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Teach What You Know

The biggest hurdle I run into as the teacher lead for Learnapalooza is overcoming imposter syndrome with potential teachers. I’m constantly approaching awesome, talented people and hearing, “That’s great but I don’t know anything worth teaching!” or “I’m not a teacher! I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

It’s so frustrating.

Not just because we lose out on awesome classes, but because I’m a selfish person who wants to learn ALL OF THE THINGS. And when people when insist that they don’t know anything worth teaching, we all loose out on their expertise.

So, let’s all get on the same page right now: You know valuable things. You do not have to be a teacher to share those things.

Someone, somewhere, is currently thinking, “I really wish I knew how to do [the thing you know ALL about].” And they do not care if you have a Bachelors in Education. They just want you to share what you know! That can mean putting together a talk, writing a blog post, or even hosting a workshop at a festival like Learnapalooza.

And none of those things have to be scary! (A little nerve-wracking, sure. But never scary!)

Self-selected learners—the people who read educational blog posts, show up to Saturday workshops, and take online classes for the fun of it—are the easiest people to teach. They want to be there! They are excited to learn!

The real question for most people isn’t, “Can I teach this?” but “How do I teach this?” and “Where do I start?”

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Does this airport have wi-fi?

Last week, a friend and I got together to shoot a video for a Syrup & Waffles project. (Which I’ll tell you allll about in another post.) We got there early so while he was setting up his rig and I was making a crib sheet for the day, we did that kind of aimless catching up you do with co-workers who work in another department.

Even though I’m no longer a full-time freelancer, he still is and we’ve both got a lot of projects on our plates. He updated me on his, I shared the progress I had made on a few of mine, and we both lamented the fact that we don’t create anything without ulterior motives anymore.

As an undergrad, he carried his camera everywhere and shot random footage for the hell of it. My best friend and I used to sit in my kitchen nook, brainstorming crazy ambitious plans that fizzled out after a few weeks of work.

Neither of us do those things anymore.

His camera comes out when it’s time to get paid and most of my creative work has an agenda. It’s for a client and a paycheck, or has a less-tangible but still valid career benefit. (My newsletter and this blog, for example.) As we were talking, I couldn’t remember the last time I made something for no reason other than I wanted it to exist.

I still have plenty of half-baked ideas, they just rarely make it out of my notebook these days. The (very valid) principle of not working for free as a creative professional has been so instilled in me that it’s hard to shirk it even for my own passion projects. A voice in my head is always whispering, “What are you really getting from this?” or “You could be spending this time on client work!”

Now don’t get me wrong: this is not a bad problem to have. I am well paid to do the things I love to do. I realize that makes me incredibly lucky and I am not writing this post to complain about my good fortune. I’m writing it to share my thoughts on why side projects are important to have you in portfolio.

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Back up your devices with Dropbox

I am a total space cadet at remembering to backup my computer… and my phone and… my everything, really. I have a very nice and nearly indestructible LaCie hard drive that works well, but Time Machine has always bugged me. For starters, it takes forever.

I haul my laptop around almost everywhere so asking me to sit still long enough to backup my whole computer is not going to happen on the regular. I’ve never understood why it has to back up all of my files anyway. Less than 10% of them have changed since the last time. If only Time Machine could detect new or updated files…

Enter Dropbox. I’ve had a paid account for a while. My office uses it in place of a traditional shared server and I routinely use it to send large files to freelance clients. Over the last year or so, I’ve become more and more obsessed with it. Recently, they upped the space in their paid accounts to a terabyte, which is a heck of a lot of room.

“What could I possibly do with all that space?” I wondered. Um, how about backup all my devices in a way that doesn’t require me to rethink my whole life.

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The Best Things I Read This Year

Back in my pre-teen LiveJournal days, everyone kept running lists of the books, movies, and televisions shows they consumed each year. We set arbitrary goals for each category (25 books, 50 movies, etc.) and tracked them all in a sticky post pinned to the top of our journals.

I’m not really sure why we did this, but I always liked it. Partially because it allowed me to quantify things that otherwise can’t be quantified. (If I can put it on a list, I’m being productive! It wasn’t a waste of time!) I haven’t updated my LiveJournal in years, but I remember how much I liked being able to look back and remember books or movies I loved but had already forgotten. (I’m perpetually that person who gets asked for her favorite movie and rattles off the same three titles she’s been recalling for years, even if she hasn’t seen them in just as long.)

These days, I don’t consume nearly as many books or movies as I used to but I read a shit ton of blogs, articles, and the like. I tweet the ones I love and share favorite passages on Tumblr but most of the things we read online are here today and gone tomorrow. I think that’s a shame. Some of them are fucking awesome.

So, without further rambling, here are the best things I read this year. I collected them all in an Evernote over the last twelve months, revisited them all while traveling earlier this week, and have collected them here for your enjoyment. All of them are available online for free and in their entirety.

(This list would probably make a great companion for your flight/train ride/drive home this week. Just saying.)

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Ride the Rails

Sometimes you come across something you didn’t even know you wanted and can’t help but give kudos to whoever made it happen.

This week, it was a time lapse video that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) released yesterday. They stuck a camera on the front of a red line train and filmed the route from Howard to 95th. Which means you can see all 23.4 miles and 33 stations in less than nine minutes.

There’s also a northbound version and language in the bumpers that indicates they’ll be making videos for all eight lines. I hope they follow through. The elevated lines are half as long but have curvier routes that I’m betting make for a nice tour of the city.

A tour of Chicago in nine minutes? Yes, please.