Welcome 2016

welcome-2016

2015

In 2015, I set myself a goal to blog weekly.

I wrote 35 posts – 30 from my 30-in-30 writing challenge in March-April period. Since then, I have barely written on my blog.

Many people whom I follow write amazing blog posts and I have always strived to do the same. However, the thought of writing a big piece scares me so much that I often put it off.

2016

For 2016, I set the same goal – to write weekly.

However, I’m taking a different strategy. Inspired by Colin’s 2015 strategy, I’m going for small posts rather than big posts. And to make it even easier, I told myself that I need not publish every piece that I write.

This post is for the first week of 2016. 51 more weeks to go. Let’s see how I fare.

What I’ve Learnt From My 30-in-30 Writing Challenge

What I’ve Learnt From My 30-in-30 Writing Challenge

This is my 30th and last post for my 30-in-30 writing challenge!

The main aim of the challenge was to allow me to feel more confident and comfortable with writing and to become better at writing by writing every day for 30 days.

Even though I took a 3-day break in the middle of the challenge, the objective of the challenge has been met (and made some unexpected gains). Hence, I’m announcing that this challenge is a success! ☺

Since this is the last post of the challenge, I thought it would be apt that I end the challenge by sharing the lessons I’ve learnt throughout the challenge.

Here are the 8 valuable lessons I took away from the challenge:

1. I can write well

I think this is the most important thing I learnt. Before I started this challenge, I was not confident with my writing skills. Also, I was not comfortable with sharing what I wrote because I felt that my posts were not good enough.

Through this challenge, I have proven to myself that I can write well. I’ve also become very comfortable with sharing my blog posts. Definitely, I have a lot more to improve in terms of my writing and I’m excited to do it!

2. Writing is hard

The truth is writing is hard. Writing a good quality post requires a lot of time and effort.

I’ve spent on average 5–6 hours each day to write the posts. The post, Happiness In Being Yourself, took me more than 8 hours to write. By midday, I deleted my first draft, which I took the whole morning to write because I was not satisfied with it. I then wrote the post from scratch.

Another important thing I learnt about writing is this: There will be bad days, but it’s better to write poorly than to not write at all. Like Alexis Landau said in her post, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers, it’s about showing up and not waiting for the writing mindset.

Think of your post as a product. You can always go back and improve on it. You do not need to publish the post until you are satisfied with it.

3. Writing is fun and rewarding

While writing is tough, it is also fun and rewarding!

A highlight of this challenge was when I wrote the post, My Sister, The Self-Taught Cake Artist, for my sister. She had her mini studio warming back in Singapore and I couldn’t attend it as I’m in the United Kingdom. So I wrote the post as my gift for her important milestone. She teared upon reading it :’)

Another highlight was when my Air Force story was picked up by one of the administrators of The Republic of Singapore Air Force Facebook page. She featured me on their Facebook page, along with my thank you message to my mom, aunt and girlfriend. It made my mom and relatives really proud and I’m really glad and grateful about it!

With Medium, readers can recommend your post if they like it. My post, 9 Things That I Do To Be More Productive, seemed to resonate well with Medium readers and it has received 19 recommendations so far (66% of all the recommendations I received for 29 posts). It is nice to know that there are people who like what I write and they have benefited from my posts.

Medium Recommendations

4. Writing helps me think and remember better

I think Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, puts it really well:

Jeff Bezos Quote

(Image taken from iDoneThis blog post, Bad Managers Talk, Good Managers Write)

During this challenge, I realised that putting down my thoughts into full sentences helps me think a lot better. I learnt that writing incomplete bullet-point type sentences does not have the same effect. Writing full sentences forces me to think through a point thoroughly, while writing bullet points allows me to be lazy about thinking.

Expressing a thought fully allows me to remember it more clearly. Furthermore, by writing my thoughts down, I can refer to them in the future.

5. Enjoy the process

I wrote a blog post about this. I used to be too focused on the end result of writing and had forgotten to enjoy the process of writing.

