I talk with Karaminder about his super brain and skills, innate and learned.
We also talk about EQ and empathy, idea generation, finding your purpose, how habits beat goals, and about storytelling.
Connect with Karaminder at https://twitter.com/Karaminder.
Find out more about Superlearning at https://superlearners.traverse.link/.
The human brain is like a computer put a big CPU, but tiny, tiny working memory. Our hard drives are big, but it's impossible to find stuff back. I talked with Karaminder about his super brain and skills, innate and learned. We also talk about EQ and empathy, idea generation, finding your purpose, how habits beat goals, and about storytelling. Join me for a packed interview with karaminder.
Hello, and welcome to a new episode in the super learning professionals interview series. Today, I'm joined by Karaminder. He's in the OnDeck course creator fellowship. And he describes himself as a polymath photogenic coach, headshot portrait photographer, filmmaker, storyteller, teacher, host, podcaster, or designer wine sommelier. I hope I pronounce that correctly, restauranteur, dotcom founder, do it yourselves of cars, cycles, tech, ADHD, soon to be writer, creator, YouTuber. Welcome Karaminder. That's a lot of stuff that you are doing.
Yeah. I know. Just, it basically tells you how old I am.
So Karaminder , maybe we can narrow this down a bit. So you're into knowledge management, you have set up elaborate productivity systems. So why is that important in your area and maybe which of the areas that I just mentioned with your intro, does it apply to most?
I'm ADHD, right? Like I was diagnosed less than 18 months ago. So it's not that long in my life that I was diagnosed with it. I didn't know what it was before I got diagnosed.
I just thought this was normal. Just this happens to everyone. Everyone goes to these feelings. And once I did, then I started learning and going deep into understanding what part of me is me and what part of my physical being, like my hardware, like my biology is ADHD. And that helped me with understanding ways to work with myself and being able to manage all the things, all the hobbies.
And just so you know, I am not perfect at this at all. It's a practice. It's a daily thing. Today people were asking like, how do you manage the overwhelm? I'm like, well, you just get really good at letting go of the balls you're juggling that they hit the floor. You're okay if they hit the floor and you still live your life and you still go on. So in a way it's a practice of letting go and being okay with it and not having to, I feel like it'll beat the expectations out of you. So if you have expectations, hat tip to the Danes. Denmark, where they don't have expectations or very low expectations and therefore they are much happier people. I think we can learn a lot from them. That was a roundabout way of me saying I'm not perfect. I'm good. It's always a practice, but I use so many tools. First thing is always writing it down notes, notes, notes, notes, notes, notes, notes, notes.
Because let me try and paint this picture for you, of my kind of tool set in my head. I have like an ultra-fast processor. Right. But the Ram, the memory, it's tiny. It's like having a desk the size of a piece of toast. And that desk is covered in Teflon with like 10 layers of Teflon.
So when information comes at me, it literally is trying to land on this little tiny desk and the Teflon it's just like, whoop, like I'll hear someone's name and I'll forget it microseconds later. So that's kind of like the working memory. So when I have notes, I can take down notes and then I can visually see the notes and this augments my work memory.
And it's great because I can then tackle and see. So the processor goes to work of just connecting things and seeing things from this top down overview. And that helps me think it helps me come up with more ideas, more connections. I love this ideating, if you will.
And then the other part of the memory, which is stored memory, right? . Basically, I have a hard drive that is the biggest thing ever seen. So I'll lose quick data that comes to me. But then I can recall where I've seen a lost item in the last place. I saw it in my head, like a picture. So I 'm not saying I have a photographic memory, but I'm surprised at the stuff that's in there. The random things I can recall. Very specific moments . I see them as a picture. I see them like wherever my eyes saw as a capture. And I can see and point out things, but it's not as advanced as let's say Sherlock Holmes's Mind palace. That's a goal. That'd be nice. But I have to work with what I got.
That sounds fascinating. So you mentioned , you actually visualize notes, so I don't know if you can, but if possible, can you describe this process? Like, is there something that happens automatically or something that you have to do consciously?
