7 interesting things I found on the internet this week (03.28 to 04.03)

  • Derek Sivers‘ webpage. I find Derek’s personality and approach to business and life completely aligned to mine.
  • nownownow.com. Derek also started a movement where one’s current focus is publicly stated. Others have taken it further declaring that anything outside of this will not receive attention. Nownownow.com shows a list of bloggers that have implemented this. A good way to discover new blogs.
  • The beginners guide to SEO from Moz. And excellent, comprehensive, yet approachable guide to SEO for the novice.
  • The Luxury Travel Expert, referencing the best travel experiences, including top destinations and hotels, as well as reviews of first class air travel. I found them through their YouTube Channel.
  • The James Altucher show, a weekly podcast where he interviews current influencers. I find James to be an interesting thinker, which augments the conversation with his guests, turning them into vivid exchanges.
  • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. A show/podcast presenting a unique, unorthodox, and at times controversial alternative way of looking at history. Highly recommended, but unfortunately new installments only come out 2 or 3 times a year.
  • Quora. While aware of its existence of this highly regarded Q&A site for quite some time, I only registered and became active this week.

my top 10 podcasts

Podcasts have become a key channel in my information intake process. They are a perfect way to consume information while working out, driving, and even when trying to fall sleep.

I keep two lists, one of podcasts that I subscribe to (and for the most part listen to every episode), and another with podcasts I find interesting but only browse when in need of additional content.

While the majority of what I listen to is productivity or entrepreneurship oriented (but never news), there are a couple of shows I keep in my main list for entertainment purposes:

  1. a16z. A podcast from Anderseen Horowitz, where topics like future industries and technologies, personal improvement and business in general are discussed in a balanced and knowledgeable way. Publishes every 3-5 days and episodes are 30-60 minutes. Highly recommended.
  2. Cortex. A conversation between CGP Grey and Myke Hurley that revolves around their work methods and practices. The hosts respective personalities make always an entertaining interaction. I never miss an episode and it always jumps to the front of the queue. Publishes every other week and episodes are 90-120 minutes. Highly recommended.
  3. HBR IdeaCast. From Harvard Business Review, where some articles from the publication are discussed. This is hit and miss for me, as I am not always interested in the topic. Publishes every 3-6 days and is always less than 20 minutes.
  4. Hello Internet. A conversation between CGP Grey and Brady Harran about almost any topic. I find the interaction between the hosts extremely entertaining and many times hilarious. I never miss an episode and it always jumps to the front of the queue. Publishes mostly bi-weekly and episodes are 90-120 minutes. Highly recommended.
  5. Mac Power Users. All things OSX and iOS. They discuss workflows, tools and best practices to become more productive. Almost every show brings a new guest that shares their tips and techniques to run their diverse businesses. This has been a great source of ideas for me, many already implemented. Publishes weekly and episodes are 90-120 minutes.
  6. The Productivity Show. A podcast from the Asian Efficiency website, focusing on time management and productivity. Publishes weekly and episodes are 30-45 minutes.
  7. Read to Lead. A podcast that discusses business books and publications, often with the authors or editors. It does not summarize the books, but discusses and expands on some of the key ideas. I use this show to discover and evaluate publications before adding them to my reading list. Publishes weekly and episodes are 30-45 minutes.
  8. Still Untitled: the Adam Savage project. Norman Chan, Will Smith and Adam Savage talk about movies, books, projects and many more things. A great source for books and movies. Publishes weekly and episodes are 30-45 minutes.
  9. Smith’s Notes. Books summaries and Reviews. This show dissects the content of the books and presents them efficiently as a list of key ideas, expanding with additional content where required. Another good source for book ideas. Does not have a regular publish cadence, but most shows are less than 10 minutes.
  10. The Tim Ferriss show. One of the most popular podcasts these days, where Tim interviews an influencer and usually evolves into a rich conversation on topics ranging from personal performance to entrepreneurship to spirituality. Publishes every 3-8 days and episodes range from 45 to 210 minutes. He sometimes publishes some “in between” episodes where he alone discusses a specific topic and are much shorter. Highly recommended.

Some honorable mentions include the podcasts on my secondary list, all of great quality and from where I pull content as needed:

Writing: The Creative Penn

Entrepreneurship: The Smart Passive Income podcast, EOFire

Music: A State of Trance, Clublife by Tiesto

Public Speaking: Steal the Show

 

my tech setup. Creating focus by giving specific purpose to devices

By segregating my devices’ duties I am able to focus on the task at hand, and use the best tools for the right job.