After writing the blog post, Enjoy The Process, I tried to be self-conscious about enjoying the process of writing. I’m surprised that just by remembering to do it, I enjoyed the writing process of several blog posts despite it being really hard on some days. I enjoyed writing about my Air Force story so much so that I almost forgot to have my dinner that night.

Like I said in the post, this attitude could be applied to other aspects of our lives too. I have not been remembering this for everything that I have been doing. However, when I do, I enjoyed the process of doing the activity and not just the end result.

When focusing on the outcome, don’t forget to enjoy the process too!

6. It’s important to understand the constraints and work with them, not against them.

The main constraint I had during this challenge was having limited time. As I wanted to publish a post every day for 30 days, I had a day to complete each post. It is alright when I stayed home for the entire day. However, when I’m travelling, I only had 2 to 3 hours to write.

I learnt that I am unable to write a long and in-depth post within 3 hours. I tried and failed terribly.

Hence, I decided to write shorter posts on days when I have little time. For example, 2 days ago when I was travelling to London and back, I decided to write a short post, titled Wise Words of Confucius on Self-Improvement.

I think that another way of working with constraints is to use it to challenge ourselves and in the process, develop and grow. For instance, for this challenge, I forced myself to write a post a day. I have never written so much within such a time frame before and I have benefited tremendously from it. Perhaps time constraint might eventually train me to write faster.

Just like the previous point, I think that this applies to other aspects of our lives too. When we faced with constraints, we should work with them and not against them.

7. Referring to research and statistics is not a must

Previously, I read that referring to research and statistics in a blog post would improve the quality of the blog post. Hence, I had been constantly trying to include them in all my blog posts.

However, I realised that while referring to research and statistics can make a post better, it is not a necessary condition for a post to be good. It is a way to make the post better but not the only way. There are many great posts without research and statistics.

I think this is because well-expressed personal experiences and thoughts can be as compelling as or even more compelling than science-backed contents.

8. Write it and they will come… NAH

This is the writer’s version of “Build it and they will come”.

Like Derek Halpern said in his post, The 80/20 Rule for Building a Blog Audience,

Here’s the truth:

It’s smarter to find another 10,000 people to consume what you’ve already created as opposed to creating more.

Or, in other words, create content 20% of the time. Spend the other 80% of the time promoting what you created.

While writing good content is important, it is also crucial to promote the content too. Many people would not know about my blog posts if I do not promote them.

So far, I’ve only shared my articles on Twitter and Facebook. Hence, with the exception of a few posts, most of the posts rarely received more than 50 views.

This area is something I’m really interested in learning more about. Hope to share more on this with you in the future!

In summary, these are the 8 lessons I’ve learnt from this writing challenge:

  1. I can write well
  2. Writing is hard
  3. Writing is fun and rewarding
  4. Writing helps me think and remember better
  5. Enjoy the process
  6. It’s important to understand the constraints and work with them, not against them
  7. Referring to research and statistics is not a must
  8. Write it and they will come… NAH

Should You Try This?

If you are interested in writing more, I would recommend you to try this challenge! It makes writing a lot less scary than it seems. Also, I enjoyed the challenge and learnt a lot about myself in the process.

I was quite tough on myself in terms of the type and length of posts I wrote so I took a lot of time each day to write. I am fortunate to be having my school vacation when I did this challenge so I had plenty of time every day to write.

I understand that not everyone can commit so much time every day to writing. You can change the rules of the challenge according to your preference and constraints (see point 6 above). For example, Hiten Shah, an entrepreneur and investor, did this challenge and wrote in a style that is different from mine.

What’s Next?

Writing will be taking a backseat for a while now as I need to focus on my school assignments and exams.

I would still like to continue writing. An area I’m looking at is guest blogging. My plan is to write a post a week and submit it as a guest post. I plan to break up my writing process (research, draft outlines, write content, search for images and refine the post) and spend perhaps 1–2 hours each day to do a part.

