Nico Appel

I’m working on it.

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Always have a pull-up bar

I finally installed my pull-up bar again about two weeks ago. Not sure why, but it always seems to work its magic: I walk underneath it, I see it, and I want to reach for it, and do a pull-up.

Considering how much effort a pull-up takes, the bar has an asymmetric level of attraction. It’s seductive. I never have to motivate myself to do pull-ups. The bodily feeling of exerting the force/strength to pull ones’ own body weight, is really satisfying by itself.

Two reasons I am writing this:

One, rather selfishly, I want to remind myself and take note that I should always have a pull-up bar. It’s a no-brainer.

Two, this phenomenon of putting something in my view or broader environment which then lures myself into repeatedly doing something, which in effect is a sort of unstructured training, meaning I do get better at the thing over time, is such a sweet hack.
If that is a pull-up bar...

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Deliberate Practice for Knowledge Workers

I read these posts (link 1 & link 2) by Tyler Cowen, the second one in particular about what Tyler is doing daily to train his knowledge worker skills.

I realized that there are a few things that I do as well.


For one, there is reading. I read a fair bit, and I have a good balance of what I read currently, i.e. the ratio between

  • books
  • essays
  • articles
  • newsletters
  • tweets

Some of the reading is connected to other media, such as video (lectures, talks, podcasts) and audio (lectures, podcasts). I have an Audible subscription and I end up with too many open credits. There are a couple of disadvantages with audiobooks, probably worth a future article.

Because I am currently about half way in How To Read a Book, I guess that is worth mentioning in this context. This particular book, and there are others like it, is meant to facilitate and improve reading and understanding...

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LinkedIn is 😕

Notifications | LinkedIn 2020-05-25 13-06-33.png

Dear LinkedIn, this is stupid. You are making some false assumptions here.

  1. You’re telling me, “try mentioning someone in a comment". Do you think I don’t know how to do that? If you were cognizant of my past activity on your platform, you would know that I am capable of mentioning people in comments. I do it when I think it is appropriate.
  2. You are pushing me to work to get more views for my post. Have I told you or signaled in any way that this is my objective? Not really But you assume that more views, more likes, more comments, more engagement, more attention spent on that post is “good”, don’t you? It might be good for you. It’s probably one of your platform’s KPIs. And hey, if you care so much, please go ahead and show my post to more people. That’s totally up to you (or your algorithm).
  3. What you want, but not communicating clearly, is, that I work (more) for you. I don’t...

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Most people don’t “think process”

There’s a pizza place close to where I live, run by people from Italy. I mean, they have the appropriate accent, body language, casualness, etc. When you call them up, they’ll answer the phone with, “Buonasera.” When you give them your order, they simply confirm it by stating the ETA, as in, “OK, 20 minutes.” That’s it. They never ask for or note down a name. I did notice that, and it had never caused any issues in my past experience with the restaurant.

With the current lockdown, they adjusted their setup to handing out takeaway pizza over a table that is blocking the restaurants main entrance. With warmer weather and the restaurant’s proximity to the park, people queue up to order and they wait around for their order to be ready.

Now, maybe you can guess the problem already: the only thing the folks inside can and do announce is which kind of pizza just got put in a cardboard box...

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Work with friends

Part of the upside of running your own company, or to freelance, is that you can to some degree decide to work with friends instead of coworkers.

I often forget just how different we work at our company – and how well that works for me. I deeply appreciate it.

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Out of left field

The more you have a clear plan of action, a trajectory you are trying to follow, the more you are able to see what is in fact coming “out of left field”.

Makes sense. Firmly understanding what is part of the plan, on the trajectory, exposes everything that is not

Unexpected events are sometimes surprisingly welcome, even fortunate. And at other times they present obstacles which we have not anticipated, and which can be utterly frustrating.

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Read more

How often do we hit a button that says “Read more” or “Learn more”?

My motivation to read got recently majorly re-kindled by a series of events. I already had quite a few books, mostly audiobooks on Scribd, saved for later. Then I watched Eric Weinstein’s conversation with Werner Herzog on his new podcast The Portal (Apple Podcasts, YouTube).

Herzog makes a convincing case for reading, in general. Note how he is hammering it in with his hand gestures going from cutting to praying.

Werner Herzog:

Yes, watch films and do whatever you need to do in technical terms, but read, read, read, read, read, read. If you don’t read, you will be a film maker, but mediocre at best.


Click on the image to see that part of the conversation.

Herzog has some more thoughts on reading and even what to read, but I will leave the option to “Learn more” up to you.

The mentioned required reading list for...

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People-based reminders

There is a place that sells ice cream in Berlin, a family run business, called Eis Hennig. Their business is going so well, they haven’t updated their website in roughly eight years, it seems. They don’t even need any of the images on their website to work. It doesn’t matter. They got better things to do: making and selling ice cream, assembly-line style. I am not kidding. There is always a queue.


At Eis Hennig, you don’t buy ice cream by the spoon, you can choose a container size and they fill that up with ice cream, layering the selected varieties on top of each other. Here, pick a size.


The reason why I am telling this is context. This is not a sponsored post. Bear with me.

Last weekend I went and had the 2.50 € container. One minute into enjoying my ice cream, I thought: “This is too much ice cream.” So I took to my portable super computer and set a location-based reminder:


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Same boat, different page


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It is 2019 and I am officially networking. Not entirely sure what networking actually is, I am making an effort to go out and meet people. I re-signed with LinkedIn, or maybe I resigned myself to use LinkedIn, which appears to be the “business Facebook” where you can like and comment on all things professional.

Apart from the mutual awkwardness involved in most networking activities, I am genuinely interested to learn about people’s problems related to my area of expertise. If you read this and even slightly suspect I might be able to help you, please reach out to me. If you think you could help me, I invite you to do the same.

Back to networking events. It seems that most of it is rather blind networking: You don’t know who you are going to meet. The filter could be being in the same city, the same industry, having the same sex, … you name it.

At those events, while we are meeting...

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