Quality: the only universal criteria

The teacher would hand out the sheet with the boxes on it. Each box had words in it which were supposed to specify how you got a certain mark. The words were all the same with one or two changed in each box.

‘The student shows sound understanding of the topic.’ That was worth a C. Sound was the mid-tier. Not good. Sound.

‘The student shows great understanding of the topic.’ B.

‘The student shows exceptional understanding of the topic.’ This was the money. Enough of these boxes and you got an A.

I never got why exceptional was the word for an A. I thought it meant something like accepted. ‘Your work is accepted, here’s an A.’

When doing assignments I never paid attention to the criteria sheet. It was always overflowing with words. So many it lost its meaning.

All I wanted to know was what I had to do. What I had to hand in to not get in trouble so I could get back to gaming.

All my assignments looked great. I made sure of that. I had a thing for good looking documents. I’d finish a physics assignment and hand it in. A+ for aesthetics, B for content.

University was the same. More criteria sheets. More lack of reading. More reading the task sheet 6 times and asking myself, ‘What do I actually need to do?’

Then came creating online. No criteria sheets. Anything goes.

My first blog post was crap [TK — link]. Crap but honest. I tried to get my girlfriend to read it. She was good with words. Since then, I’ve probably had 6 great, 277 sound and 3 exceptional posts.

There are no criteria sheets on the internet. So it can hard to start making anything. ‘What do I actually need/want to do?’ Notice the addition of want.

There may be plenty of things you want to do. Too many. So it’s unlikely you’re stuck with a lack of ideas. Instead, a lack of direction.

The cure?

The universal criteria.

You already know this one.

People like things which are of high quality.

Things that teach them something. Things that entertain them. Things which suit the story they repeatedly tell themselves every day. Things that work.

If you’re a maker and looking for a guide or some criteria to adhere to, make it quality.

Everything else is up for debate.

The art is in the edit

I write 750 words every day to get 100 good words.

A statue starts out as a hunky piece of rock.

A director shoots the same scene 6 times because there’s nothing worse than getting to the studio and not having enough footage.

My videos start out with 4-hours of raw footage before it’s cut down to 10-minutes.

It’s better to have too much footage than not enough. 

Your data science pipeline starts out as 1000 lines of code before you realise you can do the same thing in 200.

But those 200 beautifully refactored lines of code wouldn’t have come without the other 800.

Nor would the 90-minute Oscar winning film come without 100-hours of set time.

You have to do bad work (things which might not work) for the good to emerge.

Don't break the chain

Don't try writing a book in one go. Write every day instead. Become a writer.

Don't expect to be the best data scientist after one course. Learn a little bit each day. And become a consistent scholar instead.

Don't exercise for one day and expect to have a strong physique. Move your body up and down, side to side, back and forward. And do it often. Become a movement practitioner.

The best results don't come on the first try. Or the 47th. Or even the 147th.

There's no right number. Consistency doesn't have a number.

If you want to improve your consistency, take a calendar and place it on your wall. Every day you do the thing you want to improve upon, place an X on the date.

If you miss a day, it doesn't get an X.

In the beginning, there will be a few gaps. You'll do one day. Then miss the next.

Then you'll get 2 days in a row but miss the third.

If you miss a day, start again.

If you miss a day, start again.

That's okay. Start it back up. And once you get a streak going, don't break the chain.

I started blogging every day since September 1, 2018. Today is day 105. 105 X's.

All I have to do is to not break the chain.

 

PS. To help me, I put this on my wall. You can get your own version here.

dontbreakthechain.png


What to write when you don't know what to write

‘What are you working on?’

‘App constraints for my app.’

‘What do you have to do for that?’

‘It’s pretty hard, you have to make your app fit every single iPhone.’

I was talking to my brother about what he’d been up to.

‘Did you post what you’re up to on LinkedIn?’

‘I don’t know what to write.’

‘Write what you told me.’

'What?’

‘Pretend like I asked you, “What are you working on?”, and write that.’

‘Okay.’

When you’re stuck trying to write something. Think about how you would say it to someone if they asked you about it.

Then write down how you would’ve answered.

If the words aren’t appearing on the page, think, how would they come out of your mouth?

Write like you speak.

When the difficulty switches

Since being back from the US (October 8), I’ve been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu almost every day (except Sundays).

And it’s hard.

I’ve never been so sore.

But I remember back to when I started in the gym. Or when I started programming. Or when I started writing.

In the beginning it’s a battle. You’re hurting, your brain’s exhausted and there’s still so much to learn.

