In this edition:
✍🏼 "Are we still having fun?" - editorial by Danu
🎙 Still Curious Podcast - announcing a major quality-of-life update
🪧 Community Corner - Shout-outs and shareables from fellow grokkists
🍬 Snackables - assorted awesome links
📩 Subscribe to get the Grokkist Scholé Supplement in your inbox every two weeks.
✍🏼 "Are we still having fun?"
It's been a year since I started Still Curious and wondered out loud what it means to be an adult who still has your curiosity intact when so much of the world seems designed to beat it out of you from an early age, starting with school.
Since then I've had lots of conversations with intensely curious adults on and off the podcast about their experiences and how they move through the world, learning what excites them and also the kinds of issues they have to navigate.
From these conversations began to emerge the idea of a community resource for the kind of person who is constantly grokking stuff.
As well as the positive things others notice about such folks – their optimism and tenacity, and how quickly they pick up new stuff and solve problems no-one else can even see clearly – there are often difficulties below the surface that others don't always see.
One common thread is a sense of alienation – from formal learning, from work, and sometimes from themselves. Even though they are often high achievers, socially connected and well-liked, they know they don't naturally fit in most structures and they also lack meaningful ways to measure themselves up to know where their abilities really stand in the areas that matter to them.
In short, they – that is, we – lack a positive identity. So I created the term grokkist to embody a self-image we can identify with and draw on when helpful.
One teensy hurdle – what exactly is a grokkist?
And what does it even mean to create a community resource for the kind of person who prides themselves on being independently resourceful and who probably wouldn't join any club that would have them as a member anyway?
I don't have all the answers to that yet. I'm still grokking it!
And actually, figuring it out is a huge part of what makes it fun.
Sometimes I forget to have fun with it. My head gets full of serious stuff about online business models, being a content creator, building community, social media, and on and on and on.
Well-meaning people give me sensible advice because they want me to succeed. I want me to succeed. And I feel the weight of responsibility to succeed, because I care deeply about what I'm doing and who it can help.
So I whiplash between learning furiously from people who know more than me, and reminding myself that if I just follow the same steps everyone else does, I will end up in the same place they did, and that's not really what I want or why I started.
The pressure to conform to 'what works' is immense, because it does work. Sort of. But that's how they get you.
Most of the time these days it's me applying that pressure to myself. It's ironic that of all the times I've had to concentrate hard to hold onto my grokkist's spirit, the most challenging should be when it's me choosing my own adventure.
"Are we still having fun?" is a good question to keep with you at all times. It's also a kind of Andon cord you can pull if the answer isn't the right one.
The truth is, while I have a direction, lots of ideas and lots of good reasons I can give you for those ideas, I don't really know what I'm doing or how I'm going to get there and I'll probably change my mind about most of it a hundred times along the way.
You might hear me complain and obsess and overanalyse in detail about how messy it all is – that's one of the ways you can tell I'm having fun!
But I do intend to figure it out, and I intend to do it my own way and on my own schedule, though hopefully with and among friends who get me. And when I do, you'll know about it.
Anyone who knows a grokkist knows that when they say something like that, it's usually a good bet to believe them.
🎙Still Curious Podcast
Announcing a major quality-of-life update
Here's a summary of improvements I'm making to the podcast:
- Retitle episodes to better reflect the 'red thread' of each conversation
- For each episode, create a detailed digest that summarises the guest's 'squiggly' path, the red thread, decisive moments and the strengths they've developed from synthesising learning across their various experiences
- Create a podcast hub on the Grokkist site and give each episode its own feature page with key topics and tangents, audio highlights, episode digest, links to stuff we mentioned and an interactive transcript
- Remaster earlier episodes to bring the audio, editing and visual standards up to a consistent standard across the series
The first three episodes below are already online on the new podcast hub – the rest will follow in the coming weeks.
The new hub will eventually replace the existing stand-alone stillcuriouspodcast.com website.
This quality-of-life refresh is both a reflection of ongoing evolution in how I think about the podcast, and a response to some of the most common suggestions I hear from listeners.
More context below if you're interested.
Common suggestions and criticisms
- I'm curious, but my media diet is already full. I'd really like a proper summary of why I might care about this conversation and the kind of takeaways I can expect from the episode before I commit to an hour of listening.
- When I browse through the episodes, the titles don't help me choose what looks interesting, unless I'm interested in a specific field of work, even though the actual field of work is not really what the podcast is about anyway.
- It's cool that the conversations go on wibbly-wobbly tangents and have room to breathe – plenty of good stuff comes out that way – but can we just get a simple chronological overview of the guest's journey?
- I like the idea of the podcast but I'm more of a reader than a podcast listener. BUT, I'm not going to just read a transcript either (eew, trash). I'd like to read an article-based summary sprinkled with some audio highlights.
- Conversations are nice, but can you do more to package up what we can learn from all these conversations as a whole? I liked your first episode.
Stuff I've noticed about listening behaviour
- The episodes don't really date, and continue to get a steady rate of downloads after the initial peak upon release, even after a year.
- New listeners that come in through the guest's network will usually explore the site and sample a handful of other episodes.
- The episodes with the lowest engagement overall are the shorter solo 'audio-essay' episodes I've done (except for the initial intro episode)
How I'm thinking about the podcast now
My thinking on the audio essays is that they are the right kind of content, but the wrong kind of format. Expect them to come back later in a different form, probably involving video, animation and/or music.
Meanwhile, I've come to see the podcast as a library of conversations which go inside the rich life experiences of fellow grokkists from many different walks of life as they reflect out loud on navigating their squiggly careers and overwhelming array of interests.
As befits a library, I'm putting some extra love into how the collection is organised and presented overall, which I trust is evident in the new podcast hub format.
Each episode mostly ends up being a journey in self-understanding, both for the guest and the listener, as we discover the red thread of excitement that pulls each guest ever onward and the amazing strengths and perspectives they've developed from synthesising all the random stuff they've learned along the way.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and whether you want me to lean further into this direction in future episodes. As always, just reply here or DM me on socials.
🪧 Community Corner
Shout-outs and shareables from fellow grokkists
A new video essay on Epicurean philosophy and a companion article in the BBC from Nathanology about what this 2,000-year-old Ancient Greek philosophy can tell us about how we live in the digital world today.
Some kind words from new subscriber Jonny that made my day:
My career is only just getting started and it's already 'squiggly'. When I find people like Nathan and yourself, I am inspired and excited by the fact that I am not alone in this journey.
Assorted awesome links
History of the bass, as performed through 45 songs and 9 different basses. The love of music is palpable. Part of a series that also includes history of the violin, saxophone and piano.
Where do you get your news? Like many millennials, I don't read newspapers, don't watch TV news and have a default-level distrust of journalists and media in general. Instead, I've mostly cobbled together a bunch of high-quality newsletters and social media accounts sources I consider authoritative and trustworthy.
I've been reading International Intrigue most days for several months now and for me it's a great toilet-read roundup of stuff that's going on around the world in the realm of international relations and geopolitics. It covers one event in a few in-depth paragraphs and then has a quick-fire summary of significant events in countries around the world.
There's little doubt tech is slowly becoming a regulated industry. But what does that mean exactly? Regulation is political, messy and complicated – it's about contest and trade-offs between various public goods that are often incommensurable. Shouty catch-cries to 'break up big tech' don't actually help us very much. Here's a very considered and good-faith article on the issues involved, for those who enjoy that sort of thing.
An enjoyable look back at the most Shazam'd songs over the last 20 years, as well as some other notable and surprising Shazam stats.
A tongue-in-cheek tool for generating one of those bloated hyper-inspirational LinkedIn posts that make the platform such a thrill to be part of. Example below - I told it I'd sent out a newsletter and to follow your passions, and set the cringe level to 'moderate'. Enjoy!