Carleen Matthews (3x CrossFit Games Athlete)

Carleen Matthews is a multiple time individual CrossFit Games competitor. It’s always interesting to hear how people competing at the highest level in a sport think and operate on a daily basis – but Carleen’s story has another layer.

She has a history of addiction as well as eating disorder, and this gives her insight into the mental battles people fight underneath the surface that we don’t always see.

Carleen owns and operates CrossFit St. Helens in Oregon, and also runs a program out of her affiliate specifically for people who are on the path to recovery from addiction.

Through some enterprising members and her connections in the local community, Carleen was able to get government help to fund this program. If you’re interested in working with the recovering population in your area, Carleen almost certainly has some insight in terms of how to set up a program, hurdles you may face, and how to potentially get help from your local government. Direct message her on Instagram if this is something you’re interested in: @teamcarleen

Listen Here

Check out more from Carleen and CrossFit St. Helens

Show Notes

  • [01:35] How was coaching today? And first CrossFit workouts.
  • [05:38] Steady improvement in the sport of CrossFit every year
  • [09:58] Finding motivation for the daily grind of training – and re-evaluating her why” after finally making it to the CrossFit Games”
  • [19:20] Turning focusing on the journey” into more than just an inspirational quote”
  • [25:39] Getting coaching on proper mindset for competition
  • [31:38] How do you get into the zone” to compete?”
  • [36:09] Carleen’s personal battles with addiction and the recovery process – On suffering and being comfortable with the uncomfortable
  • [45:40] How do you coach people who are in recovery?
  • [58:13] How CrossFit St. Helens developed its program for working with people in recovery
  • [01:02:40] Recovering from a neck injury at the 2017 CrossFit Games

Resources and Individuals Mentioned

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James Pligge of Harm’s Way

From the above photo, you may think that James is an intimidating and frightening man.

But, it turns out that he is one of the weirdest and funniest people I know.

It’s difficult to appropriately categorize and convey all the disparate traits that exist in this enigma of a man, and hopefully this interview does his character justice.

Check out this discussion to learn about James’s long-standing fascination with Fear Factory, the process of stealing riffs for Harm’s Way songs, and how he trains for powerlifting while injured and on tour.

And check out Harm’s Way’s excellent Metal Blade debut “Posthuman” right here.

Listen Here

Check out more from James and Harm’s way

Show Notes

  • [2:15] Being recognized by students while substitute teaching – and denying it
  • [10:19] The influence of metropolitan Chicago’s melting pot of extreme music
  • [15:52] Learning about bands, digging in the crates, and becoming Youth Crew James
  • [24:26] Passing the torch from one generation of extreme music to the next
  • [31:04] Meeting Billy Milano from the Stormtroopers of Death
  • [34:27] The writing of “Posthuman” – writing riffs, writing transitions, collaborations amongst band members, and how to write songs when you can’t actually pay guitar that well
  • [47:38] A treatise on stealing riffs
  • [57:38] A disagreement on nu-metal
  • [1:03:23] Training while touring – a change in mindset from maximizing performance to maintaining strength while working through injuries

Resources and Individuals Mentioned

Backtrack
Title Fight
Morbid Angel
Burzum
Slayer
Death
Famous Hulbert
Fat Wreck Chords
Metallica
Record Breakers
Gorilla Biscuits
Youth of Today
Minor Threat
Bane
Fireside Bowl
Angelfire
Soulseek
Audiogalaxy
Kazaa
Future
Hewhocorrupts
Kung-Fu Rick
Empire Productions
Weekend Nachos
Soulfly
Max Cavalera
Sepultura – “Chaos AD”
Billy Milano
M.O.D.
Madball
Cro-Mags
Peter Gabriel
Hate Force
Like Rats
Godflesh
Black Sabbath
Mercyful Fate
Triptykon
Celtic Frost
Kid Rock
Celtic Frost – Os Abysmi vel Daath
Jacob Bannon
Primitive Future: Tom Warrior Interview
Discharge
Battalion of Saints
Motörhead
Are You Morbid?: Thomas Fischer
Fear Factory
Slipknot
Prong
Machine Head
Iron Maiden
At the Gates
Insane Clown Posse – “The Great Milenko”
Biohazard
Jared Skinner
American Barbell Club
The Reverse Hyper
Jesse Norris
Peter Thiel
Joe Rogan Experience #1066 – Mel Gibson & Dr. Neil Riordan
Longmont Potion Castle
The Blood Brothers
The Locust
YMCA

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Austin O’Neal and Megan Benzik of OPEX Athlete

They’re all grown up.

