The return of the polymath: The best is yet to come (summer hiatus)

Last September, I set a rule for myself: that I would blog every Wednesday, allowing me to publish on a schedule and to reserve the blogging for good stuff that inspires me, rather than putting up something every day just to get something up. And I've stuck to it, but I'm taking the summer off for bigger things (things like getting married and selling a house and other projects that make blogging a distraction and burden instead of something useful).

Before I do that, I want to share one more thing in the learning from podcasts series (I'll of course not stop learning and not stop sharing; make sure you follow me on Twitter for that sharing).

This is something that's been very important to me the past year, and Tim Ferriss and Chase Jarvis discuss it on Ferriss's podcast.

This is not a new concept, of course. But it's becoming less and less for the visionary (think Buckminster Fuller's take on General Pirates in Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, and more for the everyday person. As in, you don't have to be the 1% (smartest or richest or whatever) to find a niche and do a little bit of everything in earning your place in the world (creating, revising, accounting, business plan, raising money, building, hiring, managing, etc.), and thriving while doing it.

Jarvis – a photographer, filmmaker and founder of CreativeLIVE – and Ferris, maybe best known for The 4-Hour Workweek but who also does a lot more, certainly fit those descriptions.

Take an hour and a half and learn from them. You can watch the full episode here, if you wish (I prefer to listen, since it allows me to do something else, too):

Share your input

Like last week, I'm going to share a little something I learned on one of James Altucher's podcasts. [See my favorite podcasts]

Altucher spoke with Austin Kleon, who, among other things, creates poetry by blacking out large chunks of newspaper articles, leaving only the words that form his works. It has both a written and visual element, and includes some of the built-in commentary that nothing is truly new, it's just a reorganization of something that exists.

Kleon said two things on that podcast that I found interesting.

One was that when we make something, we should record the process, because the process is also of interest to people.

This, of course, is not new. There have been "the making of..." documentaries on movies and TV shows for decades now. But it might be something a lot of solo or small-group creators don't think about. In addition to selling your finished product, you can sell a thing (book, DVD, whatever) about how you made the product.

The other thing was this. When using social media, you don't have to share your output every day, but you should share your input. That is, you may not want to tell people what you're working on that day, but tell people what you consumed – if you're learning from it, let someone else learn from it, as well.

I'm doing more listening than reading these days, most of it to the podcasts I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and I'm trying out some silence at times of the day when I normally wouldn't have silence.

I'm also re-reading The Four-Hour Workweek; it makes a lot more sense to me than it used to.

What's your input look like these days?

Be willing to be laughed at occasionally

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the podcasts I'm listening to, and there are a couple of takeaways I want to share over the next couple of weeks.

On James Altucher's recent podcast with Stephen Dubner (of Freakonomics fame), one of the things Dubner mentions is that we're afraid to be laughed at.

The context is this. You know those meetings that start off with someone saying, "There are no stupid ideas," and then someone vocalizes an idea everybody thinks is stupid, everyone laughs uncomfortably and no one comes up with anything mildly interesting the rest of the meeting? Well, maybe if we can spit out all the ideas that people will think are stupid and laugh a lot, we'll get the crap out and get to the good stuff.

Because when the good stuff and the crap are all mixed in together, it's hard to separate them until you've said them aloud. And if you don't say them aloud because you're afraid to get laughed at, they just stay inside, where they're not doing anyone any good.

Also, laughing's good for you. It releases dopamine and works your abs. Plus, it's infectious, like yawning.

Altucher has more of a guide to coming up with ideas over on his blog. He also wrote about laughter recently.

[photo credit]

Podcasts I’m listening to

Note: Updated 12 Aug. 2014 with Marc Maron's WTF.

One of my new favorite things is listening to podcasts. Better than listening to music for taking my mind off the pounding I give my knees on a run and requiring less attention than audiobooks, I'm picking up useful information and being entertained.

These are some of my favorites right now. Please share yours; I'm just getting into them, so I'd love some recommendations.

