Louis' Learnings 45 - What To Do With The Next Ten Minutes
Pianos, Handstands, Recipe Books, Sound Hobbies, and Sound Sleep
Happy Monday from Las Vegas, Nevada ☀️
Since last time (Nov 22), I’ve been keeping busy working, recording podcasts, generally staying fit, and spending time with family.
This week, I share some musings ranging from recipe books to the similarity between hobbies and money. It also covers my attempt to explain why I’ve had so much fun learning the piano lately. I had a hard time describing it which made this edition take a few weekends of iterating to find how to express my point.
Went to my 1st UFC (269) live at the T-Mobile Arena (saw the Nunes upset) 👊
Guest panelist on The Bitcoin Sessions Podcast 🎤
Had a family Thanksgiving trip in SoCal 🏝
Continued BJJ Training ✅
A Few Learnings
1) Overthinking Hobbies… Divisibility & Curation
I put so much effort into this inquiry because I continually struggle with the question: “I have a random, unpredictably sized chunk of free time, what should I do?”
The 10-Minute Question
For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume the average random free time chunk is 10 minutes.
I’ve known for many years what the wrong answer to this question is: Twitter, Facebook, Texts, Emails, etc. Without strong hobbies, digital distraction becomes the default answer far too often.
This post outlines my excitement about finally finding a compelling answer hiding in plain sight.
But First, A Backstory
A few weeks ago, my two-year-old cousin visited my family in Las Vegas for the first time in her young life. Immediately, our piano caught her attention. With enthusiastic hand smashing, she could create an overwhelming variety of sounds at an equally impressive volume. It was the musical equivalent of scribbling, but she didn’t care. Never before has she gotten so much bang for her buck. She was fascinated.
Watching in patient amusement, it struck me: “why haven’t I learned the basics of this archaic device?”
Here I am, someone who’s interviewed Ultralearning author Scott Young, has had multiple obsessive goal-setting phases, and has had a full-sized piano in my home for 10 years having never thought to develop basic competency.
To add insult to injury, I learned a new computer keyboard layout from scratch in May 2020 (from QWERTY to Colemak), and it never crossed my mind to set any music-themed goal or connect the dots between computer keyboards and musical keyboards.
So, confronted with zero competency in this domain, I decided four weeks at home should be enough time to learn how to play some damn Moana for one of my first nieces.
Disney is for children, how hard could this be?
What Happened Next
Simply Piano by Joy Tunes (for iOS) consumed the past few weekends of my life.
To my surprise, this gamified, intelligent piano tutor has become an obsession.
As a lifelong non-musical person, I spent some time trying to figure out why I was blindsided by enthusiasm for a new hobby.
I realized that learning piano (through this app) had four fundamental advantages over many of the hobbies I’ve less successfully tried to integrate into my life: divisibility, recharge, curation, and feedback.
Every other hobby I’ve tried to develop
Was missing one or more of these advantages, and therefore
Failed the 10-minute test, and therefore
Failed to mature into a good hobby.
A balanced counter-example will illuminate the point.
Case Study: Handstands
If I have 10 minutes between activities whether it is a meeting, a drive, or any other appointment, I’m never going to say “I should just train handstands until it’s time to go!”
I need to properly warm-up, be in the right clothes, have gas in the right muscles, and have some ideas of what I’d do for the actual training regimen. As an impromptu hobby, handstands are pretty awful.
I’ve been semi-consistently training hand-balancing since August 2020, but I haven’t made a single increment of progress since January 2021.
In five months, I went from barely staying upright for three seconds to consistent holds of almost a minute. At this point, I’ve crossed the line where I can’t bumble my way into improvement. Without deliberate effort and thoughtful planning, I won’t progress.
It should be somewhat obvious why handstands violate all four principles.
No feedback/ curation. Sure, I can point a camera at myself, but for anything beyond simple balancing and endurance, I don’t know how to coach myself. A hobby isn’t satisfying if you don’t feel a sense of progress. Absent feedback, you’ll reach this stage disappointingly fast.
High recharge time. You get max one good handstand session daily, and maybe four per week. After that, you are toast. Wrists, forearms, and shoulders are all just drained. Anytime I start getting back into handstands, I have a great workout and then my soreness outlasts my motivation to keep training. By the time I’m recharged, I forget about handstands.
