I figured out Medium and it changed my life
I’m flying back from New York to London and feeling a bit down. You know, that time when it’s a couple of months into the year, and you’re already exhausted, you want to kick back, but it’s still three months to summer holidays.
It struck me that I spend my life convinced all I need to do is get through the next few months, the next few trips, and then everything will be better — better work-life balance, better fitness, better conversations, better… everything. Of course it never is. The next thing comes up, and the next, and the next, and the next.
So I decided then and there that I need to turn my life around, to stop living for the near future, and to live for the here and now. And to kick things off, I’m going to do more writing, starting right here, on this flight. Here goes.
I joined Medium a month or so ago after being told it was the new, new thing, and I would absolutely love it. It took me a while to figure out how to get the most out of it, but I think I’m there, and I want to share what I’ve learned with you.
As far as I can see, Medium is wall-to-wall pabulum. That is why I chose the title I did for this piece and why I started it the way I did. Every Medium piece has an inspiring title and starts with a little human interest anecdote, about how suddenly while doing something mundane, the author realised he had to change his life around. And yes, it’s almost always a he — I don’t see many women on Medium (but then I don’t see many women in tech or VC, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised).
I figured if I followed the usual Medium formula my piece would fit right in, and if there are human editors involved then they might even be fooled into making this one of their heavily-promoted articles-of-the-day.
Truth is, I have no idea how Medium chooses the articles it thrusts at me. I clicked on a few topics when I signed up — entrepreneurship, tech, design and so on — not because I have a burning desire to read platitudes about them, but because it seemed like the only way to get to the next screen so I could explore the wonderful new world everyone was hyping.
Now, whenever I open Medium, which is not often or with any enthusiasm, what I get is stirring little stories of how this or that hipster has overcome some first world challenge. How one spent too much time on twitter, but then deleted his account, and now speaks seventeen languages. How another decided to stop complaining and create an app, and now he’s a billionaire. That kind of stuff.
One day I found I had six followers on Medium, even though I hadn’t written anything. I can’t see anyone on Medium, so how could anyone have found me before I’ve done anything? But suddenly there I was with six followers. Funny thing is, they were all followers of mine on Twitter, and Medium has access to my Twitter account, so I assume they were just randomly harvested and told I was following them. Or something. Or maybe I’ve missed the secret wormhole into the interesting bit of the app where all my virtual friends hang out. Whatever.
So there I am, browsing the world’s finest pabulum. On one level I’m mystified about why anyone would get excited about this stuff. On another I’m thinking sheesh, if this is the new, new thing, then I ought to post something too, some piece of pabulum so exquisite, so rich in wry detail, that I will be catapulted to the top of Medium’s list of instant stars, basking in new-found fame and entering hipster legend.
Second anecdote time — all the best Medium posts have two anecdotes — same flight, rather spectacular sunset outside the window. I’m thinking, you know, my life is actually pretty cool. Great home, great family, interesting work, nice holidays, lots of fun, good health. Of course it would be nice to be a bit more organised, to get on top of my inbox, to be less manically busy, to be a bit richer. But so what? I could resign from a few boards, say no to a few committees, delete a whole swath of unread emails.
And now the denouement. Because every good Medium piece has to have a denouement, preferably as predictable as the plot of a Star Wars trailer. I am going to share with you the way to get the absolute maximum value from Medium. Like all the best Medium insights on how to improve your life, it is clear and inspiring, based on the latest research in behavioural economics and evolutionary biology, nudge-compliant, mindfulness-compatible and freakonomics-proven.
Ignore the whole damn thing. Don’t open the app. Don’t read the articles. Don’t worry about it. And certainly don’t write for it. Don’t worry about missing anything, because you’re not. Finding it hard to ignore? Delete it. You know, click and drag, just click and drag. The little dustbin is hungry. Do it! One instant of active resistance and you restore control over a tiny corner of your over-busy, over-stimulated life.
Do it NOW. Don’t finish this article. Don’t heart it. Don’t send it to anyone. In fact, don’t ever think about it again.