In terms of content, I would like to write more on topics than myself. Most of my 30 posts were about myself. I would like to write about topics such as productivity (since I’m quite a productivity freak) and happiness (because it’s important and nice to be happy ☺)

As for my writing style, I have been thinking about using memes and gifs in my posts. I think memes and gifs would add humour to my blog posts and when used effectively, would improve the quality of the posts. Furthermore, I think it would show my humorous personality too. I might try to use them in future posts, when appropriate!

Graduation

I’ve graduated from the challenge!!☺


If you are interested to read any of the 30 posts, you can find all of them here!


(This is my 30th blog post of my 30in30 challenge — 30 blog posts in 30 days. Through this challenge, I hope to feel comfortable and more confident with writing and become better at writing.)

3 Unexpected Benefits Of Writing

3 Unexpected Benefits Of Writing

When I started my writing challenge, my aim was to become more confident with writing. In the process, many unexpected things happened.

In this blog post, I will share the 3 unexpected benefits that I’ve experienced from writing. I hope that it would inspire you to write too.

1. Helping Others

I had been hesitant to share my blog posts on my Facebook because I was afraid that I might receive negative comments. Last week, I decided to share and see what would happen.

At first, nothing happened.

Then I started to receive messages and comments from friends which said that my blog posts have helped them or taught them something.

Justin, my close friend, messaged me to say that my blog post, 9 Things I Do To Be More Productive, made him decide to exercise and exercising gave him a new perspective to his problems:

Justin's messages

My junior college teacher (:O) said that she learnt something from the same article. I have never expected to be teaching my teacher. I’m really glad that she benefited from my blog post.

Mrs Chua's comment

My post, Fighting Against Facebook Notifications, gave my school mate some ideas on how to reduce the time she spends on Facebook. Hope they have worked for her!

Meg's comments

I think that we all have our unique experiences and by sharing them, we might help others who are in same position as we are or were.

Thinking back, this is the reason why I started blogging again. I want to “share my experiences and help those in the same situation as me”. I didn’t expect that the few blog posts I wrote would actually help anyone, but I’m glad they have.

So I would recommend more people to write because others would benefit from your writings. What you write would matter. So far, I’ve learnt that my blog posts on lessons I’ve learnt benefited others the most.

2. Good Things Would Happen

Another thing that I did not expect was to be featured by The Republic Of Singapore Air Force on their Facebook page.

RSAF Feature

One of the administrators discovered my blog post, I Am An Air Force Officer, and wanted to feature me on their Facebook page.

What is great about this is not that I was featured, but that I made my mom and my relatives proud.

When I wrote about my sister, a self-taught cake artist and shared it on Facebook, one of my friends read it and he recently ordered his wedding cake from my sister!

My sister, the cake artist

It is not definite that something good would happen when you write, but if you write, chances of it happening would be higher.

3. Strengthen Friendships

The last benefit that I didn’t expect is how my blog posts helped to strengthen my friendships by creating topics for conversations.

Lucas, whom I knew through Twitter, was so amazed by my Air Force story that we talked about it for quite a while when we met last night.

Dale, one of my Air Force mates whom I’ve not spoken to for a long time, approached me recently. He realised that we are quite like-minded after reading my blog posts. He shared with me many books that he thinks are useful for entrepreneurs and I’m so grateful for it.

Create > Consume

It’s easier to consume information and use products than to create them. However, by choosing the harder option and creating, we can bring value to the people around us.

I’m not going to lie. Writing is hard. If you noticed, these 3 benefits came from 3 of my blog posts, out of the 28 posts I’ve written so far. Each blog post took me 3 to 8 hours to write.

However, when you find out that you have helped someone with your blog posts or when someone reached out to you to say “Thank you”, you will realise that all that effort is worthwhile ☺

What unexpected things have happened to you when you wrote? I would love to hear them.


(This is my 29th blog post of my 30in30 challenge — 30 blog posts in 30 days. Through this challenge, I hope to feel comfortable and more confident with writing and become better at writing.)

