Why I Write Articles
I wrote my first article on Medium a couple of summers ago sort of by accident.
I had this amazing experience from exploring the limits of my comfort zone, and I was opened up to the possibilities of personal development. The combination of pride about what I’d accomplished (challenging myself to skydive, freestyle rap, sing in front of strangers…) and having a boring day at my internship led me to start documenting the challenges and make a personal reflection of what I learned. When I started writing the article, I really had no plans to share it. But, by the time I was finished, I decided the best way to truly embody the essence of stepping out of my comfort zone would be to post it to social media.
The response truly shocked me. I was getting direct messages from people I barely knew saying how it impacted them and congratulating me. All the positive feedback was confirmation that I was onto something. But, most importantly, I felt like I had memorialized my experience and was better because of it. I was able to learn something valuable and then share that value with the world, which felt great. This experience helped prove to me the power of the article and caused me to go on to write 19 more articles over the course of about 2 years. So, I thought it could be helpful to highlight exactly why I continue to write these articles and what I get out of them.
The first piece is that the act of putting thoughts into an article forces me to synthesize. I’m constantly reading books, watching videos, and consuming other content that I develop opinions and take notes on. But most of what I take in is somewhat shallow learning because I am never forced to think critically about it or defend it. When I have an idea for an article to write, I have general ideas for where I want it to go, but it’s not until I actually create the structure and put words onto the page that I have all my ideas together.
Putting words onto the page forces you to confront potential holes in your logic and figure out for yourself what you believe is the right approach. Plus, the process of compiling isolated ideas and concepts from different sources pushes me to notice patterns and themes that were previously jumbled. It’s similar to the medical practice of “See one, do one, teach one.” If you want to fully internalize something, you have to be able to apply the concepts and figure how to communicate what you’ve learned to someone else. There is a huge separation in comprehension between having some notes or thoughts on a topic and having the thoughts well articulated in a format like an article.
“The act of writing your idea in a cogent, organized way will make the idea better.” — Seth Godin
*An important note on sharing* At least to start, if you want to get the most out of synthesizing your thoughts, write for yourself. If you are writing with the main intention of sharing, you might filter your thoughts, which can reduce the authenticity of your work. If you are genuinely looking to reflect and put the pieces together for yourself, it’s much more likely to end up being valuable for you and other people.
Creating Guiding Principles
The other major way articles serve my personal development is by formalizing guiding principles for myself. Ray Dalio in his book Principles talks a lot about the importance of creating and iterating on principles and procedures for dealing with types of situations we have encountered before. This way, we are better equipped with handling situations as ‘another one of those’ rather than an isolated predicament. I see this mindset applying directly to my habit of creating articles. When I write an article, I am essentially creating the playbook for how to successfully handle a certain aspect of my life. For example, in my article Discipline vs. Happiness, I created guidelines for when I wanted to allow my discipline to take the driver seat and when I didn’t, so that moving forward I knew how to best approach these situations.
While my approaches to handling different areas of my life can change (this was a whole realization in itself), each time I write an article I am essentially creating a principle for myself that allows me to level up. Writing articles allows me to systemize the process of developing principles for better tackling life.
If you would have asked me a few years ago what I thought personal growth looked like, I would’ve pointed to an image from Eat Pray Love and said something about ‘finding yourself.’ Now, I can point to any one of my articles and have a concrete expression of some way I have grown. It is definitely not the case that writing articles is the only way to reflect and document what you’ve learned, and an article in itself does not imply growth. However, articles for me have provided the perfect platform for me to turn thoughts, notes, and actions into tangible progress.
Creating these guiding principles also serves the function of accountability. When I figure something out and put it in an article and/or share it, there is an expectation that I will embody the sentiment of what I wrote more than if I just had notes or thoughts on the topic.
Call to Action:
Again, writing articles is not a guarantee for achieving growth. Growth starts from learning and from action. But, when you pair these together with thoughtful reflections, you can achieve some really amazing results. If what I mentioned above sounds appealing to you, I highly encourage you to give it a try and to write something for yourself to see what you get out of it.
On a personal note, I also wanted to mention that I’m trying to create more types of content and to expand the reach of my work to be able to provide more value to people. So, I created a newsletter in which every few weeks I send out an email I’m experimenting with and learning about. This includes lots of recommendations for tools, books, articles, videos, mindsets that can help in your own growth process. If you are interested, check the newsletter out here!