Yes. So this goes along with the philosophy of writing is thinking, right? Cause here's the thing, my future self is dumb.
That's it. Just understand that when you write notes, you're writing notes for your future self and that future self doesn't have the context. Doesn't have all the experience you just had when making this note, when you came across this information. So you need to provide that detail because your future self will be like, what is this?
Why did I write this down? Literally, what's the context. So that helps with writing for your future self and writing it down. As you write things down. It begins to take a shape and structure and you can organize things. I went to school for design and one of the things I learned early on was put all the elements on the page, if you will, and then you start to massage, move it around, mold delete, add, but you have to start with stuff.
You have to start with something because the worst thing to do is start a design where you literally start at this screen with your mouse in your keyboard. Start off pen and paper, right? Start there. Then when you went to refine, then use the. Screen is a tool . So understanding the whole, throw it all up and massage it around that philosophy, that practice I got from design, I applied to writing.
What were the general learning principles that you could carry over from, for example, from design into writing.
There's a lot. So I have a full classic art history education for my degree in new media. This is a good question, Dom. You're making me think. There's one thing I always do.
Whenever you're making something, it could be a note, could be a presentation. It could be a document. You need to understand where this is going to live in this world. So for me, my notes live in my notes. I need to provide enough context for me. I'm the audience. But when I'm designing something, I need to know how it's going to be presented in what kind of size it's in.
Who is consuming this. So if they're older, I've got to make sure that the text is not tiny, so they can't read it. Where is it going to be located and what kind of environment is it in? I just call this thinking fourth dimensionally. I learned this from a very wonderful professor named Dr. Emmett Laurie brown. He's fictional. He exists in the movie back to the future and he would say to Marty all the time, he's like Marty, you're not thinking four dimensionally. Which is wonderful, cause you have to think in time and space of where you're going to be, and this is great for when you create things, because you need to think fourth dimensionally of like, what is it going to be like at that moment?
You cannot predict the news of course, but you can predict just the information that you have. For example, I'm teaching a workshop this coming weekend. And I know it's going to be over zoom, so I have to mind, all right, people are at home.
They're going to watch this. How can I keep the interactivity up? How can I prompt them? What are the tools of zoom that allow me to use to keep people engaged? Right. I think it's a big challenge with people presenting on zoom and they could be watching on their phones.
So I need to make sure things are legible from like the size of a small phone. Big screens. I'm not worried about that, but I need to make sure that people can enjoy and understand and get a full experience from as small, as an iPhone mini. That's an example of understanding the philosophy of design for where it's going to live.
And I know he specifically asked me about writing . when I write like long form essays, I'm essentially writing for me. But in different people's voices that I admire and how they write and then understanding where it's going to live. So for example, I spent a long time writing about my Everest pursuit of normal . For me to be able to achieve being normal was like me climbing Mount Everest.
This was 38 years in the making at least just to get to a state of normal, if you will. I'm making another course a different, bigger course about self development.
So how long has this taken you? It's taken me 40 years, 40 years of living my life, all the mistakes, all the failures altogether, all compiled into one place that I can be like, look, I'm on the other side of it. I can share. I can teach you. I can let you know my mistakes, my pitfalls, and what alluded me and share that knowledge.
The only I'm the only authority on that, because I went through it all and I feel like I've been blessed with two gifts. and these is innate gifts. One is pattern recognition. I think this is why I love playing video games too. And the second is hyper-awareness. So I'm always aware of what I'm doing, what I'm thinking, and it just almost a meta level, like a be able to step back almost like a Dr. Strange astral projection, pop out. That's a Marvel reference for you for the geeks out there.
So this pattern recognition and the hyper-awareness, is that something that you think you have a process for, that can apply to other people?
Or is it something just naturally to you.
It's very natural to me, but I am not giving up on the thought that it can be taught. How about that? For example, pattern recognition, , how do I know that that's kind of innate in me? How did I know? How do I know that it wasn't just video games gave me that skill?
