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How to Make People Think You’re Smarter Than You Actually Are

11 Sep

Want to make people at work think you’re super smart? This is one of the things I do to help me seem like I have an amazing memory, when in fact my memory is only slightly above average. You’ll need two things: one skill and one tool.


The Skill

The skill is one you can pick up pretty easily and you don’t even need to be that good at it. It’s something you may have heard of called typing. Get good at typing. You don’t have to have perfect accuracy and you don’t have to have an above average typing speed. The faster you can
get, the better – but the accuracy  level can be solved really easily with autocorrect and spellcheck.


You can take the test at

I type around 90 words per minute according to It also says my accuracy when typing Aesop’s fables is around 98%. This is decent and I was trying to really do my best when I took the test. It’s unlikely I type quite that fast normally. Go take the test and see where you are.

Now you know your typing speed. I don’t know of a way to easily determine your speaking speed, but the average person speaks at about 110-150 words per minute in casual conversation. Television hosts, podcasters, professional debaters and others speak much faster though.

I bet you can see where we’re going with this.


The Tool

The tool is Evernote. I started using Evernote when I started my current job 3 years ago after determining that VooDooPad didn’t do everything I needed it to. I have notes in EverNote from my very first day of work and I often check those old notes even years later. I catalog everything and try to keep little bits and pieces of information out of my head and in my Evernote. The human brain is really inefficient at storing bits of factual data without context. I try to put as much context around my Evernote info as possible, creating a little mind map or handbook for myself to reference later.

Hold-down-comand-shift-and-D-to-restore-last-selection_jpg_524×75_pixelsWhen I’m in meetings or on conference calls, I open the associated note, usually titled by the name of the client I’m working with. Then I put in a date stamp using the shortcut Shift+Command+D.

Next, I check the meeting invite information to see the attendees and list those in my note, along with an indicator of who attended and who didn’t. I try to catch titles and any bits of personal info they throw out on the call to help me separate people and their voices. Generally if I don’t catch a full title, I can quickly look them up on LinkedIn and add it from there. Sometimes I even drag their profile pictures into the note.

My preferences for note taking deserve their own blog post, so I won’t go into how to do that here. Simply populate your note file with the accompanying data you think you’ll need to remember right at the beginning of the meeting.

The Setup

Now that you’ve got all the metadata about the call in your note, it’s time to put those typing skills to work and transcribe the conversation. Does that sound intense? Maybe it is, but it is one of the best ways I’ve found to get the most accurate information down in my notes. I usually try to write it up as if it’s a play, with the name of the speaker, followed by what they said.

It takes some practice, obviously, especially when you’re leading the call and have to talk at the same time. Usually you can paraphrase your own words if you’re leading the call and then take copious, word-for-word notes of the responses from the other party and their team. I’ve found this incredibly valuable. I’ll ask questions and while the others are thinking, quickly jot down what I said. Then I start typing word for word what the responses are.

A lot of note-taking tips say to gather the end results, the consensus points, etc. I do that, but I like to capture the discussion and brainstorming that got to that conclusion. When I confirm with a client that they indicated the need for a penetration test instead of an assessment, for example, I could simply write “Client wants penetration test.” But the discussion around that and what leads us there provides valuable information about the drivers for the engagement and what goals they’re trying to achieve. Maybe they just prefer it because of compliance requirements, but maybe there’s deeper information to be found there, and I’ll want to refer back to it later. This is how I can really deliver value to my security professional services clients. This is the context you’re trying to get down to refer to later.

The Payoff

Referring to notes later for personal use is obviously hugely important. But that isn’t our trick for seeming smart to others. The trick is to be able to refer to exactly what someone said verbatim. When you’re able to quote someone back to themselves, or quote exactly what they said to your colleagues or superiors, you have a lot of leverage that other people don’t. And you look pretty damn smart. I don’t generally tell people I do this, but I seem to be one of the few focusing on capturing this kind of information for reference later and it has worked out very well for me on several occasions. Try it out for your next 5-10 meetings and see what kind of results you get.

Protein Shake Recipe

2 Sep
I’m on a lot of diet, fitness and health forums and follow a ton of blogs about those topics. I’m also an anti-aging fanatic. It’s probably one of my top hobbies. I love learning about techniques to delay aging and improve physical health. Hacking your body through diet, exercise and what you consume is fascinating to me. One of the reasons I love it so much is because I’ve been able to see and feel results that make me feel like it’s working.


