Making decisions the right way

Category: Reading

Writers Hate Change as this writer ponders whilst using a laptop

Why Writers Hate Change in a Changing World

October brings a momentous change to Medium – one I’m happy to see

Change is the only constant we’re told, nonetheless, we writers hate change. A noticeable reminder of this was the arrival of the new homepage to the Medium website. Its appearance teased in a recent article by the CEO of the platform. Gone is the traditional header bar with links to the primary publications, heckling traffic away from the universe of us underlings grasping for attention below the fold.

The strategy of Medium is another constant of change, moving from platform to publisher, and now from publisher to platform. It offers yet another reason for writers to moan and complain about how unfair the world is.

The emphasis from the new app and the website is on the writers you follow because the platform wants to be the home of the blogger. Yes, it favours publications, it must; to keep some structure for the vast numbers of new articles published every day.

It’s changing; an innovative approach, a fresh clean reading page in the app, more relational content on the homepage, and yet the groans echo around the Facebook groups. Writers hate change, they hate the fact the reader is the priority.

Writers want to be king, so the platform should focus on them.

Before these recent changes, the platform demanded appeasement to their rules. For me, this meant I had resentfully stopped writing for me, focusing instead on gleaming the perfect headline, scrolling the endless images of Unsplash, and devoting my attention to the requirements of the publication.

I couldn’t write with abandon; to conform to the rigours of perfection the platform desired to put its best foot forward. I tried to play by the rules, but the never-ending quest for the perfect article was a hindrance to my goal to write and express myself.


Control

A visit to the vast atrium of twitter led me to a previously unseen corner. The corner was full of intellect, wisdom, and hope of a brighter future. As I read – and learnt, so I came to see my old writing platform as a prison.

In a world where most writers just want to write and be free, Medium was inducing a fog of confusion. Writers critically want their work seen, consumed, and hopefully enjoyed. To achieve this, writing meant appeasement of the rules, of baying to the ideals of others. Firstly, publications; the commanders of the audience with their own rules of topic, format, and curation.

Opting to self-publish brought other horrors. Articles overflowed from the cradle of articles pending curation. Days, and sometimes even weeks would past. Each day the candle of hope which would see an article find an audience through curation slowly dimmed. Curation was the last hope, but too much time had slipped by.

The prison I was writing in had all the control. I had none. I could keep battling, but with ever-diminishing returns and little or no views, the game was up.

My frustration grew to the point my blog via WordPress appeared. I mirrored the blog with my publication on Medium, revelling in the delight of writing what I wanted, when I wanted, and most importantly, publishing it when I wanted to.

It was changing, but one where I was in control.



Medium’s Biggest Change

October’s Medium newsletter brings news of a huge change. Not the cosmetic changes of a new app and website, but one which will change the game for writers.

Curation is no longer a blocker to distribution.

I don’t know if I’m right, but it is my view every article published without curation was red-flagged. The red flag limited the distribution of the article to just your followers. Now the system is open, and curation is no longer the pass or fail it once was.

For sure, Medium will still be looking and reading, categorising the best to achieve greater visibility, but no longer will we be playing the checkbox game of curation to achieve views.

“This is the conversation I want to have.”

Tyler Cowan

As a writer, I hate change, but I hate rules more. I don’t want my writing to conform, I want it to expressive and delightful, like the chirping birds as they sing to welcome the orange hues which greet a new day.

I’m the selfish one. The one who writes for me, to vent my anger, to grow my passions, and occasionally to figure stuff out. I don’t want to be framed in a prison, where someone dictates the pen I use, the words I craft, and all the other rules, most of all though, I don’t want someone else’s opinion as to whether a larger audience should read it or not. If readers follow me, its because they like what I write. As Tyler Cowan says, “This is the conversation I want to have.”

Removing the wall of curation enables me to do that again.


Writers Hate Change, but they might grow to like this one

For sure, many will moan. We crave certainty, not a mystery. The lines of confusion and fear were palpable as writers questioned the clear removal of curation. The gamification of Medium is over, and many writers will hate this change.

Don’t get me wrong, this won’t open the door for bad writers to make hay. Instead, like reading time, the audience will confirm great writing when they find it.