Catch that Misplacedspace and mispelling

Catch that Misplacedspace and mispelling

Recently, my girlfriend asked me to help her look through her CV. Instead of checking whether she included the appropriate information or not, I was picking out typos and poor formatting — missing spaces, additional spaces, unaligned indentations, and so on.

I am very particular about typos and poor formatting of documents (read: have mild OCD to correct them) because I think it affects the first impression we give others when they look at our writing/application/CV.

I was chatting with some Customer Support Pros from the Support Driven Community on this topic. They mentioned about horrible typos in job applications they received, such as misspelling the company’s name and even the hiring manager’s name! Inappropriate capitalisation Of words is Annoying too, especially for Titles and company Name.

According to a survey of more than 300 senior managers in the United States by Accountemps, 90% of the senior managers surveyed would not consider a job candidate for a position with their company if they spot 1 to 3 typos!

Accountemp Infographic

This image is extracted from Accountemp’s infographic, which can be found here.

Although the pattern from the survey shows that the senior managers surveyed might be becoming more lenient in terms of the number of typos in a resume, it still shows that typos can cause you your job.

While some hiring managers might ignore such mistakes, I feel that it goes to show how meticulous a person is. All else being equal, I would prefer someone who would correct these details to someone who thinks that they are minor issues and ignore them.

As much as I dislike typos, I have to admit that I make typos too and sometimes fail to spot them.

Suggestions For Catching Typos

While it is easy to spot typos when we read other people’s work, it is much harder to catch our own typos.

Here are some suggestions on how to catch your mistakes, if you do not have an editor or proofreader:

1. Trick Your Mind

In the Wired article, What’s Up With That, Why It’s So Hard To Catch Your Own Typos, psychologist Tom Stafford, who studies typos, suggested that we trick our brains that it’s the first time we are reading our writing:

Stafford suggests that if you want to catch your own errors, you should try to make your work as unfamiliar as possible. Change the font or background color, or print it out and edit by hand. “Once you’ve learned something in a particular way, it’s hard to see the details without changing the visual form,” he said.

For me, I usually type my blog post on Medium. However, before I publish it, I would copy it to the WordPress editor for my personal blog. All the formatting would be messed up so I’ll go through the entire post in a different environment.

WordPress Editor

I’ve managed to catch quite a number of typos through this process.

2. Take A Long Break

This is something I’m working on. Some days when I find writing hard (well, almost everyday), I would want to hit the “Publish” button as soon as I finished the post and proofread it once.

However, with the content still fresh in my mind, I seldom pick up any errors when I read through my post. The Wired article gave an explanation for this:

When we’re proof reading our own work, we know the meaning we want to convey. Because we expect that meaning to be there, it’s easier for us to miss when parts (or all) of it are absent. The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.

So it might be worth taking a long break to do something else, preferably away from the computer, before coming back to the text 2–3 hours later or the next day. Hopefully, you would have forgotten a bit of the content and spot more typos.

I wrote the draft for this post in the morning and came back to read it at 4pm.

3. Use Text Editors That Would Highlight Mistakes

“Use spelling checkers but don’t trust them. In particular, be aware of homophone confusion: complement and compliment, accept and except, effect and affect, oversees and overseas.” — Philip B. Corbett of The Times

Most text editors, such as the ones on Medium and WordPress, would pick up spelling errors and underline them with a red line. Medium does not allow more than one space, which I think is a great design.

Medium and WordPress Text Editor

Microsoft Word has a few more functions. It would also autocorrect misspelt words, autocapitalise the first letter of the first word of a sentence and underline grammatical and punctuation mistakes with a green line.

Microsoft Word

However, autocorrection could go wrong at times and Microsoft Word sometimes highlights what it thinks are grammatical and punctuation mistakes when they are actually widely accepted as appropriate.

There’s a cool autocorrection trick with Microsoft Word where you could program Microsoft Word to autocorrect words that you usually spell wrongly. However, I feel that this would make you reliant on the autocorrection and not learn to spell those words correctly.

4. Read Your Work Backwards

Among many other great tips in his article, The Reader’s Lament, Philip B. Corbett of The Times suggested:

Read it backward and focus on the spelling of words.

