“The more stuff you do, the more you give luck a chance to find you.” — Scott Adams
In 1969, a lawyer named Edward Packard ran out of ideas.
Each night he made up stories to tell his daughters at bedtime, but on one particular night he couldn’t think of a story to tell.
So, he asked his daughters what his main character should do.
They got excited, suggested a slew of scenarios, and changed the lives of millions of kids in the process.
Because they made Packard realize other kids might want to influence the stories they read.
And that’s how he came up with the idea to create the now legendary Choose Your Own Adventure book series.
Now, on to this week’s ideas…
“Writing is a craft where improvement is guaranteed. No matter where you start, your 10th creation will be better than your first. Natural ability is great, but the true foundation of a writing career is a willingness to put in the necessary work to improve.”
I was recently asked this question by somebody considering a writing career and realized it’s a question every writer struggles with at some point.
In this post I explain how to judge the quality of your writing and suggest instead of focusing on whether you’re good, you should focus on whether you’re getting better.
Speaking of which, you might also enjoy my advice on how to become the best writer you can be.
“The entire concept of budgeting is flawed. Your emotional brain responds to the word budget the same way it responds to the word diet. The connotation is deprivation, suffering, agony, depression.”
It doesn’t have to be so difficult to stick to a budget — you just have to reframe how you approach money management.
New York Magazine breaks down the psychology of budgeting and explains how you can work with your psychology instead of against it. The key is to create a spending plan instead of a budget, assume you’ll overspend, and train yourself to focus on the future.
“The top 10% of employees with the highest productivity didn’t put in longer hours than anyone else — often they didn’t even work eight-hour days. Instead, the key to their productivity was that for every 52 minutes of focused work, they took a 17-minute break.”
It turns out the secret to getting more done might be to do less.
The BBC breaks down research suggests the key to productivity is to take regular breaks and avoid overworking yourself. Everyone from scientists to Serena Williams have found incorporating breaks into their work routine makes them more productive.
“The simple mantra, ‘I know nothing’ has helped me so many times in the past seven years. I owe any success to those simple three words: I. Know. Nothing.”
Here’s a simple formula you can use to get better at anything you choose.
For whatever that thing is, find somebody to teach and mentor you (your “Plus”), somebody on your level to challenge and push you (your “Equal”), and somebody less skilled than you who you can teach (your “Minus”).
James Altucher explains how he applies this formula to everything in his lifeand how it helps him with investing, leadership, friendship, negotiations, and even romantic relationships.
“People who are successful in their work are often content being “unsuccessful” in the other areas of their lives — particularly their relationships. In other words, most people are okay with being mediocre spouses, parents and friends, but are not okay with being mediocre in their jobs.”
You need to recover. And to recover, you need to shut down and disconnect.
Benjamin P. Hardy pulls together a collection of scientific and anecdotal research to make a compelling case there are six things you need to recover from every day including work, technology, people, food, fitness, and being awake.
This one’s going to make you want to take a break. For a little extra help, check out how I stopped checking my phone.
“You need to divide your audience or customers into two groups. Numbers and people. The numbers are the ones you can’t care about. They’re the faceless statistics that you see in your analytics panel. The people are the ones who talk to you every day, who look forward to your work and want to engage with it. The people are the ones who matter.”
This post is about blogging, but it’s really applicable to anybody creating something in the hopes of attracting an audience.
It’s a 6,000 word post (that’s about a 24-minute read in case you’re wondering) from Jon Westenberg in which he tackles everything you need to know to succeed as a blogger in 2017.
It’s packed with all kinds of great perspective, but perhaps the most important bit is to recognize all you need to do is find one person who cares about what you’re doing and build from there.
“This is the key to understanding the purchase of Whole Foods: to the outside it may seem that Amazon is buying a retailer. The truth, though, is that Amazon is buying a customer — the first-and-best customer that will instantly bring its grocery efforts to scale.”
Ben Thompson consistently writes some of the best business analysis on the web and this break down of Amazon’s Whole Foods acquisition is a perfect example.
He points out the real reason Amazon bought Whole Foods was to turn Whole Foods into a customer for what will become a booming grocery services business for Amazon. It’s not about the stores as much as it’s about leveraging the stores to create a larger services business which Amazon can then also sell to other stores and restaurants.
It’s a smart article about a smart company and if you read it you’ll become smarter too.
“Dilemma: Confused with ‘problem’. If you have a problem, you do not know what to do. There may be many solutions. If you have a dilemma, you have a choice of two courses of action, neither attractive.”
I’m going to keep this summary short to make sure I don’t use any words wrong in it.
The Guardian has compiled a list of 35 words you’re probably using wrong in which it points out the differences between words like compose and comprise, less and fewer, and continual and continuous.
“The earlier your company can identify, avoid, and dispose of Dead Snakes, the faster you’ll be able to build new products or features your customer actually wants, and grow your revenue accordingly.”
Genomic data processing company DNAnexus has seen its revenue grow 300% in the last two years and credits that growth primarily to one key strategy — they started killing off their own projects.
This First Round Review article from the company’s CEO explains why you need to aggressively kill projects that aren’t going anywhere and offers suggestions of how to identify such projects.
His tips include to watch out for plans that are called “strategic” without being valuable, to kill products that don’t resonate with customers, and to empower employees to shed non-productive initiatives.
“The golden age of restaurants is a bit like today’s golden age of TV. For television viewers, there have never been more options or, perhaps, better quality programming. But as the number of original scripted shows has soared, so has the failure rate. A new drama is now four to five times more likely to be cancelled today than it was in the late 1990s.”
For the first time in history, Americans spend more money eating out than they do on groceries and there’s more selection and quality in restaurants than ever before. But simultaneously, last year was described as the worst restaurant year since the recession.
The Atlantic explores this paradox of American restaurants and explains how the boom in restaurants may actually be hurting the industry, how the middle class of restaurants is particularly struggling, and how take-out is taking over.