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Please enjoy this transcript. Scott Mitchell jumps in time to dissect his own experimentation life philosophy, his efforts to remove creative friction, and his worldview. An experimental episode on Scott's metaphor of the arena, experiments he's carried out over the past years, and his current solo adventure. Transcripts may contain typos. You can find the episode notes here.
0:00Scott Mitchell: I haven't just been living this way for a year. I think this is how I've been living always. And this isn't like I just adopted a certain philosophy a year ago and now we're checking in. These are two points checking in on Scott's life philosophy and its evolution.
0:16 Experiments that I've done this year, especially the ones that just take a week, that represents some new idea I have, they feel exactly the same to me as when I create a song on the guitar. It is me using the notes that I know to explore an idea and then crystallize that idea as a song or as a steel stud prototype. That is the thing that I enjoy doing the most. And that's it. There's no cost to it. So, why not do these things?
1:17Nono Martínez Alonso: Hello everyone, this is Nono here and this is an experimental episode. I'm here with Scott Mitchell.
1:25Scott Mitchell: Hey, Nono.
1:25Nono Martínez Alonso: How's it going?
1:26Scott Mitchell: Going pretty good. Happy to be back.
1:28Nono Martínez Alonso: Scott is mentioning being back because we already recorded a first part of this interview last year. I think.. Well, actually, I know. It was the 21st of August of 2018.
1:41Scott Mitchell: Woah!
1:41Nono Martínez Alonso: And today is 29th of july of 2019.
1:46Scott Mitchell: It was.. it was August last year?
1:48Nono Martínez Alonso: Yeah, so it's not.
1:49Scott Mitchell: I'm a little disappointed it wasn't a full year, but that's okay.
1:53Nono Martínez Alonso: Eleven months and some days. The thing with this interview is that Scott had recently moved to Boston—to South Boston—to work full time here and I wanted to hear a bit about his philosophy of what I started calling, I think on that interview "deliberate experimentation" trying to relate it to deliberate practice. And also, how it relates to this concept of Scott, of both the metaphor of the arena, and also the idea of the podium, removing friction from the creative process. Is there anything else that you would highlight?
2:33Scott Mitchell: No, I think that's it. I mean, I think the arena is to me the sort of all encompassing idea here or the metaphor that a lot of these other ideas work upon.
2:42Nono Martínez Alonso: The idea is that even though we're here right now, we're gonna play the previous conversation that we had, and later we'll have another conversation where you can hear more about what's next for Scott. I mean, I would like to hear how all those concepts that you had in mind for experimenting and improving your creative process have influenced your year. I think this is the first retrospective podcasts that we've done.
3:11Scott Mitchell: Yeah. Sounds good.
3:18Nono Martínez Alonso: Okay. Without further ado, we'll jump to the past and hear our previous conversation, and we'll be back.
3:27 Today I'm recording an interview with Scott Mitchell. Hi, Scott.
3:32Scott Mitchell: What's up Nono.
3:33Nono Martínez Alonso: So Scott currently works at the moment of recording this interview with me at Autodesk. He's coming from a film background, so his undergrad is on film. Then he studied architecture and he added to the mix software engineering. He mentioned to me that the whole time that he was doing those things and studying, he was doing music and making his own music, he still does..
4:00Scott Mitchell: [Guitar plays.]
4:00Nono Martínez Alonso: ..it's one of the hobbies or threads that take in your life and are there in parallel with everything else. And one quote that I got from something you said before is that you've always liked to make stuff, whatever it is, like make stuff. So yeah, I mean, that's my introduction of yourself. What else can you tell us?
4:21Scott Mitchell: I mean, that's a pretty good introduction. Like you said, I work at Autodesk currently, and I'm a software engineer. But I just graduated from grad school about two months ago at Washington University in St. Louis. And like you said, I studied architecture and computer science there. And then before that film at the University of Oklahoma. Yeah, I've always liked making stuff. And it goes back to when I was a kid, and we'd play Legos with my little brother. I was really good at it and he sucked at it. And we would like battle our Legos with each other.
4:52Nono Martínez Alonso: What would you tell us about each of those epochs in your life? You would see a film, architecture is cool, software engineering, music. What can you point out out of those epochs? How was film, for example?
5:04Scott Mitchell: I started making films in my backyard with a home video camera in middle school, and just really liked doing it and did it every single day. And that evolved into sort of a little documentary filmmaking career in high school. I was kind of freelancing and making short films for people around my hometown, and I loved it. I loved the act of making stuff, and I could go out and get a bunch of footage of whatever my subject was, and then I could spend days at the computer editing and re-editing that footage.
5:39 I loved that, so I decided to go study film in college, and I hated it. I messed up, I went to a film studies program, and not a filmmaking program. So we didn't make films, we just watched films—I love watching films—but we would just watch films and write about them. I didn't get to make anything, and I kind of hated it. So I started taking classes on other schools and took an architecture class. We had a studio, and we were doing nothing but making stuff. We could make whatever we wanted. In architecture school, you can sort of justify doing whatever you want to do, as long as you're being productive.
6:21 So I switched to architecture and then realized that I switched to architecture in my fourth year of undergrad—and it would have taken me like four more years to complete that—so I was like "Fuck this." I decided to go to architecture school, after graduating with my film degree, so I wanted to go make some stuff. And once I got to architecture school, I had no idea what I was signing up for, architecture schools [are] brutal. Architecture school is like 18 hours a day, you need to be in the studio, you need to be making stuff. I also had no idea what architecture was before I started and so I just kind of made things that made sense to me. And I had always thought sort of mathematically, and so I started scripting my buildings. Like, other people were drawing lines and drawing their buildings, and I wasn't about that, I would write code, or make formulas that would generate buildings or generate designs. So [I was] like "This is awesome, I love doing it." It's like one of those cool times in your life where you get so excited about something that you do it all the time and start to get really good at it and get creative with it. So I was like "I might as well get a degree in this." So, I added another degree. And that's how I got into computer science. And computer science and design mesh so well, because computer science is basically just like tool making. So if you're a designer and you're able to design your tools and design your end products, you can do just about anything,
7:51Nono Martínez Alonso: At what age was each of those epochs? Like film, architecture, and software engineering...
7:55Scott Mitchell: The film epoch was from like age 10, to age 23, when I graduated from film school. Architecture was like 22 to now, and computer science was like 24 to now. I'm currently 27. And music has been the whole time, music is one of those tracks that has never been formalized. I've never studied it in school, or tried to pursue it professionally. So it's kind of been just like tagging along, and it's been fun the whole time. Whereas, like I mentioned before, I kind of ruined film for myself by going to a film studies program.
8:38Nono Martínez Alonso: So what things do you believe that can ruin something in terms of making it more serious, right, than how you play music right now.
8:49Scott Mitchell: I do really well, when my learning process takes like two steps that cycle. One is like learning a new thing, and then using it. Like creating something with it. I do it very well, and I can't miss either one of those things. And so if you're in an environment where you're not learning, where you're forced to create, and you have to create and create, without learning anything new to introduce to your creative process, that to me kills the joy of it. I mean, that could just be me, I don't know if that's every creative person. I couldn't just be in a program where I'm learning and learning how to make stuff, and never actually using that knowledge. That's what the film studies program was for me, I was only learning about films and never able to recycle that into my own creations. And that makes a ton of sense to me. Back to music for a second—this is maybe like way too particular—I write my own songs, and that comes in waves. Like there will be a month where I write 10 new songs, and then there'll be a year where I write one. And the creative waves come after I've learned some new principle of music. Maybe I just learned a new song that showed me a new way in which they're combining chords, or they're moving outside of a key. After you learn that new thing—like one new little trick—you might just go crazy with it. That's kind of what you've done in developing software at work. I feel like when you find a new tool, and you introduce that to the workflow, that just opens up a whole bunch of new potential for what you're working on.
10:23Nono Martínez Alonso: What would you say were the biggest challenges in film architecture and software engineering for you to get into being comfortable? You said you're always new, you're trying to enter a new field, and you got to get comfortable. So what were those challenges?
10:40Scott Mitchell: I feel like I should qualify everything I say with "This works for me, and it might not work for other people." When I enter something new, when I try something new, the only thing that matters is whether I'm excited about it. And if I'm excited about it, they're gonna be obstacles, they're gonna be things that are difficult to figure out, but if I want to be there learning new stuff, I'm gonna do a good job of it. And if I am not excited about what I'm about to do, I'm going to be the worst person at that, that could possibly be trying.
11:11Nono Martínez Alonso: So what do you think you were able to enjoy and actually get excited about such different areas?
11:18Scott Mitchell: I work towards that moment at the end of a project where you can sort of like, sit back and look at what you've created. I think that can happen, whether you've created a song and you've completed it, and you can just play the thing and listen to it while you play it, whether you've made a piece of software that you send out to people, and it works and it's totally your invention. It doesn't matter what the medium is. That's the feeling I think that motivates me. That, and those moments when you realize you've learned a new thing, are really rewarding to me. Every time it feels like things are clicking, or trains of thought are coming together and coherent. Like I know that I'm learning and progressing and that's a very rewarding feeling to me.
12:01Nono Martínez Alonso: So you're talking about yourself, you're satisfied with what you've done. How about what other people think about it? Or the exposure of your work?
12:09Scott Mitchell: I think obviously, I want people to appreciate the things that I do. But that's not a productive motivator for me. For me personally, it's all about what's interesting to me, I need to follow what's interesting to me and do those things. And half the time—maybe less—it ends up being valuable to other people. I think I basically just follow my own intuition. And it does not always end up being a valuable thing to other people. But I at the very least, I usually learn something in my experiments, but a lot of times it does end up being valuable.
12:40 I created this plugin for Dynamo called HowickMaker. This is a whole other story, but there's this machine called the Howick machine in the build space at work and it's a steel stud CNC roll forming machine. Basically it makes steel studs custom really fast, and it's the coolest machine in the world. But basically, no one was using it for anything like that—cool, cool in my terms at least—and my internship last summer was like "Take this machine and make cool stuff with it." And I developed this piece of software that's parametric, and it lets people make steel stud structures basically out of any shape that they want to make. I thought that was the coolest problem ever to solve, because it's a really cool machine but It only does eight things. And it really just wants to make traditional steel studs, but it's like adult Legos, and I figured out interesting ways to put these Legos—these steel studs—together and that's a fascinating problem to me. I could probably spend years diving into that problem because it gets into a lot of computer science stuff, like constraint satisfaction problems, and how do you create a software tool that can solve any shape and make steel studs out of it?It gets into design, it's like "I could design a whole line of furniture that uses this piece of software and this machine." My point being that my motivation there wasn't to make useful software for people, I just thought it was a badass problem. That's what motivates me. That's what got me interested in it. And it turned out to be useful to other people, kind of just by chance, at least in terms of my motivation.
