Live Encore: Creative Mindset and Productivity Q&A | Thomas Frank | Skillshare

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Live Encore: Creative Mindset and Productivity Q&A

teacher avatar Thomas Frank, YouTuber, Author, Entrepreneur

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      On Goals & Accountability


    • 3.

      On Productivity & Growth


    • 4.

      On Following New Interests


    • 5.

      On the Creative Process


    • 6.

      On Succeeding in School


    • 7.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Hang out with a productivity mastermind to learn all sorts of new ideas for streamlining your life and pushing your goals forward. 

Do you ever wish you could just sit down and have a conversation with your favorite Skillshare teacher? Well, for fans of YouTuber and blogger Thomas Frank’s approach to personal development, this class is the next best thing. In this open and candid conversation—recorded using Zoom and featuring participation from the Skillshare community—he’ll answer all sorts of questions from students like you, giving you valuable insights that can impact all corners of your personal or work life. 

Throughout the discussion, Thomas will tackle questions like:

  • How can you get over the disappointment of not achieving the goals you set for yourself?
  • What advice do you have for someone who has a lot of interests and can’t commit to one path?
  • How do you stay motivated even in the face of criticism?
  • How can you avoid the trap of constantly improving your productivity systems to the point where it’s unproductive?

...and so much more. Even if Thomas doesn’t answer your specific question, you’re sure to gain some valuable insights from this nuanced discussion that will help you overcome any setbacks in your way, adjust your mindset and habits, and walk away with the tools you need to achieve your goals. All you’ll need to follow along is open ears and perhaps a notebook to jot down all the important ideas and next steps to propel you forward. 


While we couldn't respond to every question during the session, we'd love to hear from you—please use the class Discussion board to share your questions and feedback.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Thomas Frank

YouTuber, Author, Entrepreneur


I’m an author, YouTuber, and speaker who is passionate about helping students succeed. Most of my work today is done at College Info Geek – a site I created in 2010 in order to share my experiments in becoming a more effective student.

Today, College Info Geek is one of the world’s largest and best-loved resources for students, and includes a blog, podcast, and a YouTube channel with over 1 million subscribers.

