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Making a Better Presentation, Making it Through the Hard Times, & Making Mastery (Reading Notes 7.17.18)

Resource: Five ways to make your presentation better


When you do a presentation, don’t hide. Give the audience a piece of who you really are.

If you don’t have a song and dance routine that already works, don’t try to make one up for your presentation. Bring what you’ve already mastered and internalized.

Don’t hide behind your slides. If you use slides, keep them minimal and let you and your presence and your words be the main focus.


“Be really clear about what it’s for. If the presentation works, what will change? Who will be changed? Will people take a different course of action because of your work? If not, then why do you do a presentation?”

“Don’t sing, don’t dance, don’t tell jokes. If those three skills are foreign to you, this is not a good time to try them out.”

Resource: 10 Reminders We All Need When We’re Ugly Crying Into Our Vodka and Hate Our Jobs


Don’t go into any situation (besides getting married or being a parent, I’d add) thinking that it’s going to be permanent. Never underestimate the power you’ll have to change your mind and redirect your course later on. A career change is not a marriage. It’s an adventure and it’s okay for you to be open to change.

Don’t hide behind “I don’t know what to do.” Firstly, knowing what to do isn’t necessarily a better situation to be in. It could be a symptom that you’re too comfortable with familiar routines that don’t challenge you. Secondly, we spend most of our lives not knowing what to do. Maturity and courage isn’t about knowing what to do. It’s about knowing how to improvise.


“You can always start again—which is such a privilege. We love to overcomplicate everything by being all “but how?” but let’s be honest: that is really just you procrastinating The Hard. You start by starting. There is no right or wrong way; no ideal order. Just get the fuck in there, will you? Stop benching yourself.”

“FUN is a legit career strategy. If you’re stressing about all of the different things you *could* do, try looking at each one through how much fun it’ll be for you. Seriously. Forget straight-laced practicality: it’s for the birds. And people born 100 years ago.”

“You don’t owe anybody anything, period—and that includes people you made promises to, once upon a time, when you thought things were going to turn out differently. Guess what? They didn’t. And you always have a right to change your mind.”

“You will never feel like you have enough money—even when you have hundreds of thousands of dollars in your bank account. So stop worrying about whether it’s going to be “enough” and focus more on whether you are HAPPY.”

“There will always be someone who thinks it’s a horrible idea. That’s okay, you think their hair is a horrible idea. #IRRELEVANT.”

Resource: The Satisfying Strain of Learning Hard Material: A Deliberate Practice Case Study


The process of mastering challenging concepts beyond your level of familiarity and understanding is difficult and frustrating, but it gets easier with practice. Learning is a skill. Grasping complex concepts is a skill. Clearly and/or conveying complex concepts is a skill. Discovering new and interesting connections between concepts is a skill. These skills can be developed.

There’s great reward in doing hard things in the spirit of deliberate practice.

What are the hard things in my field or in my area of interests that would be rewarding for me to study?


“Recently, we have been discussing the deliberate practice hypothesis, which argues that knowledge workers can experience big jumps in value if they apply deliberate practice techniques to their work. My three-month experiment in timed, forced concentration provides a nice case study of this idea. I am now better at mastering hard concepts than I was before. The mental acuity developed from this practice translates over to the research side of my job, helping me more efficiently understand existing results and more deeply explore my own ideas.”

“To toss the ball back in your court, imagine what would happen if you replaced “graduate-level theory of computation” with a prohibitively complicated but exceptionally valuable topic in your own field, and then tackled it with the same persistence…”

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