I don't know. I will only know when I talk to others, when I see and observe and I kind of just go deeper into that subject . I do feel that one learned process or the one learned super skill that I have is people. In terms of understanding psychology, human behavior. And I put it all together and I execute this work in my filmmaking and my storytelling in my photography because I work with people.
That's what I love. One-on-one with people. This is a part of my lifelong quest of trying to use as many of my skills as possible to make a living. Like I don't want to just use one skill. I don't want to be an expert. Expert is like top 1% of their field.
So you have a hundred people. One person is the expert. He's the smartest. He knows everything, but I want to be a polymath. I want to be good. So let's say top 20% of the room. So that means 20 people out of a hundred in the room are good, but you know what? I want to be that, but I want to be in lots of rooms .
I'm probably an expert at my specific business I've been doing for the last nine years of headshots and portrait photography, but I still see others as much, much, much, much higher and better than me . But I am able to take all of these different disciplines and, and combine them. For example, this workshop I'm teaching this weekend is about how to present spectacularly. This is not a pitch guys. I'm just sharing this with you as an example, where I'm kind of taking my experience in photography, I'm taking in my experience in filmmaking of how cuts, transitions edits, just how that plays into what the viewer feels. Because cinema is a language.
My storytelling , a story that's driven by emotion and not just logic and fact. You're not reading white papers to your children's to bed, guys. You're not going to remember those things, but you will remember stories. You will relive stories. You'll re-experience story.
Whether you want to watch the same movie again, or read the same book again, because it's comfort story. It's emotion. I got a little off topic there, but I'll keep going back to what I was saying. Combining many different disciplines and things in like a polymathic way into this one, medium of literally how to design your visual aids.
Like your slide deck when you're presenting, when you're speaking, when you're teaching.
I think a lot of people like me also aspire to be a polymath. And as soon as I learned something to a certain level, I just want to jump to the next one. So I think a lot of people can probably relate to that.
This was very interesting that you mentioned, you see people as a learned skill. So that means, I could learn that as well. And other people. And so what would you advise them? How to learn people as a skill.
If I could answer that, that's like a multi-million dollar course, I imagine. Yeah. But let me try it. Let me try. Okay. I do feel when I see I've learned people, I think another way this can be translated because I think different taxonomies we can use to describe different things.
And so let's use the taxonomy of EQ right? Like an emotional quotient of understanding. I like to think of it as a bit of a scale, from robot to mom . So you can understand there's a spectrum. And I do feel that when we come out of the womb, our IQ is stamped into our brain. We can push it up a little bit, push it down a little bit. But we're not building in a hundred points of IQ, right?
We are the way we are. But I do feel EQ we can build that up no matter what level you're at and how do we do this? I learned it by being very good, good at listening. And only because I failed at it so much . I've made so many mistakes . I cannot expect every situation to be perfect. I have to love myself first. I have to allow myself to be flawed and I have to love myself to be flawed and have to be kind to myself. And I have to speak nicely to myself. How you start to talk to yourself in your head, that's also how you'll start to talk to other people, other human beings.
Understanding and feeling. So it's all about empathy, right? You could think of it, almost like an empathy quotient too. How much are you able to feel the other person emotions, their feelings, their sentiments, and you don't necessarily have to feel the exact specific emotions you can say.
Like, I can't imagine how this feels for you, but whatever you need, I'm here for you. So you respect their feelings. I'm not expecting anyone to just adopt this because it is a learned practice and it just becomes more habitual over time, but it all starts with being kind to yourself. I remember this quote and I don't know who said this. Someone said, I don't need you to like me. I need you to like you. And I always remember that. Another quote, like, Hey, I'm single.
I date that I always remember this in order to find the woman of your dreams, you must be the man of hers. So this respects that you're not just have these all crazy high expectations. You better step up if you want that, too. And so it's very much like the quote that is I think it's attributed to Gandhi, but I've also read that this quote isn't set by Gandhi, but something along the lines of be the change you wish to see in the world.