See full profile

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1. Introduction: What I hope you take away from this, if nothing else, is a little bit of motivation to keep pushing forward if you've dealt with setbacks. I know I've dealt with some setbacks this year, and it's something that happens to everybody. Hopefully, you'll be able to adopt some of the mindsets that I will talk about in this class, sort of move past those effects. Hi, my name is Thomas Frank. I am a YouTuber, and a Podcaster, and blogger, and a teacher here on Skillshare, and I focus on productivity, personal development, and essentially helping people become more capable in their lives. Today's class is just a hangout, it's a Q&A session, and I love these things. More scripted content is always great. We'll have a very tight curriculum, but sometimes it's also great to explore a question that people have because we all have similar problems, similar challenges, and it's fun to get into more nuanced discussions. We are going to talk about several different topics ranging from building your confidence, to dealing with criticism online, to remaining accountable, building accountability systems, external systems that help you build and actually augment your self-discipline. All kinds of stuff that generally can help you become more creative, more productive, and help you achieve your goals. Just to give you a quick heads up, this was recorded live and the questions that I'm answering came from students who are in the live sessions. Let's get into some of these questions. 2. On Goals & Accountability: I'm Kate Hall. I'm a Senior Content Producer here at Skillshare. I'll be your host for today's wonderful productivity office hours with Thomas Frank. Well, our first question is I think one that a lot of us have from Kate, how do I get over that disappointment of not achieving the goals I set out earlier in the year to be able to end 2020 with optimism, again, going into 2021? This is something that I've been thinking about a lot. I have this tool that I call the Impossible List, and it's on my website. It's on the top menu. It's just this gigantic list of goals that I made back when I was in college. I stole the idea from my friend Joel. I have to give credit to him. He created the impossible list concept. The entire idea was it's kind of a bucket list except for the focus is on active iteration once you've crossed things off. With a bucket list, you would just say, "Hey, I went to Peru." Or "Hey, I benched 300 pounds." Cross it off and I'm done. The idea of the impossible list is I did that, okay, what's the next iteration that I can do? I've looked back at that list. I look back at it probably once every month and a lot of times I'll see goals that I had on there and that I cared about at one time and realize, oh, I failed that, I didn't do that. The most recent one that I had been thinking about has been weightlifting. I had lifting goals that I put on that list probably 10 years ago and never hit. For a long time I'm like, should I just take those off because I never really hit them. In fact, I'm weaker now than I was back in college. Well, the funny thing is through some serendipitous meetings this year, I met a guy who runs an online coaching business, who is like, "I really want to coach you. I think you could be really strong." I've been working with him for about seven months. I think it was last week, I broke two of those lifting goals that had been sitting on that list for 10 years, constantly getting further and further away from them as I focused on other things. What that taught me is even if I don't have to achieve a goal now, it's very possible that I'm going to come around to it in the future. The arbitrary timelines that I set for myself at the time, sure, it would be great to achieve the goal by that deadline, but if I don't, it doesn't mean that I'm not going to ever. Rather than saying I failed, I can say I'm going to re-establish a different time window, or maybe I'm going to deprioritize that goal for now. But I'm not telling myself I'll never do it again. There's this interesting; and I think this is apocryphal. I may have talked about this in the second Skillshare class. It's a story about Warren Buffett's pilot who had asked him, "Hey, I have all these things that I want to do in life, I can't focus on them." I may even be getting into another question that we had here. But as the story goes, Warren Buffett says, "All right, I need you to take half an hour and write down the top 20 things you want to do, top 20 goals." The guy goes and does it, comes back, and Warren's like, all right, now circle the top five. Goes and does that, comes back, "Hey I've got this. I understand. These five that I just circled, are the ones that need to focus on the most right now, and the other 15, I can maybe focus on them a little bit, but they need to be back burnered. As the story goes, Buffet's response is, "No, those 15 are your not to-do list. Because they will prevent you from focusing on the ones that you really prioritized." As somebody who has a zillion different goals and a zillion different things I would love to do, write a book, direct documentary, make an album, all these different things, I realized I can only pick a few at a time. Otherwise, I'll just sit there and I'll be like 18 different hamsters in one hamster ball, all trying to go in a different direction, I'll go nowhere. If I have a goal that I didn't hit, whether it be because I had to deprioritize it for something else or because an external circumstance deprioritized it for me, I'm just perceiving that as on my current not to-do list. There may be an opportunity to come back to it in the future. The next question is, how can I further develop my grit and self-discipline? I'm already doing things like cold showers or trying to implement new habits. But in the end, I am still struggling with things I have to do that I don't want to do moot. I would appreciate if you could give some suggestions. Thanks. I have always been a fan of using external systems as training wheels for your brain. We've probably talked about, and you've probably seen me talk about on videos like habit trackers, building up weird crazy systems like setting up a Beeminder thing that'll charge me money if I don't get up on time. One thing I do now is I just have an iPad downstairs and the alarm is five minutes after my normal one. My normal one goes off, I'm like "All right, I got to get up, I got to go, I got to go turn off the other one." I find that self-discipline is powerful, but also setting up systems that make it so you operate within a system of constraints is even more powerful. Best thing I did this year was getting that coach. I was looking back at my little workout app because I have to submit the workouts remotely through this app with videos to him. I think it was 90 workouts since March, which is better than I think I've ever done except maybe when I was in a lifting class in college or like in wrestling in high school. The self-discipline aspect I find tends to grow when you give it some boundaries in which to grow. The general idea here is I find accountability to be the most powerful motivating force in the world. That is what's going to make me do things. Otherwise, I'm a little bit slaved