Writing to learn, learning to write. With practice comes clarity of purpose. #100days
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www.enablehuman.com @mali_finally

Sonke Ahrens

Sönke Ahrens - @soenke_ahrens


Pronounced zstonke

  • Lives in Essen, works at Essen University.
  • My book could sound like it's about productivity. But my Main interest is in 'How to think better'.
  • Has a background in systems therapy, online coaching at the moment exclusively on zettelkasten
  • The background of the book, was partly a procrastination project, he was working on a book and struggled in finding the right tools.
  • Worked on theory of Nicholas Lumen for sometime, didn't take his method of zettelkasten seriously for a while.
  • Realised that his theories are interconnected with the idea of decentralizing the mind and using tools to improve the level of complexity of your thinking. 


Hopes  to spare people a lot of the mistakes he made, while tinkering with ways to capture information in his head. Hopes to inspire people to take more notes, believes there's a need to challenge your own ideas, which requires an external brain.

  • Taking notes will help you having a sparing partner.
  • Presumably to challenge your own assumptions.
  • Reminds you to realize what you're actually thinking.
  • Notes make it explicit.
  • Struggle in early days of writing, was finding things again.  

Hopes to spark discussion on how we organize higher education. Believes that Higher ed is streamlined along old ideas of you have to have a plan in hand, come up with hypothesis first then you do the work. 


On whether he introduces zettelkasten to his students:

  • Noticed that students nearer exam either have a good note-taking habit, or wish they did. 
  • Students at the outset of a course, don't see the benefit of investing in good notes (zettelkasten), because they're not out to become professors and write books.  
  • Tied this to the legacy of the educational system they came from, where 'learning' was created in packages.
  • Strategy is to bring older students to speak with younger students, to share what the advantage is to have writing system earlier.  It's important to just write, you can adjust the process along the way.
  • Investing exercise, where people are made to act old, and it impacts their investing decisions. 


On Luhmens system; what surprised you.

Not much. It's fairly clear.

On what people seek to start their process

  • There is a lack of step by step for software, which is what people seek
  • There's a misunderstanding about trying to follow a step by step process, because you need to adjust it for your own needs.
  • In terms of software, stick to what you're comfortable with, because if you invest in a whole new system, you'll switch, and switching is what costs you.
  • Academics are more interested in literature notes and references, that may not be for you/
  • Be ok with Heirarchy, it's not a problem, it just shouldn't be hard wired into the system/software


On what people misunderstand or don't really get about the system.

  • People are hard on themselves about not having the perfect system. 
  • Also see the search for the perfect system, and punishing themselves about things not being easy
  • I'd like to see people not punishing themselves, because writing is not easy. 
  • Of course, there's always a struggle with the organization, and where do I connect this idea to others, and that's part of the system.
  • There is a feedback loop of adjusting and you might have extensive notes, and at times not enough, and it's alright.  Rephrasing difficult text in your own words is a challenge, but that's the point. 
  • The recursive process of going into whatever is challenging you is a productive process of writing, so go ahead and practice writing on the type of system you want by taking notes.

On starting for the first time

  • What you shouldn't do is move all your notes into your system and spend  time on that. It's more about doing it differently. Don't do massive all encompassing migrations.
  • If you take old notes and want to intergrate it iwith your stystem that's fine, just do it if you're already using them. Because when you took those notes, it was for a different context, you might not be able to remember the reason you took those notes. 
  • If early on you can't make connections, then be explicit what's already on your mind, in terms of connections, which will give you a start.  
  • Start with the projects you have, the ideas you already have,
  • Start with the hierarchy / Topics
  • Luhmen started with topics, the main areas of interest, the topics overtime less and less important, just to hardwire the heirarachy into your system. 

Digital Jubilee - Once a year, if you have a jumble of notes, file them away. 


On not starting from the bottom up 

  • Used to write blog post by first going through hundreds of notes and collecting material.  If criteria was what is interesting, everything would make the cut.
  • Would start with dozens of notes and trimming it to the essence.
  • Now starts with, what do I know is the main idea, which is always more intuitive. Something that comes instantly to mind.
  • Goes through notes with this in mind, and looks for what he needs in his notes. 
  • Also looking at it as problems.  What can be your own contribution, and what is the problem in the area you're looking at. This gives you a focus. It doesn't need to be a formulated question. Try to put a finger on what bothers you about what the problem may be here. This makes for a good filter if done well.

