2016 Year Review: A Year Of Learning

A prisoner of my own curiosity (not to scale)

Another year bites the dust.. boom!

I’m so lucky. Bill Gates just sent me (and a million other sucky-suckups) an email with his 2016 year review and I noticed something quite unique. The email doesn’t focus on himself but on profiling 5 people that have inspired him and from whom he has learned a lot.

Besides the small fact that Bill is only $84 billion richer than me, I think we are very similar.

Bill and I have a life long passion for learning new things. Yes, Bill has been several orders of magnitude more successful at monetizing his wisdom but, in essence, we both are relentless learners.

When I attended Udemy’s first live event they told us people like that are their main target audience.

They call them Long Life Learners, for short LLLs or Triple L’s.

Are you an LLL human?

An LLL human is actively trying to learn new things ALL the time.

Then you have the ILLL humans which are like LLLs on steroids, or like LLLs with ADHD.

ILLL is the Insane Long Life Learner and, in 2016, that’s been pretty much me.

2016 A Year of Transition Devoted to Learning

2016 is the year I’ve dedicated most of my time to learning in an insane way.

In fact, I’ve been so focused in learning that I have neglected everything else, including my animation business.

Since 2010 most of my time was spent in growing my animation studio as much as possible.

Although I also dedicated copious amounts of time to learning, most of the learning was focused on just business related topics. Like how to grow, scale, delegate, systematize, and optimize a small 100% virtual online business.

Then around mid 2015 I started to get bored (= learning rate slowed down).

I went to Spain for 3 months, pressed the mental reset button and asked myself:
Is this what you want to keep doing for the rest of your life?
How big do you want to grow this business?
Is this a fulfilling path?
Would making 10 times more videos and/or money make you happier?

So I sat down and created a mega spreadsheet forecasting what would Grumo Media would look like if it made 3, 4, 6, 10 million dollars a year in revenue (using the current business model: explainer videos $10K/each).

Then, I made a 5 year plan with all the exact steps it would take to get there.

Finally, I tried to picture myself there and see what it felt like.

Here is what I saw…

I saw a Miguel running a company with a staff of about 60 full time employees, churning about 85 videos a month (~1000 videos/year).

Then I saw a Miguel with a lot more money in the bank but a lot more responsibility, a lot more headaches, doing something I was not passionate about any more and, with less time to explore other things.

If making more money was my main motivator that plan made sense. Basically, reinvest all profits into hiring more salespeople, writers and animators, press the marketing gas pedal to the metal and let the money machine rock and roll… oh yeah!

Unfortunately for my retirement fund and my future nonexisting Migglets, money is not my main motivator so I had to rethink my long term life and business strategy.

So I went back to the drawing board and asked myself:

What is it that you enjoy the most doing in life?

The answer was clear – I LOVE learning NEW things ALL the time.

Not All things, but many things. Not at a super deep level, but enough to have a good understanding.

The Price Of Wanting To Learn Everything

If life was infinite I would probably like to know EVERYTHING and at infinitely deep level.

Assuming I lived 27,000 days I could learn 27,000 new things but I only could spend 24 hours learning each.

The reality is that the available time to learn new things is a lot less that 27,000 days once we subtract sleep time plus everything else that robs our time but it is necessary or unavoidable (family and work matters, bodily functions, paying taxes, grocery line ups, etc.)

Due to the inexorable time constraint, we are forced to be very selective when choosing how many different things to learn and for how long… sigh.

Having this into account, life would be much easier if I had interest in learning a lot less things. That way I would have more time to become competent at each topic which in turn would increase my chances to monetize that competency.

It seems then that everyone that has a very diverse set of learning interests is bound to become a master of none!

How To Afford To Learn For The Sake Of Learning

Luckily life doesn’t have to be so black and white.

The best approach for a Life Long Learner is to develop competency on at least one topic deep enough to be able to monetize it, and THEN employ the resources derived from that competency to explore other topics.

