How to Build Knowledge per Elon Musk

Let’s set the stage a little bit, first.

In June 2014, I had one of the more transformative experiences of my entire life. I decided to attend the Firefly 2014 Music Festival. Thanks to Mauricio, a great Hokie friend of mine, my  reservations about entering an environment where I would not be able to shower and also be rolling around in a giant dust bowl without super-convenient access to electricity were basically made non-existent. Check out the blog post about Firefly itself to learn more about that.

However, one of those main things is what we’ll zero-in on for this post: the lack of super-convenient access to electricity.  At Firefly, they had cell phone charging tents on-grounds where … you can go to do exactly what it sounds like: charge your cell phone! While charging my phone, this particularly day I remember well becuase it was the same day as a big World Cup game for the U.S.A., I ran into a man named J.P.  J.P. was my 1 new person that day.

JP Farnam
As always, click the image to make it a bit larger if you’d like.


So as you can see there, J.P. sent a meaningful note about a blog named Farnam Street.  Later that summer when I began to use the news-agreegating app Feedly, I made sure to keep perusing Farnam Street. Farnam Street’s focus on culture and reading interesting books really grabbed my attention – as those are two things that I’m constantly become more engaged with and familiar with myself. It just struck me as a great blog, almost immeadiately.

Now, fast forward this past week.  Uber-popular entrepreneur and space advocate Elon Musk did a “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session on Reddit, and while I didn’t catch it while it was active, it was all over my social media after the fact. I decided to scroll through it and catch some of the highlights, and ironically enough, all of the news coverage that I saw about the AMA session afterward were precisely my favorite parts about the entire session.

While I’m not too much a fan-boy of of Mr. Musk (admittedly I have not taken a ton of time to learn about him outside of the things that everyone knows about him: that he is from South Africa, is CEO of SpaceX, a co-founder of PayPal, a co-founder of Tesla Motors, and super innovative and risky in terms of his thoughts on transporatiton), I super-duper respect him because I know he care a lot about education. I think this one quote that he shared during his AMA session reflects that succinctly:

One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.

Yesterday, Farnam Street posted a great three-and-done highlight of what they thought was most interesting from Musk’s AMA session and I agreed with every single one. You can find their post here. Really though. Check it out.

Farnam Street: Elon Musk on How To Build Knowledge

Shoutout to J.P. for showing me Farnam Street and shout out to Shane Parrish for the great work he’s doing over at Farnam Street. It’s websites like these that make me excited and happy to get push alerts on my phone. Because I know that there’s a change they aren’t going to be a pointless note from Twitter about things the people I follow are retweeting. I know that I might open my Feedly to be greeted with something thought-provoking, intellectual, and head-scratching. And I think THAT is what the internet is all about: information discovery and knowledge gathering.

At the end of the day, I always have thought the real question is: how do you manage all of that information…knowledge…and stuff?

More on that in future.

A young person’s view of social media.

With one of my many passions being education, I spend a ton of time interacting with students and their educators. While my day job doesn’t allow me to do it quite as much as I would like I use my personal time, including a ton of time on social media, to meet students “where they are” when it comes to trying to understand them and the challenges they face. And quite frankly, I use the term “they” kind of loosely…I’m in my mid-20’s officially, but it still doesn’t feel like quite that long ago that I was where they were, worrying about the same things they were, whether it was my first big-boy job, moving away to college, losing all of my high school friends…the worry list could go on…

This month, I’ll be working on quite a few new contracts and speaking engagements, focusing on high school graduations for this summer. In order to deliver meaningful messages and really connect with these audiences, I’ve realized that it’s always best to do a little “research.” I occasionally will do some internet-based research outside of the social interactions that I have with students, most of whom are in middle and high school. I always lean on the social interactions, and I hardly ever take what I find on the internet as the overall truth…but this time is different. This guy hit the nail on the freakin’ head.

That’s why this particular article really fascinated me. It’s a long-form article and truly sincere breakdown of what this particular teenager and his peer think about the various forms of social media.