Austin and Megan have both spent significant amounts of time at South Loop Strength & Conditioning as both athletes and coaches, and – last year after competing at the Central Regional – they’ve moved out to Scottsdale, Arizona to be part of OPEX‘s sponsored athlete program.

The goal of this program is to allow athletes to train full-time – and not have to worry about coaching classes, working a day job, or running from gym to gym throughout the day. Getting better in training is all about maximizing your ability to respond and adapt to stressors – which means minimizing the stress in your life outside of the gym.

Check this episode out to learn how Megan and Austin have learned to trust the coaching process (and avoid self-doubt and constant questioning of what they’re doing), what they do to prioritize their recovery outside of the gym, and how they approach the mental grind of training on a daily basis.

Listen Here

Check out more from Austin and Megan

Resources and Individuals Mentioned

Show Notes

  • [3:12] What is the OPEX Athlete program? What does it look like to professionalize the process of training for the sport of CrossFit?
  • [7:45] Transitioning from a remote coaching relationship to working with a coach on the floor – and how to accept constant feedback and what could be perceived as criticism
  • [14:06] The dynamics of being around so many high level athletes. How do you stop yourself from just constantly doing more training?
  • [24:30] Balancing external stressors and finding your own personal “why” – and what do Austin and Megan actually think about during tough sessions?
  • [30:50] A slight SD card error – and how to be consistent over tie. What personality traits correlate with maximizing time spent outside of the gym, and how do you make decisions on what to prioritize as far as recovery and stress management?
  • [38:53] What is the biggest learning you’ve had from having a coach watching you on the gym floor?
  • [42:30] Competing for Instagram followers
  • [45:51] What does prepping for the Open look like? How do you maintain a culture with a healthy competitiveness amongst so many elite athletes without them starting to bicker and cut each other down?
  • [56:00] How do you handle the pressure to succeed during the Open – and how do you prepare emotionally for the stress that will come during the Open?

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Angelo Sisco of O’Hare CrossFit

“An alpha hippie is a tree-hugger who can rip out the tree and smash you with it, too.”

I’m not huge on inspirational quotes, but I think that quote has inspired me.

Angelo is one of the most interesting people I know – which is saying a lot because I know a lot of freaks (and you may have heard some of them on the podcast).

We first met way back in 2011. I was a new CrossFit coach and he had recently opened O’Hare CrossFit. Since then, we’ve both continued to learn and soak up information – which is pretty fascinating to see from two totally different personality types.

Angelo has built O’Hare CrossFit into a thriving business, which is much, much harder than it seems in this market, and he was also head of coaching for Barbell Business/Barbell Logic – which means he was overseeing the coaching for 100s of gyms.

Check out this conversation to learn what bizarre depths Angelo will sink to in order to keep learning, how he finds mentors, how he changed how he changed his on mindset and relationship with conflict despite having tons of success, how he helps business owners prioritize what they need to work on, and why strange men harass him because of his chest.

Listen Here

Check out Angelo and O’Hare CrossFit

Resources and Individuals Mentioned

Show Notes

  • [2:55] Angelo showed up to a kipping pull-up clinic at Atlas CrossFit that was intended to be just for members. Why put yourself out there and go into situations that you don’t totally belong? How did Angelo learn about CrossFit and training methodologies when there wasn’t a ton of information online?
  • [7:35] Having a bootleg pizza business selling pizza outside of bar – making really good friends with everyone and making sure that relationships are not one-sided
  • [11:58] Starting to train people in the “early adopter” days of CrossFit – and why people skills have become much more important over time as the marketplace changes
  • [15:11] Tipping points in the growth of O’Hare CrossFit over time – how becoming a better listener and unlearning emotional habits that had led to a certain level of success were both crucial to long-term business development
  • [20:13] Becoming an alpha hippie – “An alpha hippie is a tree-hugger who can rip out the tree and smash you with it, too”
  • [27:08] Finding a mentor in Jason Leydon – Taking a trip to Milford and staying at a seedy motel,
    and relentlessly following through on advice given
  • [36:23] Jason Leydon’s fear of male nudity
  • [40:38] How to prioritize areas of focus for business coaching clients – aligning your perfect day with your vision for your business and making sure that your product is good enough to achieve the level of success that you want
  • [50:20] Creating a specific client experience in a gym – “People are coming here for an emotion”

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Task Management and Prioritization – A Soliloquy on Getting Things Done

If you can’t tell, that picture above is me hanging loose with my audiobook version of “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.

I’m obviously someone who is interested in and obsessed with systems, so, when I first read this book in probably 2009, I immediately implemented many of the strategies and tactics recommended.

This was relatively easy for me since it immediately lined up with my natural way of thinking of things. Want me to create an elaborate mental model and sort and categorize various items within that model? Sounds like a great time – please sign me up immediately.

(I’m also good at sorting recycling and knowing the various rules about what can and can’t be recycled.)

I recently re-read Getting Things Done as part of my obligations for a book club that includes my business partners at South Loop Strength & Conditioning, and I realized I had gotten sloppy with a few key areas and I had simply failed to implement others.

Also, my life as a business owner has put me in a situation where I will always have a never-ending to-do list – which is a totally different psychological space than a person working a part-time job and spending a lot of time working on music (which was my life situation when I first read the book).

I put together a nice little cast laying out some of my biggest takeaways from my re-read of the book – which was probably one of the best and most well-timed re-reads of my life.

Listen Here

Resources and Individuals Mentioned

Show Notes

  • [0:50] The purpose of to-do lists: Don’t forget stuff and prioritize the stuff that you have written down. Most people think they’ll remember (they won’t) or they have endless, unprioritized lists that are numbing to look at.
  • [4:11] Effectiveness, prioritization, and efficiency – These are all different but are all key to long-term success and completion of projects
  • [5:52] At some point in my life, I had more to do at any given time than I could ever realistically accomplish. This leaves me with a constant sense of unease, but I’m getting better.
  • [9:36] One of David Allen’s most crucial insights is thinking of tasks as “next actions” rather than nebulous projects like “dentist” or “redesign website”
  • [15:35] Capturing tasks vs Processing tasks vs Prioritizing tasks vs Executing tasks (All are slightly different and all require different mental states and amounts of cognitive energy)
  • [21:25] The necessity of creating a frictionless inbox for capturing tasks – without having to categorize them at the same time
  • [23:01] The necessity of creating completable projects (ie “redesign layout of workout of the day blog posts”) vs amorphous categories (“Legion website redesign”)
  • [25:38] Protect your calendar and your daily to-do list. Don’t allow everything you might “like to do” to end up cluttering your list of “must dos” for a given day.
  • [28:53] Don’t just “buckle down” or “try harder” – learn how your psychology works and set yourself up for success

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Misbah Haque of The Airborne Mind

I messed up a colloquialism and I’m embarrassed.

In this interview with Misbah Haque – who runs a really great podcast called The Airborne Mind – I said that we were podcasters passing like trains in the night.

Any edit who knows their Longfellow knows that it’s “ships that pass in the night.

But, instead of deleting this episode, deleting my website, and closing my gym due to shame and regret, I’ve got a nice episode of the podcast for you.

Misbah and I discuss being overly analytical and potentially socially awkward, the process of connecting with influencers even when you have “nothing to offer,” and creating narrative and story through interviews and conversations.

Even for those folks who aren’t playing the podcasting game, Misbah offers some really actionable and insightful tips based upon his own story. Over the course of a just over a year, he went from being a guy in Philadelphia who had the idea of starting a podcast – to moving across the country to intern at one of the most well-known CrossFit gyms in the world (Invictus) and working as a coach with multiple-time CrossFit Games athlete Marcus Filly.

How did Misbah connect with these influencers without being needy or leeching value from them? How was he able to help them – which in turn led them to help him?

Let’s find out!

Listen Here

Check out Misbah and The Airborne Mind

Recommended episodes of The Airborne Mind

Resources and Individuals Mentioned

Show Notes

  • [1:51] Deciding to start a podcast and jumping in before being totally prepared
  • [7:32] How Misbah went from being a random guy in Philly with a blog and a podcast to interning at Invictus – and how he connected with so many influencers in the fitness industry
  • [17:51] Reaching out to potential guests for the podcast – and positioning your “ask” even when you had “nothing to offer”
  • [24:08] A back injury that cause Misbah to re-examine his purpose in fitness – and how he burned himself out with too many spin classes and bootcamp classes
  • [29:53] The process for researching guests, understanding their story, and creating a narrative arc for listeners through character development and the hero’s journey
  • [40:53] Balancing what an audience wants to hear with your own curiosity as an interviewer and a participant in the conversation
  • [50:15] On being more vulnerable in content creation: share yourself and your journey even if it seems boring or obvious to you
  • [59:10] The individual coaching process at Revival Strength – including an extreme devotion to coaching development and discussion of best practices
  • [1:07:46] How to find out more about Misbah and The Airborne Mind – and the launch of the online course “The Art of Connection through Questions”

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Stefanie Cohen of Hybrid Performance Method

My first memory of Stefi is her asking me after a CrossFit class what she needed to do to get a muscle-up – and being obviously and almost uncomfortably intense about her desire to get on top of a set of rings.

It seems that this extreme internal drive for success has served her well, as she is now setting world records in powerlifting.

Stefi used to coach weightlifting at SLSC during some of the dark times when there were basically no members and there was a giant bulldozer in the gym. We had fun, though.

Stefi is currently pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Miami, and is back in Chicago doing some clinical rotations. So, her understanding of training isn’t colored simply by powerlifting – she has backgrounds in a wide variety of sports (including soccer at the national team level in Venezuela) and rehab.

In this conversation, we discuss screaming at walls as a childhood Scientologist, autoregulation in training, and holding onto perceived slights to motivate yourself in training.

Oh yeah, and here’s that video of Stefi’s 525 pound deadlift.

Listen Here

Check out Stefi and Hybrid Performance Method here:

Resources Mentioned

Show Notes

  • [1:45] On dealing with negative internet comments and having a thick skin: “I’m a fucking dinosaur”
  • [5:52] Approaching athletic endeavors with an intense mindset while simultaneously understanding the process of long-term progression – including working on getting a muscle-up when starting CrossFit and being benched for years on the Venezuelan national soccer team
  • [9:30] Balancing long-term progression with the desire for immediate results in training. The use of autoregulation in programming to allow flexibility in the design of training. Getting injured and being force to re-evaluate training methods and mindsets.
  • [15:52] Deadlifts and L. Ron Hubbard. The benefits and learnings from screaming at walls as a childhood Scientologist.
  • [22:43] Paddling to America from Venezuela in a canoe. Competitiveness and background in sports like soccer, distance running, CrossFit and weightlifting – and a future in archery.
  • [26:00] “Are you more competitive with yourself or with other people?” How to find internal motivation from perceived slights.
  • [29:30] Strange messages from fans on Instagram – including stomping on small pets and study lessons from L. Ron Hubbard
  • [32:15] Physical therapy clinical rotations: How to provide effective treatment while overwhelmed with patients.
  • [34:25] Integrating principles from training and coaching into a rehab setting. Balancing the expectations and policies of a clinic with individualization of treatment and the desire to utilize unconventional methods. Utilizing different movement patterns and planes of motion to rehab individuals who have overdeveloped certain skills.
  • [44:20] How did Hybrid Performance Method start? Plus, the real economics of running a brick and mortar gym.
  • [53:24] How does Hybrid Performance Method online coaching work? What different programs and options are there?
  • [55:34] In-season and off-season training protocols for powerlifters and other strength sport athletes. The benefits of training outside of sport specific application and how to structure this in a yearly template. Prioritizing meets and doing some meets as “training” rather than “competition.”

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Dylan Walker from Full of Hell

I first met Dylan at a show that I was booking probably back in 2011.

Just checked my e-mail, and yes – it was 2011. And Dylan was weirdly e-mailing me from Spencer’s e-mail address. Have some boundaries, guys.

As a supporter of the DIY punk, hardcore, and metal scenes, I facilitated a subcultural event that involved doing a workout, playing extreme music, and feeding an apparently malnourished group of youths in Full of Hell some sort of enjoyable scramble of treats.

Since then, Full of Hell has gone on to become a force of nature. They blend grindcore, powerviolence, power electronics, and death metal in a totally cohesive (aka not post-modern jumbled mess) layered mess of aggression.

Full of Hell is an insane live band. Please observe:

And, if you favor such sounds, please also listen to their most recent album Trumpeting Ecstasy. I think it’s really wonderful.

Listen Here

Check out Dylan and Full of Hell here:

Resources Mentioned

Show Notes

  • [2:30] Mrs. Doubtfire
  • [5:45] Traumatizing family pranks and recurring nightmares
  • [10:00] Folklore and archetypal stories – and their relationship to evolved instincts
  • [18:57] How Dylan got into extreme music – including punk parents and friends at school
  • [23:12] First meeting Spencer and Full of Hell
  • [30:19] In-group signaling behavior amongst extreme music subgenre fanatics
  • [34:00] Full of Hell’s collaboration record with Merzbow
  • [38:02] Gateway bands and introducing fans to your own taste
  • [46:10] Regroup to discuss meeting Spencer and creating the current Full of Hell line-up
  • [50:22] Full of Hell’s first tour – including show in Chicago with Like Rats and a CrossFit workout
  • [53:25] Full of Hell’s creative vision: The harshness of the world and the coldness of human beings –
    and the weight of all suffering
  • [1:02:32] Writing lyrics, writing vocal patterns, and making them a cohesive and integral part of the music
  • [1:10:00] Stories from touring with Immolation and the Cavaleras
  • [1:21:30] The creative process for the upcoming collaboration record with The Body

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Rehab Principles in Performance-Based Athletes

As a continuing education junky, I’ve spent a pretty significant amount of time and money on courses related to fitness and business over the last several years.

I’ve been tending to gravitate towards many of the courses in the physical therapy and rehab realm. Why is this?

Well, I think some of it is that there is a huge market for these courses, since licensed professionals have to maintain continuing education credits, and a whole industry has sprung up surrounding meeting those requirements. And, some of the folks teaching are really, really good.

I also think that it has to do with the fact that I really like being slightly uncomfortable in terms of what I’m learning – and being in situations where most of the people in a room have a lot more specific education and background than me makes me feel like I have to step my game up to keep up.

As someone who was often bored and frustrated during school, this is pretty much the opposite experience of most of my classroom learning.

I’ve taken a lot of principles from these rehab-based courses and applied them to training athletes looking for performance – but I think there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the best and most reasonable ways to cross-pollinate these kinds of ideas.

So, I recorded a little bit of solo floetry with my thoughts on applying rehab principles to training performance-based athletes.

Listen Here

Resources Mentioned

Show Notes

  • [1:56] The value of continuing education in field that are not directly your specialty – and the value of being slightly behind the curve and slightly confused in courses
  • [3:23] CrossFit coaches, personal trainers, and movement-based professionals should not be telling people that they’re going to fix their pain. Movement is often helpful, but painful issues should be referred out.
  • [4:30] Training is the process of applying stress to the system and allowing adaptation to occur.
    Movement patterning affects the dosage of stress an individual experiences.
  • [5:40] The research on injury prevention through altering movement patterns is murky at best. Coaches should not be making unfounded claims about injury prevention.
  • [8:10] By altering movement patterns, the goal for an athlete is to be able to express their maximum potential.
  • [9:20] Are movement patterns actually the limiting factor for an athlete? Many top performers do extremely well despite sever compensation patterns.
  • [11:00] Does removing a compensation pattern actually help an athlete or can it hinder their performance in the short term?

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How I Consume an Unreasonable Amount of Information and Actually Remember It (A Tactical Guide)

This post is the tactical companion to a forthcoming post on how and why I consume so much information. There are several higher order principles that I think are very important for making lifelong learning a consistent part of my life. There are also lots of misconceptions that I see about how to learn, how to choose what to read and listen to, and how to retain it. And, there are a lot of people thinking they’re learning by multi-tasking, but they’re really just doing a bad job at everything they’re doing. But, this is not the place for these kinds of discussions. This is the place for the nitty gritty details.

Even though I know people will just randomly copy some of the ideas in here and apply them without thinking about how they will work for their own specific schedule, habits, and preferred methods of learning – please don’t do that. Use this as a tangible example to build your own systems and methods for your own learning.

There’s three things that I’m trying to accomplish when thinking about how to filter information:
1. Keep track of all of the interesting stuff that I want to someday read, watch, or listen to.
2. Prioritize the things that will help me the most at a given time – or will provide me with the type of entertainment or challenge that I’m looking for (without getting lost in the overwhelming totality of everything I’ve catalogued).
3. Read, watch, or listen to the content that I’ve chosen in a way that maximizes efficiency and minimizes distraction without compromising comprehension, retention, or entertainment.

My systems are also quite complicated and they involve a lot more pieces of software than may seem appropriate or necessary.

This set of behaviors was not built top down as a crazy network of apps and protocols. Rather, it is emergent from constantly trying to reduce friction and increase efficiency, and it is built on habits that I have already developed and refined.

I also like being able to “separate” certain types of content and tasks. There’s an interesting balance to be found between having one inbox for everything, and fighting for separation between different areas of focus and priority. You don’t want to have random assortment of scraps of paper, e-mails, to-do lists, and stacks of mail all over the place, nor do you want to have to filter through everything on your list every time you need to find something.

So, with that disclaimer, here’s how I consume an unreasonable amount of information content and actually remember it.

