“Since I was very young, I’ve played all kinds of music: bar mitzvah music, Sousa marches, strip-club music, jazz, pop.
I didn’t have to learn a thing to do Michael Jackson.”
“You’re supposed to use everything from the past.
If you know where you come from, it’s easier to get where you’re going. Musical principles exist, man. Musicians today can’t go all the way with the music because they haven’t done their homework with the left brain.
Music is emotion and science.
You don’t have to practice emotion because that comes naturally.
Technique is different. If you can’t get your finger between three and four and seven and eight on a piano, you can’t play. You can only get so far without technique. People limit themselves musically. Do these musicians know tango? Macumba? Yoruba music? Samba? Bossa nova? Salsa? Cha-cha?”
— Quincy Jones
via the ever awesome Tren Griffin.
I recently subscribed to the The Great Courses Plus, so that I could bring myself up to speed on the Math needed to do my 12th standard exams.
All these years, whenever I’ve tried to teach myself trigonometry (or other people have tried to explain it to me) it has always been an exercise in frustration, followed by the general exhortation to just mug it up.
My brain sadly is not wired that way. I can and I will mug it up.
But I do want to know what the first principles are, so that I have the ability to derive what I need.
I need to understand.
Professor Tanton’s Geometry course was this eye opener for me.
I thought him slightly pretentious in the beginning, when he repeatedly says, he doesn’t know what the answer is … and then goes on to figure it out.
A few lectures in, though, and I’m suddenly a rabid fan of the approach.
Prof Tanton puts himself in my place and with glee, figures things out, just like a new learner would.
I find myself pausing the video, when he says he does not know and then try to figure it out just like he would (or rather he would, that I would … by slowly reasoning and being ok with mistakes)
His love for the subject shines through all he does.
There are ropes and knots and hand motions and sound effects (shoom!) and boards and screens and ugly drawings (just like mine) and folded pieces of paper and tiles and he bounces between all of them to explain stuff and make his point.
Here’s what I’m talking about.
This is one of my later classes, and I’m barely halfway through.
In fact, I’m at the point in lecture 18, where he tries to explain how to sum up two sines.
So why the gratitude rush?
Because Prof Tanton just lit the biggest light bulb in my head, and gave me my biggest a-ha, I’ve ever had in a long time.
Lectures 16 & 17 explaing circle-ometry, naturally leading into the basics of trigonometry, suddenly made sense of so much stuff for me.
All the advanced algebra I’ve been doing, the basic calculus I’ve been learning suddenly just “clicked!”
And there’s another reason.
He showed me that genius is not the norm for doing maths and science.
Persistence, slow methodical work, gentle reasoning and practice will get me there.
If James Tanton PhD. Mathematics, Princeton University, 1994, & Mathematician in Residence at the Mathematical Association of America in Washington D.C. does it this way, so can I.
He’s made me fall in love with maths.
And for that, dear Professor Tanton, I’m eternally grateful.
Not to toot my own horn, but Prof Tanton responded :P
Imagine the school bum, mending his ways, becoming a success and then sharing his stories and experience.
Well, that’s what this book is.
A pithy summary for a pithy book. Punchy, wise and brief.
Mark Manson is the Dale Carnegie for millenials.
There are f*cks strewn galore, so if you’re not comfortable with such language, stay away.1
Here’s a few things, I took away from the book
- Learn to be comfortable with pain and failure and suffering and hardship
- True joy comes from experience, from tackling pain and hardship, from living
- Live a life of intention. Know what your enough is. Choose your struggle. Care deeply only about these few things
- Learn to be self aware. Meditation helps.
- Have good values
- There are no ready made, cookie cutter solutions to your problems or to finding your path. You have to make your own way. And that is a good thing
- Don’t be dogmatic. Be comfortable changing your mind as you learn and experience more
- Learn to be ok with rejection. Also, learn to say No.
- Be disciplined, focussed, and committed to the things you care about
- Memento Mori.2
So make the most of the life you have left. Learn to live, so that you leave with joy, not regret.
Quotes I loved
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.
You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
— Albert Camus
“I used to think the human brain was the most wonderful organ in my body.
Then I realized who was telling me this.”
— Emo Philips
“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”
— Sigmund Freud
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life.
A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
— Mark Twain
I’m quoting this passage wholesale, because this was the thing that resonated with me the most; the fact that Deep Work matters.
Discipline, dedication and commitment to the few things that do matter in your life is what will make your life enriching.
… more is not always better. In fact, the opposite is true.
We are actually often happier with less. When we’re overloaded with opportunities and options, we suffer from the paradox of choice. Basically, the more options we’re given, the less satisfied we become with whatever we choose, because we’re aware of all the other options we’re potentially forfeiting.
So if you have a choice between two places to live and pick one, you’ll likely feel confident and comfortable that you made the right choice. You’ll be satisfied with your decision.
But if you have a choice among twenty-eight places to live and pick one, the paradox of choice says that you’ll likely spend years agonizing, doubting, and second-guessing yourself, wondering if you really made the “right” choice, and if you’re truly maximizing your own happiness. And this anxiety, this desire for certainty and perfection and success, will make you unhappy.
