No one likes taking part in a dull, predictable conversation. No one likes watching boring interviews. But all of us enjoy interviews that accidentally turn into an argument or that make us feel good about ourselves. The best way to do that is to ask thought-provoking and insightful questions such as:
What did you feel when your father passed away? How would you describe that feeling?
Why you didn’t leave the country after those events? What impact did this decision have on you?
What’s your attitude to those who thinks this way? Do you agree they should be…
You got the idea. Thought-provoking questions are necessary if you want your interview to be engaging and memorable both for your guest and your audience. Here’s how they contribute to that.
Help you stand out among other interviewers.
May lead to a series of questions and topics you didn’t expect to arise.
Make the interviewee look good or put them on the spot instead.
These types of questions spice things up and put your interviewee on a spot. It shouldn’t necessarily be an open conflict, but it should be provocative and hard to answer right away. Easy questions have no challenge for the interviewee. So this is one way to use those questions: create a small conflict and push the buttons that may lead to a debate.
Though there’s another way to use thought-provoking questions. Put the interviewee in a spot where they can express their opinion and prove their expertise and status. Give them the green light to show their best side. That’s why people do interviews: to build their media platform, to share their ideas with a new audience, and to feed their ego.
It’s totally fine to use insightful questions to make your hero look good in the eyes of their followers. Their answers will also make their audience feel smart, valued, and honored.
Let me share two principles that help me write consistently and be abundant: write everything down and keep it simple. Let’s look at them closer.
Write everything down. It’s a fundamental principle of my writing process. I guess nothing gave such a boost to my writing as building a habit of taking notes. There are three reasons for doing that:
Taking notes frees up the space for new ideas in your head. Since I’d begun writing down all the ideas that crossed my mind, the more new thoughts started coming in. My wife often observe me rushing to my desk from the bed to write down the idea that arose in my head before sleep.
Writing ideas down helps to structure the knowledge and experience you’ve gained. Writing and deconstructing things I’ve learned was the easiest way to understand them much deeper and turn them into simple but efficient management principles. No video or audio can do so. Writing is the only creative process that implies analysis.
Writing is the fastest and cheapest way to share your knowledge with others. Videos and podcasts require many additional skills and postproduction, while writing doesn’t take much time and energy to convey a message. Also reading is a natural way to get the idea, while a video or a podcast doesn’t allow you to skip a part of it without losing the context or some important details.
Keep it simple. I’m talking about note-taking, of course. I know that some of you may have a tendency to hunt for a new super powerful all-in-one perfect application that would empower you to start taking notes. I’ve been down that road. That’s a self-deception.
Dump this idea. Don’t wait for the perfect tool. It won’t make a difference to the world, but your writing may.
You already have a note app on your phone. It already has hashtags, folders, headings, bullet points, etc. You don’t need a list of unique features to make a grocery list, same goes for ideas. All you need is to start writing them down.
The simpler your note-taking process is, the better. I use standard Notes by Apple to jot down my thoughts. It’s enough to capture the idea that came to me and make the first draft so I could forget about it and move on. Any app that has autosave, folders, hashtags, and cloud sync will work.
To sum up:
Write down all ideas that cross your mind
Take notes so you could forget and get back later to edit them
Keep your note-taking system simple
Use a standard app that is aimed at getting the job done
Use hashtags for topics and folders for projects
The next time you’re going to write something on social media, open you notes, pick one topic and simply edit this. No need to write from scratch anymore, you will always have a list of ideas to go with.
It’s been three days since my wife and I returned home from a short trip to Ufa, the capital city of Bashkortostan. It was our first trip together in six months, so we were expecting it like never before.
We did all we could to make this trip joyful and pleasant: booked a good four-star hotel, asked our friends to recommend us good restaurants and cafes, and made a list of places to visit and local food we should try. However, everything that could go wrong went wrong on that trip.
The mishaps started right after we arrived. We planned this short vacation a month ago to get to the concert of Pompeya, a Russian indie-rock band that sings in English. The organization was so bad that there was a cram. As the gig started, soon my wife and I were squeezed between two flows of people like rye in the windmill. So, we had to leave and listened the rest of the show from the distance.
For the next two days, bad luck followed us. Everywhere we went we encountered indifference from waiters and baristas, rudeness from people in the street, and prying eyes of random passersby. In all the restaurants we visited the food was unsavory or cooked in some weird way. For example, in one place we were served an Italian pizza with dill, and in other cafe—a waiter brought eggs Benedict that were watery.
The city of Ufa is a nice place from an urban perspective: there are many parks and green cozy alleys, breathtaking landscapes, lots of old merchant houses, and unique local wooden architecture. But we didn’t have a chance to enjoy the city, because we didn’t feel welcome there.
Even though I can’t say our trip was a pleasant experience, we accepted it and tried our best to enjoy it anyway. As soon as we realized things weren’t going the way we wanted, we made up our minds to accept anything that would happen and live every moment as is, not trying to control the consequences of our choices.
We can’t control the outcomes
The only two things you can control in life are your perception of events and your attitude to the impact they have on your life. You have the power to make conclusions and decisions you think are best for you. But you can’t control the outcomes.
You can design a great process, tweak your mind to the right tune, thoroughly manage your daily routine, and still get the wrong result. It’s insane, but it happens every day. And when it does, it’s crucial to focus on the next attempt rather than the outcome you are aiming for.
There’s no 100% working solution that will lead you to success. There are no magic pills. The previous experience that worked in the past can become a letdown or another pitfall in the present. The only reliable tactic is to keep trying and not be afraid of failure.
