It was a privilege for me to feature in episode 003 of a fantastic podcast called Howzit. The podcast episode touches on remote work, faith, writing, and personal development. I’m grateful to Travis for inviting me.
I published my first blog post on April 16, in the year of our Lord 2012. Since then, eight years and 170 posts later, I wonder how I can use my writing more purposefully. How does one commit to writing in a way that fosters the best outcome?
Purpose helps others understand our actions. Sharing the reason we’re doing things with those who care, helps them motivate us when we’re stuck. Purpose is a driving force that is able to help you stay consistent over decades.
What purpose should you have for writing that transcends your current context?
My motivation is a moving target: To become better at writing, because writing is a superpower. It is true, “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Being great with words could be the difference between life and death. Being skill full in the art of writing has the potential to unlock many opportunities.
For the sake of writing, writing could undoubtedly be reason enough, but I also have a second reason. That is, to grow my community of influence, the network—of shared opportunities.
I hope to use this blog to demonstrate my skills and these are the topics that I hope to cover as I aim to improve my ability to put what I learn into words:
- Software Engineering industry and practice.
- Personal development
With a greater sense of purpose, I’d like to intensify my efforts and would like you to join me, either by creating your own blog or following along and reading mine.
I enjoyed this humorous talk on public speaking. Some of the advice feels gimmicky, but if you compare it to what you hear when presidents and leaders speak you’ll see that they all use it, well with a few exceptions.
The main points are
- Be confident
- Combine 3 breathless sentences for dramatic effect.
- Repeat words three times for impact : “My people, my people; my people“.
- Use balance: “In this life, and in the next”.
- Reach for unique metaphors: “Love is a fruit in season at all times and in reach of every hand.“
- Exaggerate a bit for effect not to cover up the truth.
- Rhyming. It tricks the brian into being comfortable with the information given as it sounds so right.
Go ahead and watch it for yourself:
Link to video if the embed above fails:
Carla Harris, Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, explains exactly how she got ahead in a male dominated industry.
Here’s what stood out for me:
- Your authenticity is your advantage.
- There are two currencies when it comes to success. 1 Is performance currency and 2, relationship currency. You need both to succeed, but only relationship currency get’s you to the pinnacle.
- She pointed out how doubtful some people are. She learned a thing from her white male colleagues. They were “frequently wrong, but never in doubt”, in other words they had confidence all the time.
- Perception is realities’ cop-pilot. What people perceive you to be is often how they think you actually are. You need to make sure that you make it easy for people to perceive in the same good way you do yourself. You can train others on what they should think about you. How should people describe you when you’re not in the room?
- If you offer that which is not valuable you will not get any reward for it.
Watch the video below
In case the video fails to show, heres the link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yflSZODY6YU
Beth Dunn went from being an unemployable writer to a writing career that speaks for itself. In her talk, “How to Be a Writing god“, she hammered down the idea; disciplined writing is the only way to improved writing. Her story, alongside the Author, Ann Handley’s simple advice, makes it clear; every professional should take writing seriously.
Most people dislike writing. Maybe it’s all that forced writing we had to do in school? It was interesting to see the book encouraging us to let go of any writing advice you received at school.
“The difference between Good writing and bad writing is trying, trying and trying again”
In this book, you will discover many valuable ideas, though one stands out for me, the writing process; a detailed set of steps that shows you the way a finished piece when all you have is an idea.
The following steps helped me. I’ll share a quick summary with you. Follow it in order and see the results for yourself.
- Have a clear goal. Write this goal down as the first thing on your draft and keep it at the top. Refer back to it often as you work on the piece.
- Restate your goal within the context of your reader. This is the more difficult part and I’m struggling to do this, but I think with practice it may become easier.
- Do research. Seek out data or others who have written about the topic or anything related to your goal. This helps give your post more credibility and builds trust.
- Organise your findings and thoughts. I normally just create one-sentence paragraphs in a draft. Write down everything that comes up related to your topic.
- Remember to write to one person. People hardly ever read in groups and if they do it will be only one person reading at a time so think about writing as a conversation.
- Create the Ugly first draft. Write like no-one cares. Just write. Don’t even care for structure. Just take the thoughts you have and expand on them as much as you want to.