14:15Nono Martínez Alonso: Would you get bored of doing that though? If you spend like a lot of years digging into that problem?
14:21Scott Mitchell: I don't know, man. That might be one of the most interesting problems I've ever encountered. Everyone probably thinks that's super weird, but it's so constrained. You think you can do nothing with a machine, you think you can make nothing but flat planar walls, which is what everyone does with it. But after a couple weeks with that problem last summer, I was like "Okay, you can kind of do some interesting things." And then after last summer, I was like "Holy shit, you can make a bunch of stuff with this thing." And even to this day, I'm laying in bed at night, like "Oh man, I bet we could solve this other problem with this machine." It just keeps going. There are entirely families of algorithms that I want to write, to work with this software. It could go on for a while, it might be totally useless to humanity, but I still think it's really cool. And I could still dive into that.
15:15Nono Martínez Alonso: How would you extrapolate this problem to other things? I mean, you have a machine that people use traditionally for something, and you're trying to repurpose, right? It's kind of repurposing something or squeezing what something can do for making what you want to make.
15:34Scott Mitchell: I had this professor Jesse Vogler who told me—or taught me—to misuse tools. That was kind of the theme of my time with him. And that's exactly what we did with the Howick machine. It gets back to what we were talking about in the seaport today. It's like, once you understand an arena very well, you can start to mess with the boundaries of that arena, and you can start to introduce new rules and new ideas into the arena. Take the Howick machine, for example. Like I was saying before, I spent a couple weeks just learning what people usually do with the machine. And then I started to realize "Okay, I can combine some of the rules that are inherent in this machine to make stuff that was impossible before. I'm misusing the machine." I broke that machine like five times, and I was pushing it past its boundaries.
16:25Nono Martínez Alonso: Can you rewind a bit and explain to people what you mean with the metaphor of the arena, and the rule set, and how this applies to the different disciplines that you're doing or that anyone else can be doing? Like when you're a beginner and how you dip into it. What do you mean with that? So people can understand.
16:44Scott Mitchell: Yeah, the arena to me is sort of the play field for an art, or a medium, a support. I think you can be an amateur in an arena. I think of the things that I do—whether it's filmmaking, or music, or software development—like I'm playing a game in an arena. To me, the motivation is to play and to have fun. Take music for example, there are notes. And there are rules about how you combine those notes, at least like in western classical music. When you start to study music, you learn those rules, and you use them, and you make pretty typical sounding music. But you've learned the basics of that arena. And at some point, you probably get bored playing by the rules there and you start to break them and you start to explore new combinations of notes, new ways of breaking the rules and of combining things that weren't supposed to be broken before. At first, you're a player in the arena. And once you get good at that, you can kind of step out of the arena and rework the rules of the game and then step back in.
17:48 It kind of comes back to what we were talking about with the software and design. Designers use tools to make stuff. If you're a designer and toolmaker—like a software developer—you can work in an arena so your arena is Dynamo. So you're a designer, you're working in Dynamo, if you're also a software developer, you can change the source code of Dynamo, you can create an extension that makes entirely new things available to you inside of that arena.
18:17Nono Martínez Alonso: How does the Howick machine plugin change the arena that you were working on before?
18:22Scott Mitchell: The Howick machine, is a really good example of a basic arena. Because the machine basically takes a steel and punches holes in it. And it has eight holes they can punch. And that's it, which is not much. So basically, it's a very highly constrained arena. So someone could use the machine like "I want to make steel studs, and I want to put holes in them." And then you understand the arena completely. Then you can start to get a little bit more creative. I could combine holes so that I can connect pieces together in certain ways. At that point, you're really starting to move beyond, you're moving to another level of the arena. You're starting to create your own rules. It's not that it was against the rules before, but you're starting to notice how you can combine different movements in the arena to get results. So with the Howick machine, we started to look at how different combinations of these holes would allow you to put pieces together at any angle you want to put them together at.
19:20Nono Martínez Alonso: I just want to interrupt you there. I think the Howick machine is a machine that gets manufactured, right, and delivered. People who buy it, they pay X amount of dollars, and they get a manual. So the manual is the rule set of the machine as you're saying, but what you're doing is trying to do things that don't come on the manual, right?
19:41Scott Mitchell: Exactly. You're trying to invent new ways of using something. Misuse of the machine. But not too much, like don't break it.
19:48Nono Martínez Alonso: I would like you to talk about what you think a person who's new to the arena in any field. How does this person feel? You mentioned before something like the beginner's mind.
20:01Scott Mitchell: The beginner's minds...I know I've read about it at a couple places, I wish I could point to the sources. But the idea—at least to me, the way that I interpreted it and I'm holding it in my head currently—is that the beginner's mind is one that is not held down by preconceived notions, and it doesn't feel like it has something to prove. So the beginner understands that it doesn't know what it doesn't know. So it goes into the arena expecting to lose, and it just learns. I think that's a really important mindset to hold on to, because—okay, I'm very big on experimenting—you can't be afraid that those are going to fail. Or you don't conduct those experiments, and a lot of experiments are going to fail. I don't know, It's important to remember, or to be humble I guess. I think the more you get into something, you sort of expect yourself to do well. You're no longer a beginner like you're supposed to be doing a good job developing software or whatever it is you're doing. And I think that can hold you back potentially.
20:56Nono Martínez Alonso: And people may have more expectations from you. Of the results of what you do are.
21:01Scott Mitchell: Yeah. No, if you have a reputation for being good at something, you don't want to mess up.
21:05Nono Martínez Alonso: I still feel that's a danger, you need to be also capable of showing. Actually, I find that many designers are not eager to share their work in progress work. And I think that's a really bad practice, because work in progress many times, it's all you get to do. I mean, sometimes you don't have more time to continue. If you don't show your work at work in progress level, you will just archive it. And five years later, we'll say "Oh, this was good at the moment. Why didn't I make something out of it?"
21:38Scott Mitchell: Yeah, I completely agree with that. I think what a lot of people don't do—including myself—is as close to presentation quality documents as possible during the process. I think that's kind of what you do different than most people. You remain organized and you try to make everything shareable, document worthy, or presentation quality. Yeah, and that's something that I've noticed a lot. In architecture school, when you're making study models or something, sometimes you'll have this idea, like "Okay, this is just a study model. I'm not gonna make it look that good." You miss out on two things there. One, if you don't have time to remake that model in the future, it's not going to be there. And two, if you try to make that study model—presentation quality—you're going to put a lot more effort into it. And you're going to notice more things, and you're going to think more about it, and you're going to get more out of it ultimately.
22:33Nono Martínez Alonso: Yeah, and the idea you want to convey is going to be a lot clearer, a lot more...It's going to resemble more to what you're thinking. I always feel that really abstract concepts that you show to other people, if they're really abstract, then other people might interpret the continuation of that piece of workyou've done differently. And then you think you're on the same page, but then three weeks down the road, then you see that you [don't] even agree on anything and now you've done something that doesn't match what the other person was expecting from you.
23:03Scott Mitchell: Yeah.
23:04Nono Martínez Alonso: You've mentioned that experimentation is a really important part in your life and you're giving experimentation a lot of thought, right? On your daily life or for all the things you do. And I know from our previous conversation that you are also making an effort, bringing experimentation also outside of work and hobbies, like to your personal life. Can you talk a bit about that?
23:29Scott Mitchell: It's a lot harder—I think—than experimenting in something that's as concrete as software development or music. I've been obsessed for a long time with being creative in these art forms. And that's cool, but I don't think it makes you as an interesting of a person as if like, you're creative in small moments. There are people who are creative at conversation. They're not a professional at that, because that's not like an industry. Well, I guess that's kind of what you're doing right now. But anyways, I think there's a lot of value in being creative in life. And to try new things in life. That's something that I've tried to do less successfully than I wanted to, like the past year. And so I have devices, a series of experiments.
24:15Nono Martínez Alonso: I would point out, you refered to them before as "stupid experiments."
24:19Scott Mitchell: They're stupid. They're definitely stupid. The current one is curls in my hair, trying out different products, but it's like "Why the hell not?" Because here's the thing, you can go into Sephora, and they will give you free samples and stuff. So you actually have nothing to lose. It's actually free. I know that's like one of the most pointless things maybe you could be testing out. But why not? That makes my day that much more interesting. I have this series of photographs from the past week that show me with different products in my hair. The curl experiment is basically, I have long curly hair for the first time in my life. I have long hair for the first time of my life, and it happens to be curly. And it's a mess, and I'm like "I'm gonna get something to put in it, so it's less of a mess. Every time I go get a trim, it looks good for a day because they put whatever in it. I have no idea what it is, and so I went into Sephora and I was like "I need to test out a bunch of stuff and I'm gonna see what works best for me." And this girl Erica, hooked it up. She took me around all the different brands and gave me a little sample of every curl product they have. So today I believe is diva curl.. No idea, I hope that's not what it is. Deva curl, it's not diva. Anyways, today is that, today's all right. The best so far has been Verb Curl Cream. This is my shout out for Verb Curl Cream.
25:42Nono Martínez Alonso: I'm gonna have to try this.
25:43Scott Mitchell: Yeah, it's great. Yeah. Wait do you use anything?
25:46Nono Martínez Alonso: I don't use anything.
25:47Scott Mitchell: Nothing?
25:47Nono Martínez Alonso: Well I mean, I wash my hair.
25:49Scott Mitchell: And that's good.
25:50Nono Martínez Alonso: Like, I just brush it.
25:52Scott Mitchell: So I can give you the results of this experiment and you can use that
25:57Nono Martínez Alonso: I can make use of that. Yeah.
26:00Scott Mitchell: But that is just like one. And I hope that they become a little bit more profound than that. I think one of the cooler ones was back in architecture school. Most people maybe don't understand what the studio in architecture school is like, but it's very.. People are in there just working at all hours of the day and all hours of the night.
26:19Nono Martínez Alonso: So a studio is like a classroom of some sort. It's like a big classroom or workshop way of functioning, where people own a desk on the school, and they have their tools, they have their laptop, they have their models there, they do everything there. And people tend to stay there after hours, overnight. Yeah, I don't know, it's a bit of a mess, but it's an interesting experience. I really like that from the US, because—I mean, I guess that's in a lot of places—but I don't recall, I don't think we owned desk space in Spain when I studied architecture. So owning your own space is a really nice thing. Well, I'll let you continue.
27:00Scott Mitchell: Yeah, it is a really nice thing and becomes sort of like your home. You absolutely spend more time there than you do at your home in architecture school. But it also becomes sort of a place of misery because you have to be there really late and you're just suffering through your architecture projects. So one of the experiments was, what if we try to turn the studio into a kitchen and have breakfast there, or brunch there. So every week, we brought in George Foremans and hot plates and we'd try to cook a new breakfast each time. And it was awesome! It made studio so much more fun. We also experimented with new mixes in Bloody Marys and mimosas. It was a complete waste of time, but it made studio Awesome.