Writers on the platform have lost sight of what writing is. It is our creativity, our expression, our imagination, and our knowledge time stamped in pixels. Why should this art need rules?

I write this piece with a growing sense of excitement.

The platform I thought I had found to express the storm of thoughts spinning around in my head is now before me. The rules have diminished, shrunk by a realization that what writers want is freedom, not restrictions.

Welcome to a Medium without curation.


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Rules for Reading which this younf might consider

5 Rules for Reading Books that will Improve Your Mind

Rules for reading that can help improve your mind are best not researched on Twitter. There is a broad spectrum of contrarian advice on reading, and this troubles me. Reading offers us a wonderful way to learn – both in practical and emotional ways. Love is an emotion most of us feel, but struggle to describe until we’ve read. Then there is our quest to grow and improve as humans. Our brains become exposed to the best that someone else has already figured out.

Reading is one shortcut to a more fulfilled life.

Twitter’s finest offer a platitude of polarizing comments on how to read. I stopped searching after reading this tweet though.

Why bother picking up the book in the first place.

An overriding consensus that’s gloated over is the power of speed reading. Skimming the contents page, and then skimming chapter by chapter to pick out the elements that are relevant or of meaning.

It appears context doesn’t matter anymore.


Why we need Rules for Reading Books

In a polarized world, it seems right to push back. Why should we speed-read a book? Why should we skim and skate over the surface of the author’s arguments? To fully understand the point the author is making, it’s equally important to see the relationships, the journey, the discovery, and the outcome of the book – or article.

We need rules for reading.

You see, I read a tonne of stuff every day. I read newsletters, articles, and books, and social media posts as well. My pocket account is drowning in saved articles and then there is my kindle which holds many titles – all of which I’ve consumed.

But…

There is always an interruption from me. It drives my wife mad, and frustratingly for her, it is an intrinsic quality of my INTJ type. I question everything, so ‘but’ seems a suitable word to use as I challenge the accepted knowledge outlined in the beginning. 

It comes in the form of the following questions.

  • How can I better filter what I read before I read it?
  • How can I remember more of what I’ve read?
  • What can I read and understand better to help others?

I want to get more from my reading – I think you do too. So, this is my quest. To create a framework that will help me learn more, improve my life more, and help others at the same time. I need rules – now more than ever as the hands of time seem to be spinning ever quicker. In sharing it here, I give you the chance to take my rules and use them yourself.


The Strategy behind my Rules for Reading

We think of strategy as a function of business – or war, not of an article we might have in our lives. We talk about plans or personal development, but most of us don’t have a strategy in place for life or anything more granular.

Effective and successful strategies offer a means to overcome a problem and grow from it. Apple created the iPhone because other smartphones weren’t that smart. By adopting touch screen technology, Apple brought together a phone, an internet device, and a music player into one.

Building a good strategy starts with a diagnosis of the current problem. Having a diagnosis leads to a guiding policy, followed by coherent actions.

Here is my reading diagnosis:

I don’t read with the right Intent

My mental process for reading stems from learning to read as an act of pleasure. My English teacher did her best to introduce me to literature, and in part, she succeeded. Fiction was my tipple. Historically, my book choices come from seeking entertainment, not to learn. Looking back, I didn’t consume a non-fiction book until I was in my thirties.

Since then, people like Tim Ferriss, Shane Parrish, Bill Gates, amongst others have guided my book choice. Yes, I’ve wanted to learn, but I’m guided by others on topics.

Rarely have I chosen a book having first thought about what I don’t know and filling that gap. 

I’m reacting to the knowledge and insights of others to guide me in my book choice. But who’s curiosity am I fulfilling?

I’m not Learning from what I Read

A quick look at my Goodreads account shows the seventy-five books I’ve read. I can remember some bits of information from them, but not the best bits. Not the bits that might inform or help me with problem-solving or making decisions.

I can recall the great chapters from Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, especially the ones on capitalism, and Yuval Noah Harari’s explanation on how imagination and communication used religion to build collaboration.

