Monthly meta post: What I learned about Writing from Writing May, 2018

It’s now been 3 years, 5 months since I started writing online (January 1st, 2015). And it feels like I’m just getting started.

I haven’t kept track of how much time I’ve invested but I’ll estimate around 150 hours, mostly on weekends. A long way to go to reach 10,000 hours of mastery. During that time I’ve authored hundreds of articles, and twice I’ve entirely quit. Brutal!

After three years a small group of fans reads what I write. Very cool :).

When you are the only one pushing yourself forward, it takes a long time to overcome self-doubt. This is what the inner voice says: Who am I to give advice to anyone? What have I accomplished? What will my friends think? Family think? Coworkers think? I’m no good at this, what’s the point? Some people never silence that voice. They live their entire lives with that voice, always putting the brakes on, holding back. Like James Altucher says, you have to choose yourself.

This month was a killer month. I found some dirty tricks to boost traffic, and I learned a lot. I also received some amazing feedback from readers which I took to heart. Shout out to Makrand Patil!

Torrey.blog overall stats May, 2018

  • 210 visitors
  • 301 views
  • 1.43 views per visitor
  • 30 likes

Stats for each post visited in May, 2018

Title Views
Reading Time
1
117 5 min
2
What I learned from buying too many books 30 2 min
3
What I learned from getting hit by a car 24 1 min
4
What I learned from So Good They Can’t Ignore You 21 3 min
5
What I learned about Work/Life Balance from Jeff Bezos 14 2 min
6
14 2 min
7
Why has experience helped some and not others? 10 N/A
8
9 3 min
9
What I learned about leadership from Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella 9 2 min
10
What I learned from The Three Laws of Performance 8 3 min
11
8 2 min
12
What I learned about Trust 8 3 min
13
6 2 min
14
What I learned from Simon Sinek 6 1 min
15
What I learned about Urgency from Les Brown (motivational speaker) 5 1 min
16
How to Waste your Summer Internship without getting Fired 3 3 min
17
What I learned about Behavior from Sway 3 2 min
19
What I learned about Manhood from Sir Richard Branson’s father 3 1 min
20
What I learned from asking companies for money 2 2 min
21
What I learned about writing from sharing my work with a writer 2 5 min

Themes

  • 7 posts about books I’ve read
  • 3 posts sharing personal stories
  • 4 posts inspired by YouTube videos
  • 1 post inspired by a podcast

Takeaways

Longer posts get more exposure. They are also better search engine optimized (SEO). One analysis concluded 8 minutes reading time is the optimal length.

Traffic redirect trick. Tesla Motors restructuring was a hot news topic on the LinkedIn social network. I commented on several articles and included a link to my post about the recently leaked Tesla memo. This proved an effective way to attract dozens of visitors.

Posts about popular topics get more attention (duh). Writing about Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, their companies, or other big names attracts more visitors.


Conclusion

When it comes to writing, if you’re aiming for quick fame and glory, good luck! Remember

The best way to succeed in writing is to write.

What I learned about Behavior from Sway

I’ve just finished a fun, short book called Sway: The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman.

An amazing story in the book explains how an airline’s safety champion became victim to loss aversion and commitment. The captain ignored take-off protocols and ultimately killed everyone on his plane. These subtle psychological forces cause risky, irrational behavior.

A NASA research project attempted to solve this problem as to prevent future disasters. NASA arrived at a solution of training pilots and co-pilots. The co-pilots must speak up and voice dissent, while captains must be receptive to dissent.

Dissent is really hard. Psychologists have found consensus is part of human nature. If no one else opposes the group, it’s hard to raise your own conflicting points. A sort of script is defined to help co-pilots initiate the discussion:

First, state the facts. “Captain, we are currently at 10,000 ft elevation and 30% fuel”

Second, state the captain’s first name. “John”

Third, ask a question: “have you thought about declining fuel levels?”

This dialog is designed to snap the captain out of tunnel vision and save lives.

While it is difficult to go against group think and dissent, it is beneficial to do so. Some teams will even designate a devil’s advocate to intentionally challenge an idea or decision. Even if the group is not swayed, this activity helps find weak points. Then, the final result is better because the weak points can be mitigated, rather than glossed over.

How to Apply It

How many times, daily, do you say a phrase like “I disagree”? If it’s ZERO, maybe dig in and question yourself.

When making a big decision in a group setting, designate a devil’s advocate to debate against the popular opinion.

