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Devin Townsend is difficult to categorize. He is an artist, musician, guitar player, vocalist, song-writer, producer, and business man. He has recorded over twenty albums that fall into the heavy metal genre. I suggest starting with my favorite, Ocean Machine. For his most unique album (that is non-metal and Enya-esque) check out Ghost. And if you're looking for some good ol' heavy metal, check out addicted (warning, it may just blow up your speakers).

I introduce you to Devin because I recently listened listened to episode 43 of the Music Business Facts podcast, which featured (you guessed it), Devin Townsend. It's a great interview that covers Devin's background, ascendance as an artist, and some humbling revelations about the music business. My favorite part of the interview was when Devin answered the question about why do it? What's the goal? I'll paraphrase:

...if your goal is to be better than someone, to beat someone, stop. You're going to fail. There will always be someone who is better. You do it to help someone, to make a statement...

It's an insight with broad implications.

When you decide to commit time to something, ask yourself what your intentions are. Is it to make a lot of money? Is it to beat the person you are competing against? Do your reasons stem from personal insecurities? Are they selfish? If they are, you are likely to fail in your pursuit.

Are you instead doing it for a reason beyond your ego? As Devin stated do you want to help someone? Build something because no one else will, or because you have a insatiable desire to do it? Are you well-intentioned in your goals?

A trivial example is my experience with pickup basketball. In the past I'd play with the intent of being better than who was guarding me. To strive to score the most points on the team. As a result I'd be in a foul mood when things didn't go my way. Today I strive for a mindset that allows me to enjoy the game. To seek out plays that help my teammates. To find beauty in competition.

Whether building a company, pursuing a random sporting activity or hobby, reflect on the reasons you are doing it. You'll find that your likelihood of success is proportionate to the purity of your intentions. If the reasons you pursue something are selfish, reassess. Selfish reasons will not give you the resilience you'll need to persevere when things get hard.

And if you don't have resilience, why do it?

We live in an Age of Creation. You can record a video or a song, write a book, blog post, or tweet, and even live stream your dinner. All you need is a device connected to the internet to share your creation with the world. You can even build a physical product, fund it on Kickstarter, and mass produce it.

More "things" are being created than we have time to consume. Therefore the question of how you spend your time becomes very important. Given a finite amount of time, and an infinite number of things, which do you choose? Which articles do you read? Which podcasts do you listen to? Which products do you use?

Enter the Age of Curation.

An age where content is sifted. Filtered down to the good stuff. An age where curators you trust and products you love tell you what to consume. They simplify things, save you time, and make you happy. Their job is to match you with the things you need at this moment. The things that are worth your time, so you don't have to go through the pain of finding them yourself.

In the last few months I've noticed an uptick in Age of Curation offerings.

7 of the 8 Newsletters I subscribe to curate content:

  • a16z Weekend Newsletter (list of articles being read by VC's from a renowned Silicon Valley VC firm)
  • The Journal, by Kevin Rose (monthly newsletter containing Kevin's favorite discoveries from the web)
  • 5-Bullet Friday, by Tim Ferriss (weekly newsletter containing 5 things Tim has been consuming including products, articles, music, and others)
  • Hacker Newsletter (weekly newsletter of the best articles on startups, technology, programming, and more)
  • mi niu york, by Irene Pedruelo (weekly newsletter for curious characters, treasure hunters, and eccentrics)
  • Inside Daily Brief (daily newsletter packed with all the trends, news, and other links you need to be smart, informed, and ahead of the curve)
  • theSkimm (daily newsletter with everything you need to know to start your day)

Chris Sacca, billionaire investor, recently made an appearance on the Bill Simmons podcast. During the interview he shared several products that are on his phone home screen. Two of them were curation products:

  • REX (share your favorite recommendations with your favorite people)
  • Nuzzle (discover top news from friends and influencers)

Kit.com, a community for sharing products is all about curating groups of products around a specific hobby or interest. I wrote a post about the product earlier this year.