- Walk away, do something else, give yourself space away from the content. Create another draft for another post.
- Rewrite the draft. I must share with you that I don’t really do this. I write on a computer and simply manipulate the draft document.
- Give it a great title. One that captures the essence. One that tells the prospective reader exactly what to expect. Don’t mislead your reader, trust is more valuable than views. Most times my writing starts because of a title that frames the idea.
- Have someone edit it. This is mainly for commercial content. I use Grammarly to check that all is in order.
- Add a call to action. What do you want the reader to do next?
- Have a final look at it and check that it reads clearly and is easy on the eye.
- Publish! Don’t allow perfect to be the enemy of good enough. This is just one step in your journey, so keep publishing.
The writing process helps you on a very practical level, but when you’ve got this process down there are many other important tips for writers.
To wrap up, I’ll share some final thoughts, but for the full experience, you’ll have to read the book.
3 Critical approaches to writing
1. Writing is a service to your users. A practical example of serving would be to place the most important parts first, providing the most value upfront. This is out of respect for the reader’s time making it easy for them to understand what you want to highlight. The same applies to sentences. First, give the content and then back it up with context. Instead of “According to John, mocking others is foolishness” write ” mocking others foolishness, according to John”. Respect the reader, keep writing to the point and remove cruft that doesn’t add value.
2. Discipline – All great writers practice their own version of a writing discipline. The main take away here is to practice daily, if that’s not possible set time a side on a weekly basis.
3. Show don’t tell – Most people do not appreciate being told what to do, so the better approach would be to make suggestions and provide great real life examples. Give them the example and let them decide what to do with it.
From my perspective, I still have a long way to go. I do however think that sharing what I know today is valuable, not for the sake of what I share, but for the process of refining the idea. I place the process before the content, with the hope that a refined process will lead to fine content.
Writing is thinking is a good metaphor for how I use this blog. I blog and share my posts public-ally so that I can exercise structured thinking. Looking for ways to better express my thoughts and find the best words to illustrate my ideas.
Both the content and the process really do matter, but as I shape my writing process I make sure that I continually fill my mind with things to write about. I believe that applying the correct writing style to great content will be a valuable skill in any context.
I have already started noticing a change in the way I write at work. Doing blog posts forces me to think through what I’m writing. Knowing that it will be shared publicly puts enough pressure on me to ensure it is at least decent.
Blogging is only for the successful, is how I used to think. Now I know that blogging leads to success. Being ables to communicate clearly is a skill worth practicing.
Calling your goals, “goals”, leaves you at a disadvantage. From now on, I suggest that you call them outcomes.
Let me tell you why. An article in the New York Times spells it out clearly: names have power. The way in which we speak about things affects our brains.
The term “goals”, has multiple meanings, depending on the context. In one way it means where you’d like to be, but in many other instances, it can mean, dreams, vision or desire. A wish, far off, into the future. Goals also have you thinking about the end result and not so much on how to get there.
Calling your goal an outcome, automatically implies that, for something to come out, something must go in. Your mind starts to wonder about how, and as research has shown, we solve problems in our sleep. The more you think about your outcomes the more you are likely to work towards them.
I have made a decision. I will only put my dreams on my outcomes list if I have attached a new habit to it. Want to lose weight? Add the habits of a better diet and regular exercise. Want to earn more money? Attach the habit of developing your skills and reading. If the outcome is worth pursuing the habit is worth cultivating.
If what you are thinking about is truly a “goal”, try something more specific, like dream, vision or desire, but don’t call them goals.
Featured image by Andrey Larin https://unsplash.com/photos/Kodkas71tT8
This will be my final post covering tribe of mentors. If you are a little bit lost and not sure which direction to take you will find a lot of great advice and pointers from this book. It is a great reference book and I’d recommend it to all.
1- Personal Development and Routine
Discipline = Freedom. We are always between freedom and bondage. We move away from freedom when we lack discipline. Freedom to choose the life you want comes only by discipline. There are extreme cases where one really can’t choose, but for the average person, this is a fortunate choice to have.
To become the best you, you must work on your own weaknesses continuously.