What I learned about Work/Life Balance from Jeff Bezos

Let’s debunk the myth that working at a large company implies better work life balance. Maybe there is more expectation to work long hours at a startup. Having never joined a startup company, I’m no expert. Employees of large companies face heavy delivery pressure all the same.

As an employee at a large corporation, I have so far failed to find the magical “I’m home” switch for disabling the work brain. Anyone can still decide to keep working into the night. I am still bad at this, despite family matters.

Shortly after my kids popped out a mindset shift occurred for me. At that point I realize my time is more valuable than ever. I choose how time is spent. Saying ‘no’ becomes crucial. The only way to add something new to a full day is to sacrifice something else.

Jeff Bezos says work/life balance is the wrong thing to strive for because it implies a strict trade off between work and life. He instead promotes work/life harmony. This is how he defines harmony:

If I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy,” said Bezos. “And if I am happy at work, I come home with tremendous energy. You never want to be that guy — and we all have a coworker who’s that person — who, as soon as they

come into a meeting, they drain all the energy out of the room … You want to come into the office and give everyone a kick in their step.

How To Apply All of This

Seek a lifestyle that gives you the best energy at both work and at home. And, drop activities or people that drain your energy. Then you can be your genuine, best self at all times.

What I learned about Happiness from Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh tells the riveting story of his business life and the story of building Zappos in Delivering Happiness.

The book dives into the philosophical, defining the root of happiness. And from there it explains how these things drive Hsieh to make life and business decisions.

Happiness comes from four things:

  1. Perceived control

  2. Perceived progress

  3. Human connection

  4. Being part of something bigger than yourself

Perceived Control

Work happiness level correlates to how much control you feel you have over your work. For example, Zappos empowers employees to use their own judgment to best serve customers. There is no call center script. The folks answering the phones are happier because they have control over what they say and how they best serve you.

Perceived Progress

Work happiness level correlates to how much progress you feel you are making at work. For example, Zappos has developed a system for training employees. Mastering new skills earns badges. Employees who invest more time in learning earn more badges, their progress is measured and visible. They are happier as a result because they feel they are moving forward. Are you going in circles, backwards, or forward? Having clarity, competence, and confidence feels good.

Human Connection

Happiness correlates to the number of relationships and depth of relationships. One of the more controversial questions from the Gallup Q12 asks “do you have a best friend at work?”. Gallup found that answering ‘yes’ to this question correlates to higher performance, engagement, and work satisfaction. Having a best friend at work is surprisingly important for being happy at work.

Being Part of Something Bigger than Yourself

Happiness correlates to being a part of a movement or a mission. If you do something for the sole reason of collecting a paycheck you will be miserable and eventually you will quit. What is your “why”? You are a tiny spec of dust on one tiny blue planet in the grand, wide universe.

How to Apply All of This

  • Build career capital for later investment. Invest your capital to gain more control of your work and your life. Read more about this in my So Good They Can’t Ignore You post.
  • Set incremental SMART goals to progress on. Write down your goals. On paper! Amazingly, data shows that people who write down their goals are measurably more successful than people who do not write them down.
  • Make time to reconnect with friends and family.
  • Seek to understand why you are here. What is your mission?
  • Remember how large the universe is compared to you.

How to Waste your Summer Internship without getting Fired

Warning: sarcasm in use

Make no attempt to learn from mentors or experts. Learning is over-rated, and everything you need to know is in a book somewhere, anyway.

Arrive as late as possible every single day, without violating policy. This way you have less face-to-face time with your co-workers.

Go to all meetings you are invited to, arrive late, do not prepare, and avoid participation as much as possible.

Never ask any questions. Admitting you don’t know what a term or acronym means is unacceptable. Try to figure it out on your own or make up your own meaning. If that fails, just give up.

Don’t bother taking any notes at any point of time. Note taking is a sign of weakness.

When you get stuck on something, remain stuck for at least a week before asking for help. Asking for help is also a sign of weakness.

Never attempt to understand “the why” of your project. Just follow instructions verbatim, with as little creativity as possible.

Always have social media, YouTube, or CandyCrush open on your computer’s screen. This will help the time pass faster. If anyone says something about it, just say you are taking a break.

Avoid all social activities. You’ll never see those people again after your internship. Even if you did connect with them later via the Internet, they will never be helpful to you in any way.

Always eat lunch alone. Bonding time with your smartphone is the best way to spend lunch time.

Avoid helping others as much as possible. What did they do to help you, anyway?

Avoid old-fashioned phrases like “good morning”, “please”, “thank you”.

Avoid old-fashioned gestures like holding open doors.

