How to become better than me at writing

Dillan Taylor sitting at his desk and getting ready to write
The face I make before I start typing.

I’m not a phenomenal writer.

But I’m 20 times better than when I first started this blog. That was almost three years ago.

I’ve read a few books on copywriting—how to keep my words concise and easy to digest. I can give people simple suggestions to improve their writing…

  • Write short sentences.
  • Don’t use $100 words when $1 words can get the point across.
  • Read this piece and watch this video. They both take 60 seconds.

But I’m not even close to an expert. And that’s the point.

We don’t need to have more information (or even more skill) than others. Most of the time, the people who are “successful” are just the ones willing to put themselves out there.

Did I just call myself successful? Well, I certainly feel like I’ve had success. But I felt that way when just three people were reading my stuff.

I’ve had blogs with over a thousand unique readers. Some of those posts include my thoughts on death, my trip to Canada, and my move to NYC. I’ve had people I don’t know email me talking about their favorite pieces.

I don’t say this to brag. I say this because I never set out to be a “great writer.” I just wrote one of these almost every day for three years. It took a year and a half for people to really start giving a shit.

We can get really good at things if we have two things…

Consistency and the willingness to be messy.

I can’t even read my earlier writing. Most of it makes me cringe. But if I worried too much about that early on, I wouldn’t have written anything and I wouldn’t have improved.

It’s not sexy advice. But to get good at anything, we just have to do it a lot and be okay with doing it poorly.

We don’t need to read “one more” book. We don’t need another course. We just need more practice.

Keep that up…and maybe you’ll build yourself a mediocre blog like me.

Writing is hard

A teal typewriter on a desk with empty sheets of paper next to it

I’ve been working on my book for five months now. Most of that time has consisted of two things.

Interviews and procrastination.

Early on, I was worried I wouldn’t have enough content to write more than a pamphlet. Once I began actually writing and transcribing my recorded conversations, I realized I actually had to cut some folks out. That was a relief.

There were some interviews that, while I’m incredibly grateful for them, just didn’t hit as hard as others. “Trimming the fat” sounds cold. But writing this book felt like less of a chore once I decided to only include chapters that lit me up. I narrowed it down to seven people—including duos.

My last interview was a dream come true. I had a long conversation with James and Anthony Deveney—the hosts of one of my favorite shows, Raiders of the Lost Podcast.

They started their movie podcast in June of 2020, in the middle of quarantine. Since then, they’ve gained half a million followers and have grown arguably the best film podcast to date.

Their story was captivating and inspiring. They were also two of the nicest dudes I’ve ever met.

They took me through their journey of pursuing their dream: being full-time content creators. It’s one thing to see people doing something cool. It’s another thing entirely to hear about what they had to do to get there.

James just quit his full-time job a few months ago once the podcast was able to totally support both of their lives. I’m thrilled to tell their tale.

As for my process of writing, so far it’s looked like this:

  1. Record interview.
  2. Come prepared with strong questions to ask.
  3. Play the interview back with a Google Doc up.
  4. Transcribe the major bits of conversation while playing and pausing the interview.
  5. Use willpower to not immediately edit my writing (i.e. write shitty).
  6. When a story or concept of my own comes to mind, make a note of it in the doc so I can come back and write about it later.
  7. Use the Pomodoro technique for productive time management: 25 minutes on, 5-minute break.
  8. Finish this first run-through before hiring my editor.

Right away, I’ve recognized the necessity of an organized system. If I were winging it every time I sat down at my keyboard, it would be chaos. With this structure, it’s actually pretty easy to write this damn thing.

The only thing getting in my way is initially sitting down to start. It’s the Resistance which gives me all these reasonable-sounding excuses for why I don’t have to start typing just yet.

Luckily, I eventually brush that voice aside and begrudgingly begin writing. Without fail, I enter a flow state in five to ten minutes.

What’s my biggest challenge now?

First, it’s making the time to actually write. I need three to four hours of deep work in order to make meaningful dents in this. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I run a full-time business that’s doing well. That means I have a lot of client calls. Sessions require a ton of mental energy, so I refuse to write for four hours in the morning and then do calls in the afternoon. My brain would be fried.

Second, the debate is creeping in on whether I get a publisher or I just publish it myself. But I’m trying not to focus too much on things that are farther away.

Regarding the first challenge, it’s highly likely that I push back the release date. The plan was my birthday, March 2. The new plan is probably my mom’s birthday, May 5.

Since I don’t have half a million followers like James and Anthony, I doubt anyone will make a fuss about this.

Am I working as hard as I possibly can on this?

No.

Am I having a ton of fun?

Yes. 😇

The R word

Every now and then I talk about Resistance.

The concept comes from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield—a book I read once a year.

