Findings, Nerdery, Slack

More Brain, the tantalizing promise that persists

I was recently looking for a better writing tool and came across Obsidian, a “powerful and extensible knowledge base that works on top of your local folder of plain text files.”

I saw this on their homepage.

And thought to myself, that seems familiar. So I went searching through some archives and found –

That second screenshot is from August, 2013 when I was working with the team at Slack and we were figuring out our positioning prior to launching.

Now, I don’t mean this post to say that Obsidian are ripping off a Slack that never existed because they’re not. Slack launched with a different homepage and positioning, and the chance that anyone saw that Slack copy above is pretty near nil.

What I do mean to point out here though is that the promise of a “second brain” or a “scalable, infinite brain” is a tantalizing thought that persists still today, pretty much unsolved.

And will we ever solve it? Maybe?

And if we did ever solve it, my sense is that it would change what it means to be human.

There is a reason the zombies seek and eat “Braaaaains!”

Coaching, Nerdery

200 Workouts Per Year

One of the goals I have set for myself the past two years has been to get in 200 workouts a year. Why 200?

It’s a nice round number so it feels more important that 204 or 196. It’s a reference point for doing something big and hard and consistent that matters to me (more on why it matters below).

It’s easy to remember and easy to break down into manageable chunks and a reasonable pace. If I hit a regular pace of 4 workouts / week or a rolling 16/28 days of working out, then it all rolls up to exceed 200 in a year.

200 workouts per year is also easy to remember and communicate. I don’t need any barriers to doing the work of the workouts and the easier it is to refer to and have others understand, the better.

In 2021 I made it just by the skin of my teeth to 200. My December was full of workouts to make my goal.

In 2022, I exceeded my goal by a solid margin.

How did I get to 200 workouts?

I don’t mean to be trite by saying the simple thing, but that’s what it is: I took it 1 day at a time and 1 workout at a time.

And I started by changing the default for every day so I had to opt out of a workout instead of opting in.

Every day in my calendar is a workout. Do I have time? Maybe. But having the workout already in there changes the question from if I’ll do something to when. For me, that splits the internal conversation into 2 parts and makes for easier answers:

  • Part 1 is the planner part of my brain. The planner decides when to do the workout and what workout to do. That requires balancing out all the other things I need to do and what workout I’m going to do.
  • Part 2 is the execution part of my brain. Now, I tell myself, just show up and do the work.

When I book the calendar event I make sure to put in enough time to do the full workout routine: fill my water, get on workout gear, get equipment together (if needed), work out, cool down, shower, get dressed and back into life.

For me, that almost always equals 90 minutes, so that’s the default calendar event I have every day. Sometimes I lengthen it or shorten it, but that’s the default.

I log my workouts on my phone in the Health app. I manually enter each of them. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough. Then I can always see how I’m doing on the rolling 7-day and 28-day calendars.

What counts as a workout?

It’s up to you what you want to count. I have arrived at a place where will count any time I’m focused primarily on exercising my body. I might be doing something else at the same time, but the time is primarily exercise.

So a workout can be walking for an hour (~6 kms) while I have my weekly call with my brother. It can be riding my bike to do a bunch of errands, if I’m getting in enough distance and focusing for a period of the time on just working out.

A workout can be a solo workout at the park or outdoor stairs with bodyweight resistance. It can be a gym workout while I’m travelling. It can be a programmed workout at a studio. It can be a hike in the woods. It can be a half hour swim while my son does his swimming lesson. It can be a hockey practice or skating session. It can be a day skiing.

Those are all things I’ve counted.

Things I haven’t counted are times when I haven’t been focused on exercise, like riding with my son to school, running a hockey practice, commuting by bike or walking with a friend.

But I also give myself some flexibility to the criteria of what gets counted.

I had a total hip replacement surgery almost 2 years ago now and when I was recovering I counted my physio sessions, though they weren’t particularly taxing. They were focused on just my body and they were dedicated time. I counted shorter, slow walks that I could take – a few hundred meters on crutches at first. Anytime I was focused on just exercise or serving my body and its fitness for a sustained period, I counted.

Why I shoot for 200 workouts per year

By this point you might be wondering why I do this. Maybe I should have started answering this question.

In any case, I find there are a few layers to my answer.

First up, I have gone through periods of my life (adolescent and adult) where I have been more active and fit versus less active and fit.

I have definitely been happier in the times when I’m more active and fit. I’m also more balanced and more emotionally stable. Body and mind go together. Go figure.

Second, I have seen what a lack of fitness does to my life, and it sucks and scares me.