my whims. I can set up systems that'll be powerful, but I've found that as somebody who's self-employed, it's very easy to end up with a life where the buck always stops at me. I don't know, maybe some people just have a natural self-discipline to work with this, but I don't. If every decision is mine, when are videos going out? When is this happening? When am I going to work out? What am I going to eat for dinner? When am I going to go to bed? Something will inevitably slip through the cracks. I would love to hide behind this like veneer of productivity superhero on the Internet and just make everyone believe that I have this ability to do whatever I want, but I don't. I set up systems of accountability to essentially force me to do it. The beautiful thing is a lot of people have that built in with jobs, so maybe you don't need it with everything. But if you don't or if your job is now remote and you have a lot more unsupervised time at home, maybe think about it. How many aspects of your life are you not held accountable to anybody? How is that affecting your motivation and willpower and self-discipline? 3. On Productivity & Growth: Next up, let's tackle some questions for building your productivity systems and encouraging personal growth as well. I was wondering if you have ever struggled with a situation in which you already have a productivity system and it works, but you keep trying to improve it over and over and over again. You start spending so much time on it and getting so little value in return, being unproductive about being productive and if so, can you give some advice? Yeah, I mean, definitely. I have this problem on probably a daily basis. Part of the problem for me is something that gives me immense joy is building systems. I have had to come to realize this about myself this year, for me being a person in the productivity space does not mean that I'm some machine that puts out content at some insane rate, because I'm really not. I had to come to the realization like some people are productive because they produce a lot of things, other people are productive because they think about and build maybe one thing. For me, I would rather be a systems architect rather than somebody who's just building all day long. But the problem is, that means I'm constantly experimenting with productivity systems particularly with notion. It's like, I could make a tweak to my note-taking system that would make it five percent more efficient but I'm going to have to rebuild the entire thing. So if you're not me, if you don't make your living building systems for people to use as their productivity system, my piece of advice here is, just because a tool is five percent better than the next tool or the tool that you're already using, doesn't mean that you're going to get that five percent improvement because you already know how to use your tool. You've bought into it, you have your information in it, you know how to use it, you've become practiced at it. Marketing would love to tell you that, hey, this new shiny tool is going to be better, you're going to be so much more productive, but if you're constantly switching, you're paying these switching costs. You're spending all of your time in that initial learning period where you're a novice floundering around trying to figure things out and not actually using it proficiently. If I'm building a building and I'm super good with the hammer and I'm just like, I shouldn't use this hammer, I should go use this backhoe instead, and I take five minutes to learn that and I'm like actually, it'd be better use this wrecking ball and I take five minutes to learn that, I'm just going to be using a bunch of tools that I'm really not all that good with. What's the next step after wrecking ball? Orbital laser. Sure, yeah. Thomas, what are some of the methods and tactics that you use to stay productive and focused in stressful situations? Stressful situations are what keep me productive. Answer this as if that wasn't true. I mean, I find that the stressful situation focuses my mind. I find it harder to be productive when there's no stress. Under that condition, trust the Pomodoro Technique as much as people say, use it. I constantly convince myself I don't need it and then when I use it, it works. Every time. I'm like, "Hey last week I was productive. I don't need to use a stupid timer. I'm just going to get done and I'm going to start doing work." What I find is a lot of times, I do need the timer, and the way I think about it is like, it's almost like you're a miner, a coal miner or a gold miner or something. You have to dig pretty far down before you ever start actually mining the minerals and that's how I think about work as well. If I'm just sitting there telling myself, "Hey, I'll just work for five minutes," nothing really happens. I don't get into it. I need something that forces me to immerse myself in a task that I don't want to do for a while and then I'll often find that I get a little bit immersed in it and I'll do it. Give yourself a timer, that always helps. Can you give just like a one-sentence description of the Pomodoro method just in case someone doesn't know what it is? Yeah, it's essentially the timer method. You pick one task and you dedicate yourself to only working on this one task for 25 minutes, and you set a physical timer, or it could be a digital timer. But what it can't be is look at the clock, all right it's one o'clock, I'm going to go till 25 minutes after this and just say it. You need a timer because the timer acts as your surrogate coach in this situation. It's the external system that's creating the constraint for your mind. So you can dedicate yourself to working for 25 minutes and then you can take a five-minute break, and then people will say, "All right, well a proper Pomodoro is four of those." So you're doing two hours worth. I don't really care too much because I almost never take the five-minute break, I almost always find myself 20 minutes in like, "I'm now in it, I'm going to work until I want to take a break naturally." But the beauty of it is by committing to 25 minutes or maybe 15 minutes, whatever it is, you're telling yourself I only have to work for 25 minutes, not I have to write this entire paper, or I have to edit this entire video. You're narrowing the scope, and by narrowing the scope, you are fighting against your brain's resistance to starting the task that it doesn't want to do. What do you think is the best way to train your mind to think critically and be a solution-finder? Play video games in hard mode. I mean, sure. That is like the super granular specific example that illustrates my general philosophy here, the way you get better at critical thinking is by making yourself think critically. You just have to expose yourself to problems. I realized this long time ago and now I play every video game in hard mode because I'm like, "Okay, well, it's going to force me to solve problems." Expose yourself to hard problems and you will find a way to adapt and overcome like humans are want to do. But if you don't expose yourself, then you don't get those at-bats. It's just like working out. You can be like, well, I really want to be strong, but until you go and do it, until you break your muscles down and force them to build themselves back up, same