An extreme case is Bill Gates. He spent 4 decades working relentlessly mastering a specific topic (software) and now he can afford to spend his time and acquired wealth in learning and funding his other interests.

This is the same approach I’m employing right now as I transition from one industry to who knows what else.

Luckily I’ve viewed money not as an objective but as potential energy. So for the last 5 years I’ve lived a very frugal life and saved enough to be able to afford spending a couple years exploring other adventures and learning many new things.

Ok, so what have I learned in 2016?

This year I focused primarily on learning all I could about digital marketing (email list building, paid ads, webinars, email automation, sales funnels, product launches)

I also deepened my knowledge in running companies, building and selling products, productivity, psychology, history, engineering, science and technology.

Additionally, I’ve invested hundreds of hours in learning more about artificial intelligence, neuroscience, turbine engines, and the First and Second World Wars.

My main learning sources in order were: online courses, live events, books, podcasts, blogs, documentaries, TV shows, and Youtube.

Unfortunately, most of what I’m learning won’t ever have any practical application (I don’t plan to start doing brain surgery or building jet engines any time soon).

So the answer to the question: Why the heck are you investing so much time in learning so much stuff that you’ll never use (and probably forget most of in a few weeks)?

Because I’m addicted to learning. This means I derive tremendous pleasure from the mere act of accumulating knowledge.

Because I’m infinitely curious and feeding my mind makes me happy… mucho happy!

Curiosity: My Driving Force

We are born knowing absolutely nothing. We are curious creatures by nature (some more curious than others). Everything we’ve accomplished today is the result of people exploring their curiosity, tinkering, and finding answers.

The computer or smartphone you are using right now to read this is the result of millions of hours of combined human exploration, experimentation, discoveries, and aha moments.

Without curiosity we would still be living in caves, wiping our bums with leaves, and freezing our badly wiped arses in winter.

Next time you pull from the toilet roll ask yourself: How many hundreds of people and thousands of hours of research and development have gone into creating this smooth, micro-perforated, ass wiping feat of cellulose engineering?

I love to learn for the sake of learning and as sign of respect and admiration for those before me that exercised their curiosity to endow me with a better more comfortable life.

I know, life is not all about cramming information into our brains. There are other pleasures in life, like eating, sleeping, playing, sex, exercising, travelling, and socializing.

In 2016 I have indulged in all those pleasures as well. If not I would be in a mental institution, very sick or even dead. However, as I reflect over the past 12 months, learning has been a predominant activity from which I’ve derived immense amounts of intellectual pleasure.

In one sentence I could summarize 2016 as – one of the years I had the most fun learning, trying new things, and meeting new people.

Ok, WTF Have You Done In 2016 Bastardo?

I took about 30 online courses, filled hundreds of pages of notes, read 26 books, attended 6 very special live events, added about 100 new awesome people to my network, listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts, and watched hundreds of hours of documentaries and educational videos. (See below the entire list)

But like I say, it was not all learning. I also spent hundreds of hours watching TV shows and movies in Netflix and YouTube, playing and watching soccer, hiking, travelling, making new friends, running Grumo Media, DonCar.es, creating new courses, updating old courses, and of course writing this weekly newsletter (37 weeks in a row!).

All in all, when you think about it it’s pretty amazing all the stuff that can happen in 360 odd days!

2016 – One hell of a trip around the Sun!

To finalize this year-in-review article I’d like to share with you a list of all the sources that have fed my insatiable curiosity this year. Followed by a list of many of the tools that have allowed me to learn so much, do my work, create stuff, and enjoy my free time (followed by some other random stuff).

I’ve only included the resources/tools most closely related to learning and excluded anything not used or consumed for educational purposes (i.e: fiction shows, drama, comedy, concerts, silly Youtube videos, etc.).