2 – Learning
The best student wins. Make sure that you are a life long student, make sure you grow to become the best student.
All successful people read a lot. An example is Terry Cruise. He is a man of great depth who has an incredible reading list. You would think that comedians are just naturally good at telling stories that make people laugh. Now I know why some comedians make it in life: they read! See Trevor Noah’s favorite books as an example: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/11/t-magazine/entertainment/trevor-noah-favorite-books-list.html
Be in a hurry to learn, not to get validation. Embrace change and keep learning, the only way to stay relevant.
We arrive at certain destinations because of our decisions. Our choices are mostly a result of how we weighed our options. From Julia Galef’s interview, I learned that most advice is one size fits all but that the best advice helps one improve judgment.
Tom Peters stated, “The number one failings of CEOs: they don’t read enough”. I was so inspired by how much the mentors read and how many of them actually made time for reading in their schedule. Reading is absolutely critical. You can not avoid this if you desire growth. Reading is probably the most important career and life habit and is one strand that connects all the mentors. To be well prepared for all situations one must read a wide range of topics, even poetry.
In pursuit of success, you can’t ignore your health. Resting is important, simply put: Uptime is as important as downtime and growth come from periods of rest.
Even if you don’t exercise you should at least make time to walk. Make it part of your life. Walk a little.
Eating healthy is critical and sugar is toxic. Avoid sugar especially soda and juice.
The important things in life must be done in parallel: relationships, health, religion, work.
4 – Success
No success came overnight. Even if that is what the media would like you to believe.
It is possible to out-prepare any competition.
To future proof yourself, focus on personal resilience and emotional intelligence.
Choose opportunities based on the people you get to work with. Skate to where the puck is going and remember persistence is greater than talent.
To reach success Tom Peters said: Become a superstar, all-pro listener, read up on it, work on it, have a mentor grade you on it.
Beware the “philosophologist”. Beware the one who has not been in the trenches. Seek wisdom from people who’ve done it, not the people who teach it.
On saying no: Have a yes list, for everything else say no.
Saying maybe, when you want to say no, is lying to yourself and others.
Say no to complaints, blame, and gossip.
Don’t underestimate languages. It is the doorway to another world.
There is so much to gain from being generous. Generosity elevates us all.
Avoid ego and embrace truth. Ego’s focus is: who is right. Truth focuses on what is right.
6 – Attitude and Personal Philosophy
Have a Gratitude Journal, write in it and read it. This gives you perspective.
Self-esteem, the reputation you have with yourself. Do not do things that erode that reputation.
Confidence is overrated and even irritating -try Courage. As you take courage and build up a track record of success, with yourself, genuine confidence grows.
Other Posts you may like:
When we start a blog, we dream of many readers, followers, and online interactions. Our hope is that writing would open doors for us, you know make us a little more famous than we are currently. In most cases, what follows is the exact opposite. Our blog lies dormant, no articles, nor any comments and no changes since who knows when.
At the beginning of 2018, I started doing a few things very intentionally different, which helped me to do at least one post per month, and some months a little more. These ideas did not only lead to more articles but also, as you’ll discover, improved quality.
1 – Define consistency for yourself
We sometimes place subconscious pressure on ourselves. It affects our ability to think and write. The number one thing you can do for your blog is this: decide for yourself, based on the reality in your life, what the definition of an active blog is.
Defining this for yourself releases creativity and unblocks your thinking. Decide at minimum how many posts you want to put out for the period that you decide on, this has given me a way to maintain accountability. If your reality only allows for one post per quarter, do that! As you grow, so will the frequency. The aim here is not to post all the time, but mainly to get a good rhythm going.
2 – Forget quality
I use to think that the only thing that mattered was quality. Until I heard this story:
A teacher divided his art class into two groups. Each group will work on their year-end project. To the one, he said: “You will be marked based on the quality, bring me one top quality piece. The higher the quality, the better your grade.” and to the other, he said, “You will be marked based on quantity, bring me as many art pieces as you can. The more you bring, the higher your grade”. Both groups went off and came back at the end of the year with their art pieces.
You would think the group who focused on quality performed better, but the results were the opposite. The group who concentrated on quantity had better work than the group solely focused on quality. This deduction from this was simple:practice makes perfect! I believe the same applies to our ability to blog.
