Better Humaning

The 9:3:1 Learning Rule

Finding the magical amounts of time you need to allocate to spectating, studying, and practicing.

The 9:3:1 Learning Rule

When you’re trying to learn a new thing — a skill, talent, instrument, sport, language, anything — there are a million things that can derail you.

It’s hard not to become fatigued, discouraged, frustrated, lose sight of your goal, or become distracted by a brighter light in your life.

Even assuming you get everything else right, and none of those detours push you off path, it’s still common to plateau early and stop making progress.

This rule is to prevent that from happening: say hello to the 9:3:1 Rule, a guide for how to allocate your time while learning a new thing.

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Rage du Jour

What's on the menu today?

Rage du Jour

How many things have you been mad about in the past week? How many meltdown-level shares have you seen in your social feeds?

Every day there’s something new that my entire social bubble is furious about (at least if feels that way). The Rage du Jour.

It’s the backlash for some stupid thing a politician did. Or the horrible take a celebrity had in response to a current event. Or a current event that isn’t getting the right coverage from the news. Or, sometimes, it’s rage about rage: the fact that people are mad about something become the thing other people are mad about.

In special cases the rage will last more than a day. But that requires a really sticky subject. Something that can keep our focus amidst the barrage of incoming candidates of rageworthiness.

It’s hard to stay genuinely mad about something for a long time. It takes energy, effort, fuel.

It’s easy to get mad about a new thing if the conditions are right.

And on social media the conditions are prime.

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Better Humaning

Cancel Debts Not People

What would happen if we traded something abstract for something material?

Cancel Debts Not People

Elizabeth Warren has thrown her hat in on a bold idea that’s been in the air for a long time: cancel student loan debt.

Not interest rate decreases, or refinancing, or other half-measures, but an all out cancelation of up to $50K in student loan debt for anyone whose income is $100K or less. Combined with universal free public higher education going forward.

I was first introduced to this idea back in the early 2010s the Rolling Jubilee, a project by Strike Debt, which has now evolved into The Debt Collective.

Their project leveraged one of the most dysfunctional aspects of student loan debt: the fact that the debts get bundled and resold, over and over, for pennies on the dollar.

Rolling Jubilee raised $701,317 dollars (a few of which were mine, even as a broke post-grad student living under a pile of debt) and bought bundles of debt worth a total of $31,982,455.76.

Then, instead of trying to collect those debts, they abolished them. Poof. Gone. No more debt for the people whose loans were part of those bundles.

Those numbers highlight how broken, and at this point imaginary, the entire debt-debtor relationship is.

In what world does $700K buy $31M?

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Better Humaning

The Problem of Progressivism

"The left is eating its own!"

The Problem of Progressivism

With more and more people talking about “the left cannibalizing itself” and “liberals eating their own,” or how “democrats need to unite to defeat Trump,” we need to keep reminding ourselves and others about the problem of progressivism — instead of just beating the dead horse that is the problems within progressivism.

I’ll start with the second one, because that’s what everyone won’t stop yelling about, and I’m afraid if I don’t do a little yelling you won’t hear me out on the part of this that I think is important.

So here it is, me jumping on the dogpile: the left has some problems, and we’re getting in our own way.

And that is true for the “right,” the “center,” liberals, progressives, leftists, Libertarians, Republicans, and so on.

Literally every political camp has problems. Any collection of humans with a count greater than 0 has problems.

So, why is the trope of “liberals eat their own” so pervasive?

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Better Humaning

Public Libraries Shouldn’t Exist

Imagine that public libraries weren't a normal thing. What would the public debate sound like?

Public Libraries Shouldn’t Exist

Usually, when I’m at home in Austin, I work in coffee shops. Today, I’m working from our gobsmackingly beautiful public library. And I can’t help but repeatedly ask myself “What would happen if someone pitched the idea of a public library today?”

It’s a broken record in my brain. An audio loop. It plays every time I turn a corner in this space.

“What would it sound like to argue for the idea of a public library in 2019?”

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Better Humaning

When Ambition is Hiding

Sometimes shooting for the moon isn't taking a shot at all.

When Ambition is Hiding

Consider a few alternatives. Let’s say I told you:

A. I want to remove every unhealthy habit, food, and mindset from my life, and I’m going to start tomorrow.

B. I’m going to eat less sugar, starting tomorrow.

When tomorrow comes, which one are you likely to hold me accountable to? Which might you help me excuse when I fall short? Which are you actually expecting me to do? Or even realistically try?

Let’s do a few more with those questions in mind.

I say:

A. It’s my goal to transform my country to 100% renewable energy.

B. It’s my goal to transform my local school district to 50% renewable energy.


A. My organization is going to end racism, globally.

B. My organization is going to help local people of color, and other disenfranchised people, register to vote and get to the polls.

That’s plenty to get the point I’m going to make, I think.

