March 22, 2019

ZEITLINES | 03.22.19

Still from After On Podcast.

Welcome to Zeitlines.  If you thought this was a quick read on your Friday you may have another think coming this week.  Especially if you catch the learning bug from our head of strategy Brian Tod who takes us on the journey of learning based on his own obsession with it and shares some tips, tricks and all kinds of tools for feeding your brain.


The Learning Obsession.  Get it!

Brian Tod, Head of Strategy

I’m obsessed with feeding my brain.  Seriously. Constant learning is my modus operandi.

It’s why I wake up at 5am most mornings to read articles before starting my day. It’s why I no longer listen to music, opting for a constant stream of podcasts and non-fiction audio books. It’s why one of those non-fiction books was a lecture series on metaphysics. It’s why I have a need to know the deeply detailed backstories of my favourite fiction series. It’s why I pick up new craft-focused hobbies (current is cocktail making). It’s why I’ve specifically taken jobs that require me to learn at a scary-fast pace. It’s why my wife has a long list of reasons to call me a nerd (her current excuse is related to my watching YouTube video essays on movies and movie making). Side note… my wife just read the first two lines of this article and called me a nerd… ha!

I simply always want to stuff more interesting knowledge into my brain. I’ve even joked that my Latin mantra should be “Semper Discendum”, which Google tells me “Always Be Learning” translates into.

So yes, I’m honestly obsessed with feeding my brain… and I think you should be too.

Ok, we all read the odd article that gets passed around (perhaps you’ll pass this one around!) and the odd non-fiction best seller. We all share and absorb interesting facts and anecdotes. We all benefit from deep on-the-job learning. We all learn lots each day.

But I’m talking about being obsessed. I’m talking about a constant and deliberate effort. I’m suggesting proactively giving yourself opportunities to learn something every day. I’m talking about dialing up your inner nerd to 11. Your partner may make fun of you for it, but you’ll love it.

Ok, but why?

Here are three key benefits I have discovered.

1 Fulfillment – Simply, I am happier when I’m learning new things. It is like it is core to being human. I mean, if you think about it, without learning we’d still be in caves.  Its fulfilling. When I start my day by reading a bunch of interesting articles, I head off to work with a bounce in my step and a smile on my face.

2 Creativity – I come up with my best ideas while listening to nerdy business podcasts, and there are two reasons why: (1) creativity is connecting disparate elements to form something new, and these podcasts expose me to vastly different situations than my own, and (2) creativity comes when our mind is on something else, and these podcasts force me to step away from the problems I’m trying to solve to learn something new. This can happen with any form of learning (not just podcasts): regularly expose yourself to new thoughts, ideas and situations that are well outside your own and your creativity will skyrocket. Do not just learn about your job, industry or discipline – expose yourself to anything and everything of interest to you.

3 Complexity – pragmatically, we all face increasingly complex working worlds. Take our discipline for instance, marketing communications, and think about how ridiculously complicated it has become - getting worse every day as innovation continues at an exponential pace. How can anyone hope to understand a fraction of it if they’re not deliberately learning about it? Did you know that as of the beginning of 2018 there were over 6,829 MarTech tools across 49 categories – how many do you know about? I want to stay ahead of the curve, and I’m sure you do to.

Ok, but how?

I’ll give you, feeding an obsessive need to learn does take time and effort, but it is possible even for the busiest of us. Here are my suggestions for making it as easy as possible:

- Be deliberate about the learning content you spend your time with. Instead of consuming what happens across your desk, search out sources of content in areas that specifically interest you and ignore everything else. Being selective is key to not wasting your time.

- Audio formats are your best friend, because they allow you to multi-task. Cooking dinner? Listen to a podcast or audio book. Cleaning your house? Listen to a podcast or audio book. Walking your dog? Listen to a podcast or audio book. Commuting? Doing the groceries? Running an errand? Waiting for a friend? You get where I am going here…

- Create habits that carve out time to feed your brain. Mine has been learning to love early mornings, but that’s just me. You could be a lunch time learner or a before bed learner. Maybe watch one less episode of that binge-worthy Netflix show each night to read a few articles or check out a documentary. Whatever time fits into your schedule will be worth it.

Want to start to grow a learning obsession?  Start here with some of my favourite sources:



The After On Podcast

Should This Exist?

Hidden Brain

Anatomy of Next

Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

This Week In Startups

Exponent (sadly no longer producing new episodes)

TED Radio Hour



Medium – if you don’t have an account already, get one and get their daily or weekly digest

Alex Taussig’s Drinking From The Firehose

Benedict Evans’ Newsletter



Books / Audio Books I’ve Loved:

WTF? What’s The Future And Why It’s Up To Us OR Audio

The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do OR Audio

The High Growth Handbook OR Audio

Extreme Ownership – How US Navy Seals Lead and Win OR Audio

How Google Works OR Audio

Where Good Ideas Come From – The Natural History of Innovation OR Audio

Different – Escaping The Competitive Heard OR Audio

How F’d Up Is Your Management – An uncomfortable conversation about modern leadership 

The Billionaire Who Wasn’t – How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune OR Audio

The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers OR Audio

Exponential Organizations – Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it) OR Audio

The Idea Factory – Bell Labs and The Great Age of American Innovation OR Audio

Creativity Inc. – Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration OR Audio


Science Fiction That Blew My Mind:

The Martian OR Audio

The Nexus Arc Trilogy OR Audio

Seveneves OR Audio

The Mars Trilogy OR Audio



Books / Audio Books That I’m Attempting (ie: they’re incredibly dense)

The Better Angels of Our Nature – Why Violence Has Declined OR Audio

Antifragile – Things That Gain from Disorder OR Audio

Thinking Fast & Slow OR Audio


Books / Audio Books That I’ve Heard Are Amazing (ie: on my wish list)

Modern Monopolies – What It Takes to Dominate the 21st Century Economy OR Audio

Creative Selection – Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs OR Audio

Doughnut Economics – Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist OR Audio

Who Is Michael Ovitz? OR Audio

Bad Blood – Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup OR Audio

Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World OR Audio

Principles – Life and Work OR Audio

Thinking in Systems – A Primer OR Audio

Company Man – Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA OR Audio

A Mind at Play – How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age OR Audio

What If? – Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions OR Audio


Click here to learn more about our Head of Strategy, Brian.


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