Book Review: The Four Hour Workweek

Regardless of whether working four hours a week is possible or even desirable this book presents a refreshing perspective that is intrinsically valuable. The “Four Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss questions a lot of assumptions that are ingrained into our culture and presents a treasure trove of ideas for escaping the 9-5 workday and the deferred enjoyment life plan. Even if half of these do not work or do not apply to you, the book is still worth a read. The author put more than four hours a week into making this book: it is full of resources, links, and useful references.

This book is good for times when you feel like you are stuck in your work or stuck in your life. Even if you don’t believe or want to believe everything that Tim Ferriss is proposing this book is still useful. This book will convince you that you can design your life, you can be intentional about how you work, and you don’t have to put off living the life you want until your retirement.

 

Learn Faster:

Here is a practical technique that you can apply to learning almost any new skill but is especially useful for nature artists and nature journalers!

I have been unintentionally doing this for a while and have only recently recognized the value and started to conceptualize it.

Do you have information dense places that you seek out to accelerate your learning?

Do you have trouble drawing, painting, or journaling in public places? If so, my next post is for you!

Book Review: Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

You probably know by now that I am interested in studying tools and techniques for self-awareness, self-motivation, and creative productivity. As part of this study, I have been reading “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss.

If you are interested in being intentional about how you live your life and how you work your work then you should read this book.

This book was compatible with my morning routine and I read it in short, 15 to 30 minute chunks every day. I found a lot of useful and motivating content.

Check out my full review below:

Share Your Work!

You might remember your math teacher telling you that the answer was important but “showing your work” was also part of the points on a test. As it turns out, your math teacher was right. This principle still applies today, especially for creative professionals such as visual artists. Social media takes sharing your work to a whole ‘nother level.

This concept was driven home to me by Austin Kleon in his aptly named book  Show Your Work . I found out about Austin Kleon thanks to Chase Jarvis.

An image from Kleon’s book.

I am an avid learner of new things and  my goal right now is to keep my sharing/teaching as up to date with my current passions and studies as possible. It is easy to want to wait until I am an expert about something before posting videos on youtube about it. However, Austin Kleon has convinced me that it is better to learn from a passionate student than a cynical and jaded old expert.

Right now,  I am most passionate about learning as much as I can about herpetoculture, snakes, bioactive vivaria, and the scaping of functional and aesthetic miniature ecosystems.

Here is a recent youtube video I made about this exciting learning process that I knew nothing about 6 months ago:

 

What are you passionate about right now? Are you avidly learning about it? Could you be sharing your process more?

 

For more of the benefits of showing your work check out this short video about the book:

 

Spoken Reflections From Tanzania: Manyara to Arusha

IMG_5367During my trip to Tanzania, I used my nature journal and my pocket notebook for drawing and writing and I used my phone for photos, short videos, and audio recordings. With this diverse toolbox I tried to document my observations, feeling, and impressions.

Here are some reflections from the last day of the Nature Journal Safari when we drove from Lake Manyara back to Arusha. A lot of observations during the drive, covering a lot of land, seeing a lot of patterns and trying to make landscape level connections in my mind.

IMG_5414 During this drive I was constantly surprised by how barren and dry the landscape looked and how many people it actually supported.

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Spoken Reflections from Tanzania: Day 1

IMG_5323

During my trip to Tanzania, I used my nature journal and my pocket notebook for drawing and writing and I used my phone for photos, short videos, and audiorecordings. With this diverse toolbox I tried to document my observations, feeling, and impressions.

The following is a recording where I review my first day:

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Scope Out Schollenberger Wetlands!

In June, the North Coast Nature Journal Club will scope out the marshes of Schollenberger park near Petaluma. This convenient park provides ample opportunities to sketch water birds and learn about California’s coastal wetlands, the most endangered of all our ecosystem types. There will also be expansive views of the long extinct volcano that is Sonoma mountain. We will focus on drawing and learning about the plants and birds that inhabit this area and we will also practice composing and executing small landscapes showcasing Sonoma mountain in the background.

Meet at the parking lot at 9:00. Earlier than our normal time! We are meeting earlier to beat the heat a little bit.

The address below might only get you to the intersection of Cader ln if you are following a GPS. From South Mcdowell blvd you will turn onto Cader lane/ Schollenberger park rd and continue to the parking lot. It could be a warm sunny day and we will be out in the open so plan accordingly. Sun hats, sunscreen, lots of water. The walk is very gentle, flat, and wheelchair accessible on a paved route. We will return to the parking lot before the potluck so you can keep bulkier food and beverage items in your car. Bring a light folding stool if you have one, we will do some more extended landscape and plant paintings at this location.

As usual be prepared to get super-curious in nature and connect with like minded people! Bring a potluck item to share for lunch around 12:30.

Suggested donation $20

The North Coast Nature Journal Club

I started the North Coast Nature Journal Club as a way to share my personal passion for observation and learning and as a way to connect with other people in nature. Sonoma and Marin counties in Northern California are full of diverse and rich ecosystems and there are many people interested in connecting with nature. On the third Sunday of every month we explore a different location, from sand dunes to mixed oak savanna. We use our sketchbooks as a substrate for our interaction with the natural world.  I’m passionate about facilitating learning in a group and we constantly bounce ideas off each other and otherwise benefit from nature journaling as a group.

We also share a potluck lunch on every outing!

What is Nature Journaling?

When do you meet next?!

 

Are there other nature journal clubs? Check out the nature journal club facebook page for more info about other groups and the Bay Area group that started it all.