So lead by example.
I really liked that symmetry between how you behave and think about yourself versus how you behave and think towards others.
Yes. It starts there, it starts in in how you talk to yourself and I mean, I've pushed myself.
But I'm kind to myself. I respect my self care myself loved time if you will. I'm on zoom calls, pretty much from 6:00 AM until probably as late as five. And I usually that's what I'll cut it off and be like, okay, now I step away, I'm gonna do everything I can away. Like, I'll play with my puppy.
I'll take him for a walk. I go outside. I go on a date. Go hang out with friends. I will just do something else that isn't work that isn't making me feel like I'm pressing the accelerator pedal on my brain. I just let it relax. Watch movies, enjoy, consume. Because I spend all those waking hours let's say on zoom, but I'm still creating in between like making them writing and putting things down.
And if I come up with an idea, this is where the idea generation comes in. I call this planned serendipity, which is oxymoronic because the serendipity is just random by chance from the universe, but you planned for it and then captured into my watch, which then it goes into my notes and everything too.
But that's just my capture process. But these moments where I'm walking my dog or I'm in the shower, why is it that we get these Epiphanes right. You have to write these down. These are fleeting, so you need to capture them right away. But let me take the conversation back to how we talk to ourselves to being kind cause that self care is important . If you just kind of keep pushing yourself, like I have to get this done, I have to get, do you really like someone, is someone gonna die? And then maybe even ask yourself, is this really worth it? Is this really the point? Now this is also diving into the, the whole concept, the whole life mission of purpose. what is one's life purpose?
Some people don't believe in it. Some people think it's like, What do you call true love? What do you call that? Soulmates. And I'm not saying I do or don't believe in it. It's an interesting concept. It's there, it exists. I acknowledge that. But for purpose, I do believe in it. I do believe in it strongly. It never has to be purpose for life. It just has to be purpose for right now. By indulging whatever your brain thinks about whatever your brain is curious about, whatever it's kind of being pulled to. It's the things you think about when you're not thinking about anything. Dive into those, give into it, explore those.
And as you keep going down your own personal rabbit hole of what your brain is into what you're interested in it, that's how it reveals itself to you, but you have to give into it.
yeah, I found a rabbit hole that I really want to dive into, which is why I'm doing this interview with you.
I'm curious, has that made you feel happier or has it, how has that affected your mood and emotions?
It has made me less anxious. But at the same time it has meant that I've been pressing the gas pedal extra hard. So maybe too hard to the extent that now I feel a bit empty and tired, but I know that I'm on the right track now.
Do you feel like you have more energy for this than you did for like other stuff that you were working on before?
Yeah. Yes. And especially more foot more focused. It's easier to be focused.
Yes. There's so many wins you get from just finding your purpose.
I just went through a couple with you where your mood is better. You have like a more zest for life, more energy to do this. But yeah, be careful, when you are pushing. Listen to your body, you already heard your body's saying, Hey, let's rest. Let's take it easy. And you'll be surprised when you sleep and you allow your body to get that full rest. And you take it easy. How much more creative, how much more your brain is making connections in the background, in the subconscious. It takes you to the next level. It progresses.
You're thinking you're making again crazy connections you've never made before all because you allowed that brain to rest and you just need to listen to yourself and there's sometimes you need to sprint. Let's acknowledge that. So you're sprinting now, you wanted to get this done and you're here now, and you've reached this level.
But now also you can't keep robbing Peter to pay Paul. You've got to stop and care for yourself. And that's also comes back to how you talk to yourself and how you treat yourself, how much you respect yourself. That's a big deal because I've always seen this. And this is now going to behavioral as well. I've seen how and I learned this by observing: we tell other people how to feel about ourselves, how to feel about us. So in a way, without even me realizing or knowing, I'm actually telling you Dom through language, body language how to feel about me. Through my attitude, through things I say through intonation, all this is kind of screaming out my body and, and you're kind of a receiver picking it up and you're like, okay, Karaminder is telling me how to feel about it.