I’ve seen this advice when I was learning to code too. However, I’ve not really tried it because it feels very unnatural to me. I guess that’s the point of it.

Because it is unnatural to read backwards and the sentences wouldn’t make much sense, we would tend to slow down the pace.

It would feel like this:

Reading Backwards

As we read more slowly, we might be more likely to pick up typos.

While we might pick up typos by doing this, we might not spot sentences that are structured wrongly. So I would advise against using this strategy alone for proofreading.

5. Ask A Friend To Check

Find a friend who is very particular about this (like me) to read through your article. If it is the first time they are reading your article, they are likely to spot more typos than you.

The Wired article, mentioned earlier, also explained this:

We can become blind to details because our brain is operating on instinct. By the time you proof read your own work, your brain already knows the destination.

This explains why your readers are more likely to pick up on your errors. Even if you are using words and concepts that they are also familiar with, their brains are on this journey for the first time, so they are paying more attention to the details along the way and not anticipating the final destination.

This video gives an example of how we might become blind to details when we have certain expectations in our mind:

Cool? Because I’ve seen the dancing gorilla experiment before, I was focusing on the gorilla and missed the change in colour of the curtain.

Don’t forget to thank your friends after they help you or help them proofread when they write! ☺

Just A Bit Of Effort

Typos are not easy to spot (so forgive me if there are any typos in this post :P); but when we do spot them, it does not take much effort to correct them.

If the document you wrote is very important such as your job application, you might want to make sure that there are no typos because it can affect your chances of getting the job.

(I know it sounds duh!, but I have friends who cannot be bothered to change typos in their work or resume.)

Do the recipient of your work and yourself a favour. Make those changes.

Thank you ☺

What do you do to catch your typos? Do you have cool tricks to share?

(This is my 21st blog post of my 30in30 challenge — 30 blog posts in 30 days. Through this challenge, I hope to feel comfortable and more confident with writing and become better at writing.)

Enjoy The Process

Enjoy The Process

Most of the time, I write because I want to provide value to others.

I want to provide value to others through my blog posts because I want people to read them. My assumption is that most people prefer to read articles that are useful to them.

I want people to read my blog posts because I want to be known as a thought leader, like Ryan Hoover for products.

I want people to read my blog posts because I want to be known as a good writer (and hopefully to earn some money).


Today, I had an epiphany. I felt that writing to achieve those goals seems to make writing a means to an end. I think wanting to be a thought leader and a good writer is not wrong. However, when I focus only on the final result, I miss out the joy during the process.

I want to write popular blog posts. I would be happy when I feel that I wrote a useful post and irritated when I couldn’t produce a post I’m satisfied with but I would have forgotten to enjoy the writing process.

While writing is tough, the process can be quite enjoyable. Writing helps us think, learn and remember.

Hence from now on, I hope to adjust my attitude to writing. I want to remember to enjoy the process of writing. I know that I would continue to judge my posts; but the two are not mutually exclusive. I think I can enjoy the process of writing and eventually produce a quality piece.


When I started this post, I only thought about the process of writing. As I wrote the post, I realised that this attitude could be applied to many other aspects of my life.

I realised that so often, I chase for the end goal and judge myself based on the result; but would have forgotten to enjoy the process.

I want to be able to build products. I would be delighted when others praise my simple website and disheartened when I feel that I am far from building a useful product; but I would have forgotten to enjoy the learning process.

I want to become a faster triathlete. I would be exhilarated when my timings improve and frustrated when I become slower; but I would have forgotten to enjoy the training session.

Just like for writing, I want to remember to enjoy the process of doing things and not just focusing on completing them. It might not be easy, but I think being aware is a good first step ☺

Over to you! I would love to hear your thoughts about this!

(This is my 20th blog post of my 30in30 challenge — 30 blog posts in 30 days. Through this challenge, I hope to feel comfortable and more confident with writing and become better at writing.)