with your brain, you have to force your brain to think about a tough problem, bang its head against the wall a bunch of times, and then over time, it adapts. Give yourself critical thinking problems. Do math sometimes, I guess. Something that I do is with my videos and I do this every time because we've got a tight deadline a lot of the times, but I'll often be like, "What can we do that is the next iteration over what we've already done that I don't currently know how to do?" One idea for a video I have right now is there's a YouTuber named Ben Marriott who does After Effects motion design tutorials, and he may be on Skillshare, I'm not sure, but his intro that he does for every video is so cool. It has all these crazy moving shapes and masks and all this cool stuff and greedy textures animated. In either video I have, to both push myself and my editor, would be to do a contest where I will try to replicate his intro, and my editor will try to replicate his intro, and then I want to see if I can get bend to be a judge to see who got closest. It's actually a great skill building technique, just as imitation. I let people think they are not allowed to do this. If I want to build a skill, I have to do my own thing from the get-go. The jazz trumpeter, Clark Terry is like, "Not the best way to get better at Jazz, at playing the trumpet or whatever." You want do is to imitate first, because in imitation, you start to learn the techniques underlying that piece of music from that great person that you are looking up to. Eventually, you learn how to utilize those fundamental techniques in your own work. But if you are trying to learn those techniques while also trying to compose your own things, you're trying to do two things at once. I have problems with this because I have just, for whatever reason, no motivation to learn other people's songs. I don't know why I just can't make myself do it. I always just playing impromptu stuff. But I know, I know in my head like if I sat down and I told myself, "You know what? You are going to learn the intro to the Through the Fire and play [inaudible] right now" I would learn some stuff. I would probably learn it faster than just sitting down and saying, "Okay, I'm going to practice hammer ons, I'm going to practice poll offs, I am going to practice tapping," because I'm applying it to a piece of music that is sitting there giving me the direction essentially, an end, giving me a feedback mechanism in my ability to compare my performance of that piece of music to the recorded performance. As I get closer and closer and closer to it, I'm getting that feedback loop. We have a couple of questions that center around confidence, and how to grow your confidence and whether you've always been this confident. Confidence strikes me as a skill in and of itself. So how you have sort that skill, got a bunch of questions about that actually. Do you have a specific one? I would say the specific one is, has YouTube helped your confidence? Yeah. That is a feedback loop in and of itself. Every time that you get a crappy comment telling you that your hairline is terrible, which mine is pretty uneven actually, and you still make another video, that's a boost in confidence, because you've taken a hit and you came back from the end of the thing. YouTube, you are just putting yourself out there anyway. What I found is, YouTube really helped me in public speaking, and what helped with both was podcasting. So podcasting, to go back to the idea of training wheels, podcasting gave me useful constraints. I didn't have to be on camera, didn't have to be on top of a stage talking to people in person. I could be in my room, I could wait for my roommates to leave, which I did in the beginning. I would wait for them to be gone, and I would take any opportunity to just sit in my room alone and get a podcast episode done. Over time, that build the confidence. I got a podcast episode and I was so scared talking to this microphone, and now it exists. Over time, I was able to record even when they were home, I realize they don't care. That is the other thing, by realizing people really just don't care. Either they're stoked about what you did or they just don't care. There is going to be the few jerks out there, but most of the time, jerks are jerks because they want to make themselves heard, I think. I don't think there is another stronger motivation to it, I think they are trying to get attention. Again, to be confident, to put things out in the world, to do what you want to do, you have to learn to move past those people. The vast majority of people, they really don't care, especially if you are in New York City. Yeah, that's true. In New York City, you could do anything and everyone you pass has already seen something weirder that morning. A 100 percent true. New York Comic-Con every year, on the way to New York Comic-Con, people in full costume, no one cares. When we were doing the filming for the last Skillshare class, the videographers were like, "What we want to do now is go out and get some gimbal shots of you walking through the streets of New York to the Skillshare office." I was like, "I'll do it," but I was a little bit nervous. People on the sidewalk they be like, "What's the point of this guy just walking through the streets?" The funny thing is when we were doing it, apparently the videographer heard like, "Is that a movie star? Are they filming for something?" I heard that. Maybe it was you. I was nervous to do it but then I did it, and now that it exists, I think, "Well, I'm glad I did that," because it is a cool like an intro. It is a good idea. As you do things, you get more used to doing it. Your central nervous system adapts I think. Definitely I've learned coming here to Colorado. When I moved here to Colorado, every time I would drive up to the mountains, I would be shaking, and the moment you go down a hill, I'm like, "Am I going to lose my breaks. What is going to happen?" A lot of it you just don't know, you don't know what is going to happen., Then you're me driving what is essentially a sports car, and you see a mom in a minivan below by you, going down the mountain road at 80 miles an hour, taking a curve like it's nothing, and I'm like, "Okay. I'm fine." I now have information but also I can try it. I found that, now I have been here for three years, driving those mountain roads even on a motorcycle or doing downhill mountain biking, the fear is gone, because I have done it enough. Another thing where it's something, it's basically exposure therapy. You go out and you do things that are slightly beyond your comfort zone and you just try it out. I've got a friend who just started doing stand-up comedy and that is terrifying to me. But he's like, "Let me take you to an open mic someday and you're going to see everyone up there going up, trying out jokes, performing really badly, starting to be funny, and you realize if you go up there and you tell a couple of jokes, it's going to be like three minutes and you will be done." So I fully intend to do it. I don't know a joke so I'm not going to tell you, but I know that that is doable, whereas like just signing up for an hour long comedy special. I don't even know if anybody would give me that opportunity but I wouldn't do it. But I know if I build up, build up, build up I could do that. I'm fully confident that I could do it with the work and the practice. 4. On Following New Interests: Next up, let's get into some questions about learning new skills and juggling multiple interests at the same time. I have many interests, but I can't seem to commit to one. I feel like whatever I choose, I have to master it. Otherwise, what's the point? I guess I'm a little worried about making the wrong decision and wasting time. Steadily approaching 30 with no great job prospects is making time feel crucial. It's very real. I told the Warren Buffett story and I think that's good for prioritization. It seems like this person is putting a lot of pressure on themselves, which I definitely do. Music production is a great example here. I spent years wanting to learn how to produce music with this expectation that the first song I create needs to be some amazing masterpiece in some weird time signature because I listen to djent metal. I don't listen to top 40. It's going to be cool like that, but it's also going to have amazing production and I had terrible gear acquisition syndrome, so I'd buy all these virtual instruments and then tell myself I need to use every single one in a track. There's this, "You must master it with your first piece of output." That is paralyzing. What has actually worked, the best experiences I've had in producing music had been when other people are like, "I need this random thing. Can you do it for me?" A friend just the other day is like, "I need somebody who can play guitar to play this riff in 19 over 16 time." I'm like, I've never played anything out of four four. As much as I love to listen to weird time [inaudible] , I've never done that. But you know what? I'm going to take a crack at it. The only criteria was I just need to play it. I took a few days to learn it and then I brought it into audio workstation program, and I'm like, "You know what sound cool with this? Just a cool like Blade Runner simple thing in the background." Let's just try it. So I got a patch on there and I used a preset. I'm like, "It sounds all right, but it sounds a little bit too harsh. Let me go look up how I could make it a little less harsh." I can put a low-pass filter on it so only low frequencies pass through and I cut off some of those highs. Cool. What if I try some drums? Drums have always intimidated me. I'm just going to do kick and snare. Just that. Draw it in there. By the end of, I don't know, two hours, I export this track with a bunch of things that I've never learned before and I now know how to use them. The track doesn't sound amazing. I can listen to it, I can compare it to professionally mixed music, I have decent taste there. I realize it's nothing that would actually go viral on Spotify or something. But I'm still stroke that I learned a few things. The entire time I was doing it, I wasn't like, "This is me mastering music, this is me using my time in a worthwhile pursuit." It was more just, "I'm interested in this because I want to do this and I want to make it seem cool and I'm curious." For me, it's really a process of allowing myself to follow my curiosity without telling myself this needs to go somewhere, this needs to result in mastery immediately. It's really a process of taking the pressure off yourself. The other thing that I've noticed is just like with the goals that you tend to come back to, skills that you learn and abandon crop back up in your life in places that you would not expect. When I was in college, I spoke at some event called Ignite. Have you ever heard of it? Yeah. You've heard it? You give like five-minute presentations? Yeah. We did a bunch of them when I used to go to networks mission. That was always the thing. It's a lot of fun. If anybody has an Ignite event they can go to once the world opens back up and we can be near people, it's a fun event that actually can really flex your public speaking skills because you have to have, what is it? Twenty slides? Yeah, it's 20 slides. They have the auto advance every 15 seconds and your talk must be five minutes. It really forces you. This is actually a great little hack. Is giving yourself constraints, super tight constraints for a challenge and you will find that your creativity flourishes within this box you've set for yourself. I love it because sometimes you need to think within the box and sometimes it needs to be a smaller box. I spoke at this event and they videotaped it. Then months and months went by and there was no video on YouTube. My narcissistic brain is like, "Where's my video? I want to see what I looked like speaking." So I sent an e-mail to the guy who had coordinated the event saying, "I don't really know how to edit video, but I've got free time this summer. I'm willing to learn if you guys need help getting these videos done. I'll just do it for free." What they said is, "We actually just finished doing that last week coincidentally, but we have a whole different project that we need a video editor for. If you want to do it, we'll pay eight eight bucks an hour and we'll teach you how to edit with Final Cut and how to set up an interview lighting setup and camera setup." I got to learn that over that summer. Didn't use it for years after that. It was just a fun summer thing. Then 2014 rolls around, I've been out of college for a couple of years, podcasting for one year and I get this inkling, "Maybe I should make a video for YouTube." All of a sudden, all these little skills that I'd learned for the summer project started coming back. I wasn't using Final Cut. Final Cut at the time was very similar to how Premiere is now. I opened up Premiere in my computer and I'm like, "I've never opened this program before but I understand how it works. I understand how to light myself." Time invested in a skill is not time wasted just because it doesn't have an immediate payoff. Because you may find that five years down the road, 10 years down the road, you have something come up, you have an opportunity come up that allows you to use that skill you learned or maybe even combine it with another skill that you learned from a different time period, and those are the two things that allow you to take advantage of that opportunity. So follow your curiosity and don't put too much pressure on yourself right now. Do you think there's value in learning a skill just because you like it even if you know there's no chance of you mastering it? Yeah. What is mastery? Mastery is only something we can define based on how we compare ourselves to the other people we can observe. Who's the best runner in the world? Usain Bolt, and he can run like 28 miles an hour. I have no idea. We could define mastery of running and sprinting at 28 miles an hour. Tomorrow let's just say that Usain Bolt gets married to the top female sprinter and they have the super baby who now sprints at 50 miles an hour somehow. As a baby? As a baby, yes. Literal super baby. By the time this baby is 20, they will be sprinting at 100 miles an hour. She does better watch out. The moment that happens, as unrealistic as that example is, but the moment that happens, now we have set mastery at that. I guess realistically we would probably say they're an outlier. But if runners in the elite category trended towards a new level, that is where we