The only way to reach your targets in life is to get to work. But it’s easier said than done. Only a fraction of people in life are actively working towards their goals. They know how to create and use the right tools and processes to generate progress for themselves. A lot of these people have a ton of interesting things to say. So I thought I’d interview them.
Most of my weekly guests created their own business, and they got where they are today by successfully implementing self-discipline in their life. To each one of them, I ask questions about their life, their learnings, their tools, and sometimes about which celebrity they would like to have coffee with.
There are no rules for success, only consistency in the work you do. None of the people I interviewed are super-humans. They’re just dedicated, and they have a lot of awesome things to teach us.
Let’s get to it.
Dan is a writer out of Okland, CA. His work has appeared in The Bold Italic, Human Parts, Broke Ass Stuart, Fast Company, Business Insider, Crunchbase, Lux, Thought Catalog, Medium.com, and other places around the internet. He is a graduate of the Creative Writing Program at Arizona State University, a former corps member of Teach For America, and a former KIPP educator. He is the founder of New Voices. He also edits the online magazine PS I Love You, and is a contributing editor for The Bold Italic. Follow him on Twitter and on Medium, & sign up for his newsletter here.
Why did you decide to start managing a medium publication?
I wanted to contribute in a more meaningful way to the Medium community and to the literary community more generally. I was pretty young when I joined PS and I think I was eager to get a foothold and get involved, too. Joining PS I Love You, and later taking it over and beginning the work I’m still engaged in of turning it into a real, valuable, interesting magazine, struck me as a means of doing that and it also seemed fun. It’s been a great learning experience.
Some people say the classic newsletter/email list model is dying when it comes to generating more online business. What is your opinion on this?
I don’t rely on my email list for anything. I send out emails to people on my list when I can, I’m probably not consistent enough.
I’m concerned much more, for better or worse, with the writing. That’s the most important thing to me by far. The words, the art… That’s what’s most exciting/interesting/gratifying to me. Perhaps I would have more following if I put more effort into selling myself, but that’s not why I’m here. Making sure that what I produce is good (whether for clients or for myself) is what’s gotten me to where I am, although I have a lot further to go.
As far as online marketing more generally, I think the best kind of marketing (the sort I help other people with) doesn’t feel like marketing at all. It’s intrinsically interesting and valuable in its own right.
What is the number one habit/routine you attribute the most to your success (online and/or offline)?
Having a routine and sticking to it is the biggest thing. Identifying what it is you need to do every day, writing that down, and then doing those things, over and over, is the only way I’ve ever improved at anything, whether it’s baseball or writing.
What is the number one productivity item you can’t live without?
My notebook, in which I journal, jot ideas, make lists, etc. You should always have a notebook on you wherever you go. Almost everything I’ve ever written or done was born from an idea that I wrote down immediately in my notebook.
The One Book you recommend for self improvement and/or productivity?
Stephen King’s On Writing. Is it self-improvement? Not really. But it’s brilliant for writers. It provides something of a playbook for creating effectively. It’s played a big role in helping me design my life such that I can work and write in isolation while also building a company and tending to relationships.
Can you tell us about your use of journaling and goal tracking?
I journal every day, for at least 30 minutes. I write down or tend to my to-do lists every day. Both are part of the routine and the routine is everything.
You’re the editor of a major medium publication, the founder of New Voices, you have your own website, and you write. How do you split your time between those projects and your private life?
It sort of all gets jumbled into the same life. I’m always reading, always writing. I do budget my time and schedule. I set aside time for client work, growing New Voices, working on PS… But more what I do is wake up, check my to-do and goals list, rearrange it to ensure I’m getting done what I need to get done that day. Then I get to work, churning through the list.
I will say that I try my best to make time, however I can, to read and write every day. At least an hour of both, preferably more. Making sure you get your practice in every day with the reading and the writing is what’s most important to me. It’s how you stay sharp and get better, which is ultimately all I want to do.
How important is time off for you?
It’s really important to invest in the relationships/people in your life, so I try and take time every weekend to see friends, talk with my family, and hang out with my wife. But I still work every day. I want to be working. It’s hard to pull myself away.
Investing in yourself is a big driver for success. What is one of the most recent ways you’ve invested in yourself?
I read as much as I can, and try to learn as much as I can, too. Whether by meeting with mentor-ish people, taking classes… I have big goals, but I know I have a long way to go before I’m anywhere close to good enough to achieve them. I acknowledge that getting better at writing, company building, editing, reading, talking… is probably the most important investment I can make continuously, day in day out.
If you could have a coffee and talk about anything with a personality (dead or alive) you admire, who would it be and why?
Either André 3000, Barack Obama, or Ben Fountain.
André 3000, on top of being the best bar-for-bar rapper of all time, grew so much as an artist over his career, it would be super interesting to learn how he invested in himself (and what he protected about himself) to do that.
Barack is without a doubt brilliant, and it would be incredible to step even for a bit inside his mind and learn more about how he goes about decision making.
Fountain, on top of being maybe the best writer in America, didn’t experience real success until his 40’s, after more than a decade of trying and not making much progress. He didn’t take the traditional route to literary stardom, and I’d love to learn about how he did it and how he stayed the course. All writers are familiar with rejection, and if nothing else, Fountain’s advice would be inspiring.
There you have it. I want to personally thank my guest for taking the time to provide me and my readers with insightful answers. I am deeply grateful to Dan Moore. Thanks a lot, keep up the great work, and all the best with your publication(s)!
And thanks to you for reading my content! Stay tuned for our next guest, coming up next week!
If you want to take control of your time, stop wasting your energy, and prioritise the right things, my free tool The 168 Hours Spreadsheet will help!