Failures always come with stress, and it’s a good thing. Stress kept our ancestors looking for a better place to settle. Stress and hunger kept them seeking an easier and more reliable way to get food—that's how livestock and crop production emerged.
Stress and failures are the essences of life, without them, we’d be extinct. So if you’re feeling stressed right now, that’s OK. You can’t completely remove stress from your life, but you can change your attitude toward it. Legitimize failures, let them be.
Babies are best at failing, and they don’t give a shit about it!
Think of a baby boy who learns to stand and walk. He doesn’t care if he falls a thousand times before he can stand holding onto the edge of his bed. He doesn’t give a shit! He keeps trying, and, in the end, he gets there. We are no different from them!
Another great example is people who run marathons. Marathoners don’t run a marathon on their first attempt. First, they run 1 km, then 2, someday they run 5. Then they run 10, 20, and only after years of training—a marathon. They don’t care much about failures, because it’s OK not to be capable of running 42 km from scratch.
Legitimizing failures is the healthiest way to handle stress. By changing your attitude to setbacks you can greatly reduce the amount of stress in life. This will release more time for new attempts and ideas, and allow you to see solutions that were unavailable to you before.
Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. The same goes for failures and stress.
Accept failure when it comes your way. Never think you’d fail, but also never regret it when you do. Go forward, do your best, and never look back. Then it’ll be easy for you to start over as if nothing bad happened at all. That’s the best way to master the game. Any game.
Yesterday I woke up at 5 a.m. and couldn’t sleep. Trying to fall asleep again, I caught myself ruminating the following words in my head: “Failures are our best teachers”. Suddenly the whole story started to unfold in my mind, so I jumped up, took my laptop and started typing it until I lost my train of thought.
Half an hour later, I had a draft about the benefits that failures and mistakes bring us. Thus was born this post and Twitter thread for Timestripe.
Failures are the best teachers. Here are eight reasons why:
Mistakes increase importance of wins. Failures teach us so much more than any success could ever teach. If it weren’t for our failures we wouldn’t value our wins and achievements, because there wouldn’t be anything to measure or compare them by.
Continuous success blinds us with illusions. Successful projects and positive outcomes are necessary, but they don’t teach us much. Instead, they make us get along with the idea that if it worked this time it will always work in the future. But it won’t. That’s a cognitive bias we get trapped into. Failures, on the other hand, teach us that if something didn’t work it didn’t work only here and now in this very conditions, in this context, on this project. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible or it won’t work some other time in some other place.
Failures teach us patience. Having failed doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Failing at something teaches us to be patient and persistent about our approach. We learn to make projects and achieve results with a small steps strategy, not by making one perfect decision.
Failing shows it’s OK to be wrong. It’s not the end of the world. Everyone makes mistakes. Even the great minds did. Why should we be perfect? There’s no need for that, no one expects that from us. We’re only expected to fulfill the commitments we’ve made. Nothing else.
Mistakes encourage us to enhance our process. Failures help us discover the hidden power of limitations: time, money, and our physical capabilities. Any project has a limited amount of money and a deadline. Nor can we be productive six-eight hours in a row. Limitations help us find a solution within our available sources.
Failures teach us to value the way, not the goals. Failures and limitations teach us to be flexible and not to put all our money and time on one great idea that will do all the work. Instead, we become more committed to consistency and methodicality rather than an occasional success. They matter more in the long run.
Having failed doesn’t equal being bad at something. In the end, failures don’t define us as bad workers and contractors, or as being bad at our craft. They only mean that we chose the wrong way to solve the problem, and now we’re going to find another one until we find the right solution.
To learn and improve you should be ready to fail. Writing this thread I recalled a good dialogue from “Game of thrones” that happened between Jon Snow and sir Davos Seaworth after Jon’s resurrection:
Jon: I did what I thought was right. And I got murdered for it. And now I’m back. Why?
Sir Davos: I don’t know. Maybe we’ll never know. What does it matter? You go on. You fight for as long as you can. You clean up as much of the shit as you can.
Jon: I don’t know how to do that. I thought I did, but… I failed.
Sir Davos: Good. Now go fail again.
If you’ve failed recently, don’t panic. Don’t stop dreaming, and don’t stop moving forward. Just go fail again.
There were times when I loved doing several things simultaneously. I could make a soup and at the same time discuss another website layout, write a newsletter and watch a TV show. Over time I’ve realized that multitasking almost always sucks, and here’s why.
Only few people in this world can multitask and deliver great results. There’re almost none.
The desire to complete two different things at one is a pathetic attempt to buy some time. Both are likely to be done badly.
Multitasking is often used in the wrong places. It leads to mistakes, sometimes fatal.
To figure out when it’s okay to multitask and when it’s not, I follow a simple method.
If the task doesn’t require thinking and analyzing new information—cleaning, washing dishes, walking through the park—it can be combined with another activity. For example, I make half of my calls and team meetings on the go, because I can move my legs without thinking about it.
However, if the task requires you to immerse yourself into the topic, to constantly assess the situation, to watch for safety—meeting with a new client, playing basketball, or driving a car—you'd better put everything else on hold and focus. Otherwise, you might miss a crucial idea of the talk or get hit in the face with a ball. And if you’re checking your phone while driving or crossing the street, you may die eventually.
I’m not a fan of multitasking, and I hate it when it is mispresented as a criterion for success. But at the same time, I love variety. I enjoy running several projects at once, meeting new people every day, and visiting different cities. The variety is in the spice of life! It inspires me and gives me food for thought. But doing several tasks at once — fuck this. It’s highly likely to turn out to be bullshit.