would say mastery is, and people who say I will only take on a skill if I can master it, they have that much more pressure on themselves. The way I look at it is, I'm not trying to be the best in the world at a skill, I just want to learn a skill because I get joy from learning and I'm going to be able to do things that are satisfying to me and they're going to help the world or bring a dream to other people because I'm learning them. I know that I will not be the world's greatest guitar player. I'll probably never master the guitar. I would argue that most people who are perceived as masters of the guitar would not say themselves that they are masters. You talk to the dragon force guitarists and he'll probably be like, "I can't finger pick very well. I feel like a novice in that area." Don't worry too much about our arbitrary definitions of mastery and worry more about the joy you derive from your own progression and what you can do to accelerate that progression if it's something that you want to do. What challenges you and gets you excited these days? Having spent so much time studying, pun intended, and optimizing your life, do you find yourself wanting to reach into new territories in subject matters? Definitely, yeah. This is going to sound really nerdy, but what's been exciting me recently has been Excel spreadsheets and building Notion systems. I'm buying a house right now. Naturally I dove in head first into that whole thing and I'm like, "Should I pay PMI?" There's no real good calculator out for that. I'm going to build a calculator. I've been learning crazy Excel formulas to build that stuff. I just take opportunities as they come up and I'll get questions in my head and I'm like, "How could I solve that problem?" That's where I'm right now. I've been really into building things up in Notion right now and I want to do more content on that as well. Beyond that right now, one thing I've noticed is life can get so busy that it's hard to let new projects come in. Right now I'm in one of those phases. We're filming a new course soon. I've got too many videos scheduled for my main channel. So 2021 I'm going to scale down a bit on that podcasts, move into a new house. Right now I'm heads down doing those things. But I have learned that when you let yourself take a break, the inspiration or the curiosity tends to come back. That's my goal right now, is work towards some space in some breathing room. 5. On the Creative Process: Next up, we're going to get into some questions about creativity and dealing with criticism online. What do you prefer more to express your ideas? Videos, articles, or podcast episodes? Good question. I have a nuanced answer here. I think when expressing my ideas, I feel like I'm in the flow state the most on a podcast because I'm talking to somebody else. I don't do podcasts alone anymore, I do them with my co-host, Martin. I think that's the state where I can talk most freely. When I'm shooting a video by myself, I flub a lot of lines, and I feel like I have to skip the entire thing out. That said, there is a beauty to the process of slowly constructing an argument in either the written medium or the video medium. I guess it depends on the state I'm in, the time period. I go through phases where I'm super into video and I'm like, "We're going to do this Scott Pilgrim scene. We're going to learn how to do this cinematic technique here," and other times I'm like, I would just rather write and just get it out because it's a lot easier that way. The beauty of doing all three is I'm allowed to do it in all three different mediums, and I'm allowed to pick and choose as well. Some things work really well in video, some things work really well in a podcast. Especially maybe a really nuanced, deep idea that wouldn't get a whole lot of clicks, there's no clickbaity way to express it, we can do that as a podcast and spend an hour and a half on it. What motivates you to carry out all the projects you do? If you are afraid of criticism and failure, how do you handle it? This is two questions or is this one question? It's one question together. There are varying motivations. Some projects are just the pure joy of doing the project, like that 19 over 16 weird time signature guitar riff. There was some accountability there because a friend had asked me to do it, but I didn't have to do it. He didn't ask me directly, he put it in a chat room and I'm like, "Yeah, I'll do that. It sounds fun." Some projects sound fun, and they end up making you better at some skill you want to learn anyway. At other times, you need some accountability. For me, I have deadlines. This was a one o'clock thing for me, got to show up. I've got a video due today, got to publish it. I find that if I don't have those deadlines, I tend not to get as much done, especially when it comes to the work that I find a satisfying on a big global planetary level, but that may have aspects to it that are just not what I want to be doing at any given time. I get the feeling that a lot of people would look at somebody who's a full-time YouTuber and think, "It must be just fun all day long." But I've been making content for 10 years. At a certain point, no matter what you do, it becomes a job you do. There are just certain aspects to them like, I don't want to do that today, so I need some accountability to make me do it. When it comes to dealing with criticism, I always think about what's the intent of the person who is lobbying criticism at you? Because either they're doing it to build you up, or they're doing it to break you down. If they're doing it to build you up, so there's a mental separation here that I try to perform with the intent of the criticism and my emotional reaction to that, and the actual criticism itself. The first thing I ask myself is, "What are they trying to do? Are they trying to build me up, trying to break me down?" Trying to build me up, maybe they were [inaudible] about it. Maybe they're like, "That video sucked." But they're trying to help me get better. I need to perceive that maybe they just don't have the emotional intelligence yet to say it in a way that's not going to hurt my feelings. I have to acknowledge that. I may still feel bad about it, but I can at least acknowledge they had good intentions in mind, so my emotional response will be, I'm going to try to accept it gracefully because I know they care about me, and then I'm going to assess what was said. It sucked because I filmed it in the bathroom and it was super-duper echoey. Well, good call, I'll do it in a different place. If a person is saying it to break me down, it's a different thing. Again, the separation is necessary because I do want to analyze what was said. Somebody may be trying to hurt me, but they may have a point. Literally every single time I post any guitar riff on Instagram or the one time I posted singing, there's always one person who's like, "It sounds bad, dude," or "You're out of tune," or You're just putting too many notes in there, you need to pause more." Again, they'll say it in this jerky way and I'm like, "Do they really want me to get better or are they just trying to make themselves feel better or seen superior, or some other selfless motivation that means they don't care about me?" Regardless, there's something in there. Yeah, I did just