27:42Nono Martínez Alonso: Well, I don't believe it's a waste of time. I actually had forgotten this, but with a lot of my classmates, I made really good friendships, right? And I'm still in touch with them, and when I go back to Spain, I meet with them. And you got to understand that at this point, there is no work life balance at all, your life is architecture. One thing I would like to hear from you is how architecture in you, how did it kill hobbies? To me and to a lot of people, you enter architecture with all these hobbies and things you like doing in your spare time, and exercise.. And then you leave architecture and you've forgotten that you even did those things, right? But I think that if your whole life is at the studio, you need to have those special moments that you would otherwise have. I remember really, really happy times, like just ordering pizza at the end of a workshop, late at night. Or you would drink maybe beers or something outside, or you bring them into the studio. Having those moments, those are moments that you remember with the people you...
28:44Scott Mitchell: I agre. It was absolutely valuable for that.
28:47Nono Martínez Alonso: I mean, I think this comes into what's the level of distraction that is necessary to get your head out of the project and get ideas to continue working. I don't think you can just stay there and work more efficiently, because...
29:01Scott Mitchell: To me it was important to start being creative in other areas of life. I wanted to be creative in how I made food, and who I made it with, and where I made it. I really got a kick out of the ridiculousness of putting a George Foreman on my studio desk. Or I'm normally using superglue to glue cardboard together and stuff. From that sprung a bunch of other really unnecessary but fun creative activities: we made aprons, and we laser cut stencils to spray paint logos on our aprons. Mine said "What's cooking good looking." That was my was my apron slogan. Anyways, long story short, that was a moment in which I made an effort with my friends. We all made an effort to be creative outside of you know, what we're doing primarily: our work and our hobbies.
29:50Nono Martínez Alonso: I would love to hear more experiments.
29:52Scott Mitchell: I think I called it experiment number three. It was the Bobo's noodle experiment. I went to this restaurant like three or four times a week, but the only thing I had ever got was the curry chicken. And it was absolutely delicious, but I was thinking, what... I'm going to tell like way too long of a story real fast. The reason experiments even came up was [that] I was walking to a friend's house, and we wanted to have dinner really fast before we went to a movie. And I was walking by Whole Foods and I was like "I wish I knew what was available at Whole Foods so well that I knew exactly what I should go in and buy from Whole Foods for us to eat in an Uber on the way to the movie. I don't, because the only thing I ever get at Whole Foods is a pepperoni pizza every time. So you know what I'm gonna do—just so I could potentially resolve my current problem in the future—is try everything that whole foods has to offer, so I know their menu." The Chinese restaurant was the same thing. I got the curry chicken every time and I thought "What if someone asked me what's good from there?" Like "Scott, you go to this place four times a week, what should I order?" And I wouldn't be to tell them, so I started from the top of the menu and just tried every single thing that they had. And it took a couple weeks, but ultimately determined that the best thing on the menu is the curry chicken. It's kind of worthless in the end, but now I know what everything tastes like. The lemongrass beef is the worst thing on the menu, and that's the results of that experiment.
31:20Nono Martínez Alonso: What are your next experiments?
31:22Scott Mitchell: I want one of mine future experiments soon to be one in which I go to open mics and play some of my music. But is that an experiment? It's more like just an action.
31:33Nono Martínez Alonso: I think there are two different things you just mentioned. One is deliberate experimentation. The other one is deliberate practice. Deliberate experimentation is like "Let's try out things, let's break things, misuse things. Let's make things I haven't done before." I don't know, maybe you want to acquire knowlege, maybe want to acquire experience, you may want to.. You know things like that. But if you do the opposite thing, it's like "I know I already like this, right?" I think a good example would be food, that you mentioned before. One thing is deliberate practice and you cook this curry chicken until it's the fucking best curry chicken in your studio. And the other thing is every single day you take any random recipe from the internet that you think you like or you might like, and then you cook that. So that's.. I don't know, how do you think?
32:24Scott Mitchell: Well, no, I think that's a really important distinction. Not one that I had made myself already. But yeah, the deliberate practice—like having goals there—I think it's a separate thing, but also something that could be really helpful. To kind of go back and forth between practicing something, getting very good at it and then talking around and experimenting. It is important to cycle between those two things. To experiment, but then to stop and to—based on the results of your experiment—dive into something and practice it deliberately for some amount of time.
32:57Nono Martínez Alonso: One thing I'm curious about, is why are you taking experimentation in your personal life and not in your work? Or are you also doing that in your work?
33:08Scott Mitchell: I don't think I'm doing it at work yet because I'm still kind of a beginner at work. I've only been a professional full time software developer for two months now, but it's definitely something that I will do. When I say I experimented in my work I mostly mean during architecture school. But like you said before, you go into architecture school and the other aspects of your life kind of fade away. And that sucks. And I got really sick of that. I was very not satisfied with that part of my life. Like as I was walking to Whole Foods that one day, and l realized "Holy shit, I could also be creative in my everyday life."
33:48Nono Martínez Alonso: What things died?
33:49Scott Mitchell: In architecture, school, everything.
33:52Nono Martínez Alonso: Well, anything specific that you remember that you were doing before that you don't do now.
33:58Scott Mitchell: Music definitely slowed down. But do you ever enjoy being bored sitting at your house and you got nothing to do? I think there's value in that moment because you have energy that you need to put somewhere.
34:14Nono Martínez Alonso: That actually reminds me a lot of back home. Actually you just triggered a memory that I didn't remember. I have this connection to certain moments, right? I don't know, when you're bored, and you can do whatever and you don't have any responsibilities, you don't value that. But it is when you're on this studio, and you're super stressed and you have a submission the next week, when you remember. I always remember that moment during the summer—so when I was actually really stressed out and doing all nighters, not being able to even have time to sleep enough—I remember having these images of me just going into the water to surf. In the summers I don't have any worries, I'm just with my friends and just battling inside—there are not even almost waves in my city—I'm just going into the water. I know I'm just gonna sit on the board for a bit and try to catch a wave. That feeling of being really really busy and longing the moments when you didn't really have anything to do. You didn't have any expectations of the day "Today I'm just going to lay down on the beach, or maybe go into the water." Or something like that. Those are really sweet memories I have for some reason.
35:31 And some of them specifically, are even weekends when I was really young with my family, just going to the mall. Going to a mall and you're not doing anything. You might not even go to the cinema, to the movies. You're just wandering around shops, and you know that all that you're gonna do that day is wander around random shops, maybe buy something and then go home and have dinner with your family. That's the purpose of the weekend, right? Now we're cluttered with a lot of other things and responsibilities. I mean, I kind of blame myself because this podcast is an optional thing that I'm involved in. But to me, it doesn't feel that way. But in some way, we tend to long those moments when we're super busy. And that's something that I appreciate right now in my work life. I have a balance and I have my eight hours a day, I know that I'm doing my job, and then I go back home and I can do other things. And then I can choose whether I do some extra side projects, or something , or not. But yeah, I think you touched on a really good topic. I don't know, do you have any of those moments that you can think back on that?
36:46Scott Mitchell: Oh yeah of course. It's been a long time since I've felt that way. But it made me think of something else, which is, you get to have that moment for a second at the very end of a semester when you're in school. Because that's a moment where suddenly the slate gets wiped clean. So like the day that you get your grades back, you're kind of off the hook from everything that you were supposed to do before that. Some responsibilities start to build up immediately after that, right? But that's a cool moment because in that weekend or that first couple of days after the semester, you're kind of like you were as a kid again, right? Like you have no responsibilities again. What's happening there at the end of the semester in that moment—it doesn't matter how much responsibility you had before that day—you're completely free of it the next day. Have you ever heard of oranges in the shower? Okay, so this was experiment.. Like number two. It's fruits in the shower. There's this thing, you should eat an orange in the shower in the morning. First thing when you wake up, because when you eat an orange, it's kind of messy, right? Especially if you rip the thing open with your teeth and dive into it. But it doesn't matter if you're in the shower, because the slate is about to get wiped clean, you're about to be clean. So you can just dive into this thing. Let the orange juice just fall down your face and onto your body. It's an amazing experiment. The end of the semester is kind of the same way, right? It doesn't matter how much shit you got into that semester. It's all going to be wiped clean. I wonder if there's anything like that in our lives now. Can we have slates wiped clean anymore? Or, because we're out of school, we have a job that just goes on every week, can we create those moments for ourselves where we are able to actually be entirely free?
38:32Nono Martínez Alonso: I believe at work right now, if you're working with a two week sprint, the last day in some way—it's not the same you have new responsibilities the next day—but it's a way to controlling that. So you never have the opposite poles—the really, really stressed and the no responsibilities at all—you have like a constant balance. We do this at work, you and I.
38:56Scott Mitchell: Yeah.
38:57Nono Martínez Alonso: And we're going to talk to Craig along soon as well. He's actually the guy who makes sure that we have not excessive work on the week, but also not a lot less than we can do. The rationale behind it is that you know how many people you have on the team, and you know how much work usually can get done. So you have a system, Agile Sprints, or Scrum Teams, you have this system that allows you to distribute or choose a specific number of tasks that you know that the team is going to be able to tackle at a good pace during the next two weeks. And then after those two weeks, ideally, you finish all of them, or maybe you roll some tasks back for the next sprint, and that's it. So every single day, you know that—I mean you're working towards your goal—but then after those two weeks, you're kind of clean. And then you start and get new responsibilities. But I feel that that day—the day that the Sprint finishes—is that moment where you're "I still haven't claimed any tasks so I don't have to work on anything today. I don't have anything in my mind." But I think the key is that if you set that to be a constant pace, then your weekends are completely free because you know, you're in control of what you have to make.
40:10Scott Mitchell: I disagree. I think that the difference is the ritual of the demo of the end of the Sprint and agile development. Because there's a ritual there, you know that the slate has been wiped clean at that point. The weekend—maybe it's because I have worked over weekends for many years now in architecture school—doesn't have that same ritual for me. I think that's important, because it kind of gets you in the mindset of feeling free from things, but I completely agree, that is the exact same thing.
40:39Nono Martínez Alonso: I will give credit here to Jose Luis, episode number three for those who want to listen to it. Jose Luis every time that you get something done and it's actually done, he emphasizes a lot that you need to give yourself some sort of celebration. Might it be—I don't know—a beer at night, or go out for dinner, or something. That night you have to celebrate, right? So when you get achievements—it's not that you're going to have an achievement every day—but some days it's like—I don't know—you submitted a project, or you got accepted for some conference, or you finished that submission that you had, and then it's done. It's important—and I again give credit to him—to give yourself some trophy, some kind of gift, because that way you will feel more accomplished that you've actually closed that Sprint. A lot of times it's difficult to define, that's why I think it's good that we define it at work so clearly. But we need to find strategies to define those achievements in our lives so we get that sense of fulfillment and the feeling that we're free now.
