Friday Finds (Practice, Learning, Masculinity, Music)


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Hi friends,

Greetings from Austin!

I'm putting the finishing touches on an essay which looks at the world of sports to explain how we can improve the education system, and it should go live by the end of next week.

I was interviewed on Isra Garcia's Disrupt Everything podcast. We spoke a lot about my writing process, like how I capture ideas and organize my life around writing consistently and coming up with ideas. (Listen Here: | Spotify | Apple | Podcast Page)

Anyways, let's get into the Finds.

Today's Finds

Deliberate Practice: I've long argued that knowledge workers aren't as serious about improving their craft as they should be. Musicians and athletes get it right. Musicians practice their scales. Athletes have coaches to critique them and routines to keep them on track. I know very few knowledge workers who do something similar. Deliberate practice is a key to improvement. The concept comes from a researcher named Anders Ericsson, who coined the term in a 1993. Here's the original paper, a Harvard Business Review article that summarizes the findings, and Ericsson 25-year review to address critiques of the idea.

Spaced Repetition: Though our understanding of how people learn has vastly improved, very little of it has been implemented. Schools basically look the same today as they did 100 years ago. Unfortunately, I've found very few people, books, and articles that do a good job explaining how to learn. Fortunately, Gwern's article on spaced repetition is a good introduction. Our brains are fickle. We forget things fast. Embracing it would vastly improve our recall ability. It's telling that every great biographer I know has a habit of writing down notes right after they finish an interview. Always immediately. The forgetting curve shows why. As a rule of thumb, a piece of information is worth memorizing if you'll need it more than five days from now or knowing it will save you more than five minutes over the course of your life. If you're ready to implement spaced repetition, Michael Nielsen has a good primer.

Education isn't About Learning: Our schools would look radically different if they were optimized for learning. Later school start times. Spaced repetition. More active learning. Way fewer lectures (the FAA limits lectures to 20 minutes or less in American flight schools). I recently visited a school in Austin, Texas that brings cutting-edge learning science into the classroom. Most surprising of all: there are no teachers after 4th grade. Kids have coaches to guide them, but are taught to take ownership over their education by using cutting-edge learning apps. In this article, Gwern summarizes the scientific literature to show how suboptimal schools are for learning.

The Way of Men (Book Review): I still remember the surprise on my face when I visited San Sebastian, Spain. The town is known for its cuisine. On a per capita basis, it has more Michelin Star restaurants than any city in the world. But it's the cooking clubs that surprised me so much. The men gather in small, male-only club rooms to cook, dine, and drink together. These Basque cooking clubs are a stark contrast from contemporary America, where all-men (and all-women) clubs are on their way out. Boy Scouts have lost their status. The military isn't as masculine as it once was. Sports teams are increasingly integrated. The virtues of strength, honor, and courage have been devalued in particular. American men are struggling. Alcohol abuse and opioid use are rising. This book review explores the potentially ominous consequences of how gender roles are changing. "Hard times are coming," he writes.

Rick Rubin Documentary: Meet the man behind artists like Kanye West, Jay-Z, Mac Miller, Johnny Cash, Weezer, and the Beastie Boys. I’m not just impressed by the names. I’m impressed by the diversity of genres. Rubin started as a formal music producer and the co-founder of Def Jam, but he’s grown into a creative psychologist who provides a space where artists can be vulnerable and emotionally naked. He’s intuitive instead of technical, and in the studio, he aims for invisibility. Instead of putting his stamp on the music, he tries to recede into the background. The more excess he can remove, the better. As Kanye once said: “Rick’s not a producer. He’s a reducer.” Start with the documentary. Then, if you want more, I also recommend his interview with Zane Lowe and this episode of David Senra's excellent Founders Podcast (full transcript here).

Have a creative week,

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