On when to file by context, not by subject

  • Questions asked
    • What is a context?
    • How do I know what my contexts are, if I don't know what I'll be working on in the future?
    • How do I know I'll want to see it again?
  • Contexts and topics aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, that said, a note put in a specific context can contribute to a specific topic. 
  • Stressed the difference to collection; If you think "what kind of topic do I file this under", this is thinking like a collector. Adding something to a collection is just additional information
  • When you ask, to which kind of discussion, to which note sequence, can this idea contribute to, you dive into the content, you think about what difference this new information makes for your previous held beliefs. Information can only make a difference in regard  to something.
  • Context is more on the content level, topic is almost always thinking about it at a higher level, as opposed to thinking within something, you're trying to think more about  the difference the new information makes to the existing content. 
  • You're not looking at keywords, or the index. You're thinking; Is it just an addition, or is it a contradiction, do I have to change what I thought before, or my previously held belief. You're trying to make this explicit. Getting as quickly as possible into the content, and not trying to think at a level above where you just sort stuff.  This is the main pitfall when collecting notes. 
  • You might want to write the note already in dialogue with pre-existing notes, treat the system as a partner, and answering the note you're connecting the new one to.  Which is very different to just collecting. 

On the difficulty of conceptualizing the note system' purpose (visualizing context as further down from topic, 2nd order effect, usage, etc)

  • It's natural to treat any kind of software where you collect ideas as a kind of collection in the begininning 
  • Not sure it's hard necessarily, more about thinking differently, we like to collect stuff, and to feel there is more and more and more. 
  • It seems less productive to pause and think, how am I might have been wrong before. This is what I'm more interested in, "how do I discover where I am wrong, how do I reforumulate previously held beliefs, which might be less natural"
  • People tend to read what they already know, productivity people read productivity, design, design, engineering engineering etc.
  • Shocks, surprises, violates my expectation, are the books I keep.  I want to find the best attack vectors in to my existing mental model.
  • It's the challenge of the time, we're told to be open-minded, which means you'll be open to a lot of b.s. you have to 'close yourself down' be more discerning 
  • It's not about being open or close minded, how do you deal with being selective in a way that still challenges you, which is tricky, even to write about.
  • Question I ask myself is, do I want to be right, or do I want to be effective in this situation. 

On spaced repetition (memorisation techniques), why does it seem to be the opposite of the second brain

  • I don't memorize things, I know some professions have the need, almost always the need for memorization in complete artificial settings within education.
  • You can ask yourself, if you have trouble with memorization, try to understand it a little better, have more examples, have more connections to other ideas to elaborate further on it. 
  • Believes when you have a system in place where you revisit old notes, that's a type of built in spaced repetition. 

On theoretical questions he's pondering

  • Top of mind is how to be open minded without getting too distracted. How to work against your biases, dealing with partisanship, filter bubbles and whether education can help in solving that problem. 
  • Earlier days, top of mind was, how to get insight, what kind of environment do we need to gain insight and change our mind in a fundamental way, not a superficial way. Studied history of science, the externalization of ideas within a laboratory, and the difference between thinking with something and thinking within something. would like to elaborate more on this.

Questions from chat

Software, apps, and technologies

  • Playing with Roam, not fully committed 
  • The next step is to collaborate, interconnecting notes, not having stand alone nodes.

Luhmann says to take sufficient notes on a source so you don't have to read it again, worried it slows him down too much

  • Luhmann didn't revisit because he extracted everything, he was selective and then moved on. 
  • Don't let the system impose a structure on you, the system should serve your work, should help you, it shouldn't put pressure on you to make extensive notes.  Being a professional reader doesn't mean to have a certain level of note taking. It means being able to adjust the amount of time and attention you'll pay to a text. That could mean reading the title and throwing it away, or taking a week to spend the time pouring through it and rephrasing it. Personally skips taking notes at times, sometimes does pe and paper notes, sometimes many notes for one text because its more informative.
  • It's about adjusting, if you feel like it's wasting time, maybe you should understand where to move on.
  • Don't outsource your agency to the system, it's about adaptation and evolving your existing system.


Command

Same home, dark outside, no lights in the home, or nothing to indicate there are lights outside. Pitch black.

Suddenly the sky is illuminated, it’s arcs of lightening. There was recently a storm and it was beautiful, light dancing in the sky before it rained.

It felt far away, but at closer look it was strange... the lightening storm over the water, had rays of lightening from the sky to the earth, the lightening was strung together horizontally at the top of the sky, and at the bottom where it met the earth. Shaped like prison bars...how odd...