So what do we do? Well, if you’re like I used to be, you avoid choosing anything at all. You aim to keep your options open as long as possible. You avoid commitment.
But while investing deeply in one person, one place, one job, one activity might deny us the breadth of experience we’d like, pursuing a breadth of experience denies us the opportunity to experience the rewards of depth of experience. There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime. Now that I’m in my thirties, I can finally recognize that commitment, in its own way, offers a wealth of opportunity and experiences that would otherwise never be available to me, no matter where I went or what I did.
When you’re pursuing a wide breadth of experience, there are diminishing returns to each new adventure, each new person or thing. When you’ve never left your home country, the first country you visit inspires a massive perspective shift, because you have such a narrow experience base to draw on. But when you’ve been to twenty countries, the twenty-first adds little. And when you’ve been to fifty, the fifty-first adds even less.
The same goes for material possessions, money, hobbies, jobs, friends, and romantic/sexual partners—all the lame superficial values people choose for themselves.
The older you get, the more experienced you get, the less significantly each new experience affects you. The first time I drank at a party was exciting. The hundredth time was fun. The five hundredth time felt like a normal weekend. And the thousandth time felt boring and unimportant.
The big story for me personally over the past few years has been my ability to open myself up to commitment. I’ve chosen to reject all but the very best people and experiences and values in my life. I shut down all my business projects and decided to focus on writing full-time. Since then, my website has become more popular than I’d ever imagined possible. I’ve committed to one woman for the long haul and, to my surprise, have found this more rewarding than any of the flings, trysts, and one-night stands I had in the past. I’ve committed to a single geographic location and doubled down on the handful of my significant, genuine, healthy friendships.
And what I’ve discovered is something entirely counterintuitive: that there is a freedom and liberation in commitment. I’ve found increased opportunity and upside in rejecting alternatives and distractions in favor of what I’ve chosen to let truly matter to me.
Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous.
Commitment gives you freedom because it hones your attention and focus, directing them toward what is most efficient at making you healthy and happy.
Commitment makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more, more, more again?
Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would.
In this way, the rejection of alternatives liberates us—rejection of what does not align with our most important values, with our chosen metrics, rejection of the constant pursuit of breadth without depth.
Yes, breadth of experience is likely necessary and desirable when you’re young—after all, you have to go out there and discover what seems worth investing yourself in. But depth is where the gold is buried. And you have to stay committed to something and go deep to dig it up. That’s true in relationships, in a career, in building a great lifestyle—in everything.
TL;DR? It’s awesome. Buy it right now.
I was looking to dip my toes into some sort of structured help with the summer training and open source in general, because while I knew what I wanted, I just didn’t know how to go about it.
And then I realised that one of our mentors had actually gone and written a whole book on the how to. So, I bought the paperback. The binding is really good, the paper really nice (unlike other tech books I’ve read) and the words large enough to read. I expect to get a lot of use, out of the book.
And lot of use is right. While it’s a slim volume and a pretty quick read, the book is pretty dense when it comes to the wisdom it imparts.
The book has a simple (yet substantial to execute) premise. You’ve just tipped your toe into programming, or you’ve learnt a new language, or you’ve probably written a few programs or maybe you’re just brand new. You want to explore the vast thrilling world that is Open Source Software. What now?
“i want 2 do project. tell me wat 2 do.” answers the “what now” in painstaking detail.
From communication (Mailing List Guidelines) to the importance of focus (Attention to Detail) to working with mentors (the Project chapters) to the tools (Methodology & tools) to the importance of sharpening the saw (Reading …) and finally the importance of your environment (Sustenance), the book covers the entire gamut that a student or a novice programmer with open source would go through.
Shakthi writes like he speaks; pithily, concisely with the weight of his experience behind his words.
The book is chockfull of quotes (from the Lady Lovelace to Menaechmus to Taleb) that lend heft to the chapters. The references at the end of each chapter will probably keep me busy for the next few months.
The book’ll save you enormous amounts of time and heartache, in your journey, were you to heed its advice. It’s that good.
I’m a big fan of Shane Parrish’s, The Knowledge Project.
Last night, I finished Episode 35, with Robert Green.
If you have trouble figuring out how to read, or take notes, and synthesize what you learn, go listen to how a master does it. (Spoiler, it’s pretty low tech)
Take what he teaches and adapt it digitally if you want.
Robert taught it to my favorite Stoic author, Ryan Holiday who’s given a good description of it, here in his Medium post.
And if you really want to get into the weeds, Ryan breaks it all down here, in along post replete with photos
You’ll find the shownotes with links here. Give it a listen.
All of this to say, Read more! Write more!
After your first programming language, writing is the most important skill you’ll pick up as a programmer who wants to make a mark.
You have to write daily!
The way you train reflects the way you fight. People say I’m not going to train too hard, I’m going to do this in training, but when it’s time to fight I’m going to step up. There is no step up. You’re just going to do what you did every day.”
— Georges St. Pierre
I’ve been moaning and bitching the past couple of years about how smart I was in my teens and how I could learn any darn thing I set my mind to, then.
My school grades did not reflect it though.
And these days, my consulting solutions have been top notch, and yet, I struggle to sharpen the saw.