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How to do Things Better
June marked the 15th anniversary of this blog. These weekly notes started in 2007, and I have not missed a Wednesday post in all those years since.
Because of the longevity and consistency of this blog, a number of people have asked me to help them write their own blogs. I'm proud to tell you that there are a number of blogs out there that started with some simple instructions and a bit of encouragement from me.
At first I thought people wanted me to show them what tech platforms I use, how I manage my mailing list or how I follow up on social media. But what I discovered was that people really wanted to know how I actually write the blogs – where do the ideas come from, where do the lessons and recommendations come from, and how do I keep it interesting week after week after week?
My early answer was honest but unsatisfying and not very helpful:
“I don't know.”
Since then, I have made the effort to figure out how to do things better. The new response is simple and honest as well. It might be helpful, although it's not the step-by-step instructive I think people are looking for:
“If you want to write more, write more.”
Believe it or not, that's almost the same answer I give people who ask me to help them become professional speakers. As with blog writing, I can show potential speakers how to do things better: the technology I use, the speakers' bureaus I work with, and lots of other tips and techniques I've learned over the years. But my best answer is:
“If you want to speak more, speak more.”
The same theory works for playing music, too.
The act of writing, speaking, and performing music can be seen as muscles. If you want them to get stronger, they need to be exercised regularly. Just like the effort you make to do things better in the gym or on the track, the more you use them and the harder you work them, the faster they grow. And just like with weightlifting or sprinting, the more you stress them, the better your progress.
How to do Things Better
But there's more.
Because if you want to be a better writer, you not only need to write a lot, you also need to read a lot.
If you want to be a better speaker, you not only need to speak, you need to watch and learn from great speakers.
If you want to be a better musician, you not only need to play a lot, but you also need to listen to great performances a lot (Musicians call this having “big ears” by the way).
But maybe that's where the metaphor crumbles.
Because unlike the improvements you'll make writing, speaking, or playing an instrument by experiencing great art, you're not going to become a stronger weightlifter by watching other people pick up heavy loads any more than you'll become a faster runner by watching other sprinters zoom around the track.
Because at some point, if you want to do things better, you have to get up off the couch and do the work.