As a parent of two young kids and product manager for GoodGuide, my cognitive surplus is limited. I normally get an hour or two every night after everyone’s asleep to do what I want. My drive is to be creative and to produce (sometimes at the cost of entering a manic state where I can’t fall asleep). While the way I choose to use my free time can vary, I’ve recently made a commitment to develop my writing. While I’m deeply gratified by the feeling of self expression, my reason to write is largely pragmatic. I want to (a) be better organized and thorough with my own ideas and (b) connect with individuals who value my ideas as a means to open up opportunities.
My writing strategy has been inspired by the ideas published by Venkatesh Rao on his blog ribbonfarm.
In The Calculus of Grit, Rao identifies three keys to personal growth: Reworking, Referencing, and Releasing. I suggest you read Rao’s piece to understand in detail what they mean. Here’s what what I’m doing on each front.
Instead of spending my time spewing out new writing on various subjects, I’m focusing on a few core ideas that I want to rework until I hit them out of the park (you can find the kernels here, here, and here).
I’m trying to break down my ideas into their most atomic form so I can efficiently link to them without having to constantly repeat myself. So far the best example is how I have decomposed concepts of product management through The Product Management Triangle. I link back to components of the triangle repeatedly.
At every incremental point I reach, I publish on this blog, my Quora blog, and Medium. My goal is integrate learning from public reaction (or more often than not, lack thereof) into my process and do so frequently. Hopefully this won’t be my downfall.
In The Deliberate Practice of Disruption, Rao highlights the importance of getting “the law of large numbers to work in your favor.” Through extensively reworking your writing, your “‘errors’ can turn into mutations/innovations that can be developed further. Doorways that lead down very generative forks that have never been explored before.”
Now that I have been republishing a core set of ideas in various forms, I fear that I’m repeating the same errors again and again in way that’s limiting the number of pure permutations. I’m not sure whether or not this coheres with Rao’s methodology, but, starting now, I’m going to experiment with being systematic about which hypotheses to test in an attempt to ensure sufficient diversity of permutation.
The one writing hypotheses I have banged on so far is this:
I can build a significant following for my writing by going deep on product management specifically.
This approach has come with some success. My answer on Quora to “What does a great product manager at a tech startup do day-to-day?” got pretty good traction. My Quora writing on product management led me to be recruited by major tech firms.
But most of my posts are duds. I have not achieved anything resembling hockey stick growth. So I feel like it’s time to take my core ideas, and rework them in new configurations. These are the next hypotheses I want to test:
I can build a significant following for my writing by…
(1) Generalizing my ideas to the broader craft of building software companies (i.e., not focus narrowly on product management).
(2) Writing pieces that respond directly to popular ideas published on the Web (like this).
(3) Writing self-reflexive posts about my writing thought process.
As you can see, this post is the first test of #3. Assuming I keep momentum, you will see my experimentation unfold if you follow me on any channel mentioned in the “Release” section above. If you have ideas for other hypthoses I should test (or have other feedback for me), I would be thrilled to hear it. In the meantime, hopefully I’ll make an error that clicks.