The Penguin Latte Podcast #23 – Coach Steven Diaz: Why are We Terrified of Our Potential?

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Warning: this is the most inspirational podcast you’ll listen to all week (besides the one with Kanye).

Steven Diaz (@mrstevendiaz) is a coach, leader, and what I would call a “digital motivational speaker.” On that point, Steven is the motivational speaker’s motivational speaker. Those who know me well know that I’m skeptical of most motivational rah-rah. But I’ve relied on Steven for much inner-strength and confidence during times when I would otherwise break down and sob in a fetal position. I’m incredibly blessed to have Steven in my life. He has a deep heart for people, especially for people who can’t see their their own potential — a category I’ve fallen into often, hence, my constant pestering Steven for spiritual support.

This conversation orbits around Steven’s philosophy for leadership, while diverging into topics like:

  • What’s the other half of running away?
  • How to overcome the fear of your potential.
  • Why is it so difficult to believe in our skills, talents, and perspectives?
  • How to help people who don’t want help.
  • This is Water by David Foster Wallace
  • Where to find energy to do what you love, everyday, no matter how busy you are.
  • Where does Steven get his constant stream of energy from?
  • Why does coaching matter?
  • “I really think we orbit a lot.”
  • Creating things that don’t plug into an outlet.
  • Why is it so hard to start new routines?
  • Steven’s wild obsession with Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew
  • …and so much more.

Like Steven? Love Steven? Do you want to talk to Steven? (I highly recommend you do.) Reach out to him on Twitter, and do yourself a favor: check out his YouTube live channel.

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The Penguin Latte Podcast #22 – Daniel Bustamante: How to Think About Art

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Please read first before you tear my ass to shreds about the crappy audio quality on my end: Daniel wasn’t coming in clear when we started recording. He switched his audio output. That fixed the problem, but caused a new problem I wasn’t aware of: I sound like I’m talking through a used Gatorade bottle from 15 miles away. I’m really sorry about the poor audio quality on my end. I’ve broken a cardinal rule of podcasting: audio quality is what makes or breaks a podcast. Daniel says all the interesting stuff in this episode, and it’s much easier to hear him than me. Feel free to turn off your brain when I start to talk. Daniel led the entire show by himself.

Warning: Daniel Bustamente is way smarter than I am.

Today I’m talking with Daniel Bustamante (@dbustac on Twitter), a writer who knows a hell of a lot more about art than I do.

If you’ve been reading this blog and following me on Twitter, then you know how much of a fan I am of the work of Carl Jung. I love talking about and studying the psychology of art and symbols, why we like art, why we make art, and why we fly thousands of miles to look at paintings when we could just look them up on Google.

And that’s exactly why I wanted to get Daniel on the show. Because Daniel has a superpower: he can talk about art while avoiding any pompousness. I’ve learned much about art, the history of art, and symbolism in art by reading Daniel’s weekly newsletter Rational Creatives, where he combines fundamental ideas of rationality and logic with the “irrational” ideas of the visual arts modern and old.

Again, I’m really sorry about the poor audio quality on my end. That was entirely my fault. I promise it’ll be better in the coming episodes.

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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!

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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.

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.

The Penguin Latte Podcast #19 – The Mad Scientist of Reading: Poor Bjorn on Self-Experimenting with Non-Fiction

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Warning: what follows is a conversation for book nerds

Books transform us. When we really dig into a book, nestle beneath the words, peek under the author’s skin, we transcend our current self. We become someone greater. The best books maintain that transformation long after we’ve finished reading the last word.

A book isn’t something to collect. A book is to be experienced. Which is why I wanted to have this conversation with Poor Bjorn (@poorbjorn on Twitter and Instagram). Poor Bjorn loves books. He loves books so much that he doesn’t just read books. He lives books. He’s the creator of an Instagram page where he not only reviews books, he conducts self-experiments based on the lessons from the book.

Bjorn will cover any subject. Stoicism. Wealth. Esoteric Philosophy. Psychology. History. Self-help. Persuasion. Negotiation. It doesn’t matter what the book is about. If it’s physically possible, he’ll run the experiment. He once ordered a square pizza because he read a book about seeking rejection. In an utterly hilarious stroke of fate, he failed the experiment. The pizza place delivered him a square pizza.

So, get comfortable, grab a cup of your favorite hot cocoa, and cozy in for our wide-ranging conversation about all things books! If you’re a fan of my episodes with Andrew Barry, Pranav Mutatkar, Deepu Asok, or Cullin McGrath, I’m sure you’ll have much to appreciate in our conversation. Enjoy!

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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.

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.)

Add title

Janitor. Lawmaker. Barista. Chief Financial Officer. Bagger. Publisher. Editor. Manager.

Titles tell us who does what. But they don’t tell us how we do what we do.

Unless we love our job, there will always be a missing piece on our nametag. That missing piece is what we wish we could do if we had the courage to do it. What we wish we could do if our boss would let us.

But our boss won’t let us until we ask. And when we ask, they might say no. Then what? Will we keep managing people the way we’re expected to? Or will we manage people the way we’ve always dreamed of: with more care and push than the employee manual expects?

A company expects you to conform to the way things are done within the company. And that’s good. Conformity creates unity in the organization. Conformity makes sure that we’re all on the right page.

But there’s no need to conform so hard that you extinguish the fire of your personality.