DEVICES

One of the best investments that I’ve made is an iPad mini and Bluetooth headphones. This allows me to listen to my weird sped up content without triggering everyone around me.

I also love using the iPad instead of my phone for reading and listening since it’s much harder for me to get distracted on the iPad. I have my work e-mail and text messages disabled on the iPad and notifications are turned off for everything. I also don’t have social media apps or – if I do – they stay logged off unless I’m using them for a specific purpose.

I think a lot of people imagine that they’re using their smartphone to read the news, check articles, and watch interesting videos – but they’re really just flipping back and forth between whatever they think they’re doing and their social media, e-mail, and text messages.

AUDIO

Here’s how this works.

I use Overcast at ~1.85x speed with “Smart Speed” enabled

I strongly prefer Overcast to other podcast players since it allows a sliding scale speed option as well as a little button called “smart speed” that shortens silences.

To a lot of normal people, listening at 1.85x speed is an insane thing to do and it sounds horrible and awful. For me, however, I can follow most speakers at this speed without losing comprehension.

At this point, listening to podcasts at normal speed makes me antsy and impatient – and it reminds me of being really bored and upset in high school, which probably says something about my personality, my character, and my fundamental disposition.

I listen to podcasts while commuting, doing chores or doing easy exercise – but never attempt to “multi-task” while doing anything cognitively demanding.

I think the fact that multi-tasking is really switch-tasking is well-known by now, but people don’t behave as if it is. This article seems to convey the gist of it pretty well. Quit trying to multi-task. It just makes you bad at everything.

I only subscribe to a subset of podcasts that are consistently interesting, entertaining, or educational.

I keep up with these as they arrive. I check everything else on a monthly basis (the first week of the month for me).
Overcast allows you to have podcasts “saved” in your list that you are not actually subscribed to, so I simply scroll through, look at their feeds, and download any episodes that I want to hear. It usually takes me about two weeks to listen to all of the “non-subscribed” podcasts that I download on a monthly basis.

Most of what I listen to is centered on – surprisingly – fitness and business.

I categorize the podcasts I listen to into two categories:

Those that I subscribe to and those that I check on a monthly basis.

By only subscribing to a smaller subset of podcasts, I can avoid recency bias and letting my podcasts app get cluttered (although that still often happens). I can prioritize the new stuff from content creators who I hold in extra high regard, and sort through everything else on my own timeline.

I have a pretty high bar for podcasts that I subscribe to. I only subscribe to things that I feel like I will learn from every episode.

An example here would be something like “Mastering Nutrition” with Chris Masterjohn, since I feel like almost every episode is over my head (in a good way) and I’m always struggling to keep up with the biochemistry.

Or, something like “EconTalk” with Russ Roberts since he consistently has interesting guests and regularly challenges my intuitions with his libertarian leanings. And, he spends a lot of time talking about complex emergent phenomena, creating incentives for specific types of behavior, and understanding the unintended consequences of incentive structures.

Or, “This American Life” since my logical, systematic brain needs all the help it can get with narrative structure and connecting emotionally to an audience. These folks are some of the best of all time in that capacity (and the stories are really, really nice and I regularly learn new things, laugh, or become emotional).

The podcasts that I check monthly often have interesting content, but are either released so frequently that I am not interested in trying to keep up, they have a host who is kind of annoying, or they’re produced in a way that uses so many fast edits and narrative tricks that I become upset and triggered while listening to them.

An obvious example here would be something like Joe Rogan’s podcast. Joe is insanely prolific and his podcasts can either be very interesting or totally lame unstructured ramblings. Sometimes he interviews people who I really want to hear from like Robert Sapolsky. Or Pauly Shore. Other times, he has people on who have a lot of opinions about MMA or want to ramble about conspiracy theories. I don’t care about that stuff.

My Audible subscription delivers my credit on the third week of the month.

I wish Audible had a sliding scale for speed, but most audiobooks are narrated so slowly that 2x speed is about right for most narrators. I select my audiobook based upon current challenges that I’m working through (learning how to manage people at South Loop Strength & Conditioning has had me listening to a lot of books focusing on that problem: “Work Rules!” by Laszlo Bock has been particularly helpful) or based upon strong recommendations from people I trust (“The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt was a real mind-blower on the roots of conservative vs liberal moral thinking, for example).

Scroll down a bit to the section on “Bookmarks” to see how I save and categorize things that I want to read.

I bookmark and categorize interesting video lectures in Pinboard when I come across them.

Once per month (the fourth week of the month for me), I rip about 10 of those videos to audio using 4k Video Downloader, and I upload them to Overcast using the paid “Uploads” feature.