What I Learnt From Missing 3 Days Of Writing

What I Learnt From Missing 3 Days Of Writing

Since I publicly committed to writing daily for 30 days, I felt that I should explain why I missed 3 days of writing last week.

Last Thursday, I wrote a draft in the morning and planned to complete it on the train home that night. On the train, I developed motion sickness and could not work on the draft properly. I decided not to press on and hence, did not publish a post that day.

I know that it was simply due to bad planning. Had I allocated more time to writing that day, I might have been able to publish the post.

The day before, I had a bad day for my writing too. These 2 days made me lose much motivation to write. Therefore, I decided to take a break from writing. As I was travelling to Oxford for 2 days, I decided to take the 2 days as a break from writing.


Looking back at those 3 days, I feel that it might be a mistake to miss those days of writing. Instead of looking for excuses, I decided to analyse what happened and see if I could learn anything.

Better Planning

I missed my daily writing deadline last Thursday because I didn’t want to publish drafts that I’m not satisfied with. Despite knowing that, I did not allocate sufficient time to write and refine the post.

That day taught me 2 lessons.

First, I underestimated the amount of time I need to write a post that I’m satisfied with. Looking back, I realised that I would spent at least 3 hours to write a post that I’m happy with. Some days, I took up to 6–7 hours.

There are 3 things I could do about this moving forward:

  1. I could speed up my writing process, which I’ve tried without much success. I guess speed would come with more practice.
  2. I could allocate more time for writing. Allocating 6–7 hours for writing each day might not be feasible considering that I have other commitments apart from writing. However, this would be less of a problem after my challenge to write daily as I could break up my writing process into a few days.
  3. With my current challenge to write daily, it might be better for me to write shorter posts on days when I have less than 3 hours available for writing. Of course, this does not mean that I should compromise on the quality of the posts.

Second, I learnt that I do not write well under time pressure. When I have 30 minutes or less to write, I found it hard to pull my thoughts together to write something meaningful. So instead of having pockets of 30 minutes throughout the day to write, I might be better off having blocks of 1–2 hours.

Be Consistent

As mentioned earlier, I decided to take a break because I had 2 bad days for my writing, which demoralised me quite a bit. I felt that taking a break might allow me to be motivated to write again and perhaps think and write better.

I’m not quite sure if the break was helpful as I’m still finding it hard to write today. Perhaps it might have been better if I wrote regardless of my mood or motivation level.

In her post, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers, Alexis Landau wrote:

There is no “writing mindset” — if I waited for that, I would never write. The only thing that helps is sitting down every day, at the same time (roughly) and having peace and quiet, even if it is just an hour, to think, without the pressures of the outside world. I don’t check email or take any phone calls. It is a reserved time, just to ponder and explore various ideas, scenes and characters. Mary Oliver once said something about how if you show up for the muse consistently, then she will start showing up for you consistently, as if the psyche knows that you are writing and preparing, and so after time, you get something back, but you have to be there to receive it, no matter how painfully slow or awful you think it’s going.

Having read this, I am determined to “show up” daily for the remaining 13 days of my challenge.

While it might have been a mistake to miss 3 days of writing, I’m glad that I took away some valuable lessons.

Have you had days when you lose motivation for writing? I would love to hear how you deal with it 🙂

(This is my 17th blog post of my 30in30 challenge — 30 blog posts in 30 days. Through this challenge, I hope to feel comfortable and more confident with writing and become better at writing.)

Why I Started My 30-in-30 Writing Challenge finally

Why I Started My 30-in-30 Writing Challenge finally

I’ve seen a few people do the 30 in 30 writing challenge. Off my mind, I can remember that Hiten Shah and my close friend, Tomas Laurinavicius, have done the challenge. The challenge is to write a blog post everyday for 30 days.

Recently, I have also started the challenge and I’m into my 11th day of the challenge today. I have been wanting to do the challenge for a long time, to satisfy my desire to write more and improve my writing. But I have never gotten round to do it.

