In this edition:
✍🏼 Oh, but darling, what if you fly? - by Danu Poyner
🎙 Still Curious Podcast - Navigating the passing of a loved one with estate planning lawyer and author Robert Kabacy
🤲 Grokkist Guide To The Beatles - by Trevor Poyner
🍬 Snackables - assorted awesome links
📩 Subscribe to get the Grokkist Scholé Supplement in your inbox every two weeks.
✍🏼 Oh, but darling, what if you fly?
“There is an art, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”
- Douglas Adams, Life The Universe & Everything
This advice from The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy is funny because it’s both true and spectacularly unhelpful. A lot of good advice is like that.
I have always been a fast learner. Throw me into something I don’t understand and I will most probably figure out the shape of it soon enough. Fast forward a little and you’ll probably find me helping others get the gist of it.
I’ve been through that process enough times in my life to trust in it. That trust gives me confidence. Not the cockiness that comes from too much confidence (though I’ve been there too). Just the right amount of confidence to counter the insecurity of having too little. It’s a careful balancing act that requires ongoing calibration.
If learning a brand new thing feels a lot like flying, then finely calibrated confidence is what allows me to throw myself at the ground and miss. The confidence that I will figure it out pushes my natural terror back into the shadows and, paradoxically, this is often what keeps me in the air long enough to allow the figuring out to actually occur.
This has worked for me in so many situations, from moving to unfamiliar cities, to crisis-managing large organisational projects under pressure, and even learning late (far too late) how to do basic adult things like shop for groceries and cook for myself.
Other people often experience this as me landing on my feet, or calmly figuring stuff out with grace, speed and precision. To have such a reputation is among the grokkist’s chief virtues.
If I were to extract a systematic process from my messy lived experience (spoiler: I am going to do that), I’d say I follow a four-step process to figuring stuff out with grace, speed and precision: Begin, Repeat, Extend, Improvise.
The goal of Begin is to examine the number of steps preventing us from starting and reduce it to zero. Some of that is practical – making space, making sure we have what we need etc. Most of it is mental and emotional. The enemy is procrastination by perfectionism - the fear of making a mistake, analysis paralysis or the overwhelm of too many options.
Once we are left with Zero Steps between us and Starting, wherever we put our feet next will be out over open air. At this point we have Begun and we are already flying.
Now comes Repeat, which is about hovering slightly above the ground while flapping our wings to stay in the air. There might be some wobbles and tumbles, but if we can find a way get a steady flapping rhythm going, we needn’t fall back to earth.
Once we are able to keep flapping our wings without thinking about it too much, we’re ready to Extend. This is about carefully and intentionally selecting a new technique to try, while keeping everything else going as it is. Flying is a complex system, so we don’t want to try too many things at once. We need to take the time to notice how the new technique interacts with and changes the dynamics of our steady rhythm, and whether it throws anything else off-balance (it will).
Once we’ve comfortably absorbed one new technique, we can Extend to another. In such fashion we will begin to develop a repertoire of possibilities to draw on in different situations.
If we carry on this way for long enough, eventually instead of thinking about it, we will be just doing it. We will be able to select the right technique from our repertoire as the situation demands, seamlessly adapting while keeping the whole show in the air. We are now able to Improvise. We can sleep on the wing, do loop-de-loops, or fly to another hemisphere for the winter.
I’ve selected flying as the central grokking metaphor here because it suggests the emotional intensity and uplift of learning something new. I’ve seen more mechanistic versions of the same idea which are more reassuringly concrete, with charts. But I think mechanistic approaches are misleading.
Learning isn’t a predictable, repeatable process that leads to a preset destination on a pre-defined timetable. That’s just curriculum – a fast chariot speeding along through life as if it were a course of 73 videos at 1.5x speed with a certificate at the end.
Learning anything worthwhile is a living process. And one thing we know about life is it’s going to throw us around a fair bit.
“The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it's as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.”
- Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures
Whether we like it or not, we are all thrown into this world where we must live forwards but understand backwards (a Kierkegaard reference, for those playing at home).
In such conditions, it’s a big flex to develop the confidence to throw yourself.
I'll take you behind-the-scenes of my Still Curious podcast operation, warts and all, and break down my process in detail so you can use it as a starting point for your own project. And of course answer all your questions.
Just $10. (Free for Grokkist Supporters)
🧑🏽💻 CLICK FOR DETAILS
🎙Still Curious Podcast
I heard a joke once: "Is there life after death? Yes, but we're not around to be part of it."
My latest podcast guest Bob is caring, engaging and funny when talking about a topic most of us would prefer not to think about - what happens after we die for those who are left behind.
I particularly enjoyed hearing the story of how the experience of dealing with his own mother's passing led Bob to create a book that helps people navigate the practical non-legal aspects of dealing with the loss of a loved one.
As well as being an estate planning lawyer, Bob is also a stage magician, and amazingly even sometimes combines the two!
In this episode
- Navigating the dynamics of death, grief and loss, from brain fog to finding a sense of control.
- Arguing over estates and why 70% of people don't make plans for what happens after they die.
- Explaining the mechanics of probate with a story about picking berries.
- Being a stage magician and how magic helps with storytelling.
- What we can learn from near-death experiences.
- Why patience matters in law as well as in marriage.
- Swimming and mindfulness.
🤲 Grokkist Guide To...
Your free and fulsome guide to grokking That Thing, curated by GrokGuides who know and care
Trevor is currently recovering from a 40+ year career in university administration, most recently as the Manager, Academic Secretariat at Bond University. He has balanced the often mediocre and pedantic nature of such work with a lifelong interest in music of all genres and considers that The Beatles currently represent the pinnacle of achievement in this area.
🤩 What gets me excited about The Beatles
I first heard The Beatles in late 1962 at age 11 and, although I thought they were amazing at that time, I did not think I would still be listening to them 60 years later with even greater enthusiasm.
The Beatles were a cultural phenomenon that impacted on society in ways never seen before or since, but the foundation of their success was their music. Often, in relation to other artists, we look at one or two particular classic songs or albums that established them as major artists due to their sales or influence, with the rest of their work of diminishing importance. The Beatles are unique in that every album, and most of the singles, they recorded reached number one in the music charts, set new records for sales around the world, and continue to be influential in all genres of music to this day. Those recordings continue to sell, so much so that in the first 10 years of the current century, the Beatles were the top selling artists in the world and in March 2022, according to Business Insider, were the top selling artists of all time having sold 183 million units.
The reason for this amazing longevity is the quality of their songs, their recordings and their performances sprinkled throughout with liberal amounts of personality, wit, imagination, fearlessness, innovation and musicianship.
Assorted awesome links
A couple of years ago I was introduced to the work of James Baldwin, specifically The Fire Next Time. It knocked me flat. Here is Chris Rock reading Baldwin's Letter To My Nephew, a frank and open-hearted introduction to the role of race in America and the world his 14yo nephew is being thrown into. Full text available here.
The delightfully-named 'Rest of World' is a nonprofit journalism organisation that writes stories about technology, culture and the human experience in spaces outside our usual frame of reference. Representative sample: this article about packaging the asylum seeker experience for TikTok.
A revealing conversation about the 'class ceiling' facing working-class professionals, masking to fit in among front-row colleagues, and how social class is a dimension most often left out of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
A no-code solution for visualising your data. Stylish presentation with lots of visualisation options available. Upload your data, play with the options until you're happy, then download or embed the results. Free plan available (a real one, not a trick one).
Corporate Millennial Anxiety is a highly-entertaining Instagram meme account that will help liven up your next doomscrolling session.
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We're building a community of learners, educators and practitioners who are curious, creative and committed to finding and designing learning experiences that set the soul of fire. Learn more at the Grokkist website.