Here is a list:

Top Educational Content Consumed In 2016

Online Courses:

This list contains about 300 hours of online courses – mostly Internet marketing related:

Mastermind Talks Master Classes – Jayson Gaignard, Business Freedom Program – Dan Martell, Abraham Factor – Jay Abraham, Double Your Sales – Ryan Deiss, How to use ClickFunnels course – Russel Brunson, Perfect Webinar – Russel Brunson, Create And Sell Online, Courses In 60 Days Or Less – Iman Aghay, The Short Hangout – Bryan Harris, Monetize Your List Workshop – Bryan Harris, How to Do Live Events  – Keith Yackey, T&C Summit 2016 Recordings – DigitalMarketer, Fanpage Traffic Academy – Jesse Doubek, List Building Strategy Guide – Bryan Harris, WebinarJam Genesis training – WebinarJam, Consulting Accelerator Program – Sam Ovens, Create Awesome Online Courses – David Siteman, 7-Figure Webinars – Lewis Howes, 6 Figure Courses – Amy Porterfield, Course Builders Laboratory – Danny Iny, Tube Traffic Mastery – Jon Penberthy, Online Course Creation Summit – Davin Slavin, Profitable Online Courses – Lewis Howes, Zero To Launch – Remit Sethi, Sales Pages That Convert – Derek Halpern, Automatic Funnel Formula – Daniel DiPiazza, LinkedIn Selling – Josh Turner, How to rank first on Youtube – Diego Davila, SlingShot Coaching Intensive Training – Bryan Harris, Tribe: How to Build Membership Sites – Stu McClaren, The Ultimate Group Coaching Workshop – Dan Martell, The Ask Method – Ryan Levesque, Finding your passion and making money – Derek Sivers, Fundamentals Of Neuroscience – HarvardX.

Learning How The Human Brain Works in 2 Weeks

The course that sticks out like a sore thumb is clearly the last one – Fundamentals Of Neuroscience by HarvardX. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that course, which is one of the longest and best put together courses I’ve ever taken. It’s also totally free!

How amazing it is that we live in a world where we can have access to so much amazing free education?

Harvard, Stanford, MIT, all the top universities are uploading some of their amazing courses online for free. Some of them will even issue you a certification online for a small fee after taking an online test.

Thanks to the Internet, Harvard, Dr. David Cox, and my insatiable curiosity I’ve been able to spend two weeks learning how our infinitely complex brains work, and let me tell you… it’s mind-freaking-boggling to the nth square.

I came to that course with a very rudimentary understanding of neuroscience and I’ve come out with a zillion more questions that I came in, many of which we are probably decades or eons away from being able to properly answer.

For instance: Can someone tell me who invented metabotropic G-Protein coupled receptors? Was it God? Who invented God? Do I really have to believe that 4.5 billion years of evolution are enough to come up with such impossibly intricate microscopic mechanisms just by trial and error?
How about, did you know that about 70% of your brain energy is devoted to keep Sodium (Ca+) ions out of your neurons to keep a resting potential of 70mV? Why do neurons fire at about 55mV and not 100mV?
Who is coordinating the firing 2 million petabytes of synapses in our brains so we can think, complain, and say stupid things 90% of our lives? Who? How? Why?

Live Events:

This is the year I’ve attended more events. Before 2016 I barely attended one event a year.
The list below adds to about $25K in event, travel and accommodation costs.

Mastermind retreat in Moncton with Dan Martell, Traffic and Conversion Summit, Baby Bath Water, Tony Robbins UPW, Mastermind Talks, and Udemy Live.

Podcasts:

I listened to about 1 hour of podcasts a day totalling close to 400 hours a year.
These are the podcasts ordered by the most listened first.

Tim Ferris Show, The Altucher Show, This Week In Startups, Mixergy, Art Of Charm, Hidden Brain, Stuff You Should Know.

Books:

All these books except “Ego Is The Enemy” were bought in Kindle format.
It’s not the complete list (which is 52) but the list of non-fiction books I’ve enjoyed the most (not in order of preference).