From this, I gather that the more you blog, the better your blog posts eventually become.
3 – Gather Ideas and move them to drafts
For a blogger, having nothing to write about is one of the worst situations to find yourself. Having the desire, but no content leaves one feeling paralyzed. To me, blogging is, starting with a basic idea and expanding on it. The wise Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the Sun”. I believe this to be true of ideas as well. There are no new ideas under the sun. There are; new ways to frame them, unique ways to express them and your own life experiences to incorporate into them.
Ideas come and go. Our job is to hold onto the good ones. You can write them down, make a video, graft it into a song. Just don’t leave them solely as thoughts -they will disappear. I’ve had many ideas that slid into forgetfulness. Now I write them in my journal; I email them to myself, I record voice notes. Whatever it takes, I make an effort to hold on to the good ones.
Read more. Reading exposes one to ideas and new ways to express them.
I currently have 20 drafts waiting to be fleshed out or polished. These may not sound like very much, but if I compare them to the time where my blog was a ghost town, I think they are a sign of my strategies working for me.
A strategy that I learned from writing is thinking is to start every blog post with a brain dump. Dump your idea and start creating small sentences as you explore the idea. Do this as a blog post draft so you can save it and have it ready for the next time you work on your drafts. The system of taking Ideas and fleshing them out into mind dumping drafts gives you something meaty to return to when you make time for your blog.
4 – Set out blog time every possible day
How much time should you set aside for blogging? How often? You decide. My method is to set time aside every working morning. I take 10-20 mins and work on my drafts. If you have more time, that’s even better! When you sit down to work on your drafts. Set a timer and stop when it runs out.
This method may mean that a blog post, like this one, takes you a few weeks to write. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are thinking as you are writing, which makes you a better thinker and a better writer. The result is a well thought out post every once in a while.
The more time you make per day, the more you can think and write, the more regular your blog posts may be. Remember you are getting better as you do this so 10 mins today and 10 mins 1 year from now is not the same 10 mins. A year from now, you are pouring more experience and knowledge into the 10 mins than what you are capable of today. This system helps you grow your capabilities.
5 – Remove the fear
I currently have about 21 drafts. I don’t work on all of them. I pick one; actually, I force myself to choose the one that’s closest to finish and try to push it forward. Some days, when my motivation is low, I allow myself to pick anyone I like and working on it until the timer runs out. This daily process has helped me with my consistency, which is the secret sauce of an active blog.
Don’t hit publish. I have touched on this before, but the most effective way for me to overcome fear is not to hit publish, but rather to set the date a week from today and then hit the schedule button.
Forget your readers (for now). If you care about who’s reading your posts, it puts even more fear on the table. Remember, we are not referring to a newspaper article that needs to go viral. We are talking about you developing your ability to communicate better by having a more active blog.
Forget the future. Focus on now and what you want to say now. How relevant that is tomorrow is not essential. One day you will write timeless classics, for now, focus on the habit of daily writing.
6 – Keep it short
If you only have a paragraph to share under a given topic, schedule that! If all you have is a sentence write that down. It’s your blog, if you want to come back in a few weeks and, in another post, elaborate on what you said, why not, you own it.
I have tried to use my blog as the primary outlet for social media rants and statuses. It is not as rewarding as my blog does not have many visitors, but I’ve gotten to a point where, growing my ability to communication and gathering skills in this area have become more important than likes, comments, and retweets. So the idea here is to blog first and share that on a post on other services you use. Pump your creativity into one platform, preferably one where the data belongs to you.
I’ve experienced more confidence and a greater desire to blog. My blog is no longer something I dread; instead, I’m excited to write and make time for writing. Let this be your reality too.
I was recently chatting to a friend. He mentioned some area where he was not succeeding . I had the perfect answer. If he’d only follow my advice.
I make this mistake all too often. I can see it in people’s response. They fell insulted or just irritated that I would try to give advice. I do it sincerely but it always backfires.
I realized that Giving People Advice Rarely Works.
I found this helpful, maybe you will too
— Read on www.google.co.za/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/do-the-right-thing/201407/giving-people-advice-rarely-works-does?amp