For many reasons, I’m feeling philosophical lately. I am about to bugger off for a week of “family time” with my kids and my parents; it’s time to do fiscal 2013 budgeting and personal year-end introspection; a lack of sunlight and outside time forces one to do less and read/think more.
So since this stuff has been on my mind (and most importantly since I have most of it written down already after giving a speech about digital media to peers/colleagues) I am posting here for anyone who cares.
If it catches on? Great! I have changed the world for the better. If not… Well, that’s the glory of digital media. It didn’t cost me a dime and won’t bother anyone anyway. So there’s nothing to lose by throwing this down the well.
Jeff’s 9 Rules for Life (… And Financial Publishing)
- Read A Lot. I literally do not know a SINGLE smart person who does not read. Find out what other people are doing/thinking. Emulate the smart ones and engage with them. Avoid the echo chamber and seek contrary views.
- Write a Lot. Writing focuses your thoughts through the process of self-editing. Writing teaches you humility since ultimately a reader has all the power – they read at their own pace, they can reread passages that mean something to them, they can close their browser or the book at any time. Most importantly, written words have a magic that spoken words do not. (Stephen King calls it telepathy.) Write a love letter or a note to your mom if you don’t believe in the power of writing.
- Good Intentions Matter. I don’t buy that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s paved with hubris or self-interest masked as good intentions. If you truly are trying to help others and make this world better, you will be fine. But if you truly just want to make money any way possible … well, it will show.
- Invite Criticism and Be Human. How do you avoid hubris or myopic self-interest? Honestly discuss your strengths and weaknesses with those you trust. Strive for constant improvement. Be self aware as much as you can.
- (Almost) Never Say No. Ideas and opportunities, even mediocre ones, are rarer than you think. So talk yourself into things, not out of them.
- You Get Out What You Put In. Something is either important to you or it is not. Malcom Gladwell as posited that mastery of something takes 10,000 hours. That means whether you put 1 hour in a day or 20 hours today isn’t important; long-term commitment, patience and perseverance are.
- Sadly, Humans are Driven by Fear and Greed. It’s an unfortunate reality that people will come running if you push the fear or greed buttons. Pushing them is fine to prove a point or even to make a buck once in a while, but once the “hope” and “optimism” options stop working we are screwed. Push the other buttons once in a while just to ensure they keep working.
- Consensus Matters. Nobody has all the answers. And a “market” by definition involves an exchange and counterparty. Acknowledge the other side of the trade, both financially and intellectually. Use third parties to prove your point and focus only sparingly on debunking others because someone will always disagree. And that’s ultimately a good thing.
- Invite Criticism and Be Human. Seriously. I mean it. So I’ll say it again.
Jeff’s 9 Rules for Digital Media
- No Second Chances. If you missed an opportunity today, you missed it forever. Google, social media, etc. reward first movers. Everyone else loses.
- Fast AND Insightful: The best work is not just quick, but also insightful and provides context. Immediately get to what news MEANS.
- No Attention Span. Nobody reads every word. Not even your mom. So write a zinger of a headline, a tight and engaging lead and deliver briefly.
- Redundant is fine. Redundant is fine because people don’t read every word. Being redundant is fine. Say things twice. And be redundant.
- Format is Your Friend: Use bullets or numbered lists. Use graphics. Link elsewhere to make a point briefly but still give interested parties a chance to learn more.
- No Strings, Just Scale. Getting people to pay for a digital product is hard. Not impossible, but hard. So focus on a quality product that builds trust and your brand and then try to monetize later. The best success stories were not started with revenue in mind, but simply a good product that caught on like crazy – and naturally could be easily monetized after scale was attained.
- Start Over Every Time. Ever article is literally the start of a conversation to a complete stranger. You must build trust, assert your expertise and strive for engagement anew. Every. Single. Time.
- Credibility Matters. Any idiot with an internet connection can have a blog. Show your work with links to sources if you cite numbers. Pointing to smart takes from a competitor is a positive because it shows you read what else is out there. Always remain humble and assume that the burden is on you every single day, in every single post, to show you know your stuff.
- Invite Criticism and Be Human. Sound familiar? Acknowledge past mistakes, point to contrary opinions, welcome comments AND RESPOND TO THEM RESPECTFULLY.
I certainly run afoul of these rules every once in a while myself… I am far from a perfect man, and my writing is just the smallest evidence of this.
But it helps to have some kind of “mission statement” as a writer or else you risk just becoming a mouthpiece for marketorial efforts or an infotainer.
Feel free to call me on my bullshit if I stray from these tenets… sometimes its hard due to internal and external pressures everyone in financial media are feeling these days.
But hey, I’m trying.
- Don’t think I’m trying to be an oracle or “teacher” here. This post was as much for me as for you. As Tadas Viskanta recently quipped, “Those who can, do. Those who want to continue learning, teach.” (Abnormal Returns)
- What writing is, according to Stephen King. (From “On Writing”)
- How to create financial content, a Barry Ritholtz classic that’s truer today than ever. (The Big Picture)
- A classic Altucher joint: “33 unusual tips to being a better writer.” I particularly find the bit about taking out the first and last graph is always true… shoulda done it here. (Altucher Confidential)
- Words of wisdom from a Towers Watson study: “Employees pay attention to the external image of the company. They’re more engaged when the company is publicly respected, shows honesty and integrity, and acts in a way that’s consistent with the core values workers are taught.” (Business Insider)
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.” Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP.