On How to be Discovered

Posted on: March 18, 2019
Posted in Career

The easiest way to be discovered right now in technology and perhaps many fields is to create your own independent blog and write. There is a huge dearth in availability of good, current, first party content today.

Seeds of inspiration come to us from interesting places and swirl around us continually as we do our daily jobs (and for most of us, writing is not one of them). Many of the brightest minds of tomorrow are thinking about how to change the world. That is all of is us in some capacity.

When these ideas come to you in a way where you can “see” a logical argument or flowing idea, think of it as how it would sound being written down. And write your immediate stream of conscious ideas and thoughts down as if no one is watching (secret: they aren’t). You should even write blog post titles down when you come up with an idea, and when you’re in a creative place later often the details will fill in and become clear when you visualize what it is that originally inspired you. Write those down too.

The single most important advice I can give to actually write is to write. Not to visualize in isolation. To put down words – ideally on a computer – thoughts and pieces of linked content that formulate your ideas. Put them in to a scratch pad of wiring that has the title you came up with. It’s okay if that post ends up being split or combined later. But you must write down partially formulated thoughts and forego editing and working on the cohesive transitional statements until after it’s developed. You don’t need to do this all at once.

In parallel, at the top of the draft post, write a numbered sequence forming the outline. This will get you thinking about how and why disparate ideas tie together. Transitions are so critical. At the bottom of that draft write a demarcation such as “===” and continually cut passages / sentences which aren’t needed and paste them to the bottom. You should always be subtracting and moving things out. Those ideas may have been seeds at the time, but later may appear silly or unnecessary. As I write this actual post, this is how it all came together.

Soon, you will have a shell, and later you will have something that if you read it a feeling will come over you – wow, with a little additional work, this may be publishable. You don’t need (and won’t have) that satiated feeling when you just begin writing. The key is to write down what you are passionate about and trust it will arrive in to a form later. When paragraphs start to form, move them around and keep cutting and moving as necessary. Often, the flow will change measurably once you get to this stage. That’s a good thing.

The best content is differentiated as in it’s not a replay of the news. It holds key insights into what it is you spend so much time knowing about. Although there are social cues inferred by whom writes what where, the internet has a way of freeing and distributing original content that will astound even the most earnest subject experts when they see it firsthand.

This is an example of a good blog post: Recessions: It’s Been a While. Despite it being short and uncalled for in the moment (there is no current news cycle event that this draws from to garner relevance), it’s uniquely insightful. it’s shared and read and people feel good reading it. This can happen when a piece of data (in this case that chart) is the center of the article. I am sure that’s how it started.

Conversations with real people in real life help a lot with content origination. But often the best pieces are left unseen by others. You don’t need permission or feedback from others to publish what you know.

Keith Rabois did a podcast recently on how he noticed a 20 year old kid from a post he wrote on China. It was the best thing on the internet at the time and it led them to talking in person. This dynamic is real. You may spend less time interacting with people you admire in real life than they have spent reading about you and how you think.

The thing that happens which you don’t see until you write is that your content engages some of the smartest people who are lurking around the internet. And they reach out to you. Hands down one of the biggest values for folks like Ben Thompson is now he has people teaching him more about topics – this is learning by its very nature. If you want to get coffee with someone, have them want to meet you by what they know about you virtually.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have trouble writing. Prominent investors have told me they were afraid to write a blog. What if no one reads it? This partially explains the lack of great content that’s out there – people are afraid. If you counter this fear in your own mind with the mere fact that fewer than 1% of qualified people are writing, you are in effect turning any latent apprehension others have in your own favor.

People almost universally cite time as their biggest obstacle in writing. But is that really it?

Although you will need to reallocate time from other things, the frame you should look at it through is as follows: you’ve already spent 10,000 hours working on the craft you know about. And you’ve already probably spent 100 concentrated hours consuming, reading, and listening to podcasts that you can recall in your short term memory about the topic to even consider writing. The truth is the 10 hours it takes to write something is already dwarfed by this sunk cost. If you don’t write, you are effectively stopping at the easier ask. it’s important you emphasize to yourself that you don’t need to relive the experiences it took for you to become a subject expert in order to share them.

A re-framing for a counterargument against writing can go like this (adjust this analogy to your own position): say you are a founder – if there were only 5,000 Series A startups funded last year, there are only 10,000 or so founders in your position to be able to write about what you deeply know and see. If you use that math – 1% of 10,000 is a hundred people – you can see why there is a thirst for content at any level. Same thing when you have achieved product expertise or developed a skill others don’t have. Your only competition is often not taking hold of the pen.

Writing is equivalent to giving back. It is about teaching others. It’s about opening yourself up to allow others to see what drives you – and seeing the world in other people’s eyes.

The fact is creative writing has no challenges today around discovery and distribution, it’s simply waiting for inspiration and to be created.

I will be writing more in 2019.

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