Protein is a really common topic on the forums I read. There are questions about how much to get, when to consume it, what forms to use, etc. I find myself posting my protein shake recipe all the time for people who are looking to start on a shake to help increase their protein intake.


 The protein powder I use is called Syntrax Nectar Sweets Vanilla Bean Torte. It has no sugar, no carbs, no fat. 1 scoop contains 24g of protein. It mixes extremely well in the blender and gets smooth without chunky protein globs left in the mix.


If you’re unsure about buying a giant 2 pound tub of protein powder, you’re not alone! Go to Vitamin Shoppe and you’ll see single serving packets of this exact flavor for you to try. Grab a few, they’re usually around $1.50 each and see if you like it. Those packets contain the equivalent of one scoop.


My recipe includes:
5oz of whole milk
1 scoop protein powder
3 frozen strawberries
2 large ice cubes


Blend in blender (Vitamix is the best) until it’s a milkshake consistency.




Now I’ll breakdown the tips and caveats of my ingredient choices.


I use whole milk. It’s what I prefer and what I’m used to. I’m also only using 5oz, so I don’t even think twice about using it. You can use almond milk, soy milk, rice milk or any other kind of milk you prefer. You can even use water, though I can’t imagine that tastes very good.


The protein powder I use has a very light vanilla taste, I barely notice it. It also does not have that cloying sweetness or a fake sweet aftertaste like a lot of fake sugar products I’ve tried. It uses sucralose for sweetness.


The Navitas Naturals Superfruit is something I’m trying out. It’s ok and has a vague fruity taste from the pomegranate in it. I love antioxidants and it only has a minimal taste. It’s pricey though, so don’t bother with it if you’re cost conscious.


I add in 2-3 large frozen strawberries for a little flavor when I get sick of the vanilla. You could add any fruit in you like, but I’ve found that 2 frozen strawberries is plenty of flavor and color.


I use frozen for the same reason I use ice cubes – the consistency and texture is better with a few frozen things added in. Also, if you use a Vitamix blender, the raw beastly power of the machine will add a little heat to the contents of the blender, so adding some ice keeps it cool.


I drink one of these every morning and am really happy with it as a breakfast substitute.



Small print: I’m not a doctor, nutritionist or dietician, although I see them regularly and they’ve all cleared this as being appropriate for me. It might not be appropriate for you. This works for me and could work for you. But maybe it won’t. Give it a try and see for yourself.

Phishing Protip: Don’t Send to All

7 Jun

I got the below email today. Phishing is a problem, obviously, but it also tends to provide a lot of entertainment value to information security professionals. There are lots of fun little tricks that Phishers use in their emails. They hope to get you to click on their links and then send you to a site where you’ll put in your username and passwords. It’s fun to see how creative and how stupid they can get. It’s also interesting to see how little effort a lot of them put into their attempts.




This email is obviously phishing because it is sent to undisclosed-recipients:; and American Express would refer to me as “Dear Sherrod DeGrippo,” not “Dear customer.” The bad grammar and randomly capitalized letters are another give away. An appeal to “secure online service against any fraudulent attempt,” is pretty funny too.

Looking at the mail headers is funny too. Because this was in my spam folder and was actually marked spam due to my low spamscore threshold. It got marked as spam not for phishing, but for forging the MUA. Adorable.


But as with all phishing, the biggest give away is that the email doesn’t link to, but to something completely unrelated. I’m also pretty sure that AmEx prefers really showy, ridiculously fancy html emails, not just a single logo at the top.

If you want to be transported back to the early 2000s and take a quick Phishing proficiency quiz, SonicWALL has one that is pretty cute.

Change Reddit From Terrible to Delightful

29 May

I admit to browsing reddit occasionally. It’s that perfect “waiting in line” use case for the iPhone. It’s a good flow of a certain subset of current events and obviously full of “viral” content every day.

Unfortunately reddit is also full of lots of terrible content and terrible comments from terrible users. It’s not 100% awful, but there is so much there that is crap, it can be discouraging.

You can completely change your reddit experience with these five steps:


  1. Create a reddit account.
  2. Log in to reddit.
  3. Open your reddit account and click my reddits.
  4. Unsubscribe from all subreddits by clicking the red “unsubscribe” button.
  5. Add the following subreddits by clicking the green “subscribe” button:

You’re done! Now reddit will be great and you’ll enjoy it immensely.