Then there are the two systems for judgement and choice from Daniel Kahneman’s, book. Thinking Fast, and Slow. I can remember that.

A glance at the books I’ve previously read draws some sorrow. I can vaguely recall the great strategy lessons from the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson, or from Benjamin Franklin. Better yet, there’s Stephen Covey and his excellent 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I remember little of note from these books.

I’m running out of Time

Lastly, I’m forty-six. If I’m lucky, I’ve forty-four years of reading ahead of me. I was reminded of this from Tim Ferriss and his one decision on not to read any new releases. He was led to this, in part by the tail end. Reading just five books a year leaves me with 220 books to consume.

I also experienced starting three books I couldn’t finish. Each one was repetitive, with the insights lost in a sea of excessive words and thoughts. That’s 1% of my reading opportunities gone.

When I chose a book, I want it to enlighten me. I know some of the words will be blatant filler – but I can live with that if the context is right. I must choose better.


My Guiding Policy for Reading Books

Accepting the 220 books I can comfortably – and hopefully – read before the end of my time, I will implement a top-down approach to reading.  A thoughtful examination of what I don’t know will leave me with a focused choice of topics to research. The focus within the research will be to find the book titles that might fulfil the knowledge gaps I have.

An assessment of each title will consider reviews – both good and bad – on Goodreads, Amazon, and Google. 

I’ll add the title to my Future Reading List with notes made as to why I selected the title and why.

My reading will take place on my Kindle, with highlights and notes made as I read. I will refine these as I add them to my Roam database; the home of my second brain. The purpose of which is to enable me to think more clearly and thus, make better decisions.

The focus is on extracting information that will improve my decision-making and problem-solving abilities.

I will still read for pleasure, intermixing biographies, and nonfiction throughout the year.


Coherent Actions: 5 Rules for Reading Books

  1. Read with Intent

George Raveling, at the age of eighty-two seeks to know what he doesn’t know. I accept that reading is a crucial way for me to learn. Therefore, I will think about what I don’t know and list topic areas to focus on.

Focusing on the right topics offers a return on investment to the effort of reading.

  1. Research Book Titles

There are thousands of books in circulation. Don’t opt for the current best sellers; In fact, don’t opt for any newly published book. Most of the gaps in our knowledge are out there in a book. The issue is that you haven’t found that book yet.

Once you have you several titles to consider, review the reviews.

Why shouldn’t you read this book?  

We always look for why we should do something, never the opposite. Inverting gives the value of perspective, an alternate question and answer to the normal. You might think this sounds excessive. Consider you’re going to read just five books in the next twelve months; each title needs to be high in quality to make the shortlist. Apply your filters so.

  1. Read Slowly

Speed read; speed read. It’s all the rage, with some saying it’s an essential skill to get ahead. At what cost – I challenge.

Read slowly, thus letting each sentence sink in. Observe the writer’s point of view. What is their perspective? Why is the author coming to these conclusions? I argued earlier that most of what we read; we forget. Yes, making notes will overcome this (see point 4), but to learn, rather than consume the emphasis changes.

  1. Record notes and share observations

I want to improve the process of clearing my mind. To achieve this, I must better manage the information I’m consuming. This means filtering information; books, article, and the like so I’m more able to digest the right information. It also means developing my second brain. The goal to keep more of the right models and biases to improve my thinking. 

  1. Don’t forget to read for pleasure

Nothing conveys excitement, drama, and tension the way a book can. The prized moments of pain, glory, and love enlighten my imagination in ways more visual entertainment can’t.

Never stop reading for pleasure.


Concluding Thoughts

My rules for reading books include some strong views on reading with intent, filtering, note-taking, and the pleasure of reading. My views come from a period of life I’ve wasted. Lost to a lack of understanding about what it takes to learn from reading a book. Like others, I’ve become caught up in the ‘read more’ game of speed reading and consuming content like it’s a badge of honour.

Without a rigorous process of highlighting, note-taking, and absorbing the context of what’s written, it’s a lost cause with little value in play.

The Resolve Blog is my opportunity to give back. To help others learn from the mistakes I made. Not having any rules for reading books was one mistake I’ve made.

Don’t let it be yours.


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