Resistance is the invisible force that keeps us from doing the things we want to do and living the lives we want to live.

It takes many shapes: fear, procrastination, justification, anger, shame…

It says: “You don’t have to do this right now. Do it later. It’ll be easier and more enjoyable if you do this in the future.”

Most of the time, Resistance sounds reasonable. We can’t start until we do this thing, until we have more knowledge, until we have more confidence.

I’m writing a book. Each and every time I sit down to start typing, without fail, I find reasons to wait. I set out to begin writing at 9am, but won’t start until about 9:45.

Readers of this blog know I’m not a big grind-hustle-discipline guy. I don’t think we have to torture ourselves to live a life worth living.

But the simple truth is we don’t get something from nothing.

There are plenty of things worth doing that we won’t feel like doing. Whether it’s something small like reading or working out, or something with higher stakes like starting a company.

We can just start. It’s time.

I wrote letters to all the people I love—Then I read them to them

A pencil, a piece of paper, and an envelope lying on a marble table

Back in October, I visited a few coaching friends in Vancouver Island, meeting them in person for the first time.

While at one friend’s house, we were discussing the things we felt incredibly grateful for. The same thought popped into my head that always does when I ponder what I appreciate most: my tribe of friends, family, and colleagues.

But this time, I had an insight.

Rather than vaguely trying to express this more to the people in my world, I decided I would be as intentional as possible.

I would craft hand-written letters to those who matter most. I would thank them and explain as best I could why they mean so much to me. Then, I would read the letter to them.

I’m not even close to totally completing this task (which I think is a good sign). But I have done several and would like to share what I’ve learned.

1) Expressing gratitude is euphoric.

Let’s get the selfish stuff out first.

Anyone who’s ever done a metta (loving-kindness) meditation knows the immediate rush of joy that comes from truly wishing someone well. We imagine someone we love and we picture them being free from harm and fear. We envision them being totally fulfilled. We see them laughing with the people they love.

This felt more impactful because I was sitting five feet from each person I read a letter to.

I could see their smiles and tears. I got to hug them afterward. I got to hear them stumble to find words that match the moment.

The idea of the exercise is to leave nothing up to the imagination. “Here are the specific reasons why I love you.”

Once that message gets across, the powerful connections I had with each person felt twice as strong.

2) This exercise is the easiest thing to do that brings life-changing results. Low input; very high output.

That sounds kind of businessy. Let me explain.

Each letter takes about 20 minutes to write. I type it out in a Google Doc first. This only takes about five to ten minutes because it’s effortless to write words that are sincere.

Then it takes another ten minutes for me to put pen to paper and transcribe the Doc.

The next time I would see the person, I would: tell them what I did, grab the paper as they panicked, and start reading it aloud.

In less than 40 seconds, our relationship would become wildly stronger.

I even gave this as a Christmas gift to my aunt and uncle. I have no idea if that’s just a cop-out from getting a “real” gift. But they both absolutely loved it so I think I’m off the hook.

3) There are a lot of things we keep to ourselves.

Here’s what I mean.

I’m lucky to have candid and loving relationships with my friends, family, and colleagues. But no matter how open and communicative we are with one another, there will always be thoughts and emotions we feel that the other person isn’t 100% aware of.

That’s also why I suggest doing a feedback exercise with those close to us. It paints a clearer picture of the lens our friends use to look at us.

We can let our actions tell the story. That’s a lovely thing.

But we can also remove the middle-man and get right at the heart of things. I’ll end with an example.

I wrote one of these letters to my dad.

In it, I told him what he did that meant the world to me. Last year, when I decided to not go back to school, quit my full-time job, and start my own business, I thought he’d be furious.

I was out front of my mom’s house, pacing on the sidewalk, when he told me on the phone I had his full-fledged support.

When I relayed this to him in my letter, he had no idea about the impact of that moment.

All this to say: We can always express our love and admiration for people more than we normally do. There’s always more to know.

I highly encourage anyone reading this to write just one letter to someone they appreciate. Tell them why they’re loved. Tell them what they mean. Tell them how much they’re needed.

Then see how they light up.

Writing bug

As I’ve been spending more time writing my book, I’ve felt inspired to write more.

I’m planning on publishing more articles on Medium. (Go ahead and follow me there!)

And I’m already brainstorming future books. One step at a time though.

Tomorrow, I’ll update you all on how the current book is coming along.

Cheers.

Work music

I love working to lo-fi, classical music, and videogame scores.

If you enjoy the same while doing deep work—writing, designing, editing—here’s a playlist I made for such occasions.

two

…these blogs just aren’t that good.

one

Sometimes…

Please don’t give me money…unless you want to

A person putting coins into a piggy bank

Aside from Sundays and the occasional vacation, I’ve written in this blog every morning for two years.

