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Note to Mr. J, part 1: motivation for writing

This is the first in a series of responses to a wonderful email I received from a long-lost friend.  I decided to break it up into multiple posts so that I keep to my “finish each post during lunch hour” rule and, more importantly, don’t bury some of the very thought provoking points he makes.

I received an email recently titled “this became much longer than I planned!”  It was, in fact, pretty long, but very powerful almost made me tear up reading it.

It’s from a friend from a long time ago… I’m pretty sure the last time we spent time together was class 0106 in Naval Nuclear Power School.  He obviously is a “big thinker,” and what’s exciting and amazing is that he is spending his time thinking about a lot of the same stuff that I do.  Here’s the first paragraph:

I have been reading your posts on LinkedIn the last several months with interest primarily because I knew you.  But as it is with most things you are getting better with each post.  And now I believe you are on to something with your recent string of posts.  This is quickly becoming something I would have searched out and added to my collection of guys with interesting ideas. Originally you were just posting what came to you, and it showed.  This look at minimalism and decluttering your stuff and your mind changes it all.  These posts come from you – the real you.  I know because that is the same guy I knew who slept in a closet for 6 months and showered at the gym as if that’s what you are supposed to do.  When you write about what you know people can feel it.  When you write about something you live every day you take it to the next level.

This is 100% true, I slept in a spacious walk in closet for much of my time at power school and also spent the last couple months sleeping in someone’s dining room.  I was committed to the idea of full time RVing back then, though orders to Hawaii complicated things a bit.  I also am 100% convinced that speaking from the heart of true experience is what makes people want to read what you write.  This post from J.D. Roth about Mr. Money Mustache makes that point clearly.    I like the phrase “building a cult through the power of story.”  There are numerous sources that have a message similar to the message I’m developing, and they all have their cults (aka audiences).  What’s interesting is that again, because influence is not transitive, essentially the same message can be applied by different storytellers to different audiences.  Of course I think my evolving message is unique, but it’s ok to borrow significantly from others.

I’ve been reading a lot of Ramit Sethi lately, not because I particularly want to go where his train leads, but simply because he’s a really engaging guy.  He offers a great object-lesson on this topic through his blog, which unlike many such sources seems to never have had the “registers cleared” from when he began.  If you’re unfamiliar with him, read a little of his very compelling blog and then go read some from the beginning forward (currently the beginning is page 216).  His blog was pretty bad in the beginning (i.e., not very personal) but over time it’s zeroed in on near-perfection.  It’s a great lesson in always evolving (always inverting, as Charlie Munger would say) and I really enjoyed stepping through it.

The reason Ramit is Ramit and nobody else is Ramit is because he started his blog, probably recognizing that it wasn’t great.  Rather than giving up though, he kept iterating, and he has become who he is because of that.

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