Product Hunt, a site that has become very popular in tech circles, curates the best new tech products. And the recently launched Jelly 2.0, is a human-powered search engine that promises to give you your "time back", by returning a curated answer to you instead of millions of hyperlinks.

One of my favorite apps is Pocket. I especially love their "Pocket Hits" email, a curated list of articles they recommend I read. I often save at least half of the articles listed in each email to Pocket:


What does it all mean? Where will the Age of Curation take us?

I believe some very interesting companies and individuals will start to separate themselves from the competition. Tim Ferriss is a prime example of the curator influence a person can have.

Twitter is sitting on a treasure chest of data that is waiting to be curated. Twitter Search at it's current iteration doesn't cut it. For example how can I discover the 5 most-recommended guitar articles read by beginner guitar players?

I see a future where we no longer lose time to bad content/things. Instead, a tool or curator learns us so well, that they are able to recommend the perfect thing for every moment. Never see a bad movie again, or read a post that doesn't bring any value to you.

The Age of Curation is here. The challenge is who do you listen to?

This is a fascinating long form article on what is described as one of the "most difficult and dangerous hostage cases ever handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation".

The article takes advantage of the modern web by interweaving video, audio, and images to create an interactive experience. Instead of just reading text you have the feeling of being immersed in this event.

There seems to be an endless debate on whether Twitter is and BuzzFeed are creating a society where anything over 500 characters is 360 characters too many. And yet there are sites that are specifically dedicated to long form content. Checkout Longform.org which serves as an aggregator of long form content.

Long form content requires an investment of time. But if it' a topic that you are curious about, it wont feel like an investment (when you watch your favorite TV show, do you feel like you are investing the time into it?). I think how the WSJ presented this story is quite powerful, and may bring a broader appeal to long form content. In a world of snacking content, it's great to have a full meal every once in a while. Seth Godin put it really well in a podcast he appeared on:

Most people are busy clicking to the next thing already. That constant clicking to the next thing might be the reason you are feeling incomplete. Maybe what we ought to be doing is spend less time clicking on the next thing and more time sitting with this one to do it right.

I'm currently working on a longer post about education. While that is churning, I'd like to add some shorter posts. This one includes my list of favorite podcasts as of October 2015.

You can find these on any podcast app.

  1. The Tim Ferriss Show
  2. The Lowe Post
  3. This Week in Startups
  4. The Bill Simmons Podcast (specifically the NBA ones)
  5. Re/code Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher
  6. This is Product Management
  7. This American Life
  8. Radiolab
  9. This Developer's Life
  10. Foundation
  11. The Distance
  12. Dan Carlin's Hardcore History

I was listening to an episode from one of my favorite podcasts The Tim Ferriss Show. Tim was interviewing Jocko Willink, a Navy SEAL who was deployed multiple times.

In the episode Jocko shared a multitude of stories and insights about life in the SEALS and what it takes to be a leader in such an elite group. A particular story stood out to me. While deployed Jocko's family asked him to send photos of his living quarters in Iraq. He took the photos, and after looking at them realized he didn't have any pictures of his family hanging on the walls. He put up the pictures, retook the photos, and then took them down.

His reasoning was he didn't want to be thinking about his family while leading soldiers whose lives he was responsible for. Thinking about his family on the battlefield could potentially comprise his judgment and put the mission and lives of soldiers in risk. It's a powerful message of focus, sacrifice, and discipline. It's one thing to tell soldiers you are leading that you have their best interests in mind. And yet to be so focused that you don't even allow your own family to be a potential distraction, is an entirely different signal. It's a classic aphorism: actions speak louder than words.

My other takeaway was the value of having a work environment that is conducive reaching your mission. Eliminate distractions that can disrupt you. Analyze the environment where you work. Find the things that are distracting and get them out of the way. My previous post, value of a clean digital desktop is a small change you can make right now with tangible benefits.

There are many more lessons and insights from Jocko on this episode. Give it a listen!