All Posts Tagged “writing”

Minimum Effective Dose

Sometimes we can’t make something perfect. Sometimes we can’t even make something good. Sometimes we just need to settle for good enough.

Good enough = Minimum Effective Dose

I have no idea where “minimum effective dose”(m.e.d.) comes from, but let’s say its a medical term. It is the minimum amount of something required to get the desired result.

It’s the point where diminishing returns kick in. It’s another way to think about the 80/20 principle. What is the minimum amount of something required to get at part of the effect you’re looking for?

It’s important to think about because we can’t waste a lot of valuable time if we don’t.

Schelling Points and Goal Setting

There is a game theory concept called Schelling points that I find very applicable to personal goal setting.

A Schelling Point is a point that is mutually recognizable between two or more people without talking. Picture an X’s and O’s board. All the squares are clear except for one with an X. If you gave this picture to two people sitting separate rooms, and asked them to pick a spot that the person in the other room will pick, odds are they both pick the spot with the X.

This spot is distinct, unique. And it provides a clear distinction from all other options. It is a point that is easy to agree upon.

Points like this are important in negotiations. If you pull out a map of the U.S. or Europe and look at the borders between states and countries you can see that many of the borders are rivers. Rivers are perfect Schelling points. It is just easier to say you get that side of the river, and I get this side than to try and get a border 5 feet to the east of the river.

If I agree to let you have 5 feet on my side of the river what is to prevent you from later coming back and saying that you want an extra 15 feet. I’ve sacrificed the natural divide, and now it is easier to justify taking more land.

Schelling points are important in negotiations, and they are a helpful way to think about setting up your own life, or negotiating with your future self.

For me, writing every day is an important part of my personal development. The main thing I want to do is to spend time writing, but that is a bit abstract. It isn’t concrete. Publishing one post a day is absolutely concrete. It is clear. There is no wiggle room.

Had I decided to write for an hour each day it would be very easy to cut short to 50 minutes one day. Then, maybe a few days later I might only do 45. Maybe one day I would only have time for 30. It’s still writing, and it’s easier to justify.

Writing one hour a day isn’t a great Schelling point, but publishing a post once a day is.

It is very clear. It is either yes or no. There is no half measure. There is no way to let the commitment slip. It is a simple and clear divide between meeting my goal or not.

When setting goals, instead of thinking about what you would choose to have happened in a perfect would, set goals with the clearest distinction between success and failure that is possible.

Cold turkey is often more effective than easing off of a habit because it provides a clear Schelling point. There is an obvious distinction between success and failure. There is no slippery slope. It is either yes or no.

School Ruins Writers

We are waiting for a connecting flight to Calgary, Alberta. Standing in the Montreal airport, in a book and convenience store like you can find in every modern airport. Everything is clean, well organized, and incredibly well lit. Against the background of the white floor, the white walls, and the fluorescent light, the colors of the candy on the cashier’s kiosk catch your eye. Lime green Sourpatch kids, blue Mike and Ike’s. Beyond the cashier’s kiosk, towards the back corner of the store the walls are lined with the bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction. On a table in front of the bestsellers, a bright red hardcover is proudly displayed — Flash Boys — the newest book by Michael Lewis.

Lewis is probably the most popular non-fiction author of the last 15 years. Before Flash Boys, there was The Big Short. Before the Big Short, there was The Blind Side. Before The Blind Side, there was Moneyball. When you write nonfiction and you’ve had three books turned into movies, you know something there is something special about these books.

Large, red, hardcover copies of Flash Boys face out in all directions. There have been news stories about Flash Boys leading up to its release. There was a controversy brewing about Michael Lewis’s take on the world of high-frequency trading.

I picked up a copy and turned it over to see if there was a description on the back. The publisher’s description was on the inside of the book jacket, but on the back were the comments from other authors and popular figures. Flash Boys had one of the best comments I’d ever seen, from Malcolm Gladwell:

“I read Michael Lewis for the same reason I watch Tiger Woods. I’ll never play like that. But it’s good to be reminded what genius looks like.”

When Malcolm Gladwell calls a writer a genius, they must be pretty damn good.