The Tim Ferriss Show. You know Tim Ferriss from the 4-Hour series (work week, body, chef) and maybe from his television show, which I haven't seen. His podcast is new (as of this writing, there are three episodes; there might be a fourth by the time this publishes), and very entertaining. Life-hacking, entrepreneurship, self-experimentation, meditation and more are subjects discussed in long-form entertaining interviews over copious amounts of wine (seriously, I think episode 3 is almost a constant pour over two hours). On Twitter: @tferriss

The James Altucher Show. I'm a big fan of Altucher's books (Choose Yourself! and others), his writing, and his weekly Twitter Q&A. I waited a little while to start listening to his podcast (he announced it in January), but I'm glad I did. He has some great guests, and his shows are generally a much more manageable length (35-60 minutes) than Ferriss's, if that's an issue for you. On Twitter: @jaltucher

Brew/Drink/Run. This is exactly what it sounds like. Home brewing beer, drinking craft beer, and running. They brew at all levels, from starter kits to complicated all-grain recipes. They run at all levels, from an endurance athlete to people who struggle to get a mile in some days, and they review beers that aren't your average Miller Lite. It's a very entertaining crew, and you might pick up a little something here and there. On Twitter: @BrewDrinkRun

Foundation. This is a podcast by Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg and the guy who decides which startups Google Ventures writes big checks to. He has some wildly interesting people on the podcast, talking about entrepreneurship. There aren't a lot of people giving away content who are having conversations with Elon Musk and David Copperfield. Take advantage of it. On Twitter: @KevinRose

Snap Judgment and The Moth. I put these two together because they have similar offerings. You can hear both on NPR stations across the country, and both feature storytellers, often in a performance environment. Snap does some long-form feature reporting as well. I don't know that there's much crossover in terms of people who tell stories, but I'd suggest giving them both a listen. On Twitter: @SnapJudgment and @TheMoth

Addendum: WTF with Marc Maron. Holy crap. Mark Maron is a comedian I never heard of until recently, and he's had one of the top-rated podcasts on iTunes for a few years now. He's 500-something episodes in, releases two or three a week, and has amazing guests. Like Robin Williams (2010), Claire Danes (there was mutual fandom there) and Bob Newhart. Maron was part of the crash-and-burn standup crowd, coming up with Sam Kinison and doing too many drugs and drinking too much. He has a show on IFC ("Maron"), still tours, and, in addition to his interviews, speaks to his audience about his life – his neuroses, his health, his relationships, what have you. He's incredibly relatable, and every interview is a conversation with what seems like an old friend.

Sports talk: Colin Cowherd

Update, July 29, 2015:Cowherd was fired a few days ago for saying that Dominicans are academically inferior to Americans. He said something stupid, he knows he said something stupid, and whether or not he believes it, it doesn't belie someone with access to a few million listeners. I certainly don't condone what he said, but I also don't think saying one stupid thing (or even a few stupid things) negates the smart stuff you say, even if it does mitigate it. So, read on with that new perspective.

A lot of you know I'm a sports fan. And a lot of you have probably gathered through reading the blog, or spending time with me, that I appreciate smart people.

If you're not listening to Colin Cowherd's show The Herd, give it a go. It runs from 10am to 1pm Eastern on ESPN Radio (that's 97.7 FM if you're in CNY). You don't need to be a sports fan. Seriously.

Cowherd tackles his subject from a very honest place. He understands that he works at a large company, one owned by Disney. He also understands that he works for one of the few successful cable channels out there, the top sports channel out there, and that his company gives him three hours every weekday on national radio because he's smart and he's confident in his views.

So if he thinks his company screwed something up, he'll tell you.

And that extends elsewhere. If he thinks the NFL screwed something up, he'll tell you.

If he think you screwed something up, he'll tell you.

He doesn't take idiocy well. If you call into the show, you'd better be smart or entertaining, or prepare to be hung up on and ridiculed on air.

And he enjoys having people on the show who aren't just known for sports, like Mark Cuban (whom you might know from the TV show "Shark Tank" and other ventures outside of his ownership of the Dallas Mavericks) and on occasion someone like Malcolm Gladwell.

