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scribbles: Vol. 17 – September 10th, 2021

It is September and almost officially fall, and I still sometimes think it is 2020. The history books should consider writing “2021” as, “2020+1”. Fall is the beginning of my favorite time of year and is my second favorite season, after winter. I have an affinity for the films that come out this time of year as well as the video game releases, holidays, colder weather, colors, smells, clothing, and personal reflections as the year strides into its finale.

Today I wanted to share with all of you some of the newsletters I subscribe to and think others would enjoy. The last couple of years have brought a resurgence in digital newsletters as more and more people try to distance themselves from social media platforms. I couldn’t enjoy them more. They bring personality, focus, choice, and joy. In no particular order:

  • Rest of World — An international nonprofit journalism organization that covers technology, culture, politics, and where all of those things intersect. A great lens to news outside the USA.
  • Studio Neat: Gazette — Two of my favorite designers (that also live in Austin!) send a simple letter each Friday with one or two of their favorite recent discoveries.
  • Ryan Holiday — A bestselling author, bookstore owner, and writer on Stoic philosophy, this newsletter appears about four times a month and usually involves some great advice on the muses of life and how to be a better version of yourself. He also has a newsletter dedicated to just book recommendations.
  • Craig Mod: Ridgeline — Craig is a photographer and writer that has been living in Japan for years and documenting his journey in that incredible country. He spends most of his days walking long distances and shares those stories in his newsletter.
  • Dense Discovery — Each week when this one is released, I get so excited because I know it will include something I will love. Kai Brach sends this out to share up-and-coming apps/digital tools, interviews with people in technology, books to read, and art/typography. This newsletter was made for me and I think some of you too.
  • Better Allies — A thoughtful, weekly newsletter, on how to be a better ally for groups that are marginalized. They give advice on how to be a better listener and advocate for those that need help finding a voice or even space at the table in the first place.
  • Morning Brew — A daily newsletter for bite sized information on the latest business world/business adjacent news.
  • arun.is — Posts from Arun happen once in a blue moon and typically bring an in-depth analysis of why something was designed the way it was. I have shared a few of their pieces on this blog.
  • Austin Kleon — A weekly newsletter from Austin Kleon (who also lives in Austin), where he shares some of his recent creative endeavors as well as creative content he has been consuming. Austin is one of the most prolific artists I know of on the web.

I embarrassingly subscribe to many more newsletters than those listed above, but thought this list would bring a couple of people some good reads. Let me know if you subscribe to any of these, or if you have any recommendations from the newsletters you subscribe to.

Cheers

scribbles: Vol. 16 – July 15th, 2021

Hello World and oh, how I have missed you… It has been a couple of weeks since I have published a scribble. To be honest, I definitely experienced some burn out after my last post. I put my heart and soul into writing about my new learning process. So much energy that when I finally hit ‘Publish…’, it was a relief to be done. No doubt there are some lessons to learn from that experience, but nonetheless I am grateful that some people have benefited from a new perspective on how to process the world around us.

In looking through the links that I have collected over the last few weeks, there were too many map related saves to not make this volume for all the cartophiles out there:

  • I love the ability to smell. So many of my favorite memories are brought back to me via my nose. The moments where a smell brings be back to a certain place and time are also fun memories within themselves. Smelly Maps is an experience that displays crows sourced smell data in different cities around the world. If you select the building-looking icon on the left, you can choose a different city, then select a street and see what the dominant smell is on that street. Brilliant.
  • Halcyon Maps are drawn by an artist named Martin Vargic from Slovakia 🇸🇰. Their maps are more of infographics, but are also fun to examine for the tiniest of details and cultural brilliance. My favorite is the Map of the Internet 2021. Once you see these, you will get it.
  • A couple of years ago I visited Iceland and one of the things that came to my mind over and over again was, “The country I grew up in is so young”. Nearly everywhere we went, there were remnants of another era, long before the United States was formed. Parallel is an example of showcasing a different part of the Old World (the Netherlands 🇳🇱) and how old some of their buildings are. The colors in this map are beautiful, and I really enjoy the interaction. The oldest building I found in Amsterdam was built in 1606. Amazing.
  • Ever been curious where all of your rainfall goes when not being soaked up by the Earth? This map called, River Runner, allows you to click on any spot in the conterminous United States 🇺🇸 and see where rainfall would connect to the nearest creek, river, channel, gulf, and/or ocean. It then animates this path and brings you to where it empties, miles away from your starting location.
  • This last recommendation is a listen. ‘Two Mountains’ by The Dirtbag Diaries is a great podcast episode on learning about how places get the names they do. Believe it or not, humans love to name things and rename things. I have always enjoyed the process of naming my technology or giving a project a codename, etc. This podcast gave me a perspective I am grateful for and that is the care and perspectives that should be considered when it comes to naming the geological features we climb, the mountains we ski, and the hills we camp on.

I hope everyone’s summer is going well and this finds you in higher spirits. It feels good to be back. I’m still thinking about whether I am going to go back to a 2-week cadence with these. Regardless, I hope to publish more words here soon.

On Learning

If what you are about to read interests you in the slightest, and I hope it does, I need you to repeat and remind yourself over and over again, there is no such thing as a perfect system. I have been working on this piece for a while now, and I am sharing this process because it will help me learn and synthesize my understanding of the matter and I also want to help people that may also be in the same situation I am, hungry to do more with the thoughts and information echoing in our brains. There hasn’t been a moment in our world’s history where we have had access to as much information as we do today. This access is undoubtedly going to increase over the rest of our lifetimes. This post is about distilling the most important information to us, but in a way that allows us to learn and change because of what we are learning. Now let’s begin.

Introduction

Every once in a while a new tool will come along and change the way we do things. Around the end of December, I came across a new app called Craft. The discovery of this app was transformative and came to me at the perfect time. Around the middle of 2020 I discovered a new wave of software tools that are commonly referred to as “PKM” or Personal Knowledge Management. The two more commonly discussed applications in this world are Obsidian and Roam Research. These tools are meant to be a database or personal wiki for all the things you learn, do, and plan to do. Some people use them as a hybrid of both a productivity system (To-Do, meeting notes, etc.) and collection of personal notes (books, articles, journals, papers, etc.) Sometime in the fall I started to give Obsidian a try, but ran into a few hurdles. It only had a desktop application (there is now a mobile app in beta) and you had to use some workarounds to get it to sync properly with other devices, to name just a couple. Craft launched in November with an app on Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Their 1.0 release was so impressive that I immediately ditched Obsidian and went all in on Craft. The level of excitement I had for this app was frankly embarrassing because I lost sleep at night for weeks staying up thinking about all the different ways I could connect my learning. That is what this is all about.

After a month of playing around with the tool I quickly recognized some personal queues that I had learned from when I started to get into stationery (one of my hobbies) and frankly other things as well. I have a tendency to obsess over new and exciting things that I know will make me happy and help me accomplish the things I want to do. This obsession takes over into hours of research, forum questions, videos, and thinking, which then leads to what I call ‘new system anxiety’. This is where I worry so much about doing something the “wrong” way that I waste time and don’t even end up using the thing I sought to use in the first place. This happened when I started to get excited about the discovery of new stationery tools. I have learned the hard way (having lost time using great tools) that there is no perfect system and the only way to learn how a system will work best for you, is to just get after it and experiment. Learn to be okay with changing, daily if need be, and doing what is best for you. There is no right or wrong way.

