The first semester I went to college, everything was novel. New setting, new people, new learning. It felt like a year went by in just three months. But the second semester went by much faster. And the third felt like the snap of a finger.
College life was no longer novel. As a result, I started to live on autopilot. And it's not just me. If you aren't careful, you can find ten years go by without even realizing it.
The more something becomes habit, the less novel it begins to feel. By definition, a habit is something we do automatically and unconsciously (to a degree). And the more you have been in the same environment the more habituated you become to it.
For many days, can seem like a dreary mix of glugging coffee, going to school, doing homework, and then feeling a moment of brief respite when you play games, hang out with friends, and of course, eat that sweet peanut butter.
Part of this is adaptive. Imagine what life would be like if every time you walked into your room, your brain acted like everything was novel.
Luckily after reading Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks and conversing with him on my podcast, I realized there is a way we can slow our lives down without making the external environment more novel.
Storytelling Slows Time Down
The process of finding stories in your life slows time down. When actively looking for stories, you become more aware of daily life. Activities that lack novelty become rich sources of storytelling potential.
People start to become more interesting. Instead of being hunks of meat that talk about the weather all day, they become rich sources of storytelling pizazz! You reignite your childhood curiosity, asking why in every situation.
Why do I always get a small coffee at the caffe? Why do I struggle to play video games? Why did the Universe decide The Hobbit Movie Trilogy needed to exist?
What!? That's the most critical question.
Time begins to slow down. Days feel like weeks, weeks feel like months, and months feel like years.
As you tell and hear more stories, you begin to craft a narrative of your life. Often we don't know what an event means to us until after we have told a story about it.
Like the question: why do I struggle to play video games? It's because as a kid, I was heavily addicted to playing video games. I could play for upwards of three hours a day, even on a school night. So even though I haven't been addicted in over three years, I still have an unconscious fear that if I start playing them again, I will fall back into my past self.
It was only through trying to find the story behind this question that I realized the answer.
So the process of finding stories in our lives slows time down. The next question is how can we find stories in our lives?
How Can We Find Stories In Our Lives
I know what you're thinking: my life isn't storyworthy. I'm not travelling to Hawai, Antartica, or Indonesia. I'm doing the same thing day in and day out.
Travelling adventures like these can bring stories. But ironically, the best stories are often found during your everyday living.
This is because one of the aspects that makes stories great is they are relatable. Nobody, when they hear your story about falling out of a crashing plane and landing in a hay pile, thinks, "OMG! I remember falling out of a crashing plane and landing in a hay pile."
So you don't have to artificially craft your life to be super storyworthy. Your life is already profoundly filled with stories.
You just have to be more aware. When you are aware habitual activities become novel again. They become rich sources of stories.
This brings us to the most essential practice of this newsletter. Please, please, please, if you neglect everything else I have said, try out this one thing for the next few weeks. Matthew Dick's calls it homework for life. Don't worry, he's an elementary teacher, so he can assign you homework. Luckily, it's the most important homework you will ever do.
Essentially, you sit down for a couple minutes every night and ask yourself, "what was the most storyworthy moment of the day." Then you write it down in one, two three sentences at most. It doesn't even have to be proper grammar. The important thing is you just get it down, because if you don't it will be lost forever.
You can do this anywhere. In a google sheets document, a physical journal, or my favorite method, daily notes in Obsidian.
The longer you do this practice, the more time will slow down. And you will begin to have stories in droves.
Here's one homework for life that turned into a short story:
I'm sitting in the kitchen watching my brother teach my mom how to use DaVinci Resolve. They're editing our family blind nut butter taste test recording. My brother shows her how editing is like storytelling, how to cut, and how to move clips.
Then he turns the computer over to her and says, "now it's your turn." My mom's eyes light up. She begins playing with DaVinci like the joy of a child playing in a sandpit. My mom's a science teacher. All my life, I have thought of her as an analytical, serious, concrete person. But now, I see a side of her I have rarely noticed. It's a moment I will never forget.
The homework for life entry this story came from: Sitting next to Skye Helfant and Mom as Skye teaches mom how to edit properly. Editing is like storytelling. Mom was entranced.
Even such a small entry can turn into a full-fledged story. Without homework for life, that moment would be lost to me forever. Now I can cherish it for the rest of my days.
Here's what I would like to share this week.
📸News From The Channel!
I'm creating an exciting new video course with fellow YouTuber, John Mavrick. Our goal is to break students out of the cookie-cutter mindset, the mindset that school is simply a matter of copying what the Professor says verbatim and gaming the system. So we are embarking on a quest to create an Obsidian vault with a potential tag-along video course targeted towards beginner and intermediate Obsidian users who use Obsidian for school.
Do you want to join us on our epic quest to eradicate the cookie-cutter student mindset? If so, could you fill out this quick form to help us refine our vision?
Thank you in advance. Every bit of feedback helps.
Your Environment is Part of Your Brain: The Extended Mind: What if I told you that by actively designing your environment, you could prime yourself to perform better in any activity you engaged in? This is the central theme put forth in Annie Murphy Paul's book, The Extended Mind, which argues that our cognition, our mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses, isn't brain bound but rather extends into the outside world itself. In other words, our external environment directly affects the way we think, experience, and sense. Join me in this video as I explore how the insights from this book can make us more effective content creators and students. Danny Hatcher: How Anyone Can Navigate Academic Research: Danny Hatcher is a Youtuber, Blogger, and Author contributing to the conversation around educational science. He hosts a podcast called The Personal Knowledge Management Podcast, where he discusses topics in the field of PKM, like overcoming perfectionism, assessing note quality, extended mind theory, and more. To help him with all his research and creation, he uses Notion for collaborative efforts and Obsidian for personal notetaking. We talked about how to navigate academic research, the problems with academia, how knowledge is built over time, and the issues in traditional University education. This conversation really made me question the way I teach and learn things. Talking to Danny is profound because he questions you when you say something that conflicts with itself. He made me realize just how much creating a shared definition of certain labels is critical to having a productive conversation. I don't think I will ever come to conversations the same.
💡My Best Insights:
📖Book - Made To Stick: What makes some ideas stick more than others? According to Chip and Dan Heath it's their stickiness, which is a combination of their simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotional nature, and story. Through learning this framework you can analyze ideas for their stickiness and make your own ideas more sticky as well.
🎙️Podcast - Dr. Sam Harris: Using Meditation to Focus, View Consciousness & Expand Your Mind | Episode 105: Most people have a traditional sense of the brain and body being separate from each other. They believe that behind their experience there is an I that is observing the world and subconscious thought. It's called many different things in different cultures but in America it's referred to as the soul. More recently, science has shown that cognition, our mental process of acquiring knowledge through thought, feeling, and the senses, isn't brain bound but rather extends itself into the outside world itself. You can't separate the mind from the body. The true beauty of meditation is discovering there is no duality of the self. There is just you.
📺YouTube Video - Forget self help books, learn how to read fiction properly: The beauty of art is giving a message in a engaging way. Messages by themselves aren't likely to change a person. The person hasn't come to the meaning out of their own fruition. This is why I believe Fiction has more worth than self-help books after a while. Self-help books can be useful in the beginning. But they quickly lose their charm because the reader doesn't have to work to discover their insights. In good fiction, however, the reader must find the meaning hidden in the narrative.