Someone asked me the other day, “Why do you bother writing a blog? No one reads it.” So I thought about it for a few minutes, triple checked my visitor numbers to save my ego from shrinking too much, and I figured out exactly why I bother to write blog posts. It’s practice. Or as the book I’m reading currently, The Talent Code, would call it – “Deep Practice”.
So here’s the thing, I have but one skill in life that differentiates me. I’m usually able, through real-time critical thinking, to piece together needs or parts of a story to understand the larger vision for an idea. Literally my old boss called me “the ideas guy”. I honestly don’t have many unique ideas, almost everything I build out is a conglomeration of many different ideas and needs of stakeholder all rolled into one vision. That’s what I do. The thing about real-time critical thinking is that it doesn’t come naturally, it’s a talent I have because I constantly argue… with myself. All day long I read and absorb as much information about as many things as possible, I read a lot of tweets and blog posts. Unfortunately reading a bunch of information only arms you with the weapons for real-time critical thinking… it doesn’t exactly teach you how to use them.
There are only three ways I’ve found to actually learn how use real-time critical thinking – all of them are basically practice.
1. Debate with the people around you. The trick here is you need to work with smart people with diverse backgrounds, otherwise you won’t learn much in terms of point of view. For example the Social Media team and entire E-Commerce team at Walgreens is filled with a ton of smart people, motivated by different things, with different perceptions of the world. It’s a great group to talk to… but the key to it isn’t team brainstorms or over crowded meeting, it’s all about small group conversations. The one’s that pop up by the coffee machine, or in my case the once that happen when I seemingly randomly walk around to people’s desks and pick their brains. There’s debate to be found outside work as well (remember my point about diverse backgrounds), my girlfriend works in HR, I spend a lot of my free time with a friend group made up of Insurance Actuaries, most of my college friends work in health care or engineering, and I always have an open invitation to grab a beer with anyone if they’re willing to “talk shop”.
2. Arguing with yourself is useful. When I read articles I usually pause a number of times as I’m reading and take the points of the article and walk through all the different arguments in my head. Most of that time this leads to me taking 20 minutes to read a blog post that should probably only take 3 minutes to read. On the other hand it makes the information much more valuable to me… not only do I know the data, but now I know how to use it. (in theory) Think of it this way. If I give you all the variables (you read the blog post) but no equation what good are they? The self argument is where I find myself discovering the sets of equations that the variables fit into.
3. Blogging is the last part of this practice model. If you’ve very read my blog, it feels a lot like I’m just talking. (not exactly top class literature) Often there are a few spelling or grammar errors too. The reason for this is my writing style, which I learned while writing comedy sketches at Second City’s workshops, it’s basically improv writing. Meaning you literally write your train of thought. (Usually you don’t stop you thought to fix spelling or grammar… Although, I am trying to get better with that.) So for me, blogging is a form of deep practice where I can pick a topic and write on it… forming an argument and a point of view as I go calling on all the inputs I’ve had access to. Working the brain muscle that also is used in meeting rooms and brainstorms, where real-time critical thinking is so important to getting the group past a white board of random thoughts.
So that’s my long way of explaining the purpose of my blog. For those who read it and enjoy the content, thanks. For those who don’t read it, no worries.
Thanks for Listening,