Zettelkasten

If you begin the journey of learning about how to better understand what you read or consume, the chances are very high that you will come across the ‘Zettelkasten Method’. Every video or article you find will undoubtedly take a few minutes to introduce you to a German sociologist named, Niklas Luhmann. He was a thinker that was very productive, creating over 70 books and 400 scholarly articles, all because of his highly productive ‘Zettelkasten’ system (German-to-English translation: Slip-Box). Lastly, the other resource that is unanimously connected with the Zettelkasten system is the book from 2017 titled, “How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking — for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers” by Sönke Ahrens. I read this book a couple of months ago as part of my journey in learning how to be a better notetaker and knowledge worker. But, now is the time to remind you again, there is no such thing as a perfect system. I am saying this again because I too need to be reminded of that truth. One of the disappointing facts about reading how to do something “better” is that writers can make it feel like their way is the only “right” way to do something. When reading this book I found myself feeling guilty for not taking notes in the exact way Ahrens suggests. But, I’ve come to a healthy acceptance with knowing that it is perfectly okay for me to adapt these ideas and practices to my own way of thinking and processing information.

In summary, the Zettelkasten method is used to help you be a better writer and producer of your synthesized notes because you are constantly writing for your future self. You can pull together a rough draft almost instantly and never approach an essay or paper with a blank page. It is brilliant enough of an idea that when you learn about it, you have to ask yourself why you haven’t always been engaging with your notes this way.

In Ahrens’ book he teaches you about the effectiveness of each type of note used for this system: fleeting notes, literature notes, and permanent notes. The follow is a hyper-condensed summary of each note, as I understand them:

Fleeting Notes — Quick, small, and meant to capture those thoughts and ideas that come and go faster than you can even process them

Literature Notes — Meant to be short, in your own words, expands upon the details of what you are reading, and contain a record of the source mediums bibliographic information (i.e., book information, page number, etc.)

Permanent Notes — the most important part of the process, you build upon your fleeting & literature notes, connect these ideas to other ideas and topics in your knowledge base, and written in complete sentences.

These different notes represent different stages of the note-taking process. It is incredible to think that when Luhmann created his Zettelkasten system he didn’t have access to the software tools that we have today. All of his notes were done on paper notecards and stored in boxes.

Another pioneer in this field of work is Andy Matushak who actively shares their process with this note-taking method and thankfully, is an example of breaking away from tradition and doing it slightly differently. For example, he calls permanent notes: ‘evergreen notes’. Matushak is a fantastic writer, and you can get lost in his clever website. If you are interested why he believes in calling them evergreen notes, read here.

Okay, let’s keep going, I promise to explain why learning about the Zettelkasten method has helped me on my journey to being a better knowledge worker.

Craft

Craft is a notes/documents app based out of Budapest, Hungary 🇭🇺

I was first introduced to it from this blog post by Chiara Cokieng. It is a small post but ended up having a profound impact on my life because I was introduced to exactly the type of tool I was looking for. I was on the search for a note-taking app that allowed me to take notes on all of my devices while also connecting to other documents with the use of backlinks, easily share and collaborate with others (if needed), and I wanted it to be simple and elegant (unlike the Obsidian I was trying to learn during my discovery).

Backlinks are the hot new feature being included in almost every new note-taking app. For those that are not familiar with the phrase, it simply is a software tool that allows you to connect a piece of text to another document or text in another document. Think of how Wikipedia works and how links take you to other pages or section of a page. This feature allows you to easily do the same with your own notes. It also helps you create new documents on the go as you think of new things to write about.

As I write this, Craft is now on version 1.5.5 and each update has packed a load of new features and improvements. They add a detailed list of what changes come to their “What’s new” guide every time there is a new update (which is usually on a two-week cadence). It is also a fantastic way to showcase their app because that entire webpage is created in Craft. The developers are extremely responsive to feedback and there is already a supportive community in the company’s Slack channel. So many of my questions regarding this new frame of thinking have been answered by others in the Craft community.

Craft is only available on iOS/macOS for now, but they did just create a waitlist for those that want to beta test a ‘Web Editor’, meaning that you could use Craft in a browser on a different platform. For me, the app has met all my needs and much more. Remember, this system is what works for me. What I am trying to do, is introduce you to a set of “principles over prescriptions” as Tiago Forte teaches in his course “Building a Second Brain”.

Principles

One of the most influential mentors in my journey has been the just mentioned Tiago Forte. He is a great teacher in that he emphasizes ‘the why’ rather than just ‘the how’ when it comes to learning. I have not had the privilege of taking the course he leads twice a year, but he also gives out the majority of his work for free in blog posts and YouTube videos. I have been self-teaching and practicing this work for a few months now and learning bit by bit. Dozens of others have taken a lot of the philosophies that Tiago teaches and have shared it in their own words too. Ali Abdaal has plenty of videos showcasing his spin on collecting, organizing, distilling, and expressing (CODE, one of Forte’s methods). I would recommend watching his videos on The Second Brain and How I Remember Everything I Read. I am curious what stage some of you would align yourselves within the latter video?

The following are some of the principles I have been learning across the field of Zettelkasten, PKM, Taking Smart-Notes, and Second-Brain methods:

The Collector’s Fallacy

If one is to start building a second brain or become a knowledge worker, they will consistently be caught with the dilemma and question of, WHAT DO I SAVE AND WHERE? Too often we will find ourselves collecting and collecting and collecting, of course with good intentions to spend a weekend going through everything we collected. Of course this never happens. We file browser-tab-bankruptcy, save all the links we intended to read in another location and burn out. When we just collect things it makes us think that we also know about a topic when in reality we are just aware of something not fully understood to us.

“Just knowing about a thing is less than superficial since knowing about is merely to be certain of its existence, nothing more. Ultimately, this fake-knowledge is hindering us on our road to true excellence. Until we merge the contents, the information, ideas, and thoughts of other people into our knowledge, we haven’t really learned a thing. We don’t change ourselves if we don’t learn, so merely filing things away doesn’t lead us anywhere.” (The Collector’s Fallacy)

When a system like this is used correctly it can be a place for synthesizing and connecting the things that matter rather than a place of digital clutter.

At the start of my journey I wanted to web-clip, bookmark, and store everything I came across in the hopes that I would “use it someday”. The same phrase is spoken by hoarders who collect every little thing they find with the hopes of it having utility someday. There needs to be a balance. The habit of collecting everything you find on the Internet will also burn you out and cause you to think that it is possible to learn everything there possibly is to learn in this life. As much as I wish that was true, it is not. Collect what matters. Doing so will prevent the every other month digital bankruptcy I mentioned before. Whatever tool you settle on for using as your second brain, it should be a place for storing the things you are learning and wrestling with.

Lastly, Andy Matushak says it so well, “Accumulating tabs, saving PDFs, and making bookmarks feels like progress, but we systematically overrate its value. Understanding requires effortful engagement; you are not likely to draw much understanding from a folder of barely skimmed PDFs. We collect material because it’s easy, and because it quells the anxiety that we’ll never find what we’re looking at again. But really, we’re often just making things worse, burying important materials in tons of secondary matter we just “don’t want to lose.” This notion is in contrast to Knowledge work should accrete.”

Projects over Categories

Your work should lead to something sharable with the world. No matter how small or big. What is the purpose of deep learning if all you do is keep your knowledge for yourself? An unknown number of people in this world have spent their lives reading hundreds of book and articles. They highlight, underline, write in the margins, then put the books back on the shelf, never to engage with those ideas again. It helps no one. My heart hurts to think of the influence these silent knowledge workers could have in the world!

I’m not saying that you need to go on the Internet and share all of your thoughts/learns. I’m not even saying that you need to publish anything at all. But how much better would the world be if you talked about what you learn with others? This can be done in whatever fashion is best suited for you and your circumstances. But think about how much more engaging your conversations with your friends could be? Dinner parties, family gatherings, street encounters, etc.

Stoics, Junius Rusticus and Arrian of Nicomedia, were pulled away from their books by other Stoics for fear of them becoming “mere pen-and-ink philosophers”. We cannot simply consume, organize, and distill and go about our life not sharing our learns with others.

This is why it is important you organize your work into projects instead of just categories. Siloing your notes in different blanket categories will not help you connect them to ideas and prevent you from connecting them to notes that may loosely correlate. It creates a lot of friction when it comes to actually working with your knowledge and improving the world because of it. Of course, this is easier said than done and in some small intenseness a category here and there is necessary. Yes, this method is a prescription. But the principle is more important because what I share may not work for you.