Essentialism, Who, Skunk Works, Ego Is The Enemy, Hooked, Sex At Dawn, Ready Player One, The Martian, Tesla, Hot Seat, Traction, Kelly, Social Intelligence, Love is The Killer App, Ask, Moonwalking with Einstein, Creativity Inc., They Call Me Supermensch, Mindset, Scaling Up, Idea to Execution, Tools Of Titans, Brain Rules, The Art Of Learning, Extreme Productivity, Atlas Obscura.

Blogs:

According to my Feedly account I’m subscribed to about 150 blogs via RSS (and 394 newsletters according to AdRoll). This list only contains my most read blogs in 2016.

WaitButWhy, Both Sides of The Table, A Smart Bear, Altucher Confidential, Paul Graham, Feld Thoughts, Joel on Software, Derek Sivers, Tynan, The Smart Passive Income, Seth’s Blog, Mark Manson, Techcrunch, Read/WriteWeb, High Scalability, VideoFruit, Road To Vr.

TV Shows, Movies and Documentaries:

Most of these shows were watched in Netflix and don’t include any non-educational shows (those account for hundreds of hours of content since I watched about 1 hour of non-educational Netflix content every day for dinner with my wife).

The Untold History Of United States, Tales Of Light, The Nature Of Things, Black Mirror, The Fog Of War, The Fantastic Mr. Feynman, Supermensch,  I’m Not Your Guru, An Honest Liar, The Barkley Marathons, MythBusters, White Rabbit Project, Beast Of No Nation, From The Earth To The Moon, The Right Stuff, Iris, Florence Foster Jenkins, Spotlight, Pelé, Janis: Little Girl Blue, Goldman Sachs, The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms, Eddie The Eagle, Slingshot.

YouTube Channels:

Most of these channels are very popular (millions of subscribers each) except for AgenJayZ which is smaller Canadian channel with hundreds of videos about the maintenance, overhaul and testing of gas turbines (mostly low bypass turbine engines from old jet fighters).

Again, this list doesn’t include all the channels I’m subscribed to (over 100) but only the ones I’ve watched the most content from in 2016.

Veritasium, VSauce, MinutePhysics, In A Nutshell,  AgentJayZ, Smarter Every Day, CGP Grey, Real Engineering, EngineerGuy, Khan Academy, The School Of Life, PBS Space Time, AsapScience, colinfurze, SpaceX, NASA, Tim Ferris, CrashCourse, SciShow (plus many videos about the First and Second World War)

Learning Tools of 2016

This is a list of my most used tools at work, for learning, and managing information.
For any tool to make it to this list I have to have used it at least once a week over the last year.
I’m excluding all tools not directly related to work or learning (social media apps, games, photo apps, navigation, etc.)

Desktop Apps:

Chrome, Safari, Finder, Evernote, Alfred, Flux, Fireworks, Photoshop, TextMate, Skype, Zoom, Keynote, ScreenFlow, VLC, Audacity, Notes, Preview, Quicktime, TextEdit, Terminal, Ecamm Recorder, iGlasses,

Web Apps:

This list only includes the most used apps and online services used in 2016.
A lot of these online services have recurring fees that add to about $8K a year.
The most expensive one is InfusionSoft at $300 CAD/month (I so want to get rid of that crapola!)

Gmail, Google Sheets, Slack, WordPress, WP Engine, NameCheap, HostGator, Canva, ConvertKit, Infusion Soft, ClickFunnels, WebinarJam, Zapier, Buffer, YouTube, Facebook Groups, Wistia, Checkvist, Hootsuite, Trello, Asana, Quickbooks, Open Office, Hotjar, TubeBuddy, SendGrid, Twilio, Tawk.to, Blinkist, Thinkific, Udemy, Skillshare.

Smartphone Apps:

I have installed 124 apps so this list only includes most used apps for work or learning in 2016.

Evernote, Kindle, Feedly, Dropbox, Google Analytics, Voice Recorder Pro, Quora, WhatsApp, Messenger, Apple Podcasts, BooksFilmsBands, Notes, Teamer, TransferPro, Blinkist.

