Restructuring Education & Teaching Practical Life Skills (on The Iced Coffee Hour) Pt.1 March ‘22 Ep 510

Summary Notes


In this episode of the Iced Coffee Hour with Graham, Jack, and Alex, the conversation delves into the meaning of legacy, the purpose of education, and the effectiveness of current schooling systems. Alex argues that education should focus on teaching critical thinking over memorization, advocating for a shift from convergent to divergent thinking to foster problem-solving skills. He expresses skepticism over the potential for systemic educational reform due to entrenched power dynamics but suggests technology could democratize and revolutionize learning. The discussion also touches on personal life choices, including the decision whether to have children, with Alex sharing his humanitarian perspective on legacy and the importance of helping others. Alex's approach to time management and productivity is explored, revealing his strategy of dividing his day between deep work and communication, and his preference for dining out as a means of relaxation and connection.

Summary Notes

Legacy and the Futility of Seeking It

  • People often aspire to create a legacy, but the impact tends to fade over time.
  • Alex expresses skepticism about the importance of creating a legacy, using the example of a forgotten ruler he is related to.

"The idea that we have of, like, I want to create a legacy. It's like, dude, you're not making a legacy. He was ruler of a country. I can't even remember his name. I'm related to him."

This quote highlights the transient nature of legacy and questions the value of striving for it, as even significant figures can be forgotten.

The Purpose of Education

  • Education should focus on teaching people how to think rather than memorize.
  • The current system is outdated, designed during the factory worker era, and emphasizes convergent thinking.
  • Divergent thinking, which allows for multiple correct answers, is more relevant to real-world problem-solving.

"I think the purpose of education is to teach people how to think rather than how to memorize."

Alex argues that education should prioritize critical thinking over rote memorization, which is becoming less relevant in the age of technology.

"The education system overall, the product of that is people who can add value to society, right?"

The purpose of education is framed as producing individuals who contribute positively to society.

"I think we need a lot more problem solving skills than we did back then, a lot more divergent thinking processes."

Alex advocates for an educational shift towards skills that are more applicable to today's problem-solving needs.

The Challenges of Reforming Education

  • The education system is hindered by various impediments, including teachers' unions and funding issues.
  • Alex references the documentary "Waiting for Superman" which illustrates the systemic problems in education.
  • Technology could revolutionize education by allowing the best teachers to reach wider audiences, though this raises concerns about the impact on traditional teaching jobs.

"No, mostly just because of the power dynamics that exist."

Alex expresses doubt about the possibility of significant educational reform due to existing power structures.

"Technology democratizes consumption and consolidates production."

This quote from Naval Ravikant, referenced by Alex, suggests that technology enables the best educators to potentially teach on a larger scale.

Alternative Schooling Systems

  • There is potential for an alternative schooling system that utilizes technology and adapts to real-world conditions.
  • Testing and learning pace may need to change to reflect real-world scenarios, such as using technology during tests.

"There is an alternative schooling system that gets developed that because of technology."

Alex proposes the development of a new schooling system that leverages technology to improve education.

"Now it gets scary because teachers unions and what are all these people going to do for work and all that stuff?"

The transition to a new educational system raises concerns about the displacement of traditional teaching roles.

Personal Experiences with Education

  • Graham shares his experience with an alternative school that did not focus on grades or conventional assignments.
  • This method allowed Graham to thrive without the constraints of traditional schooling.
  • Alex and Graham discuss the importance of applying skills practically rather than just learning theory.

"I had issues... My parents pulled me out mid year kindergarten to go to an alternative school."

Graham recounts his personal experience with an alternative education system that suited his learning style better than traditional schools.

"I think if something's worth doing, it's worth doing well, and that's more of, like, a personal belief."

Alex reflects on the value of committing to doing things well, which he believes is a valuable lesson from school.

Practical Skills in Education

  • Alex suggests that education should include practical skills like using Excel and applying math in real-world scenarios.
  • There is a need for a dynamic curriculum that can evolve and discard outdated methods or subjects.

"Personal finance, there's so of uses for it. And I had to learn how to do all the, it was just a book of the equations, like equals sum."

Alex emphasizes the importance of practical skills such as personal finance and Excel for everyday life.