It’s funny because, for example, with Facebook – that’s definitely my “generation’s” form of social media. One of my parents came on board last year, every single one of my college friends has it, and uses it in an engaged way. But most of the students that I worked with during my graduate school years (who are graduating college in the next year or 2) use Instagram , just as he described. On the other hand, many of the high school students I interact with use Snapchat with each other. They ALL use Tumblr in exactly the way he described – without a firm identity. We all use WhatsApp to communicate with friends while they are away in another country where cell phone service would be radically expensive.

And I’m over here like “Forget all that. Can’t you just iMessage me?” Social media sure can be inundating sometimes!

And finally, although not as relevant to youth, the video below is one of my annual favorites. Although the 2014 iteration, in my humble opinion, isn’t as great as past versions it still provides a great visual and very updated statistics on how we are all interacting with social media (with a slight focus on advertising and marketing) as we are smack dab in the middle of the digital age.

Read the article above and then check out the video below!

“Fake” Buildings.

Fun fact: I earned a minor in Public & Urban Affairs as an undergraduate student. It actually was my very first major (and after switching a few times, I did still graduate on time!). I thought the major itself was more about working with people as public constituents (a la political science) than it was about the built environment of a community and, in some ways, architecture.

So when I discovered this on the internet today, I was intrigued and the city planner in me was so surprised. Did you know that some cities have “fake” buildings as a facade to cover up functional stuff that might otherwise be unsightly?

This is a prime example of what I’m talking about with the “fake” buildings in NYC.


Since I really enjoy traveling, but can’t necessarily be on the move all of the time, I’ll occasionally spend time on the web diving into fun and unique characteristics of other interesting cities I’ve been to or would like to go to. New York City is one that I’ve only been to handful of times. While I don’t have any true desire to explore it further, one of the coolest things about the city was their frequent use fake buildings to conceal features of their subway system. Check out the linked article to learn more via a great post from Web Urbanist.



TLDRLIVE ART is a community-oriented, inclusive, extraordinary, and moving art project that is based in Richmond, Virginia. Sponsored by SPARC (School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community), local community members came together through this idea to create a public art project that encourages students of all abilities to explore themselves through artistic expression and provide a safe, inclusive, and social space for students of all backgrounds and developmental abilities to interact.

Use this post to learn more about LIVE ART, donate here, and most importantly learn about the great students and the work they are empowered to do in this obviously amazing community. If you would like to learn more about the private screening and film that inspired the post, please click here. Can’t wait to see how this film performs as it has been submitted to the Sundance Film Festival as of late September 2014.

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Apple & Steve Jobs.

Apple (Steve Jobs) 01

After writing a bit about my favorite coffee corporation last week, I started thinking about other brands that I am particularly loyal to. I am a proud consumer** (I always think of it as doing my little piece of helping our economy chug along here ;)) and although I feel it to be terribly cliché, I’m going to draw the line in the sand. Android fans, eat your heart out.

I sincerely, totally, and completely respect and admire the innovation that has been produced by Apple. 

The reason I considered this post is because today marks 3 years to the day since Steve Jobs passed away from respiratory arrest that was at least partially caused by a pancreas neuroendocrine tumor. I remember being terribly shocked by the news of his passing. I always remember him as an intensely private person because there was always speculation about his health in the media, but no one ever really knew what was going on. As with many great people, after his death, many suddenly and more openly acknowledged how much of a visionary they thought he was. Before his death, I didn’t know much about him as a person, businessman, presenter, innovator, or anything. I just knew that he was THE guy at Apple.

Therefore, I guess I should preface the remainder of this post by admitting: I actually used to absolutely despise Apple. I didn’t think their software was intuitive; I actually thought it too difficult to learn/different from the Windows OS I was used to. I thought their hardware was too trendy and “out there,” I felt like they didn’t treat their customers well and only as numbers and opportunities for profit, and I couldn’t stand the aesthetics of many of their products. In fact, I also thought that people who would take the time to broadcast their love for a brand or company were senseless. How do you even develop such loyalty – unless you’re crazy and way too into it? And, too, why does that loyalty matter and why would anyone care?

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