I also use the app Overdrive to rent audiobooks from the public library.

Chicago Public Library has some pretty good stuff available, although that’s more of a “browse and see what’s available” type of situation rather than looking for a specific book since the selection is somewhat limited.

BOOKMARKING

Here’s how this works:

I prefer tagging for bookmarks rather than folders so that I can make connections between different content, so I use Pinboard.

Given that I’ve been focusing on learning about “management,” I want to be able to click my “management” tag and see books, videos, and articles that I’ve saved to read on this topic – rather than navigating a folder tree that inevitably becomes disorganized and messy.

I will use Google Chrome on my mobile devices as a repository for “things to look up.”

Since I listen to so much audio content, I will pull up a browser tab with something that I want to investigate further or the Amazon page for a book I want to read. Since Google Chrome allows you to sync open tabs across devices, I will pull open all of the browser tabs on my laptop (theoretically) once per week and either bookmark or read the things I’ve collected.

Once you have more than 99 tabs open in Chrome, the tab counter turns into a smiley face to let you know that you’re an idiot loser and everyone is laughing at you.

I use the app SimplePin to save and categorize bookmarks on mobile.

This has an integration that allows you to send things from other apps to Pinboard on mobile. So yes, I’m the freak who will send things from Instapaper to Pinboard, and I recognize this is ridiculous.

I save most articles to Instapaper rather than reading them in the browser.

I don’t like the distractions, advertisements, and clickbait on most websites, and I also like to separate “reading” time from “content sorting” time.

Instapaper conveniently has bookmarklets that allow you to save things while using a mobile browser as well.

VIDEO

Here’s how this works:

If a video is of a lecture that doesn’t require slides, I prefer to rip the audio and listen in Overcast.

See above in the podcasts section. I don’t sit still well.

If a video is on YouTube, I will often use the built-in YouTube speed controls to speed it up.

If the video is longer or not hosted on YouTube, I have an app called MySpeed that allows me to increase the speed of most embedded videos (although this no longer works in Google Chrome).

I have a Chrome browser extension called Options from Smart People on Ice that allows you to disable and hide a lot of the clutter on the YouTube page (like related videos, comments, etc.).

While this related content can occasionally be helpful, it usually just results in distraction.

I am always aware that the incentives of services that are supported by ads are not necessarily in alignment with my goals – they want to keep me on their site so they can learn about my customer behavior and display appropriately targeted advertisements to me.

I don’t have a problem being advertised to, but I do want to prioritize my own learning over being distracted by psychological hacks.

I will add videos that I want to watch as entertainment (rather than learning) to a YouTube playlist and watch them on Apple TV during the rare times that I “watch a show” so to speak.

An example would be the pre-Monty Python “At Last the 1948 Show” which was both satisfyingly silly, and a really interesting fossil record in the development of transcendent comedic talent.

I rarely watch video on my iPad, but, if I do, I will often use an app called Speedeo to increase playback speed since the video speed controls that work in a desktop browser don’t work in mobile.

I will sometimes watch lectures while doing easy aerobic work on an Assault Bike.

I save movies that I want to watch to my Netflix DVD queue or to Pinboard.

I wish I had more bandwidth for and interest in films, but my behavior indicates that this is simply not much of a priority for me.

ARTICLES

Here’s how this works:

I prefer to save articles to Instapaper rather than reading them as they come up.

I (theoretically) keep my Instapaper pretty clean, so I don’t do much sorting of the articles I have saved. If I did, I would prefer tagging over folders and would potentially seek out a different service. I prefer keeping my bookmarks (Pinboard) separate from my “articles to-read” (Instapaper).

I save PDFs to a folder called “To Read” in my Dropbox.

These are typically scientific papers and “lead magnets” from various websites. PDFs are tricky, since most ways of reading them are clunky and don’t allow you to save your spot. The Adobe Acrobat app works quite well for this. I will import the PDF that I want to read into the Acrobat app from my Dropbox folder and save it locally on my iPad.

I use Netvibes for my RSS feed.

RSS seems to be disappearing, but I have always loved it. I’m still saddened by the demise of Google Reader.

I have a separate inbox for e-mail newsletters and blogs that I like, since mixing that in with work and personal e-mail creates clutter.

I prefer to read these newsletters on my iPad like I would any other articles.

I use Google Inbox, and I have some newsletters automatically go into a “Low Priority” folder that I check once per week, while I allow the ones from people who I want to read regularly (Ramit Sethi, Seth Godin, Bryan Harris, etc.) to show up “unfoldered” so to speak.