Habits & Routines are Vital

“Even the best tool will not improve your productivity considerably if you don’t change your daily routines the tool is embedded in, just as the fastest car won’t help you much if you don’t have proper roads to drive it on.” — Sönke Ahrens

Our lives are busy and with the blurring of work/home life it can be extremely hard to focus on the river of content coming in and out of our lives. For me, the only way I can survive and not feel overburdened by the abundance of life is through routines and habits that change with my circumstances.

I have found that the only way I can be productive in my personal endeavors (learning, family, relationships, health, hobbies, and more) and my knowledge work is to constantly evaluate my morning routine, nightly routine, weekly review/preview, and yearly theme. These routines include steps like clearing my inboxes of fleeting notes so that the good ones are kept, and the bad ones are thrown away. The ideas that are kept are then connected to other ideas and so forth.

There is no ‘magic pill’

I keep repeating that there is no perfect system. There are two reasons why I keep reminding you of this:

  1. Your system needs to match the way you think and work, meaning that the way someone does something will and should differ from the way you process and distill information
  2. Expecting a single application to be a magic pill and contain every single thing you need to be a productive knowledge worker is a fallacy. Humans naturally want a one-size-fits-all-quick-fix solution to every problem they encounter. Our brains are wired to try to take the fastest and easiest route possible. Just look at how popular health culture diets and fads become (and quickly fall). For me to be productive at capturing what I consume and then what I think requires the use of pen and paper, multiple apps, and routines. The faster you learn that utilizing a spread of tools is much better than trying to find one tool that does it all, the better off you will be.

Yes, Craft was monumental for me in being able to connect my notes and to be a better note-taker. But, all of this can be done on paper or with other digital tools. The possibilities for being a smarter note-taker are infinite. My workflow section (seen below) will showcase the tools I use to be a better learner.

Summarization is Key

The Zettelkasten method is brilliant because it forces you to write your processing in your own words. Yes, the thing you were told repeatedly throughout grade school. The book I mentioned before, ‘How to Take Smart Notes’, reiterates over and over again the importance of storing what you learned and not what something says. The author repeatedly emphasized to avoid the allure of saving and storing quotes. Technically, a true Zettelkasten system has references to where to find quotes but does not store them. I disagree with this, as I like to store my highlights and quotes for later, but I also try to add notes to them, adding my understanding and context. I am creating a mixture of a digital commonplace book and second brain.

There is no better way to learn than to summarize what concepts you learn from a book, story, article, video, etc. Nat Eliason and Derek Sivers both offer grate examples of how to effectively summarize books (those links don’t tell you how but are their very own book notes, shared with everyone.)

Remember, one of the reasons for this way of working is to help your future self. Our brains are not meant to remember everything. If what you write is too vague or too compressed it will not make sense to your future self. Tiago Forte teaches a practice called, progressive summarization. This principle involves the routine of engaging with different topics and projects over a long period of time and having multiple layers of highlighting. I am in the process of still learning what works best for me in this arena because his end-to-end approach does not work for me.

Another learn for me has been going back through my highlights weeks and months after I read something. Things that end up being truly meaningful float to the top and are then ready for safekeeping and connecting. One example, after I am done reading a book and I have collected all of my highlights, I will come back to them at a later time and then highlight those highlights and even remove ones that I don’t think are really necessary. This helps weed out highlights about things I already know well and focus on topics I am still learning or know nothing about.

Nothing is Set in Stone

One process that has helped me with building my second brain has been the PARA method for organization. This system is taught by Tiago Forte and transformed the way I organize multiple apps in my life and both my professional and personal digital workspaces.

PARA:

  • A project is “a series of tasks linked to a goal, with a deadline.”
  • An area of responsibility is “a sphere of activity with a standard to be maintained over time.”
  • A resource is “a topic or theme of ongoing interest.”
  • Archives include “inactive items from the other three categories.”

The principle of this method is that nothing digital should be set in stone. With PARA, the location of your notes are changing and evolving with their use-case. Nothing digital has to be permeant. Erica Albright, a character in David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010) says, “The Internet’s not written in pencil… It’s written in ink.” This may be true for things published online, but this is not true for your personal digital library. The Dewey Decimal System should not and does not apply here. A detailed explanation of how to use this system can be found, here.

One of the hardest parts of this new way of thinking has been learning to be okay with changing the folders, names, and location of my files/notes… For whatever reason, my experience with computers has always been that when I set up a system for organization it has needed to stay that way, of course with some exceptions. Files stay in the folders they are put in and are moved if only necessary. I now think of things as they are in the real world. With physical projects and analog artifacts, they are moved into different drawers and folders and brought to the desk and upper-shelves when needed. Titles are erased or scratched out and changed to something better. PARA helps you prioritize and access the projects you are currently working on, the areas that you are currently devoted to, the resources you need for later, and an archive of your notes that won’t be needed anymore. All of this is moveable. Your areas of focus can become projects, projects can change focus, things can be brought out of the archive, you get it. Change is necessary. This is not a marriage. Apps do not last forever. Your notes and file structure are written in pencil, not ink.

Conclusion

One thought that I have had repeatedly throughout this new journey is, I wish so badly that I started to learn this is middle school. I can think of no better way to prepare a student to become a better critical thinker and lifelong knowledge worker. Imagine if all of us started taking notes when we were 15 on the books we read, the conversations we had, the lines of a film that inspired us and why it resonated with us, the wins we had at our first job, and the “wow moments” we had in class?

Recently, I’ve been in search for a game that would curb an itch I’ve had to build some massive creative project that will bring a sense of accomplishment. Something to look forward to when I am not working, reading, building relationships. The last few months I’ve been building my second brain and the more I’ve realized that this is the project I’ve been looking for. It has required deep thought, creativity, looking for and asking for help, and patience. I find myself getting excited to go and get lost in my second brain where I can read and write about the things I’ve been processing. What you are building with this is almost like a personal OS. Over years, you should be able to see how your thinking has changed. What did you used to believe? What do you believe now? The possibilities are endless.

Now more than ever is the time to build something outside yourself. The “build” in “Build a Second Brain” isn’t the best word because this system is grown rather than built. It becomes messy at times, like a garden. It takes patience, pruning, moving, and then you repeat the same cycle. I can think of no better way for your future-self to thank you, than to take the time (little by little) and figure how to build these knowledge principles and use our digital tools to outsource the mental labor you collect every day.


My Workflow

What does an average day for you look like when consuming new information? For me, it typically involves multiple podcasts, a couple YouTube videos, my daily mornings reads, various books, an article or two, etc. All of this information is floating along a fast-moving river and as my brain processes them, I am thinking of new ideas, connecting concepts, succumbing to groupthink, and applying confirmation bias.

Depending on the medium, most of it is worth enjoying and moving on. But every day there are little nuggets of revelation. Moments where I am learning another human’s perspective of how to navigate this world. Learning moments where I find the answer to questions I have had for months, even years. Someone tells me something they love, and years from now I want to remember they told me that. With time this process becomes a habit, and you quickly discover how to distill the information worth keeping. The river becomes easier to navigate, and you can float along choosing to put things in your boat that are worth storing for your future self.

One of the coolest features of Craft is the ability to click a button and have your note sharable via a weblink:

I created this note to show this feature and my workflow.

