This is incredible. Scratch that. This is life changing. Thank you so much for sharing Derek.
I was skeptical that Spaced Repetition Software would work for me and my terrible memory. I’ve tried plenty of techniques in the past. For instance, I spent a while learning the peg system in an effort to be able to memorize dates, numbers and lists. While it worked, it serves me more as a party trick than an actual life changing approach to memory.
What I particularly love about using Anki, which I’ve been doing for a half an hour a day on the bus since reading this article, is I feel the information is actually sticking. Because of that, I want to spend more time learning, and because of that my memory muscle is actually growing stronger. My ability to memorize quicker and quicker is already improving. I’ve gone from hating the very idea of memorizing to getting excited about learning more. I’ve always been frustrated wasting time memorizing because I knew it was facts I’d just forget in another couple months. This doesn’t feel like that. This feels like I’m gaining a super power.
I did a small test over the course of the last three weeks to see if Anki would really work for me. I didn’t want to jump into something ambitious like a programming language before seeing if it actually worked for a small data set. I challenged myself to use it to learn the names of all of the countries in the world. There’s less then 200. If Anki could teach me those, I had faith I could then go on to more ambitious challenges.
I loaded a shared deck, and three weeks later, I feel confident I know them all. It took half an hour on the bus every day, but that’s a small sacrifice. In a few more weeks it will be cemented for life. That’s incredible. Now I’m excited for what I’ll be taking on next.
An obese man in his mid 30’s came through the doors of Starbucks and walked straight towards me as I went to sit down.
“Do you know anything about computers?” he asked.
‘Uh oh,’ I thought.
“What’s the problem?” I asked. To note, the correct answer to this question is always No.
“I can’t get rid of the subtitles when I play a video,” he said.
“I can probably help with that,” I said, “It should just be a drop down menu option. Cue it up.”
He sat down at the table next to me and loaded up his computer. It was one of the swivel touch screen laptops that use a pen as the interface because we live in the future.
“I’m Jeremy,” I said.
“Alan,” he said as I shook his limp wristed outstretched hand.
He started up a movie in full screen, and I looked it over. There was no menu. When I minimized the movie, his Windows bar was set on the top of the screen blocking the movie’s controls. I unlocked the Windows bar and moved it to the side. I got the impression this was the point where he’d normally restart his machine.
I maximized the movie again and found a gear icon. The very first option was a drop down for Subtitles: ‘English’ or ‘None’?
“Here it is,” I said, “All you need to do is hit this gear down here, and then select from English to None like this.” I showed him.
“What do you mean by select?” he asked.
“Just click it,” I said.
“You mean press it?” he asked.
“That should work,” I said. “Give it a try.”
“Where’s do I press?”
I pointed to the gear icon. He pressed it. The same menu came up.
“And now what?”
“You go to the drop down and press ‘None’”
“Can you do it?”
“Well you need to do some of it, or how will you learn anything?”
“Haha. I see. Okay. I’ll try.”
It took three tries, but he figured it out.
“You do have headphones, yes?” I asked.
“I have it all the way down.” He pointed, showing me his plan was to watch the video on pictures only without the subtitles.
“Great. I’m going to get to work now. Glad I was able to help.”
“Thank you so much.”
I put my headphones in. For about 40 seconds he sat there staring at the moving pictures on his screen with his laptop still pointed towards me.
“Excuse me?” I heard over the sound of Brian Jonestown Massacre.
“Yes?” I said.
“It’s still there.”
I went back to the menu and clicked it again and said, “There you go.”
“Perfect,” he said.
He watched the video for another minute, and then packed up his laptop and walked out the door, never ordering a coffee. For me Starbucks is a place to get some writing done. For him, apparently, it’s his own personal Geek Squad.
Let’s talk meta. Specifically, Circleme – a new social media site that allows users to connect to themselves.
From their site, “CircleMe is an inspiring social way to collect all your likes and find new ones,” or as most of us read it, “Another one? Really?”
