I hope the week is treating you well. It’s been a challenging one here at “Castle Notenboom”, for a variety of reasons.
Much like Not All News Is Bad, I’m finding so many good sources of information and takeaways that sometimes the challenge is to whittle them down to just one a day. It’s a great exercise, but it also exemplifies what I believe to be an important lesson.
We find what we look for.
What are you looking for?
Is it what you hope to find?
1. “Seeing people spin up various operations to solve various problems has been inspiring.”
Build 2021 – The Annual Theme & Manifesto – Trevor McKendrick – (Blog)
Apparently, McKendrick had a very successful experience declaring a theme for 2020 (Optimism), so he decided to do it again. This year’s theme is “Build”.
- Building always beats talking.
- Failure is defined as not shipping.
- Don’t ask for permission.
- Defend the builders, even when they make mistakes.
- ”Give yourself permission to work on things that are harder than you think is reasonable”
- Take creative risks & try crazy ideas.
- 10% aim, 90% shoot.
- Grant status to creators.
- ”This week instead of next week. Today instead of tomorrow.”
- Say no to the chorus of vetos
Look for the builders. Be a builder if you can.
In a world full of so much noise, the folks we should be celebrating are those working quietly (or not-so-quietly) to build solutions, build answers, and just generally build a better world. (The essay includes several concrete examples.)
If nothing else, work on building yourself. It beats talking.
2. “Expect the suck. Embrace the suck.”
My Writing Stats This Year Are a Dumpster Fire – Tim Denning – (Medium)
“Embrace the suck” is a phrase my wife and I have used for years. I first ran across it in a book describing US Seal Team training. It’s a useful tool when faced with many unpleasant situations you simply must work your way through. Urban dictionary has a good definition:
To consciously accept or appreciate something that is extremely unpleasant but unavoidable for forward progress.
Forward progress being a key element.
In Denning’s case, it was his 2020 statistics. Not writing statistics, but attention statistics like views and claps and likes and whatnot.
“The point of sharing this year’s dumpster fire of writing is to help you keep writing. The easiest thing in the world to do is give up writing.”
Don’t. Keep on writing. Embrace the suck.
3. “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire.”
Wherefore Art Thou, Twitter? – Dan Rather, quoting Edward R. Murrow – (Steady, newsletter)
The takeaway is part of a longer passage, which continues:
But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it’s nothing but wires and lights in a box.
Murrow was characterizing the then-nascent technology: television. Rather applies that same thought to Twitter.
Ultimately, Twitter is a tool. And tools, whether fire or airplanes, can be used for good or bad.
I’d encourage you to follow Rather, either on Twitter, or his new newsletter, Steady. I think you’ll find his take on technology fascinating and inspiring. At 89 he’s still teaching lessons and giving us much to think about.
4. “The most useful thing you can do for your business’s success is to develop valuable skills that people will pay for.”
Things I Would Do Differently If I Started My Business Today – Srinivas Rao – (Medium)
There are a number of valuable lessons in this article, but if I had to choose just one for people just beginning their career, it would be this quote. It echoes my own “what I would do differently” Ask Leo! post. (Spoiler: I’d spend more time on writing skills – it’s what people pay me for these days and it’s key to any career.)
Rao’s article includes 10 separate, actionable things that you can do to start or improve your careers or simply achieve greater personal success.
5. “20% of all US dollars ever to exist were created in 2020”
Financially Super Smart People Have 8 Things in Common – Tim Denning – (Medium)
That got my attention, to be sure. That’s Dennings plain English version of data culled from a CNBC report The ballooning money supply may be the key to unlocking inflation in the U.S. Not only is that a fascinating perspective, but it should prepare you for further financial uncertainty in the near future. If you’re not saving, start. If you are saving, make sure to review your approach with volatility (and your own risk tolerance) in mind.
6. “The title needs to make a promise. The article needs to deliver.”
Here’s How I Made $4,000+ on Medium in January – Jared A. Brock – (Medium)
This, in a nutshell, is the problem with so-called “clickbait” titles: they make a promise that the article doesn’t deliver on. Think about it: we’d make a decision on whether or not to click based on the title, and we would not be disappointed. We wouldn’t consider it as having been “bait” at all. It’s that simple.
Unfortunately, the success (for some definition of “success”) of clickbait does make it difficult to remain honest. Honest, accurate headlines get overlooked because people are so busying looking for salacious, over-hyped content promised by clickbait. It doesn’t matter how many times they’ve been fooled, they fall for it again and again.
Write engaging headlines, to be sure, but keep ’em honest. (And, yes, the article from which this takeaway is taken is.)
7. “Characters are complex. They all view themselves as being right— and often righteous— in their pursuit of goals and solutions.”
Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative – Chuck Wendig – (eBook)
This is in reference to writing, and especially crafting a story narrative. Every character in your story believes that they are right, and justified, and act accordingly.
This is also true in life. Even the evilest person you can imagine believes that they are acting justifiably and in accordance with their vision of what it means to be right. That vision might be very skewed to an outside observer, but they believe they’re the good guy.
This is a critical insight if you ever want to understand “the other side”.
What I’m Reading
- “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman
- Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative by Chuck Wendig
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
- The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity by Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman