Tiago Forte: The Future of Education – North Star Podcast, Hosted by David Perell

Check out the North Star Podcast Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Lifelong learning doesn’t happen without community” – David Perell
    • A community is a group of people who, when you leave, proactively pull you back
  • Online schools allow you to connect with people who share select interests
    • In real life, you’d have to drive for miles, depending on where you live, to find someone who shares a specific interest. On the internet, you simply shout out into the void and people come to you.
  • “When you actually write, the quality of your thinking gets so sharp that your ideas don’t just become interesting, they have the potential to be dangerous” David Perell
  • A tip for long-form writing: Get to the point as quickly as possible
  • Digital note-taking allows you to save all your ideas for the rest of your life
    • As the number of your stored notes increases linearly, the number of connections you can make between them increases exponentially 
  • The five things to look for when receiving feedback (C.R.I.B.S.):
    • C: Confusing – Rewrite the confusing part
    • R: Repeated – Delete anything that’s repeated
    • I: Insightful – Talk more about interesting and insightful areas
    • B: Boring: Consider deleting or rewriting the boring areas
    • S: Surprising: There should be an element of surprise for the reader
  • When you’re the bridge between disparate intersections, each new intersection reduces your competition (you generally need to intersect three fields to reduce your competition to zero)
    • A perfect example: Elon Musk bridges the combination of physics, rocket science, and business
  • Quotes to ponder:
    • “If you’re doing something that you can actually describe well, it’s probably not ambitious enough” David Perell
    • “If you have a job that there’s a name for, over the long arc of time it’s over”David Perell
    • “Many of the very best things that have ever been written are really good summaries of things other people have done” – David Perell

Books Mentioned

  • Atomic Habits by James Clear is a self-help book written to help build good habits and break bad ones

Resources Mentioned

  • Write of Passage is an online writing course created by David Perell
  • The Habits Academy, from James Clear, is an online training platform for people interested in increasing their productivity
  • Marie Forleo’s B-School is an online video training program for marketing
  • Zoom, video conferencing software being used for live education 
  • Lambda School is an online, 30-week computer-science academy
  • Concepts is a sketchbook app made for creators

Intro

The Shifting Bottleneck of Online Education

  • Online education is about to become big
  • Throughout its history, online education has primarily been concerned with supplying as much information as possible
    • Providers assumed that the more information thrown at you, the more you’d learn
  • The most significant flaw of online education:
    • For the vast majority of subjects, simply providing pre-recorded modules doesn’t work well
  • The bottleneck of education has shifted from access to information to personal accountability
    • “I still don’t think we’ve grappled with the moving of the bottleneck, because it was in its previous place for centuries, if not millennia” – Tiago Forte 
    • It was only 20 years ago that we had to go down to the local library to confirm a simple fact in an encyclopedia!
  • Previously, it was the school’s job to punish and incentivize students to comply with their rules and complete their requirements
    • When moving to online schooling, you cannot use these same (traditional) metrics that measure compliance and completion

Community and Education

  • Online education has also been lacking a strong community component
    • Community provides implicit accountability mechanisms
      • “You meet certain standards because you look around and people would be disappointed, people who you respect, if you didn’t uphold those standards” – Tiago Forte 
    • “The definition of a community is a group of people who, when you leave, they proactively pull you back” – David Perell
  • There is an established pattern of friendships forming online and moving to the real world (i.e., with Twitter)
    • David predicts this will also hold true for online schools
  • “Lifelong learning doesn’t happen without community” – David Perell

The Benefits of Online Schools

  • “We measure student impact by what happens in the real world” – David Perell
  • Many of the benefits of online education are intangible 
    • Write of Passage, David’s online writing course has morphed from “just an online school” to a community where people can share ideas and form deep, intellectual friendships
      • It’s easier to build relationships when you share a vehicle of engagement to bond over
  • Online schools allow you to connect with people who select interests
    • In real life, you’d have to drive for miles, depending on where you live, to find someone who shares a specific interest. On the internet, you simply shout out into the void and people come to you.

