The Courage to be Rubbish

I get requests for advice from people starting youtube channels.

My first piece of advice is “make bad videos”. When you are starting out, don’t aim for good… aim for done. If you make 1 “bad” video a week for 52 weeks… you will make many bad videos, but you will accidentally create a few good ones, and at least 1 excellent one.

Don’t wait for excellence. Have the courage to make rubbish videos.

The Iterative, Experimental Approach to Progress

I was reminded of this idea of The Courage to be Rubbish by a podcast conversation between Greg McKeown and Bob Glazer, the host of the Elevate podcast.

Greg shared a story about the Kremer prize. This is a prize that was established in 1959 where Henry Kremer put up money as a prize for “Human powered flight”. It was 18 years before the prize was claimed.

There were many approaches by people seeking to win the prize – most involved lots of careful building with delicate and expensive parts… and then a test flight… mostly ending with a crash.

Paul MacCready, the eventual winner of the Kramer prize, approached the prize in a different manner. He saw that if he could make the cost of “failure” extremely low (in both damage to his own body and damage to the kit and to his finances) he could incrementally improve his system over many many iterations.

Crappy test… and iterate… and repeat. He had to repeat many times, but slowly started to improve the parts and his own skill. It was more of an “evolutionary” approach to design. It took many iterations, a lot of experimentation, a lot of steady slow improvements… and then he won the prize.

Gossamer Condor - NARA - 17497964 (cropped).jpg
Gossamer Condor in flight, By Laura Bagnel

The Gossamer Condor approach to Youtube & blogs…

Make a bad video, with the kit you have right now. The phone in your pocket has more than enough quality to make a first bad video.

If you keep making videos, you will get better.

Focus on what makes it easy to keep making videos, not on making great videos.

This idea doesn’t work where there is a high cost of failure. Youtube videos, blog posts… they have a very low cost of failure. If they are bad, few people watch.

Further resources on Blogging and Youtubing:

Paul Graham’s best posts

Paul Graham is founder of Y Combinator. Together with Tim Urban, Seth Godin and Derek Sivers these are true artists of the blog format.

“Second order thinking” is a big part of Paul’s approach. Second order thinking is looking for non-obvious rules that improve decision making, efficiency and quality of life. Check out the Python Paradox for an example 😉

Paul’s Essays that have most Impacted My Approach to Life

  1. How to do what you love?
  2. Good procrastination and bad procrastination
  3. The lies we tell our kids, and the lies that our parents told us… and how important it is once in your life to review this set of accepted lies before they mess up your life
  4. Beating the averages
  5. Money is not Wealth, and How to Create New Wealth (not take money from others…)
  6. Relentlessly resourceful
  7. How to Disagree (a ranking order of methods of refuting the other person’s argument)

Google Based Ranking of Paul Graham Essays

This is an interesting big of research – Colin Wright produced a ranked list of Paul Graham’s essays based on google pagerank.

23.02 Beating the Averages
19.84 Lisp for Web-Based Applications
5.56 What You Can’t Say
3.81 Revenge of the Nerds
3.72 The Roots of Lisp
3.66 The Age of the Essay
3.29 What Made Lisp Different
3.26 Why Nerds are Unpopular
2.81 Taste for Makers
2.77 Great Hackers
2.33 The Other Road Ahead
2.12 How to Make Wealth
1.91 Succinctness is Power
1.74 A Unified Theory of VC Suckage
1.73 The Word “Hacker”
1.67 How to Start a Startup
1.43 Hiring is Obsolete
1.39 Why Startups Condense in America
1.39 Programming Bottom-Up
1.35 Inequality and Risk
1.35 How to Be Silicon Valley
1.21 After the Ladder
1.04 How to Do What You Love
1.00 Good and Bad Procrastination
0.90 After Credentials
0.88 The Equity Equation
0.88 How Not to Die
0.84 What You’ll Wish You’d Known
0.83 A Plan for Spam
0.80 How to Be an Angel Investor
0.76 Why to Start a Startup in a Bad Economy
0.74 The High-Res Society
0.67 The Python Paradox
0.65 Ideas for Startups

0.64 Better Bayesian Filtering
0.64 Filters that Fight Back
0.61 Relentlessly Resourceful
0.61 The Future of Web Startups
0.61 The Hundred-Year Language
0.60 Why Smart People Have Bad Ideas
0.59 The Submarine
0.59 The Power of the Marginal
0.59 How to Fund a Startup
0.56 Why TV Lost
0.56 High Resolution Fundraising 
0.56 Being Popular
0.56 Stuff
0.56 Trolls
0.49 Why There Aren’t More Googles
0.49 The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups
0.48 The Top Idea in Your Mind 
0.48 Hackers and Painters
0.47 What the Bubble Got Right
0.46 Five Questions about Language Design
0.46 The Venture Capital Squeeze
0.45 Cities and Ambition
0.44 Startups in 13 Sentences
0.44 A Fundraising Survival Guide
0.44 The Hacker’s Guide to Investors
0.43 Design and Research
0.43 Two Kinds of Judgement
0.40 An Alternative Theory of Unions
0.38 Can You Buy a Silicon Valley? Maybe.
0.38 Why to Move to a Startup Hub
0.35 Founder Control
0.35 Why to Not Not Start a Startup
0.34 What Business Can Learn from Open Source

Who are your favourite Bloggers? What are some specific blog posts that have really impacted your views on the world?

