This post is for Day 9 of the Lift #500WED challenge. Here was today’s challenge:
Write a review—a review for writers—of your favorite recent blog post or article. What ideas draw you into the article? But, more than the ideas, what writing choices did the author make that made it so good? What tools of representation—words, jokes, descriptions, metaphors, hyperbole, informal voice, call to action, etc.—did the author use that you also might use someday?
I stumbled upon a blog post on Hacker News a while back – an obscure programmer by the name of Chris Strom did something that was shared on Hacker News and spread through tech circles like wildfire. The title of his blog post that was shared was simple but compelling enough for me to click through: “366 days or how I tricked myself into being awesome”.
My first thought was, “what happened in those 366 days?… I want to be awesome too!”. Did he go through Shaolin training? Did someone have to crack a whip? Were there hot stones involved?
While that would have been badass and cool, he did something even more badass in that he did something that he had no business in doing – writing books on technologies that he had no idea about. How did he do this? He wrote for 366 days. The result? Three books on Dart, SPDY and Backbone.js.
While I don’t know him personally or what the context of how he arrived at the impressive feat of writing for 366 consecutive days. The stuff that happens in between those days while he was writing was the most impressive. My best guess is that he got the idea from Seinfeld’s “Don’t break the chain” method of self improvement. Doing things daily, checking in (Hey! Kinda sounds familiar to us Lifters doesn’t it??), and reflecting on it, and NEVER stopping.
The simple “trick” that will solve ALL your problems!
He showed that through his “trick” of hard work and perserverance, it really did pay off. Not some grand high flying scheme of getting rich or famous, but through being a writer, producer and author, he built up the discipline and expertise by writing day after day after day. Through the process of doing so, he somehow ended up with three books in that process. The thing is, there was nothing remarkable about his process. All he wrote was just stuff that he was learning about and how he thought he might solve those problems on his own. Lo and behold, he kept on writing and building up his knowledgebase to the point that he had a very well formed opinion on how to tackle those problems and how they fit into the developer ecosystem. All within the course of a year. How cool is that? Nothing glamourous, just guts, grit and hustle. I love that.
DO THINGS THE HARD WAY – DO THE WORK
I think his feat plays into the notion of the American Dream – hiking up your bootstraps and just DOING THE WORK to get to where you want to be through sheer willpower, hustle and persistence. Continually learning, reflecting and iterating are things that I try to do every day, while using apps like Lift to reinforce those behaviours that add value to my life. While he didn’t use aids or tools like Lift, his committing to something and following through is inspiring to say the least. I’m only on Day 9 compared to his probably 2 years of writing daily. Humbling indeed and a glimpse of what it takes to be great.
Other things that resonated with me and drew me in further to his post, is Chris’ informal visuals. His drawings used crayons instilling a sense of play – to illustrate a point of his learning/feedback loop. It illustrated a simple concept in a way that felt childlike in terms of his approach and curiosity. Maybe we all need to tap into the inner child once every so often, to view things differently as we’re approaching problems.
Draw in your reader – headlines that work
What I thought was particularly good was his use of his headline to draw the user in. It seems he had a very clear idea of the audience that he was writing for – those who are technical, programmers, hackers and are looking for “clever hacks” to get to a result easier. The idea of “tricking” yourself definitely tricked and baited me to draw me into his post. Clever use of headlines and putting a good amount of thinking into it, or testing a few variations would be a good practice going forward.
A humble and chill dude
What the best thing about Chris’ post was he told the world about his end result, not in a boastful manner, but in way that was like “Hey, I’m pretty what the end outcome of this experiment was pretty awesome – I think you’d find it awesome too”. I’d probably enjoy having a beer or two with him as well because he seems so humble and chill. I think he did the world a service by writing something that he thought was remarkable. I always refer to his post whenever I’m in a rut or in need of some inspiration. I even share it with friends who I think might benefit from his inspiring post. Maybe you might find his post useful too.
What would happen if you did something for 366 days straight?