Weekly Update – #2 – January 12th, 2019

It’s the second week of the year, and 2019 is already looking great. I’m changing up the format a bit this week.

Health & Fitness

I ran another commute run. I ran 11.3 miles from home to work. And I still made it to work on time at 10am. This run was more fun than the last one. I ran through LAX, and I had some interesting encounters with strangers.

I feel confident about the Pasadena Half Marathon race coming up in 8 days. Let’s go!

Strava stats for Commute Run #2.

Family

First date night of the year, at Mendocino Farms!

Took the twins to gymnastics class, but they lost interest and just wanted to play basketball instead. Also took them to experience live music at the local public library.

Travel

No travel this week.

Education

This week I’m reading Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster-in Just Two Weeks by Dave Asprey. The book covers a lot of interesting science related to mitochondria health. Everything from food to lightbulbs to meditation. Also enjoyed listening to the School of Greatness Podcast with Lewis Howes and Ben Shapiro during my long run.

Work

The first full work week of 2019 was eventful. I spent a lot of time preparing for an upcoming engine release, and a little time working on an invention. A ton of time goes into engine release preparation. The team ships engines to both Norton Security and Symantec Endpoint Protection customers. The delivery reaches millions of customer’s machines around the globe. This is why code quality must be extremely high, and why so much time goes into release preparation.

Friends

Nothing notable to report here.

Writing

This week I started a morning writing habit stacked on my established reading habit. This allowed me to publish more frequently. I’m able to read 20 pages and spend 30 minutes writing because I wake up one hour before the rest of the family. Every night before I sleep I write in my journal. I’ve made 7 journal entries this week.

Torrey’s Weekly Report is a publication currently available only to Symantec employees. It enables folks across the company to learn about what my team (STAR engines) is doing. Torrey’s Blog is public, it’s where you’re reading this now.

How to Write Better Emails

Elon Musk, during a recent interview, described corporations as cybernetic collectives of people and machines. Corporations vary in size and market cap. Why are some corporations more effective than others? I think Communication is a huge part of it.

For example, Amazon.com’s unique communication style. Meetings begin with carefully prepared 6 page memos, read silently by attendees before beginning discussion.

How do most people in corporations communicate? In many cases, they communicate by sending lots of email messages. So, writing more effective emails makes you more effective and helps the rest of the team, too. Your job as a writer of emails is to save the reader’s time.

Five practical tips for being an effective emailer:

  1. Name your target
  2. Just get out with it
  3. Write shorter emails
  4. Make a phone call
  5. Avoid detective games

1. Name your target

When you’re making a request, you must have a person or person(s) in mind who can fulfill your request. Don’t be shy, name them. These people are your target.

Try not to make requests to “somebody” or “anybody” because you will end up with a response from “nobody”. Highlight or tag (@name) the name of your target to grab their attention.

2. Just get out with it

Just get out with it. State your request first and provide detailed context later. People are lazy readers, they can read the first sentence and decide whether to continue reading.

It feels unnatural to skip the build up, but do it anyway. The reader can dig into the meat if they want. Take it to the next level by making the request very succinct.

3. Write shorter emails

Write shorter emails. Try to get it done in 3 sentences or less. Most people are lazy readers, they’re not going to carefully read your wall of text. So, you’re wasting keystrokes typing all of it.

4. Make a phone call

When there is a lot of back and forth, stop using email and make a phone call. Exchanging paragraphs of text back and forth may be a signal a 10 minute phone or in-person conversation would be more effective.

5. Avoid Detective Games

If you’re referencing a document or web site or anything, hyperlink directly to what you’re talking about. Or include a screenshot/image. Better yet, draw a red box around the part of the image you’re talking about.

Don’t make me (the reader), play a game of figuring out what you’re referencing. Save me as many clicks as possible by giving me a hyperlink. Doing this makes it easier for me to understand and reply. We both get better results.

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 writing from sharing my work with a writer

In 2009 I co-wrote a 60-page ethics paper on the topic of internet privacy and Facebook (and other social media platforms).

While a student I underestimated writing skill’s value. UCLA engineering students dread the required ethics class because of its multiple writing assignments. In retrospect, the forced writing practice taught an extremely valuable skill.

The engineering ethics final project was a thick group paper, 60+ pages double spaced. When dividing the work over several weeks, it wasn’t bad at all. My student group undoubtably improved writing skills by the end of the quarter, because we all put in the hard work. Our 60 page data privacy paper is probably decaying in a catacomb under UCLA’s Boelter Hall along with dozens of others.

In the beginning it feels like every writing project improves in quality. But, there are diminishing returns. Quick inititial growth quickly becomes slow, invisible growth. At that point you need peer feedback to advance.

I’m proud of myself for taking a leap of faith. I emailed a blogger I followed daily. I asked if I could write a guest post. He said “NO, but I have this group you can join, It’s just starting up”.