We just call that body language. But you, how you treat yourself, this is the influence of that. How you talk to yourself, how you love yourself. It externalizes. And then you're going to find that wow, people really like to be around me, to hang out with me, to talk to me. And it's simply because you can make other people feel good about themselves too.
That reflects from how you feel towards yourself.
I didn't go down the rabbit hole of mirror neurons as well for this?
I love mirror neurons. One of the tricks I use to learn new languages is: mirror one person who's fluent in that language very, very closely and just imitate them. That will get me a much better accent than when I just mirror tons of people.
That's so funny. So I use that same technique. Like I mentioned before, that voice is in my head when I write.
And so it helps me write more poppily. I got that from David Perell, writing with pop, where it's more vibrant writing, more entertainment writing. And so I have the voice in my head and I just write like how that person would sound. And it works. And you're doing it the same way for a different purpose, which is amazing.
That's so cool.
Yeah, I think overall, like knowledge management is so critical, so crucial. I really wish this was taught to the neurodivergent brains in our school. And that seems like a heavy statement, but it's those that struggle with just the regular day to day grind of school, which school is kind of designed to pump out factory workers, worker bees.
But there are a bunch of kids like me, I'm imagining like you too Dom where, because we couldn't adhere to that standard. I couldn't fit. I thought I was not smart. I thought I was dumb. I thought I was a failure. You know, they have these standardized tests and I understand the concepts, but I didn't test well, why is that?
Or I didn't do the homework, but I understand everything you're saying, but I just couldn't do the homework. Why did my brain not let me? And it would be amazing to have this as a tool set. Here's how to take notes and here's how you can reference them in the future.
And here's how you can build upon the things you've said, you've done. Cause once I started taking notes, Dom, my thoughts became valuable.
So you use notes as a tool for learning. And one thing I found really interesting that you mentioned earlier is how you referenced to your future self almost like as part of you. I think Jeff Bezos calls it future self continuity.
Those are fancy words. I try not to use too much jargon, so it's like this. Okay. Let's say you're going to go out for a night of drinking with your buddies, but before you go out, you go ahead and place water beside the bed. Maybe some Alka-Seltzer or whatever medicines you need for that. And you go out, you have a good time and you come home and like, whoa, I'm so thirsty. And you stumble upon this lovely thing you've done for your future self. Your past self totally looked out for your future self. And you're like, oh my God, thank you so much. Thank you so much past me because past me totally hooked me up right now. And I feel like I do these little things all the time. So it's not just that, but it's also like my keys. I have a system for pretty much everything where I know where an object should live.
And sometimes even if, I don't know, if it's a rarely used object, I'm like, Hmm, I'm looking for this thing. If it were to live somewhere, where would it live? And I would do that exercise and then I'd find it there. I'm like, yes, past Karaminder, again, totally hooked up future Karaminder. And that we both think the same way.
I say we, as if they're two different people, because I'll randomly forget things too.
These are little things, of course, but I was wondering if this could be used on a larger scale to choose with more intention. What skill you want to learn next, or what you want to dedicate the next six months or year of your life to, to most benefit your future self?
I'll say this. I do have a condition. It is labeled and everything. It's called time blindness. And that my brain does not process time the same way neuro-typical people do, normal people, normies, if you will. And I've always struggled or had a hard time, with goals. Like what you just said, what am I gonna do for the next six months?
Honestly, Dom I don't know what I'm going to do because life has taught me: your life changes, your trajectory changes.
So what about all that time you just spent trying to plan out the next five years? It's great to know where the puck is going to go. I get that, but don't get hung up on the details of trying to plan it all out. Maybe if you are a planner, fine do that. If that's what you need for your thinking.
Do that. That helps you with your decision making process. Do that. But for me, I have found for myself, that that hasn't been useful. And instead only recently I've learned this instead of goals build systems. So if I want to lose weight, it's not just, here's a goal of this much weight.
