What I Feed My Brain (10 things to read and watch this week)

By AJ Juliani on November 26, 2016

Ahh, the day after Thanksgiving, and I’m seriously regretting that last piece of pie last night. But, I’ve got something today that’s been on my mind for a while. I want to share my diet, (well, not a food diet) or what I feed my brain.

You know that saying, “You are what you eat.” I ‘m not sure it has any merit or truth to it, but when it comes to teaching and writing, you are what you feed your brain.

If your daily reading, watching, and consuming is all social media, text messages, group chats, and funny videos; then quite often your creative output (if there is any time left) will match that brain diet.

Nerdy Way to Read Books

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten serious about what I feed my brain on a daily and weekly basis. As a father of four young children, school administrator, and writer, it’s often difficult to find time to consume quality content that is going to inspire me to create.

Maybe you feel like me at the end of most days, where I just want to hang with my family and relax with my wife watching some Netflix. I do that often, which is why this brain diet is so important the rest of the day. From 5am till the time I get home from work, I want to have time to create, but also to consume. Reading, listening, and watching inspiring content not only helps me create better writing and content, it also propels me to take risks in my own work.

What I feed my brain is an evolving list where I’m consistently adding and deleting (I make it a point to remove something at this point every time I add something to the list). But, maybe, just maybe, it might help you by sharing it out with the world. Here’s my curated list of what I feed my brain (I hope you share your favorites in the comments below):

Books

I have my curated list of books that I’ve read (and would recommend) over the years here: 100 Books Every Teacher Should Read. I’ve also shared that I read at least 25 words a day. It’s a habit that has helped me read about a book a week for a few years now.

How do I find which books to read? I do not browse Amazon or Goodreads. Instead, I find my books in three distinct ways:

  1. A book recommended inside another book. Authors quote other authors all the time. And if I’m reading a book that is extremely helpful, or that is resonating with me, the books the author quotes, shares, or leans on give me a great starting point for building my list.
  2. Friends and family. These people know me. They know what books I’ve read and shared with them before, and they often recommend great books to read. I also can get time to get a good synopsis from them as well.
  3. Derek Sivers’ book list. Holy cow, this is awesome. Derek reads a ton of books and provides full notes and a rating for each book. I respect his opinion and often go here when I’m looking to break out of my comfort zone and move onto another topic.

One final thing I’ve found to be helpful. I tend to dive into a topic deeply instead of having multiple books on multiple topics at a time. I’ll read a few books in a row on the same topic, often with differing perspectives so I can try to get a depth of knowledge around the subject matter.

Newsletters and Blogs

The internet is a beautiful thing. There is a ton of great information, interesting perspectives, and thoughtful/insightful articles being written on a daily basis. But how do you find the good through the junk? These blogs and newsletters have sparked my own creativity, and are the ones I keep going back to again and again:

Farnam Street by Shane Parish (Sunday digest email, multiple posts a week)
It’s my must read newsletter ever week. Farnam Street comes to my inbox on Sundays and I can’t wait to open it up for articles, book recommendations, and deep dives into mental models that drive our behaviour in life.

Brain Pickings by Maria Popova (Sunday digest email, multiple posts a week)
Like Farnam Street, Brain Pickings is delivered to my inbox on Sundays. Maria Popova is a legend. Her work curates the best on the internet, and the pieces of content I’d never find myself. It’s always a pleasure to read and spend time looking at each week.

Abundance by Peter Diamandis (Weekly email, multiple posts a week)
Peter is the person I look to on matters of what is going to happen in the coming months, years, and decades. He has made it his life purpose to look towards the future and give great perspectives on current innovations and breakthroughs.

Videofruit by Bryan Harris
One of the worst things you can do as a creative is continually put work out into the world and have no one else read it, watch, or listen to it. Bryan Harris shares his step-by-step formulas for building an audience that truly wants to content you are creating.

Amy Porterfield on Marketing
Like Bryan, Amy also writes and podcasts about marketing. But Amy’s perspectives are often different and really in tune with the social world we live in. I’m always stunned of how practical her work is for anyone creating posts, content, books, or courses.

Wait But Why by Tim Urban
Quite honestly the smartest writer on the internet right now. Tim Urban crafts 10,000+ word posts on everything from SpaceX to solving procrastination problems. His witty humor, quirky drawings, and tone set him apart, but I keep coming back for the depth of research and analysis Tim goes through in his posts.

Many Educational blogs and newsletters
This might be a post in and of itself, however, the last thing I want to do is write a “who’s who” list of education blogs and leave people out who are doing great work. I read newsletter’s each week like Cult of Pedagogy, The Cornerstone for Teachers, Principal of Change, and John Spencer’s blog — but I read so many more blogs and education newsletters each week that it is a bit much to list here. As an educator it is really important to learn from people who are all across the field of education. But I also believe that we must get out of our own “echo-chamber” and that’s why my reading is spread across many disciplines with a variety of voices.

Other Daily Reading:

Flipboard (curated based on my interests and reading habits via my iPhone or iPad)

Medium Daily Digest (curated based on my interests and reading habits from Medium.com)

Futurism (daily email on breakthrough innovations, findings, etc at Futurism.com)

Podcasts and YouTube Channels

The Tim Ferris Podcast
I’m a long time fan of Tim. He breaks down people and topics like no one else. On this podcast he interviews people who are the best at their craft or area of expertise, then tries to figure out how they became so great. It’s well worth the sometimes two-hour long shows.

DailyVee Youtube Show from Gary Vaynerchuk
A lot of people don’t like Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s brash, loud, and curses. Guess what though, he’s also incredibly smart and successful at what he does (social media and building businesses). Most of all he talks about the psychology of connecting with people on their level.

The School of Life YouTube Channel
An honest look at deep topics. Sometimes extremely deep! Pick and choose which videos you are interested in, I’ve become a fan of them all!

Kurzgesagt Youtube Channel (Watch the Trailer)
You have to watch the trailer. It’s like WaitButWhy but in video format. Fantastic watch every week.

What do you feed your brain? Please share in the comments below!

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