Clicking on the toggles will allow you to see the different components of my note taxonomy and workflow.

scribbles: Vol. 15 – May 7th, 2021

Hello again! This scribble is being sent to you from a warm Texan, it is already so hot here… It took a couple of months of various appointments, but I am officially a Texas citizen. Something I never thought I would ever say but here I am. It has only been 5 months, but I’m already finding a humble sense of pride in saying, “I live in Austin”. The last few weekends I have spent time going for runs downtown, and it has really helped me connect with the city and the other people who are doing the same. The culture here is contagious and a joy to be a part of. Here are a few links that I have found good enough for sharing:

  • I think the most well-known room in the White House has to be the ‘Oval Office’, for obvious reasons. This piece by the New York Times showcases some beautiful photos of the Oval Office over the last few decades, even going into detail the different pieces of art and busts. It is a fascinating visual story and a good use of the modern web. Undoubtedly, there would be a painting of Yosemite on the wall if I had the privilege.
  • Usually, when I am asked for “the best pens” to look at I will send people to Brad Dowdy’s Top 5 Pens. But another great stationery website I follow just updated their top pen list and I think it is worth sharing. The Gentleman Stationery produced a great 2021 list and has many links to other guides for the stationery-hungry people out there. If any of you see something on this list and want some questions answered, send them my way and I will give them my best shot. I have quite a few of the pens on this list *sweating smile*.
  • To say that I am excited about the new orange iMac would be an understatement. I think the color is perfect and the new design is stunning (disclaimer: Apple is my employer). Anyway, a designer I have linked to before in a previous edition has a new post with some free wallpapers inspired by the new iMac colors, and they are so fun. Enjoy! (They also come with a ‘Dynamic’ set, meaning they will adjust with Dark Mode/Light Mode settings)
  • A-rapid-fire-trailers-and-teasers-compliation-of-shows-and-movies-I-am-excited-about: Oslo, Luca, Stranger Things 4, Georgetown, Mare of Easttown, 1899, Ted Lasso Season 2, and Fathom.

“Every intellectual endeavor starts with a note.” — Sönke Ahrens

Stay classy, and be excellent to each other.

scribbles: Vol. 14 – April 23rd, 2021

Hello my friends and happy Friday! I am really looking forward to this issue’s goodies. I hope life is treating you well, and if it is not, know that better times lie ahead. Whatever is happening now is just a small moment in the grand picture of your life. Taking a 40,000-foot view can surprisingly be the solution to almost any problem. In no particular order:

  • Discovered another neat map. The advancement of web technologies over the last decade have greatly influenced the way we interact with maps, and I’ve enjoyed every part of that journey. I like how quickly this map educates you on reasons why airport runways are oriented the way they are by showing you with a real example, then lets you decide where to look next.
  • I am never shy about sharing my love and admiration for anything stationery related. Likewise, I was delighted to discover this blog post that showcased the product made to celebrate the “275th Anniversary” for German pencil company, Staedtler. The stamping on the pencils are, timeless. To my astonishment, this product was made in 1937. The company website states that while their business didn’t start until 1835, the family calling for pencil making dates back to a Friedrich Staedtler, in 1662. The old world is indeed, old.
  • Ever been curious about how the NOAA determine what climates are considered normal? Well, come to find out they are “30-year averages of key climate observations made at weather stations and corrected for bad or missing values and station changes over time.” The most alarming data found is about half-way down the page, and you can see a visual showing the increasing temperature over the last century alone. The most unfortunate part about climate change is that because it happens so gradually it is hard for most people to see why it is the biggest threat to us all. Remember, the 40,000-foot perspective goes a long way…
  • Okay, this one should make you laugh and also shake your head in amazement. An absolutely brilliant software developer, Rashiq Zahid, reverse engineered McDonald’s internal API back in October 2020 to allow his website to map out if the McDonald’s near you has a working ice cream machine. Incredible 🍦
  • If you know me, you know I have a special affinity for all the Back to the Future films. This well done YouTube video is short and fun for those that love Easter eggs and the littlest of details. I’ve seen the first film dozens of times and I love that I still get to learn more about the masterpiece of a film it is.

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. — James Clear

Can’t wait for dose #2. See you in two.

scribbles: Vol. 13 – April 9th, 2021

Happy April! Spring is in full force here in Austin. The birds sing their songs for hours each morning and I love every second of it. Many of the trees around my work turned green overnight, or so it seemed. Here are some of the goodies I’ve discovered recently, in no particular order:

  • I recently discovered this creative wiki that is entirely dedicated to explaining in detail different “aesthetics”. If you are an older human who wants to know why your niece told you she is into “Lo-Fi” music. Well, now you can learn everything you want to know about it.
  • This one is for any map lovers out there, I can promise that you are not alone. This website displays the United States “where city names are replaced by their most Wikipedia’ed resident: people born in, live in, or connected to a place.” A lot of fun learns in this one.
  • I just started reading the first trilogy of the Foundation (series) by Isaac Asimov. I read his Wikipedia page and found the history of his life to be quite intriguing. After reading it, I was also excited to learn that the film Bicentennial Man (1998) was an adaptation of his original short story by the same name. Anyway, the first book in the series is extremely captivating and so far, a great sci-fi novel.
  • Stumbled upon an artist that I hadn’t heard of before named, Billie Marten. She has an incredible voice and I love the sound of her music. She has been making music for years, and I’m glad I discovered her right before her new album comes out next month. A great singer/songwriter from the UK.
  • Lastly, as many of you know… I am a total sucker for silent hiking videos. I have a new favorite, and it is a 14-minute video of a hiker, Jesper Bach, hiking from Munich (Bad Tölz) to Venice. If you need a good wind down and/or want to see some of the most beautiful shots of Europe, watch this video. The very end made me tear up.

I am told this is a great tool for finding a vaccine near you. In just a few days every state will have the opportunity for everyone 16 and up to sign-up but of course the hard part is going to be availability. I am hoping that link can help some of you. I got my first dose a couple of days ago and couldn’t be more excited about when I get to go again for the final dose. So grateful to live in the time that we do.

scribbles: Vol. 12 – March 26th, 2021

Good morning everyone! It has been another two weeks and I can hardly believe March is almost over. I know the joke last year was that “March never ended”, well I certainly feel as though this time it flew by. Here are some of the gems I have discovered recently:

Read 📚

One of my favorite films from the last few years has been, Little Women (2019). The dialogue is delightful and the story is told so well. Anyway, I recently stumbled upon a photographer that was commissioned to do a set of “tintype portraits” for the cast during the making of the film. There is something so mesmerizing about the final product of these shots. The process looks like so much fun and I would love to try something like that someday.

It has been a few issues since I shared a fun design post. I have always been fascinated with how different countries choose to print their money. Today, England announced a new £50 banknote that features the scientist Alan Turing. For those of you that don’t know who that is, Turing was a brilliant scientist who was also a codebreaker that helped end World War II. He is credited by many for paving the way for the creation of computers we use today. He was also gay and wrongfully persecuted by his community and government. The news of this new banknote brought me joy because it is honoring an incredible human being and also shows a country’s willingness to own their mistakes and make anew. This banknote is special and also very well designed, in my opinion.

Watch 👀

I recently watched a newer documentary called, Persona (HBO). It is very bold and takes on one of the most popular topics as of late, personality tests (Myers-Briggs & Big 5). They provide a very convincing claim that they are destroying our society by putting us in boxes and even worse, being implemented throughout nearly every work environment as a form of control and manipulation. Highly recommend this one.
People > Algorithms, always.

I haven’t started this recommendation yet but I am sure I would… I am very excited to watch the newest season of Drive to Survive. As of right now, I have plans for later in the year to go to my first ever Grand Prix and I couldn’t be more excited for it.

“The last days of the glacial winter are not yet passed, so young is our world. I used to envy the Father of our race, dwelling as he did in contact with the new-made fields and plants of Eden; but I do so no more, because I have discovered that I also live in ‘creation’s dawn.’ The morning stars still sing together, & the world, not yet half made, becomes more beautiful every day.” – John Muir

I love the idea that “creation is not over” and that there are still so many species that have yet to be created and we are living in just the smallest of moment in the grand timeline of this planet.

scribbles: Vol. 11 – March 12th, 2021

Good morning my fellow readers! Happy Friday and I wish you all a great weekend of relaxation and reflection, even if just for a small moment. I have seen many people reflecting this week as we are now one-year into the after-math of the pandemic. Oh, how time flys… In many ways, the last 12 months will surely be something we all carry with us the rest of our lives. I look forward to continuing to grow and learn from this experience and use those lessons to teach future generations how to be the best humans they can become.

