Sain uu! Welcome to this week's digest. This week is a very special "Viking" edition, as we debrief from my Scandanivia trip, and explore a couple of awesome books related to learning (sorry, nothing on pillaging =/). Enjoy!

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"Having eyes, but not seeing beauty; having ears, but not hearing music; having minds, but not perceiving truth; having hearts that are never moved and therefore never set on fire. These are the things to fear." ~ Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (AKA I have a lot to learn from you)

Nate, replying to The Mind's I
: Teddy! Loved this week's digest. I’ve been on a weird kick of reading about free will and consciousness recently as well. Hadn't heard of “The Mind’s I” but just ordered it on Amazon, thanks for sharing. I’ve been reading "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”. Super interesting, especially if you’re a Westworld fan.


TL;DR: My 10-day Scandinavia trip to Oslo, Gothenburg, Stockholm, and Copenhagen was tremendous fun! So much natural beauty and, surprisingly, live music. The most impactful and vivid memories are of the experiences shared with old and new friends... shout-outs to David, Vincent, Helene, and Thore for incredible hospitality, conversation, and fun!!

A few initial thoughts and takeaways from the trip:
  • The Positives of Social Democracy: At least in the large cities that I visited, the impact of social democratic principles seems to be reducing volatility in people's lives (i.e., raising the floor and lowering the ceiling), and maintaining human dignity. There were far fewer homeless and desperate people than I am accustomed to seeing in large U.S. cities, and a much smaller (public) police presence. In social experiences, people seem to be far less focused on 'crushing it', and more focused on cultivating happiness and meaning in their lives. To me, this political position reflects an active choice of prioritizing equality over growth.
  • Appreciation for Thoughtful Design: A guiding principle in my life is substance over style. The Scandinavian experience helped me realize that I often confuse style and thoughtful design. Their cities showcased in myriad ways, e.g., signage, transportation systems, furniture, etc., how thoughtful design (which can also be stylish) offers highly tangible, experiential benefits.
  • It's About the People, Stupid: For all of the interesting experiences from the trip, my most vivid memories are about the people I met and the conversations we shared. This is similar learning from my LA living experience - I would rather stare at a brick wall and share deep conversation than experience paradise alone.
  • The Power of Overwhelming Sensory Experiences: Surprisingly, this trip afforded a half dozen tremendous live music experiences. In particular, shows by Dada Life and Grandmaster Flash were preposterous fun. I return to NYC wanting to infuse more live music into my regular life.
  • Phone Zombies are an International Pandemic: The 'phone zombie' phenomenon, e.g., people hunched over their phones while ambling around in public, was prevalent in all three capital cities. There was definitely selection bias, as I spent most of my time in tourist-heavy areas, but the impacts of mobile technology are clearly being felt globally, across cultures.

Note: For all of my favorite photos from the trip, you can view them here!

BOOK - Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi (My full Kindle notes) - A vivid, inspirational, and fun story about a WW2-era Japanese school with a very different methodology for educating children, focused on developing autonomy and individual self-respect.

Answering The Drucker Question: Bring to mind any situations where you are teaching others (e.g., your kids, your team at work, volunteering within the community, etc.). Are there opportunities to introduce greater autonomy and self-direction into their learning process? Can you create engaging experiences that indirectly teach what you want your pupil(s) to learn?

Complement with The Same Thing Over and Over: How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday's Ideas.

My highlights:
  • Totto-chan was so happy and liked the school so much, she made a firm decision to come to school every day and never take any holidays... [H]ere it was quite different. At the beginning of the first period, the teacher made a list of all the problems and questions in the subjects to be studied that day. Then she would say, “Now, start with any of these you like.” ... This method of teaching enabled the teachers to observe—as the children progressed to higher grades—what they were interested in as well as their way of thinking and their character. It was an ideal way for teachers to really get to know their pupils.
  • Little did the children realize then that these walks—a time of freedom and play for them—were in reality precious lessons in science, history, and biology.
  • And why did [the headmaster] let them swim in the nude? Because he thought it wasn’t right for boys and girls to be morbidly curious about the differences in their bodies, and he thought it was unnatural for people to take such pains to hide their bodies from each other. He wanted to teach the children that all bodies are beautiful.
  • The Tomoe pupils had never once been told they should get in line and walk properly and keep quiet on the train and not drop litter on the floor when they ate their food. Their daily school life had somehow instilled into them that they mustn’t push people smaller or weaker than themselves; that unruly behavior was something to be ashamed of; that whenever they came across litter they should pick it up; and that they should try not to do anything that annoyed or disturbed others.
  • Having eyes, but not seeing beauty; having ears, but not hearing music; having minds, but not perceiving truth; having hearts that are never moved and therefore never set on fire. These are the things to fear, said the headmaster.
  • Now the prizes, too, were typical of the headmaster. First Prize might be a giant radish; Second Prize, two burdock roots; Third Prize, a bundle of spinach. Things like that. Until she was much older Totto-chan thought all schools gave vegetables for Sports Day prizes... "They’re vegetables you earned yourselves. You have provided food for your families by your own efforts. How’s that? I’ll bet it tastes good!” Of course, he was right. It was the first time in her life, for instance, that  Totto-chan had ever provided anything for dinner.
  • At Tomoe, where the children were allowed to work on their subjects in any order they pleased, it would have been awkward if the children let themselves be disturbed by what others were doing. They were trained to concentrate no matter what was going on around them.
  • That was the way it was at Tomoe. Without realizing it, everyone got in the habit of understanding one another’s problems and trying to help, irrespective of age. It became the natural thing to do.
  • He believed all children are born with an innate good nature, which can be easily damaged by their environment and the wrong adult influences. His aim was to uncover their “good nature” and develop it, so that the children would grow into people with individuality.

BOOK - Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career by Scott Young (My summary notes) - A concrete and highly tangible guide to learning new skills with incredible velocity. See my summary notes for the details of Scott's learning principles!

Answering The Drucker Question: Identify the most important skill you want to learn right now, and try to apply the Ultralearning framework!

Complement with The Knowledge Project: Learning How to Learn with Barbara Oakley and Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

My highlights:
  • ...[D]eep learning provides a sense of purpose in life. Developing skills is meaningful.
  • Your deepest moments of happiness don’t come from doing easy things; they come from realizing your potential and overcoming your own limiting beliefs about yourself.
  • Ultralearning isn’t easy. It’s hard and frustrating and requires stretching outside the limits of where you feel comfortable. However, the things you can accomplish make it worth the effort.
  • There are nine universal principles... Metalearning... Focus... Directness... Drill... Retrieval... Feedback... Retention... Intuition... Experimentation...

MUSIC - Gnpwdr by Spark Master Tape - Really dirty, really Trappy, and, for whatever reason, really resonated with me in Copenhagen.

Complement with KKALLABASSASS.
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