I never had the habit of writing much online. I’ve tried and failed. So I have been quite surprised that I’m not just writing everyday for the past 10 days but also writing close to almost a 1000 words for each post. (My original plan was to write only 500 words a day.)

I decided to dig deeper into this. After researching online, I found an explanation.


The Fogg Behaviour Model

Dr BJ Fogg explains that there are 3 elements that have to converge at the same time for a behaviour to take place — Motivation, Ability and Trigger. When a behaviour does not occur, it is because at least one of them is missing.

The Fogg Behaviour Model Diagram

Now, let’s go through them one by one.

Motivation

The first factor is having the motivation. The Fogg Behaviour Model highlights 3 core motivators: Sensation (pleasure/pain), Anticipation (hope/fear), and Belonging (acceptance/rejection).

They are a good way to explain motivation. However, in my case, I would like to look at motivation in terms of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

In his book, Psychology of Motivation, Lois Brown describes extrinsic motivation as “our tendency to perform activities for known external rewards, whether they be tangible (e.g., money) or psychological (e.g., praise) in nature.”.

On the other hand, he refers to intrinsic motivation as “the reason why we perform certain activities for inherent satisfaction or pleasure; you might say performing one of these activities in reinforcing in-and-of itself.”

For my situation, I feel that my intrinsic motivation for the challenge outweighed any extrinsic motivation. I’m not paid to do the challenge and I do not get any financial rewards for completing it. The case of a psychological reward in the form of praise (or recommendations on Medium) isn’t very strong as this is the first time I’m writing so much online, so I wasn’t expect much of those.

Intrinsic Motivation

In his TED talk video, Dan Pink explained that there are 3 main factors that drive individuals, from within themselves, to work hard.

  • Autonomy: “the urge to direct our own lives”
  • Mastery: “the desire to get better and better at something that matters”
  • Purpose: “the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves”

The factors apply to my situation.

  • Autonomy: I wasn’t force to do the challenge. In fact, no one asked me to the challenge. I took it up myself.
  • Mastery: I wanted to get better at writing and articulating myself. The skill of writing matters to me because I want to be able to think and express myself better, which I feel writing would help. Also, I hope that it can help to feed me someday.
  • Purpose: Apart from improving myself, I hope that sharing my stories would inspire and help others who are a few steps behind me, like those who are ahead of me have been doing.

When looking at Hiten and Tomas, I realised that the factors could be applied to their situations too.

  • Autonomy: While Hiten was challenged by his friend and mentor, he had the freedom to accept or reject it. Tomas took up the challenge himself after reflecting on his achievements.
  • Mastery: Hiten had “a constant desire to write more” while Tomas seemed to want to get better at accomplishing his goals.
  • Purpose: Hiten tries to write blog posts that are really valuable to others and Tomas’s “mission is to inspire and be inspired”.

If we were to use Dr BJ Fogg’s model to look at motivation, it would most likely be the pleasure (sensation) and hope (anticipation) from writing that motivated me to start the writing challenge. The core motivator of belonging would not apply here as I would not be social accepted or rejected by doing or not doing the challenge.

Motivation? Check!

Ability

The second factor is the ability to take the action. Without the ability to take an action, we naturally can’t do it.

The level of ability matters too. The higher my ability to write, the more likely I would start writing, provided that I have the motivation and there’s a trigger.

I believe that ability here does not only refer to my writing skills but also other conditions such as environment and convenience. For me, I just started my 5-week Easter break with no plans at all so it was great timing. I have lots of time to spend on writing.

Also, using Medium made it a lot easier for me to write because of its user interface and design. There’s few things on the website that would distract me while I write on Medium and I do not have to bother about formatting. That’s why I have been writing on Medium and reposting it here.

For Hiten and Tomas, it would be hard to assess their situations from their blog posts. Nevertheless, I don’t doubt that they have great writing skills because of their background. Hiten is a long time entrepreneur and startup advisor while Tomas has been blogging for more than 7 years.

Ability? Check!

Trigger

The third factor is trigger. Fogg’s Behaviour Model explains that without a trigger, a target behaviour would not happen.

