#39: Make the sausage meaningfully
I feel cheerful and energized. The post that I wrote last week, about changing my mind on note taking, spurred lovely comments.
Like this one from my father-in-law, Rich Goldberg:
So what you’re wrestling with is the question. Is this a bad idea or is my execution flawed? As you experiment with the execution, keep us updated.
And this one from my Internet friend, Bruno Arine:
Your take on note-taking is absolutely relatable. I developed an aversion to it too at the moment it felt more like a chore than a pleasure. It was as if the act of taking notes drained the fun out of reading or even thinking, because every time I would have to interrupt my flow to write down my ideas---and of course that behavior wouldn't scale.
I retook the practice of note-taking after a long hiatus thanks to some new ideas I accidentally stumbled upon on twitter. One of them was that when I'm reading non-fiction, I shouldn't be writing down every interesting insight that pops up at my face. Instead, I could wait and let them sink in. Wait a week (or a month). The most important ideas will still be there floating in the back of your mind. Write those down. It's a matter of improving the signal-to-noise ratio and making notes more interesting, as you wrote.
The other thing that helped me retake my note taking habit was understanding why I was doing that (I even wrote a note about it here: https://notes.brunoarine.com/posts/2021-10-11-my-digital-garden-looks-more-like-a-microblog-than-a-slipbox/ . Once I realized why I was doing what I was doing, it felt natural to carry on with it.
And this one from another Internet friend, Indy Neogy:
A couple of thoughts. There's a guy on Youtube who isn't that famous who recently posted on his separation from Zettelkasten. This is his channel [https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKuK7cMQFx9qu9xXStG3uWw](https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKuK7cMQFx9qu9xXStG3uWw) (for reference). I think there's something interesting in what he said, which is that atomic notes kind of solve a different problem than he has. He found, like you, that the atomic notes were just too flat. He's trying out moving to longer/richer/more narrative notes. I think there's something to what he says in that the way we remember stuff is mostly by incorporating it into our web of knowledge. Making atomic notes with links does this in theory, but a lot of times when we look at them they feel shorn of context.
Second thought: When I used to teach project management, there's an ongoing debate about the volume of management overhead vs the size of the project. It's obvious that smaller projects cannot afford the full scale of management reporting that you need for a larger project, but what's the right amount? I feel like note-taking has a similar issue. How much time on taking notes vs writing my newsletter? (ironic of course that I've had to put my newsletter on hold because I ran out of time, but let's let that pass) Anyway, note-taking is to make other things we do better, so there's a balance to be struck about how much time/effort we spend on it.
These comments were all meaningful, and I’m jazzed to announce that I wrote this post with the aid of Obsidian, my newly re-hatched Zettelkasten/notetaking system, and also massive work in progress, but a promising system bounded by love, hope, and care. I’m allowing the system to emerge organically, without force or pressure, to organize it in a certain way, or to create a certain number of notes each day. You can say that I'm learning from my past failures.
A major benefit of using a Zettelkasten to write this post is that the writing came out more rich and deep, than it otherwise would have; however, I traded off time. This post took longer to write; but, who cares, I'm here for the quality not the quantity. Wouldn't you agree?
I'm also here for the comments; if this post inspires you to leave a comment, please do so!
This week, I was gobbling up a fantastic and important book, The Pathless Path: Imagining A New Story For Work and Life, written by an Internet friend, Paul Millerd. Paul and I have a lot in common, so his book deeply resonated with me.
Speaking of commenting on posts, and using comments as a tool for healthy public discourse, Paul writes:
According to [philosopher Agnes] Callard, people on aspirational journeys, or what I call the pathless path, are “characteristically needy people.” Because their worldviews are incomplete and evolving, they are dependent on the support of other people.
This makes me think about my past self, the self that worked for traditional companies. Essentially, when you work for a company, and are on what Paul calls, the "default path," you automagically have a brand to lean on; and, in turn, a support network. You are proud to work for "Google" or "Kaiser" or "Deloitte" or "McKinsey" (where Paul used to work) or "fill in the blank" company. But, when you leave the traditional, default path, and embark on what Paul calls, the "pathless path", you must "find the others."
I guess, in a way, the Pathless Path does make you needy, but it also makes you realize that you always were needy. It also makes you realize how much goodness you already have in your life - people and things you may have previously taken for granted - so a sign of support from someone in your life could mean 10x what it would previously would, because that support is a signal that they understand. And we all just want to be understood.
The question becomes, how do you find the others?
You find the others this by putting your authentic self out into the world through the Internet.
And you also start to notice the support system you already have - family and friends who are cheering for you. For me, that's my father-in-law who has replied to all 38 of my newsletter posts; that’s Bruno and Indie and other Internet friends who have liked and commented on my posts; and that’s a handful of friends who donated $5-30 to my first published short story on DAOs.
For Paul, it was his two friends who supported his early writing on Patreon by purchasing a monthly membership.
I like the way Paul describes the profound effects that a small, tiny gift, can make:
To understand the power of a gift, you must first open yourself up to receive. This is easier said than done. Opening yourself to generosity often means grappling with your own insecurities about not feeling responsible. When I first started writing publicly, I created a Patreon, which allows people to make micro‑donations to support someone’s work. I announced this in the context of my plan to embrace the gift economy. Within hours of sending this first email, two friends, Jordan and Noel, immediately supported me for $3 a month. Their support wasn’t going to secure my future, but the effects were profound. A feeling of gratitude filled my heart. Their small vote of confidence increased mine as well. I also felt like I needed to pay them back, not monetarily but with my courage to keep going on my path.
For all of us folks on the nontraditional path - the freelancers, writers, creators, DAO contributors, free agents, guild operators, gig workers, avatars - whatever other word you want to use to call someone who doesn’t work for a corporation - a small signal of support can be profoundly meaningful.
And “meaning”, according to Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and the founder of logotheraphy, is the central human motivating force.
Putting together this newsletter post was kind of like putting together Lego blocks. The Zettelkasten made it easier to see the whole picture, to have some guideposts, but I traded off some spontaneity and emergence.
With that, thanks for sticking around as I make the sausage. It can be a messy business.
Have a good weekend!
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When I think of those of you on the “pathless path” I do Not think of needy. I think of independent, confident, self assured, etc.