Sketchers Learn Faster

There was once a ceramics teacher who did an experiment with his students. He told half the class to make as many pots as they could over the course of the semester, focusing on quantity not quality. He told the other half of the class to put all their energy and inspiration into making the single best pot they could. He told the first group they would be graded solely on quantity and the second group on quality.

At the end of the semester the teacher compared the pots of the two groups. Guess which group had produced the best pots?

Those students who had focused on producing as many pots as possible were free to practice without fixation on a finished product. They were able to learn and improve their skill. Ironically, the group that was told not to think about quality ended up producing finer pots. It appears that we learn better and faster when we are focused more on the practicing then on the outcome, a concept beautifully described in the book “The Practicing Mind.”

Simply put, sketchers learn faster.

Let yourself scribble, jot, sketch. Just fill up the page. Just keep your pencil moving and your eyes observing your subject. Just let your brain ask questions about what you see. If you do this regularly, you will learn much faster, you will improve. Ironically, you will begin to produce the superior images whose elusive promise inhibited your learning in the beginning.

 

This learning principle applies to most physical and intellectual pursuits that I can think of.

Try it out. Leonardo da Vinci did.

The Most Powerful Learning Technology

Journaling is the most powerful toolkit for dynamic human learning. It is affordable, accessible, democratic, and it can be modified and specialized in almost infinite ways. All you need is a pad of paper and a pencil.

Whether your learning is emotional, scientific, or artistic, journaling should be an essential part of your toolkit. Some of the greatest minds of history relied heavily on diaries, journals, and sketchbooks as a substrate for their thought process. Notable examples include Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, and of course Leonardo Da Vinci.

marie-curie-notebookPages from the journal of Marie Curie

How it works: I have done my best to break down journaling into what I see are the 7 major benefits.

Commitment and Attention : When you sit down to draw a flower in your journal or write about an idea you make a commitment to focus on that thing. This is very different from daydreaming where your brain might briefly consider something in passing. By writing about something or sketching it in your journal you show your brain that this is something important and you give your brain a chance to actually work on this subject. You will notice more about your subject, be more creative, and have better problem solving ideas when you attend to something by working it out on paper.

Visual-Verbal-Manual: Words are abstract and language is a recent innovation that uses a limited part of our brain. Many problems can not be solved in this part of the brain. However, when we put words on paper, when we write by hand, and especially when we combine images with words, more and more of our brain is engaged in the task. Even off-topic doodling during a lecture has been shown to improve retention of information (doodling).Visual thinking in general is a very powerful tool and incorporating graphic facilitation or sketch-noting into your work can be very beneficial. Sketch-noting

Externalizing your thinking For Objectivity: Another huge benefit of journaling or keeping a diary is that it allows you to get ideas, feelings, and emotions out of your head and down on paper. This is a powerful way to break cyclical thinking, unproductive rumination, and downward depressive thought spirals. If you are feeling super frustrated about a team that you work with and you start to write down how you feel on paper you immediately put some distance between yourself and the emotions. Now you can be more objective. Even if your only goal is to record your feelings you will find creative solutions start to bubble up on their own. For more artistic projects or group projects, externalizing your thinking is essential for feedback. And you know how I feel about feedback! Put your logo idea, business model, or permaculture design on a piece of paper where you can stand back and evaluate it. Now, it is not so personal, now, you can see the strengths and weaknesses, now, you can learn, now, you can move forward. Your journal can document these feedback loops and revision cycles.

Externalizing your thinking For Mental Space: Another benefit of getting your ideas out of your brain and onto paper is that it frees up mental space for higher level thinking. One of the main weaknesses of the human brain is our inability to simultaneously hold many pieces of information in mind. The more you are trying to hold the less freedom you have to make connections between the pieces or solve problems in a creative way. Get that stuff out of your brain and you will find new energy and inspiration to take your ideas to the next level.

Venting: People have used pen and paper to vent their emotions for a long time. This is another form of externalizing your thinking and your emotions. Just by expressing the emotions onto paper you get more relief than cycling it through your mind. The paper won’t get exhausted, judge you, complain, or resent you (some of the common drawbacks when venting to friends or family.) Venting in your journal or diary is healthy and can be emotional or intellectual. For example, when I am nature journaling at an aquarium and I am trying to accurately draw the subtle profile of a salmon I might get frustrated at my inability to quite capture the look. In my notes next to my sketches I will often write something such as: “This curve is tricky! Gah!” Or I might write a funny expletive next to an indelible mistake that I made. This helps me  get over it fast, not take myself too seriously, and not get to precious about the appearance of the page.

Chronology and Trajectory: The human brain is weak when it comes to remembering precise dates, times, and chronologies. It is also weak at noticing (or caring about) long trajectories and big patterns. Journals and diaries by their very nature become valuable sources of chronological information. When a journal keeper looks back at a journal from 3 years ago they are often able to see connections and recognize patterns. Is the snow on the mountains melting earlier this year then it has for the last 10 years that I have been keeping a journal? Am I noticing a pattern in my romantic relationships over the last decade since I have been journaling? These are the types of insights that by themselves make journal-keeping infinitely valuable because they are precisely the things that our human brain would often miss.

Record: Last of all, a journal provides a record. Do you need to double check how you conducted an experiment last year? Do you want to remember the name of someone you met or a secret waterfall you found? What about once you are dead? The world would be a much poorer place if Leonardo DaVinci and Frida Kahlo did not leave a piece of their brain behind on paper.

If you are already keeping a journal I commend you. If you are thinking about starting a journaling practice then I remind you: all of the great geniuses had a journal.

darwin-journal Pages from the journal of Darwin.

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