Would love to hear in the comments below…

The Top 20 Posts on Moving People to Action 2013-2014

Title Views
17 Daily personal habits for a fulfilling life – my earliest “went viral” post;  this was a long reflection on the first 35 years of my life 16,719
Three Examples of Ice-Breaker Speeches – simple – three ways to introduce yourself 14,257
Amazon Staff Meetings: “No Powerpoint” – Jeff Bezos doesn’t like powerpoint – easy for presenter, hard for audience 13,822
“Be water, my friend” Bruce Lee – what did Bruce mean? 8,698
Geert Hofstede: the 6 Dimensions of National Culture – why are Germans, French, Swiss, Americans and Chinese different? 7,032
10 Commandments for Business Development from Goldman Sachs – clear, direct and simple.  5,785
10 Personal Habits of Resilient People – what makes a mentally strong person? 4,252
If you think you are beaten, you are, If you think you dare not, you don’t. – a classic poem 4,239
A 9 Step Cheatsheet for Becoming a Public Speaking Expert – new on the top 20, infographic 4,068
The Top 10 TED Talks of All Time – what’s good on TED?  you must watch at least these 10. 3,390
Emotional Manipulators: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing – charismatic but using you? how to know. 3,111
How to video yourself speaking – webcam is single most valuable tool in improving your oral communication 2,486
Exercise: How to Start a Speech – videos and a question: how should you start a good speech? 2,331
12 Tips for Public Speaking – simple, but effective, tips 2,020
14 Things Highly Productive People Do Differently – get more good stuff done 1,929
Sun-Tzu’s 5 Factors for Victory and 5 Attributes of a Leader – Ancient Chinese wisdom applied to today’s challenges 1,909
The Speech Act Theory of JL Austin – How to move people with words 1,835
Announcing Jedi Productivity Blog Series: 11 Steps to Stop Procrastinating and Get Important Stuff Done – Productivity series 1,632
Leading Teams: The 5 Styles of Managing People – There are at least 5 basic styles of leading individuals 1,489
TED Education: What Aristotle and Joshua Bell can teach us about persuasion – TED-Ed video lesson 1,461

5 Blog Posts that Really Changed my Perspective on Big Things

I had coffee this morning with an entrepreneur from Barcelona and fellow member of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation.  I spoke about a couple of blog posts that had really impacted me and changed my perspectives on life.  He asked me to share my list.  Here it is.

5 Blog Posts that Changed My Perspectives

Opening New Perspectives, Photo Credit: floato

Derek Sivers’ post “You don’t have to be local” was a real perspective shift for me. I have spent many years connecting into the local Barcelona entrepreneur community… and I really resonated with Derek’s perspective. I enjoy writing, blogging, travelling with Barcelona as a base.  This post allowed me to feel less need to search for purely local connection.

Paul Graham’s post “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule” helped me make a big shift away from my Accenture lifestyle and manager focus towards a creator schedule.  I take fewer and fewer short meetings and look at only taking 2, 4 and 8 hour meetings.  This amount of time allows me to go deep into solutions and actually create something new.  15 minute meetings, 30 minute meetings really just make me feel busy, but do not actually lead to anything productive as an outcome.

David Maister’s short ebook “Strategy and the Fat Smoker” helped me take a more helpful perspective on long versus short term goals.  In the end, strategy fails because the hourly, daily grind of execution doesn’t measure up to the good intentions.  The fat smoker didn’t intend to be overweight and ill at 50, it was due to little daily breaks in the plan.

Leo Babauta writes the blog Zen Habits.  His reflection on “Why We Procrastinate” resonated with my personal experience.  His post didn’t solve my procrastination problem, but it did set me on the path to practicing focus.  My own post on Self-Discipline was inspired by Leo Babauta.

Steven Pressfield wrote “The War of Art” and helped me understand that the little voice in my head that questions why I am writing, who am I to think I have something to say, what will one article change is not me, it is “Resistance“.  Each day, the creator must sit down and push through this voice of resistance and “Do The Deep Work“.

Great Blogs

Bloggers that I love and read every post, but there is not one single post that I can point out:

Reading blogs

I use feedly to keep all the blog posts in one easy to read place.

What else am I missing?

What blog posts have impacted you?  What are the blogs that you regularly read?

After Action Review: 100,000 Blog Readers in 24 Hours

I’ve been blogging fairly consistently now for about 4 years.  I try not to focus on metrics, just spend time writing posts.  I try to write for myself, not to write for fame or fortune or impact…

However, there has always been a little dream that sits at the corner of my conscious mind of a massive wave of visitors.  Imagine if 100,000 readers found this post today…  It was a dream…

Until this month.

24 hours, 100,000 Visitors

Over a 24 hour period between 14 and 15th May, over 100,000 readers swarmed in to this blog to read a specific post.

