I went to a workshop about effective presentations earlier this week. We went over storytelling and its power to make things memorable. This reminded me of something Steve Jobs said to John Lasseter:
“I’ll never forget,” Lasseter says, “Steve Jobs was kind of waxing poetically about things and he said, ‘You know, at Apple when we make a computer, what’s the lifespan of it? Maybe three years. In five years it’s a doorstop. Technology moves so fast. If you do your job right with Toy Story, this thing could last forever.’”
I first read this quote in Creativity Inc., which I want to write some book notes on. I want to improve as a storyteller, whether it’s speaking or writing.
In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big1, Scott Adams has a chapter going through certain skills that can be added to your skillset as multipliers. One of them is public speaking and another is business writing. Some of the tips from the book can be found in his blog post, ‘The Day You Became a Better Writer’:
Business writing is about clarity and persuasion. The main technique is keeping things simple. Simple writing is persuasive. A good argument in five sentences will sway more people than a brilliant argument in a hundred sentences. Don’t fight it.
Presentations have a lot in common with effective writing. Good stories, simply told.
Alex Hogue2 writes about online privacy—I’m not sure if that’s the best way to describe it. But Alex takes technical topics and writes entertaining pieces on them. Alex recently wrote about stalking your Facebook friends on Tinder.
Cut to me in my room. I’m about to try and “do hacking”. Around me are two computer monitors, two laptops, and no friends.
Alex Hogue writes about doing hacking. Plenty of people write about the same topics but Alex’s have been the most entertaining, by far. Here’s an earlier post on graphing when your Facebook friends are awake.
I wrote about Angela Duckworth’s Grit a few times this week. Duckworth is a MacArthur grant recipient and she talks about Ta-Nehisi Coates, another grant recipient, and his description of writing:
The challenge of writing is to see your horribleness, on page, to see your terribleness, and then to go to bed, and wake up the next day, and take that horribleness and that terribleness and refine it, and make it not so terrible and not so horrible, and then go to bed again, and come the next day, and refine it a little bit more, and make it not so bad, and then go to bed the next day and do it again, then make it maybe average.
You know, if anybody even reads what I’m doing, that’s a great day.
I’m working on getting the horribleness and terribleness on page regularly. Then I’ll write entertaining things, even for technical topics. I’ll put together good, five-sentence arguments with a chance of being read. After all that, maybe I’ll write something that has a chance of lasting forever.