Wordpress users will recognize this screen shot:
My next post, which will be a reference to this article, will make 2,500. Here is my archive listing them all.
In the beginning...
When I started, I thought I had maybe a dozen ideas to share. I didn't think how far I'd get, but figured I'd run out of posts soon. I didn't know much about the software or how to use it.
The best measure I had of my writing quality before starting was my friends' review of a draft of a book. They described it as painful to read, though they liked the ideas.
I wasn't disciplined about writing. The friend who set up my site for me said these fateful words when I asked him how often to post:
If you miss one day you can miss two. If you miss two, it's all over.
The internet is full of dead blogs. I didn't want mine to become another.
Personal results from posting daily
My biggest results are internal--developing skills to think differently, identify ideas, develop them, and express them, for example.
The biggest external results are that my book, Leadership Step by Step, became a bestseller with overwhelmingly 5-star reviews.
Qualifying to write for Inc. was quick and easy. When they asked for a writing sample, I had thousands to choose from. When they told me they wanted consistency, I pointed them to my archive.
Tough to beat evidence like that.
I developed discipline.
People keep suggesting that I must have been disciplined to keep up the habit. They have it backward, like saying a weightlifter must have been strong to start lifting or a pianist must have played the piano well to start playing the piano.
Like you have to practice to build strength or develop an ear, I had to act consistently for a long time to develop discipline. I learned that discipline and diligence are skills that anyone can develop.
I learned that lacking a skill I valued was a reason to practice it, not to avoid it, which is the effect most people create for themselves when they assume, erroneously, that people with a skill they lack must have been born with it. That perspective saddens me now that I've learned otherwise.
The discipline spread to other parts of my life, especially fitness, diet, and health. Daily writing spread to
I've opened up in expressing myself. I don't claim to be the world's most open person, but I've found the skills I learned writing translate into expressing myself in person. Writing about "the most effective self-awareness exercise I know," which I did in August 2011, led to an exercise in my course and book called "Your Authentic Voice," which teaches people to speak authentically, including myself.
I've learned to act on my values. Posting every day forces you to make that time for yourself, which forces you to say no to other things, which forces you to know and act on your values. I spoke about this at my first Harvard talk, on not dwelling on decisions, which my writing made possible.
Many people say they'll do things, probably believing themselves when they say it, then don't. What low self-awareness. How undependable.
I'm like that less and I have fewer people like that as a result of doing what I say I will on such a public scale.
Same when I don't have internet access, like my two trips to North Korea or meditation trips with no reading, writing, or talking. I have to write dozens of extra posts ahead of time and schedule their posts.
I've learned to develop systems to avoid relying on willpower. Willpower works in the short term. For years of consistency, you have to develop systems of things like saving your ideas in a file, creating an environment conducive to writing, and knowing how to tell people you can't do something so you can write.
While some posts took weeks of writing and design sessions to finish and some took minutes (the short ones get the most positive feedback, for some reason), I'd guess they took an average of one to two hours. If so, the whole endeavor took up to 5,000 hours.
If you believe in the 10,000-hour rule, I'm still only halfway to mastery, though I wrote a lot outside the blog too.
Anyone can do what I did. I had no special skills or experience. My results, especially in discipline, freedom of expression, and clarity of ideas, are more valuable than almost anything else I can imagine otherwise doing in that time, certainly watching TV.
I've seen maybe five minutes of Game of Thrones, for example, and don't feel I missed anything. None of my role models, such as Henry Thoreau and Martin Luther King Junior, are known for watching TV. They are known for expressing their ideas eloquently and effectively.
Action leads to discipline, not the other way around is a powerful lesson. Over and over people tell me they wish they could do things they know they can but don't get around to it. They never learned how often starting anything, no matter how rudimentary, leads to finishing it more effectively than planning perfection.
Starting is harder than continuing, which is why I start more things now, following the lesson I've learned over and over, to have low standards the first time I do something.
I've learned to say no to distractions. Again, I had no special ability to say no before and I still have trouble saying no to many things today. But writing daily developed that skill to where I can do it better now than ever.
Like any skill, saying no improves with practice. The result is a life increasingly filled with meaning, value, importance, purpose, passion, and people with more of the same themselves.
What could you want more than a better life?
A bestselling leadership book and column in Inc. are nice side effects.