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!

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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.

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.

The Penguin Latte Podcast #11: Deepu Asok on Meditation, Yoga, Drawing, and Happiness

Meditation is that state where you are no more. Your sense of Self is gone.

If you ask an artist where his work comes from, if he’s a generous artist, he’ll say, ‘I don’t know where it comes.’

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Deepu Asok is the author and illustrator of the wonderful and enlightening Visual Wisdom newsletter. He’s also the host of a podcast called The Happiness Hypothesis. He’s got a serious eye for designs that pop.

Deepu and I were dming over meditation and spirituality. But he had to get going, and asked to continue our talk over zoom some time. I said sure. And of course, I asked if he wanted to record our talk for the podcast. He said yes. And so, here we are.

Please enjoy my conversation with the wonderful and wise Deepu Asok!

Talking Points

  • On different schools of meditation and yoga (3:00)
  • The benefits of doing yoga before meditation (11:00)
  • Why meditate? (14:00)
  • “Philosophy doesn’t transform you. Practice transform you” (21:00)
  • “The lion is trying to help you, but it doesn’t know how.” (28:00)
  • On Happiness and work (37:00)
  • Three types of work (43:00)
  • Selling on Gumroad (50:00)
  • The differences between drawing and writing (55:00)
  • “You’re paying for the organization of the ideas” / Constraints (1:00:00)
  • Art vs Content (1:07:00)
  • On books and reading (1:16:00)
  • Wishful thinking (1:23:00)
  • Flow in drawing (1:35:00)
  • Constraints (1:40:00)
  • Final questions (1:46:00)

Mentions

Books and articles

Civilized to Death

The Art of Learning

Living Buddha Living Christ

Flow

Linchpin

This Is Marketing

Atomic Habits

Show Your Work!

Getting Things Done

Thinking Fast and Slow

Mind in Motion

Autobiography of a Yogi

Ladders of Wealth Creation

People

Inner Engineering

Thich Nhat Hanh

Carl Jung

Alan Watts

Naval Ravikant

Seth Godin

Nathan Barry

Austin Kleon

Derek Sivers

David Perell

Tiago Forte

Other

Indie Hackers

A Conversation with Phil Desforges “The goal is not uniqueness, it’s not originality, it’s to be you. That’s the only goal”

Hi all. Welcome to another conversation about the pursuit of creative excellence. I’m so happy that I finally get to share this episode with you! What follows is an intimate, insightful, and entertaining conversation with a true artist — Phil Desforges. I highly recommend you browse through Phil’s portfolio while you listen to this episode.

Talking Points

  • How Phil developed his color palette
  • The art of building a world in your art
  • How photography saved Phil’s life
  • Why men should open up about their feelings
  • Sensitivities to music
  • Why Stoicism is important to Phil
  • Phil’s favorite movies and directors
  • On Casey Neistat
  • Following your gut vs your reasoning
  • The comfort zone and consistency conundrum
  • On Beeple
  • The nuances of creating on certain mediums, thoughts on Tik Tok
  • Getting inspired by the right creators
  • The flaw of originality
  • A message from Pakistan
  • Spending a week without creating
  • Phil’s favorite coffee and tea
  • Memento Mori
  • “The output doesn’t matter; it’s the outcome.”
  • On being bored productively
  • “Less counting, more doing.”
  • The necessary constraint of mortality
  • Sonder and This Is Water
  • We are all living in our own bubble
  • On current world conflicts, and feeling helpless
  • Honing in on the skills you can’t teach
  • On the beauty of flow
  • Why it’s so tough to be natural on camera
  • What modern people are afraid of
  • On geeking out about the things you love, and creating around that
  • Phil’s message for stuck creatives

Mentions in this episode

Salvadar Dali

Casey Neistat

Sonder

This Is Water by David Foster Wallace

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Memento Mori

Symbols of Transformation by Carl Jung

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Beeple

Everything Is Fucked by Mark Manson

John Daub and OnlyinJapan

David Perell

This might sound stupid, but

it’s not.

Let yourself say the stupid thing. As long as you’re not being offensive for the sake of being offensive, you’re fine.

I flinch when I hear myself editing my words out loud. This happens either before or after I speak. Sometimes both. “This might sound stupid, but…” or, “that sounded so…”

But when I watch myself being authentically stupid, without hesitation or self-editing, that’s when I start smiling. I’m not smiling because I enjoy hearing myself saying stupid things. I’m smiling because I wasn’t holding back. I was fully present in my stupidity.

Authenticity doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apologize for saying something unwarranted. Authenticity means no hesitation, no editing.

When you’re editing live in front of somebody, you’re no longer present in the conversation. You’re in the future when you start with “this might sound…” and you’re in the past when you say “that sounded so…” But you’re in the present when you say the stupid thing. There is no ego in the present. Only your stupid Self.

