5 Online Writers that Changed the Way I Think

by stevew on April 6, 2010

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Most people want to be better at what they do, more successful, more fulfilled, wiser, smarter, cooler, whatever… … and I’m no different. I fuel this quest for self-improvement by reading other people’s writing, mostly through blogs (although I read a fair few business books too). The trouble with the ‘blogosphere’ is that the signal-to-noise ratio is pretty low, so I thought it would be interesting to list out 5 sources of genuinely thought-provoking material. I’ve picked out a specific article as a starting point, but these writers are people who have challenged the status quo in my mind, and caused me to evaluate my approach to a specific area of business.

In no particular order, they are:

1. Seth Godin‘s The Reason You’re Stuck (and the one best way to avoid the six ways that will keep you stuck)

It was through Seth’s guest post on the excellent Zen Habits blog that I got to hear of “The Resistance”, the thing inside of any artist that keeps them from shipping. Seth often references Steven Pressfield, who first pinpointed The Resistance in his somewhat unorthodox book The War of Art (highly recommended). Researching for this post, I came across Seth presenting on the subject on video here – it’s well worth 18 minutes of your time.

2. Jason Cohen‘s Your idea sucks, now go do it anyway

When you start a new business, unless you’re the sort of person who is 100% drive-and-optimism (in which case I, in equal parts, hold you in awe and in contempt), the inevitable self-doubts come to call. One of the big fears is “my idea isn’t good enough to build a business out of”. Jason answers this question very eloquently – in short, it really doesn’t matter (although I have argued elsewhere that it does matter a little). As someone who has built and sold at least one successful business, Jason has a lot of great insights on his blog.

3. Steve Pavlina‘s 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job

As I’ve said before, I don’t agree with everything Steve writes or believes, but when I read this post he published in 2006, it made me think long and hard about my attitude to being employed. As I noted in this article, our current business structures would collapse if nobody was prepared to work for someone else, but I think you should ask yourself regularly whether your job is helping you achieve your personal goals, at the pace you desire, or if perhaps jumping from the security of the corporate ladder would give you the opportunity to achieve so much more.  (Another recommended article on his blog is about getting up when the alarm goes off – especially the insight about your “5.00am brain”.)

4. Paul Graham‘s How to Make Wealth

In this essay, Paul explains the fundamental economics of start-ups, why it’s possible to generate significantly larger amounts of money per capita than in ‘regular’ businesses. He makes it clear that whilst there is no free lunch, many factors conspire to make being part of a start-up a great way to achieve financial freedom in a relatively short amount of time. Having been on both sides of the entrepreneur/VC fence, Paul has plenty of good insight and advice to offer in his essays.

5. Kathy Sierra‘s Why marketing should make the manuals!

This is just one of the many insightful articles at Kathy’s Creating Passionate Users site, where she offers a very unique perspective on product design and usability. It was through her writing I came to see that making your users look good and/or feel good as a result of using your product was a great way to build brand loyalty. (Sadly Kathy Sierra doesn’t write any more after an unpleasant online incident in 2007, but I was lucky enough to hear her speak at the Business of Software Conference 2009 – some brief notes from the talk are here, but hopefully the video will go up on the conference site soon.)

I hope readers find one or two of these useful.

Where to go from here

Since my last post, I have issued our first press release on the FIXatdl Jump-Start service – it generated some interest in the media, but not much in the way of new business (yet, at least). Now I have some idea of where the business is going (a few of my instruments are working, even if visibility is still lousy), I plan to split my writing time between working on this blog and writing a series of articles on algorithmic trading and FIXatdl. That probably means shorter (although hopefully more regular) blog posts, but I should also be able to generate some content that is useful to people working in the same niche. My intention in keeping the two areas separate is that less people will be bored by stuff that isn’t relevant to them – please let me know how I’m doing.

Are there online writers you particularly enjoy, or that have caused you to change the way you think for the better? Please leave a comment and let me know.

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