Podcast: #28: Info Diet Recap (January 2022) | Now You See It, Four Thousand Weeks, How the Internet Happened, How to Read a Book

Books mentioned:


Welcome to the Notepod. I’m going to do a three plus one episode. Pretty much an info diet recap, and this time it’s all books. It’ll be three books that I’ve read recently. Three books this week, “Now You See It”, “Four-Thousand Weeks” and “How the Internet Happened” are books that I’ve finished or I’m currently reading.

The fourth one, “How to Read a Book”: this is one I’ve read in the past.

I’ll get to it with the quotes.

First one is this book called “Now You See It”

The author of this is Michael Bierut. He. Is a graphic designer at pentagram. There was like a Netflix show about designers in different industries. I think it’s the Paula Scher episode and she’s one of the other partners at Pentagram. And so Michael Bierut is a partner at Pentagram. He also created the blog Design Observer. This is a collection of essays that he put on that blog. Here’s the quote from it. It is about logo design and often what you think is: that looks so simple a five-year-old could do it.

In this case, he talks about the UPS logo.

He did a proposal that wasn’t picked and it went to another agency. He talks about why that agency was able to get the work.

“But FutureBrand had done something that we and the others had failed to do: they had convinced the client to accept their solution. The basic starting point of Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport is “I could have done better.” And of course you could! But simply having the idea is not enough. Crafting a beautiful solution is not enough. Doing a dramatic presentation is not enough. Convincing all your peers is not enough. Even if you’ve done all that, you still have to go through the hard work of selling it to the client.”
“Now You See It and Other Essays on Design” by Michael Bierut

This goes to the importance of soft skills. Being able to talk about your work, do some storytelling around the visuals, and ultimately convince the client that this is going to be an effective mark.

That all is very difficult to do. That’s where the competition part comes in between different agencies. It’s the whole art of the pitch and creating a compelling story. That goes far beyond just the logo mark.

Alright, this next quote it is from a book called “Four-Thousand Weeks” by Oliver Berkman

It is a book about time management and kind of the opposite of what you would expect when hearing it’s a book about time management.

Often you’ll think it’s going to be goal-setting, figuring out your priorities, breaking your year down into quarters, into months into weeks, days, hours.

Figuring out how you’re going to get that work done that day. Four-Thousand Weeks is a book about kind of how futile that can be. In a lot of ways it can be beneficial to sort of surrender to the idea that you don’t have control over all of this time.

It can still be useful to make plans. Of course. But that you might be able to reduce some of your anxiety around it. If you accept that you’re not going to be able to get that list of a thousand things done.

Here’s the quote

His reluctance to use that word is understandable, since it’s come to signify something slightly pathetic; many of us tend to feel that the person who’s deeply involved in their hobby of, say, painting miniature fantasy figurines, or tending to their collection of rare cacti, is guilty of not participating in real life as energetically as they otherwise might.
“Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals” by Oliver Burkeman

He’s talking about hobbies here and the modern day thing. With influencers. With the internet. With it being so easy to spin up a website and to start selling things. Everything can become a side hustle. You can sell to a hyper niche audience, a hyperlocal audience. That you’re wasting your time with a hobby if you’re not finding a way to monetize it in some way.

That said I did really enjoy this Basque cheesecake that we got last year. A friend bought it through WeChat which was, I think, tied to this Instagram account. Excellent. So it’s great that this stuff is possible.

But there’s downsides to it when you’re trying to have a hobby, that’s just a hobby.

Austin Kleon talks about this. I think it is in his book, “Show Your Work” but just this idea that you go to a potluck, you bake lemon bars, some other thing, take it there. People love it. Oftentimes the highest form of compliment is, oh, you should sell these. You should find a way to, to solve this.

This of course is very prevalent in creating content. I read this in December and was definitely thinking about like, oh, what are my goals for all the things that I’m making in the next year? Is all of this, a creative outlet or is it supposed to be the first steps toward some kind of post-work life.

I go back and forth on that and almost all the time end up in a bad middle. It should be a creative outlet, this form of leisure that is energizing, engaging.

But then I think, “Well, that’s kind of dumb. It’s not going toward creating a side income side hustle sort of thing.”

Then I’ll try to shift to that sort of thing and then it just does not become all that fun. Instead of being energizing and engaging, it’s probably a little bit engaging, but more of a drain of energy.

Wondering if it’s the right things that I’m doing. If I’m reading the right books, writing the right things, and then not really hitting publish on anything.

So… I don’t have a solution. I just want to share that that’s what I’m thinking of. Those are the kinds of questions that are raised in this book “Four-Thousand Weeks”.

Alright. Next quote. It’s a book called “How the Internet Happened” by Brian McCullough.

This is kind of like a modern history book. I don’t know what the phrase is for that. Just goes through the different phases of the internet and different products, different companies that came and went through these different areas of the internet.

Really fun book. Especially having lived through a lot of that. In middle school, high school. Things like Napster. Going through different early search engines. Getting the AOL discs and not really understanding at that stage, like, what’s the difference between this and what my parents have bought.

