The Mental Pivot Newsletter: No.20

In this issue: “What did you learn today?”, diligent idea capture, solving Siri’s dictation impatience, and a potpourri of new links.

“What did you learn today?” It's a simple question that invariably creeps into the conversation shortly after picking up my kids from school. It typically comes after they tell me they’re hungry, but before I interrogate them about their homework.

Like a well-crafted dad joke (oxymoron?), the question elicits a groan from my kids. Despite the initial resistance, they’ll oblige and share one or two memorable experiences from the day. I’m always happy for them. A day in which you get to learn something new? That’s a good day in my book.

I’ve made a habit of asking this question and genuinely enjoy and value their responses. But I neglect to ask this same question to someone else who would likely benefit from it, myself.

What have I learned today?” Now that’s a question worth asking. I imagine I’ll enjoy and value those responses too.

Now onto the updates...

What’s New on the Blog:

1. Idea Capture: An Antidote to Forgetting

The TL;DR: Ideas enter my head suddenly and are often leave just as quickly. Capturing these ideas rescues them from my unreliable memory and saves them for future use. It’s fuel for personal creativity, long-term projects, and ongoing learning. 

The trick is making a habit of it and ensuring the idea is captured before its lost.

My preferred method is a short email to myself. My two key tactics: (a) A dedicated email address for idea collecting and (b) an app that sends messages exclusively to that address (I like Note to Self for iOS).


2. An Apple Shortcuts Workaround when Siri Interrupts Dictation

I demonstrate the iOS Shortcut I use to deal with Siri’s annoying habit of prematurely cutting off dictation when creating handsfree notes. This solution works well alongside the idea capture strategies described in the preceding article.


Articles & Podcasts of Note:

  • All About Section 230 (Podcast): Info-rich and still timely episode from the A16Z venture firm’s Sixteen Minutes that originally aired in May 2020. The program delves into the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 and its controversial provision, Section 230, which helped shape the modern internet and free speech.

  • The Bit Short: Inside Crypto’s Doomsday Machine: Investigation into Tether (USDT), the (allegedly) 1:1 US dollar-backed “stablecoin” in the cryptocurrency world which powers 70% of all crypto trading volume. The Author highlights a potentially fraudulent transactional system that, in my former crypto experience, is both plausible and frightening. 

  • Gen Z Behaviors and the Consumer Renaissance: Rex Woodbury describes a number of trends to which this Gen Xer was blind: radical inclusivity, changing views on gender, community vs. status, and more. 

  • How Cognitive Bias Can Explain Post-Truth: Lee McIntyre’s excellent overview of the human tendency to eschew facts in favor of ideology. The article gives considerable attention to the groundbreaking work of three mid-20th century researchers, Leon Festinger (cognitive dissonance), Solomon Asch (social conformity), and Peter Cathcart Watson (confirmation bias). 

  • I Am Nidhi Razdan, Not a Harvard Professor But...: The NDTV correspondent and journalist writes frankly as the victim of a fraudulent and elaborate phishing attack in which she was misled by con artists posing as a hiring committee at Harvard University. 

  • Is Writing as Important as Coding?: Data scientist Eugene Yan highlights key benefits of writing for technical professionals in business settings (the insights are still applicable to a general audience).

  • What Puzzles and Poker Teach Us about Misinformation: Economist Tim Harford considers cognitive reflection problems (brain teasers with simple, obvious, and wrong answers alongside a correct answer that requires a moment’s thought but is easy to calculate) and controlling your emotional response. His advice? “Slow down, calm down, and the battle for truth is already half won.”


Odds & Ends:

  • Improve the News is a news aggregation site developed by MIT researchers whose stated goal is more deliberate news consumption. The service offers a set of sliders that allow readers to customize the topic, bias, style, and recency of the headlines displayed. I’ll leave it to you to decide if this tool reinforces cognitive bias or not. 

  • Johnny.Decimal is an idiosyncratic filing system for organizing projects developed by Australian Johnny Noble. The system uses a 2-deep folder hierarchy to ensure that nothing is ever more than two clicks away. Another distinguishing feature is the numbering scheme for folders in the hierarchy, which improves coherence and searchability. It’s not my cup of tea, but it is an interesting idea.

  • Musclewiki is a nifty reference that lets you click on a diagram of the human body to discover exercises—stretches, bodyweight, barbell, dumbbell, and kettlebell—for a selected muscle group. Want some ideas for how to work those triceps? This website has you covered. Just promise you won’t skip leg day, okay?


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