Speaking mode, listening mode, writing mode. All for the present.

Be here now, be authentic, be stupid.

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.

You, Limited

The same keyboard (unless you’re a Dvorak). The same 24 hours in a day. You’ve heard this before.

But not the same possibility. Not the same leverage. Not the same indispensable skills. And certainly not the same strange, idiosyncratic interests you obsess over. Those things? They’re infinite. They’re yours.

Infinite possibility, leverage, and creativity. But that’s the biggest obstacle. That leads you to the question, “what should I do with all this?”

It’s a question that pushes your imagination too far forward. You should engage with the customers who’ve signed up for your coaching service. Though it would help to start writing the first draft of the landing page. Too far, too soon, too many skipped steps.

So, what should you do?

Pick the largest goal. Break it down into the smallest tasks. One paragraph of the landing page. The first bullet point. A thanks to your spouse for putting up with your strange, idiosyncratic interests.

This next part is the hardest.

Commit.

Choose, break it down, and commit.

Are you all in?

Will you keep every idea in your head?

Or will you let your art scatter through the network like a cat sniffing around a new house?


P.s – My little book is out. It’s a book for creatives who have too many ideas, but not enough original ideas. It’s a book that I wrote with the stuck creative in mind. It’s very short. A 20 minute read, in fact. I kept it so short so that your lizard brain wouldn’t want you to keep reading the book as an excuse to put off working on your art.

You can order a copy here.

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

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others and Find Work That Suits You

Naval Ravikant once said, “A sick person wants only one thing.” I’m sick. I want only one thing – to stop comparing my blog to other people’s blogs. Seeing other people’s blogs is now a way to inspire and depress me. It’s great to see other writers sticking it out on their own, making money while they sleep. But it’s depressing when I perceive their success as evidence that I’ll never do the same.

So I wrote this to cure my sickness. If you’re catching yourself comparing more than creating, I hope this helps.

I wish I could position myself as someone who doesn’t struggle with this. “I can’t. I’m no guru.” I often paralyze myself by looking at all the blogs with as many as thousands of readers and as revenue. But by doing this I’ve learned that too much comparison leads to a temptation to copy. “They’re doing it that way. So, I must do it that way. Though I know nothing about SaaS marketing, I should start a SaaS marketing blog.” A project should be as interesting today as it is tomorrow. If I were to start blogging about SaaS marketing, I wouldn’t look forward to working on it the next day.

Ambitious coders and writers in the world of the “new rich” dream of building the asset that earns money while they sleep. When a side-project succeeds in becoming that money earning asset, we see it as the ticket to our dreams. “That worked for them. Which means that I should do the same.” But it’s likely that the work that went into their successful project is not the kind of work that you want to do. You see their results. You don’t see the type of work that led to their results. So you cannot truly copy somebody else’s results. You could copy the image of the results. You could build a landing page that promotes a new email service. But if you’re not interested in programming everyday, then you’ll lose interest in the project.

Projects that interest you are projects that remain interesting. Let’s say that you’re interested in metaphysics. Writing about metaphysics might seem like a waste of time to a Javascript developer. But to you, it’s something that you could write about tomorrow, the day after, and next week. Pretty soon you’re running medefizik.blog, the number one metaphysics blog. Now, that Javascript developer is jealous of you. They haven’t made a dollar off of their coding project. They’re comparing their software to your blog. They’re sick. All they want is their project to succeed.

Naval Ravikant followed up his statement about sick people by saying, “Happy people want ten thousand things.” A happy person wants their projects to succeed. But they also want their success to benefit other people. They want other people to reap the rewards of the hours of work that went into this piece of coding or writing. This list goes on for another 9,996 reasons for why the happy person stays productive.

Comparing yourself to others is not an effective way to move forward. A better way to move forward is to start working – even if you don’t know what to work on. This is a kind of work that I call faux-work: the work of figuring out what kind of work suits you. Faux-work is the foundation of the work that you’ll do for the rest of your life. When you start faux-working, even if you’re just spewing word vomit into Evernote, you’ll become conscious of what interests you. What interests you becomes your work. Your real work. The work that you can’t wait to get back to. This isn’t to say that we don’t need accountants. There are people who would love to do your accounting. And there are people who would love to read your blog about metaphysics.

The sound of crickets

is an acquired taste.

You wrote and deleted and rewrote and revised and got feedback and would not sleep before it’s done.

And then?

Crickets.

The good news is that crickets aren’t a tough crowd. They’ll always fill the seats if nobody else shows up. They’re easy to impress. And they’re bad at throwing rotten tomatoes.

The charlatans won’t sleep until they hear the sound of praise.

The most successful creatives work the crowd of crickets.