41:45Scott Mitchell: Yeah, it's both of those things. The feeling of fulfillment or completing a task, and then the feeling of kind of being fresh and ready to start the next one. But that's a really good question and something that I'll probably start to think about and try and apply in my own personal goals. Having celebrations at the end of achieving those goals, that could be really cool. That's kind of like I was taking experiments from, you know, more of work related stuff into a personal life. Can you have agile development in your personal life? Maybe you shouldn't call it that? But anyways, I completely agree with the the necessity of celebration.
41:48Nono Martínez Alonso: Can I ask you some personal questions?
42:25Scott Mitchell: Yeah. How personal, what do you got?
42:27Nono Martínez Alonso: How would you define yourself?
42:29Scott Mitchell: I think professionally I define myself as a computational designer and software engineer. I think personally, I would like to define myself as kind of just a mess. I'm not simple, which is why I was really surprised you even wanted to interview me. I think I'm an absolute mess, a controlled mess. Can that be my way I describe myself?
42:48Nono Martínez Alonso: That's perfect but I still will take that you have certain strategies or ways of looking at life. You're thinking of what strategies you want to apply for certain things to make those things a bit better or to make them different or to explore. I will give you that. You can be a mess. I mean, you don't need to not be a mess to be in The Getting Simple Podcast.
43:13Scott Mitchell: I like that.
43:14Nono Martínez Alonso: What can you say about the flow state?
43:15Scott Mitchell: When you say flow state, what I picture is a moment where you're fully engaged in what you're working on. That's an awesome feeling to have. And it's kind of hard to cultivate that—not hard to cultivate that—but it's sort of rare in life sometimes. I think it goes back to when I was saying that really the one criteria that matters when I set out to do a task is whether or not I'm excited about it. And if I am, I will get in that flow state because I'm kind of an obsessive person. To me, the flow state kind of equates to being obsessed with a task. And I go "Oh my god." I've spent full days just sitting there programming like "I know exactly what I want this thing to be." And I just sit there and I just go for it. That is such a cool feeling. And you listen to music and just jam on some software, it's awesome.
44:12 Or there are moments when I would be sitting there at night like playing guitar, and it just sounds particularly good. And you're just feeling it and you know where you're about to go next on the guitar, and it sounds perfect. It's cool. I was trying to think of how I cultivate the flow state for myself, but I don't think I really have that much control. I don't think that I do set myself up for the flow state. It just depends on how excited I am. A long time ago, one of my friends told me that "I control my emotions. Your emotions control you, Scott." And I think that's really true. And it works out though. That's it, next question.
44:52Nono Martínez Alonso: So I talked a bit about working progress before, but how do you approach that in your work?
44:58Scott Mitchell: This is like totally unhelpful to anyone else but I keep track of everything in my head. I do an okay job of it. Works in progress a lot of times are happening on scraps of paper. And in my head songs—my songs are almost always not written down anywhere—sometimes they're recorded, but I have like hundreds of them that just exist nowhere but in my head. Which is sad, right? Because at some point, those are just going to totally disappear. It was like designed stuff, that just exists on paper and evolves in my head. Which is like horrible, right? I feel like you totally would not condone that sort of behavior. So that's something I've tried to work on. One thing I intend to do soon—hopefully before this podcast is released—is to document my works in progress as pages on a website. I think it would be really valuable to have a place where things get documented and then have a place where people can see where I'm at, or where I can see where I'm at.
45:59Nono Martínez Alonso: I would say I have to practice the opposite. To actually be comfortable with not documenting certain things. Because sometimes—I mean is what you say you get obsessed—and sometimes you have this habit. We talked about it the other day—of systems—and then you become a slave of the system. I don't know, you tend to scan receipts, or write down what you're spending your money on, or things like that. And sometimes it's too much. I think you need also a midpoint there where you're not.. You don't need to write down every single song but maybe the highlights, or whatever, you can write them down.
46:38Scott Mitchell: I mean if I wrote down my songs, then I could analyze what was happening in them, and I could compare them, and then I could make them better. That's something I've been meaning to do for a long time. Like "Write these fucking songs down Scott, then change them, edit them on paper." That gives you a couple perspectives on the song, right? I can play it and listen to it—that's one perspective—but if I could see it on paper, and read it on paper, and then move notes around on paper, that's a valuable thing. I know that I'm missing out on that. And every day I'm like "Can't wait to get started on writing the songs down and documenting stuff." And I just don't, I just don't do it.
47:15Nono Martínez Alonso: How do you face boredom?
47:17Scott Mitchell: I face it productively and unproductively. To be completely honest, and totally unoriginal, when I get bored, I usually pull my phone out. That's like 90% of the time. If I have quick access to something productive—like a guitar, or paper, or a computer that's open to a software development environment—then when I get bored, I just start working on stuff. And that's usually pretty productive. And the trick there is to like have those things readily available. Because when I'm bored, I usually don't want to set up the environment in which to be productive. One thing I've always noticed is that when I get back from a run, I feel really motivated. I also have a bunch of ideas after the run. And I don't know—I haven't done this yet—but I always wished that I had like a podium in the middle of my house with a computer on it—just always open to Grasshopper—and after my runs, that thing would just be sitting there in the middle of the kitchen waiting for me, and I could just start working right there. But the problem is, I get back from my run, and the computer I'm sure is packed away in my backpack or something. I'm not going to take the time to set it out on the table, get my mouse, turn the computer on, navigate to the software and then start working. By then my motivation is gone. I haven't really formalized this—or even thought about it—this clearly before, but make productive tools readily available—so I don't have to work to get started on them—could be a valuable strategy for me, right?
48:53Nono Martínez Alonso: Yeah, that's a way I hadn't thought about before. This is something I've thought about in terms of shortcuts. So at the end of the day, what you want to do is create a shortcut—an easy access to certain things—for when you need them or when you feel inspired to use them. I think this is what social media has made really well. I mean, you just open an app on your phone and your stream is there, and it loads, and you see all the notifications, you don't have to make any effort. And I think that's the danger. You pointed out something, basically making that easy access for other things that are more productive, more creative, more worthy of your time, let's say. I always feel that—at least for myself—I kind of regret sometimes when I spend more than 10 minutes looking at Instagram if I do. It just might be me but it doesn't feel like a really productive thing to do. It doesn't matter. But if you have in the back of your head that you want to play guitar, to go for a run, to write, even to watch a movie, then you will find yourself you've replaced that time with something that you didn't really intend to do, right? So I think that's great. I've talked about this to a lot of people, but even the simple act of uninstalling certain apps from your phone, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, whatever, that's a really good blocker. I mean, it's one blocker. There's like, hundreds of ways we can talk about blocking things and whatnot. But yeah, it's cool the idea of the podium.
50:33Scott Mitchell: I think it'd be great because I don't want to sit down, I don't even want to sit down before I start working. If I come in from the run, and I'm ready to go, I just want it to be right there. Actually I wanted to have 15 podiums in a circle with one with a computer on it, one with a piece of paper, another one with a guitar, another with a keyboard..
50:50Nono Martínez Alonso: I can totally relate to that because even these microphones that we're using, the setup that it takes to put everything together, it's tedious, even if it's just one of them. You have to put it on the tripod, put the pop filter, plug it to the computer, open the software. And just that effort might prevent you from actually singing or playing an instrument. And that defies a purpose. I mean, you were trying to enjoy 10 minutes of your time singing, or playing an instrument. And now you've got into the tedious process of setting up this device, and putting it there, making sure it's working. I don't know, maybe it's friction, if we didn't have friction.. I think that is what automation is trying to do. Like tell Siri to switch up the lights when maybe you don't want to stand up and go click the light thing, and you don't switch it on. But if you can do it in an easier way, maybe that makes you more eager to go for that path.
52:00Scott Mitchell: Such lazy creatures. One little speed bump could totally prevent like a 15 minute productive session of guitar, or of software development. I feel like I could take that idea and run with it. I will also imagine having a big warehouse with ping pong tables on it, and everything to do with one project is on one ping pong table—especially in architecture, or if you're a designer—you could have like, a bunch of ping pong tables, and each one just has all your drawings, and the computer with your files on it for each project. Wouldn't that be so awesome? You could just walk up to the Howick machine project ping pong table and start working, and it's all right there.
52:39Nono Martínez Alonso: I've lived here in Cambridge for three years, and I had this long table—like two and a half meter long table—and a lot of times I would have a lot of things on it—random papers, things I want to scan, the computer, microphones, or clothes—things like that. But my ideal setup was to actually empty it out completely. And that is because—even though it's such a silly thing because, if I take the computer and put it down, I'm gonna take it out like in half an hour, you know you're gonna use it again—sometimes I would like to have it completely empty. And it's not just because I want to have it clean or anything, it's because I want the table to be for the things that I'm going to use. You know, like have a moment where you say "Okay, the table has my drawings, the scanner, and the computer. So right now I'm scanning." So if I go for a glass of water, I don't see other things. I maybe pick up the microphone to do something, or pick up the phone for doing other things. And that at least—you have the friction that you have to set up—but at least I have everything packed in some place. So the microphones, the scanner in some place, all the things. So you always—if you want to do something—you have that friction but you have to get that thing and then that's the only thing that you have. So I think that works for me, and again, I never thought of that before that way. But yeah, I think there's something there. There is both the friction and the focus. So you said one table per thing that's a kind of.. You know, it's not only no friction, but it's also, this table only has the things that I can use for Howick machine work. So I'm not going to open a book that is about running, or I don't know, like another tab. And this, I think a lot of times I've read about it somewhere, having Monotaskers. That's why the Kindle was so successful. It's just such a dumb device, but it made one thing well. I mean, some people like reading books—physical books—but a lot of people—like me—like to read on the Kindle. And why is that? Because I don't have any notifications, or the possibility of doing anything else. You have a browser, but it sucks. I feel like Monotaskers are great. I mean, I wish I could have—and I'm thinking of doing that with my iPad—a dedicated device where I have Instagram, but I don't have it on my phone with me all the time. And you have a dedicated mode of your laptop that is only for writing, and you have another dedicated mode that is for working. And you can only use that thing for what you want to do in the moment, right? That that's super hard, because—you talked about the friction to get started—but the other thing is when you get a distraction, and then you divert. Like you're all set up to do that, but then somebody calls you, that you have to go to read an email, and then that email leads you to—I don't know—you end up on some website. Might be YouTube, Facebook, or even reading some news. Or even something that's productive, but I feel that even productive things can be distractions, a lot of times.