Changing Identity at Scale

  • Oftentimes, the reason someone has trouble writing is because of a psychological block, not ineptitude
    • Only by changing someone’s identity through recognizing biases and fixing self-perception can you improve their writing skills
  • “The great intellectual challenge of building an online school is changing identity at scale” – David Perell 
    • Tiago has found that simply spending enough time with a student shifts their identity to be more similar to that of his own
      • But again, the challenge is scaling at a reasonable cost

Take Responsibility for Your Words

  • “This is one of the things that infuriates me about the education system: it neuters people, it strips away their agency, and it doesn’t teach them to be responsible for the words that they write on a page”David Perell
    • Learning to write through traditional schooling makes the student dependent on the teacher for editing (it also dilutes their writing in order to appease)
  • “When you actually write, the quality of your thinking gets so sharp that your ideas don’t just become interesting, they have the potential to be dangerous” David Perell
    • “The cliche here is that the pen is mightier than the sword because it’s true. Ideas are what move the world at the end of the day.” 
  • Good writing requires you to take a stand and sharpen your ideas through interactions with other people
    • “The only way to do that is to take responsibility for your own words, and once you have that power in your hands, that’s when identity begins to change” – David Perell

Get to the Point

  • An online reader is a rare gift
    • Every reader has given you their precious time, so you owe it to them to get to the point QUICKLY

Multimedia in the New Age

  • David recently met a 13-year-old kid who is combining photography and digital editing to recreate photos of reality in his own image
    • The 13-year-old also acts on Broadway and writes for the New York Times
  • The tools of content creation have been so democratized that users are no longer confined to the craft of the medium
    • You no longer need to know how to develop film to be a filmmaker
    • Content creators in the new age start with an idea and pick the creative tools necessary to realize it, rather than limiting themselves to one medium
  • “More and more of life and work and business that I see resembles a political campaign” – Tiago Forte 
    • To create a significant change, you need messaging, consistency, brand appeal, and spokespeople

The Medium is the Message

  • “There is something profound happening with audio right now” – David Perell
  • Alex Danco published a piece, The Audio Revolution, analyzing Marshall McLuhan’s theory of hot and cold media and how it applies today
    • Hot media is that which is clear, unambiguous, and requires no participation on your part to understand
    • Cold media is that which is ambiguous, contains gaps in information, and requires you to actively participate in integrating and understanding the information
    • McLuhan’s insight was that the medium of presentation for information shapes our perception of information as much as the content itself
  • YouTube streams and podcast consumption (hot media) have exploded in number
    • TV has also shifted from cold to hot, reflecting increased tensions
  • The statistic that Americans are still watching 5 hours of TV/day is warped because TV serves as ambient, background noise for many Americans

How Write of Passage was Created

  • David and Tiago saw a need for applying their system of idea management to creative output
  • They hired a ten-person Hollywood film crew to film the course and recruited thirty-one beta testers for feedback
  • David and Tiago filmed every day, and then sent what they filmed to the beta testers who tested thins overnight
    • At least one person was working on the product 24/7 for a week
  • One lesson from Write of Passage’s creation:
    • Don’t outsource your code. Not only is it sensitive information but by keeping your code in-house, you can reiterate your feedback loops faster and faster.
      • Outsourcing work creates inherent communication challenges, unlike in-house production. It’s naturally easier to communicate with an in-house group than an outside company, leading to faster feedback loop iteration.