The lightening flashes again, this time closer, as if it was giving chase. I hear a voice echo a command throughout my dream, it reverberates, “GO!”.

We started moving the people to hide in all the washrooms, figuring maybe, with the warning comes a fast moving lightening, with it a storm strong enough to break through the windows. The voice was commanding, primal almost. We scramble to the washrooms as the only cover in the home. With all doors almost closed I hear a more forceful, louder command. “MOVE!!!” It shook me to wakefulness.

Tell your friends

Hey folks, I'm going to start doing something. It's an experiment. If it succeeds, you won't hear about it from me.

The rational is, that I realized a pattern I've been stuck in. Generate ideas, share them all, sit back, achieve none.

What I'll do differently is invite a small group to partake in this experiment. If it provides value to them, you'll hear about it. If it doesn't, I try it differently with another small group.

Rinse and repeat.

A dreadfully simple process, that I commit to now following.

That is all.

Thank you for being here.

Global Jam Feedback

What went well today is
- Interaction, meaningful conversations, direction and organization of the Jam
- Feeling Connected to people even remotely
- Constraints make u more creative
- different levels of experience and points of view brings in new points of view
- Exposure to different ideation approaches
- The agenda the collective online co-hosting / co-facilitation
- Jamming with the Jam, but also jamming with music! :D
- Getting in the creative process and stepping out of fear! Discovering awesome features in Zoom Having some laughs and learning new things
- Lots of laughter
- Creative volunteers
- Team engagment
- Everyone engaged in the process, however experimental it was :)
- Breakout rooms (divide the Join) & Joint slideshow
-people who showed. stayed. they are committed. they are part of the tribe. i want to see more of them.
- not being stuck alone
- being with friends

It would be better next time if
- get the agenda ahead of time.
- if we had guest Jam speakers outside our community to co-facilitate segments and host some parts ... just a new flavor ... like how Markus came in and supported
- We have the schedule in advance
- being online is not the same as in-person.. so possibly sharing the themes bit earlier can allow for more deliberations :) and development of concepts
- Session to explain the design process in detail
- We have less connection issues to do some cool musical jamming interludes! Internet please move faster!!!
- physical proxies
- more prototypes
- More music!
- Non-digital Jam ! ;)

What stood out to you?

- all of you people
- people from different industries participating. we need more non-designers :)
- the enthusiasm of the group :)
- Connection!
- Easy and hassle free exchange of ideas
- Laughter
-We were a small group but really involved! Time flew by really fast as well…
- We were able to keep meaningful interaction online
-The use of zoom technology and how its features enable collaboration ... we just need to practice some more
- Easy and hassle free exchange of ideas
- Jammers' creativity and collaboration within the constraints
- positivity
- mo's dj skills
- The theme lol

Testing a mini bio

Hi, you found me, like you, I'm searching, but not for anything in particular. So I'd love to learn about you, and what you're searching for, I might know someone who is searching for that thing too, or maybe a book that can come along for your search. either way, know that I'll happily make the time for you, don't worry, it's not a bother, in fact, you'll be helping me feel more human.

Mini bio

A human, forgetful, loving, at times present, mostly curious, always positive.

Buying a board game

I was helping a friend purchase a gift for his 12 year old nephew. Since I like boardgames, I started rattling off the names of games I thought would fit.

My friend was not convinced, so he kept looking for boardgames that aligned with what he resonated with, interesting looking illustrations on the box cover.

There was a gentleman a few feet away who was also looking at the wall of games, and I could sense he wanted to help. When we acknowledged his presence, he offered his assistance.

Here's what he did differently.

He highlighted games that are known as 'gateways' to the board gaming hobby.

What's a gateway game? They're games that once you've had a taste of their unique game mechanics, you were more likely to appreciate the possibilities inherent in board games.

For example, Monopoly and risk, aren't great gateway games because an experienced player, can run away with the game, the game mechanics (or types of actions you take) are limited, and they can run long and you can feel hostage while waiting for the dominating player to complete their rounds leading to certain victory.

I completely ignored the gateway games, and skipped ahead to games I enjoyed, that had replay value in my opinion. But gateway games are necessary, just like learning common concepts when you're familiarizing yourself with a new language, or the basic motions of a new sport.

Why is this important.

