While your paycheck is critical, your day job gives you something even more important: an audience. That’s what makes a job so attractive. People are literally paid to consume what you create, whether these people are other employees, customers, or competitors. Some of these people, beyond consuming what you create, will offer feedback or commentary. Some will help you chart your path forward. But you have an engaged audience from the get go, which can be difficult to create outside the confines of the “traditional” workplace.
The challenge of building an audience
The easy way to build an audience is to take a traditional day job. The nature of a job, the fact that you’re getting paid to do something, means it’s almost impossible for you not to have an audience. If you perform well in that role, and if your audience appreciates and communicates your performance, you will make progress. Even at small scales, progress is incredibly rewarding.
If you seek advice about changing your career trajectory, you’ll inevitably hear “follow your passion”. If you listen to any entrepreneurship podcast, or read any self-development book, you’ll hear the same thing. Find your passion. Follow it. Great.
Why this advice is helpful
The value you get from following your passion is a second order effect. I mean that, the immediate (or first order) effect of following your passion is you become happier. You’re happier doing things you’re passionate about than you are doing other things. But your happiness isn’t the real reason this advice is helpful.
The real reason the “follow your passion” advice is helpful is, when you’re passionate about something, you’re more likely to push past the obstacles that will inevitably appear. And if I can distill one central piece of wisdom from the body of success thinking, it would be the importance of getting back up after you’ve been knocked down.
My wife and I are currently searching for a home to buy here in Houston, Texas. We’ve done tons of research, a significant portion of which has been focused on schools. I decided to publish my notes about schools in the Meyerland area here, just in case it’s helpful to others.
The Meyerland area is in southwest Houston, just outside of the 610 loop. It has great proximity to the best known parts of Houston, from downtown, to the sports stadiums, to the Galleria, to you name it. From what I’ve seen, the real estate is expensive, certainly compared to the suburbs, but it’s not as pricey as the premier parts of town (River Oaks, West University, Memorial, etc.).
Many writers complain of writer’s block, an abstract force that prevents them from getting words onto a page the way they’d like. When asked about writer’s block, Seth Godin dismisses the concern by saying there’s no such thing as talker’s block. The implication is that if we don’t have trouble talking, we shouldn’t have trouble writing. Just get over it, basically.
The value of the talker’s block argument
I see two sources of value in embracing the talker’s block argument:
- Don’t block yourself. We don’t block ourselves when talking, in part because we just talk. It also works with writing: just write.
- Find your “voice”. Talking is almost always, by definition, in our own “voice”. If you embrace your “voice” when writing, writer’s block is much less problematic.
I wish the moment an interesting question was posed, I could immediately construct an eloquent, self-consistent, compelling answer. I often can’t. For boring questions, sure. For interesting questions, rarely.
Taking time to process thoughts
After posing or hearing a question, I often have a lot of different thoughts floating in my head. By “thoughts” I mostly mean potential answers to the question at hand. I need time to organize these thoughts, which I do best by writing. Organizing in this way helps me filter out the noise and build a coherent response.
While I prefer writing for organizing my thoughts, others prefer talking. On his podcast, The Gently Mad, Adam Clark explicitly mentions his need to talk things out, in order to solve a problem or overcome a challenge. He describes the frustration he feels when he writes, a frustration he almost completely avoids when he talks. The process is the same: deliberately organizing your thoughts in a way where you discard unhelpful ideas and distill the rest into something useful that you then share.
I explain below, using a simple example, how Monte Carlo simulation works. I have included a link to an Excel file at the bottom of this post that shows all the calculations involved. The Monte Carlo approach offers a way to gracefully manage the uncertainty in data-driven challenges. For our complex world, it’s a way to simplify your problem without sacrificing what makes the problem interesting.
Posing the question
Let’s say we want to estimate how much fuel all the vehicles in the United States will consume annually through the year 2025. Fuel consumption depends on a lot of different factors, each of which may change independently of the others. It’s a complex scenario. Let’s use Monte Carlo simulation to embrace the uncertainty.
Toastmaster is an organization dedicated to the mastery of public speaking. I know people who have participated in Toastmasters meetings in the past and really enjoyed their experience. I have my first such experience tonight.
Historically, I have enjoyed public speaking. In the past couple of years, I have had fewer opportunities to speak in front of groups. I realized that as part of my commitment to my own continued development, I really need to find a way to exercise the speaking muscle some more.
One leadership challenge is getting a group of people to be collectively productive. You get into definitions of roles and responsibilities, aligning efforts around a time-bound goal, and all of the other familiar tactics. An often over-looked impediment to productivity is each person’s sense of justice, including your own. If “they” don’t get me what I need when I need it, why should I help “them”?
The reality of unmet expectations
In any group setting where responsibilities overlap, it is nearly inevitable that a person, or people, will feel under-served. The workflows dictate that someone performs a task, hands over some work product to another person, and that person then carries forth. But what if the transfer didn’t go smoothly? What if the transfer didn’t go at all? What if the work product doesn’t meet the expectations of the receiving person in any number of ways?