"So there has to be a built in kind of innovation wheel for not just adding, but also subtracting what things are no longer useful."

The educational curriculum should be flexible and innovative, capable of adapting to changing needs by removing unnecessary elements.

Alternative Education and Communication Skills

  • Discusses the importance of learning practical skills such as making TikToks, retaining attention, and sending emails.
  • Emphasizes the necessity of learning how to communicate effectively in the modern world.
  • Mentions the alternative education industry, including courses and franchised educational systems, as a way to learn these skills.
  • Suggests that alternative education is a key avenue for learning and communication skills development.

"How to send an email. That's a big one, too."

This quote highlights the significance of basic communication skills like email correspondence in the modern education landscape.

"How to message people, because fundamentally, this is just how to communicate, how to human right."

Alex discusses the fundamental nature of messaging and communication as essential human skills that need to be learned, often independently of traditional education systems.

"And there is the alternative education industry, which you have a course and you could depend on how you look at it."

The quote introduces the concept of the alternative education industry, which provides courses and other resources outside of traditional education systems.

Networking and Reaching Influential People

  • Explores strategies for getting the attention of highly influential and typically inaccessible individuals like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
  • Suggests networking and finding personal, non-public interests of the target individuals as a method to gain their attention.
  • Acknowledges the difficulty due to the individuals' wealth and status, which makes traditional value offerings ineffective.
  • Proposes that adding value to such individuals' lives would likely need to be from a personal and immaterial angle.

"I think the way to get there would be to have to go through from the heart."

Alex suggests that networking to reach influential people requires a genuine and heartfelt approach, focusing on personal interests rather than public knowledge.

"It would have to be something immaterial, like not intangible, that I think would hit the radar."

This quote emphasizes the need to offer something unique and personal, beyond material or status-related incentives, to capture the attention of very wealthy individuals.

The Influence of Social Media and Privacy Concerns

  • Discusses the case of a teenager who gained Elon Musk's attention by tracking his private jet and posting the coordinates on Twitter.
  • Highlights the importance of privacy to individuals like Musk and the varying public opinions on the ethics of such tracking activities.
  • Mentions the teenager's development of software to automate the tracking process, showcasing his technical skills and the attention he's received from major news outlets.
  • Reflects on the public's perception of the teenager's actions, with mixed reactions regarding privacy invasion and the perceived public service of tracking Russian yachts.

"And he got Elon Musk's attention because he was tracking his private jet."

Graham provides an example of how the teenager managed to grab the attention of a high-profile individual like Elon Musk through an unconventional method that raised privacy concerns.

"But now that same kid is tracking Russian Yachts."

This quote indicates the teenager's shift in focus from tracking private jets to tracking Russian yachts, which has garnered him significant attention and public approval in the context of global events.

News Consumption and Information Diet

  • Discusses personal choices regarding news consumption and the perceived negative impact of news on one's life.
  • Criticizes the sensationalism in news media and its intention to capture attention rather than disseminate truth.
  • Explains the decision to avoid news as a means to eliminate stress and unnecessary problems from one's life.
  • Reflects on the formulaic nature of newsworthiness and the desire to not be a product for news companies.

"I can't control anything. To me, there's no added value."

Alex expresses his view that consuming news does not add value to his life and, in fact, has a detrimental effect, leading to his decision to avoid it.

"The job of the news is to make everyone's problem your problem."

This quote criticizes the news industry's tendency to sensationalize issues and manipulate content to make it more engaging, often at the expense of truth.

Personal Productivity and Delegation

  • Discusses strategies for increasing personal productivity, such as removing distractions like phones from the work environment.
  • Highlights the benefits of having an executive assistant who understands personal preferences and makes decisions accordingly.
  • Shares personal experiences with executive assistants and the learning curve involved in finding the right fit for one's needs.
  • Describes the role of a true executive assistant as a "time coach" and the positive impact on efficiency and decision-making.

"I try to not do that. And media sources, social media, and news in general, I don't consume any formal news."

Alex shares his personal strategy for maintaining focus and productivity by avoiding news and social media during work hours.

"I've gone through eight executive assistants."

This quote reveals Alex's journey in finding an effective executive assistant, highlighting the importance of understanding one's own needs to ensure a successful working relationship.