Then you start to pick up a few things.

You reach little milestones. And set new ones for yourself.

After a while the difficulty starts to switch.

Eating well all the time still isn’t the easiest habit to maintain.

Writing a great article is a still a challenge.

And working out every day is still hard.

But it’s harder if you don’t do it.

You know how good it feels to finish a hard session and how proud you are when someone enjoys a piece of your work.

All of a sudden, it’s easier to work out than not. It’s easier to eat well than not. And the words start writing themselves.

I have to keep reminding myself of this. Especially when I’m tired, sore and not really feeling like going to Jiu Jitsu training. Or when I’m stuck on a programming problem.

Eventually the difficulty switches. And getting better is inevitable.

It’s 9:10 pm. Training is at 6:00 am tomorrow. I can’t wait.

Better get to sleep.

7 small things you can do to make your writing better

The first speech I ever did was about the Wacko Watch. The Wacko Watch had all the features the Apple Watch has now but it also had air conditioning. Take that Apple.

I stole the idea from someone I saw at another talk and then remixed it with my own flavour. The speech won me speaker of the night.

My hands were shaking and my palm cards were everywhere. Being 12 was great. I loved being the centre of attention but being in front of a crowd was different.

For the next 6-years high school was a drag. I loved going to see friends and learning but the work was dull.

I got A’s for English from year 8 to 11. Then a C in my final year.

Writing assignments was a grind. There were these grid things you had to pay attention to.

‘Do I tick this criteria?’

‘Does this paragraph have all the right structure?’

In your head you’d nail it. But the teacher thought otherwise.

Speeches on the other hand, speeches I loved writing. I was captain of debating.

There was a time limit on debates so you had to get to the point. There was no time for fluffing it up with lawyer speak — not that I knew what that was at the time.

It made you think.

‘What am I trying to say?’

Then again.

‘No really, what am I trying to say?’

You had to think about how what you were writing would sound when you said it out loud.

I’d write out a whole speech then practice it in front of the mirror. Let’s take a simple example.

‘I think that spearmint gum is the best tasting flavour.’

Too many words. Tasting is implied, it can be removed.

‘I think that spearmint gum is the best flavour.’

The word ‘that’ is almost never needed.

‘I think spearmint gum is the best flavour.’

It’s still my opinion, let’s make it stronger.

‘Spearmint gum is the best flavour.’

There we go. Maybe you could take out flavour next.

I never did a speech about chewing gum but you get the point.

So what can you do?

A) Words reflect feeling

Sad?

Happy?

Excited?

How you feel will come out in your writing.

If you’re feeling boring and larthargic, grind the words out and come back to them later (see point F). Unless that’s how you want your readers to feel too.

B) ‘that’ & ‘just’

‘It’s just that I can’t believe what she said.’

Or

‘I can’t believe what she said.’

‘I just think that you should be taking care of your health.’

Or

‘I think you should be taking care of your health.’

Bonus — Want stronger sentences? Remove the opinion.

‘You should be taking care of your health.’

C) Less but better

The internet is impatient.

If your writing is going online. And you want people to read it, get to the point.

Unless you’re an incredible storyteller, people don’t need to know about what angle the tree in the distance was standing at.

Have you ever read one of those books that would’ve been great as a 4-minute long blog post, except it’s 368 pages?

Yuck.

Get to the meat.

D) Write like you speak

Read your writing out loud after you’ve finished (see point F again).

How does it sound?

It’ll sound the same in someone else’s head.

We start speaking before we start reading. And speech is still king.

If you’ve got writers block, say what you’re trying to write as if you’re telling it to someone out loud. Now write it down.

E) Edutainment

People want to learn and they want to be entertained.

Aim for your words to be the love child of the two.

F) The art is in the edit

If you want your writing to be good, you have to let it be bad first.

Not feeling it? Let the words flow anyway.

The muse might not show up but you still can.

Come back to it later. And carve the statue of the mud.

Remember point D? Reading it out loud will help smooth out the edges.

G) Your own style

Write two letters to your mum.

One says how much you love her and how thankful you are for her being your mother.

The other says how you wish you were never born and how much you hate being related to her.

How do think you mum would react to each of these?

The only difference between the letters was the words on the page.

That’s the power you have.

But you know this because you’re here. You’re a reader.

Take these tips or leave them. The beautiful thing about words on the page is that there are infinite styles — sidenote: did you catch my use of ‘that’?

Read the best. Learn from the best. Copy the best. And then remix it all with your own style.

You might even win speaker of the night for your stolen speech.

Source: https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-improve-my...