WordPress Statistics of Visitors to Blog:

The post: Amazon Staff Meetings: “No Powerpoint”

Why?  Where did everyone come from?

The visitors were sparked by this tweet by Edward Tufte, professor at Yale and data visualization guru:

Following this tweet, a major discussion at Reddit began:

See the Main Discussion:

Highlights of the Reddit Discussion

  • [friedice5005] Powerpoint isn’t the problem. It’s a very useful tool to augment information you are trying to get across. The problem is people people who are bad at it using it as a crutch. Powerpoint should basically be an outline of what you’re talking about with MAJOR discussion points and any images or graphs you need to show. It should not be blocks of text that you read verbatim.
  • [via Yajirobi ] if you dont integrate people into it, they just sleep. Forcing them with made up questions is a bad idea too. Getting random questions from the audience is the best way to do it. Its a GIFT. They make the presentation good for you, without any effort from your part.
  • [via EngineerVsMBA]I experienced this system, and I loved it. I will use it in every job from here on out. Let me explain why:1.) It requires meaningful preparation by the presenter. They cannot hide behind pretty slides, and you can’t use the usual confusion tactics. If you can’t fit it in six pages, you didn’t prepare enough…

After the Flood

After the flood, what changed?

The real simple answer… nothing much.  The blog has gone back to its previous daily visitor numbers.  I had a moderate upsurge in email subscribers to my Free Online Speaking Course.  I had 16 comments on the post.  The post did get 2,200 Facebook Likes, it got 1,324 ReTweets,  821 LinkedIn Shares – so there is a sort of residual flow of new visitors.

It is a strange sensation to watch the visits rack up, and then just float away.

A good reminder that fame is illusive… and not really the goal… and a dangerous distraction 😉  Anyone know what’s up with Psy of Gangnam Style these days now that the frenzy has past?

Maybe I could do a little bit of work on improving conversion of visitors into readers, and readers into subscribers?  Anyone got good ideas on how to make a blog into a community, or make it a more “sticky” destination?

13 ideas if you are thinking about blogging

Blog about what you are learning about, not what you are an expert in

I think you should be blogging.  I know you have something to say.

Start Blogging Now!

13 “get-your-blog-going” thoughts from a conversation with Benedict on the road between Lausanne and Vevey this morning:

  1. Write about what you are learning about, not what you are an expert in. If you are an expert, then publish your expertise in magazines, “big” blogs and other professional locations. Your blog is to open your thinking and wondering and learning up to the world and allow a conversation to form. Expertise ends conversation.
  2. Write comments on other’s blogs.  (I love comments on my blog. I shouldn’t, but I do. Ego thing I guess.  Somehow adds a sense of meaning to this.)  It motivates them and might just pull a good idea for a full blog post into your mind.
  3. Force yourself to hit publish after 20 minutes. Do not leave blog posts unpublished. Start conversations.  Do not try for perfection (you can always, always edit or delete a post if you really hate it).
  4. Write “list” posts every-so-often. People like lists. My top 5 favourite free online tools. My top 10 books of all time. 6 ways to get your emails ignored. 17 habits of a fulfilling life. 6 reasons you should be blogging. If you can think of 3 ways… write 5 ways in the title and then push yourself to come up with 2 more. This brings out your creativity.
  5. Write interview posts – ask some experts in your area of interest a few questions and post the transcript – or the video – or the audio.  This gets the expert pointing people you your blog.  If you pick other bloggers, they might send a reader or two over your way.
  6. Write controversial posts sometimes.  If you don’t agree with something say so.  If you don’t think entrepreneurship is for everyone, say so.
  7. Use your own “voice”. Don’t try to be an expert or copy another person’s style. Write how you speak. Be you. If you have a strong opinion, say so. Don’t pussyfoot around and give watered down, two-sided argument versions of your opinion (like I was taught to do when writing my psychology essays in university). If you think education is broke, say it is broke. If you think Tim Ferriss is an ass, say he is an ass. If you love Seth Godin, say you love his stuff.
  8. Publish a poor post every so often. It makes the next post easier. A blog is not perfection. It is not peer-reviewed academic journal. It is not edited magazine. It is a fun, simple, easy communications medium to share ideas. Don’t ever let it become a chore. Don’t make it hard work.
  9. Use Twitter to connect to other bloggers and retweet them if you like their stuff. Use a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdesk to read your twitter feed. I use Hootsuite. Create searches and lists of favourites. Don’t read everything.
  10. Facebook and Linkedin allow you to integrate your blog into your wall (here is mine in facebook via the notes tab). These are great tools to widen your audience.
  11. Use Blogger or WordPress. (I use blogger.)  As of October 2012, I use wordpress.
  12. Don’t try to “monetise”. Maybe when you get really big, but not when you are just starting. You can recommend books on Amazon and earn affiliate commision, or maybe recommend a product you use and like. Blogging builds your credibility, not your income (not directly, not for a while).
  13. Just do it.
  14. (bonus) There are 5 and a half benefits of blogging.
Chris Brogan has an excellent post on beginning blogging: If I started today.


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