For this issue, I have a wide variety of content to consume:

Read 📚

Last issue, I shared the fun Easter egg/puzzle that can be found on NASA’s Perseverance rover. Well, this week I discovered a website that lets you create your own secret message using the same parachute design! Brilliant. Save this for when you want a fun puzzle to give to someone.

Since I last published a piece I finished a book called, How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking, by Sönke Ahrens. I am excited to talk about this book again soon as it helped fill so many of the cracks in my brain regarding note-taking and thinking. If you are at all interested in learning how to think more about the content you consume, than this book will undoubtedly help you on that journey. You will hear me talk about this book again, don’t worry.

I recently finished reading a piece by one of my favorite writers, Ryan Holiday. He focuses a lot on stoicism, which I find great solace in and connection to. This post was about daily practices and how they improve our life. He emphasizes in this article that daily practices are much more important than daily routines.

Watch 👀

Recently watched a short-film/documentary on YouTube called, Summer of Wonder. It immediately made me miss home and the mountains… It is an inspiring doc about two trail runners that both complete incredible feats in the trail running world.

See you in two weeks. Keep doing your part. We are so close.

scribbles: Vol. 10 – February 26th, 2021

Good morning my friends! I am writing to you from a much warmer Austin after what was a hell of a week due to an unprecedented winter storm… Tara and I were very lucky and grateful to have family nearby so that we could find refuge from our apartment that had no water and heat for over a week. That truly was a privilege and our hearts are still so heavy for the hundreds of thousands of Texans that couldn’t (or still cannot) escape the awful circumstances… The snow+ice melted days ago, but the damage is still to be fixed for so many.

Read (and solve!) 📚

I will share a link to the twitter thread that explains an extremely clever puzzle/Easter egg that was created inside the parachute on the Mars rover, Perseverance (Percy). I have always loved Easter eggs so when I saw this, I couldn’t help but smile and become giddy with excitement at the brilliance of the many people behind our modern day marvels. Seeing the rover land on Mars the other day brought tears to my eyes, really all space endeavors cause me to become emotional. If you want to download the PDF to solve the fun mystery, here is the link.

Watch 👀

I was able to finally see a film that I have been excited about for many months called, Nomadland. This week it became available for a limited time on, Hulu.

It is based on a true story and the storytelling is so well done that at times I had to remind myself that Francis McDormand is an actress and I wasn’t watching a documentary. If you are interested in seeing a moving piece on rural America, this is your film. Cannot wait to revisit this one from time to time.

Over the last few months been implementing a new digital system for all of my thinking and I have hinted at it a few times now, and I’m getting closer and closer to sharing it with all of you here. It may not be for everyone, but I’m excited to share my process nonetheless.

Also, would any of you prefer this to be an emailed newsletter instead? I have been thinking about that for a few months too. Feel free to reach out to me via email or the contact page.

“Everything’s destiny is to change, to be transformed, to perish. So that new things can be born.” – Marcus Aurelius

scribbles: Vol. 9 – February 12th, 2021

Good morning everyone! Friday has long been my favorite day of the week. When I was younger it usually meant coming home from school to then go with one of my parents to Blockbuster and pick out a movie, as I got older it meant sleepovers with my friends, and into adulthood it now means a fun meal and movie night with my wife. I hope all of you have a peaceful and enjoyable day. This volume will hopefully introduce you to some things I think will be worth your time.

Listen 🎧

At the end of 2020 I stumbled upon a history podcast that is done by a group called, The National Museum of American Religion. Their first episode came out in Oct. 2020 and they are now on episode #18. They discuss different religious leaders, movements, and events and how those experiences influenced the American story. It is very well produced and I have learned about some incredible stories from people I never heard of before such as Fannie Lou Hamer and Elizabeth Seton.

Play 👾

Tara and I have been itching for something to add to our nightly activities and decided to try and find a game that we could get excited to set up and play with/against each other. We did a curbside pickup at a local game store here in Austin for the game, Sushi Go! Party. After a round or two of trial and error we not only figured out how it was supposed to be played but completely fell in love with it. It is a card game that can change each time you play it depending on the cards you choose to use for that session, similar to Dominion (one of my all-time favorite games.) The box says it is rated for ages 8+ and I would believe that to be the case. If you are looking for a new game to play with two people or the entire family, try out Sushi Go! Party.

Watch 👀

I would be very surprised if you happen to find this post and not have already seen this wholesome and short video. Going to give zero context, it is just so innocent and relevant.

Short and sweet this one. Cheers!

scribbles: Vol. 8 – January 29th, 2021

I guess after living in Austin for almost a month now I should be starting this with “Hey Y’all!” but I don’t see that becoming a thing… Anyway, good morning and happy Friday my Internet friends. I don’t know about you, but I have certainly felt a greater sense of peace the last few weeks as we’ve witnessed a new administration trying to move mountains to tackle the pandemic. This year is undoubtedly going to be full of moments that continue to ask so much of us, but with the right frame of mind we can handle those moments with patience and hope.

Here are some of the things I’ve been enjoying:

Read 📚

Okay, so this recommendation is a really long read and but I think it is worth it now and will also be a good article to save for years to come. At the beginning of the month, The New Yorker released an article on the current known history of the COVID-19 pandemic titled, The Plague Year. I found a paper copy of this issue at Barnes & Noble, but I imagine that it has already been replaced with a newer issue, but you can read the digital version for free. Lawrence Wright does a beautiful job of introducing the people whose names I wouldn’t otherwise know and have been working for decades to come up with the solutions we are seeing today. I hope that later this year he writes a follow-up and with the length of this article I’m presuming he is planning to turn it into a book.

This one is for my design obsessed friends and for any horologist. The article is pure eye candy and goes into detail about the design language of watches and how they inspire the Apple Watch. If you are remotely interested in watches, I think you will enjoy this read.

Disclaimer, I not only love the Apple Watch, but I also work at Apple.

Listen 🎧

Okay, this one I know I will be writing about again in April. But just a couple of days ago one of my favorite artists, Porter Robinson, announced his second full-album will be released on April 23rd, and I am beyond excited. You can add it to your library now and listen to a couple of tracks as part of a pre-release, Look at the Sky is my favorite so far.

Technology ⚡️

I have fallen in love with a new piece of technology. The Logitech MX Master 3 has been on my list of things to try for a long time. I first heard about this mouse years ago, and I decided recently to just got for it. I am blown away about how much of a joy it is to use as an input device. If you are a macOS & iOS user it has great integration (Mission Control & Spaces) and one of the neat features is that with a button press on the bottom you can easily switch between three different devices.

Have a great weekend and see you February! 💕

scribbles: Vol. 7 – January 15th, 2021

Well, my wife and I have officially been living in Austin 🤠 for two weeks now. We have had a great transition from Washington to Texas and even though we miss the evergreens and mountains we are enjoying the different type of greenery that the Texas Hill Country has to offer. Weirdly enough, it snowed last Sunday!

Due to the consequences of the pandemic, I am still mostly working from home. I joked with Tara the other day that it still feels like we are a short drive away from family and friends because we are still doing what we have been doing since March of last year. Social distancing, working from home, and only leaving when we really need to.

Watch 👀

I know we are super late to the hype train that existed for this show but, Schitt’s Creek is genuinely one of the funniest shows I have watched. We are trying to balance binging the entire series while also taking it easy because we know we don’t want it to end. Each character is so well played and thought out, and I can already tell that it will be a favorite for years to come.

I have linked Kraig’s videos before, and I am sure I will for some time but his most recent one of him hiking near a volcano in Guatemala has some stunning visuals. The format for this video is different from his meditative ones, but I still think it is relaxing and a great escape (especially from the chaos of the last two weeks). Brighter times are ahead.