I plan on continuing for several decades, maybe even forever.

The thought of having a 50-year archive of my thoughts, challenges, and stories is captivating to me. Writing these posts has been wildly therapeutic and sharpening. And the fact that people seem to enjoy some of them…it’s an honor.

I’ll never charge a dime for this blog. I write blogs because I thoroughly love to.

But now there’s an option to support my work.

If you’ve ever gotten any value out of something I’ve done, feel free to donate what you think seems fitting. It’ll go toward my work and a portion goes to an organization battling climate change.

There’s also zero pressure to do any of that. Regardless, I’m going to keep typing away.

Whether you choose to donate or not, I couldn’t be more grateful for you taking time out of your day to read my stuff.

Thanks, thanks, and ever thanks!

How this daily blog saved my life

A little boy with glasses reading a book

I was a fairly negative person until I was 23.

People did shitty things and it felt as though life was happening to me, not for me. I blamed others—or, even more vaguely, “society”—for my shortcomings.

It couldn’t have possibly been my lack of work ethic or my non-existent skills. No, clearly the universe was out to get me.

A big part of changing those thoughts was actually brought on by starting this blog.

For two and a half years, I’ve been typing my thoughts out every morning at this desk. The big fear I had when starting was that I would quickly run out of things to write about. I mean, a fresh blog every day? How interesting do I think my life is?

It turns out, our lives are quite fascinating…if we allow them to be. It’s a choice.

We can choose to go through our days as curious observers. I call this the Researcher Mindset. In other words:

Every single conversation, event, or mishap has value. There’s a lesson in everything. If there isn’t, that’s only because we’ve chosen not to look for it.

I’m not a “Everything happens for a reason” guy. I think things just happen…and we have the awesome power to derive meaning and wisdom from those things.

Let’s go through two examples—one small-stakes and one high-stakes.

1) A potential client says No to my business proposal.

No matter how smoothly the process goes up until the sales conversation, I have no control over how a person reacts when I say the dollar amount.

I’ve said a number and had people calmly say, “Oh, that’s it? Cool!” And I’ve said that same number and seen people baffled and think I’m joking.

People have ghosted me, dodged my messages because the money aspect scared them away, and flat-out asked to end communication with me. Needless to say, for a person running a business and trying to help people, this can be wildly frustrating.

In the early days, it was easy to take rejection personally. I would think…

How could they do this to me?
People suck.
• I can’t catch a break.

Shockingly, feeling that way and giving off that energy never made anyone change their mind and sign up with me. It just made it harder to be present and loving with the next person I was talking to.

So I began using my Researcher Mindset.

With every proposal conversation, I ask: What did I learn from this? What can I take away from this?

By asking these questions, I’ve improved as a business owner tremendously. People get back to me quicker, they’re more comfortable negotiating, and things are just clearer in the conversation overall.

2) My mom dies.

I’m well aware that my mother’s passing will be the worst day of my life.

But I actually don’t even have to wait for that day to use the lesson I’ll learn from it. Let me explain.

What I assume will smack me in the face will be the full understanding that no matter how much we care about a person, our time with them is limited. We will all fade.

The lesson here is simple. The only thing we can control is how much we cherish and utilize our time with these people while we have it.

When my mom invites me to something, I say yes. When she tells stories, I listen.

Conclusion

It can be hard at times, sometimes it may feel impossible.

But the most powerful question we can ask on a consistent basis is: How can I use this?

It’ll make us more resilient, more positive, and more appreciative.

it certainly has for me. Be a Researcher.

I really don’t feel like writing this blog today

There are many days where even the thought of putting together a few sentences is exhausting.

But doing the things we care about doesn’t always mean we’re having a blast.

Most days, I don’t feel like:

• working out
• reaching out to prospective clients
• writing
• practicing/studying chess

But putting in those groggy hours makes the times I do feel like doing them so much easier and more rewarding.

If I can do this shit when I’d rather do anything else…then I can probably do anything.

I forgot to write this blog

I thought today was Sunday. I don’t write blogs on Sundays.

After more in-depth research, I discovered that it is, in fact, Saturday.

I do write blogs on Saturdays.

This is one of them.

How to stop caring about how many likes you get

A woman checking Instagram to see how many likes she got

This weekend, my photographer friend told me he’s making the decision to start posting on Instagram again.

I deleted mine last year because it was sucking too many hours away from my days. But this was a monumental move for him for a different reason.

He obsesses over who likes his pictures and over how many likes they get.

“There’s nothing more pathetic than scrolling through the list of likers several times a day,” he joked. This hit home.

There are two types of people who post on social media: those who check the likes, and liars.