A friend had shared a link that I started reading, and they were trying to clarify why what they do is great. However, like me, they made assumptions, that whoever is reading their text, will have been familiarized with their 'gateway'. I was curious enough to try to better understand what they were trying to say. Which reminded me that I probably do this (ignoring the beginner's mindset) a lot. 

So I've come up with a poem to remind myself, to reduce my reliance on assumptions. 

You are not me, nor am I you. 

You've learned much, as have I too.

What is yours, may not be for me. 

What is mine, may not be for you. 

Bridging that gap, will always take two. 


Your value

What is your value?

Is it your three thousand five hundred and fifty five dollars per month?

Is it your two hundred thirty thousand a year; after tax? after expenses?

How do you contribute to intangible outcomes in your society?

Why aren't they on your LinkedIN page? Why are they hidden away? Why do you choose to perpetuate the story of salary?
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What story would you prefer to perpetuate?

Day 177 - Unexpected Sources

The argument is that most problems can be addressed in one of two ways. Either it's "Let's get this done" or "Ok, it's time to give up"

Imagine you're back in high school and you're standing at the start line for the 100 Meter run. Either you'll think "Ok, let's do this", or you'll look around, size up your competition, and think "What's an excuse for walking away".

Starting affords you the chance to realize what the essence of the problem you're trying to tackle is.

This in turn, allows you to course correct, and work on the right problem.

I think this goes for personal projects as well. Just try it, what else will you lose besides the time you'll likely waste considering your options.

Day 176 - The mantra of dreams

Let me know what this stirs within you



How to live your life like a waking dream.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantra

are typically melodic, mathematically structured meters, believed to be resonant with numinous qualities

In more sophisticated forms, mantras are melodic phrases with spiritual interpretations such as a human longing for truth, reality, light, immortality, peace, love, knowledge, and action.[3][11] Some mantras without literal meaning are musically uplifting and spiritually meaningful.[6]

The Sanskrit word mantra- (m.; also n. mantram in Tamil) is derived from the root man- "to think".[14][15][16][17][18]

The Chinese translation is 眞言, 真言; zhenyan; 'true words', the Japanese on'yomi reading of the Chinese being shingon (which is also used as the proper name for the prominent esoteric Shingon sect).

According to Bernfried Schlerath, the concept of sātyas mantras is found in Indo-Iranian Yasna 31.6 and the Rigveda, where it is considered structured thought in conformity with the reality or poetic (religious) formulas associated with inherent fulfillment.[19]

Mantras, suggests Frits Staal, may be older than language.


There is no generally accepted definition of mantra.[20]

Renou has defined mantra as a thought.[21] Mantras are structured formulae of thoughts, claims Silburn.[22] 

Farquhar concludes that mantras are a religious thought, prayer, sacred utterance, but also believed to be a spell or weapon of supernatural power.[23] 

Zimmer defines mantra as a verbal instrument to produce something in one’s mind.[24] 

Bharati defines mantra, in the context of the Tantric school of Hinduism, to be a combination of mixed genuine and quasi-morphemes arranged in conventional patterns, based on codified esoteric traditions, passed on from a guru to a disciple through prescribed initiation.[25]




Day 175 - The great Salloum Qoutes

If you own the vision, there's nothing you can't do.

Day 174 - the future of work

What is the future of work? What does that even mean? 

Buzz word, fad, trends….(indifferent eye roll) yet more snake oil, now turned snake lotion kickstarter.

Whatever your take may be, it's going to impact you a lot sooner than climate change..and in some ways, it already has.  

Think of the present…

Are you a part of a large organization? 

Are any of the following familiar? 

Engagement surveys

Annual performance appraisals

Team building exercises

Voluntolding (mandatory volunteering).  

Congratulations, you've had the misfortune of experiencing tools from an era where productivity was measured by the individual output of 'workers'. These tools I mentioned are sometimes commonly referred to as "Best Practices". 

If you've had to implement them, then you've simply followed a rubber stamped process by way of policy based on legalese that few understand (read: dehumanising). If you've experienced bad policies....you're either enforcing them and still have a job, or you've been made to suffer until you exit, or you’d built up enough courage and savings to leave on your own terms.

So what does the future hold?

TLDR: Problem solving even over repetitive tasks

TLDR: Creative contributor even over corporate consumer

TLDR: Empathy and Collaboration even over siloed frustration 

  We believe the following to be true:

Workplaces and tasks are by definition going to change changing, and there won't be excuses allowing for repetitive tasks to terrorize a person's day.  - The age old question of "What came first the chicken or the egg?" (Read: what comes first? Job experience? or an experience on a job?) will be answered by a generation that has grown up handling it's own social media marketing, automated banking/accounting, etc.

