“I know engineers, they love to change things.” (Dr. Leonard McCoy – Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
If you’re seeing this it’s because all the things this engineer changed, worked.
It’s no secret that I enjoy playing with technology. For no other reason than that, I moved 7takeaways.com to a new webserver. The old was the virtual server that hosts askleo.com among several other websites. The new is a server provided by Amazon Web Services, aka “AWS”. I talked about AWS at length in a recent podcast episode, but the hidden reality is that many, many websites and other online services are hosted in Amazon’s data centers. As just one perhaps surprising example: Netflix. The way servers are managed on AWS is completely different than anywhere else, and exceptionally powerful and flexible. My curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to start playing. I’ve learned a lot, to be sure, with more coming down the pipeline.
Assuming, of course, this makes its way to you.
1. “Creativity comes from the mastery of any domain.”
90 Days of Creative Motivation – Todd Brison – (ebook)
ANY domain. This is one of those concepts I truly wished more people would understand. Even the most mundane activity has the seeds of creative opportunity. While I was a box boy at a grocery store, I had opportunity. When I became a stocker at the store opportunities remained. I’ve long said that programming & writing software is more of an art than a science at times, all the way down to making code look “pretty”. And of course the writing I do now, both technical and personal is easily understood to be a creative endeavor.
You’ve heard me say that everything / every day is an experiment. Every activity is an opportunity for creativity as well.
Do this: take a look at something you do that you take for granted, perhaps even as another “chore”. What are the opportunities for creativity you’re overlooking?
1a. Stairwell + Singer = Magic
“Ave Maria” in a stairwell with the best acoustics EVER – Lauren Paley – (YouTube)
Bonus takeaway: an hour or two after writing the takeaway above, I ran into this video of a talented singer making use of a local stairwell to make amazing recordings of some popular and familiar music. Sure, she’s a talented signer, but the videos show some real out-of-the-box creativity with amazing results.
Do this: listen. And then consider what out-of-the-box creativity might apply to your world.
2. “They’re going to crucify you for staying the same. If you change, they’re going to crucify you for changing.”
The Practice: Shipping Creative Work – Seth Godin – (ebook)
Think of it as the creative’s dilemma. Do I keep doing what I’m doing, or do I change what I’m doing to something better? It’s a classic case of not being able to please everyone all the time. Trust me, I run into this all the time. The only real answer? Let it go. Do what you do, change what you think needs changing, and keep on creating.
Do this: ask yourself who you’re trying to please. And how’s that going for you?
3. “Everyone is a writer”
How Taking Smart, Simple Notes Will Make You a Better Writer – Drew Coffman – (YouTube)
This video’s yet another taken on Niklas’ Luhmann’s ‘Zettelkasten‘ slip-box method for note-taking, which seems to be getting a ton of visibility of late. I’m not 100% certain about it for my own use yet — for being a “simple, no rules” method, I find it anything but simple, and with quite a few rules. As always, though, I won’t let that stop me from learning about it to see if there aren’t nuggets of the process that might help me.
The reason this takeaway is here, though, are the very first words of the video: “Everyone is a writer.” I SO wish more people would understand not only that but that working to improve your ability to write coherently and cohesively can only benefit you throughout your life. Yes, note-taking can be a part, but I’m really talking more about the fundamentals of communicating whatever it is you have to say. We’re all writing, constantly.
Do this: embrace it. You’re a writer. Now … might it be worth your time to become a better writer? You know my answer.
4. “We create it for those who need it.”
SPI 472: My Struggles with Communication – Pat Flynn – (Smart Passive Income podcast)
As the title of the podcast episode indicates, this episode is all about Pat’s struggles with communication and, as it turns out, imposter syndrome and perfectionism, starting all the way back in grade school. It’s an enlightening journey with several insights along the way.
The quote above is towards the end of the episode and resonated with me. It’s an entrepreneurial perspective on what is really a human condition: the vast majority of what we create, by any definition of “create”, is for those who need what it is we’re creating. That’s a perspective that can absolutely make your creations better and more helpful.
Do this: What do you create? Who’s it for? Really.
5. “perverse incentives will always reward cheap, emotionally manipulative takes over meticulous, service-oriented writing.”
The Medium pivot is the message – Mark Stenberg – (Medialyte newsletter)
This post took me by complete surprise. Apparently a little over a week ago Medium let their writing staff go. In addition to providing a platform for anyone and everyone to publish on, they had been also producing content themselves. Now they don’t. They’re “just” a platform.
Stenberg’s message is that this is yet another sign of the decline in traditional publishing. Rather than invest in things like writers and editors and fact-checking and the like, the internet has incentivized anything but. The dollars flow through clicks, and the clicks don’t care what’s in the content. The “perverse incentives” from the quote above refers to the fact that click-bait headlines are still rewarded with attention out of proportion to the actual value of the content they tease.
It’s hard to disagree.
Do this: Pay attention to where you pay your attention. Pay attention to what gets your attention. Are you rewarding the wrong things with your actions? What is “the wrong thing”, anyway?
6. “Everyone is worth your time when trying to grow your audience.”
Six Ways To Market Yourself Without Marketing Yourself – Josh Spector – (For The Interested newsletter)
This is something I’ve often struggled with but decided earlier this year to take on. I’m always trying to grow my audience (any creator that says otherwise is likely fibbing). I now try to respond to every question I get via email, and to every comment on social media. There are a few exceptions, but I’m trying. This is, unfortunately, a long-term play. When measured against audience growth the results aren’t at all obvious. However when measured against happier individuals, the results are immediate. I’ll take that.
Do this: if you’re a creator, do you respond? Try it. It’s not as scary as you think.
7. Write until You’re No Longer Afraid to Write
The Practice – Seth Godin – (ebook)
So many of my takeaways come back to advice for creatives (because I fancy myself one), and writers (ditto). I’m finding Godin’s book particularly insightful and motivating. That’s actually the title of chapter 158. Here’s the entire chapter, it’s that valuable:
It doesn’t matter whether you call yourself a “writer.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a singer or a traffic engineer.
Write about your audience, your craft, your challenges. Write about the trade-offs, the industry, and your genre.
Write about your dreams and your fears. Write about what’s funny and what’s not.
Write to clarify. Write to challenge yourself.
Write on a regular schedule.
Writing isn’t the same as talking, because writing is organized and permanent. Writing puts you on the hook.
Don’t you want to be on the hook?
I’m not sure writing, alone, puts me on any hook. Hitting that “Publish” button does that.
Do this: write. More.
What I’m Reading
In progress (also on GoodReads):
- The Practice: Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
- 90 Days of Creative Motivation by Todd Brison
- The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity by Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman