What if you could listen to what you read?

Today I'm starting something different. At least I haven't seen it done before quite this way. I'm beginning to write blog posts that also have an audio recording of me reading them. That's right. Text plus audio. You can read along as you listen to the audio. Or you can read the post alone,  and never listen to the audio. Or you can only listen to the audio without ever bothering to read the post if you prefer that way. 

Now, this idea came to me somewhat randomly. For the past few years, I've been passionate about audiobooks. I used to read a lot before my firstborn. But as soon as I became a parent — my oldest one is four years old now — I found myself involved in so many things between work and home and caring for our newborn, that my time for silent reading simply evaporated. The solution I found was audiobooks. I could listen to them while biking to work in the first year, and later on in my car after we moved to a different neighborhood.

There's something magical about real audio content. In the same level, there's something magical about reading. It takes you places, and it engages your imagination in a way that video, for example, cannot. The sensory input is minimal, and it allows you to be doing something else. Besides, both reading and listening engage our verbal skills. Their primary device of communication is language and language alone. But audio is instant, and it doesn't require your eyes to be engaged in receiving and processing the information. In comparison to visual communication — video to be more specific — it's way less demanding. Video content is intense, and it's magnetic — watch any kid's behavior when you turn on the TV set in the room. It requires full attention. Your eyes are glued to the screen, the sounds hijack your ears, and your body tends to immobility before you even notice. Reading is fantastic because it does require a lot of concentration and it engages the most profound kind of mental processing. Listening to audio though frees up your eyes, and it frees up your body. You can be skateboarding or racing on your bike while listening to your favorite podcast.

It's a busy world. My point is that I turned to audio listening because of a particularly busy season in my life. It was a period where I wished every favorite blog of mine had audio recordings of their posts. But they didn't. So I'm doing here what I wished existed everywhere. It's that simple.

You can read this, and you can listen to my real voice as if we were just in a cafe chatting about these ideas. I think it makes it more personal. It makes this more intimate and provides an interesting connection. Even beyond that, it demands way less of your time and devotion if you're in a hurry. And if you have a visual disability, the content is still accessible. Just like a personal conversation would be.

I have a few more thoughts about this, but I can share those next time. For now, I hope this is a practical idea and that you enjoy it. Because I certainly do. 

What systems do you have?

Successful people do consistently what ordinary people do only occasionally

They usually have spent a good amount of energy figuring out systems that are reliable, dependable, flexible, and that consistently deliver great results. Here's a stupid example. At home, we have a little system for taking the garbage out. I take it every day in the morning, whether it’s a sunny day or rainy day. So the other people in the house don’t have to worry about it. When my wife walks down to the kitchen, she’ll always find the trash can smelling fresh with a brand new empty liner. There are a few things more satisfying than waking up to a clean place. Because I do it consistently, she can depend on it. She can rely on it.

But the key to that particular habit is to plan for it. To set the steps and to define the win. This is going to happen, then this, then this, to generate this specific result. The reward you get once you put the system (habit) in motion gives you the energy you need to keep the system rolling. And once that becomes an automatic behavior, your brain will be free to think  more important matters. You’ll have the space to get creative. In my experience, it's much easier to get creative in a system where the garbage is not full of stinky junk.

When extrapolate that learning to other parts of your life

You May Forget, But The Web Remembers.

The Web is crafted to remember everything on a permanent record. It is not designed to forget. That way, people are not allowed to change, to evolve, to differ from who they were yesterday or ten years ago. Your past mishaps can be surfaced today and smear your identity of now, right now.

"Keeping secrets gives you space to change your mind until you're really sure that you're right." — Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap.

The Best Way to Learn is To Teach.

It’s a great blessing to have two kids under five. They force me to learn new things and re-learn old ones. It’s one thing to know something for you. It's an entirely different thing to know something to communicate to others in a way that they can understand.

When you’re teaching someone anything, some of the things you might hear them say are: "Why?", "When?", "How did you do that?", "That doesn’t make much sense to me!", "Why would you do it this way? That seems so silly to me!", "What are you trying to say? I don’t quite get it!", "Can you explain it again? I missed the last part.", "Hmmm, it all sounds genius, it must be true, but I don’t understand any of it.”

You have to put language to it. You have to set the context. You have to draw diagrams. You have to create visualizations and find common ground and make comparisons from experiences your listeners already have had and understand. You have to create metaphors. You have to organize your thoughts and eliminate distractions to the main subject. You have to create a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end. That story needs to make sense to them. It has got to be a story that’s memorable, so they won’t forget the knowledge you’re passing on to them. When you teach, you codify your learning, and it makes an everlasting imprint. Both on your audiences’ mind and, most importantly, yours.

Want to learn something? Teach it.

5 observations About Systems.

Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you're getting. If you want better results, you need to improve your system. Here are a five things I learned:

1. Good systems should be invisible. Think about the piping system in your house. The engine of a car. The bone structure in your body. The goal of systems is to make you work the best way you can work to accomplish your mission. What the desired end result? What's the desired outcome? A good system will provide the underlying structure to achieve that repeatedly and consistently.

2. Good systems are written down. If you want people to get on the same page, actually create a page. Hang them on the walls. Make it easy to find and easy to reference by both experienced and inexperienced individuals. Make it portable and memorable, so much so that it becomes second nature to everyone.

3. Goods systems have a template. Find a template, adapt it, or create one. Someone somewhere is going through the same problem you're facing. They've might have solved it. Or maybe you're solving a common problem that no one has addressed quite the way you have. Is your system better than anyone else's? Make it available through a template. People will appreciate it.

4. Systems that are created alone, are followed alone. If you want people to get onboard on your system, have them come along with you in creating the system. A system that exists only on somebody's mind is not good. Good systems are those that can easily be followed by diverse individuals.

5. If it's a repetitive task, it needs a system.  When should you create a system? Every time you find yourself solving the same problem more than once. You figure out to solve it once, how to make the decisions once, and then you use it on the subsequent tasks. You set it, and forget it.

In short: Good systems are invisible, are written down, have a template, are not created alone and solve repetitive tasks very efficiently. These are my five observations on systems.

Think Visually.

Little thought experiment. Imagine you’re floating 2 feet high in the air, right where you are, defying gravity. You can fly, like an astronaut. Imagine you look around and you can see what others can’t: invisible cords holding everyone to the ground. You have a pair of scissors on your desk. You grab it. You then fly around using the scissors to cut the cords that are holding people. And just like helium balloons, they can now fly freely to wherever they want.

That’s the power of imagination. That’s the allure of visualization. You can think of just about anything and make it real in your mind. Think about that.

Small beginnings, geography & you.

I'm honored to work side-by-side with the best designers in the world. It's so unlikely. I had small, humble beginnings in a small, unknown countryside town in South Brazil, and eventually got to play on a global stage. How on Earth did that happen? Here are three significant lessons I’ve learned along the way:

1. Never despise the small beginnings.
My first job was as a substitute cartoonist for a small local newspaper publication. I was 15. They paid me $2 per illustration published. Pathetic. But it was a start. I learned about principles of editorial design, storytelling and, mainly, how much sweat it takes to earn a few bucks. Three things I use today.

2. Geography is no longer your boss.
If you’re under 25 years old, you’re part of the first generation that grew up with the internet. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say the world is now your backyard. Stop complaining about where you are, where you live. Stop chaining yourself to your local limitations. They only exist in your head. The internet is at your disposal to take you as far as you can dream of.

3. You’re not what happened to you; you are who you decide to be.
When I was three years old, I was involved in a major car accident. At the collision, a piece of sharp glass from the shattered windshield pierced my left eye. I became instantly blind. I had to grow up with monocular vision and a gray scar in my eye. Easily a reason for all sorts of feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, self-image issues, bullying at school. But you know what the biggest irony is? Today I’m one of the people who work on the VISUAL aesthetic of products that are dictating design trends worldwide. I lost my sight, but I never lost the vision of who I wanted to – and could – become.

Never despise the small beginnings. Geography is no longer your boss. This is your life, are you who you want to be?

Design is what ships.

Design is not your beautiful and idealistic design comps that never saw the light of the day. It is what people put their hands on when your designs are launched that counts. That’s ultimately your Design. All the innovation and all the flaws that it entails.

If only 60% of your original design intent is there, then that 60% is a 100% of your Design —because that’s what people see. That’s what people experience. That’s what people get. It takes a lot of hard work to implement your design vision fully. That’s why it’s so incredibly challenging to do great design. Because your idea might get mutilated along the way, and only mediocre fragments of it get to the hands of your intended audience.

It's hard. Design is what ships.

Vampires & Zombies.

How much time and space do you give your mind to think freely and learn?

Every day there’s a constant battle for your time, your energy, your resources, your mind, your attention, your devotion, your love, your body, your blood. Not that you’ll donate blood in a literal sense. It’s just that the blood that runs through your veins powers up every move you make towards anything. If something gets that move, it gets your blood. Like a vampire, but in real life.

Billions of dollars are spent on targeted advertising every year. Exorbitant amounts of resources are put into getting you on a treadmill of consumerism. When you’re consuming, you have little time to reflect. When you have a short time to reflect, you’re far more prone to being directed in whatever ways culture tells you to. A dormant mind is the best host for takeover. Like a remote controlled zombie, but in real life.

Movement & Fragmentation.

Movement. There’s an inherent bias in social media today. It’s all about MOVING pictures. A bias highly derived from TV. It’s the Visual bias. Video content is only interesting if it’s aesthetically pleasing or instigating and mainly, if it’s moving. Talking heads have little to no appeal. That’s why Instagram -one of the leading photo and video sharing platforms today - lends itself so well to fun things, like dancing , skateboarding, sports, traveling, makeup tutorials, and antics of any kind.

Fragmentation. The whole thing is also very fragmented. And entirely incoherent. It’s all about soundbites and image bites. Not particularly related to one another or to anything else. They’re just loose pieces of information roaming in the wild. They need not a beginning nor an end. It’s just a constant flow of unrelated snapshots. Incoherence is the new black. Look at this delicious cupcake. Dang girl, what a nice butt. Holy crap, he did not dive from that cliff! WTF?!? Mmm, I like these kicks, should I buy them? Nice sunset, next. Nice sunset, next. OK guys, nice sunset, I get it. Oh, Jessie is always posting these beautiful toddler photos. So cute. Why are they advertising fitness products to me? I'm not sedentary, you know? Or am I?

Boxes & Labels.

We all love boxes. And labels. We love boxing and labeling things. But what we're really obsessed with is boxing and labeling people. By defining in which box so and so is, we get a sense of identification for ourselves. It's us versus them. It's me versus him or her. It becomes easier to antagonize someone if that person is in another box. Boxes' walls are a shield of protection against the similarities that might be behind them.

First comes the box. Then comes the label. After all, boxes can be perceived as entirely similar if they get no labels. With labels, exactly identical boxes can be valued differently. It's not the box that determines any judgement of value anymore. It's the label. The box compartmentalizes. But it's the label that gives that compartment it's market price.

Republicans. Democrats. Conservatives. Liberals. Millennials. Baby-boomers. Gen-X'ers. Yuppies. Hippies. Rappers. Popular. Unpopular. Celebrities. Sub-celebrities. Non-celebrities. Whites. Blacks. Latinos. Jewish. Agnostics. Christians. Atheists. Communists. Anarchists. Free-market activists. Vegetarians. Vegans. Pescatarians. Nerds and hipsters.

What boxes and labels do you need to tear apart?

What if you just started writing?

It’s been a while since I’ve delved into the regular writing exercise. When I was a teenager, I used to have a collection of journals. I used small little notebooks where I’d write about my day and my experiences. It was very intense. One of the main differences from that time to today is that it was all analog. Pen, paper, a shelf on the wall to store each notebook when I was finished. That’s it. No digital component. No digitally saved files. A few years into this practice and it suddenly became digital. I remember using Evernote in the late 2000’s and in the early 2010’s migrating to Day One app for iOS.
I have only a handful of writings in those last two. They tended to be much more concise and less profound.

There’s something about writing on paper that makes it a more reflective exercise. Unlike digital, where you can type really fast — perhaps as quickly as you think if you are a good typist — writing with pen and paper is slow and allows for multiple thoughts to take place in between two strokes of the pen. It puts you in a different mindset. The nature and shape of what you write tend to change. Perhaps that difference gets dissolved gradually as you master both the art of handwriting and typing. After all, they’re just vehicles for your thoughts.

And then there’s editing. The act of putting together coherent thoughts is one that doesn’t often come all at once in the first try. You need to go back and look at what you’ve just written. You need to trim, and cut and rearrange and reshape and rephrase and add and subtract and change tones and melodies and thoughts. You need to read it out loud. You need to listen to it out loud. You need to identify the rhythm and the repetitions and carve into that groove. It’s not always easy, nor it’s natural. It takes a long time of awkwardness until it becomes natural. It requires of you practice and sweat and blisters before you’re able to play the song like yourself.

Writing is certainly therapeutic. It’s an exercise in meditation and reflection. It’s a mirror device that allows you to read yourself. Sometimes in the lines, most times in between the lines. The same way we look every morning in the mirror to put ourselves together for the day, writing can provide this cleansing ritual, this self-care habit that packs a significant charge of intellectual, emotional and spiritual benefits.

I confess that when I started typing these few lines above, I did not anticipate I would get all of this out in writing. Of course, these are all scattered, loose thoughts. But they’re thoughts nonetheless, and they’re recorded through a code composed of a bunch of type characters. Anyone can read this and get a glimpse into my mind. Even if I’m not present physically, part of me becomes present in each, and every character typed here. 

It’s all a bit magical, isn’t it?

FOR SIMPLICITY, blog from simplicity.

I’ve just spent a few minutes building a streamlined blog page on my personal website. The primary reason is that I want to have control over my content. The second reason is that I want it to be as simple as possible. I used to post a few pieces on Medium on the very beginning of their publishing platform because it was simple. Then it became cluttered. It became something else that, to me, was no longer desirable. One of the blogs that I always admired for its simplicity is John Gruber’s Daring Fireball. Another one is Leo Babauta’s  Zen Habits. They have text and links, and that’s it.  No ad banners, no other visual distractions. 

The other aspect of posting here, on my own space, rather than on other social media websites is that here I can shut the comments off. I can shut the “likes” off. I can simply publish whatever I want without being concerned about the kind of feedback it will gather nor how that feedback would clutter and possibly obliterate the original post. And, I also don’t need to be worried about the lack of any feedback or if anyone is ever reading this or engaging with my content. I honestly don’t care. I post mostly things that I find beautiful, truthful, useful, meaningful and worthwhile for me. Chances are those things will have value for somebody else too. But my concern doesn’t go beyond that hope of it being of value for you too. And that’s freeing. 

Having this space allows me to exercise liberty. And it centralizes my content and my story in a place I can control.  And it’s refreshing to have a tool of self-expression that is not hijacked by sinister social media powers at every single interaction and keyword. 

Simplify the form to amplify the content.