3 min read

For the first time...

Longtime readers respond "in forever"

Hi Everyone…I had a revelation recently: contrary to what you, oh readers, might believe, I actually have been writing with decent regularity…except it’s been for the limited audience of my team at ALX, for whom I drop a bi-weekly theme to focus our work. This blog/newsletter has been a testament to the challenge of getting myself to write something down regularly, but I actually have about a dozen article shaped things in the can; I just need to edit them a bit for general consumption.

I’m going to share one every couple weeks now, hitting your inbox on a Monday or Tuesday. Fair warning: this has always been about developing products for education, and these articles will probably focus more on developing products and be less specifically about education. More than anything, they’re about the internal life of a creator and how we work through the process of starting with nothing and emerging with something. No matter how many reps I get in, it’s still such a nerve-wracking, neuroses inducing process…but I’ve figured out some ways to navigate it, so that’s what I’m going to share. And, just for kicks, I’ll also give you a few updates on whatever I’ve been reading or watching lately that has captured my attention.

A noteworthy aspect of the first time doing something is that it is never the best time. Or if it is, then you should be concerned. First times are special not because they’re the best but because they can’t be replaced. There are many bests over the course of time; there’s only one first.

The first time lays the foundation that we start to build on. It establishes momentum; it takes more energy to activate the first time than it does to maintain and build on something already in motion. You’ve tried to do all of it the absolute best that you can, and you can start to see opportunities for improvement - both your own and to the systems themselves (but never, of course, for your esteemed tribe lead...certainly not that). Fun fact: if you get 1% better every week for a year, then at the end of the year you’ll be 65% better than you were when you started (shoutout to James Clear).

Let’s be real for a quick minute: we’re not only playing the game of getting 1% better week over week. We’re also chasing breakthroughs, big moments where the world explodes into a color we’ve never seen before. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive. If we are always focused on getting a bit better, we’re more likely to see those breakthroughs coming and be able to grab onto them, and we’ll always be positioning ourselves to be somewhere different in the future than where we are now.

So, that’s the first one…pretty short and sweet. Because it’s the first time, I have to tell you that a lot of how I’ve learned to manage my own creative process is very influenced by the book Art & Fear, though I am very hesitant to ever call myself an artist I think it’s completely relevant for anyone who does the work of building, making, and creating. It’s pretty short and pretty blunt, like a good punch in the face. And it’ll have you seeing the world differently like a good punch in the face as well (I have been punched in the face exactly once in my life…but that’s a story for another time).

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of sci-fi. Like a lot. What can I say? There’s some really great sci-fi out there. I’m about to wrap up the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, which has been an immensely enjoyable experience. I had to take a break after the first book (Three Body Problem), because my head was spinning…but after a few months, I barreled through the second book and just kept on going right into the third. It’s definitely more conceptual sci-fi with a lot of intensity on the sci part of the equation. It manages to blend quantum theory, realpolitik, and utopianism in a literary yet accessible story. Each of the three books feels like a different exercise in sci-fi sub genres. If you dig sci-fi and haven’t read it yet, you should. If you vehemently don’t dig sci fi, go ahead and steer clear. If you’re genre agnostic and want something that will stretch your brain, do it.

Back again in a couple weeks. And here’s to some firsts between now and then.