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Learning Dynamos

Colin Wright
Colin Wright
Aspiring Generalist is an Understandary project.

Learning Dynamos
A dynamo is an old-school generator that, at its most fundamental, convents mechanical energy into electrical energy.
There are different sorts of dynamos that operate via different mechanisms, but for the purposes of this analogy all you really need to know is you can often hook a dynamo up to something that’s moving (the spokes of a bike wheel, a turbine spun by steam or the wind) and it will convert some portion of that expended energy into electrical energy which can then be used for other purposes.
One of the organizing principles behind my formulation of new projects and habits is figuring out where learning dynamos may fit and how I might utilize the additional energy created by them.
For example:
I spend a decent chunk of time each day reading, and including articles and analysis from various journalistic sources.
That’s something I do for my own enjoyment and edification, but it’s also fundamental to the creation of my weekly podcast, Let’s Know Things. Without this habit, I wouldn’t be capable of producing this podcast.
Earlier this year I began experimenting with a daily news email that would be less analysis-intensive, but which would allow me to further benefit from that existing habit—to tap it for more bonus-energy.
That concept evolved into One Sentence News, which is a daily email publication and podcast I produce each night and publish first thing each morning. It requires a different, far more concise type of news analysis than what I work up for LKT each week, but the raw materials and analytical effort stem from the same source; it’s “repurposed” in a sense, despite being distinct.
Consequently, I’m able to produce OSN relatively rapidly each night because the groundwork for it is already in place. Lacking that existing reading and analysis work, this project would likely take me three or four hours a day to produce and publish. Because I have those precursors in place, however, I can usually knock it out in about an hour.
We’ve all got habits and routines and work that may generate additional, currently untapped energetic resources we may be able to refine into additional value (or from which we might gain additional personal fulfillment of some kind).
In my experience, the best add-ons are those that produce outsized benefits for a relatively small amount of additional effort: you’re already pedaling the bike, and hooking up the dynamo means you’re able to recoup some of that expended energy to spend on something else.
If 80% of the work is already being done, you can produce another complete, 100% thing for just 20% additional investment.
It’s fine to allow that additional energy to just sit there, but there’s a chance it can be re-worked into something beneficial if you consider it through this lens and experiment a bit.
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Colin Wright
Colin Wright @colinismyname

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