55:48Scott Mitchell: No, I agree. I suck at actually incorporating these things in the my life. I actually had this thought during school, I would let the distraction be the thing that I was actually working on. So I hated architectural studio. So there's a studio the place and the studio the class, the class you design a building. And I was never as good at studios, as I was at designing other things—smaller things—like designing a system for cladding a building, or designing a dress, or something like that. Anyways, I would start working on studio—which I wasn't particularly excited about—and then get distracted by a software I was developing or something. And then I would just do that and actually get a lot done. The one thing that I kind of know about myself is that I sort of like doing what I'm not supposed to be doing. So the distraction was actually the thing that I was going to get done, right? I was supposed to be doing studio work, but made some software . Didn't do so great in studio, but I ended up getting a job as a software developer.
56:55Nono Martínez Alonso: So this is actually with an artist called Jessica Hische refers as "procrastiworking." It means that you set your procrastination from the actual "work" from the actual work that you have to do. You set it to be a distraction, but that at the same time is productive work. Let's say you might have to do architecture studio, but then you also have to do on the side some writing for someone. So you let that the distraction—so what distracts you or maybe clears your head from design studio for like 30 minutes or an hour—is that other thing that you want to do, but that is also productive. You know, yeah you're procrastinating but you keep working on something else. So at the end of the day is not such a bad trade. So yeah, that's Jessica Hische. So you talked about working on the weekends, that you got used to that in architectural school. Maybe you still do it. How do you disconnect? Might be from work, from social media, from the internet, from connectivity..
58:02Scott Mitchell: Currently, I'd say my main—maybe only—disconnection method is to go for a run, which I do like every other day. I mean, that's awesome. I think a lot of people have talked about that it's sort of a meditative activity, and I completely agree. I don't think it's enough, I would like to disconnect in other ways. I would like to spend an entire weekend without a phone. One policy I implemented for like three days—a couple weeks ago—was, at eight o'clock, I would turn my phone off for the night. And it literally lasted two days, I think, but it was really nice. I think I spent three hours reading one of those nights and then I spent a couple hours just like sitting there playing guitar and on and off from playing guitar and reading another night. It was awesome.
58:50Nono Martínez Alonso: I can do that here. Because at 6pm everyone in Spain goes to bed.
58:55Scott Mitchell: And that's where most of the people that you talk to you are?
58:58Nono Martínez Alonso: Yeah, mainly.
58:59Scott Mitchell: I mean, the problem I think is that people would maybe start to worry. I guess if people knew that the policy was in place, it would be less of a problem.
59:08Nono Martínez Alonso: So yeah, I agree with that. Email, for instance, it's all about agreements. It's like a contract with the people you communicate with. I believe that if you stop responding emails every day, and you say "I just reply on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays." People might not know what your pattern is, but they know that if they email you, they can expect to wait at least one or two days. And people get used to that I. For example, I didn't have a smartphone until 2015, until January 2015. I've had this iPhone for almost four years. And before I wouldn't have it, and I would have like a normal phone—you can send SMS or you can call—so you either call me or send a text, nobody uses text. So people would get used to sending me messages by email, right? I would have to use email—you know email is a slower method of communication—you just get used to that. It's like "Okay, Nono doesn't have Whatsapp so I cannot rely that he's going to be on Whatsapp—I have Whatsapp now but that was different times—and I might email him, but I can spec that this is going to take longer." That's all you need. I'm actually trying to get together some some post about that. There is a really good one that is called the emailcharter.org. And it has these 10 commandments of how we can all make email—for example—healthier. It's all about rules. I don't know, even using NNTR at the end of the email, "No need to reply." You don't need somebody to bounce back and reply saying thanks, because that's going to clutter your inbox tomorrow morning and it's going to distract you from other things, or you might want to reply back "Thanks, thanks." You know, it's just too much. So you need some contractual—informal contractual—agreement of how you're going to use the tool and that's all you need. And I think they're unhealthy thing there that we are doing is that a lot of times we're too fast replying, because the moment that you're really fast replying, and you teach people that you are fast replying, then if there's something urgent, they're going to rely on that method of communication for telling you. And if you take more than an hour to reply, that might lead to some argument I think. I mean, that's my experience.
1:01:24Scott Mitchell: Yeah, I completely agree. One of the first things I ever heard about Nono, was Megan Berry sent—I think she sent like a group message to you and me—and she was like "Hey, I heard you guys are both working at Autodesk, or something like that." And I responded back something like "What's up Nono?" And then you didn't say anything, so I remember I was talking to Megan about it, a couple of hours later. And she was like "Oh yeah, don't worry about it. Nono doesn't reply to messages except for like, at particular times in the day." I was like "What the hell?" I had never heard of anyone doing that before. I was really impressed by it. That was one of the first things I knew about you. It's interesting, a really interesting thing to do.
1:02:04Nono Martínez Alonso: I found also, it's a double edged sword. Because the thing of scheduling, you say "I'm gonna reply to emails at that time, or something." I kind of change systems and things like that. Sometimes I just don't care. But you know, imagine that you say "Okay, I'm going to work for four hours. And then I'm going to stop, make a break of 30 minutes at this time. And then I'm going to keep working." Yeah, it's great, because those four hours you're gonna stop distracting yourself. But then you have a break that is like a mandatory distraction. Maybe you're on the flow and you could continue working, but you know it's time to look at Twitter, and email, and whatever. And maybe that day you wouldn't have the need—or the urge—to look at any social media. But then you have scheduled your time where you have to check everything. So now you're going to LinkedIn, and then to Facebook, and then to Twitter, and then to Instagram and then to whatever, right? So I think that's the problem as well. You don't have a mandatory need for that. It's just that try to not interact with those things at certain times. But yeah I don't know, that's just—as you said before—what works for you and whatnot. So what's your relationship with social media?
1:03:16Scott Mitchell: I'm not super active on social media. I don't have a Facebook, nor Twitter.I do have an Instagram, and I really wanted to—I have this ongoing intention of posting my work there and my works in progress there—but I don't do a great job with that.
1:03:31Nono Martínez Alonso: You need a website.
1:03:33Scott Mitchell: I need a website. I completely agree. And I spend a lot of time browsing Instagram, also, which I never feel good about. It always feels like a waste of time. That's my relationship there.
1:03:44Nono Martínez Alonso: In what ways do you think that technology right now is making your life easier?
1:03:49Scott Mitchell: Access to books and to learning resources.
1:03:54Nono Martínez Alonso: Well, to that I would say, I recently signed up for the Boston Public Library undthe Cambridge Public Library. And just with that—just by having a Massachusetts ID—you get access to a massive library of physical books, a lot of books that you can put on your Kindle for free, you can loan for 40 days, and you get audiobooks as well. And I got a free Lynda subscription and resource to a lot of magazines. That's just a really silly tip, but go to your local public library and ask to get a card and to get online access and you'll get access to a lot of free books.
1:04:37Scott Mitchell: I've done that actually. I forgot.
1:04:40Nono Martínez Alonso: But yeah, I think also things like Amazon—making books so accessible—are changing a bit that paradigm where people are getting a lot more used to pay for books on their Kindles, or on their devices than before. How would you define success?
1:04:54Scott Mitchell: If I'm proud of of something that I produce, that's success to me. I think that's the feeling that I am tipically working towards,
1:05:01Nono Martínez Alonso: Do you have any role models? For teaching or learning?
1:05:05Scott Mitchell: I think I have a lot. I believe and I really try to keep in mind that I can learn something from everyone. Some people more than others, but literally every single person that we work with—including you, and everyone else on the team—is someone that knows a lot of stuff that I don't know. I really don't have a select few role models or people that I learn from, I learn from everyone, and I think I like being the least qualified person in a situation. Sometimes it's nice to be the leader, or something. But also, it's really nice to be the least qualified person around because you have more to gain than everyone else.
1:05:41Nono Martínez Alonso: That's a really good way to put it. If you could send a sentence to the whole world—a message—what would it say?
1:05:49Scott Mitchell: I would want to say something stupid, like "She'll be back around." Or a tattoo that says "She'll be back around." It means not to really worry, just kind of chill, because [you] have another shot, whatever it is. I don't think that's really what I want to tell the whole world.
1:06:05Nono Martínez Alonso: What's your take on clothing?
1:06:07Scott Mitchell: 90% of the new clothes that I buy—since I started architecture school—are black. And I wish that I could afford to replace everything in my wardrobe with just the black version of it. Just think it's the best color and keeps things simple, everything matches. But I still have like crazy socks and shirts with grapefruit. I have a grapefruit shirt that I really like.
1:06:33Nono Martínez Alonso: My favorite socks are are there. It's like the squirrel ones, they're blue, with squirrels.
1:06:39Scott Mitchell: I don't know why I even care about having like a couple of crazy pieces of clothing. Oh man, this wasn't an experiment, but this happened sort of at the same moment that the experiments happened. But I made these lists. And the most important list—like the ultimate list—was the list of things that I want. And—God I used to have it absolutely memorized—entry number one on the list is "Cheap, low wrist, weird jackets. Probably from the thrift store or homemade." Is what I wrote there, and those are not black. Those are like things I find at thrift stores, and can just wear to be interesting to myself for the day. So yeah, that's my take on clothes. You want to hear the rest of the list?
1:07:21Nono Martínez Alonso: Yes, please.
1:07:23Scott Mitchell: This is the list of things I want. Cheap, low wrist, weird jackets. Probably from the thrift store or homemade. It has three checkmarks next to it because I've acquired three of those jackets. Number two, long hair, check. Number three, some way to turn my truck bed into a bed. I've not done that yet. Number four, a guitar to paint on, check. Five, a partner in crime. Six, a tattoo with construction lines. Seven, a skate bowl in my home. Seven, a black knit sweater with texture to watch movies in. What a m I at? Eight? Nine, a piano Made out of plywood. That's the list of things that I want. That's me.
1:08:03Nono Martínez Alonso: That's a good image of yourself.
1:08:06Scott Mitchell: That's pretty good, right? Nah, that's pretty weird. That's cool, though. Next question.
1:08:11Nono Martínez Alonso: Do you have any book recommendations?
1:08:13Scott Mitchell: Godel, Escher, Bach. That's my favorite book.
1:08:16Nono Martínez Alonso: A purchase of $100 or less, that has made an impact in your life?
1:08:20Scott Mitchell: Plain t-shirts, just like a whole bunch of them. Socks, socks are cheap, and they're so comfortable when they're new.
1:08:27Nono Martínez Alonso: Where do you buy the T-shirts?
1:08:29Scott Mitchell: I.. There's been a T-shirt experiment recently. So I tried one from COS and J. Crew.