do too many notes. I could probably throw in a bit more emotion and some pauses, things like that. Maybe I should run my vocals through Melodyne to see just how off pitch I am. But on the emotional spectrum, if they don't have my best interests in mind, if they're not trying to build me up, then I shouldn't emotionally even acknowledge what they said. Now, I know this is hard to do because we're emotional beings. [OVERLAPPING] We can't be just be like, "Spark emotions." But that's what I tell myself. What I tell myself is they don't care about me. They have not earned my respect, so I'm going to move on as quickly as possible. I had to tell myself this. I believe that the way we talk to ourselves is important. It's not a panacea, it's not a cure-all. We can't self-talk ourselves out of every single mental quagmire, but I think the way we choose to talk to ourselves does have an effect, has an effect on me. If I tell myself, "This person doesn't care about me. They're trying to make themselves seem superior, they're trying to get a one-up, whatever, they're prideful, or maybe they're having a bad day, I find it easier to move on and emotionally process it, and keep doing it. This is not a question from the class, but I'm curious. Do you think that empathetic exercises like that can help you develop the skill of empathy, and is that worth doing in terms of productivity? Does that makes sense as a question? Yeah, I totally think it is because if you're thinking through that from this side, from the side of the person receiving the criticism, then you will start to understand, number one, maybe how should I approach the way I criticize somebody else because I understood and I've now picked apart how it makes me feel. This is something that has affected my relationship hugely. I think guys have this problem more than women. But when my fiancé has something that has made her sad, my first instinct is, will that solve the problem? I've learned that is not how I can approach this. It's not even criticism at this point, it's support. But the way that I approach getting the support could end up making her day worse. Because instead of acknowledging that, you're hurting. That sucks. Let's just go chill out for a bit. Let me help you emotionally get over this and get to a state of mind where you can process the logical side, the solution-based side, I'm just like, "Well, your feelings don't matter. Let's just fix this now." That's not a very empathetic way to approach somebody who's hurting. I think analyzing your own emotional response to criticism or even to the way people try to support you, maybe a blunt instrument, will make you a little more sensitive to how you approach other people as well. It's also worth trying to be a bit more deliberate about how you approach people in the first place. Empathy, man. It's a hard one because I think people are socialized differently based on a variety of factors. I think you're right, that often people who are socialized as men, how they struggle to connect with the empathetic side of their personalities. It's not manly or whatever. You just got to fix it. I appreciate you being vulnerable about that, about how that's helped you. Yeah. I think that's there's a lot of different dimensions here. I do think that on the whole, men are conditioned to quash their emotions down. There are also times where as a guy, I don't feel those emotions when something happens. What I've learned is, I'm not repressing what she's feeling when it happens to me. I don't feel that, but that doesn't mean she doesn't feel it, or the fact that she feels it is wrong. The way that everybody processes how things happen to them is valid, and everybody has the best path forward. My job with my relationships is to learn what is the best path forward for her, for him. It may be different than what it is for me. A lot of times for me is just fix the thing. Yeah. Just fix the thing. That's my first thing too. It's like, we'll have control over, I'm just going to fix it. What an interesting way for trolls to affect your empathetic development. I never thought about it that way, but yeah, thanks, trolls. Yeah. Nicely done, trolls. What does not kill me will only make me stronger. 6. On Succeeding in School: Next up we're going to talk about some questions regarding school grades and students. I'm always striving to retain as much information as I can in my college classes. My problem is that I tend to feel the notes I take aren't useful. I take notes, but I notice I don't use them as much as they should. What are some effective ways to make sure I'm taking the right notes in class, and how should I approach to study them? This is a really good question. Allow me to give you a multifaceted answer that may go in many different directions. You don't have to take notes and all of this because it may not all be important. The thing I've noticed about a lot of students is they act like court stenographers in class. There's this mad dash to record everything the professor says and every piece of texts on the slides. Because if you don't record it, you might forget it. You might miss something important for the test. The problem is, if you're devoting all of your energy to being this court stenographer that's recording as much as possible, you're sort of clamping down or pushing out your brain's other ability, which is to synthesize the information as you intake it. If you're just letting it pass through the eyes and the ears, through your fingertips into your keyboard, then you're creating more work for yourself later on. The time you spent in class should ideally be devoted to learning and trying to grok the information that you're being given and then recording what you think are the most salient bits into your notes for later on. My first piece of advice here is if you're taking too many notes, take fewer notes, it's kind of difficult to know what exactly is the right thing, but when the professor says, this is important, this'll be on the test, obviously those are cues when they have a lot of emphasis, you could pay attention to their body language, you could pay attention to how they're gesturing. Then look at the supplemental materials, look at the reading, how does what the professor is talking about right now correspond to what you read? With reading, it's actually a lot easier because typically you have formatted textbooks that will define definitions in bold text. They'll have formatting, they'll have bullet lists. They'll have headings and subheadings that if you look at them the right way, you could almost interpret as questions. Just thinking about like a science textbook, there might be a subheading about the functions of the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell. You can reformat that as, well, what are the functions of the mitochondria? You may see that in a test. Well, if you were to give yourself a quiz on that question, what would you write down? Those are your notes, essentially. School is like a triage process, especially when you get into higher education because there's so much information being thrown at you that you have to take your limited time and energy and focus and make your best attempts to figure out what's the best thing to record right now. The second thing is, how do I use my notes? Because