I had osteoarthritis in my left hip, diagnosed in my early 20s. On and off, that has caused me some pain over the following 20+ years. But the pain is only part of the story. The other effect has been that it has narrowed the range of things I can / will do. My physical world shrank as the disease progressed. I no longer could run and play soccer with my son and his friends. I couldn’t or didn’t want to walk to the corner store because it would hurt for the rest of the day.

Third, I’m really competitive. Focusing that competitive drive into something positive that I can win at is good for me and people around me. I like to think the maturing element of my competitive drive has become I’m only really competing with myself. But if you are ahead of me on the bike path, I’m going to try to keep up and / or pass.

Lastly, I feel a sense of duty to the people I care about to be able to show up for them as my best self – capable, stable, balanced, happy. For me, that means dedicating time to fitness.

I also coach kids and feel a significant drive to provide a working model of fitness they can see in action. It’s impossible in my mind to ask them to exert themselves with their best effort if I haven’t earned the right to do so by doing it myself.

So, that’s it. Questions? Feedback?

I’d love to hear what works for you.

Inside Voice, Nerdery, Vancouvering

2 New Year’s Resolutions: Gymnastics and Drawing

Welcome, 2012.

I have 2 new things I’d like to do with you: gymnastics and drawing.

Gymnastics? Yes. I’d like to try out gymnastics, again.

Last time I was taking any gymnastics I was in the 5 to 7-year-old range, so it’s  return to youth, to recess, to trying to do something new with the body.

I’ve done a little searching and the options in adult gymnastics are scarce. Most are geared towards high-level gymnasts who want to keep training and stay in shape. I am not one of those.

I am an amateur looking to try gymnastics for 1 to 3 months. I have taught myself handstands with low consistency but can’t master the cartwheel. I’d like to be able to do a handspring and to feel comfortable with my body upside down and flipping.

Best option thus far seems to be Phoenix Gymnastics.

And drawing?

Yes. I am a terrible drawer. I have some difficulty with stick figures. Flowcharts I can must in a tortured fashion but I need some basic skills: shape, perspective, composition, scale. The fundamentals.

The search is on for a class. If you have anything to suggest, please let fly.

And all the best in 2012.

Findings, Nerdery, Stories

Ernest Hemingway Quotes of Hard-Won Wisdom

Been thinking a lot about Hemingway quotes of late. Collected a few particular favourites here, below.

If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry.

— A Farewell to Arms

Never mistake motion for action.

The shortest answer is doing the thing.

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.

All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.

The first draft of anything is shit.

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.

In our world of excess and super abundance of words, entertainment, distractions and information, the spareness and clarity is refreshing.

Each quote a refreshing breath of hard-won wisdom.

Findings, Inside Voice, Nerdery

A model for creating great advertising: inheritance, product, pretending

A model for understanding the key ingredients of great advertising: inheritance, product, pretending.

Have I’ve spoken to you about this before?

If so, now I’m following up with some early-stage draft ideas. If not, here’s the background.

I’m working on a bit of a model for creating great advertising.

My idea is that great advertising emerges from 3 things: an inheritance, a product and pretending. The image above presents a conceptual model.

The idea rose from reading this post by Russell Davies on pretending.

When adverting can hit the middle of this model, it succeeds. Big time.

The trouble is: everyone has their own version of the above model in their head. That’s what makes good advertising so tough to do.

Everyone has their own frame of reference (inheritance), usage patterns (product) and imagination (pretending). So everyone’s experience of the advertising is different.

Okay, that’s assumed. But can this model help us understand the ingredients needed to get beyond that unique experience and to a common experience?

That’s what I’d like you to help me with.

I’m trying to work out some clever, salient things to say that make sense of this idea and this model. I’d love to hear what you think about the model overall and about how useful it is.


(and comments way below too!)

Findings, Inside Voice, Nerdery

The great game of Moral High Ground

Ask Metafilter asks: What clever relationship “hacks” have you come up with?

Stuck on an island replies:

At last it is time to reveal to an unwitting world the great game of Moral High Ground. Moral High Ground is a long-playing game for two players. The following original rules are for one M and one F, but feel free to modify them to suit your player setup:

1. The object of Moral High Ground is to win.

2. Players proceed towards victory by scoring MHGPs (Moral High Ground Points). MHGPs are scored by taking the conspicuously and/or passive-aggressively virtuous course of action in any situation where culpability is in dispute.

(For example, if player M arrives late for a date with player F and player F sweetly accepts player M’s apology and says no more about it, player F receives the MHGPs. If player F gets angry and player M bears it humbly, player M receives the MHGPs.)

