Nov 21, 2021

Audience of any size

A few months ago I was browsing through LinkedIn and saw a post in my university alumni group. A career coach was hosting free Zoom sessions about various personal development topics. The sessions were scheduled for weekday evenings, and I had some free time so I signed up.

When I joined the first Zoom session, it was just me and the presenter. They had a whole slide deck prepared. Given that it was just me, I thought they would make things less formal and have more of a discussion than a presentation. That’s what I do when I have to give talks that few people attend.

That’s not what they did. They went through the whole presentation as if they were speaking to a large group.

I don’t remember the content of that presentation, but I do remember how much energy this person had presenting to an audience of just me. They did all the work and delivered, regardless of who was in the audience. I’m not sure if this was the first time they did that presentation, or if they regularly give these talks.

This was my takeaway: don’t let the size of the audience affect how you create and deliver content. Don’t get discouraged if no one’s there, and don’t get anxious when there’s a huge audience.

The interesting thing about blog posts compared to talks is that they’re much more discoverable and last a long time. Several of my posts got little attention when I first published and shared them, but over time have been discovered by various people that have linked to them. Now I regularly get new visitors to this blog to posts that are years old.

I recently started writing a newsletter. I wrote several weeks of issues privately without sharing them just to practice creating content and starting the habit of writing a weekly issue. That was a great decision because the first few issues weren’t that good, and now I think I have a format that’s more interesting.

Oct 2, 2021

Editing CSV files with SQLite

If you know more SQL than Excel, use SQLite to edit CSV files!

I had to work on a task recently that involved filtering two CSVs and joining them in different ways. I have some Excel formula knowledge but I am much better at SQL, and this was a great problem for SQL to solve. So I decided to use my favorite SQL database: SQLite.

Keep reading →

Sep 13, 2021

Second order value

Recently at work we looked at a couple of vendor products to help our growth effort. Once I saw the pricing quotes I started thinking about the value we would get. The products do different things so it was hard to compare the prices and values.

The first product helps us with our BI effort; it helps us understand the analytics data we have. That information could help us improve our product for our users. We already use another product from this vendor so the implementation would be trivial.

The second product adds features within our product UI. It helps us improve certain parts of our product experience, and that would help our users get more engaged with our product. This would be a brand new tool for us so it would take more time to implement.

Both products provide value for us. But as soon as I started thinking about how our users would benefit from the products, the comparison became much more clear. The first product would be easier for us to implement, but it would require a lot more work to convert the information we get out of it to actual changes in our UI for our users. The second product takes more work initially, but results in immediate changes in the UI that directly help our users.

Thinking in these terms, I prefer going for whatever helps our users directly.


Aug 4, 2021

Morning Pages

Morning pages are a tool invented by Julia Cameron and introduced to me through a Tim Ferriss video. From Cameron’s website:

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

I started writing morning pages a couple of months ago. They’re a fantastic way of getting thoughts out of your head with very little friction. I don’t meditate (even though I should) but I think morning pages may have similar or complementary benefits.

The only requirement is to write 3 pages so you could write out your schedule for the day or your shopping list, but that’s a waste of the opportunity. It’s most helpful to really think about what’s been bouncing around in your head and write it down on paper so you can make sense of it. Writing is thought on paper. Morning pages can help you gain clarity.

I don’t keep my morning pages. They either go in the trash or deleted from my iPad. At most I keep them around until the next morning so I can reflect (mostly about how dumb I was the day before).

The habit of writing morning pages is also a great way of creating content. I’m working on being a net creator, and there’s nothing better than starting off the day by creating 3 pages of content. Some of that content is already turning into blog posts (after lots of editing 🙂).

Aug 3, 2021

Net Creator

Creating more content than you consume

There’s so much content produced these days that you can spend all of your free time passively consuming podcasts, blog posts, videos, and newsletters and still have plenty of other stuff to consume. It’s easy to be lazy and consume all the time, but in the long term I think it’s much more valuable to create content. You’ll probably end up a better thinker.

My goal recently has been to become a net creator instead of a net consumer of content. In other words, creating more content than I consume. I think if you want to create more content, you have to simultaneously create more and consume less. By consuming less, you give your mind some space to think and be active.

Here’s what has been working for me:

  1. Don’t read the news, or limit yourself to a couple of low frequency sources.
  2. Reduce the amount of noise in your feeds. For LinkedIn, I used the script in this post to unfollow all of my connections. Now I see 0 posts from anyone else, but I still have 2k+ followers who see my posts.
  3. Get into a habit of creating something everyday. It doesn’t have to be published.
  4. Lower the bar and rethink what is worth publishing.

Jul 31, 2021

The medium term

How to Design a Better Body is one of the best fitness articles I’ve read. I like how it’s about more than arbitrary fitness metrics or looking a certain way.

We’re building a body equipped to deal with life, and I want you to think of a workout as anything that will improve your resilience. Good sleep improves your ability to bounce back from stress. Meditation sharpens your mind. Maybe today you plan a week of healthy eating and then go to the store. Congrats—you just worked out.

Keep reading→

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