While he didn’t ask for my advice directly, his predicament got me thinking…How do I manage to post consistently and not let the dopamine/validation/comparison train run me over?

Two things came to mind…

1) Be clear on the intention.

Why do we post something?

For my buddy, he said it’s fun to show his work. He has a skill for taking photos and he’d like to share that with friends and colleagues.

For me, I love sharing lessons I’ve learned. I write this blog every day except on Sundays. In the hopes that they resonate with someone who reads them, I post my favorites (including this one) to Facebook.

It doesn’t happen with every blog, but the most rewarding aspect of sharing my insights is when someone reaches out to tell me how a particular idea landed with them. This means they didn’t just read the words, they felt the emotion beyond them.

But above all, I write this blog every morning to dump my thoughts. It’s a way of holding myself accountable for a journaling habit. It helps me articulate and communicate better in other areas of my life.

If we’re going to create something and share it with others, we have to like it first.

Call me douchy, but I like my blogs. I enjoy reading them. I couldn’t do this every day if that weren’t the case. And I would’ve certainly quit during the early months where no one was reading them had I not simply enjoyed writing them.

When we start creating something, it’s probably shitty. Mediocre at best. People aren’t going to be too interested.

Since that’s the case, we better love it. If not, if we instead focus on creating something we hope others will love but we detest…now it’s a lose-lose. They don’t like it and we don’t like it.

The simple process is this:

  1. Start creating something we enjoy.
  2. Do it consistently and get better at it.
  3. Share it.
  4. People will slowly begin to stick around to hear what we have to say.
  5. Repeat.

If the intention is something we can’t control—money, subscribers, likes—that’s unsustainable. If we just keep at something we love doing, all that shit will come later.

2) Understand we’re human.

The human brain takes millennia to evolve. The meat in our skulls is pretty similar to that of our ancestors from 30,000 years ago.

Yet we live in an impossibly advanced society. Our technology has improved more in the last 20 years than the previous 200 before it.

The world around us is moving at rocket speed and we’re still running with software that has yet to be updated. We crave instant gratification, acceptance, and importance.

What’s more, our billion-dollar social media companies know this. They pay people millions of dollars to exploit these natural human weaknesses which keep us looking at our devices. We feel good when we get a like. Someone has shown us approval and belonging.

This may sound a little depressing, but all I’m saying is…

We’re not morons for checking our phones. This shit is designed to be addicting.

TL; DR.

If we’re questioning our social media usage, we can simply ask:

• What am I hoping to get out of this?

• What part of this am I addicted to?

I’ve written this affirmation every day in 2021

A blank sheet of paper next to a cup of coffee

I started dabbling with affirmations last year. I thought they were total bullshit.

I’ve never been into the idea of manifestation or the law of attraction. Naturally, we should have a clear vision of what we want…but the only way to make it happen is to consistently do the work and actions necessary.

We don’t manifest a healthy body. We exercise and eat well to create one.

We don’t manifest more money. We provide more value and change our financial habits to create more money.

We don’t manifest better skills. We practice until we get really fucking good at them.

….BUT affirmations don’t have to be about wanting something from nothing.

On New Years Day, I decided that my life would have a new mantra. I wrote it down in my notebook and have continued to write it every day since:

“I love doing scary things.”

Has this turned me into a fearless and rich person? Absolutely not. But, whenever opportunities or risky ventures have presented themselves to me this year, I’ve simply reminded myself that I love doing scary things.

I’ve never taken more intimidating (to me) action in my life than in the past eight months. I’ve…

• started a freelancing business
• halted that freelancing business to go full-time with my coaching business
• paid $12,000 for coaching programs
• put myself out there as a coach to a bunch of people from my past—getting ignored and rejected constantly
• started running group coaching calls/workshops
• bought plane tickets I couldn’t afford
• did a triathlon
• wrote this blog every day and shared my favorite ones
• told a woman I had feelings for her
• started writing a book
• built an established business when, my whole life, I’ve said I know nothing about business

What I’ve learned from this:

  1. Affirmations aren’t bullshit if we use them to guide our mindset toward taking more action. Simply writing things that sound powerful isn’t enough, but if we do something about it, those words can change our lives.
  2. We don’t have to be fearless; we have to be courageous. Fear is natural, but we must not let it stop us from creating the life we want to live.

Gathering data

It’s four weeks into writing my book. Here’s how it’s going.

I’ve interviewed four people so far. All have been amazing and each conversation has brought me back to my days of podcasting.

From super successful business owners to folks who have dedicated their lives to helping others in need…I love listening to people talk about what they’re most passionate about.

That’s been a pattern I’ve noticed. We tend to continue creating things we love. I don’t know many painters who just do it to make some extra cash. Maybe we start something to help pay the bills, but we can only sustainably keep it going if we love the game.