Marketing Your Creation

  • Marketing your creation will be harder than creating it
    • “The online course business is about making a decent course, and being an incredible marketer” – David Perell
  • David learned from the CEO of Teachable that making a course is decently hard, but selling a course is extremely difficult
    • The main reason why Write of Passage was so successful was because David had already been building an audience for years
  • Tiago previously viewed marketing as dirty and unintellectual, but had a change of heart and now views it as a form of deep customer service
  • For a marketer, someone choosing to opt-out is just as valuable as someone choosing to buy

Note-Taking

  • Note-taking lies at the crux of content creation, productivity, and memory enhancement 
  • The Lindy effect summed up: the longer something has been around, the longer it’ll continue to be around and the more you can trust it
    • Notes are as old as Hammurabi’s Code
  • People renowned for their creative output like da Vinci were also known for their prolific note-taking
  • Digital note-taking allows you to save all your ideas for the rest of your life
    • As the number of your stored notes increases linearly, the number of connections you can make between them increases exponentially 
  • “Note-taking used to be specialized based on the function or activity” – Tiago Forte
    • There used to be many different products (i.e., Post-its, legal pads, shopping list pads, etc.) but now they’re all converging into one system (phones)
    • “We’re replacing dozens of specialized solutions with one general solution” 

Using Feedback

  • The fastest way to learn and improve at something is just to accelerate your feedback loops” – David Perell
  • “You want to publish ideas, at first, in the lowest cost possible” David Perell
    • The cost of conversation is zero, so it should serve as ground zero for idea testing
    • Then, you should share your ideas on Twitter before ultimately scaling up to publishing the final product
    • All the while, you should be constantly receiving feedback and fixing what’s necessary
  • The five things to look for when receiving feedback (C.R.I.B.S.):
    • C: Confusing – Rewrite the confusing part
    • R: Repeated – Delete anything that’s repeated
    • I: Insightful – Talk more about interesting and insightful areas
    • B: Boring: Consider deleting or rewriting the boring areas
    • S: Surprising: There should be an element of surprise for the reader
  • Feedback teaches you how to write, not your teacher
  • Your rate of learning greatly increases once you are no longer emotionally fazed by online feedback

Points to Ponder

  • “It’s only when you have the possibility of someone disagreeing and opting out that you really have the chance to change something.” Tiago Forte
  • “If you’re doing something that you can actually describe well, it’s probably not ambitious enough” David Perell
  • “One of the challenges of being an entrepreneur is knowing when to innovate and  when to just trust the consensus” – David Perell
  • “Quality and quantity don’t have to be traded off. They can be one and the same.”Tiago Forte
  • “If you have a job that there’s a name for, over the long arc of time it’s over”David Perell
  • The creative output one can achieve when removing their fear and ego from the creative process is awe-inspiring
    • You’re the only one who has the power to unlock your potential

Innovations in Summarization

  • After learning a fact, people forget what was like not to know that fact
    • “They [writers] assume that just because something is out there everybody knows it” – David Perell
  • It’s ridiculous not to write about an idea just because it’s already on the internet
  • “Many of the very best things that have ever been written are really good summaries of things other people have done” – David Perell
  • So much of the way knowledge advances is by constantly combining, summarizing, and distilling
    • Writing allows you to freeze your thoughts in time
      • You can then explore these thoughts from an entirely different perspective that is unavailable while you’re in the flow of your thoughts
  • We vastly underestimate the power of taking something that’s already been invented and applying it to something else
    • Inventing doesn’t require you to introduce a newly-discovered, breakthrough idea to the world
      • Couch surfing already existed, Airbnb just monetized it
  • “It is an act of deep creativity to summarize one book. You, in a way, have to be more courageous than the author himself or herself.” – Tiago Forte
    • The author has their own biases and assumptions which prevent them from understanding the reader’s perspective. Summarizing a book requires you to take the ideas within and completely reorganize the piece, minus filler content, for someone with no context.

Connecting & Translating Idea

  • “Every good idea has to be translated as if it was a new language for every generation because every generation is like a new species in many ways”Tiago Forte
  • Truly powerful ideas have applications in many areas of society
    • The concept of modularity has been proven to benefit agriculture, healthcare, aerospace, and even therapy
  • There is a great need in society for bridge-builders who connect diverse fields 
    • Like connecting software and healthcare, or defense and agriculture, or even Star Wars and economics
  • When you are the bridge between disparate intersections, each new intersection reduces your competition
    • You generally need to intersect three fields to reduce your competition to zero: Elon Musk is the combination of physics, rocket science, and business
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