Eventually like a couple of friends get broadband lines and you see how their usage of the internet is different. Usually it was that their dads were doing some sort of retail trading. And probably at times felt like geniuses and then likely went through the crash just the same as everyone else. And probably felt some of that.

But I was a kid. I didn’t really know what was going on.

So here’s the quote. This one is about Napster and how it changed behavior:

“Napster was the first signal that the web had changed consumer behavior in a fundamental way. Today, we live in a world where consumers not only expect, but demand, infinite selection and instant gratification. Amazon had first introduced the concept of infinite selection, and now Napster was training an entire generation to require the instant gratification. Shawn Fanning had been right from the very beginning: digital really was a better way to distribute music.”
“How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone” by Brian McCullough

That is a theme through the book: infinite selection and instant gratification.

I remember when Netflix started online streaming and there’s a chapter on Netflix as well. It had terrible selection. I think there was like “Species” not even 2. I think it was like “Species III” was one of the front page popular movies.

The thing was, it was just so convenient. It was virtually infinite. Like there, there were probably hundreds or thousands of things to pick from. You couldn’t watch all of them. So it, in some sense it was infinite. But what was initially sacrificed was quality.

So you have infinite selection, instant gratification. At the time, it was kind of like infinite selection of not that great of shows and movies. But you do have instant gratification.

People had Netflix with the DVDs. And that was like, truly this infinite selection. Pretty much any movie was there, it seemed. You would slowly hear about friends. “Hey, are you going to cancel the DVD selection?” And that was kind of a thing.

As the streaming selection got better and better then more and more people were kind of canceling the DVD side of things and would only have the streaming side. Especially I think it was the NBC shows were on there. That seemed to be a big turning point that I remember. Of course I’m probably remembering not that well. It was maybe something else.

But quality can often be the thing that is sacrificed. Eventually the quality improves.

This is the same thing with the rise of Spotify.

Instant gratification. Just the convenience of it. Hey, it has pretty good amount of songs. I don’t need to go pirate these things anymore. Especially for me, I wasn’t on the hunt for brand new music. So it was definitely good enough. And then the library got better. The quality, of course, the algorithm that auto-generated playlists became the thing.

I could kind of outsource quality to other people too. There was Hipster International and that was a big— I forget what book this was, but just that, that had a big effect on their growth. You just outsource your playlists creation to someone you trust.

Of course the creator of Napster had one of the most popular playlists on Spotify decades later.

The last quote here is from a book called “How to Read a Book”

I want to read it again this year because I bounce around from book to book and.

Right now, I feel like I have a lot of analysis paralysis, decision fatigue. Something I heard recently was to just pick the book that is solving the problem that’s right in front of you. If your goal is to read for education and not entertainment.

Reading for entertainment and education can be kind of confused. Sometimes I think that I’m reading to learn something, but really I’m just trying to pass the time. Then you start to read these different business books, marketing books as entertainment.

You’re not really applying anything. But this is about how fast you should be reading.

Here’s the quote:

“With regard to rates of reading, then, the ideal is not merely to be able to read faster, but to be able to read at different speeds—and to know when the different speeds are appropriate.”
“How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler

I’ve thought of this with reading, with podcasts with audiobooks — those are kind of the three different things that make up most of the things that I consume. And then hours and hours of scrolling Twitter, which is never all that energizing, but it pays off every once in a while. You find an article to something really good. So that keeps the loop going.

I’ll often see these videos and articles about how someone used to read 50 books, 100 books a year. Now they’re cutting it down to 12 or 20 or whatever it is. They talk about how dumb it is to try to read as many books as possible.

This is similar to when someone mega rich says money won’t make you happy. Or that you don’t have to be a workaholic to get there, even though they were a workaholic to get there.

It feels like it’s one of those things where you have to go through it to understand why you don’t need to do it.

There is probably value in speeding through a bunch of books, having a year or two where you’re trying to read a ton. Because it helps you build your own taste. Then you start to see why people say, “Oh, you should just read some of these older fundamental business books and everything else is kind of a rehash of it.”

You kind of have to like read a few different rehashes of. Uh, say like “Effective Executive” to understand that all of these productivity books are kind of saying the same thing.

These things are captured in books from the 80s and centuries before. Of course the rise of Stoicism shows that these are often like centuries old lessons that are being retold with modern stories. It’s like all those like 90s romcom remakes of Shakespeare stories. It’s just in a form that’s more digestible for an audience today.

Anyway, definitely check this book out: “How to Read a Book”.

In the future, I want to see how that can apply to the different things that I’m listening to. How to listen to a book, how to listen to a podcast. Maybe that is a way to he’s my time really well when listening to these things and to retain more information, and that sort of thing.

On the other hand, going back to “Four-Thousand Weeks”, it may be better to accept that I do a lot of these things just for entertainment and leisure and it’s totally fine to do that. It may not be worth the stress that worrying about using that time poorly can bring on.

Oftentimes the listening is just layered on top of something else that I don’t need to give a hundred percent focus to. Just doing chores around the house or taking a walk or working out.

Anyway, thanks for listening to this. I hope you’re in a dark room with noise, canceling headphones on, giving this 110% focus. I appreciate it.