Another thing that keeps coming up is this idea of convergence. It’s where the answers to three questions meet.

Those questions are:

1) What are you really good at?

2) What do you love to do? (i.e. What excites you?)

3) What can you do that people would pay money for?

Answering each of these questions provides powerful ideas of what we can do with ourselves.

As I interview these badasses, I’m noticing the things they create passionately align with this convergence.

Fun fun fun.

Preorder your copy of Do The Thing here.

The best thing about writing this blog

It’s not the recognition from people who read it.

It’s not the number of readers increasing each month.

Those are lovely, but the best thing by far…

Writing every day makes it so much easier to articulate our thoughts and put words to them.

Since starting this daily blog two years ago, I’ve become a wildly better speaker and communicator overall.

That’s priceless.

3 days of little tips (pt. 2)

Start a life calendar.

For each month, jot down things you’d like to remember: events, accomplishments, insights.

As the years pass by, it’s difficult to remember the year we did certain things, let alone the month.

Out the gate

It’s the end of week 2 of writing my new book. Here’s an update.

The book will come out on or before my birthday, March 2, 2022. It will consist of creators and entrepreneurs who just took action and did the thing.

Yesterday I did my first interview. It was amazing.

It was with my coach and the head of my coaching program. Not only was it just pure fun, but I also got a vivid timeline of the extraordinary events of his life which led him to creating the community that has changed mine. The interview lasted an hour but I could’ve gone on for three more.

I can already tell one of the biggest challenges in writing this will be replaying these interviews and finding a clear and cohesive way to transcribe them into chapters. I’m already subconsciously asking, What can I cut out? What has to be included? How can I arrange this?

It also got me pumped to simply learn more about the awesome shit people have done and are doing. I’ve secured five other interviews, ranging from someone who runs a national jiujitsu school to someone who built an art collective in Rwanda.

What I learned this week:

1) Sometimes people are too busy to tell you about themselves, but most of the time they’re thrilled to do so. People love feeling interesting. So one of the best things we can do is be interested in people.

2) No matter what we want to create, the only thing getting in our way are the stories we tell ourselves.

3) Conditions will never be “perfect,” so we might as well take action now before we’re ready.

Preorder your copy of Do The Thing here.

Ugly beginnings

Last week, I announced I was writing a book. It’s about what it takes to stop thinking and start creating what we really want to create—be it a business, a YouTube channel, a blog, whatever. It’ll consist of lessons and stories from badass creators and entrepreneurs who just did the thing.

Naturally, I’ve been reaching out to said badasses this past week and will continue to do so.

Much of my outreach has been to people in my network. A ton of “Who do you know’s.” But I’ve also been sending direct messages and emails to my favorite creators: podcasters, YouTubers, musicians.

One out of twelve of them has responded so far. And I’m thrilled with that ratio!

The woman who responded, an incredible entrepreneur, is well-known in the Indie Hackers world. She wrote one of my favorite articles of all time. She posed all the normal responses one should before committing to anything (especially with someone they don’t know):

• What exactly does this entail?
• How much time will this require?
• I might have to say No to protect my time/energy.

It’s vital to bring these up immediately when anyone asks us to do anything…and she did it in the most respectful and candid way. Once we’re totally on the same page, we’ll see if it’s something she’d like to do.

The first ‘set-in-stone’ call I set up was with one of the most powerful creators and entrepreneurs I’ve ever known: my coach.

He’s built a community of over 100 life coaches from six different continents and has radically changed the trajectory of my life. It’ll be an honor to sit down with him for an hour and learn more about his journey.

Aside from that, I’ve gotten in touch with several friends of friends who are doing wildly cool and impactful things: running an arts collective in Rwanda, becoming a standup comedian, running a charity which provides underprivileged kids with toiletries…

I couldn’t be more excited to continue exploring.

In just one week, here are my biggest takeaways:

1) Most ‘big time’ people will say No Thanks or won’t respond. When that happens, I’ve lost nothing. We’ve gone from zero contact to zero contact. And who knows…eventually someone will get back to me.

2) Most people are so down to help—especially if they’re getting something out of it and it’s not a huge time commitment.

3) As Byron Katie says, “You can have whatever you want in life if you’re willing to ask 1000 people for it.”

Only 988 more to go.

Preorder your copy of Do The Thing here.

First book!

I’m writing a book. It’ll come out toward the end of 2021 or early 2022.

It’s about shutting the fuck up and just creating what you want to create: a business, a podcast, a blog, whatever.

I’ll be interviewing creators and entrepreneurs to gather insights on what it takes to just do the thing.

Pre-order your copy (for half-off) here.