"A true executive assistant is almost like a time coach."

Alex defines the role of an executive assistant as someone who not only manages tasks but also coaches on time management, which is crucial for personal productivity.

Executive Assistant's Role

  • The executive assistant is described as a partner at the executive level who understands business and can make decisions on behalf of the executive.
  • They handle scheduling, communication, and personal preferences.
  • The assistant acts as a time coach, planning every minute of the executive's day and adjusting the schedule as needed.
  • Preferences such as "no white space" on the calendar are accommodated.
  • The assistant handles lower-value decision-making to allow the executive to focus on high-leverage tasks.

"But, like, a true executive assistant is somebody who's almost like a partner at the executive level, who understands business at a very high level, can make business decisions on your behalf, knows your personal preferences, things like that."

This quote emphasizes the comprehensive role of an executive assistant beyond administrative tasks, highlighting their understanding of business and decision-making on behalf of the executive.

Decision-making and Delegation

  • The executive assistant understands the executive's decision-making criteria for various tasks and requests.
  • The assistant is trusted to make decisions and only consults the executive if the criteria need updating.
  • The executive expresses a willingness to update decision criteria if a mistake is made, viewing it as an opportunity for improvement.

"What my decision makes criteria is for all of those things and what's a yes and what's a no."

This quote outlines the importance of having clear decision-making criteria that the executive assistant can follow, enabling effective delegation.

Finding and Paying for an Executive Assistant

  • The executive assistant was known to the executive through a mutual connection.
  • The assistant previously worked for a friend of the executive for eight years.
  • The executive values business acumen and experience in an assistant and is willing to pay more for these qualities.

"You need to pay someone. Well, yeah, if you want somebody who has business acumen."

This quote highlights the executive's belief in compensating an executive assistant well for their business skills and experience.

Lifestyle Choices

  • The executive chooses to spend money on conveniences like private flights and personal transportation.
  • The rationale is that spending on these services provides utility and value to their life.
  • The executive is conscious of how they spend money, aiming to derive personal benefit rather than accumulating wealth without purpose.

"It's one of those, like, I almost am embarrassed to say, but there's a handful of things that are really expensive and I feel like they are worth it."

This quote reflects the executive's perspective on spending money on expensive services that offer significant convenience and time-saving benefits.

Time Management and Routine

  • The executive has a structured daily routine, including a go-to-bed alarm rather than a wake-up alarm.
  • They believe in preparing for the next day before bed and that the subconscious works on problems overnight.
  • The day is split between high-leverage work in the morning and communication in the afternoon.
  • Work stress is managed by the realization that work is a choice, not an obligation.

"So basically four or five until noon is when I get all of my work done."

This quote details the executive's approach to managing their workday, focusing on high-leverage tasks in the morning and reserving afternoons for communication.

Work-Life Balance

  • The executive does not have a strict cutoff time but generally ends work-related calls around 4 PM.
  • They have worked on reducing work-related stress and do not feel compelled to adhere to rigid boundaries between work and personal life.
  • The nature of work after lunch is considered less intense, allowing for a smoother transition into personal time.

"I'm just trying to say this the right way. I don't get the same level of stress that I used to from work."

This quote conveys the executive's mindset shift regarding work, focusing on choice and stress reduction to improve work-life balance.

Personal Time and Dining Out

  • The executive and their spouse dine out every night as a way to connect and leave the house.
  • They acknowledge the high cost of this habit but justify it as a valuable aspect of their routine.
  • Dining out serves multiple purposes beyond just the meal, including the experience of being served and the convenience of location.

"And so that's kind of why going out to eat has serves multiple purposes, not just the food."

This quote explains the multifaceted reasons behind the executive's frequent dining out, emphasizing its role in their daily routine and personal connection with their spouse.

Dining Experience in Vegas

  • Alex has been dining out every night since arriving in Vegas, never cooking at home.
  • Delilah's is highlighted as having the best dessert in Vegas and is highly recommended.
  • The high-end dining scene in Vegas is noted for its variety and quality, but Alex expresses a feeling of diminishing returns with five-star dining experiences.
  • Common menu items in these establishments include various tartars, shrimp cocktail, bread selections, salads, and a range of steak and seafood options.