As a tech enthusiast, I have always tended to have more devices than I need. However, as I become more deliberate on what I engage in order to narrow and increase my focus, the same has happened with my use of them. Today, my setup consists of:

  • iPhone. My capture device. I use it to take pictures, video, and stream-of-thought notes. All my communication (email, video, voice and messaging), except for business emails is done here. It also serves as audio content consumption hub (podcasts and audiobooks)
  • Apple Watch. My management device, my daily life’s instrument panel. Carries my schedule and telemetry. It also receives messages from those most important to me.
  • iPad mini. My media consumption device. This is where I consume all printed and video content, and where research is conducted. I only use Safari, GoodReader and Kindle for this purpose. Notes are originally accumulated here and synchronized via Cloud for further processing.
  • Macbook Air 13”. My writing and online presence management platform. My first action after purchasing this laptop was to uninstall all bundled software (I do that with all tech I buy), and only install the best-of-breed applications when I need them. With the latest revamp of the native notes app in El Capitan, I find that it is all I need for writing. This may change as I engage into longer format content.
  • ASUS G751. My gaming and media creation platform. This massive laptop gives me desktop class performance to play any modern game in 1080, and use Adobe Creative Cloud. All I have installed is Steam and ACC, plus a basic suite of system maintenance and performance utilities.
  • Server. A headless Windows 7 box with a 6 core processor, 16 GB of memory and ever increasing storage space. Used to be my chess analysis computer, now relegated to be a file and media server. Also useful when I need to run anything that requires long term processing.

This has worked well for me. My brain is now aligned to a specific task based on the device I am using. This also allows me to keep only relevant apps on each platform, thus eliminating any distractions. It is important to note that email and messaging are only enabled on my iPhone, so even interruptions can be avoided by putting it away, and resting assured that any emergencies will be handled through my watch.

Another benefit is that synchronizing and backing up data is much simpler. Only the Notes app synchs across all devices and is therefore backed up in the cloud. All other content exists in one device only and is replicated in the file server, which in turn is backed up to external drives. All devices can be rebuilt from the cloud and the server, and the server can be rebuilt from the external drives.

what are smart creatives? Book review: How Google works

 – Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg – 

How Google Works coverHow Google works is an inside view of Google’s key practices on talent (from interview to retention), collaboration and decision making. In general, a good read with quotable anecdotes used to illustrate the key points.

For me, most of the content was not groundbreaking or eye-opening. However, the time invested in reading it paid off in a single small section, where they described “smart creatives” as the list of attributes in key talent. According to the book, smart creatives are:

  • Experts in doing. Don’t just design, but build prototypes.
  • Analytically smart and comfortable with using data to make decisions. They understand data fallacies and worry about endless analysis (“let data decide, but not take over”)
  • Business smart, can see the direct line from technical expertise to product excellence to business success.
  • Competitive smart, start with innovation and follow through with a lot of work.
  • Driven to be great, even if it means to go beyond 9 to 5.
  • User smart, understand the product from the consumer point of view better than anyone, and are obsessively interested in it.
  • Their own focus group, alpha tester and guinea pigs.
  • A firehose of genuinely new ideas, and perspective chameleons.
  • Curious creative, always questioning and never happy with the status quo. They see problems everywhere and believe are the right person to solve them.
  • Risky creative, not afraid to fail, as they understand that there is always something valuable to to salvaged.
  • Self directed creative, sometimes even ignoring direction.
  • Open creative, collaborating and judging ideas and analysis based on their merit and not their provenance.
  • Thorough creative, always on and able to dominate the details, as they are their details.

In summary, smart creatives are business and tech savvy individuals with great creative energy who know how to get things done with a hands on approach.

I find this list an invaluable resource to evaluate talent (and myself), and can easily see a framework for professional competitiveness emerge from it. This is heavily biased towards knowledge workers, but am certain that it can be re-crafted in the context of leadership. I assume this is somewhat attempted in the sections of the book that discuss decision making, but most certainly not accomplished in the same crisp and powerful way.

planning and metrics vs presence

I was once running through Rome, looking forward to see Saint Peter’s square for the first time. I had drafted my route carefully the night before, woke up early to avoid crowds, and made sure I had the gadgets perfectly configured to guide me. Being my first time in the city, I had my eyes glued to the screen. I ended up running past the street where I was supposed to turn. I was so focused on my instruments I had missed an amazing view:

vatican

(picture taken once I realized my mistake and head back – click to enlarge)

Often in corporate operations, we are taught to follow a preconceived plan and keep an eye on the metrics. But more often than not, there is no substitute to raising our heads and be sensitive to what is happening around us. We could miss a great view, a magnificent opportunity, or what is worse, a life changing threat.

apple watch – 6 months after

neither a groundbreaking device or a life changing experience, the apple watch is nonetheless a useful piece of technology that does not cost more than the average mid range traditional watch

Back in the summer of 2015, I was looking for a new dress watch to wear as a daily driver. I had been using the fenix 2 in that way, but its size was problematic when wearing suits and big cuffed shirts. The new watch had to look nice, be resistant to minor abuse, be able to get wet on occasion and have chrono, alarm and timer tools. Most options (the good looking ones anyways) were in the 400-700 range. With the apple watch being in that range too, I decided to give it a chance. 