if you're just taking notes and you're not going back and reviewing them, that is a little bit better than simply paying attention in class because you're at least interacting with the material in real time to a degree. But if you don't go back and actually review those notes, then they just sit there. There's a process called active studying or active recall where you look through your notes or you look through a study guide you've been given, and just like we did with that subheading example, you create questions. You essentially create your own version of a test out of that material, wait a few days and then give yourself that test. If you find yourself stuck on the questions that you've created for yourself or stuck on questions from a practice test, then go back and either refocus on what you took in the notes for those sections or go restudy from the text book or go to office hours. Seems like a way better strategy than mine, which was panic. I made it. But at what cost? You did make it. I guess that's the other thing, because there's a lot more people listening to this than just somebody in a doctorate. The priority that you put on your coursework, the level of importance varies based on your goals. I actually put the question to you like how much do you think, getting prefect grades or getting straight As on your tests factored into what you're doing now?. Like zero. The things that I learned in college that served me in this particular job and the jobs that I've had, in career that I've had so far is like being able to talk to a wide variety of people, understanding how to pass information, and my knee holistic sense of humor I would say. I think. I'm going to sound nihilistic, but whatever it's fine. See, I have always said nihilistic. So you think it's nihilistic? No, I think you're right. I think it's one of those words that I've read a bunch and have never said before out loud. If you are nihilistic, it wouldn't actually matter how its pronounced. Exactly. Nothing matters, but like in a right way. That's the thing. We build up school as this ultimate judge of what we're going to go and do afterwards. In certain disciplines, it may be true. Like if you're going into a postgraduate program, if you're going into med school, if you're going into law school, if you're trying to go to Harvard Business School, if you're trying to go down a path that looks at your previous schooling and your record there in as sort of like the ultimate arbiter for how good you are. Then yeah, all that performance is important. But if that's not where you're going, then maybe there's some signaling value in the degree you earned. But maybe not in straight As in the transcript. I had to learn this when I went into college my first couple of years I was like, I will get a 4.0, I will get straight As. Because I don't want to waste it, and I also had this erroneous belief that the world was way more competitive than I thought it was, that there really is. I got to my senior year and my blog was starting to take off and I sort of realized, "I don't want to go work for a gigantic corporation. I either want to work for a small company or I want to work for myself." I realized a startup or a small company is not going to look at my transcript and look for straight As. They're going to look for a portfolio of work, or they're going to interview me and asked me to do like a coding challenge or something. They're going to want to verify my skills, and they're going to want to verify my ability to maybe go independently solve problems, process information, communicate, all these things. If I'm running on my business on my own, I already know the skills I need because I have business goals. My last year of school, I deprioritized perfect performance in the classwork. I didn't completely blow them off, but I wasn't spending four hours a night studying for my finance exam to make sure I got every question on the test right, because it didn't really matter for my future goals. I've learned that this applies even outside of school. As a video editor, I constantly have things that I'm like, "Wait, I had an idea. This must go into video. If it doesn't go into video, the video is a failure." Then I will have my fiancé watch the video, and I'm like, "Look see, I didn't have this little title card come in with the right easing curve, so it doesn't look natural. It's linear motion." She's like," Nobody cares. Nobody cares. Get the video done." We tend to judge ourselves by this smorgasbord of metrics and not all of them matter. That's another part of the triage process. Here's a leading question for you. Do you think that learning and grades are the same thing? Grades are just an evaluation of learning based on a certain set of criteria and this is the problem with school we're trying to fit many different people in many different shapes into a single square hole essentially. We're like, "How good is your ability to sit in this class, pay attention to a lecture style, educational delivery, go through a textbook and demonstrate your learning in this one dimension?" Schools trying to get better, but that's like the majority of how the model works. I can tell you, I don't learn that way. The way that I learned is, I tend to just like go pull scraps information from all kinds of different sources, and then I'll get curious and I'll start playing around and building something and before I know it, I've learned something. I think that is just not how school evaluates people. There is a lot of value to be derived from school. There's a lot to be learned there. But the way in which it evaluates you should not be seen as the ultimate arbiter of your ability to learn. It's just too narrow. 7. Final Thoughts: That's it. Thank you so much for watching this class, for hanging out with us. Hopefully, you found this more meandering, nuanced discussion to be useful. I loved doing the more scripted types of classes, but I think there's a lot of value in more question, answer focused, meandering conversations like this. Hopefully, you did as well. I want to reiterate with skills, follow your curiosity and realize that your skills may come back to help you later in life. The goals you set may be pushed off now, but they may come back to you later in life. Because this isn't a normal class, there's no specific project that I'm going to assign you here. But if something did resonate with you in particular from this discussion or inspire you to do something, take some steps in your life, I would love to hear about it in the discussion board section down below. If you would like to dig deeper into some of the topics we've talked about here, I've got a couple of other classes here on Skillshare. One on building productivity systems, which is the interplay between your task manager, your calendar, your note-taking system, your file management system, and another class all about building habits. This one really gets into your goals, it figures out how to break those goals down into actionable daily habits, and then how to stick to those habits. If you're curious about either of those classes, remember my Skillshare profile and check out. Thanks again for hanging out and I will see you in my next class which is launching January 2021, all about productivity for creatives. I'll see you there.