1:08:37Nono Martínez Alonso: So I actually have been researching the cotton T-shirt market lately, and there seem to be like now all these different shops that sell the same kind of T-shirts. But I don't know it's like, Gap, H&M, Uniqlo, Primark.. They all have the same sort of baseline $5 cotton T-shirt. I don't really know how to judge what's like better or worse,
1:09:04Scott Mitchell: Well you should just get one of each. Have you done that already?
1:09:07Nono Martínez Alonso: Some of them.
1:09:08Scott Mitchell: It's kind of expensive. That's about.. What, 20 bucks? $5 for a T-shirt.
1:09:13Nono Martínez Alonso: Okay, cheapest t shirt, you want to know where it is?
1:09:15Scott Mitchell: Yeah, this is valuable information.
1:09:17Nono Martínez Alonso: Black Friday, H&M, $3, free shipping.
1:09:21Scott Mitchell: That's crazy! But that's only once a year though, right?
1:09:24Nono Martínez Alonso: Well, yeah. But then you just get for the rest of the year.
1:09:27Scott Mitchell: The problem is that you have to know that that's the one that you want to buy in bulk.
1:09:31Nono Martínez Alonso: Where can people find you online?
1:09:33Scott Mitchell: You can't really find me right now.
1:09:35Nono Martínez Alonso: Okay, I'm going to stop you there. This episode is going to be published after a few months, right? We're now recording in August 2018. I don't exactly know when this is going to be published, but I get your word that when this is published, you're going to have a website there for me to tell people.
1:09:53Scott Mitchell: Yeah, it'll be in the notes.
1:09:55Nono Martínez Alonso: What's your Instagram?
1:09:56Scott Mitchell: It's @s.a.mitchell. You can find me there.
1:10:00Nono Martínez Alonso: There you go.
1:10:00Scott Mitchell: And on my website—stud-io.org—which you can find in the detailed notes.
1:10:05Nono Martínez Alonso: gettingsimple.com/podcast.
1:10:07 Okay, I just want to ask you this random question, because you're coming from design, and engineering,and film and you know, you have a lot of artistry background, and design, and engineering. What do you think the words simple and intuitive mean?
1:10:24Scott Mitchell: The simple design is just boiled down to what's absolutely necessary. This way something is simple, all extraneous or unnecessary components have been taken out. But I feel like that's a really obvious understanding of simple. What was the other word? Simple and?
1:10:41Nono Martínez Alonso: Intuitive.
1:10:42Scott Mitchell: Intuitive design, like when someone approaches it, they should just immediately know how to be approaching it how to interact with it.
1:10:49Nono Martínez Alonso: Where do you think that intuitiveness comes from? What makes the person already know?
1:10:54Scott Mitchell: I don't know. We are all like the same animal. We have the same psychology. If you design something as a designer, you designe something that you understand. You can expect your user to have a similar intuition, right?
1:11:50Scott Mitchell: You could say that an intuitive interface is like an approachable arena, an arena that people can—without friction—step into and understand the fundamentals of that game. And just start to play.
1:12:06Nono Martínez Alonso: You can't say the things are just intuitive. There is like a baggage behind why something is intuitive. We've been using the same icons for decades now. So yeah, you can expect that if you see like a disket icon somewhere, you know that's "save". We know because it's been used before. If it had been used for something else in the 90s, maybe today nobody would understand that, right? That's what I'm coming from, there is no intuitiveness per se. You need to have some context. Okay. What can you tell me about clutter, both physical and digital in your life?
1:12:46Scott Mitchell: Physically, my life is very cluttered right now, because I just moved. But I want the most simple living space possible. My previous apartment that I just moved from, I had no furniture—I had one piece of furniture—just a chair. In the living room I just had a chair. And then it was just wood floors. So it was just the chair, and all my guitars leaning up against the wall. And it was so awesome because all that space—I also had a lamp, or light hanging above the chair—was just for playing guitar, or sitting there late at night and chilling. So that's definitely something I value and something I make sure to have, is an uncluttered space. Digitally, I'm super disorganized. You would be major disappointed if you saw my file structures. It's okay though. Yeah, that's the truth. The problem is that I have so many prjoects, uncluttering my digital life is another project.
1:13:48Nono Martínez Alonso: Yeah, you gotta try to tidy as much as you can as you're working and that's it.
1:13:52Scott Mitchell: I don't know, every time you show me anything on your computer, and where it's stored, and what system you're using to log it.. It kind of blows my mind. I would love to adopt some of that. I will, eventually.
1:14:03Nono Martínez Alonso: One question I forgot to ask you, how do you use email?
1:14:07Scott Mitchell: I'm pretty responsive on email. I love getting emails. I obviously hate worthless emails, but major opportunities always come through email for me. So I get real excited when I get an email that might be a potential new projects to start working on. So I check email way too often. I'm definitely not one of those people who like has 1000 notifications—little red notification icon on anything—I keep up to date with my email. I'm pretty good about it, like too good about it.
1:14:38Nono Martínez Alonso: Do you have any meditation space?
1:14:41Scott Mitchell: The guitar is a meditation space. I usually sit on the carpet, or on the wood floor of my own apartment.I got a carpet now. A rug, rather. And I made sure to get it comfortable because I like to sit on the floor and play guitar, turn the lights out. It's super chill. The light comes into my living room in a really cool way from this lamppost, right outside. So I that's my meditative space.
1:15:02Nono Martínez Alonso: And this is a question of Alan Watts, what would you do if money were no object?
1:15:07Scott Mitchell: Just experiment. Production without guarantees. That's what one of my good friends, Margot says. That's her little slogan "produce without guarantees." It's a really cool way to work. Do what you want to do, and don't worry too much about whether it's going to produce anything valuable or not.
1:15:23Nono Martínez Alonso: Nice. Well, we're coming close to the end. So this was The Getting Simple Podcast with Scott Mitchell, here in Cambridge Massachusetts. Is there anything else do you want to say?
1:15:36Scott Mitchell: No, it's been a good conversation. Thank you for having me.
1:15:40Nono Martínez Alonso: Cool, would you give any follow up commentary to the people listening to people who've made it to the end.
1:15:48Scott Mitchell: Yeah I was about to say if you made it this far, that's awesome. Send me an email. Um, we must have a lot in common.
1:15:55Nono Martínez Alonso: I've had a lot of fun. I hope—to people who listened to this—I hope you enjoyed it because I think there's a lot of insight. Scott told me at the beginning that he didn't think he was gonna have a lot to talk about. Your advice I think can be pretty helpful for designers, or creators who are getting started. Understanding the metaphor of the arena, and the rule sets, and you know how to break the rules, and why to break them, and experiment. Something like how misusing the tools will make you more creative.
1:16:31Scott Mitchell: I do think that can be valuable, this conversation would be valuable for me at least, like four or five years ago. I hope that can become a bit more coherent for for me over the next few years as I become more of a professional.
1:16:46Nono Martínez Alonso: Well, thanks a lot Scott, for your time for being a guest.
1:16:51Scott Mitchell: Yeah, thank you for having me. See you guys.
1:16:56Nono Martínez Alonso: Hello, everyone. We're back. I hope you enjoyed the conversation that we had. That's sort of the typical podcast structure that I would tend to do—or that I've done so far—up to 22 or 21 episodes. We would talk about Scott's life, Scott's career, what projects, or what work related things, motivated him at the moment, and then try to go a bit deeper into his daily life, his rituals, his ways to approach technology, social media, and whatnot. And always trying to find a connection to his personal life and his work life. What Scott an I discussed was that because this episode was centered around the idea of experimentation, one—for me—I would do an experiment of trying to do a podcast that tries to jump in time. So that's experiment number one for Getting Simple. And for his own project of trying to remove friction from creativity, trying to experiment a bit, and so forth, we had the idea that you will add to this conversation—seeing how after a year of living this way, or almost a year—what's changed, and how you see things differently. And hopefully that some of those things that you were talking about in terms of experimentation, removing friction, and all the ways to look at the creative process have helped you in taking decisions that you're taking today.
1:18:27Scott Mitchell: That sounds good. I think one clarification I want to make is that I haven't just been living this way for a year. I think this is how I've been living always. And this isn't like I just adopted a certain philosophy a year ago and now we're checking in. These are two points checking in on Scott's life philosophy and its evolution.
1:18:46Nono Martínez Alonso: There's no script, so I will have to improvise.
1:18:49Scott Mitchell: Good. That's what you're supposed to be doing.
1:18:51Nono Martínez Alonso: So we can start off by commenting abit on what's changed? Or what's about to change?
1:18:58Scott Mitchell: Yeah. What has changed. I think, again, everything is just a continuous evolution. And it's changing. What is changing? And what has changed? And what will change? What's been super interesting—and probably what we should talk about first—is my professional evolution over the past year. I've been out of school for a little over a year now, and I talked a lot in our conversation a year ago about this ongoing investigation into the arena of steel studs. I was laughing, listening to that recording because I just seemed stupidly excited about steel studs. And I was laughing because I still am. It's still like that well of possible experimentation and investigation is deep, and I'm still there. Biggest change that has happened for me—professionally this year—is that I actually have started my own business around computational steel stud design. Doing complex steel stud structures for construction companies, and for designers. That's obviously been an important transition.
1:20:01Nono Martínez Alonso: What parts of creating your own company and working on your own projects with your own clients, how much of that, or to what extent is that influenced by your philosophy of experimentation?
1:20:12Scott Mitchell: Yeah. So I think first I should mention that before I started my own company—in my spare time—I was conducting a series of experiments, like see if certain things were possible in the computer—computationally—and then testing them out. One thing in particular that I did some experiments and prototypes around this year was curved studs using this machine, just not something I thought was possible before. I just did that because I thought it was interesting. It was like "This can probably be done with this machine. And this can probably be computationally controlled." And I did like two or three experiments around curving studs, and I just documented them and I held on to them. There have been a number of occasions where I'm talking to clients—or potential clients—and it's like "Oh, by the way." Or something comes up in a discussion "If only we could curve it. We need a curve here, or something. Actually, let me show you these experiments I've done. Let me show you some of the investigation I've done into basically this exact idea." And I can just pull that up. And we're like "Okay, we know this is possible, it might require a little bit more development, but the idea has already been sort of proven out." So those experiments that I conducted earlier this year have proven really valuable for the business.
1:21:24Nono Martínez Alonso: What about the idea of the podium, removing friction from certain processes that you frequently do?
1:21:31Scott Mitchell: I think that's more relevant than ever, because having started a business, I'm not just responsible for making things and conducting experiments. I had to figure out cash flow, paying taxes, and negotiating contracts, and a lot of different things like that. Those all deserve their own podium pretty much. So a new idea there is outsourcing podiums I think—such an important thing—one of the best things I've done. I did an accountant experience—I don't know if experiment is really the right word here—but I basically just called a bunch of accountants and talked to them, and decided which one seemed the best to work with. So I got an accountant—picked one—and I met with them, signed up with them, gave them access to my accounts, and they have just been amazing. I don't have to worry about anything anymore. They tell me how I'm doing each month, they tell me how I'm going to file my taxes. They tell me all this stuff that I know nothing about. So all 15 of those podiums are gone now. So it's really great not having to think about these thing. My point being—sort of my main evolution in terms of that idea of trying to minimize friction this year—has been just minimizing the number of things I'm involving myself with, and I'm not good at it. But that's been sort of my intention.
