The Listen #11

Drawing some notecards about episodes from "3 Clips", "Indie Hackers", and "The Bill Simmons Podcast"

I’m moving from NYC to SF this month and have been thinking about (among other move-related stuff) what I can do to keep making things through the next few weeks. I heard OKRs mentioned on a podcast recently. After that, I listened to Christina Wodtke’s Radical Focus, a book that shows how OKRs are applied in a fictional story of a tea startup.

Biggest thing I learned from the book: the objective should be motivating. The key results under it should be measurable, but the objective itself doesn’t have to be measurable.

I roughed out some goals for the things I make in my free time:

Seems pretty simple! For the “Whys” — consistency just leads to good things. Even if you’re most well known for a single, groundbreaking book, it likely took some amount of consistent work over time to write that book.

Of course, simple isn’t easy. But it can certainly be made easier. So for the “What if it were easy” question… I’m figuring that out.

But I know what hard feels like:

  • Blocking off 4-6 hours writing a newsletter issue — This involves a lot of time fighting off distraction. But it still altogether makes it feel hard.

  • Recording audio for 20 minutes but editing for 1-2 hours after — Adding sound effects and cutting out filler words manually can take a lot of time and it gets pretty tedious.

  • Outlining, writing a script, making a slide deck, shooting live video, and editing videos — Altogether, it can take a while to make a video if going through each of these steps.

So, the opposite should be closer to easy:

  • Newsletter-ing: Write for an hour, add links at the end, and don’t worry about hitting 5 links — Sometimes having that goal is what stretches the writing out to multiple hours. Because after writing for, say, 2 hours, then hour 3 and hour 4 are just so much slower going. It becomes more draining. (I should also probably write these intro dispatches at the very end, because I tend to go much longer than I plan to, like right now.) Being okay with what I have after 90 minutes and posting it will be better in the long run, because it will continue to be something I look forward to doing.

  • Podcasting: More up front planning, less editing — This has been working pretty well lately. If I can plan things up front really well with some book highlights, whatever I need from wikipedia, and some segments planned, it reduces editing by a ton. Hindenburg makes it dead simple to clean the audio up. Descript makes it a few clicks to remove filler words and really helps with adding chapters.

  • Videos: Just do the presentation with Procreate time lapses — Using live video filmed with my camera just takes forever. Part of this is because I’m not good at it and don’t do it often enough to practice. Which means that each time I just always run into the same issues with setting everything up, working the camera, and pulling the clips off and staying organized. Doing a screencast of a presentation with some timelapses and animations from Procreate is much much simpler for me. I’ll get back to this.

Okay, on to the links! With some notecards this week.

3 Clips | Dissecting Great Podcasts (“Binge Mode: Amazing Audio w/o Crazy Post-Production”)

Apple Podcasts | Spotify

I learned about the 3 Clips podcast this week and it’s one of those that I wish I knew about from the start. Jay Acunzo breaks podcasts down and talks about what works and how you might be able to apply it to your own show.

I’ve been looking for examples of solo podcasts so that I can improve my own solo episodes.

On this particular episode, he breaks down Binge Mode, one of my all-time favorite shows. Some reasons it works: Mallory and Jason always bring the energy and playfulness, they’re experts when it comes to Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and just great storytelling in general. They also do a lot of planning with strong, recurring segment and clear themes in each episode.

One of the reasons I miss Game of Thrones so much is that I miss all the stuff around the show itself, like listening to Binge Mode. (So I’m excited for when they’ll break down the last two books… sometime in the future.)

Indie Hackers ("I sold my SaaS business for millions… what now?" with Vincent Woo of CoderPad)

Apple Podcasts | Spotify

Really enjoyed this episode. Vincent Woo talks about Coderpad and retiring in his 30s. There aren’t a ton of resources out there from people who tell the entire story of boostrapping a company, running it for a few years, and then selling it successfully. They either fail, the founder intends to operate the business for the long haul as a lifelong pursuit, or eventually take on some funding.

Woo does make it all seem so straightforward and do-able. It wasn’t a walk in the park, but he says he and the team weren’t breaking their backs working 16 hours with no days off for years.

One takeaway: The idea absolutely matters. People often take the thought that if good execution is what matters, then the idea doesn’t matter at all. Well, not quite. Having a good idea and good execution together is what matters.

I thought it was interesting, because you’ll often hear someone say “Oh I just got lucky” but also say something along the lines of “Execution is what matters, not the idea.” Woo says he feels lucky to have come across a good idea. And having a good idea is lucky because you can’t directly steer yourself into good ideas.

(Also check out his talk at Dropbox from 4 years ago. There’s consistency here. He didn’t say he came up with some radical new idea. Coderpad was a seemingly obvious thing that didn’t exist.)

Bill Simmons Podcast ("Triple H on the WWE’s Crazy 2020”)

Apple Podcasts | Spotify

Triple H talks about how the WWE adapted to the pandemic. Pro wrestlers feed off the crowd energy more than athletes in professional sports. Getting reactions from the crowd is sort of the entire point of pro wrestling, where winning matters far more in sports. So the wrestlers needed to find ways to get inside their own heads and perform without the live crowd.

There was a good comparison in the episode of late 90s wrestling and basketball teams. Sometimes you have future stars on the bench. And you don’t know it until your current stars leave or can’t play due to injury. Then those people get some time to shine. When Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart left WWF in the 90s, it created room for people like Stone Cold and The Rock. It took a few tries to break through as the mega stars that they became.

Triple H also talks about Vince McMahon and his work ethic. No one works harder. (Which just means a lot coming from a pro wrestler—wrestlers go through brutal, year-round travel schedules where most of the travel is on the road rather than flying.) But he also just loves working. It seems like Vince doesn’t think about doing other things because he’s incapable of thinking of doing anything else.

I have a sneaking suspicion he never thinks in terms of “What might this look like if it were easy?”

Okay that’s that for this week! Going to stick to the whole timer thing and not try to force 5 episodes out.

Check out Active Recall (Apple, Spotify). I did an episode about Ford vs. Ferrari this week and Wally and I recorded together for an upcoming episode about our life experience with and lessons from Magic: The Gathering.

Until next week, thanks!