bent on stealing our attention and selling it off to some nameless corporation? Yes, and no. It’s every good marketer’s job to capture our attention. And advertisers get paid to understand what makes people want to buy things. But to call either evil would be like accusing your grandma of being a Satanist (unless she really is one). The best marketers get us as excited about products and services as grandma makes us excited about fresh chocolate chip cookies.

In this episode, I speak with one of the most delightful and creative marketers I’ve ever met: Arielle Kimbarovsky (@ariellekimbar on Twitter). Arielle Kimbarovsky is the head of social media and marketing for M1 Finance. Her spec work portfolio (got it right that time) is full of an exuberance that reveals her eye for color choice, words that evoke powerful emotions, and stories impossible to forget.

If you’ve listened to my episode with Robbie Crabtree, then you know how much I value communication. Design is a form of communication. Some of the most difficult problems I’ve had with the blog and podcast were to pick the right words, color choice, shape, and names for titles. What you say matters less than how you say it. This episode serves as an opportunity to learn how to express yourself through multiple mediums: painting, writing, talking, music, video— nearly all the topics we discuss relate to communication. We also discuss reading, being introverted, taking breaks, being yourself, and thinking big. It’s a wide-ranging conversation full of possibility and delight.

So, please enjoy my conversation with Arielle Kimbarovsky!

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.

PS: Does The Penguin Latte Podcast remind you of the excitement of fresh presents on Christmas morning? If so, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts/Itunes. It takes all of 60 seconds (or 120 seconds if you’re feeling extra spicy). By leaving a review, you’re making the podcast 1% better. So, if 500 of you leave reviews, the podcast gets 500% better (if I have my math right). Plus, I love reading all of your juicy comments.

Thanks so much!

Everyone gets a Sunday

In some cultures, Sunday is the beginning of the week. The foundation of the day, grounded in rest and recovery.

No matter what culture you’re a part of, you’re guaranteed one Sunday a week. Of course, not everyone gets to dedicate a whole day to resting. You might be the busy mom who uses Sunday to prep for your kid’s meal plan for the week. Or you might be the busy teacher grading all your student’s midterms.

If you can’t find your rest on Sunday, I hope you can find some pockets of rest throughout the week. You deserve it.

Waking up on purpose

You open your eyes as the alarm shrieks you out of your dream. Or maybe you’re one of those freaks who “rises with the sun,” as if your body is in a perfect cosmic alignment with the universe. Either way, you’re awake.

On a typical day, say, on a regular ol’ Tuesday, what does the first 15 minutes of your morning look like? Do you flood your psyche with information? Do you allow buzzers, bells, and airhorns to occupy your mind? Or do you employ silence as the canvas on which you will draw the roadmap of your day?

Whatever you choose, airhorns or canvases, you’re choosing intentionally. There’s no use blaming anyone but yourself for your muddy thinking and directionless days.

The smartest people I’ve ever met are those who intend to wake up on purpose.

The Penguin Latte Podcast #10: Salman Ansari on The Lost Art of Having Fun

Every idea you have, every concept, every word, every utterance, every tone…all of that is influenced by those around you anyway. You’ve got to acknowledge that and embrace that and ask, ‘how can I mix those together?’ Each of us is a completely different combination.

Listen on Spotify | Apple Podcasts | YouTube

Salman Ansari (Salman.io) is an illustrator, animator, and author of The Quick Brown Fox Newsletter.

Salman has a heart of gold. I promise that you’ll finish this podcast with more inspiration than you had when you started. He’s one of those rare souls who knows how to do what matters in life without taking himself so seriously. Every time I interact with him, I feel a radiant golden energy enveloping me in a reassurance that it’s okay to be myself. I hope you feel the same way after listening to our conversation. Please enjoy!

Talking Points

  • Giving advice on Twitter (3:00)
  • “Insecurity work” (5:00)
  • Layers in writing (8:00)
  • “The hardest part of writing is talking about myself” (13:00)
  • Aren’t we all polymaths? (20:00)
  • “Being yourself isn’t the most effective growth strategy” (26:00)
  • Salman’s experience with teaching (31:00)
  • Monetization for content creators (35:00)
  • Platforms, communities (41:00)
  • DJ Salman (44:00)
  • “What am I doing right now that would be fun to explore in a new way?” (49:00)
  • Getting inspiration from animation teams and comics (51:00)
  • On web-comics (55:00)
  • Creative constraints (58:00)
  • The benefits of reading older books instead of newer books (1:01:00)
  • Influential video games (1:05:00)
  • Authenticity as a buzzword/ Permission to be yourself (1:10:00)
  • Learning to be comfortable with questions, not answers (1:17:00)
  • Using tools in the right context (1:25:00)
  • Play (1:28:00)
  • Is it irrational to make art? (1:32:00)
  • “What do you mean why?” (1:38:00)
  • Leisure: The Basis of Culture (1:40:00)
  • Meditation (1:45:00)
  • Start with “I don’t know” (1:55:00)
  • Parting thoughts (2:07:00)

Mentions

The Courage to Be Disliked

Don Hertzfeldt

The Polymath Playbook

Status Regulation and Anxious Underconfidence

Spirited Away

Teenage Engineering

Studio MDHR

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

SHEN COMIX

Studio Rare and The Making of Goldeneye 64

Undertale

VVVVVV

Intimations by Zadie Smith

Elizabeth Gilbert

Aldous Huxley

Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Carl Jung

The Penguin Latte Podcast #7: NoxyTango on Accepting Yourself as an Artist, the Emotions of Color, and Old-School Internet Culture

Because of the Internet, I’m more empowered to become better, and I’m able to seek the direction that I’m allowed to seek.