1:22:45Nono Martínez Alonso: What are some other challenges that you've found?
1:22:48Scott Mitchell: It's scary to leave a well paying stable job and go try something that you don't really know if it's going to exist for very long. You can't really rely on it long term. For some reason I am okay with it, but I think that's the challenge that I've had sort of a solution to this whole time, which is.. I think I'm lucky, I found a foundational client. And they're a great client that has given me the stability to be comfortable not havinga typical job.
1:23:19Nono Martínez Alonso: What was the main driver for taking this decision?
1:23:22Scott Mitchell: I just wanted to learn.I've loved working at Autodesk. And I worked as a software engineer at Autodesk, which I loved. And I've learned so much—and have so much more to learn—but I don't really see myself as a software engineer. I see myself as a designer who uses software and software development to design. I'm a tool making designer and I was only getting the toolmaking side of things at Autodesk. I wasn't really getting to use them. I was—I mean, we had the build space—so I was able to go down and do experiments like I mentioned before, but I was ready to be a designer at a larger scale, and out in sort of the real world. You know, making real construction projects, real things. It was really hard to leave Autodesk because I loved that job. The motivation was to get back into being a designer,
1:24:09Nono Martínez Alonso: What other projects do you think you'd like to engage in?
1:24:12Scott Mitchell: Looking back at the Howick investigation. And maybe this is obvious to other people, but I think it kind of took me a while to frame it this way. Actually, maybe not at all. I think what happened with the Howick machine, that made it valuable—and it made it a thing that ultimately became a business—is that there was this existing machine, that it happened to have latent potential in it, that people weren't really taking advantage of. And I think I have two things. I have the ability to make tools and also just a curiousness about misusing tools. So I took this machine—this existing machine—and figured out ways to misuse it and increase its capabilities. And I think that's a model that can be explored with other machines, not just steel stud roll forming machines. So I want that to be the future of my company. So project Stud Muffin should be followed by project, some other machine.
1:25:07Nono Martínez Alonso: What are roles that you're looking to find people to help you with?
1:25:11Scott Mitchell: That's a great question, man. I don't think I can really answer that right now. I think that the next six months or so, is going to be figuring out what does this thing actually look like? Is it always going to be me as just working on my own? Or can it become more of a legitimate business, where there are multiple people working together—maybe multiple principles—plus some people to do the boring work? I don't know. I want it to turn into that. But I don't think it's super easy to figure out what form a business takes you know, especially when it gets to that scale. Not that that's a crazy scale—but I mean—even what I'm doing right now, was crazy to me a year ago. And I'm slowly working my way up to having a research and development slash design firm. That's what I want.
1:26:01Nono Martínez Alonso: What are some of the things that are changing from working full time at a company and working on your own?
1:26:07Scott Mitchell: I love working on my own. I love being able to make my own schedule. And that's great. I think that's the great part of it. What's not great is that I don't have any rest time. I've been trying to do a good job of like taking Saturday's off, but that part is tough. But anyways, what I do like is creating my own schedule. I like being able to chill on the mornings, work in the afternoons, chill in the evenings and then work at night. It's kind of been my schedule.
1:26:35Nono Martínez Alonso: What things are you going to miss from your full time job?
1:26:38Scott Mitchell: One thing I'm going to miss—but I'm trying to get this back—is going to work every day in a community. Idon't know a team, or like literally just having a place to go. I think sometimes I go a little crazy sitting in my apartment. I got this new desk, the desk is wonderful
1:26:54Nono Martínez Alonso: But it's at at home.
1:26:55Scott Mitchell: But it's at home. And there are days that I don't go outside at all, and that's a problem. So I usually eat lunch out, in order to just spend some time outside of the apartment.
1:27:06Nono Martínez Alonso: What's the thing that you think is more likely to fail?
1:27:10Scott Mitchell: I don't think it's gonna fail. I don't think I'm going to run out of opportunities. I am overwhelmed with opportunities right now. Mostly overwhelmed, because I'm only one person. I think I could work kind of as a consultant forever. What might fail is me not finding a way to scale this to make it more legitimate. You know, having a sustainable research and development team that does fabrication and design. I feel like that's going to depend on finding people to work with. So two things, I think I need to come up with a clear vision of what this company could look like. And I need to find people to help me build that vision. So step one, create the vision. I think it's gonna require experimentation. Stud Muffin is basically just the name of my LLC from which I take on any project that seems interesting to me. But at some point, I should probably have a little bit more clarity about what work Stud Muffin does. You know, Stud Muffin offers this service and not these other services. Right now, I'm just a consultant for computational design. Anyway, so right now I'm in this experimentation phase, just like seeing and taking on all possible opportunities. Later on, I need to see how I can involve other people, other people working with or for me, and you know, what sort of form that can take.
1:28:29Nono Martínez Alonso: From last year, what other things—not necessarily linked to your job or your company—have also changed. Things like hobbies that you were doing before and you stopped doing, new things that you started doing that you were not doing before, or things that now you do a bit more frequently.. Anything that has changed, that is a highlight for you.
1:28:51Scott Mitchell: My hobbies haven't changed one bit. My hobbies are exactly what they used to be. I still sit at home and play guitar and work, that's basically my life. I think I've been more intentional. One thing I talked about before, was wanting to be sort of creative in small moments and creative in like life, not just in work. And I've gotten better at that. So in the past, I think I talked about my experiment being like, what hair product am I using? And that's dumb, and I still do stuff like that. But I have started to experiment in more interesting ways in my personal life, with going to different towns in New England per weekend. So like, me and my girlfriend have just been—generally about one weekend per month—we'll go to a new place in New England, because we're interested in having a home somewhere, eventually. Actually, I have a whole experiment about this resort that I want to build—the experiment resort—which I can talk about later. I want to find some land for this experiment, and so we've been kind of looking for that. So it does two things, right? One, let's say it's a monthly trip, which is important—especially while I've been starting the business—because I don't have a lot of time for hanging out. And two, it's research for this future experiment. So that's good.
1:30:11 And actually, we added another element recently because I started training for a marathon. I'm like a couple months in, and the runs are like 15-20 miles right now—like the training miles, or the training runs—and we drive back from these trips or from visiting places. She will just drop me off 20 miles from home, because I'm sick of running the same route around my neighborhood, and like around Boston. So yesterday, I ran from somewhere 17 miles away. It was awesome. I got to see like parts of Boston—more of Boston suburbs—that I've never seen before. The that's interesting is how these experiments lead to other experiments, or can combine. Another thing that we were talking about before is oranges in the shower. If there's no cost to an experiment—or the diva curl, also—there was no cost to it. Or getting dropped off 20 miles from home on your way back from a trip. There's no cost to it, so why not do these things? Experiments that I've done this year—especially the ones that just take a week—that represent some new ideas have, they feel exactly the same to me as when I create a song on the guitar.
1:31:25 [Guitar plays.]
1:31:34 In both cases, it is me using the notes that I know to explore an idea and then crystallize that idea as a song or as a steel stud prototype. And that is the thing that I enjoy doing the most—just by myself—in life. And that's it.
1:31:56 Should we talk about our experiment, that we did today?
1:31:58Nono Martínez Alonso: Okay, yeah.
1:31:59Scott Mitchell: I wish I had more wisdom now than I di d a year ago. But I don't think I do, I think I have less. But that's a good thing, right? It means that I have a lot to learn. I feel like I have less because a ll I'm thinking about now is this business. And I'm not thinking about sort of the foundational ideas or the philosophy.
1:32:19Nono Martínez Alonso: With this side thing of the podcast, and some other activities I have, I have similar problems. I have also this thing in mind of struggling to know how to outsource certain things, or find the right creators, or professionals, to do certain parts. That's scary in some way. We'll give you a really simple example. It might take me from six to twenty hours to produce an episode. And I can't imagine how many people could I really find if I spend those twenty hours looking for people to help me out, right? I think it would pay off super quickly. You think about it, there is something that we don't realize that is a lot of friction, it seems to be that you're working. But the biggest friction is when you're spending a lot of time doing things that you think you need to do, but you don't really need to do, like somebody else can help you with it. Or things that maybe are not necessary, they're just not needed. Another dumb example is sharing what you create on social media, for instance. We've created this fictional story around social media being super, super important. And in some cases, it can help. But how about the time that you're going to gain without doing it, right? I've been doing an experiment myself.
1:33:37Scott Mitchell: Nice.
1:33:38Nono Martínez Alonso: So this experiment that I'm talking about was kick started by ideas in the book of James Clear, Atomic Habits. I feel that he says things that many people—even my mom—would say "Oh, those things are.. Those are the evident things, just being said in a really good way." And they are. I think there are some scientific research keys there that we can all learn a bit about. It's just telling you what's super dumb in a good form that you can directly take action. And I will just share the principle that I follow from that book: that he says that instead of pursuing goals, you should pursue systems. That if you identify what successful people and unsuccessful people have done is that they usually both set goals. Both the poor and the rich want to be rich and both the athlete and the amateur runner want to be—you know—the best runner in their community or something. What makes a difference is not the goals that you set. What makes a difference is the small systems that you implement in your day. I mean, this is not my idea, this is credit to to James Clear, but his main recommendation is about not setting huge goals for yourself, but setting super, super small systematic things that you will do every day. One example that I've tried for instance, is, instead of writing in your to do list, go for a run—or run three times a week—I just said where are my running clothes at 12pm, or something like that. Naturally what follows after you're ready to run. We've removed, as you said "You remove your friction, you're ready to go." You just need to get your keys, you go to run. It's super easy to say "Okay, I'll get my running clothes." And then what he says is "Set super, super small habits that you want to create." For instance, run one kilometer a week, or run half a kilometer every day. And what you find is that that helps you start the activity super easily. And you start running that half kilometer, one kilometer. But I've never seen myself run just one K, if I've gone through the effort of putting on the clothes and going running. So it's about fooling yourself in some way. There is a lot of theory behind—I'm not trying to just do a summary of the book—but he has this thing of making a habit. I don't remember the four principles. It was about making it attractive, making it easy, making it.. Hmm, I'm forgetting, I don't know I can at least do that.