Why I don’t promote my business

A woman raising her arms in a sunflower field with bubbles in the air

In the past week, two different people have asked me why I don’t use my blog or newsletter to promote my business or try to get leads.

The answer is simple: I don’t want to. But here’s why.

1) It doesn’t work.

Not in my line of business.

Coaching is about building relationships with people through fun and powerful conversations. This is all done by reaching out, getting curious, and diving deep with individuals…not by sending a mass call to action and impersonally asking people to come to you.

Scenario 1: Someone you went to high school with posts the link to their website in a Facebook status telling everyone they’re giving free coaching sessions.

Scenario 2: Someone you went to high school with messages you asking how you’re doing. You hop on an hour-long call with them and share stories of what you both have been up to for the past decade. You discuss how you both have grown and the direction you’d like to head toward. You hear them talk about their coaching business and how passionate they are about helping people. Maybe at some point they invite you to a coaching session as a gift to see if they can help you too.

Which of these is more likely to lead to you sitting down and doing a session?

You might be thinking: neither. That’s normal. Most people don’t know what life coaching is. They’re afraid of being open and exploring vulnerabilities with someone they barely knew in high school.

But some people are totally down. So if they are, we schedule a call and explore what’s possible in their lives. But this only happens after the proper time has been taken to build that connection.

Here’s the catch…there is no catch. I love connecting with, reconnecting with, and learning more about people. So no matter what, I win. If we have a lovely hour-long chat about what they’re up to, I invite them to a coaching session, and they say no thanks, I still got everything I was hoping for.

I’m not here to “close” clients, hit my numbers, or get any sort of result. I’m here to have as many fun and powerful conversations as I possibly can. If a conversation leads to a paying client, cool! If not, cool!

Which brings me to the main reason I don’t promote my business on my blog or newsletter

2) I do this shit because I enjoy it.

Each and every morning, I sit down and type a short blog and hit Publish. And every Thursday, I build my newsletter for Friday morning.

It’s therapeutic. It develops my skills as a writer, thinker, and content creator. And above all, it’s fun.

I love sharing my thoughts with close friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike. I’m honored that they would spend even 60 seconds reading what I have to say.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve had several fruitful conversations stem from people disagreeing with something I’ve posted. When 600 people read something you write, they’re going to have some thoughts about it.

Anyway, if my focus for this stuff was results-oriented: leads, subscribers, followers, etc…I’d burn out in a week.

I have no interest in mixing the thing I do purely out of love and joy with business goals and targets. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing…it’s just not my bag of wine.

From my limited experience in creating content and publishing it, the major piece of advice I give people is this:

If you’re going to create content, make sure you love doing it first…because if you don’t—if you’re solely doing it for a result—those early days where nobody’s interested will destroy your soul.

Feed your soul instead. Create shit because you love it.

Please like everything I write

Someone told me last week that they disagreed with something I wrote a year ago on this blog.

To which I replied: “I have no doubt.”

I write one of these blogs every day (except on Sundays). It’s used more as a journal than a medium for sharing my thoughts. It would be truly impossible for 100% of people who read it to agree with 100% of what I say.

That’s not to say I’m free from criticism. Far from it. I post this for all to see. I’m thinking out loud…and it would be hypocritical if I got hurt when others thought out loud back at me. I welcome messages and challenges.

I love when people disagree with me, thinking I’m missing something, or am being unfair. It leads to fun and hopefully fruitful conversation.

Even more so, I love when I disagree with myself. Sometimes I’ll go back and read random blogs I wrote a few years ago and cringe at my preachiness and self-righteousness. But I’m grateful for that disgust because it means, hopefully, that I’m growing.

You can please some of the people some of the time…but some people will always quietly hate you.

What’s your system?

A bunch of electronic chords plugged into a system
The inside of my brain.

We all have a system for doing things.

Some of us reject the the word system. That’s fine, but we all have a series of actions we take or don’t take with everything we do. Habits are just a form of systems.

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
― James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Our bank accounts are the sum total of our financial habits. The way we look and feel is the sum total of our diet and exercise habits. How messy or tidy our space is is the sum total of our cleanliness habits.

Last month, I got terrible sleep. Since my sleep quality is the sum total of my sleeping habits, I did some investigation.

I noticed I was:

• on my phone a lot right before bed
• eating later in the day
• drinking more alcohol than usual

So I improved the system. No phone after 10pm. Not eating past 8pm. No alcohol on weekdays.

After just one week, my sleep quality has improved drastically and I feel ten times more refreshed and energetic.

Dillan Taylor's sleep report
My sleep data from Sleep Cycle.

In a recent conversation with a coaching friend, she told me, “It’s impressive to me how you set a goal and just attack it.” I was truly touched by her compliment, but right away I explained that that’s not how I approach things.