NoxyTango

Do you have any friends that you don’t speak to for more than a decade, and then you pick up right where you left off as if no time passed? That’s the kind of friendship that I have with NoxyTango. About 12 years ago, we met through a game called Runescape. We would spend hours on this game, creating “Runescape music videos,” increasing our fishing lvls, and forming a group of friends that we still keep in touch with to this day. Then, we became adults. And we didn’t have a full conversation until the time of this recording.

Please enjoy my talk with NoxyTango about the struggles of creativity, old-school Internet culture, and how the Internet brings us closer than we can imagine. I had a blast recording this, and I hope you have a blast listening to it.

Here’s a look at some of my favorite pieces by Noxy. I highly recommend you follow her art. It’s going to bring more color to your world (even though I’m about to list only black and white pieces. Sorry, I’m a huge fan of black and white.)

And you can watch her animations by clicking here.

Talking Points:

  • Runescape nostalgia and mid 2000s culture in Noxy’s art (2:00)
  • How Noxy discovered her art style, how colors influence emotion (4:00)
  • Pros and cons of digital art versus non-digital art (6:00)
  • Noxy’s influences (8:00)
  • Being an artist with Aphantasia, on my Synesthesia, and embodiment psychology (9:00)
  • Not being defined by your struggles (23:00)
  • How the Internet creates micro bubbles of community (26:00)
  • Being represented by our artwork, not how we appear in real life (28:00)
  • The dangers of being famous (31:00)
  • How the Internet has impacted her art in a positive way (35:00)
  • Why nice comments are so valuable to an artist (37:00)
  • “You’re good…for a girl” (40:00)
  • Defining masculinity and femininity for yourself (43:00)
  • Noxy’s writing process, and her upcoming novel (45:00)
  • NaNoWriMo (48:00)
  • The last time Noxy was in flow (50:00)
  • On rejection (55:00)
  • Noxy’s message for those who are stuck (58:00)

Show Notes

Synesthesia

Aphantasia

Nanowrimo

Embodiment Psychology

Brene Brown on vulnerability

Tim Ferriss on the dangers of fame

You Know Too Much And You Produce Too Little – A Chapter from The Book

Here’s a free chapter from my newest book, “But I Have No Original Ideas.”

You’re stuck because you have too much information. You’re spending hours on Farnam Street trying to find the perfect mental model. You’re reading essays and articles and books on productivity. You’re building another brain because the first one wasn’t good enough. You’ve filled your portfolio with other people’s work. The problem is that you have too much information.

You need to act like a secret society trying to control the masses. Prevent yourself from knowing any more. Behead the productivity gurus. Burn your business books. Get a job at your internet service provider and block your own IP address from every productivity blog. The only thing you need to know about being productive is that you need to be productive.

The stuck creative spends his days searching for answers. The unstuck creative spends his days working on his craft. To be a more productive writer, write. To be a more productive painter, paint. More doing. Less searching.

Everything that you need to know to succeed at this

The list is shorter than you think. It’s simply everything that you need to know to succeed at this. You can let out a sigh of relief now. “Oh! thank goodness I don’t need to read every business book published in the time it took me to finish saying this.”

It’s not every word in every self-help book.

It’s not every episode of every business podcast.

And it’s not certainty not every strategy to manage every piece of information in all those self-help books, podcasts, newsletters, and articles you’ve consumed in the last eight hours.

Many of us in the self-improvement world call ourselves minimalists. We might say that we approach life with a “less is more” attitude. And yet we’re maximalists with our information.

We have…

Books. Other people’s notes about the books (in the form of blog posts).

Podcasts. Other people’s notes about the podcasts (in the form of twitter threads).

Strategy. Content. Content creation Strategy.

Digital Data Management. Courses about Digital Data Management. Strategies about marketing our courses about Digital Data Management.

Even further, we’re neither maximal nor minimal about feeding the dog (or ourselves) since planning our Digital Data Management Course marketing strategy is more important. Dinner can wait.

The way out of this trap? Selecting. Filtering. Ignoring. Seeking the signals in the noise. Choosing a craft to practice, and then practicing it.

And the list of everything that you need to be? Much shorter, too. As short as one word.

Open.

Open to the possibility that this doesn’t apply to that. The possibility that what’s guaranteed today might not be guaranteed tomorrow. The possibility that more information is not the answer.

Derek Sivers said it best:

If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs. — Derek Sivers