1:36:23 So coming back to what I was really talking about, is that I set three small habits that I wanted to have every single day. Three really small things that I will do to maintain core activities I want to improve in my life. The first one was—and I set them as I said, in a really small or easy format—meditate at least 10 minutes every day. The second one was writing at least 200 words every day, no matter what the topic. Right now, I am not even constraining myself to having to write in any form or any format. And then the third one was about sketching one thing every day, doesn't matter what it is. It can be what I see through my window. It can be my shoes, anything. One object every day. For some reason, it worked. I downloaded a Google Drive—like Excel sheet or something, you can clone it from somebody—I linked that on the show notes. So you write in a column your three, or four, or ten habits that you want to create. And then every day you will cross an X with "I've done my medition. I've done my 200 words. I've done my sketch today." And this Excel sheet, the only thing it does is that it puts a green mark on that day, and then it starts counting your streak. How many days in a row have you gone in this habit tracker? Then you just follow the principle of trying not to break the chain. Breaking the chain meaning you've done your sketch three days and then the fourth day you're "Wow, I have three days in a row. Let's do a quick sketch at least." What I found is that now I'm almost up to 90 days that I haven't broken the habit any fucking day.
1:38:07Scott Mitchell: That's impressive.
1:38:08Nono Martínez Alonso: I mean, it's been really hard. Meditation I found that some days I had to be a bit creative, I had to do it while I was doing other things. For me, meditation means doing breathing exercise while you try to clear your mind for at least 10 minutes. You can imagine that the same way you can do that sitting in your couch, you can do while you're trying to go to sleep—that's dangerous because you might fall asleep and then you haven't really done it—you could do it while running, you could it do while showering, you could do it really well walking, on anything. The 200 words, I've tried to just go for journaling mainly, but I never find myself only writing 200 words. It's pretty hard—you know, once you've got the mood of writing you just write a bit more—and usually, I can get up to 400 or even 700 words. And I will do journaling, some days I will start writing concepts to blog about, or other things. And then with sketching, I will always bring my sketchbook.All I need to do is just sketch anything that I see. What happened with that, is that I rarely end up doing just one sketch. I get my ink, pens, and my watercolors, and I end up doing one, or two, or three.. Some days I do even up to 10, or whatever.
1:39:23Scott Mitchell: Why? Because you enjoy sketching?
1:39:26Nono Martínez Alonso: I get satisfaction from writing and also having finished pieces written, something that I see that I spent a bit more time. And I get a lot of satisfaction out of documenting my life through sketches and little stories, rather than with Instagram pictures or tweets. It seems really silly.
1:39:50Scott Mitchell: No, it doesn't seem silly.
1:39:52Nono Martínez Alonso: It was all kick started by me trying to write more profoundly—even if just a little bit—and not just posting on Twitter, and also trying to disconnect from Instagram and Facebook, and the continuous stream of updates that we know. There's a lot of people talking about it, how can you find focus in the noisy environment that we've created for ourselves? This is popping up in many episodes now. And it might be also because I just finished reading it yesterday, but Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. It's funny how a guy who has never had a social media account has established a philosophy for how we should embrace digital technologies. So yeah, that's my summary. I don't know if we should detach this from this episode.
1:40:44Scott Mitchell: I have been in that mode before. I understand that mode, the mode of trying to be better and to get better. I respect that.
1:40:51Nono Martínez Alonso: You asked why?
1:40:52Scott Mitchell: I know because I also like, hate it. I want to just be doing things because I'm already in the flow. So that was my first reaction, I was like "I don't really care for this because it seems a little bit oppressive to yourself." But at the same time, that discipline, I don't think you can just like expect to be loving what you're doing and be in the flow state all the time. I think 95% of the time—or more—you need to be disciplined so that you are ready to kind of take off when things are really clicking.
1:41:26Nono Martínez Alonso: Scott Young's episode came out on August 6, he wrote the book of Ultra Learning is the first time that I saw these challenging ideas of two concepts. One is the flow state, and the other one is deliberate practice. One was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and then deliberate practice was coined by Anders Ericsson. Scott Young argues that what you need is deliberate practice to get better at something. You need to be in the state of struggle. You need to feel that you're challenging yourself. You need to be doing the thing that you want to get better at, the thing that you think is going to give you the most satisfaction in the future because you're going to be better at it. And that's sort of the opposite of flow state. Flow state is almost when, yeah you're challenging yourself a bit—because you know, you're in the tension of doing something you haven't done before—but you're in a comfortable moment where you kind of forget about the fact that you're practicing or you're doing anything. What I tried to do is—first something that is also needed—that is scheduling leisure time, scheduling when.. You know you need to.. "Yeah, whenever I feel doing this." Yeah, but if you don't schedule your set times when you're going to run every week, or if you don't schedule your weekend trips, right? You won't do it. You can say "Okay, it's Friday night, where do we go?" You can do that, but it usually doesn't work as well
1:42:53Scott Mitchell: It's not effective. That happened recently. That happened and I was like, "This is fucking stupid Scott, you need to plan these things in advance."
1:43:00Nono Martínez Alonso: Yeah, so you need to plan a bit, even for the things you enjoy. It seems like structuring leisure time, is an overkill, but in fact it makes it happen. It makes it more real, it happens—not 100%—but it's more likely for it to happen. Otherwise it's more likely that—I don't know—you don't match with the schedule of the other person, there's no more room, it's over booked, or I don't know, whatever you mean. And the other thing is that I really, really, really get a lot of satisfaction by seeing how much I'm producing and the progress I'm making. And also because I'm trying to publish writing, short essays, sketches and other things, more often, I get to pick and choose from the ideas I think are better, or from the sketches that are better. Otherwise, I would have that pressure of the sketch of the week, or the sketch of the month, or the essay of the month. If you write more—and this is obvious—the more you write, the more ideas you're going to be able to pick that might be worth it.
1:44:01Scott Mitchell: No, no, I'm 100% on board. I just.. You keep saying things are like obvious. And I say that a lot, too. I was like "Yeah, I know this is obvious, but blah, blah, blah." And I think that things are not obvious.
1:44:14Nono Martínez Alonso: For some people, even the people who say "Okay, you're saying that to me, that's super obvious. Yeah, I know that, if I eat healthier, I'm going to be healthier." The point is, I why don't people do it then?
1:44:26Scott Mitchell: Because it's obvious on some level, but people don't feel it deep down, myself included. There's a difference—I think—between like hearing a piece of advice—or like a good idea—and deep down needing to follow that advice. The difference between learning the easy way and learning the hard way.
1:44:44Nono Martínez Alonso: You know, every time when I comment on things, some experiments that I do myself.. I think I should probably do my own episode on experimentation.
1:44:54Scott Mitchell: Yeah, do that.
1:44:54Nono Martínez Alonso: Because I have so many. And sorry for the people who are listening if I repeat this experiments any other episode, but I'll probably do because they're a big part of my life. Another thing that I started doing, and I think this is one of the best experiments that you can do is..
1:45:14Scott Mitchell: That's a bold claim.
1:45:16Nono Martínez Alonso: Yeah, I mean, I do believe it. I might make a quick post on this this month that we're recording—not the month of the episode release—and the dumbest experiment that is yielding the most—or some of the most satisfaction for me—is writing a list that I'm calling "Things that." Is just about a list, having a list that you log your own thoughts or whatever, that is like, "Things that make me happy. Things that stress me out. Things that annoy me. Things that make me waste my time." And you have those lists. For you, it might be some other lists. But when you feel satisfaction, something makes you happy, in the moment you gotta a run and go write that dow. Put the date when that happened, and then write it down, and then close the thing. And then when something really annoys you, you go and write that down, and put the date. When something stresses you out, you go and write that down. And this is a super, super silly experiment, a super silly habit to have. But then you can go back. Maybe a month later, a year later or something, you look at those things. And then you have literally a list of the things that you need to do more of, and the things that you need to avoid in your life. And that's what happens to me. Like I know that editing a podcast episode the last day stresses me out a ton. And this is obvious.
1:46:48Scott Mitchell: No no no, I think like having that list there, that would really hit you like "Okay, this is happening over and over."
1:46:55 It gets up to the point of not learning until you experience it on your own, because we're humans. And we keep forgetting what things made us happy and what things made us suffer. And I'm just gonna pull my phone [out] and tell you some of the things that I have on my list, so we make it a bit more real and not so idealistic. This list is not magical, but it's one of the best habits. And because—you know, what I said before—maybe logging the fact of "Wow, it gives me satisfaction, to be able to show my sketchbook to people and see that I've covered 60 pages in three months." So keep doing that, because you know, it gives you satisfaction in some way. Let's see. One thing, for instance—this is really silly—but August 16, like five days before, or four days before recording the episode. The first part of the conversation I had: wake up really, really, really early, shower, breakfast, then write. Super silly, right? But you wouldn't remember that that made me feel really good at that moment. If you hadn't read any of it, right?Yeah, and they have a lot of silly stuff here.
1:48:01 Do you go back and read that?
1:48:03Nono Martínez Alonso: Yeah, I did this morning, for some random reason.
1:48:06Scott Mitchell: Hhow many entries are there? There's a lot, for those of you who cannot see it right now.He's just continuing to scroll on his phone.
1:48:14Nono Martínez Alonso: Let me see if I can pull something else that..
1:48:16Scott Mitchell: Just pick on, whatever's in the middle of the screen right now.
1:48:19Nono Martínez Alonso: So one that's super silly is like "Running mid morning for 15 minutes, then shower and get back to work." Super silly. I work from home and maybe some days I work from eight till five or something. And just a simple thing of—instead of hopping into a shower directly—go for a run for 5,10 or 15 minutes around the city. Go back, then shower and then go back to work. I don't know why, but it makes me feel awesome. You see, there's a "Oh, maybe I can try to do that tomorrow. See how I feel." If you hadn't done that you don't remember until you randomly happen to do it again and then feel it. So it's really easy for us to forget the good and bad, and it's also really easy to note it down, and then try to go for— well, fairly easy to note it down—I don't know.
1:49:03Scott Mitchell: No it is. It's a true statement,
1:49:06Nono Martínez Alonso: Okay, so we gotta go. I really hope you enjoyed this experiment. This podcast has been an experiment. This is new gear, new format, new test. Anything else you want to say before going, Scott?
1:49:21Scott Mitchell: No, but I am genuinely excited to hear the edited version of this podcast, with the old stuff and the new stuff.
1:49:29Nono Martínez Alonso: Well, so this was one more episode of The Getting Simple Podcast in this case with me, Nono Martínez Alonso and Scott Mitchell. Again, thanks a lot for listening, and I really hope you enjoyed it. We'll see you next time. Bye.
1:49:44Scott Mitchell: See you guys.
1:49:55Nono Martínez Alonso: Before we go, I'd like to remind you that you can follow Getting Simple by going to gettingsimple.com and that if you're enjoying the podcast, one of the things you can do to help out is rate the podcast on Apple Podcast on the iTunes store, as this is the best way for other people to get to know about it. Tell your friends, and reach out to me on Twitter.
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