What it means to design is rapidly evolving, conversations espousing Agile and Human centred design have democratized tools necessary for innovation.  This will impact what leadership is, isn't and what it needs to be for organizations (read: teams) to be successful.

Day 171 - The boy Pt.1

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Merchant, widower, went away on a business trip, while he was away bandits attached and burned his whole village. When he returned he couldn't find his house, here saw the charred body of a child near by. He cried and cried, he beat his chest and pulled his hair. The next day he cremated the body and made a little velvet pouch so he could keep his child next to him. Wherever he went he had that bag of ash with him, eating, sleeping, working he always carried it with him.

In fact, his child was kidnapped, and three months later he escaped and found his way back to the village. He knocked on the door of the new house his father had built. The poor father was crying his heart out on the floor holding the bag of ashes.

He asked who is there
It's me Daddy your son
That's not possible my son is dead, I cremated his body and I carry his ashes with me. You must be some naughty boy who is trying to fool me, go away don't disturb me. He refused to open the door and there was no way for his son to come in. The boy had to go away and the father lost his son forever.



Story from The Art of Power

Day 170 - IS: Your Impact

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Here’s today’s reflection: If money and time were no object, what in the world would you most want to impact? What steps would you take to pursue this passion or interest?


oh ma lord, I’d like to ramble using a voice note, SO. MANY. THINGS!

But if it’s one thing. Systemic change management for a nascent government by subsidizing targeted educational opportunities linked to apprenticeships for public services related to health, and education.


Can you explain this more? Sounds interesting!

When I was working for an NGO in England, about a decade ago, I had a habit of taking a different path to my desk each morning. I tended to wander around the book shelves in the open air office, and on one of these mornings, I came across Paulo Freire’s book, the Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I started an hour later than expected, the book had pulled me in to an extent that I, in a way, experienced a sort of unsheathing of the mind.

The idea I mentioned briefly, is premised on the assumption that people seek to better their condition, be that physical, psychological, or otherwise. If the right conditions are created, the possibility for a larger number of people to access a “limit situation”.

In Somaliland, an unrecognized nation with a fairly peaceful democratic society, there are young people growing up with access to mobile banking, and high speed internet. With the understanding that, the pillars of education and healthcare are necessary for the growth of a young nation. Access to easily accessible financial services and the internet has allowed for unprecedented access to education, that has outstripped the ability to access health services.

The government is young, seeks investment, and expertise. Imagine being able to apply systems design within a pockets of a willing government alongside a young population eager for opportunities. There are some traditional operators like the World Bank and the UN, but to effect change amongst the younger generation, you need to involve, attract and retain entities with goals similar to Mest as well as support, train and guide entities like SPN, to create interconnections between peoples and systems that are parallel in purpose.

The blank canvas is attractive, because the possibilities are endless.

Day 173 - Destination therapist

A full service therapy vacation for a month, in a destination that is affordable.

Forget silent retreats that leave you feeling more confused and lonely than you were before.

You acknowledge that you need help, and you seek privacy, you seek trusted capable therapists, You want relaxation by day, therapy by night, you want no names, no records, no phones, no tracking, just to be picked up, delivered, taken care of, the only people allowed to ask you questions, are the therapist, and the people requesting your meal options for the day.

People will pay, says introverted, private person.

People will pay, says person from collectivist shame heavy culture.

People will pay, says human experience conscious designer.

Will you pay?

Day 172 - What Leadership development isn't

I used to describe what I do for teams in ways I thought would get my message across accurately. I was prioritizing harmony, belonging, Relatability.

When other training or development professionals respond with "oh, we do the same thing" I noticed that I grimace internally, and respond with a flat, "yea, I guess..." immediately feeling a sense of dissatisfaction, almost self-betrayal.

I don't care to provide teams with a Tony Robbins experience. I want them to acknowledge their flaws, their strengths, and the tensions they stuff into their organization's closet.

I told a friend, they should call out those who do others who care about their craft a disservice, by selling their snake oil. That the impact of staying silent, is the probability of people, teams, department, and organizations, being misled by the loudest voices who seek to profit through perversion.

A friend then reminded me of this saying: "Omnia mea mecum sunt!” an iteration of the meaning can be "I carry all I need with me"