Here’s a summary of the exercise.
- In this case, I fumbled around a bit initially to figure out how the grid on the left might work. I’ll it a few times this way to see if there are any other tweaks that will help, then I’ll try to make a custom sheet.
- Write sources down in the bottom for reference. Continue writing them down throughout if more come to mind during the exercise.
- If there’s a book I know I’ll have multiple points on, I’ll write it as its own line. (In this case. “Return of the King” and “My Morning Routine” got their own lines.)
- Write a one-line description of a point that comes to mind (And note the source in text). Then mark the type of point it gets: story bank, toolbox, personal story, or connection.
The four things in the grid:
- The story bank: I’ve thrown excerpts into Evernote and used other apps and systems in the past. The particular name “story bank” comes from Ramit Sethi. I like that phrase to think of making deposits into it. Anyway, these are just quick summaries from some piece of content. Sometimes a book will use a story (Bannister’s 4-minute mile) to stress a point. The 4-minute mile goes into the story bank. Sometimes a book author will tell a personal story about themselves, so that will go into the story bank. These are helpful for when I’m copying excerpts to notecards. (I have a tag called “Excerpt hunting” in Evernote which I was pleased by but then forgot to ever use. I’ll probably change it to “Story bank” soon.)
- Toolbox: Heavily inspired by Tim Grahl’s “Running Down a Dream”. I’ve seen similar things like Derek Sivers’s directives or in “18 Seconds” where there’s quick actions at the end (and basically any book that has a chapter summary at the end). But Tim just straight up labels it “Tool:” and writes it out directly when a chapter explains a useful tool. (Examples: “Get a therapist”, “Build a board of directors”) It’s a good way to sum up something I’ve consumed (in particular: non-fiction books).
- Personal story: If one of the sources reminded me of a personal story, I’ll write it down here. I don’t have an example here, but in the future I think it’ll be worth just writing down anything that happened or conversations that I had. There might be a tool in it. In any case, maybe someone out there actually cares that I’m writing this in Whole Foods.
- Connection: My routine used to be (1) wake up, (2) press a button in my phone to start a workflow to write 3 sources and 3 connections each. If one source reminds me of something from another source, that’s a connection. In the future I can go down the rabbit hole of finding or transcribing actual excerpts that connect. In the meantime, I’ll be satisfied having written down a book title and a “hey this reminded me of that one podcast where…”
I consume a decent amount of content and it creates a few problems (at least in my head, but that’s not the best place to have them):
- I worry I’m not applying any of it: Tracking things this way means I’m at the very least reviewing the things I’m reading. That’s one step closer to actually using things I learn or literally using stories I come across in writing. Going too far in the direction of thinking I need to apply everything I read to make it worth reading in the first place isn’t good either. (I wrote a post about the utility of fiction—in hindsight the title makes my eyes roll so I’m worried they’ll just keep rolling if I open it up and read it.)
- I worry it’s just going in and everything else spills out: I’ve been doing a shorter form of this over the past year. I’d write three sources (books/posts/podcasts/videos) and then think of three connections for each. Writing sources down was supposed to be the easy part but sometimes I’d struggle thinking of what I even came across the day before. If I couldn’t remember that, then I probably wasn’t remembering any of the content.
Okay, so I’m trying to make this a daily or at least most-days routine to fill out. Here’s how I think it’ll help:
- I’ll track the content I’m consuming: Just doing that is good to get a higher level view of what I’m taking in. I think I stepped out of the startup/tech echo chamber and walked into a marketing/copywriting one. There are great things to learn from very smart people. (Here comes the…) But both of them make it really easy to compare yourself to the entire rest of the world. I’ve begun trying to shift things. If the answer is “Yes” to the question, “Does this pretty much boil down to how to make money?” I’ll stop. Hopefully doing this page each day regularly will give me something I can glance at to see that I should read more fiction or more about some other genre.
- I’ll give my creative muscle some reps: To keep your body moving, keep your body moving1. The same goes for creativity. I won’t get into the neuroscience behind it, because I don’t know it. Anyway, this exercise makes me stretch a little by remembering the things I’ve consumed lately. Then I stretch a little more trying to sum some of it up.
- It gives me something visual to share: I don’t know if I’ll time-lapse it every time. But it does give me something I can share on other platforms.
I’ll try to do five of these and will see how it goes. The idea was that I’d then be able to take some of these points and expand on them. Today, writing about the system itself took up that time. But I’ll write three example expansions here.
(Look, I was going to not use emoji and then started looking into custom CSS for different bullet point icons and blah blah blah and anyway I’m just going to use an emoji in this post.)
???? Fit in or fit out
“Return of the King” is about the season where LeBron returned to the Cavs and the following season where they won a championship. This was a reminder of just how much everything was under a microscope that first year back. Any interaction or non-interaction was analyzed and discussed and frame-by-framed by the media.
???? Use tools
Again, this is from “Running Down a Dream”. I really like the idea of summarizing things as tools. So much that I tried to create this sheet as a tool for summarizing things that I’m reading.
???? Too many books
I buy too many books. So much that I tried to create this sheet as a tool for seeing just how many books I’m trying to read at once. I’m past the point where it’s a good thing to where I’m just bouncing from one book to another and always thinking that there might be something better to read.
Until next time!
- As the years have gone on, getting some crazy action figure body has become less of a goal. Being mobile and feeling good day to day is more important now. I’m convinced that the best way to do that is to make that happen is doing a little bit each day. A daily workout each day that doesn’t wipe me out.