Not divisible. Handstands, if you want any degree of longevity, aren’t very divisible. Proper training demands 2-4 minutes of wrist warmups. Then, a novice will fatigue after about 4 minutes of inversion (maybe even less).
Because I can’t randomly do handstands for 10 minutes, I hardly do them at all.
More Examples: Coding, Languages, or Reading
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve deleted then re-downloaded apps like Duolingo, Brilliant, Wikipedia, Quizlet, or Anki. At least I think I now know why.
Hobbies like coding, writing, and knowledge-based self-education fall victim to many of the same traps.
Next steps are hardly ever obvious, we lack coaching outside of school, and the ability to divide into 5 minute lessons is rarely possible because of how long it takes to concentrate and get in the zone.
In Summary, Hobbies Are Like Money
To make a questionably applicable metaphor that only a Bitcoiner would make, if you model your hobbies off the properties of good, sound money, your hobbies will be much more enriching. (Both puns intended)
Durability: The hobby will remain valuable over time. The hobby will remain interesting for a long time (ie the road to mastery is long if not asymptotic).
Portability: Okay fine it's not a perfect metaphor. Pianos aren’t very portable.
Divisibility: Already explained in the preceding sections.
Uniformity (fungibility): Your piano isn’t very different from anyone else’s.
Limited supply (ie value): Few people have developed proficiency at this hobby.
Acceptability: Music is intrinsically valuable and transcends all boundaries.
Abstracting The Lesson
Piano (with the help of the app) is divisible into brief curated lessons, single songs, or a full hour of practice. It doesn’t require recharge time (you could play for 10 minutes, 5 times a day), and feedback is instant (your ears and the app).
Hopefully, my enthusiasm for this new hobby sustains and the torment of the free time question plagues me much less often.
2) Reading Recipes Before Bed 🛏️
Aware of my penchant for pop-nonfiction health books, my archaeologist friend Angelo suggested I read Eat Like a Human: Nourishing Foods and Ancient Ways of Cooking to Revolutionize Your Health by Dr. Bill Schindler.
He was right. I really like the book, but not for the reasons he had in mind.
This book puts me to sleep almost instantly. Why? Every chapter is filled with recipes.
Why does this happen? Recipes fill your mind with pleasant thoughts. Recipes make you think through and visualize the process of cooking. Active, non-stressful imagination. Boring excessive details (like durations and temperatures).
The perfect formula for sleep.
3) Admiration — Respecting Craft
Mr. Beast gained over 10 million new subscribers in the past month.
I’m consistently blown away by the speed and scale with which Jimmy (Mr. Beast) can create and execute these projects as an independent creator.
Admittedly, I don’t know how much this constitutes a ‘learning.’
I just wanted to share how bizarre and impressive it is for someone already perceived to be at the top of their game to add 10 million new viewers virtually overnight.
The Part of The Email With Suggested Links
I just discovered one of my friends was making great educational NFT content that I didn’t even know about. Check it out!
IMO, the best “start-here” page for those seeking a nuanced understanding of Bitcoin.
→ Jon Wu: Aztec, Privacy, Theranos, Zero-Knowledge, and The Spiritual Path To Crypto
→ Amanda Natividad: Marketing Architect at SparkToro on Audience Research, Content Marketing, and Career Paths
→ Matt Slater: GP at Stateless VC on Crypto Investment Lessons, Metaverse Real Estate, and Much More
→ Jon Ostenson: Franchising 101 with The CEO of FranBridge Capital, Is Franchising Right For You?
→ Victoria Ransom: Founder & CEO at Prisma, The Business Of Reimagining 4-8th Grade Education
Thank You For Reading 🙏
Feedback and suggestions are always welcome.
Photo of the week — Beach Vibes 🌊
I was able to catch up with my friend Elijah for Thanksgiving in Southern California.
Huge congrats since he just graduated this semester!
Special Thanks To My Sponsor, Espresso Displays!
In the last edition, I announced the partnership with my first sponsor, espresso Displays, for both Louis' Learnings and the podcast.
Espresso Displays are the thinnest portable touch screen monitors in the world. I've been using an espresso for the past 2 months, and I absolutely love it. The screen and magnetically connected collapsible stand fit easily in a backpack and make it possible to use the luxury of two screens (laptop + espresso) anywhere I work.
Support Louis' Learnings by checking out espresso here.