10 Ideas Worth Sharing This Week

Ideas about Creativity, Writing, Books, Productivity and more.

Each week I share 10 ideas with my newsletter subscribers. Following is this week’s newsletter — sign up here to get future issues.


“‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. You live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of.” — Louis CK


We’re too quick to judge the results of our actions.

We create something, put it into the world, and declare it a success or failure within days, hours, or (ugh) minutes.

But some short-term failures are stepping stones to long-term success. And some short-term success we may later realize was a failure.

So don’t be so quick to declare your next project a success or failure.

Give it a minute. Let it breathe. See where it goes.

There’s plenty of time to judge your work later. What’s the rush?

Now, on to this week’s ideas…

1. THE QUICKEST WAY TO GET MORE OF WHAT YOU WANT

“The quickest way to get more of what we want is to give it to others. That’s how value is created.”

We all want more, but we tend to go about getting it the wrong way. Whether you want more attention, money, or success, the secret to getting it is often to create ways to give it to others.

In this post I discuss the quickest way to get more of what you want and suggest the one question you have to answer to do so.

2. A NEW WAY TO USE YOUR CALENDAR

“I’ve always defaulted to the idea that my main work would fit in the empty slots, after everything else has been scheduled. (Just writing that out makes me realize how silly that was.) Instead, I very much recognize the value in having the most important things scheduled.”

Consider yourself warned: This will inspire you to change the way you manage your calendar.

Dan Mall shares a new approach to managing a calendar that he’s experimenting with and it makes a lot of sense. Among the tactics he’s employing are to schedule specific time slots for daily work, phone calls, email, and planning his next day in advance.

3. HOW LOUIS CK TELLS A JOKE

“There are 207 words in this joke and not a single one is wasted. They’re used either in meaning or in rhythm to contribute to the overall effect, an effect that lets us see the world from a different angle. Like great poetry, great standup comedy is language distilled to its most potent form.”

Even if you never find yourself on a stage telling jokes like Louis CK, this Nerdwriter video that explores how Louis CK tells a joke is worth your time.

It breaks down a great CK joke about playing Monopoly with his daughter and demonstrates how the joke is meticulously crafted and delivered to maximize its impact.

There are lessons to be learned about writing, communicating, and connecting with an audience…plus, a bunch of laughs.

And when you’re done laughing, you might also want to check out Jerry Seinfeld’s 12 rules for doing your best work that I featured in a previous edition of this newsletter.

4. MOST RISK TAKERS ARE ACTUALLY RISK AVERSE

“Humans love rags-to-riches stories. We worship college dropouts like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey. We love how they risked it all and made it big. But is that really how things happened? The truth is, successful risk takers are often very, very risk averse.”

This will make you reconsider what you think about taking chances and deconstruct the myth of the risk taker.

Charles Chu digs into the art of risk taking and explores the stories behind some of our most iconic risk takers. What he finds is that good risk taking comes down to two principles: Don’t die and win more than you lose.

5. HOW TO BE CALM UNDER PRESSURE

“The secret to calm and focus is knowing the next step. Ignore thoughts that aren’t helpful. Make a decision. Focus on the next step and you won’t panic.”

Here’s a perfect source to give advice on how to stay calm under pressure: A bomb disposal expert.

Eric Barker shares three tips from a bomb disposal expert about how to maintain your calm under pressure including to avoid the “rabbit hole,” to emphasize the positive and what you can control, and to focus on the next step.

6. FIVE BOOKS YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE

“Most of us read the wrong things. As Haruki Murakami put it, reading what everyone else reads means you’re probably going to think what everyone else thinks.”

Shane Parrish, creator of Farnam Street, reads a LOT of books. So his list of obscure books that are worth your time is a valuable resource.

His recommendations include Collected Maxims and Other Reflections by Francois de La Rochefoucauld, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War by Xenophon, Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by George Horace Lortimer, and Models of My Life by Herbert Simon.

7. FOUR WAYS TO REMEMBER THE INFORMATION YOU CONSUME

“Don’t just learn for the sake of learning. Be a practitioner. Use the information you consume. It’s only as good as what you do with it.”

This is a perfect follow-up to the previous idea I shared. Because once you read all those books, you’re going to need to know how to capitalize on what you’ve learned.

In this post, Niklas Goeke shares four ways to hack your memory including to take advantage of the spacing effect (send yourself reminders of what you learn) and the Zeigarnik effect (your brain’s tendency to remind you of things you leave unfinished).

8. ART IS THEFT

“Great things are done by a series of smaller things brought together. Steal from around you — it’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to. Those who do not want to imitate, produce nothing.”

This is a great little animated video from Daniel Cordero that cleverly explains the creative process and challenges artists to allow themselves to be influenced by everything and everyone they encounter in life.

9. HOW TO FIX INTERNET PUBLISHING

“This is the single most immutable rule of media, folks. Publishing is community. And if you don’t know who your community is, you’re screwed.”

There’s not a lot we all agree on these days, but one of those things is that Internet publishing is broken.

John Battelle explores what went wrong and has an interesting suggestion for how to fix it — including the observation that “We got it f*cking right the first time.”

He points to a number of elements of early Internet publishing such as open links and analytics that have since deteriorated and cites them as reasons things have gone off the rails.

10. HOW TO TELL A POWERFUL STORY

“The filmmakers I most admire recognize the value of teasing. People are in such a rush to get the action sequences going fast that they forget there’s pleasure to be had in the sneaking around part.”

Brad Bird, writer and director of animated films such as The Iron Giant and The Incredibles shares some interesting thoughts about storytelling and animation in this video featuring some of his work.

He explains: “The mistake that a lot of people make is thinking that you can force ideas to come. Every idea comes about in its own way. If you try to over-control the process, you limit the process.”

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