It's more, how about this? I bought a bike. I'm going to go ride it around, take my dog, put him in a little basket, go to different parks. And then I get to have that exercise of just going out and we get to have a good time be outside.
And I just keep that up every day.
Habits over goals.
Absolutely. I'm way happier that than I am worried about like the number on the scale, because if you ever feel that a number has, you've given it the power to make you feel and to make you influence your emotions.
Just stop and think about it even my age, right? Like I just turned 40 a couple of weeks ago. People are like, oh my God, it's a big number. How do you feel? I'm like, I don't know. It's just, it goes from 39. It goes to 40. My life is not going to change from that previous day to the next .
For me, it's not a big deal. It's okay. It's fine. I care about what is going on in my head. I care about how I feel about myself.
In a way I kind of feel I'll be perpetually 27. That was a good year. I feel like that. And that's how I'm going to be. Most people are like, you don't even look like you're 40. I'm like, ah, I appreciate that. Thank you. But more importantly, how I feel about myself as I feel like I'm 27.
Now, do I heal like I'm 27? No, I do not a body that heals like it's 27. So recognize and acknowledge the truth and the facts. But I want to say that if you are watching numbers and they have the ability to influence how you feel, stop, and just question, why are you giving so much power to numbers? Whether it be in stock market whether it be weight. Oh, you missed your goal by two pounds. So did you have fun? Did you have joy while you did this?
You're going to do something today and you're going to build a habit and it's almost like your life strays a little bit because you're doing something different. At the end of the day, our entire life, our entire daily being is a collection of habits.
You can use the word traditions. That just means old school habits that are passed down. That's what traditions are. If you change one habit, or if you change one thing, whether you call it tiny habit, tiny change. You've literally just changed your life.
Yeah, that's powerful.
So I'm not too focused on, oh my God. I need to achieve this outcome because I tried that. And this is a great phenomenon where you see with YouTubers they're like, I want to hit a hundred thousand subscribers. I want to hit 1 million. I want to hit 10 million. You know what happens after they hit 10 million?
The motivation was gone. They're so fixated on that number, that the number comes and then now what, there's no more what you chase a hundred million. What, after that? A billion.
I hit 500 Twitter followers, like a few days ago. I was just asking myself, what's next? What do I do with that?
Yeah, you can look at your numbers and understand that. Okay. There's growth here. You're doing well. But numbers can also tell you the story of what's happening, Dom, and the story, our brains, our brains are story-driven first, then logic. You don't read white papers to your children for bedtime stories? No, no, no, no stories, emotions. That's a big thing. It's a big deal that, that has to deal with evoking chemicals in our brain. Like the feeling of tension which is Oxytocin.
I love that. I think that's probably a good place to end this conversation. Maybe we can have another one at some point. One more thing I'd like to ask you, who do you think I should interview next for this podcast?
Well, we have so many people I want to nominate fellow countryman Sir Steven Wilkinson because I'm baffled, I'm amazed at the life experiences , the knowledge and everything that he's gained and combined to come up with a way of having us creators who are terrible with these little, little numbers, bookkeeping, very tedious. My brain and I think many others, it's just almost like an aversion. It is an allergy if you will. But some people have figured out like what makes it tick for them and what makes it joyful for them?
I and a majority never have, and he was amazing at how he demonstrated and converged all this information and presented it to us. And I think he would be wonderful to listen to. Also, I love you ever see those people in say nursing homes or old folks homes, what they believe that they regret about their lives.
I love listening to those things because the biggest thing has always come back to relationships. And how we treat our people. There was a tweet I retweeted, I think a couple of days ago or yesterday where it said. Your best friends have always been your parents. Focus on your relationships. That's like the most valuable thing on this world. Money comes money goes, but your relationships that's a big deal. And we need, we need community. We require it.
Yeah, we're seeing that big time now in ODCC it's so powerful the community and the relationship built there.
Thank you, Dom, for having me.
Thank you, Karaminder.