For this, I also went back to what I was taught in Physics — Newton’s First Law of Motion, or sometimes referred to as the Law of Inertia:

When viewed in an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force.

In simpler terms, it means that an object that is stationary would remain stationary and an object in motion would remain in motion at the same speed and direction, unless there is an external factor acting on it.

Extrinsic motivation like financial incentive could be an external change-inducing force (or trigger) since by definition, it is something from the outside.

However, for my case, the effect of extrinsic motivation was not strong enough to induce the change in my behaviour (ie. start the challenge). I feel that my trigger was a spark, one of the 3 types of trigger in the Fogg’s Behaviour Model.

Trigger Diagram

The spark came from the application rejection from Buffer. Along with the feedforward (feedback) I received, it triggered a strong desire in me to improve my writing skills.

For Hiten, I reckon that his friend and mentor’s challenge was probably a spark for him to take up the challenge too.

For Tomas, his trigger might be either a signal or a spark. His reflection on his achievement might have signaled or sparked him to start the challenge.

Trigger? Check!

Behaviour

As mentioned earlier, if either of the elements were missing, the behaviour would have likely not taken place.

If I didn’t have the motivation, neither the time and ease to write nor spark from rejection nor both could have made me start the challenge.

If I didn’t have the ability to write, having the motivation and the rejection would not have changed me too.

If I didn’t have the spark from the rejection, having the motivation and the perfect conditions for writing would not have made me start the challenge too. And that’s probably why I didn’t start it in the past, despite having the time. (Everything happens for a reason.)

To sum up, I started the 30-in-30 challenge because all the 3 elements — Motivation, Ability and Trigger, were present. Without any of the elements, I would probably not have started it.

(This is my 11th blog post of my 30in30 challenge — 30 blog posts in 30 days. Through this challenge, I hope to feel comfortable and more confident with writing and become better at writing.)

Start Somewhere

Start Somewhere

There are so many articles online on how to write a good blog post and how to make a blog popular. Some of the advice that stuck with me are have a strategy for my content, focus on a niche area and write long and useful posts.

Those are helpful advice but have also subconsciously made me fear writing on my blog. Whenever I try to write on my blog, I will go through these advice in my head. Many a times, I feel that what I want to write does not tick all these three boxes. Then, I give up.

This week, I tried to understand why I have been acting and thinking this way. I realised that it was because I feel ashamed to have poorly written blog posts online. I was afraid that my friends or prospective employers will somehow stumble upon my blog posts and see how bad my writings are.

Essentially, it is because I want to have a “clean” history online. I only wanted to be associated with well written and useful blog posts. I wanted a blog that will impress readers.

I realised that I was letting my ego take over me.

I think that being aware that my ego is stopping me from writing or doing things is a good first step to correcting it.

I follow a few blogs on startup and marketing and I began to wonder if the authors were such great writers right from the start. So I went to find the very first few blog posts on their blogs and compared those blog posts with their recent blog posts. For most of them, there is quite a huge contrast!

For example, Ryan Hoover, who writes incredible articles about products, wrote about quite random things when he started his blog. He wrote about things like Mythical Creatures Drawn by SF Restaurants and An Email from my Russian Admirer. Well-known marketer, Noah Kagan’s first blog post on Okdork is a marketing idea for Coca Cola.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not criticising them because they are undoubtedly great writers. Comparing their first few blog posts with their recent ones taught me something. It taught me that I have to start somewhere.

It is alright that I do not produce blog posts as good as them now because I have to start somewhere. If I do not write at all, I will never improve.

An interesting thing to note is that they did not delete blog posts which are not as good as those they write nowadays. I find it interesting because I had thought about deleting my lousy blog posts in the future, so as to maintain a “clean” history. However, I realised that it is a really silly thought because when judging if they are good writers, it is their recent articles that matter; not the articles they have written five to ten years ago.

So I have decided that I will start somewhere. I started with this blog post. I know it will not get viral on social media; but it is alright because that is not the point. The point is to start somewhere and I’m glad I have done it.