"Since we got to Vegas, we've gone out to dinner. Not pretty much. We've gone out every single night. We've never cooked once."

This quote emphasizes the frequency of dining out experienced by Alex, indicating a preference for exploring the restaurant scene over home cooking.

"Delilah's really good. I think they have the best dessert in Vegas."

This quote provides a specific recommendation for Delilah's restaurant, particularly praising their dessert offerings.

"The marginal utility of five star dining decreases."

Alex suggests that the perceived value or enjoyment of frequent high-end dining experiences tends to decline over time.

Financial Philosophy and Giving Pledge

  • Alex does not look at prices when dining out, indicating a nonchalant attitude towards spending.
  • Alex is identified as a generous tipper.
  • A discussion about inheritance reveals that Alex does not intend to leave money to his children, but rather has plans for his estate to be given away.
  • The concept of the Giving Pledge is mentioned, though Alex has not formally signed any pledges.
  • A personal anecdote about Alex's ancestry and the fleeting nature of wealth and legacy is shared, highlighting the insignificance of passing down wealth through generations.
  • Alex's philosophy is that leaving a legacy in terms of wealth does not make sense due to the dilution of inheritance and the lack of personal connection with distant descendants.
  • The discussion also touches on the idea that receiving a large inheritance may not be beneficial for the recipients.

"No, I don't."

Alex confirms he does not consider prices when making purchases, indicating a certain level of financial freedom.

"Yeah, I guess we're going to get into it. I'll tell you a really interesting example that'll drive this home."

Alex introduces a personal story to illustrate his views on wealth and legacy.

"The point of leaving a legacy in capital L, legacy of like, this is going to last past me, doesn't really make sense because the people who I'm leaving it to will never know who I am."

Alex argues that striving to create a lasting legacy through wealth is ultimately futile, as future generations will not have a personal connection to their ancestors.

Perspective on Children and Parenting

  • Alex is unsure about having children and compares the time commitment to that of owning a dog.
  • He expresses that while he likes animals and they like him, the responsibility of caring for a pet can be overwhelming.
  • The conversation shifts to the topic of having children, with Alex considering the human experience and the societal expectation to become a parent.
  • Alex is concerned about the personal risks and the potential for projecting his desires onto a child.
  • He contemplates the trade-off between dedicating time to raising a child and using that time to potentially help a larger number of people.
  • Alex's decision-making process is heavily influenced by the potential impact he can have on others, rather than focusing on personal or selfish desires.
  • The discussion concludes with Alex affirming his interest in helping people and recognizing that it brings him fulfillment.

"Yeah, I think I would probably have different feelings about a child than I would about a dog."

Alex acknowledges that his feelings towards a child would be different from those towards a pet, despite the responsibilities involved.

"I think we were talking about dinners last night, but the amount of time that a child takes, right. Let's say it's, I don't know, 4 hours a day, roughly in terms of headspace and time spent with four."

Alex reflects on the substantial time commitment required for parenting, likening it to the time spent on other activities such as dining out.

"A lot of people want to have kids to give meaning to their lives."

Alex discusses the common motivation for having children and how societal norms influence the decision to become a parent.

"It's like we're just accumulating chips. They're fake and I can't take them with me, so I'm just pushing them back to the middle of the table."

This metaphor compares life to a game where accumulating wealth is akin to collecting chips in a casino, emphasizing the temporary nature of material possessions.

Altruism and Self-Interest

  • Alex's decisions are guided by the number of people he can help, which is a key factor in his life choices.
  • He questions the notion that being selfish is inherently bad, suggesting that acting in self-interest can be aligned with helping others.
  • The conversation explores the idea that self-interest and altruism are not mutually exclusive and that people generally act in their own self-interest.
  • Alex recognizes that he derives fulfillment from helping others, which influences his actions and future plans.

"I act in my own self interest as well."

Alex admits that his actions are driven by self-interest, which he views as a normal human behavior.

"I think I get some level of fulfillment from it. I do."

This quote reveals that Alex finds personal fulfillment in helping others, which motivates his altruistic behavior.

"It's selfish. I think I feel good when I do it. And so I do more of it."

Alex acknowledges that his desire to help others is, in itself, a form of self-interest because it makes him feel good.

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