But first, here’s what I’m not about to say: that any of the As above — the lofty, admirable, pie-in-the-sky ambitions — are in any way bad, undesirable, or something I’m advocating against.

I want all of those things. I have, at different points in my life, said all of those things, in some way or another. And I don’t even like thinking of myself as ambitious.

Here’s all I want to point out: sometime we set the bar so high because it gives us an excuse when we can’t clear it.

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3 Simple Things You Can Do to Curb Your Phone Addiction Right Now

For when you notice your phone is using you.

3 Simple Things You Can Do to Curb Your Phone Addiction Right Now

A lot of us are addicted to our phones. If you’ve started to see why this might not be the best thing ever, and want to ween yourself off of that tantalizingly non-nourishing blue glow, you’re in good company. This is something I’ve been thinking about, and experimenting with, for a few years now. Following are three things you knock out in about 15 minutes, that will benefit you for weeks.

Before I get into those, I want to be clear: I’m talking about the colloquial, not clinical, usage of the term “addiction.” In this post, I’m not staking my flag in the hill that “phone addiction” is (or isn’t) real.

What I’m talking about here, as addiction, is the compulsive use of our phones. That we’re spending more time poking around our phones than we want to, picking them up and checking the screen before we realize we’re doing it, and that our phones aren’t adding quality to our lives, and might be distracting us from the things we’d actually care about enjoying.

I’m talking about how we’re already dating our phones, and how little red numbers are trying to rule our lives.

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Better Humaning

The Creative March

My new challenge to log at least 1,000 hours of creativity every year.

The Creative March

My last few weeks have been marked by creativity. I love that feeling. I want to make it happen more.

Bill Gates is frequently quoted for saying, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

I feel this contrast more intensely on a smaller scale: we overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can do in a year.

It’s so easy for me to think of myself as a creative person — a writer, a doodler, a designer, a coder — even when I don’t create anything in a given day.

But I’m not really a writer when I’m not writing. I’m a reader of political news, or a dog walker, or a cook, or a compulsively rechecking my email because it triggers a dopamine response-er.

I’ve been “working on a book for three years” now, but I haven’t truly been working on that book for three years. I’ve barely worked on it at all. A few minutes here, an hour there.

Creativity is an act, and one that is so easily sidelined by other actions — anything that feels safer, simpler, easier, or fulfills a shortsighted desire.

How many people do you know who are “working” on things that never get any creative time dedicated to them?

How many projects are you “working” on that you haven’t sat down in front of for over a week? A month? A year? Ever?

Last week, I finished and published a book. The week before I co-created and published a massive Train-the-Trainer Retreat Guide. The week before that I wrote a new comedy show. And in between all of that I’ve made major strides in starting two new (secret, for now) projects. And I’ve only checked my email two thousand times (a made up number down from what I assume is my normal two million times per month).

But in the weeks before that, I was mostly just slogging through administrative stuff. Checking in on old things, closing out 2018. Not really making progress on anything, with only a few essays and one edugraphic to show for it.

All of that got me reflecting on the ebbs and flows of my own creativity, and wanting to come up with some personal challenge or strategy to get a better grasp on that part of my life.

I don’t want to spend most of my time on tasks that amount to nothing, but feel good in the moment (or at least don’t feel terrifying, like creativity often does).

I want to spend most of my time creating things that I share with the world, that are durable, that might exist when I’m gone.

As luck would have it, listening to a podcast interview today with Jim Collins gave me an exciting challenge that I’m going to start tonight.

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Better Humaning

Learn For a Project, Not the Sake of Learning

The common foundation that is the basis for everything I've taught myself, from programming to design to golf.

Learn For a Project, Not the Sake of Learning

Because I’m self-taught in most things I do — from programming to design to animation — a lot of my friends ask me for tips on how to learn a particular thing.

“I want to learn how to make websites,” a friend will ask. “Where do you think I should start?”

Over the years, I’ve given a lot of different responses. Pointing people to free online resources for learning, like Codecademy or Khan Academy. Or telling them to join a local workshop or meet-up. Or both.

It’s not how I learned, but it’s easier to point someone to a resource than it is to give an autobiography for how I learned something myself.

However, seeing that advice fail again and again prompted me to rethink my rationale.

What would it look like, if I advised people to learn things how I’ve learned them?

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You Can Stop Saying “They Should Make A…”

There was a time when You needed Their permission. That time has past.

You Can Stop Saying “They Should Make A…”

Something I see all the time on the internet is people saying “They should have a…” or “They should make a…” and then sharing some idea, platform, service, movement, or cause that the commenter wants, and believes “they” should create.

A few years ago, this made sense. The request was legitimate and necessary.

There were gatekeepers in every industry — from arts to activism to commerce to community-building — who were the “They.” It was They who had to approve our appeal to create a new thing.

You couldn’t just make that thing, or build that platform, or create that movement, release that show, or host that community yourself.

You needed Their permission. You needed Them to make it for you.

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