Read 📚

This year I started off by reading a fantasy novel called, Sabriel. It was written in the mid-90s, and I am really enjoying it. I expect I will finish it by the end of next week because I look forward to any moments I can squeeze in an opportunity to see how the story will play out. The world in which it takes place has a unique type of magic.

That does it for this week. In the coming weeks and months I am going to start sharing the process I have for the different systems I used to help me reflect, write, and think. I am especially excited to talk about a new app I started using.

Stay safe, wear a mask, read books, and love one another.

scribbles: Vol. 6 – January 1st, 2021

Happy New Year to everyone! The end of 2020 has been a wild ride for Tara and I because we have been packing and preparing for a big move and a new chapter in our lives. With the holidays, finishing school, and a new calendar year I am very excited about improving on my habits and for some new experiences.

Listen 🎧

For those that read my post on ‘Yearly Themes’ a few weeks ago I had mentioned that I learned about this process from the Cortex podcast. A few days later they posted their episode talking about 2021 themes and I think it is worth a listen. Even if you don’t have anything prepared for the first day of the year it is still never too late to slow down and think about how to pivot your life in a direction you desire. We are constantly moving in and out of different seasons in our lives.

Read + Watch 📚🎞

One of my favorite parts of December is all the ‘Best of the Year’ lists that get posted. For books, here are my two favorites: Ryan Holiday, Kottke.org (this link will provide many great lists to look at.) + Bonus link that is entirely centered on book design for the last year.

A social network I got really into this year, Letterboxd, has many great lists for films to watch. One of the crew members curated a list of the top-rated films from all the members of Letterboxd for release in 2020. Two of the films I enjoyed from this list are: Sound of Metal and Wolfwalkers. One 2020 film that I am really looking forward to watching is Nomadland. I’m still thinking about what I am going to consider the best film of 2020, but I think the best film I watched in 2020 was, A Hidden Life.

One last read I recommend for those interested in the why behind learning history and how it can help us be better citizens. “The aim of history class isn’t to get students to love or loathe their country. It’s to prepare them to live in it.”

Tara and I are about to start a new part of our life in Austin, Texas. We are going to miss the Pacific Northwest more than we can describe with words. Our family, the mountains, friends, home, etc. However, we are excited to see what life has to offer for us going forward.

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season and are looking forward to the rest of winter and a new year. If in the next few weeks you find that life is just as hard as it has been or not going the way you thought it would in “2021”, don’t be discouraged. No matter how we define the time we are in, life will always bring us opportunities to adapt and change. How we respond to those opportunities is what defines us.

“Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” -Marcus Aurelius

scribbles: Vol. 5 – December 4th, 2020

Happy Holidays to all of you! This is going to be a Friday night edition. I’ve had my head down with school, work, and my previous post pretty much all week. I love December and all the things that happen within these 4 weeks. We have already watched Home Alone (my personal favorite Christmas movie) and we are so excited to watch some more classics as well as some new ones too. I hope all of you are finding this holiday season well, considering the circumstances, and are looking forward to some time alone or with your closest loved ones. This is one of the best months of the year to think and reflect on the philosophies of life.

Read 📚

If you haven’t watched The Queen’s Gambit yet, I highly recommend that you do. It is not perfect and has a few flaws, but regardless I still think it is worth the time. One of the better shows we have had the opportunity to watch this year. Anyway, I stumbled upon this interesting piece on one of the advisors, Garry Kasparov, who was a Russian World Chess Champion. He played an important role in making sure the games were real and the atmosphere of the chess world matched what it was like in the 60s. There are some definite spoilers so read it after you watch it.

Play 👾

More on the chess theme… I started using the Lichess.org service well over a year ago to play matches with my brother and random people on the web. From the research I have done it seems to be the best out there. It is free, open source, available on almost everything, and has a great community. If you are excited to learn more about Chess and want to play it more, feel free to add me, @alpinew0lf.

Another fun game I’ve been playing recently on iOS is called, Two Spies. It has been out for a while now, but they are introducing “Season 1” of a new multiplayer experience on December 9th which looks like it will make it even more fun. The game is exciting, requires you to slow down from other fast-paced mobile games, and it’s beautiful.

Funny comic to end this week’s edition:

(I think there is a xkcd.com for every aspect of life)

Yearly Themes

This post is about change. There is nothing more consistent in this world than change and I wanted to share some things I do each day/month/year to see the changes I want in my life. I fully understand that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for changing behavior, finding peace, and/or completing routines. My hope in sharing this is that I can inspire some of you to try and to do some things differently than you may have before. The most important thing to remember is that these systems should be organic and it is perfectly okay for them to evolve each week, month, or year. Your systems need to change to meet your needs so don’t feel any guilt if you decide to not ‘complete’ or ‘follow-through’ with your original plan. The purpose of creating a plan is to accomplish something you are seeking to do, changing your plans is almost expected to effectively change yourself.

Your North Star

A few years ago I was listening to a podcast I enjoy called, Cortex and they introduced me to a way of settings yearly goals I had not ever heard of before. I was introduced to, ‘yearly themes’ (I highly recommend you watch this 6-minute video). When I was learning about this, it also was the time of the year when people started talking about ‘New Year’s Resolutions’. I don’t know what it was about this year in particular, but I was becoming very resentful at the notion of participating in such a silly ritual, especially after multi-year attempts with no success. I gave more thought than it is worth to why I would indulge in such a belief that when the sun rises on January 1st, we would all be set up for success to do things differently. Why would I believe that this day should be different from the days before or after it? Well, the more I read about why resolutions typically don’t work and with what I was learning about yearly themes, I was comfortable with the idea of saying, “so-what” to the bombastic New Years rituals and to give it another try, a different try. After a couple of years of giving the yearly theme a try, I can say that it has worked for me and will most likely stay for years or decades to come.

Yearly themes are a single word (or as small of a phrase as you can make it) that describe what you hope to become by the end of the year. It is a North Star. You think of it randomly throughout the year when you are driving, getting groceries, reflecting, etc. It is a word that helps filter all the goals you choose to make each month or week. Your yearly theme is a reflection of whom you want to become and is not necessarily achieved by the end of the year. The goal of focusing on a yearly theme is to help you in your decision-making processes and to continue to keep the trend line towards your vision. The Year of Less, The Year of Health, The Year of Strength, Learning, Novelty, Reading, Mindfulness, Commitment, Refinement, etc. Notice how some of these words could have more than one meaning? That is the point. Your yearly theme could and most likely will mean something different by the end of the year. The purpose of this ritual is to use your word or phrase as a foundation for the goals and decisions you will make throughout the year.

For 2020 (please get ready to laugh)… My theme was, The Year of Stability, Ha ha ha… I know. In a year of pandemonium, with the ongoing pandemic and ‘infodemic’ how is it you may ask, that I could find stability in such a climate? I actually started to think about making my 2020 theme based on stability right around the time when the first case of COVID-19 occurred in November of last year. No one could have guessed what that was going to mean for the world and I could not have guessed what that would mean for my new life with my partner. That is where the beauty of having a yearly theme comes in.

The Tools I Use

Humans are creatures of habit. Whether we like it or not. If any of you are interested in reading good books on how/why we do the things we do and how to get better at doing the things we want to, I recommend you read Atomic Habits by James Clear and Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith. Both are very well written and offer actionable ways to form good habits. There is much to say on that matter but for now, I will focus on the tools I use for accomplishing my goals.

There are two stationery items I use for tracking my progress towards my yearly theme. These tools bring me peace, focus, accountability, and reflection. They help me see where I’ve been and where I want to go. One of them is called a Hobonichi. So far, I have used one for all of 2018, 2019, and 2020. It is an A6 dated planner and I use it primarily for two things: ‘Daily Questions’ and ‘Gratitude’. My previous Hobonichi’s have gone through an evolution process that has brought me to what I use them for today. On the front pages, I write what my theme is, and what things I hope to accomplish throughout the year to help me accomplish my goals. I ask myself what stability looks like, or for example what year of reading would look like, and so-on. On the daily pages, I used to write about the high of my day, the low of my day, and what I am grateful for. A few months ago, I decided to only focus on gratitude and to use more of the page to be specific about why I am grateful. Expanding on why I am grateful for something has really helped me think about why I am choosing to write about it and has also helped me be grateful for the things that have also been difficult for me. For years now I have used the Monthly section at the start of the journal as my place for ‘Daily Questions’. These change from time to time and also blend with whatever my yearly theme is. I then rate myself with either a 0 (blank), .5 (dot), or 1 (circle) for each question, with a total of 5 possible points for each day. This is not meant to be a guilt trip or shameful in any way. Rather, a moment to reflect on the day and see where I can do better the next day. Remember, the yearly theme is about trending in the right direction. Moving towards and becoming the person we want to be. If I score poorly multiple days in a row, something is most likely wrong with how I am spending my time or the habits I am forming, time for a revaluation.

Example of ‘Daily Questions’ in my Hobonichi

The other tool I use daily is my Field Notes. My FN is primarily used as a diary (to track the events and meals of the day), to-do list, quotes heard or read, and brain dump. My FN is my place to get my thoughts and observations of the world or whatever is bouncing around in my brain. This tool keeps me sane. I use it at the beginning of the week to write down my goals and ambitions for the coming days. I may write down a detailed list of a routine I want to build or edit my existing one and refer to it when I wake up.

These are the tools I use and I want to emphasize that using them daily and using them in a way that helps me take some time. I miss days here and there, I am not perfect. But as time goes on I get better and better at using them, and they truly make a difference in my life. They help me make corrections where I need to and help me also see how far I have come. Rather than having quantifiable resolutions to reach for, I am able to find peace in seeing the quality of my decisions and my progress towards becoming someone I hope to be. I can either check a box that says I read one book each month or instead I can track my progress and reflect on how I am becoming a reader for more than just the timespan of a resolution.

Concluding Thoughts

Yes, our calendar system is created by humans, and the months, days, and years, are just our way of distinguishing time. Yes, when the start of 2021 happens, all of humankind will continue to act and react the way they have in 2020, and for hundreds of thousands of years before that special day. Yes, you will see memes within a matter of weeks (possibly days) that 2021 is turning out to be just as bad as 2020 even though it was “supposed to be different”. Yes, a small portion of the billions of people that live on this planet will have New Year’s Resolutions to be x pounds by the end of the year or to spend only x minutes on social media each day. But an even smaller portion of us can stop putting an emphasis on goals with baseless plans, and instead focus on a vision of whom we hope to become and what habits we can form to help that become a reality. Rather than making your 2021 a year about doing x thing every day or not doing x thing by the end of the year let’s focus on becoming better citizens of the world by making decisions based on our own personal visions. The beautiful part of all of this is, this absolutely happens by doing x thing every day! But that should not be the end goal. The question should be, what do you want to become, and what goals or actions will you take to make that a reality?

I am a firm believer that we are in control of how we think and respond to the things that happen to us. When the pandemic took its course in the United States earlier this year there were a plethora of paths I could have taken in responding to the lockdowns, the dramatic change to my partner and mines wedding, and so much more. I could have given up on my theme and decided it simply wasn’t going to happen this year. Thanks to my wonderful partner, I was able to focus on actually making it the most stable year of my life. I chose stability as my theme for this year because I knew I was going to be getting married and I hoped to live in a way that would offer both of us stability in finances, schooling, career, and other areas. I couldn’t be happier about my skills as a better budgeter, finding a new role in my career, and building routines with my partner that will last and that make us happier and healthier.

For me, 2021 will be The Year of Strength. Next year I hope to strengthen myself in many areas. I want to strengthen my relationships with friends and family. I want to strengthen my skills in my new role and craft. I want to physically get stronger and become a better climber because of that. I want to strengthen what I believe in and my ability to focus on what is most important. These are just some thoughts that have been pressing on my mind over the last couple of weeks. I am excited to see how it evolves over the coming weeks and months.

Want to join me?

Resources:

Cortex (They should be coming out with their 2021 Yearly Theme episode any day now)

Hobonichi (JetPens.com)

Field Notes

Theme System Journal (A great journal created by the makers of the Cortex Podcast. It is pretty much a notebook for what I turn my Hobonichi into)

Atomic Habits by James Clear (Amazon.com)

Bookworm podcast on the book (If you don’t wish to read the book, this show does a great job summarizing it)

Triggers Marshall Goldsmith (Amazon.com)

Bookworm

(Books can also be found at your local bookstores)

scribbles: Vol. 4 – November 20th, 2020

A lot has happened since I last wrote… I hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. As this calendar year begins to end I have started to reflect on what 2020 has meant in my life and I have stated to think about the coming year as well. I hope by the end of this month to write about the ways I plan for each year in a way to help others see some success I have found and I also know that when I explain or write about my processes I always find ways to change and improve them.

Here are my links for this week’s volume:

Read 📚

I love stationery and paper goods. I love great design. Put them together and you have all of my attention. This link provides more to look at than read but it is worth your time. They will surely be the best-looking passports in the world 🇳🇴

Watch 🎞️

Want something to play in the background while you read or work from home? I recently stumbled upon this live feed of a train running its routes through Norway and at first I opened it because I thought it would be funny. It played on my TV for at least 3 hours after I opened it. I am not sure why this scribble is turning out to be very focused on Norway haha!

Also, finally got around to watching Wild Wild Country on Netflix and was blown away by its production value and storytelling. Highly recommend for those interested in anthropology and seeing both the worst and best of our human capabilities.

Listen 🎧

I’m a sucker for ambient/new age music. I don’t know when or where it was that I fell in love with it but I do have some memories of my dad listening to variations of this type of music when I was younger. There is something so peaceful in the sounds that resinate with my soul, connect me to something beyond the here and now, and help me focus on whatever I am doing. Thinking, writing, walking, and/or when I’m alone. Just so much peace… Lately, the two artists I have been listening to the most in this arena are: Roary (check out their song, “Shelter”) and Alaskan Tapes (listen to all of their stuff). If you are in the mood for some chill and relaxing music, give this a try.

Please keep wearing a mask, over your nose.

scribbles: Vol. 3 – November 6th, 2020

Hello everyone, I hope you have been able to find moments of peace in what has been an intense and crazy week for a lot of the world. I will try and keep this scribble nice and short.

Read 📚

I am nearly done with the book, Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, and I don’t want to wait to finish it to recommend it because it is so good! Yvon is the founder of Patagonia and this book is the history of his business and also acts as a credo for the company. I think that if more people lived their lives like Yvon suggests we do, and as he believes businesses and governments should, the world could be in a much healthier place.

Watch 🎞️

This is a 1 min. 42 sec. video and I can’t get enough of it. I am fascinated by typefaces and especially design used in the late 20th century. This designer cleverly combines the covers of old VHS sleeves and connects them together elegantly. Does anyone else remember the scrawl of ballpoint writing along the edge of their family’s tapes?

Listen 🎧

This morning one of my favorite artists, Novo Amor, came out with a new album. It is called, Cannot Be, Whatsoever. If you are interested in some good alternative-folkie-vibes this album does it for me. After my first listen through my favorite song is “Birdcage”. (Link for other music services)

Have a great weekend and keep your heads high. Better times are ahead 😌

scribbles: Vol. 2 – October 23rd, 2020

Good morning and happy Friday, everyone. I hope each of you have had a great week and if you haven’t, that is okay too. This week I have been finding so much peace in the smell of fall and the rain it is bringing. I came home the other day and my wife had surprised me with a homemade apple crisp and the smell of it about knocked me on the floor when I opened the front door. Fall brings me some of my most cherished memories and I look forward to the rest of this season. On to my shares:

Watch 🎞

  • I want to say it was about a year ago that I stumbled across this YouTube channel by, Kraig Adams. He is undoubtedly my favorite YouTuber, as they say. His videos show him hiking all over the world (mostly alone) and his footage is played alongside some very peaceful and relaxing music. Tara can attest that I have his videos on repeat throughout the week. The last half of his videos are when he explains the routes he took and his thoughts on the trail, which is quite insightful. If you are looking for some peaceful videos to watch I cannot recommend these enough.