3. Point values are not fixed, vary from situation to situation and are usually set by the person claiming them. So, in the above example, forgiving player F might collect +20 MHGPs, whereas penitent player M might collect only +10.

4. Men’s MHG scores reset every night at midnight; women’s roll over every day for all time. Therefore, it is statistically highly improbable that a man can ever beat a woman at MHG, as the game ends only when the relationship does.

5. Having a baby gives a woman +10,000 MHG points over the man involved and both parents +5,000 MHG points over anyone without children.

My ex-bf and I developed Moral High Ground during our relationship, and it has given us years of hilarity. Straight coupledom involves so much petty point-scoring anyway that we both found we were already experts.

By making a private joke out of incredibly destructive gender programming, MHG releases a great deal of relationship stress and encourages good behavior in otherwise trying situations, as when he once cycled all the way home and back to retrieve some forgotten concert tickets “because I couldn’t let you have the Moral High Ground points”. We are still the best of friends.

Play and enjoy!

The great game of Moral High Ground

Findings, Nerdery

Rumours, Belief and How Human Culture Trumps Technology

This Internet thing was supposed to help inform people — universal access to inexhaustive information.

But, that’s not quite what’s happened or happening.

So far, more than half a dozen lawsuits have been filed alleging that Obama is not a “natural born” citizen. One plaintiff, an Army reservist from Georgia, argued in court that he couldn’t be sent to fight in Afghanistan because the military lacked a Commander-in-Chief. In a poll released over the summer, twenty-eight per cent of the Republicans surveyed said that they did not think Obama was born in the U.S., and thirty per cent said that they were unsure, meaning that fully half took birther ideas seriously enough to doubt the legitimacy of their government. When a video of the woman in red was posted on YouTube, it quickly went viral; within a few weeks, it had received some eight hundred thousand hits.

That such a wacky idea should be so persistent is, to put it mildly, disquieting. Here we are, quadrillions of bytes deep into the Information Age. And yet information, it seems, has never mattered less.

According to Cass R. Sunstein, the situation was to be anticipated.

The Things People Say — Rumors in an age of unreason by Elizabeth Kolbert documents the built in biases we have for information gathering, belief development and social reinforcement.

“The acquisition of knowledge is, as Sunstein points out, a social process: it is shaped by language, by custom, and, since the Enlightenment, by certain widely accepted standards of evidence and rationality.”

Except the Internet makes it more possible than ever to filter the information we receive and compound “group polarization.”

Findings, Nerdery

The Economics of Buying Local

Why buy local? Infographic information on where your money goes if you spend it with a local company.

Buying from local merchants means $.73 of every dollar stays in your community’s economy. Buying from an outlet of a non-local merchant means only $.43 of every dollar stays in your community’s economy.

Ever dollar spent therefore provides either $.30 contributed in bonus to your local economy, or $.30 that goes somewhere else.

Buying from non-local merchants may save you a small amount of money today. But it impoverishes you and your neighbours tomorrow.

And when you’re impoverished, price becomes the most important factor in purchase decisions. Then you’re way more likely to buy from a non-local merchant. The cycle continues and worsens.

It’s like the opposite of compounding interest: compounding deficit.

And once you get beyond the simple economic benefits of buying local, these additional 10 effects weigh in favour of supporting local businesses (in this case, in Grand Rapids, Michigan).

1. Significantly More Money Re-circulates In Greater Grand Rapids.

When you purchase at locally owned businesses rather than nationally owned, more money is kept in the community because locally-owned businesses often purchase from other local businesses, service providers and farms. Purchasing local helps grow other businesses as well as the Greater Grand Rapids tax base.

2. Non Profits Receive Greater Support.

Local business owners donate more to local charities than non-local owners.

3. Unique Businesses Create Character & Prosperity

The unique character of Grand Rapids is what brought us here and keeps us here. Our tourism businesses also benefit.

4. Environmental Impact Is Reduced.

Local businesses make more local purchases requiring less transportation and usually set up shop in town centers rather than on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.

5. Most New Jobs Are Provided By Local Businesses.

Small local businesses are the largest employers nationally.

6. Customer Service Is Better.

Local businesses often hire people with more specific product expertise for better customer service.

7. Local Business Owners Invest In Community.

Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future.

8. Public Benefits Far Outweigh Public Costs.

Local businesses require comparatively little infrastructure and more efficiently utilize public services relative to chain stores.

9. Competition And Diversity Leads To More Consumer Choices.

A marketplace of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.

10. Investment In Greater Grand Rapids Is Encouraged.

A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

Originally found on PSFK, who found it on Local First.