BOOKS

Here’s how this works:

I have hundreds and hundreds of books bookmarked in Pinboard.

They are all categorized under the “books” tag and include other tags like “management,” “biography,” “economics,” etc. that allow me to filter them by topic when choosing my next book to read.

Just as with audiobooks, I choose my next read based upon whatever problems I am currently prioritizing as well as salient recommendations from people who I trust.

I think of books as being either “mentally challenging” or “easy reads.”

I will usually be reading two or three books at once – ideally at least one that is “mentally challenging” and one that is an “easy read.” I will read the “mentally challenging” books in the morning, and the “easy reads” in the evening.

“Mentally challenging” books are books that require a significant amount of mental energy or focus to take something out of them. Something like my DNS textbook “Clinical Rehabilitation” by Pavel Kolar would certainly be considered something like “mentally challenging.”

Some very tactical business books like “SPIN Selling” would also be in the “mentally challenging” category for me. Even though the book is not written in a way that makes it difficult to read, thinking through the tactical implications of various sales processes is probably not great preparation for sleep.

“Easy reads” are typically something more conversational like biographies or something more story-based like various pop psychology books.

Even something somewhat challenging like Robert Sapolsky’s “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” can still be an “easy reading” book for me since it is written in a very easy to follow conversational tone – even though the content can sometimes be very dense and heavy with biological concepts.

I do occasionally purchase Kindle books, but usually only when there is no paper or audio version available. I will read these in the Kindle app.

I have no specific reason for this other than preferring to get away from reading on a screen when possible.

MUSIC

Here’s how this works:

I love the YouTube music app.

I can almost always find what I’m looking for on there, unlike with other streaming services. This isn’t meant to be an elitist, cool guy statement, but I like a lot of weird stuff that is probably never going to be part of the licensing agreements that get things on major streaming services.

I have a “To Listen” playlist to which I will save anything that I want to check out. I will usually listen to new music while doing “chores” on my computer like e-mails and minor administrative tasks.

While the days of downloading gigs and gigs and gigs of mp3s are mostly gone, I still do have a “To Listen” folder in my Dropbox.

I could write an article similar in length to this one about my former music downloading and organizing habits, but most of that is no longer relevant. Anything that I can’t find on YouTube that I want to check out gets downloaded here, and I listen to it during my “new music” times.

I am certainly not a Record Collector with a capital R, but I do like owning physical copies of music that I really enjoy.

Albums that I like enough to want to own get saved to my wantlist on Discogs. When browsing in a record store, I will often pull up that list to get an idea of which crates to dig in.

NOTE-TAKING

I was never a huge note-taker growing up, and I would scoff at the nerds with their perfectly highlighted notebooks and their precious color-coded tabs sticking out their textbooks. I was like, “are you actually going to look at that stuff?”

And for them, the answer may have been, “Yes. Yes I am.” But for me, the answer would have been, “Definitely not.”

At this point, though, I see the value in note-taking not so much for learning and recall, but for connecting ideas.

I’m not sure what exactly changed my mind, but I was definitely at least partially swayed by Ryan Holiday’s article on his notecard system and the concept of a Zettelkasten.

Here’s how this works:

I have several notebooks in Evernote for different types of content from which I may be taking notes: Article Notes, Book Notes, Lecture Notes, Podcast Notes, etc.

I will type, write (with a stylus), or dictate a brief summary of the key idea in a given note and title it with something that hopefully makes sense and gets across the key point.

I will tag the note with tags for the author/speaker/etc., the name of the book or podcast, and big picture key concepts like “management,” “marketing,” “stress,” “Google,” “effectiveness,” etc.

I don’t study my notes by any means, but I will click through tags when attempting to solve a specific type of problem (say “lead capture”) or when writing an article or newsletter and looking for interesting anecdotes or examples – or simply hoping to come across seemingly disparate concepts that I can unite and draw insight from.

I used to save full articles to my notes, but I found that I almost never look at these. The cognitive effort required to go back through and parse out what I found interesting originally simply doesn’t happen most of the time.

I will, however, save full examples of pages for things like sales page layouts, opt-in forms, article formatting, etc.

So, that’s what I do.

Woe to any who attempt to copy my bizarre and eccentric information behaviors…

But please let me know if you have any similar systems or have any recommendations on apps, tips or tricks that make collecting, sorting, learning and synthesizing better, more efficient, and – last but not least – more FUN.

See you at all the parties!

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