3 Skills Which Aren’t Going Away

The world is obsessed with new, but you don’t have to be.

You can differentiate yourself by thinking about what’s going to stay the same.

What then?

  1. Persuasive writing. It doesn’t what the change you’re trying to make is, if you can’t explain it so others can understand, it won’t happen. Persuasive writing is a two wins, no loses scenario. The best case, you learn how to write and now you can apply this to any other skill. The worst case, you now know how to tell stories. Keep them clear and simple. Simple gets remembered.

  2. Nutrition. Food is energy. Energy is required for life. Everyone has their own unique way of eating. Technology hasn’t yet figured it yet so you’re going to have to figure it out for yourself. Start by cooking your own food. Not only will it benefit you, it’ll benefit those close to you who eat it. If you have children, they need good food too.

  3. Fitness. This doesn’t mean having a gym membership, sipping protein shakes and signing up to 8-week challenges. It means taking care of your joints, moving your muscles, getting adequate sleep and knowing how to recovery from an injury. Doing these things also contribute to maximising energy.

Without energy, nothing happens. Without a convincing message, nothing happens. 2 and 3 could be put together as a package deal under health but we’ll keep them how they are.

But Daniel, you’re into writing, nutrition and fitness? Aren’t these biased by your skills?

You’re right, I am and the title of this post is why.

Define it

When was the last time you sat and defined a problem before trying to solve it?

As in, spent a day defining it.

‘It’ being the problem you’re trying to solve.

We were at breakfast with family friends the other day. One of them suggested my brother go to university. Study for 4-years, get a certificate at the end. My parents agreed it was a good idea.

This sounds good in 2-dimensions. But different when thought about in 3-dimensions.

4-years is a lot to dedicate over a single remark.

But what problem does it solve?

My brother knows what he wants to do. He’s spent time defining his problem and he’s working towards it. The thing is, since it’s his problem, others sometimes have a hard time understanding it. The advice of our family friends means well but it’s aimed at a different problem, not his.

Have a bias towards action over thought but don’t spend a minute trying to solve a problem you haven’t spent a day defining.

Don’t let perfection hold back published

School told me I wasn’t an artist. I believed it. My year 8 art teacher gave me a D for my drawing. All that effort. A green ninja turtle. Not the ones you see on TV, my own.

The next year I dropped art, music and drama. All of it. Anything that wasn’t maths or science.

In year 12 I got a C- for English. The stories I wrote weren’t good. Why not? I thought I ticked the criteria. I read the book, rewrote it in my words, told it how I understood it. Now I couldn’t write, draw, act. What was the deal?

There was one thing though. I was captain of debating. I could speak. Writing differently to speaking bored me. My English essay was good (to me, not the teacher) but it was a drag to write. I had to take time off gaming to get it down. We were the best Call of Duty team in Australia, that’s a full-time job.

Our debating team went to other schools and they came to us. We’d have a week with a topic a week to wrap our 17-year-old brains around it and form an argument, for or against. Sometimes there wasn’t a topic. Instead, we’d get there an hour early and get given the topic on the night. You had to think of a speech on the spot.

I was always third speaker. Which meant I had the job of summarising the first two speakers on our team and saying why the other team was wrong. I loved it.

While the other team were speaking I had to think of why they were wrong and write it down. I didn’t have time to write an essay. I had to write how I was going to speak it. Then I had to deliver. That’s what mattered.

We went through our final year undefeated.

Essays are still hard for me to write and there’s nothing worse than reading poor writing. One of the easiest ways to improve your writing is to write like you speak. If you can’t explain something with words, say it out loud as if you were telling your friend about it and then write that.

It took me 7-years out of school to start creating again. To start writing publicly. To start making videos. I still haven’t gotten back into drawing. But I will.

When it first went live it wasn’t good. My first 30 YouTube videos were me sitting in my car. There were gaming videos on another channel but they weren’t me. My first articles were over edited, ‘what if someone thinks this when they read that?’

Thankfully they’ve gotten better since. And I have no plans to stop improving, stop challenging myself. That’s the key. Be your own biggest critique. Make things you’d like to see and make them quality.

But after a while being your own biggest critique gets easy. Then you have to learn how to be your own biggest fan. Fan and critique at the same time.

I hit 10,000 subscribers the other day. Now we’re on the way to 100,000.

But that’s not the metric I pay attention to. The metrics you can game don’t matter.

What then?

Work published.

Was it published?

Did the idea turn into something?

Where is it?

Can I see it?

Not everything goes out into the world. It shouldn’t. But in order to get better, you have to publish.

That’s what I measure myself on.

It’s what led me to being able to leave my job as a machine learning engineer and pursue a journey on my own. Let’s see where it goes.

If you’ve watched my videos or read my articles. Thank you.

How to avoid mediocre

You go to the cafe in the morning. Sunday mornings are for writing. You’ve got to drive in a few hours.

Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday afternoons. That’s when you drive. Monday to Friday you study.

It’s midday and you’ve punched out 2000 words. 1200 are good. 400 are really good. You're biased. Every writer thinks they’re good.

You get in the car. Turn on the app. A ping appears. You know the sound. It’s the one you hear at 3 am Saturday morning.

Sunday’s are quiet. Plenty of time to sit around sitting round but on high alert. High alert waiting for a ping. Waiting for that ping. It’s coming. The ping.

The ping comes. You tap it. You follow the blue dot on the screen. That’s you. 6-minutes ‘til you get there.

You get there and stop out front. The people get in. You say your hellos. The questions come.

“How long have you been driving Uber for?”

You tell them. They nod and keep speaking.

“Is this a side gig or?”

You speak.

“Yeah, I drive on weekends and study during the week.”

“What are you studying?”

“Machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

“Woah, is that like aliens?”

“Not really, more like using computers to make sense of large amounts of information.”

“Wow, that’s cool.”

Cool sounds like a compliment, compliments feel good.

Next week happens. Study Monday to Friday, driving Friday, Saturday, not Sunday. Not Sunday because of Saturday.

Saturday night you got a fine and decided you weren’t going to drive Uber anymore.

It was the best job you’d ever had. Meeting new people every 10-minutes. Explaining your story. You thought you knew yourself thinking alone in your head. Explaining your story out loud to 1000 people made it rock solid.

Two weeks after leaving Uber you got a job. The universe works like that. Once you make a decision, things happen.

The job paid well. More than Uber. Now you were comfortable. You didn’t have to think about how much you’d spend on fuel and how many hours you had to drive this weekend. Grocery shopping wasn’t an issue anymore. The paycheque was good.

Now you can eat. Your work is slipping. That creative flair? Those words on a Sunday? 400 of them were good.

That story you wrote about the homeless guy. What happened to that?

Remember the Hero’s Journey?

The most interesting part was the hero versus the challenge. Not the happily-ever-after.

Want to avoid mediocre? Find your next challenge.

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The warm up

Ask any athlete and they’ll tell the most important thing to do before an intense session is to warm up. To get the blood flowing, those first few drops of sweat on the brow.

The next most important part of the workout is the warm down. Bring the warm muscles back to normal, stretch out the tight spots.

Warming up and warming down doesn’t only have to be part of any good athletes routine. The same can be done for the project you’re working on. Or the cognitive work you’re about to do.

Warm up by writing down what it is you set out to do. Warm down by reflecting on what you did and what you could do next.

The benefits?

Direction when you’re not sure what you should be doing and insight into what you could do better next time.

The thing is, the warm up and warm down take a little extra effort. And you know what happens to athletes who don’t take care of themselves. Preparation and recovery are as important as the actual work.

The extra effort is worth it.

The bird in the bath

There’s a bird in the bath

He’s watching carefully

Lookin’ out for the others

What would they think

It doesn’t matter to him

He gets in

Goes for it

Swimming in the bath

Wings all wet

He gets out and shakes it off

More eyes

Looking there looking there

Back in and there’s another shake

I’m watching but he can’t see

It doesn’t matter to him

In again out again shake

In again out again 

He’s having fun

And so am I

Creating through constraint

There’s too many ways to spend your time.

Try them all and you’ll run out.

If your keyboard had 100 times the amount of keys it has, one for every command on a computer, it’d take you far too long to do what you need to do.

The alphabet only has 26 letters yet you can use them to tell all the stories you want.

By leaving some stones unturned, you can polish and admire the ones already turned over.

No views

Everywhere you look there's a view counter, a like counter, a follow counter.

Now everything is easy to compare to your own. Their numbers were higher, their work must've been better.

This is one dimensional. The easy dimension. But the world is more than one dimension. Sure, you could measure yourself on the easy to see numbers, but what about the other metrics? The non-metrics.

The ones which can't be measured.

Enjoyment, fulfilment, love, creativity, care, authenticity.

These things don't require a number. But they're where you should start.

Because

You could spend all day trying to think of a reason. All week. All month. All year.

You hear it all the time. Find your reason. Find your why.

I’ve said it before. I’ve said find your why. Once you find it, you’ll remember why you started.

But sometimes you don’t have one. Especially right at the start. Especially when you’re doing something new. Especially when you’re taking a risk.

Searching for a why in the beginning will use up energy. Energy you could put towards creativity, towards making something.

In the beginning, because is enough.

Why are you doing that?

Because.

A reason can come later. It’ll change as you go anyway.

Growing, apart

Facebook was the thing to be on in year 12. If you weren’t on it, you were an outsider. It went from “what’s your phone number?” to “add me on Facebook.” That was 9-years ago. And the trend continues. 2 billion people are on some kind of Facebook owned service, Messenger, Whatsapp or Instagram.

People who once couldn’t connect with each other can now connect with each other.

But what about the people you’re already connected with? Now there’s an extra layer.

I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a year or so today. She told me stories of her new job, I shared stories of what I’ve been up to. I had a new haircut she asked me about.

There was plenty to talk about. Would it have been the same before I left Facebook’s services?

When I had people I knew on there, we’d see what each other was up to. We’d get the highlights without talking to each other. Was that enough?

I left Facebook over a year ago and the rest at the start of the year.

Now I run into people I haven’t seen and we have to ask each other questions. How’s your family? How did that interview go? Did you end up going on that trip?

Growing apart is healthy. The stronger relationships survive and the weaker ones perish.

The best Businesses

How much education do you need to start a business?

I remember taking business class in Year 9 and we used Excel to make some graphs. The thing was we never learned what the graphs meant. All we did was make the charts.

We didn’t learn how business worked. All throughout high school, we still didn’t learn it. More charts. More criteria sheets.

A teacher could have gone to the white board and summed it up in one sentence.

Business: bring value to someone else and charge them for it.

Once you’ve got a paying customer, you’ve got a business. Now see if you can keep them.

Work on a skill, learn something, use your knowledge to make something or provide a service to others. Something they’re willing to pay for. That’s how the best businesses start. Not by going to business school.

Knocking on doors

There used to be a time where you’d have to ask a record label to publish your music.

Now you can upload it to YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify and Apply Music in a couple of hours.

And before your writing could reach hundreds of eyes, you’d need to find a publisher.

Now you can write a blog post, a Tweet or a status update and it’ll be out there.

What’s the hold up then?

The same thing before the lack gatekeepers. A lack of authenticity. An overthink about what could go wrong rather than what could go right.

Want to start?

Remember, no door has ever knocked on you.