If this fails it won’t be because it’s a terrible idea. Rather it’s too soon, dealing with a problem not enough people have yet – the problem of keeping track of too many sites. CircleMe relies on a group of people asking the question, “How can I possibly keep track of the ten social networks I’m on?” and not immediately answering with, “I could get rid of eight of them.”
Instead they answer with, “I could create another network that keeps track of the ten others. That will surely simplify things.”
What scares me is where this trend is headed. Instead of wiping the slate clean with each new social network, as happened in the past, new ones start cropping on with higher and higher levels of abstraction.
A social network that allows you to compare your connections on 10 platform.
A network that compares the number of networks you have to the number others’ have.
A network of networks networking networks.
That last one didn’t sound real to me.
If CircleMe is a network based on the idea of connecting you to yourself, what’s next? A network connecting you to the networks that connect you to yourself? A way to connect to the networks of others connecting them to themselves? A network dedicated to disconnecting from the ones you actually know?
Anything’s possible, and if we’re going abstract with all of this, let’s go all the way. I want a series of networks that allows me to friend people based on how many social media sites they’re connected to, including the sites in the network itself. It’s the only practical way to objectively like people I never plan to want to know.
Perhaps the world isn’t ready for this yet. It’s too soon. But give it time. I have no doubt we’ll get there.
A big thanks to the 80,000 people who visited my site in the last 2 days.
I found it odd yesterday when the amount of comments on my youtube channel jumped by close to 600%. That’s right. I got 6 comments.
Looking at the stats, I had a 2,000 person bump in the last two days, 1700 more than I was used to. I assumed someone had embedded the tutorial on their site so was surprised to see the main referrer was listed as jeremyshuback.com.
Heading over to my Google Analytics, I saw 25,000 people had visited here yesterday. On a normal day, I get about 30 hits.
‘What the what?’ I wondered. There weren’t any major influencers. Instead, 5,000 random people and some strange algorithm brought me to their attention.
I did what I could. I saw who was talking about it on twitter and thanked them for linking. I updated my site so it had a slightly better design and added a stumble button to the bottom of it. If I want to sustain traffic like this, I just need more content.
I’d spent the day getting over being sick, mostly watching the fourth season of Parks and Rec, and this was the sort of kick in the pants I needed to get me motivated again. Which is to say, expect more content soon. Some tutorials. Some Photoshop insights. Some art things.
I have almost 80,000 people who visited my site this weekend. Let’s see where this takes me.
Last Sunday I hit a flow state. I hadn’t reached one in a while, and had forgotten just how amazing of a feeling it is. It started when Urgent Genius inspired me to quickly finish an article. They were running a 48 hour contest that I saw 3 hours before the deadline. The contest revolved around newsjacking something popular. To enter you needed a team of 3 to 8 people willing to work the weekend to create something brilliant. In other words, I wasn’t planning to enter the contest, but it felt like a good arbitrary deadline to work towards.
It was due at 6pm, so at 3pm I headed to a coffee shop and spent the next few hours writing an article responding to Stop Stealing Dreams (a book released the week previous). I was hoping to reach a point where it was worth linking to, but wasn’t happy with how it turned out when I pressed submit at 5:57.
Trying to think up a decent article, I listed out the classes he thought should be taught in schools. I didn’t see how those classes could be taught without losing far too much of our current curriculum. However, writing an article combining the 28 standard high school classes in relation to his classes seemed like a lot of mental juggling. That’s probably why he never did it in the book. I decided I could sort it out with a reasonable infographic. Doing that by computer would mean spending more time staring at a screen, so instead I took out some construction paper, a sharpie, and a poster board and ended up with this:
I got lost in creating the video, and when I put the finishing touches on the third article of the night, Adjusting the High School Curriculum, it was 2:30 and I wasn’t tired. I had energy from creating at a level of output I wasn’t used to. It ended up as 1800 words in 3 articles, a 3 minute video, and a collection of charts to boot.
The irony is I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. It felt like he watched:
which inspired him to read about a dozen books (listed in his bibliography) and then write a series of blog posts strung together in a ‘manifesto.’ Writing three posts on the subject made it seem like I had a disproportionate amount of passion for his book. It’s just that I am a huge geek when it comes to school policy reform, and this gave me an excuse to write about it.