Chrome Addons:

AdBlock, Video Speed Controller, LastPass, Husbspot, Rapportive, PixelBlock, Evernote, and Newsfeed Eradicator for Facebook,

Video Speed Controller alone has probably saved me 300 hours time last year by letting me play back all videos at 2X speed.

Hardware

This list only includes tools I used every day in 2016 (except the scanner which I include it because I like it so much):

Macbook Pro 2013, 2x Transcend Thunderbolt 500GB external SSD, Logitech C920, Ipad 2, Iphone 6S, Samson GO Mic, Doxie DX 200 portable scanner.

MISCELLANEOUS

These lists are non-educational or work related stuff just to prove to myself I did get out and interacted with the real world sometimes.

Trips (leisure):

7 days in Disney World and 30 days travelling through New Zealand (Auckland and many places in the North Island) and Australia (Sidney, Melbourne)

Exercise:

Played about 100 soccer games, 20 one-hour walks, and 2 weeks hiking in New Zealand.

Food:

About 50% of my daily diet consisted of:
Trail mix (Kirkland 1.36 kg bags), Clif Builder’s protein bars (18 bar boxes)

HEALTH:

At 39 it seems I’m still pretty good shape. I have kept a weight of 140 lbs consistently the entire year (and my entire adult life)

Recent issues (new or worsened condition in 2016): eye floaters, back and neck pain, left foot and right hand tendonitis.

Early this year I developed a few noticeable floaters in my right eye but, after an eye exam, the eye doctor said is nothing to worry about (I’m worried it could be an indication of early diabetes as it runs in the family).

Back and neck pain are a lot more common now. This is not a surprise given I spend 90% of the time sitting at my computer. I’ve started to get up and stretch more often.

I also bought a door chin-up bar which I was using all the time to stretch and do pull ups until two months ago my right middle finger got swollen.

The most inconvenient pain I have is this annoying swollen right middle finger. It’s the finger I use to scroll with the mouse scroll wheel so it could be a combination of repetitive stress injury and a pulled flexor tendon from hanging so much from the pull up bar.

I hate going to the doctor but if the inflammation continues after Xmas I’ll book an appointment.

Bank Details:

And my credit card number and expiration date are 4520-3500-2345-8876 – July, 2019.

Please go ahead and spend $10,000 in education, whiskey and some MDMA… just kidding!

Final Thoughts

As you can see this year has been a tremendous learning experiment.

A big part of this experiment has been starting this regular weekly newsletter which has forced me to process and synthesize much of my new acquired knowledge so I can share it with you and the world.

For me, learning is fun and immensely rewarding. Writing is a lot harder, not as fun, but also immensely rewarding. Writing for me this year has been a big part of the output variable in the input/output equation of life. After all, It’s the main and most tangible thing I have to show for after 12 months of learning tons of random and probably inapplicable stuff.

Writing is like yoga for my mind. It’s a cathartic experience. It’s my grain of salt, my small contribution to a world truly saturated with useless information.

Thanks for being there, on the receiving end of these rants, for your loyalty, for your feedback, for your patience, for your unconditional support.

May you have a fantastic end of year and may 2017 the best year of your life!

Peace, Love, and year-end Triple “L” cookies!

Miguel

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P.S. Next week’s post should be shorter… or not.

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3 thoughts on “2016 Year Review: A Year Of Learning

  1. Pops Reply

    Creo que tienes algo de “carpal tunnel”, algo bastante común en los “ratoneros”.

  2. Jacob Roig Reply

    Bravo Miguel! You are choosing life on your terms and that in itself is a feeling experience not many allow themselves.
    Keep on the journey, the right things show up at the right time as long as we keep the vision and take a step forward, sideways or even at times backwards!
    I know at some point we may work together or at least learn from each other! I look forward to that happening. Syat you! It is working well for people like me.

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