I just published a post on LinkedIn. The gist is that when we think of growth, we too often think of getting bigger. Certainly that’s the case for large, recognizable companies. Growth for them almost exclusively means increasing their size. But for smaller companies, or individual people, the most important growth comes from getting better.
If you want more details, head on over to LinkedIn to see the full post. Thanks.
I have unexpectedly dedicated this year to personal development. I write more now and share what I write. I read more about career development. I listen to more podcasts.
I learn almost every day about something I previously knew very little about. Learning is exciting. I find new teachers, whether they’re authors, podcast hosts, speakers, whatever. I find new topics to explore.
It’s endless, which is fun most of the time. But sometimes it makes me sad, because I simply don’t have the time to learn about all the things I want to learn about.
An example of something I’d love to learn about
Let’s take the most recent example: storytelling. I listened to Tim Ferriss interview Jon Favreau on his podcast recently. Jon Favreau talked a lot about Joseph Campbell, the father of American mythology. I’m mildly embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Joseph Campbell before the interview. Or if I had heard of him, I certainly didn’t remember.
Looking to jump start your creativity? One classic piece of advice is to consume media. Read books or articles. Watch videos. Listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. The more information you shove into your brain, the more likely something will spark your creative energy.
A small, but important, personal example
This phenomenon happened to me recently, on my way to work, when I listened to Tim Ferriss interview Amanda Palmer on his podcast. At one point in the show, Amanda mentions how everything is a tradeoff. She used the example of book publishing, specifically going with a traditional publisher versus going independently.
Zooming out from book publishing, her broader message was clear. Some routes are better for some people in some instances. But no route is perfect. You’ll inevitably make sacrifices. It’s helpful when the sacrifices are deliberate, when you know exactly what you’re giving up, and what you’re getting in return.
I love getting into debates about the “greatness” of musicians. Really fun arguments ensue. The arguments ultimately fall into one of two buckets: taste or semantics. I like some music that you don’t (taste). I define “great” differently than you do (semantics). Fun times.
I don’t want to have those debates here. For the purposes of this post, I define “great” strictly in terms of commercial success. That’s controversial, I know. I could write a whole post on this argument, which I started to do here but edited it out. We’ll get to that another time.
Taylor Swift’s greatness
By my definition, Taylor Swift is unequivocally great. According to the Recording Industry Association of America’s list of top artists, Taylor Swift has sold more digital singles than any other artist. Katy Perry is second. Rihanna is third. All great artists.
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.
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?
I have published posts nearly weekly on LinkedIn since October. Several people at work have commented in person on my posts, offering encouragement and expressing appreciation, which has been wonderful. One of the most common questions I’m asked is “How do you find the time to write”? My quick answer is “nights and weekends”, but of course it goes further than that.
Finding time to write
One issue is literally having time to write. The “nights and weekends” response is appropriate here. The more nuanced answer is I don’t insist on writing a whole post in one sitting. If I have a few minutes here or there, I’ll use those minutes to write. Yes, that habit occasionally breaks up my flow, but it’s better than completely wasting that time. I can find those minutes on nights and weekends, so I just use the time I have.
Around whom are you most comfortable? For me, it’s family and close friends. Those people offer me safety. With safety, I can be myself. I don’t have to pretend to be something or someone I’m not to try to win praise or accolades that will quickly vanish. With authenticity, I can pursue those things that matter most to me. Those pursuits are where I find success, and where you can too.
What we can learn from our hobbies
You make the biggest difference when you work on things that matter to you. Why do so many people do such great work with their hobbies? They can be more productive, and do higher quality work, when they work for “free” than when they receive a paycheck. Why is that? I don’t think it has anything to do with the paycheck, or lack thereof.