I loved watching one article idea inspire 12 hours of work. It’s nice to hit that flow state from time to time. It reminds me of why I do this.
The last time I went to Richard Simmon’s studio I pulled my shoulder, was rushed to the hospital, and ended up having my arm in a splint for two months. I did get to answer, “This? Richard Simmons workout studio. No – not a video – his class is about a mile from me.” I also got this amazing note to put on my refrigerator.
The whole episode made me realize just how out of shape I was. I took up P90X. I even started a blog on it: Exercise is Hard
The blog only lasted a month, but I managed to finish the program and still do exercises from it to this day.
Richard told me he’d comp my next visit there, and I should come soon but not too soon. Last night I finally went back and realized why I’d pulled my shoulder. It’s a serious workout heavy on the shoulders. Even after all my working out, I was still worried. When he went around hugging and kissing everyone before the class started, Richard said hi to Meg, wanted to know if I was her fiancé, and was told I was the guy who pulled his arm in his class.
“Just be careful,” he said and then hugged me.
Throughout the class he yelled at everyone to push harder, and then would turn to me and say, “Don’t push harder. Don’t hurt yourself.”
He yelled at everyone, “You’re all amazing. You’re better than roses. Then tierra’s. I love you all.” That’s a misquote, I’m sure. There was a guy from NPR taping the whole thing, and yes I am featured two minutes in to the audio interview.
Link to my interview on KPCC
At one point Richard turned the music down and turned to me in front of the class.
“Why do you keep winking at me?” he asked.
“You’re just so magnetic,” I said, “How can I resist?”
“And how’s the shoulder doing?” he asked.
“It’s good. It was a year ago,” I said.
“Let me tell everyone the story.” He told some variety of it that ended in, “And I told him I’d be happy to visit him in the hospital and whisper sweet nothings in his ear. Right?”
“Something like that,” I said, “But I don’t remember that offer.”
“Have you injured yourself since?”
“I don’t think so.”
“You’d know if you had. Either you have or you haven’t.”
“Then let’s go with no – I haven’t.”
We talked for about a minute and a half, and then he picked on a few regulars.
He came about a foot from me at one point and mouthed, ‘I love you,’ because that’s just the sort of guy he is.
Half the moves were a great workout. The other half were just an effort to make us look as ridiculous as possible and forget the fact we were working out.
The freestyle dance period.
The pick a partner and dance with her period.
The switch partners and dance with her as well period.
But I knew what I was getting in to. Any set that starts with playing it’s raining men twice in a row can only go in one direction.
Which is a round about way of saying, of course I’ll be back.
I told myself this week I’d go on a media fast and only check my email once a day. Freeing myself of distractions isn’t a new concept. I first heard of extreme media fasting from Timothy Ferriss in the Four Hour Work Week. I read Tim’s approach of completely disconnecting well over three years ago, but it was only two weeks ago when the concept finally sunk in.
I was staffing a birthright trip and unable to check my email. Over the course of 10 days I had a grand total of 10 minutes to check my email in two 5 minute sessions. And I did. There were two or three pressing emails that needed responses and everything else could wait.
When I got to my sister’s place on the eleventh day, I spent three straight hours and successfully got through 10 day’s worth of email. While 4 or 5 needed to be tabled for later (tonight) I got through all of the rest. Rather than spending five minutes every hour of every day wasting time on them, hoping to not miss anything important, I did 10 days in a single three hour session.
It was amazing.
There were 600 unread articles in my blog queue. I went through Daring Fireball, as I’m just enough of a nerd to need to check up on why Gruber loves Apple this week, and then decided it wasn’t worth it. I’d just spent a week traveling across a country, answering spiritual questions, partying by night, and actually inspiring a couple of people. Compared to that, checking blogs just seemed to be a waste of time.
So I decided I wouldn’t. We’ll see how this experiment ends up going. Check email once a day and blogs as little as physically possible. I’m at a loss for what I’m supposed to do without those two time wasters filling my time. Read real books? Actually write? Play a video game or two? Watch worthwhile movies? Point being, I have no idea.
