I’m trying to become less dumb — by listening to smart people

The only reason this image is here is because Medium recommends an image to draw attention. This is how a sunset looks in the Inner Richmond district of San Francisco

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve discovered the seemingly simple concept of Meta-Congnition (thinking about how you think). I call these past couple of years, my own personal knowledge revolution. I’ve only barely scratched the surface, but I’m so thankful that I did.

I’m getting more and more excited about a very simple fact. Listening to smart people, thinking hard about what they had to say, and then regurgitating their ideas in conversations, makes you smarter. It might be seen as untrue, but I think that’s the nature of good ideas, they tend to flow from person to person, from a book passage to a reader, from a podcast episode to the listener.

This is why this blogpost is focused on people (rather than podcasts or books)

Sam Harris— Waking up podcast

Patreon link

A friend recommended that I’d listen to Sam Harris’s podcast Waking Up, during a nice conversation about Neuro-science and meditation. I realized that I missed a lot of amazing content, and started binging Sams podcast to catch up.

Sam has a very unique talent, he’s intensely smart, but he can communicate his ideas with this extremely precise yet approachable way. I honestly haven’t seen a lot of people who can communicate ideas as precise as Sam.

I would strongly recommend the following podcast episodes of Waking Up Podcast to get started

#104 — THE LESSONS OF DEATH — This is a very unique podcast episode, in which Sam and Frank Ostaeski talk about death. I won’t go into details. Listen to this one.

#106 — HUMANITY 2.0 — Sam talks with Jennifer Doudna, about gene-editing technology called CRISPR/Cas9. This has the potential to revolutionize how we treat science, medicine and even immortality.

#37 — THINKING IN PUBLIC-Sam talks with Neil Degrasse Tyson about basically everything. The two guys can’t be more different in their approaches to science and communication but they find a lot of common ground and it’s a joy to listen to this.

Shane Parrish — Farnam Street

Shane is a very smart and talented individual behind the the Farnam Street blog (fs.blog). I love that Farnam street (and The Knowledge Project podcast) have a very simple mission statement :

“Mastering The Best Of What Other People Have Already Figured Out”

Some examples of blog posts that captivated me :

Mental Models — The best place to start to understand mental models.
This is the most shared article on the blog. It covers what mental models are, and gives you a handy list of a lot of them. Amazing resource to keep coming back to

How To Read A Book — This sounds simple on it’s surface, but Shane shows multiple methods of reading books, without loosing comprehension, and with remembering what you actually read.

The Difference Between Open-Minded and Closed-Minded People — Having your ideas challenged can cause your mind pain. This very insightful blog post covers the main differences between open-minded and close-minded approaches to thinking about things.

I would be remiss if I forget to include at least a couple of references to the amazing “The Knowledge Project” podcast where Shane interviews a bunch of very smart people. My favorites include :

#18: Naval Ravikant on Reading, Happiness, Systems for Decision Making, Habits, Honesty and More
This episode introduced me to Naval Ravikant, who is the CEO of Angel list and an early investor in a bunch of start ups. Naval is a very deep thinker, and I really enjoy his thought process and insights. I considered putting Naval on this list, but he doesn’t podcast and doesn’t blog. He does go live on Periscope from time to time so I recommend following him on twitter.

#27 — The Art of Letting Other People Have Your Way: Negotiating Secrets from Chris Voss

Just listen to this one! It underlined a very important point for me. First seek to understand, then seek to be understood. I’ve noticed that this makes me a better listener and a clearer communicator.

David McRaney — You are not so smart (YANSS) podcast

Patreon link

YANSS is where I started what I call “my own personal information evolution”.

YANSS was the breakthrough podcast for me. I learned a TON about biases, fallacies, how to think critically, how my mind and me are not the same thing, how to be humble and admit my own faults and flaws and a lot more. YANSS is the one podcast I rush to listen to when a new episode gets released, because I know I will be schooled, and will learn yet another way how I’m wrong in my thinking and what I should work on!

I recommend listening to ALL of the episodes, but I would highly recommend the following ones :

#067 — The Fallacy Fallacy
This is the starting episode I recommend to everyone. It’s a start episode in a series of episodes on Logical Fallacies. The following episodes are about these fallacies (Strawman, Black and White, No True Scotsman, Texas Sharpshooter , The Dunning-Kruger Effect, Genetic Fallacy, Conjunction Fallacy and Existential Fallacy).

#122 — Tribal Psychology
One of the more shared episodes in YANSS is about tribal psychology. It covers modern politics, tribalism, and a lot more.

#079 — Separate Spheres
There’s a medical procedure to cut the connection between the right and the left brain hemispheres. This leads to very interesting results which David covers in this episode.

Tim Urban — Wait but why

Patreon link

Wait but why is not like other blogs. It’s a content website. It’s a throve of information. Tim Urban has this amazing ability to deep dive into topics and communicate them with very long format blogposts that are insightful, easy to understand, and are caricatured with these stick figures.

I absolutely love wait but why, and read everything new that Tim posts immediately as it publishes.

The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence (PART 1, PART 2)

The most insightful post I found was without a doubt the one about AI revolution. Tim’s ability to explain difficult concepts in layman terms, concepts like exponential growth, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) and especially ASI(SuperIntelligence) shines through here. I must say I wasn’t worried or even aware of the possibilities of AI outside of science fiction until I read these posts.

The Fermi Paradox

I won’t go into details about this one as to now spoil, but if you even looked at the stars and wondered “are we alone in this incredibly vast universe?”. Enrico Fermi had the same question and he came up with a paradox. The Fermi paradox is also called The Great Filter.

The Elon series

Apparently me and Elon musk have something in common. We both love WBW and Tim Urban’s style of writing. This is why Elon reached out to Tim and invited him to a meeting, including a tour of the factories and an interview over dinner. What came out is a deep dive into Elon himself, and a incredibly in depth deep dive into SpaceX, Tesla, Neural Link and BFR (big fucking rocket). If you’re even remotely interested in Sci-Fi, read these series.

Final Note

This blog post serves 2 purposes.

It’s an anchor in time for my progress on the road to being less dumb. I want to be able to revisit this in a year, 5 years and 10 years and see where this has gotten me.

I also want to express my gratitude to the people mentioned in this post, for sharing their ideas with the world… for free!

If you have a few bucks to spare, and you got some benefit from the above content, please go to their respective Patreon links (as noted by the $ sign near the title and donate even 1$). It makes these people be able to keep sharing information that’s very important in today’s world.