In the self-help world, we’re told to set SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.
e.g. “I’m going to lose 15 pounds by August 2nd.”

I understand the utility of setting such specific goals, but they don’t light me up at all. I usually change my mind halfway through working toward them or if I do accomplish them, I’m left with this empty feeling and simply ask, “Now what?”

I much prefer systems.

To be more clear: I prefer designing systems which allow me to consistently doing the things I enjoy and get better at them. Here are a few of them…

Coaching:

I reach out to a certain number of people each week and update my client notes every Monday. I’m not working toward a defined number of clients or a specific dollar amount. I just love coaching and growing my business, so I have a system in place which lets me do those things well every single week.

Exercise:

I’ve never set an exercise goal. I couldn’t care less about how much I can bench or squat. But I love exercise, so I make sure I go to the gym three to four times each week. The cycle: push muscles (chest and triceps), core, pull muscles (back and biceps), and legs.

This blog:

I look at the analytics of this blog about once a year. I’m eternally grateful for how the number of readers has increased, but I don’t do it to raise traffic. I write this blog each morning because it helps me shape and get clarity on my thoughts on things. I’ve become more articulate and I get to share stories and ideas with friends and people outside my circle. So I’ve made it part of my morning routine.

Conclusion

So I’ll ask you: How can you create a system for the things you enjoy so you can do them more and do them better?

Do you reject systems? If so, why? And does rejecting systems lead you to take more action or less?

I don’t feel like writing this blog

Sometimes I sit down in the morning to write the day’s blog post and feel zero motivation, inspiration, or creativity to do so.

I’ll force myself to make some shit up so I can go about my day and I’ll often feel guilty about it. I know people come here to read my half-thoughts on things.

Call it a cop-out, but I think it’s a lovely example of two things:

1) Done is better than perfect.

2) We’re never going to feel pumped to do something 100% of the time…no matter how much we love it. All we can do is show up and do the work anyway.

I didn’t write a blog yesterday

I didn’t want to.

I felt creatively drained and empty.

I forgot to do it in the morning and then it slipped my mind.

Now I’m writing this one and it sucks. It’s lazy.

Oh well, on to the next one.

Done is better than perfect.

Write like a motherfucker

A person writing with pen and paper

Last night, I finished another chapter of Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. It was my favorite one yet.

The book consists of captivating Dear Sugar columns; people write in asking for her advice and she tells gripping, emotional stories and gives life-changing insights.

The chapter I read before bed last night was called “Write Like a Motherfucker.” In it, a woman wrote in looking for much needed motivation. She’s a writer who doesn’t write. She’s often paralyzed by her depression.

She writes:

“I’m…a high-functioning head case, one who jokes enough that most people don’t know the truth. The truth: I am sick with panic that I cannot—will not —override my limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude, to write well, with intelligence and heart and lengthiness. And I fear that even if I do manage to write, that the stories I write will be disregarded and mocked.”

What powerful vulnerability. And what a concrete example of someone who wants something but believes there’s something in the way.

To be clear, I am NOT downplaying the role of mental health here. I love that Cheryl opens by recommending professional help to this woman. The power of not having the energy to do what we want to do is stark.

But the reason I love this chapter so much is because Cheryl throws down some masterful tough love.

The phrase tough love often gets a bad rep. People tend to get distracted by the first part, tough: possibly unpleasant, firm, or uncomfortable…that they forget about the second part entirely, love: coming from a place of “I care about you and your wellbeing.”

I believe in accepting others for who they are and showing consistent compassion to ourselves and those around us. But I also believe in challenging ourselves and those around us for the sake of pushing humans to be better.

Cheryl hits her with this hammer:

“The most fascinating thing to me about your letter is that buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing, there’s arrogance at its core. It presumes you should be successful at twenty-six, when really it takes most writers so much longer to get there.”

Wow. No pity party here.

I can only imagine how much this stung to read. But Cheryl does a fantastic job in relating her own experiences and assuring her that this all comes from a place of love and care. Plus, the point is not: Does this sting? The point is: Is this true and is this useful?

Going through mental chaos is God damn difficult. In many cases, it can be debilitating. But unfortunately, that doesn’t remove the work that needs to be done.

Cheryl describes humility: not being up too high or down too low, but on the ground level. She writes:

“We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce. You have limitations. You are in some ways inept. This is true of every writer, and it’s especially true of writers who are twenty-six. You will feel insecure and jealous. How much power you give those feelings is entirely up to you.”

The negative feelings we experience are absolutely valid. But the work still needs to be done. It’s up to us to continue to show up and do it.

“Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig…

You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug.

So write…Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”

(Strayed, Cheryl. Tiny Beautiful Things (p. 60). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Start a damn blog

Yesterday, an old friend told me he was considering starting a blog.