I’m told 28 days makes a habit. Meaning, this should prove to be an interesting month. Let the fast begin.
I stuck to teaching the class on Social Media Marketing, and it was another two months before I was sent out again. I’d remembered the Friday class from two months ago, and was confident I’d do all right. My slides were in order. I knew the answers.
I was wrong. It was just as bad as the first time out, and this week rather than the inspired go-to I will improve this class every night, and it will become great, I accepted the mediocrity. I was in a depressed state that week, and saw that the class was serviceably mediocre. Unlike the first week where it was I-will-get-fired-awful, the class was now just mediocre enough to work. I let it be, and for a week I carried on with that.
When I got home after those five days out, I hunkered down and completely reworked the fourth hour. Then I went through, and hour by hour came up with new examples for each. I redesigned the slides, and scoured the web for more relevant examples. Three weeks later, I was back on the road, this time feeling good. The class continued to improve.
What I found was the act of talking with hundreds of different companies, hearing their individual stories, and workshopping as a classroom, got us to grow. On any given day there would be 2 or 3 people who were far more experienced in some aspect of marketing or social media, and I’d let them talk. Of the five hours, I’d give those people a half hour over the course of the day and hear what they did in their own experience. The next day I’d incorporate those lessons into my class. It took another two dozen classes, but I’m finally confident. I believe in my class. I start the day excited. It took hell to get through, but I can’t imagine a better way to learn it all.
My students leave the class now energized, excited to start applying everything that I’ve showed them. I leave the class excited to do the same. It’s forced me to start a blog. It’s forced me to become active. It’s forced me to write.
And I return back to that initial question – am I part of the New Rich or am I just employed? With enough money to sustain me, it becomes a question of what I’m doing on the days when I’m not teaching. So I write. And I draw. And I improvise. I host dinners. I see friends. I travel. I live the life I’ve only dreamed, excited to see where this all takes me.
And more than anything, I search for that next moment of absolute terror where I know there’s a chance to fail. For that’s the moment where real growth happens. As long as I keep pushing, I’m exactly where I need to be.
My first week out, every night I turned to my traveling partner, telling her what a mistake I’d made trying to teach this class.
“I’m not a teacher. This is a soft skill. They’re looking for someone like you – a public speaker who does marketing professionally. I’m quitting after this week.”
She reassured me that I’d be all right.
On the comment forms that first day the general consensus was, ‘He’s definitely an expert over the material, but a complete mess as far as teaching style,’ and an overall negative rating of the class itself. For me, that was a major accomplishment.
‘Really? I’m an expert on the material?’ I thought about it. I spend an hour or two every day reading the latest trends in the industry. I listen to half a dozen podcasts on the subject. I’d read a couple dozen books tracing out all the latest trends. I’d talked with various people knee deep in this full time. I guess I did know a thing or two. But only second hand.
People asked me questions the first day, and I didn’t have a clue where to start. I had no idea what an iframe was or how to sync youtube with twitter with facebook, or the professional options for tracking results. Those were actually the easy questions. The hard questions were, “How does this apply to non-profits?” or government agencies or schools where nothing can be posted online or a large corporation where no one actually lets them post. Etc. I didn’t know. It was that simple. I’d geared the class towards independent artists wanting to use social media to make it on their own. Not this crowd. A bunch of corporate types looking for something between a couple of tips and tricks to total online salvation.
That night I went back to my hotel room, and for four hours worked through answering all of the questions that I couldn’t answer in class. I modified the lesson plan to include those questions before they were even asked. I spent another hour listening to TED talks and the soothing voice of Seth Godin as I worked out.
The second day was still a disaster, but a slightly calmer one. No one cared about the questions from yesterday. They had their own set. A completely different set.
And that night I did the same thing. I spent four hours revising the lesson plan. Again. Answering the questions that I didn’t know the answer to – tightening up the places where people appeared bored.
The third day went a little better. The ritual continued, and on the fourth day people had a good time. I’d improved.
It was a trial by fire. Even with that, I told my travel partner, “There’s no way I’m ever teaching this class again.”