Don’t bother to remember any co-workers names. You’ll never see them after the internship, anyway.

Reply to emails 3 days after receiving them, never sooner. Your own agenda is much, much more important than any request for help.

Better yet, create an inbox rule to auto-delete all incoming messages. If they contained any information that was actually important, someone will tell you in person, anyway.

Don’t bother to brush your teeth 2-3 days per week. You’re avoiding social situations, remember? Similar for showering and doing laundry, these things are a waste of your time.

Stretch your project out as long as possible. Obviously there are no other projects or problems that need solving.

On the last day of your internship just leave the building as usual without saying anything to anyone you have met. See ya!

What I learned from Simon Sinek

Infinite vs. Finite Games

Simon Sinek’s recent talks delve into his concept of infinite and finite games, infinite and finite players. I liken the concept to Native American war-chiefs who, before declaring war, debated the consequences on the tribe’s next seven generations. The tribes play an infinite game. They do not play for sport. They do not look for small short term gains.

The finite player plays to beat the other guys. They treat relationships like transactions. They sacrifice future stability for short-term, opportunistic gains. Ready, fire, aim. It’s a short term, opportunistic play, and the cost is paid by future generations.

People with a strong spiritual practice, who believe in a higher power, tend to be infinite players. You have your karma, or your pearly gates. These spiritual concepts change your perspective. You care more about your fellow man, and you care more about creating a better world for your children’s children’s children.

The lesson is:

Play an infinite game, focus on the long term. Don’t get distracted by short-term opportunistic gains.

What I learned about Urgency from Les Brown (motivational speaker)

Develop a sense of urgency. You will die someday.

“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry our their dream.”

Les Brown, motivational speaker

Les Brown is the whole reason I started writing seriously in 2015 and why I write today. I could die at any moment, and every word I publish will be something to remember me by. Or, I could do nothing and take my every thought to the grave. I choose sharing. I chose to get started.

Gary Vee echoes this thought. He says if you spend time in an old folks home, listening to resident’s advice, you will find that end of life has in store for most of us a boat-load of regret.

The lesson is:

Avoid regret. Start on your dream now.

What I learned about Time Management from James Altucher and Ghandi

One story about Mahatma Ghandi sticks in mind after hearing it from James Altucher.

The story goes like this:

Ghandi, becoming busy with his work and a full meeting schedule, decides he is not spending enough time meditating. He asks his assistant, “Please make time in my schedule each day for one hour of meditation.”

His assistant replies, “Ghandi, your request is impossible, your schedule is too full to dedicate one full hour to meditation each day.”

Ghandi contemplates this answer before quipping, “In that case, please schedule two hours every day for meditation.”

Replace meditation with any activity important to you. Distractions and busy-ness get in the way of spending time doing what we love. When the assistant rejected his request, Ghandi realized it was worse than he thought. He needed even more time dedicated to cultivating himself.

Your activity might be:

  • Hiking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Calling an old friend
  • Exercise

If one of these activities matters to you, you need to work extra hard to carve out time for it. This might mean waking up an hour earlier every day; sometimes sacrifice is the only way.

The lesson I learned is:

Life is too short to let busy-ness get in the way of living.

What I learned about leadership from Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella

Bring Clarity and Energy

When Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, was asked how he hires people, he said he looks for people who bring “clarity and energy.”

Why does this matter?

Our world is accelerating in complexity every day. The ability to bring clarity to complex problems is increasingly valuable.

Energy is infectious. Leaders who bring energy to their work inspire their teams. They get more out of their people. They are multipliers, not diminishers.

What I learned about Manhood from Sir Richard Branson’s father

The Great House is on FIRE! Fire! Fire! Fire!

After reading Finding my Virginity (affiliate link)(non-affiliate link) in January, one story has stuck in my mind. The story teaches an invaluable lesson about Manhood, and it’s part of the chapter titled “Dad”.

Richard’s father, Ted, and nephew, Jack, joined each other on a boating expedition. Jack told his grandpa about a noise he heard last night, but chose not to get out of bed to investigate. Grandpa told Jack he made the wrong decision. He told Jack he should always get up to investigate noises at night.

Years later Jack is woken in the night while staying at Necker Island (in the British Virgin Isles). He hears a noise and gets up to investigate. The house is on fire! He proceeds to wake and evacuate all twenty guests. The house incurs significant fire damage. All the guests escape mostly unscathed, with only minor injuries.

The lesson is:

If you are woken at night by a noise, always get up and investigate. Your house might be on fire.