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The Difference Between “Unusual” and “Impressive”

Think Different

Our friend Ben Casnocha recently launched a new web venture called Think Different TV. Inspired by, it features split-screen videos of two people having a conversation. Bloggingheads focuses on politics. Think Different TV, by contrast, covers issues more near to the heart of us Study Hackers, including entrepreneurship, education, and big ideas.

I was honored to chat with Ben in the inaugural episode, and I even wore my glasses to make myself look much smarter than I actually am. In this episode we discuss my third book, dissect the difference between unusual and impressive, and argue about the skills needed to be a successful student (and whether these matter in the “real world”).

Think Different TV

To access the video, you can go to the Think Different web site or straight to Vimeo where it’s hosted.

In case you want to jump around, the conversation goes like this:

0:54 – Cal tells us what his third book is about
3:33 – Ben says people confuse “mysterious” with “impressive”
7:49 – Difference between being an impressive person vs. an interesting person
15:10 – Cal talks about the “confounding effect” that distorts our sense of interestingness since we don’t understand how something is done
16:37 – Attributing someone else’s success to “magic” relieves yourself of responsibility / guilt?
20:46 – What’s the difference between school and the “real world”? What skill sets are transferable?
27:26 – To succeed as as student requires some degree of entrepreneurship/innovation

Keep an eye on Think Different. I have a feeling it will evolve into a great source of innovative inspiration.

6 thoughts on “The Difference Between “Unusual” and “Impressive””

  1. Regarding the unusual-eccentric topic, as the example of getting into painting and changing your lifestyle and becoming more interesting to yourself, I cannot think of a better idea to lead to self improvement and as a consequence to innovating thinking.

    Real world vs academics talk was quite interesting, both of you have great insights on them. The claim that “no one cares how hard you work unless the work is done” seems to picture in detail all it has to be said in either worlds.

    This is great material, thx for sharing.

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  4. – You can get into a good career if you succeed in your studies and correlate the studies to the career that you want to participate within.
    – Cal Newport, and others with their background in academics are able to leverage this (especially Cal Newport into becoming a professor). while getting into another job would be an entire domain switch, but the impressiveness of what you were doing in university may not correlate, but what you were doing (courses + impressive other pursuits) would ensure that you have opportunities to garner outside of university because of your past impressiveness/competence/mastery…


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