Read 📚

  • There are a few things that are almost always on my mind and language is one of them. I am fascinated by how it evolves and humankind’s ability to create sounds with our mouths that eventually evoke different feelings or thoughts in our bodies. Rant on language aside, I wanted to share this incredible new tool I discovered that will appeal to people who enjoy time machines and language (sign me up!). It was created by Merriam-Webster and after you select a year with the dropdown menu it will show you all the words that were used for the first time in that year, dating back to the 12th century. It is an incredibly fun tool and here are some words from 100 years ago: B Vitamin, guacamole, cola, IQ, T-shirt, supersonics, and undercover.

Again, for my American friends, please don’t forget to vote. If you need someone to help keep you accountable, I will kindly do so.

Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively. For what keeps our interest in life and makes us look forward to tomorrow is giving pleasure to other people.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

scribbles: Vol. 1 – October 9th, 2020

Hello, world! It has been a long time since I have written on here, but I am hoping to change that. I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about the idea of sharing a bi-monthly post (the second and fourth Friday of every month) where I include some links to the things I’ve been enjoying. The social networks I am on, mainly Twitter and Instagram, have many limitations when it comes to word count and link share-ability. They have also done a great job of showing the world how efficient they are at destroying democracies and spreading misinformation. My hope with this idea is to practice accountability, share some things I like, be creative, and spend more time writing which means less time on social media. I plan to treat this idea like a webzine of sorts, so they will be issued as “volumes” and be called, “scribbles”.

Watch 🎞

  • I recently watched a documentary called, Public Lands, which is made by Patagonia. You can watch the entire doc for free on YouTube and is a great look into the hands that are trying to mess with public lands in America. The story is told well and the most powerful voices come from those that are experiencing some of these changes first hand.
  • Last Friday, we finished the last episode of Ted Lasso. It is advertised as a comedy but it is much more than that. The show has heart and one of the best parts is seeing a leader with empathy and struggles of their own. Highly recommend this show and if you are worried about “not knowing enough about soccer”, well neither does Coach Lasso. (Warning: there is some strong language for those that are sensitive to that sort of thing).

Listen 🎧

  • For those of you looking for a good laugh, there is an Apple focused podcast I listen to called, Connected. The show features hosts from Tennessee, England, and Italy. The Italian, Federico Viticci, speaks English as a second language and every year when the new set of Emoji are released (this year is ‘Emoji Version 13.0’) they do a fun episode where the other hosts try and quiz Federico on what he thinks each emoji is called in, English. The episode can be found here. It is quite funny.

Read 📚

  • I recently went through a book called, “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” by Cal Newport. It is a short read and I highly recommend it to anyone trying to use their devices as powerful tools rather than mindlessly scrolling through screens we think we have control over. (I know a few people who have recently been opened to the idea of this “alternate” reality since the popularity of The Social Dilemma came out on Netflix.)

These are my shares this week as part of my new experiment. Some volumes may be as extensive as this, some volumes may be much shorter. I will at least try to always leave something worth your time and attention.

Oh, and for my USA readers especially, please don’t forget to vote: https://vote.gov.

Reading

For months now I have wanted to write about a new passion of mine… Reading. Sometime around July or August, I can’t remember which, I stumbled upon a video that helped change my perspective on how much easier it would be for me to read more books. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved books.. The smell, the texture, the color the pages turn after x amount of time, the feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing one, the knowledge gained, and so much more. Every once in a while my brain will rush back to one of my oldest memories of reading… It only happens when I smell a certain scent of a novel and although I can’t describe the smell, the memory is very special. When I’m lucky enough to be randomly transported to this moment in my life I am brought back to the summer before 4th grade. I’m in the front lawn, stomach first on a towel laying in the sun, and I just got back from spending the little money I had received from birthdays and however else 8 year-old me obtained money. I’m starting The Prisoner of Azkaban (my favorite Harry Potter book) and the feeling of reading in this moment ignites my mind and imagination. The sun is on my back, the smell of whatever paper Scholastic used is filling my nose, Aunt Marge is floating through the London sky, and life is good.

I am sure I am not alone in having an appreciation for books. The “aesthetic” of books is enough for most people to be attracted to them, enough to spend money on them even if we don’t end up reading them. For years I’ve always had the best of intentions to read these “Best Sellers” and other books recommended to me by friends, etc. Sometimes even just obtaining them made me think I was smarter or better for just having these “good books” on my shelf or in my bag. Of the many books I would buy in a year I would only get through a couple of them (if that) and in the back of my mind I would constantly be shameful for not fulfilling my intentions of reading them. I would get distracted by other content or by the next great book. I was trapped in a cyclical cycle of buying a book, starting it, spending my precious time with other things, forgetting about that book, rinse and repeat.

Last year I spent a lot of energy focusing on organizing my time and my intentions, learning the importance of habits and how they can change your life. Stationary has helped me a lot with this (putting aside that the hobby allows me obsess over the tiniest of details)… I watched the video I mentioned above at a moment in time where I was ready to take the many lessons I was learning and start applying them deeper into my life. For better or for worse, YouTube’s algorithm placed this video, “BOOKSTORES: How to Read More Books in the Golden Age of Content” in my ‘Recommended’ feed. The clickbait-y capitalization caught my eye and on this random summer lunch break I went for it. I have no idea who Max Joseph is or what any of his other videos are about but this video completely changed my perspective on how easy it is to read, to actually commit to starting and finishing a book, and enjoying it. The transformative moment for me while watching this video happened when one of the bookstore owners mentions (9:40-10:30) that they read for 1-2 hours a day and because of that they are able to read 50-60 books a year! Before I could even finished the video I was already starting to think about the moments in my day I could fill with pockets of reading instead of just looking at my phone “because”.

For a long time most of my excuses have been, “I’m a student, I don’t have any time to read anything but my school books”…“There isn’t enough time for me in the day to read any books”… You get the idea. I was lying to myself and if I really wanted to fill my mind with good books, all I needed to do was prioritize my time. The story in the video did a really good job illustrating how reading just 30 minutes a day can make a huge difference in the amount of books I could finish. There is always time to read.

Since the summer of 2019 I have put my best foot forward in trying to read every single day. I have read some truly wonderful books, my mind has been enlightened, I have found a healthy and positive escape, and I’ve spent less time wandering aimlessly on my pocket computer. If you are someone who is itching to read more I invite you on this journey with me. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is, do not compare yourself to others. If your goal is to read 5 minutes or just 1 page a day, do that. Don’t look at others, or myself, and think about the number of books you are reading, comparatively. If you do that, you will get stuck in the same cycle I did. You will buy a bunch of books thinking about all the wonderful novels or literature you are going to finish to then get overwhelmed and not have developed the skills to practice reading every, single, day. Start small. Train your brain to read whatever amount you feel is a good start, each day, and then do just that. Over time you will realize that it becomes a part of who you are. If you are worried about spending less time watching movies, or the latest shows, or missing out on feeds, I can assure you that you will still find time to do that. My experience has been that those moments of consumption are more meaningful because of the intention I give them. I love the arts and have a tremendous appreciation for film and television. But I have also found a renewed joy and admiration for the medium of books.

I used to be an “aficionado” on books I had never read, and now I can honestly call myself a reader, and it feels so damn good.

If any of you are interested in what I’m reading, feel free to follow me on Goodreads.

some of the books I consumed since summer