I purchased the gold and blue 42mm version, which meets all my visual appeal criteria. My approach to find use for it was to deactivate all functions, and only add things as I had the need for them. So far it has not let me down. I played around with the complications until I found the layout I wanted, which gives me all the information I need on any given day.

watch

On to applications. For running, I am using MapMyRun and it works like a charm. Views are easy to change, and the watch seems responsive even with wet fingers, which is something that can not be said for the iPhone. It works well enough to get me to park my Garmin fenix. Based on a few long runs, I believe I can squeeze 18 hours of battery power, which is plenty for even 100km races. Also for running, I use iCountTimer. I like that it has a complication (see screenshot), which is all I need in long timed training sessions.

In the lifestyle category, I use the Starbucks and Overcast apps. I like that the watch becomes a pay medium when I walk into a previously configured Starbucks location, and that I can control my podcast listening experience without having to reach for the phone (very useful when driving as long as you have the glance up all the time). Of course out of the box apps like the remote controls for apple TVs and iPhone cameras are a godsend.

The watch is configured to only receive iMessages from my family, all others stay on the phone until I consciously want to look at them. This is more important than one can imagine, because it eliminates the feel of missing out that pushes all us to look at our phone hundreds of times a day.

The alarm, chrono and timer functions are sufficient for me. All other installed applications I have only used very seldom.

To extend the battery life, I put the watch in reserve mode once I am ready to go to bed, and restart it the morning after once I am getting into the car. Based on this usage pattern, I am able to consistently get 2 days of battery life, with 20% left to spare. If I didn’t charge on the third day, that 20% would last me until shortly after lunch. My unit has taken its good share of abuse, but it hardly shows it.

Overall, I am happy with my purchase. When I am wearing the watch my phone stays in the jacket most of the day. I can check important messages while in a meeting, and discreetly look at my schedule for the rest of my day. I rest assured that if something important happens, I will not miss it.

book review: relentless forward progress

 a guide to running ultramarathons

 – Byron Powell –

An absolute bargain, this book is and a no brainer for anyone preparing for a long race (even a marathon). Not only a lot of critical information is covered, but is presented in a simple, pragmatic, crisp way that is easy to read and reference.

Relentless Forward ProgressByron Powell has been a personality in the ultra running community for a number of years thanks in not short measure to his website irunfar.com , one of the best hubs for all things ultra. With race reports, gear reviews, interviews, articles and many more resources, the site has been a constant read through my running journey.

Back in October 2015, when I decided to to run my first 50M, I rushed and picked up this book and Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run (which I will also review). Through them, Byron and Scott became my mentors-in-absentia.

Byron’s book is a comprehensive recount of all aspects of training, preparing and executing an ultra event. He presents all the relevant information in a way only somebody that has done it repeatedly could. Furthermore, he leverages a few articles from his website written by others to strengthen and deepen (and sometimes even counter) his points. The general structure of the book is as follows:

1. Building blocks (chapters 1-3): where he discusses the key elements and concepts of ultra training, from types of training sessions, mileage and frequency, the thinking behind long and bonk runs, taper, recovery, among others

2. Training (chapters 4-6): 3 full chapters that present training plans for ultra distances up to 100M. The plans themselves are worth the price of the book, but the additional information on how to tailor them to your objectives and constraints is priceless. One can easily pay many times the cost of this book through website subscriptions and not get the same value. Had the book ended here it would still be a bargain

3. Trail running (chapter 7): most of us start running on roads, and many will likely never experience the trails. In this section, we are shown what to expect, how to deal with it, and the etiquette to preserve them

4. Hydration and Nutrition (chapters 8-9): yet another very valuable section with great ideas and tips on how to recognize and solve problems

5. Injuries and pain (chapter 10): chafing, blisters, general pain prevention and treatment

6. Gear and racing (chapters 11-13): all one needs to know on what to carry, prepare and strategize a race. One full chapter on running at high altitude. This section alone is also worth the book’s price

7.- Other (chapter 14 and appendix): where the ultrarunning community, barefoot running and other more extreme races are covered

I have read this book a number of times, and some chapters I read almost every week as I develop the mental picture of what my first trail ultra will be.