I gave him the same advice I give everyone when they tell me this:

Fucking do it.

Writing this blog every day has been one of the best decisions of my life. It’s given me an avenue to share my thoughts with others. But more than that, it’s given me the accountability to basically journal every day.

I don’t write this because I want to be some big time blogger. I do it because it helps me get clarity on what I actually think. It’s improved my ability to articulate myself. It’s allowed me to share what I’m doing with people I don’t otherwise keep in contact with.

Every so often, someone will reach out (usually someone outside my circle) and tell me they’ve been enjoying the blog. I certainly don’t write in the hopes I’ll get compliments, but God damn it feels validating. It warms my heart to hear that people who could be staring at anything else on the internet have chosen to spend two minutes and read my mediocre writing.

Like any other pursuit, thoughts and stories creep in and make arguments for why we should quit. But like any other pursuit, we’ll be so much happier a year from now saying “I’m glad I started a year ago,” as opposed to “I’ve been thinking about starting this for a year…”

No service, no blogs

I was in West Virginia this weekend.

Log cabin, rafting, zip-lining, beer, no service or wifi.

That meant for the first time in over a year, no blog posts.

My friend even texted me to make sure I was okay. To me, that was an enormous compliment.

I stop this thing for two days and people wonder where the hell I am! It’s a sign of consistency and support.

But I’m back with more daily garbage. Back with a farmer’s sunburn and a lingering hangover.

Back in the saddle again.

Cliches are true?

People often say: “It’s cliche but it’s true.”

That’s always confused me. Of course it’s true! That’s why it’s a cliche.

Here are a few that I live my life by:

1) If you want something different, you have to do something different.

In other words, if we’re doing the same thing over and over again, we can’t complain that we’re not getting the results we were hoping for.

For many months, I wanted a thriving coaching business but was unwilling to put myself out there and make it happen. Needless to say, I wasn’t reaching enough potential clients. Only once I gritted through the fear did I really start to make the business sustainable.

2) You get back what you put out into the world.

The happiest and most fulfilling moments of my life are always when I’m the most positive, grateful, and compassionate person I can possibly be.

Shockingly enough, people enjoy being around folks who make them laugh, make them feel listened to and supported, and make them feel inspired to take action.

It’s similar to another cliche:

If you’re not getting what you want in life, help more people.

This has been true for me in business and in my relationships.

3) Do what you love.

I know, barf.

But let me explain.

I hated my full-time job and had to quit and start my own thing to keep my sanity. I’m well-aware that most people have no interest in doing that.

Doing what we love doesn’t mean we have to uproot our careers and fight tooth and nail to make money with our passions. I have a ton of friends who work jobs they don’t necessarily love so they can pay their bills and have the time and money to have fun on their days off.

Doing what we love can mean:

  • Trying more new things
  • Developing our passions
  • Spending more intentional time away from anything to do with work
  • Taking more trips
  • Spending more quality time with loved ones

I love writing this blog, so I cut out a chunk of time each morning where I type away. I say no to most things on weeknights so I can do jiujitsu. I play chess every day. I take one vacation each month. And yes, I work my ass off to continue this career I absolutely love.

It’s cliche…but it’s true.

How to get people to read your stuff

A man playing basketball

Here are all the things I’m proud of at the moment:

• The strength of my relationships
• My fitness
• My coaching business
• The fact that I know at least basic martial arts skills
• My intermediate chess abililites
• This blog
• My ability to listen to, connect with, and coach other human beings

What do they all have in common?

They’ve taken a fuck-ton of time (in metric units).

The cliche goes:

“It’s only taken me ten years to become an over-night success.”

Perhaps there are freaks of nature who are naturally good at the things they do. Good for them. But for the other 99% of us, getting great at the things we care about will take countless repetitions.

I’ve been writing this blog every day since October 2019. Those first pieces make me cringe. I had no idea how to string ideas together and I used big words to sound more academic. And for months, each blog was averaging two readers: myself and my super supportive friend. (Thanks Grace!)

Now, there are hundreds of folks tuning in each week and I couldn’t be more grateful. But that hasn’t happened because I’ve found the perfect way to market my stuff or because I’ve shoved it in the faces of enough people.

It’s like that because I’ve sat down each morning and typed out my thoughts. Eventually, I got a little better at writing. My average of two readers went up to three. Then four. And so on…

I’m always skeptical when I see ads like, “Get 100x MORE followers in ONE month!!”

Fuck off.

Maybe methods like that exist, maybe they don’t. I personally have zero interest.

The only thing I care about is consistently showing up to do the work.

This leads to improvement, which leads to higher quality, which leads to more value, which leads to more people interested, which leads to improvement, and on and on it goes…..