I learned in the moment the stupid secret of life: if you want something, just ask.

John, at the time, had a Medium publication with 15,000 followers. The new idea was a group of content producers writing content. The group would vote weekly to select the best submissions.

This was my chance! Hoping to inspire the group, I shared a submission. It was never published, but, in return I got something incredibly valuable: honest feedback from someone a few steps ahead of me.

John told me there was nothing unique about my work, nothing stand-out. He was right, it could’ve been written by anyone. There was no personal touch. I didn’t bake enough of my story into it.

Here is the entire submission:

This year, choose to be proactive

When my wife is pissed off it almost always comes down to one root cause: I’m not being proactive. Ive re-learned this proactivity lesson many times the hard way. Stephen Covey’s first highly effective habit is ‘be proactive’. It’s the foundation of the next 6 habits. Proactivity affects every important aspect of life: health, wealth, love, and happiness.

The opposite of proactive is reactive. Being reactive is lazy and unfulfilling. Most people live their life reactively, going with the flow, not living intentionally. According to Adams and Anderson, in Mastering Leadership, about 70% of adults never reach creative levels of consciousness, they get stuck in reactive mental models. Reactives go around reacting to stimuli constantly, obsessively checking social media and email, never making progress towards their most important goals. The reactive person is one who waits; waiting for a signal for what to do next, never owning their own agenda.

How proactivity impacts health

As the adage says: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. How many people wait to go the dentist until it’s too late, they already need a root canal? That’s reactive. Flossing your teeth is proactive. The proactive patient goes to the doctor annually, excercise regularly, and flosses daily. As a result, they love a longer, healthier life.

How proactivity impacts wealth

The proactive business person under promises and over delivers. He provides the product or service before the client has to ask. He does not run his business by primarily reacting to competitors. He operates by the old adage: ‘under promise, over deliver.’

Leaders must be proactive for the organization to survive. Having vision is proactive. Leaders without vision soon find they have no one to lead. Vision is crucial to prevent the business’s disruption and obsoletion.

The proactive employee takes action before the boss has to ask. This employee could even be called an entre-employee, they are so creative. They seize oppprtunities and ask for forgiveness, not permission.

How proactivity impacts love

A reactive husband only brings home flowers when his wife is upset. A proactive husband brings them on a random day just to make his wife feel good. The proactive person is considered thoughtful.

The proactive friend is the one that picks up the phone and calls that long lost friend. They don’t wait for someone to call them.

How proactivity impacts happiness

The top of Maslow’s higherarchy of human needs is “self-actualization: achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities”. I don’t think one can ever be fulfilled without embracing proactivity. Without being proactive you will be stuck in a job you hate, and a number of other incongruent circumstances that detract from you being the best that you can be. You need proactivity to turn what the universe gave you into maximum positive impact.

Personally, I constantly have to remind myself to be proactive. If my wife is pissed off, it’s because I failed to be proactive, even though she points it out as a hundred other screw ups. If I haven’t spoken to my family in weeks, I’m not being proactive to call them. Car ran out of gas? Not proactive. Forgot to pay the cable bill? Not proactive.

Just walk around your house right now, you will find a number of chores that will need to be done later. Do it now if it takes less than 5 minutes. You will thank yourself later.

What I learned from this whole experience

  • The value of writing well is underestimated. As is the value of speaking well.
  • If you want something just ask. The worst that can happen is nothing.
  • Raising your hand is a great way to make new friends. People admire courage, and taking a social risk is courageous. Publishing something online is like raising your hand. You put yourself out there, you make an emotional connection. Weigh the risks, what’s the worst that can happen? You have to take down your post/video/picture.
  • Second guessing yourself is a great way to put on the brakes. It will take much longer to reach your goals. Publishing online is one way to expand your comfort zone. Pushing through your fears allows you to reach closer to your potential. You can spend less time and energy on second guessing yourself and more on creating new work.

Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think! If you enjoyed reading, please consider subscribing.

Test post please ignore…

I failed to write this week, even though I am committed to publish every Sunday.

I reflected on why this happened, while reading Ryan Holiday’s Perennial Seller, and masterminding on John Maxwell’s Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. I realized most of my favorite writing works are born from engaging conversations. Those conversations are where I feel deeply connected to another human being. Everything else I write is ‘journalism’ or born of a conversation with myself.

I personally think the journalistic works are excellent. My best work! Those are written to myself. They fail to connect with others because they are not written with others in mind. It doesn’t matter what the creator enjoys creating. All that matters is how it connects with the audience. As Maxwell says, connecting is all about others.

This whole thing might seem hypocritical, because this short blurb is a ‘note to self’. Anyway, note to self: have more amazing conversations with more diverse groups of people. Write and tell those stories to connect directly with those people and their tribes.