The Ground Up Show and Theme Journal

Date: 2022-01-17 · Word Count: 1032 · Reading Time: 5 minutes

While driving today, I was introduced to to The Ground Up Show episode 94 Success Doesn’t Equal Happiness by my friend Lynette. On the theme of productivity and happiness, I also ended up watching The Journal Keeps Me Productive by CGP Grey during a break.

Both were intensive enough that I ended up having to listen to music afterwards (another podcast was simply too much) and listened to both again when I got to Townsville.

So, a few notes.

Success Doesn’t Equal Happiness

Interview with Alex Banayan


  • Find and be true to your definition of success
  • For Woz, this was:
    1. Make things with his bare hands, using engineering, that changes the world
    2. Have fun doing it.
  • Happy because he gets to do what he wants every day
  • This lead to Woz taking the role of “Captain Engineer”
    • Nothing about dealing with the corporate side met his definition of success (thus he didn’t take CTO or a similar role)


  • The strongest social rules we have are often implicit.
    • For example, societies definition of success (house, car, family, etc)
  • One generations hindsight can be the next generations foresight
  • Finding passion: Journal the following questions at the same time every day for 30 days.
    1. What filled me with enthusiasm today?
    2. What drained me of energy today?
    3. What did I learn about myself today?
  • Expect a slump between days 12 and 28, then insight around days 28-30

Cold Email Template:

  • This is useful for asking someone for something over email. From Tim Ferris

Dear X,

I know you’re really busy, this will only take 60 seconds to read.

Maximum 2 sentences of relevant biography.

Maximum 2 sentences asking a very specific question.

I understand if you are too busy to respond, even 1-2 sentences would completely make my day.


Your Name


  • Discussion of how Spielberg got his break
  • An inside man makes the difference in getting your foot in the door
    • Provides insight
      • e.g. Schmoozing will only get you so far, at some point you have to show them something. This lead to Spielberg creating a short movie to show off his skills as a producer.
    • May be own name on the line when building relationships with other insiders and getting a break.
      • e.g. called the VP of Universal and strongly encouraged him to take the time to see Spielberg’s movie
  • When building a relationship with an insider, be honest with your intentions
    • e.g. Spielburg was honest when asked what he was doing in the studio lot, given it was not a public area.
  • If you have a goal (e.g. interview person X), always have a pipeline
    • Bullshit no: People can be afraid of confrontation and reject you out of hand (e.g. they may say they don’t have any jobs and yet advertise a week later).
    • Pipeline allows going to others and coming back to an open door.
    • Hammering on a door can cause it to be permanently closed.
      • e.g. Don’t email someone asking for an interview every week for 8 months

The Third Door:

  • Discussion of book The Third Door
  • Society often portrays 2 doors:
    1. The main door (wait your turn, hope you don’t get rejected)
    2. The rich and famous door (you’re born into it)
  • There’s always a third door (e.g. climbing through a window). No recipe for it, you need to find your own.
    • Underlying mindset: There’s always a way

Working Hard with More Intention:

  • We all start out with an original fear: That of dying
  • Live the way you want, there is no amount of work that will guarantee a happier time at death
  • Regrets are usually things we didn’t try or do (e.g. starting that business)
  • Ask yourself regularly: Did I sacrifice my values or principles?
  • Dealing with insecurities: Read When Things Fall Apart

Dealing with fear:

  • Accept it, invite it in
    • Fighting fear is what makes it grow.
  • Courage, not fearlessness
    • Fearlessness is blindly, mindlessly, rushing in
    • Acknowledge fear, analyze consequences and decide that you care so much you will step forward anyway

Advice for Early Self:

  • Don’t give up if it isn’t working out immediately. Things often take a few tries.
    • e.g. Bill Gates took two tries to get Microsoft off the ground
  • It never takes off the way you think it will. That’s usually only obvious to outside observers or in hindsight.

Biographies to Read:

A Skill To Learn:

  • Meditation, specifically transcendental mediation
    • Originally gave it as try because it was a common thread among people he interviewed.
    • It creates space for your natural kills to flourish
    • In the same class as learning to eat healthy and learning to read

This Journal Keeps Me Productive

Theme system journal.

This is how GCP Grey uses the journal. Obviously, adjust to personal needs. There’s also no need to use the journal he designed, any journal book will do.

Progress pages:

  • Boxes contain what you want to improve on or be more consistent about
  • Circles are credit for each item (half full for partial credit)
    • One day per circle
    • Recommend setting a very low bar of partial credit.
  • Top down, order of importance (we can’t be successful in all things at all times).

Pages for brainstorming:

  • Process for identifying what to improve and acute feelings of dissatisfaction.
    • This is one of the most helpful parts of the process.
  • Big 4 that commonly need improvement:
    • Sleep
    • Exercise
    • Diet
    • Work
  • Other things on mind (e.g. not being good about communication).

Journal pages:

  • Where he is at top of page
  • Top two boxes are two things he’s grateful for
    • Be very specific (i.e. a specific things about a single person)
  • Bottom box of page: one thing that went well during the day
    • Forces mind to keep track of things going well during day
  • Alternative for bottom box: One absolutely critical action item for day
  • Big box in middle is what is on mind in the morning.

The theme part of journal:

  • At the front, describes your themes for the year
  • Theme
  • Description
  • Ideal outcomes you’d like to aim for

In the comments section, the Cortex episode Productivity 101 was also mentioned as being a good starting point.