One big idea to cross train your brain

From the other side of the court, Kathy jokes that she probably has underwear older than me.

After the game she asks how old I am, and when I tell her 44, she says

“okay, maybe I don’t have anything that old.”

I started playing pickleball last week at my YMCA, and am having a BLAST.

Now, my shoulder does hurt a bit.

And I’m not great at a backhand yet.
Or an overhead.
Or a serve.

But my footwork sets me apart.

Because while I never played racquet sports (besides the ten minutes when my Dad thought I might play tennis) I’ve played soccer forever, and those instincts are finding great use.

See, you’re never just one thing.

Your skills don’t live in a vacuum.

The more new things you attempt, the more curiosities you explore, the more porous you become. The more easily your old skills can flow into new things.

And so an important creative question becomes:

are you doing things that make you more porous?

. . .

Me, when I can’t make it to pickleball hours:

When was the last time you watched a documentary?

If you’re like most people it’s way too easy to get lured in by a great show. To binge it in a weekend, while telling yourself just one more episode.

Here have been a few of mine:

• The Great British Baking Show
• The Haunting of Hill House
• Somebody Feed Phil
• Stranger Things
• Better Call Saul
• The Last of Us
• Breaking Bad
• Succession
• Ted Lasso

But documentaries are a fabulous way to stay porous.

Done well, they entertain and teach at the same time.

A great documentary cross-trains your brain, which is what being porous is all about.

Next time you debate what to watch, try a documentary. Here’s why:

  • They help you mix and match ideas: you’ll learn things you didn’t expect to, which will build unexpected connections between new and old knowledge.

  • They broaden your “reading:” no time to read? Just prefer to watch something? Documentaries cover all the same things good nonfiction does.

  • They help you travel: let’s face it, life makes it hard to travel (budgets do, too). Documentaries can help you travel and explore—from wherever you are.

Need recommendations?

Here are the top picks I received from friends this week:

  • The Social Dilemma (Netflix)

  • The Deepest Breath (Netflix)

  • The Last Dance (Netflix)

  • Fire of Love (Apple TV)

  • Koyaanisqatsi (Apple TV)

  • Highway of Tears (Tubi)

  • The Rescue (Disney+, Hulu, Apple TV)

  • Grizzly Man (Amazon Prime Video)

  • Free Solo (Disney+, Hulu, Apple TV)

  • My Octopus Teacher (Netflix)

  • Icarus (Netflix)

You do it for your body—why not your brain, too?

  • Where Good Ideas Come From will make you think about the power there is in connecting ideas.

  • Staying on one thing too long is a recipe for the pit of frustration. Go do something different before you fall in.

  • If you spend all your time with words, find ways to be with visual art, too. You will see, and feel, differently.

  • Inspiration is for amateurs. (8 min read)

  • And laugh! Humor is the greatest connector we have—for ideas and for people both.

  • Brilliantly porous: mixing the idea of classic books and email newsletters.

  • Look for the same things—differently. You’ve heard the old phrase “all roads lead to Rome.” But seeing it this way gives you a whole other feeling.

  • Don’t write on Medium yet and curious where to start? Here’s a free email course I built to get you started writing (and earning). Experimenting on Medium is a fantastic way to cross-train.


  • Personal or professional? You don’t have to choose. (6 min read)

  • When in doubt, nature.

🧠 and ❤️