So what is it that makes Michael Lewis so damn good?

What Writers Can Learn from Movies

Good writing is mostly not about actually writing. It took me 26 years to figure this out.

We think of the act of writing, of actually typing the words into a computer, or writing on a page, as the most important part of the writing process. But, as I am slowly learning it may actually be the least important part.

Ayn Rand Goes to the Pet Store

When Ayn saw Whiskers it was as if she was looking at a reflection of her own spirit.

The cats were in cages, at the back of the store, below a dimly lit neon sign. The sign said cats. As you walked into the feline area the strange feeling of defeat crept over you. Cats were curled into the corners of the cages. They hid from the light and hid from the children as they screamed and hurled themselves around the store.

All the cats were meager, shabby, and distracted. All except one.

Blogging for 33 Days in a Row

From December 8th until January 10th I wrote something for my blog every day. One night it didn’t get posted until 1 am, but still, every day before I went to sleep I wrote something and posted it.

Looking back on it now, it went by quickly. After the first week I was really just in the groove, not thinking too much about whether I wanted to post something or not just finding time to write something every day.

When I started, I was struggling with what to write. I spent hours on each post the first few days. Procrastinating. Sitting around trying to think of something great that I had some insight on. I was taking a long ass time every day, and it wasn’t going to work over the course of a month. Over time, it got easier.

Having the pressure to post something every day pushed me out of my comfort zone. The fact that I committed to posting led me to post things that I may never have posted. I posted some poems. I posted some personal stuff. I posted blogs about subjects that I didn’t feel well versed in.

Committing to blog everyday expanded the realm of what I am comfortable blogging about. I am more comfortable writing something artistic. I am more comfortable writing something philosophical. I am more comfortable writing something personal. And, I am more comfortable publishing things that aren’t perfect.

I knew that just because I hit publish on something didn’t mean I had to be certain, and an expert on it. I knew that, but I still felt it in some ways. Now I am comfortable putting something out there that I might change my mind about later. And I am more comfortable to put my thinking process out in the open.

It took a lot of time, but after 33 days, I feel great for having done it.

January PDP

This month, for my personal development project, I will be completing a short book about traveling places and learning things. The goal for the month is to learn about self-publishing, and marketing a book, while also working on my writing by going through the process of editing and completing this thing.

My deliverables at the end of the month will be a ready to publish version of the book, along with some fancy cover art.

The actual publish of said book won’t be too far behind the end of the month.

If you have self-published a book, and have any tips, I would love to hear about them in the comments!

I Love it When A Plan Comes Together | How to Learn Philosophy

This is day # 4 of 30 days of blogs on philosophy. This month, as part of the Praxis philosophy module I am blogging every day about something that I am in the process of learning. If you are between 17-25 and interested in becoming awesome at life find out more at discoverpraxis.com


I’ve got a plan.

A plan to solve a problem I’ve been having this week.

Since I assume you didn’t skim the note at the top of this post, you will know that I am on the fourth day of 30 days of blogging about philosophy. Deciding on topics for these blog posts, has been a challenge the first few days.

Yesterday, my third day, I sat at my computer for 2 hours before I finally figured out what I wanted to write about.

I would get an idea, start writing, then get stuck and drift off onto Facebook, Medium, or Youtube fifteen minutes later.

I was struggling.

Getting Some Social Proof: My November Personal Development Project

Personal Development

This month, as part of the Praxis program, I have a created a personal development project for myself around improving my skills as a writer.

I know, if you read my blog, you probably think it’s about time I learned how to create a paragraph. And I probably do need to learn more about not starting sentences with conjunctions. So in one month you will see a drastic improvement. Oh, the places we will go.

So enough of the jibber jabber, and onwards to the point of this blog post.

What exactly is my project for the month?

I will be writing:

  • One 800 word blog post and submitting it to FEE.org
  • One longer form article and submitting it to FEE.org
  • One blog post promoting FEE seminars for a third party site (yet to be named)
  • Two Sales emails

I will also be reading two short ebooks on copywriting from copyblogger.com.

So there you have it. If I will be posting my results on December 7th. If I don’t complete everything that I said I would, please send me an angry Christmas card.