Some life changing finds

Every year I stumble across a whole lot of cool new things – books, apps, music, websites. They make life a little easier and/or a little more interesting. Sometimes I find things that are cutting-edge, sometimes I’m a bit late to the game. But they’re new to me and help me grow as a person. They change my outlook on life, work, relationships, or how I manage my time and energy. Usually in very positive ways. So here are a couple of things that changed my life, some in very minor ways, and some substantially. Enjoy.

Raising Kids

Until this year, this wasn’t something I ever needed to think about, but I’ve been thrown into the deep end a little bit with lockdown and having to learn about home schooling.

Education doesn’t start at school; it dies at school.

This isn’t directed at any specific school, but the school system in general, and especially High School. Stonefields School have been unbelievably supportive, and the teachers there are fantastic.

However, there’s no denying that school was designed to help people thrive in an industrial society and is ill-equipped to prepare kids for what the 21st century will need.

Following Ana Fabrega on twitter(@anafabrega11)and subscribing to her newsletter has helped change some of my views on what school is, but I’ve always hated the school system so there’s nothing new there. Except maybe that now I have some solutions rather than just problems.

On a related note, Synthesis School is an incredible start up that re-thinks what school can be. We’re not quite ready for it yet so I have no first-hand experience, but I absolutely cannot wait to get our kids into something like this. Definitely check it out for kids between 8 and 14 years old.

How to raise successful people is a book I’m currently working through, and it’s already helped change some of my views on parenting.

Not philosophically, maybe, but there are lots of practical tips in there.

The Unschooling movement I am not on board with, despite the shortcomings of the school system in general. However, the ideas and tactics used by Unschoolers are brilliant and it’s well worth taking a look at for ideas.

Clearing your head or getting ahead

Writing has a fantastic ability to help you get your thoughts in order, and journaling is an incredible tool. Don’t know what to write? Exactly. Maybe take Hemmingway’s advice and start by writing “one true sentence”.

Hemmingway on Writing is a fantastic book I read this year that I’d highly recommend, not just for writing but for insights into life. Some of which were perhaps 50 years ahead of their time.

Your writing doesn’t need to be good, and most times it won’t be. You will write 99 pages of shit to get one page of gold, but the thing is, you have to write those 99 pages to get the gold.

If you’re writing for self-improvement, self-actualisation, self-anything, remember that nobody else needs to read it so don’t stress.

If your intention is to publish your writing on a blog or something, take Seth Godin’s advice and do stress. All that writing doesn’t mean anything if you don’t publish anything. Ship creative work.

I’m a big fan of pen and paper because I like tactile things, but you can use Evernote (which is fantastic for journaling or keeping track of other notes), or MS Word, I guess. You do you. What you use isn’t as important as the writing itself.

On a more passive note, there are lots of studies showing the benefits of non-sleep deep rest, and mindful meditation is super interesting. Check out Headspace for a huge range of high-quality guided meditations. I hear Sam Harris has some good stuff too in his Waking Up app, but I haven’t used it.

Remember, if you don’t have 10 minutes a day to meditate, you probably need two hours.

For online learning of new skills, Udemy is really good value for anything from design to data science. Udemy has been around for a long time, but I was reminded this year how exceptional the value is. It’s a lot cheaper than other leaders in the space like Coursera which I’d recommend if you really want to get serious, maybe for a career change or a formal certification?

Udemy has more discounts than Briscoes, so buy their courses when they have a sale on. It ends up about $15 for dozens of hours of well-structured content.

The Art of Learning is a really, really interesting book on how to go from being really good at something to being one of the best. But you can totally apply the advice at any level of proficiency in a whole bunch of areas.

The rest is actually following through with the suggestions in the book, I guess.

A lot of what Waitzkin talks about in the book and in interviews I’ve heard, seem to be validated (or further explained, but in a couple of times refuted or caveated) in The Huberman Lab. It’s a podcast all about using science to improve your physical and mental performance or well-being, and I can’t emphasise enough how practical, useful, high-impact and actionable the tools are.

Everything from beating jetlag and optimising sleep, to boosting exercise performance, to being more alert and productive during the day.

Peter Attia’s website and podcast is another great one but isn’t free. Attia focusses on increasing lifespan and healthspan by tips to stay strong and sharp, and ward off cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, and other joys of getting older.

Spoiler alert: most of it revolves around getting better sleep, more exercise and reducing blood sugar and insulin spikes. They go into an enormous amount of detail though around why, with extremely comprehensive show notes. Super interesting.

Work related

Notion is a relatively new tool that’s super easy to use for structuring knowledge. So, if you’re building out your business’ processes or wiki, it’s worth exploring.

There are a million to-do apps out there and they all do pretty much the same thing. I’ve found Todoist gives me the most useful functionality for the least effort, maybe you will too? Pair it with a system like GTD and it will change your life. At least until you get lazy and go back to a pen-and-paper list or using your inbox a week later.

If you’re active in the property market, especially property development, Relab is just ultra-essential and I use it almost every day.

Hobbies

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is a bit dated and I don’t agree with some of the ideas in the book, but there are some incredible insights on why your drawing sucks. But more importantly some pretty cool techniques to go from zero to awesome.

I found too much new music across too many genres to put together any kind of list. The most impactful track I was introduced to was Moanin’ by Charles Mingus. Favourite album, Streams of Thought vol. 3 by Black Thought. Favourite artist of 2021, MFDOOM.

Diving into Web3

I stumbled into crypto again in late 2021, and feel like I’m still scratching the surface. Things are moving so fast in this space that any tips I give you could be out of date by the time is published. There are some insightful (and in some cases unusual) people to follow on Twitter like Chris Dixon @cdixon, Gaby Goldberg @gaby_goldberg, 6529 @punk6529, or check out Gaby’s Web3 Reading List to get started.

That’s it for now

I’ve probably left more off than I’ve included, but hopefully there’s something interesting in there for you. If you have any feedback (or suggestions of things I might like!), I’d love to hear from you.

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