If you're not a sports fan, give him 10 minutes one day and 10 minutes another day here and there; his job is sports, but I think you'll learn something way beyond that industry.

Looking at Franklin’s virtues

Frustrated with the dogmatic bent of the Presbyterian Church — which always seemed to him to be looking for more Presbyterians instead of making good people out of the Presbyterians it had — Benjamin Franklin sought to define the most important virtues in life for himself outside the boundaries of Church language, and he did so with the idea in mind that the Church's virtues were few with wide definitions, so he wrote more, with more narrow definitions.

From his autobiography, Franklin's 13 virtues (with his explanations) are (in the spelling of his time):

1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i. e., waste nothing.
6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. Moderation. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12. Chastity.
13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

I've written about moderation before. It's one of the hardest things to achieve in our world as it is, I think. Even now, while I'm concentrating on writing, I have the television on and eight browser tabs open, with my tablet to the right of my laptop and my phone to the left.

I've also written about quiet and needing to shut up once in a while. Every now and again I get drawn into a stupid discussion, but for the most part, in both real life and online, I'm getting much better about not saying anything unless I have something to add to a discussion. I won't raise my voice to be heard, so if I do have something to contribute but the conversation isn't civil or at a normal tone, I keep out of it.

Basically, I think Franklin got it right. Be good to people, live as simply and as calmly as you can. It's interesting that he paired Jesus and Socrates as representatives of humility. I believe it's clear that it has nothing to do with Jesus's divinity if he's paired with a very early scientist.

What do you think are good rules for life?

Three things you can read every week to get smarter in 2014

I read a lot. Most of the stuff I read is absolute crap, but I read it because I'm hoping it will teach me something. But no longer. I spent 2013 consuming as many words as I could, and I figured out that there are three things I could read every week that will make me smarter.

That's not to say I don't think there are other useful newsletters out there, and that I'll stop reading books and features and news and such. I'm just going to be more picky – a little more selfish with my time.

These are the three things that I read every week, that I think you should, as well.

1. James Altucher's weekly Twitter chat. James Altucher has done a few things right in his life, and a lot of things wrong. The things he's gotten right vastly outweigh the others, though, and I think he's a really smart guy (I recommend his book, Choose Yourself!, as well). He hosts an "ask me anything" Twitter chat Thursdays from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Eastern. During that hour, tweet him at @jaltucher and he'll respond.

I tend to go to his Twitter page and refresh every few minutes so that I can monitor the answers, and then I have the option to check out the question if I wish. If you can't catch it live, you can always head to his page later and scroll back through. You get not only his collected wisdom, but also you get to read what people are asking about, which might give you some ideas as well.

I think you can get just as much from lurking here as you could participating.

2. Mitch Joel, Alistair Croll and Hugh McGuire's weekly link exchange. Each week, three entrepreneurs collect one link for each of the other two, resulting in a blog post every Saturday on Mitch Joel's blog titled Six Links Worthy of Your Attention. Some weeks you'll find more interesting than others, but that will come down entirely due to personal preference. Give yourself a little time; it's worth at least reading all the explanations, and if you wind up clicking something, you might be in for 15-20 minutes of reading or watching.

The links run the gamut from entrepreneurship to education to space exploration to music, sculpture and everything else.

3. Brain Pickings weekly. Maria Popova writes long-form blog items that are really, really interesting. She writes on writing, habits, music, language, science and a variety of other topics, and she always has interesting take-aways from people who know their fields and have names like Einstein, Fitzgerald and Sontag (that is, names you've heard).

Each Sunday, she sends out a newsletter that can help you through your first pot and a half of coffee (you can't tell me I'm the only one, especially on Sunday morning).

Other newsletters I get include a daily email from Web Urbanist, which usually includes some cool photos with a little text (recent ones included a former subterranean brewery that is now a bunch of hot tubs and heated pools, and a post on large concrete arrows in the middle of the U.S. desert that appear to point nowhere but in the 1920s helped direct mail traffic by air before the use of radar), and a weekly offering from C. Hope Clark at Funds for Writers; she writes about the craft of writing, and also about marketplaces, grants and contests.

What do you read consistently that you'd like to share?