The One Big Thing You Can Do to Improve Your Business and Your Life

Kevin Kelly, founder and former executive editor of Wired magazine, wrote that “the new economy is about communication, deep and wide… Communication is the foundation of society, of our culture, of our humanity, of our individual identity, and of all economic systems.”

To put it simply, you can’t afford not to communicate well.

This Winter, people are heading back to college or taking night classes–all in the name of upping their game, learning new skills, and taking steps to create the life of their dreams.

It’s not always easy. It takes some hustle.

“Writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them. If you’re bad at writing and don’t like to do it, you’ll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated.” -Paul Graham

Across all industries, the best way to improve your business and personal life is to improve your ability to tell great stories.

Your designs and code only go so far if you can’t explain to someone what they do. Writing is known as the “hidden skill” of designers and techies — and if you want to accelerate your career or your business, investing in your own communication chops is a huge way to move forward, fast.

Think of the leaders you know and admire. Which ones of them are publishing on a regular basis? How are they on stage, in conferences, in presentations? They’re not just great at leadership or design. They’re great at speaking, writing, persuasion, and communication.

They didn’t wake up like this.

Paul Graham emphasizes the importance of writing as a tool for accessing your own ideas — “If you’re bad at writing,” he says, “you’ll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated.”

I’m a writing teacher, and I’ve worked with over 500 students. In my courses, I teach people how to improve their creative, storytelling, persuasion, and messaging skills. Here’s what I recommend:

One of the most frustrating things I hear from people is that they think writing is “innate” or a skill that some people just have, and others don’t. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Writing is a skill that everyone can get better at. And there are several ways you can improve:

  • First, try building your imagination and daydreaming skills. Write about strange and weird things and let your brain go into it’s creative side. This helps you build your writing vocabulary.
  • Next, teach yourself about storytelling. Stories have basic frameworks, and The Hero’s Journey is a great place to start in learning how to frame up a great story.
  • Third, if you’re crafting an essay, study up on how writers structure their thoughts. You don’t have to make it up — there’s a “five paragraph essay” format that makes writing a thesis with supporting points easier. It’s actually quite useful in everyday writing!
  • Last, study up on the art of persuasion. Persuasion is rooted in language, and when we need to market, sell, or convince someone of something, we use language to do so.

How I taught myself about writing and storytelling:

I started by reading a lot of books, taking courses, and watching what other people did. Today, I’ve read more than 85 books on storytelling, persuasion, design thinking, creative writing in order to teach myself more of this craft. (My ongoing list of storytelling books and resources is publicly available, and my digital writing courses are on my website).

Next, I started a blog. I wrote a weekly blog for five years, and, while the early posts make me cringe, I’m glad I did it. There’s no way to get better but through practice.

If you want to improve your life, improve your ability to articulate what you think. There’s power in being able to tell your story. It’s the difference between being heard, and being ignored.

Improve your career. Improve your relationships. Improve your mind.

PS: This week I’m partnering with The Write Life and nine other writers, bloggers, and authors as part of their annual bundle sale — the best deal on writing courses you’ll see this whole year! We teach the foundations of writing, how to get paid to be a writer, and how to land a publishing deal. The bundle of courses (valued at $1667) is $99 and is only available April 3–6, 2017.

If you want to learn more about writing well, I covered great ways to improve your writing (and common mistakes everyone makes in email communication) over on Fast Company, and my essay on 10 Ways To Improve Your Writing over at Fizzle has gotten a ton of comments about how helpful it’s been. You can also sign up for my online writing workshop if you want to invest further.

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Escape from Alcatraz swimmer. NCAA All-American. Founder of Startup Parent: http:/startupparent.com

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Sarah Kathleen Peck

Sarah Kathleen Peck

Escape from Alcatraz swimmer. NCAA All-American. Founder of Startup Parent: http:/startupparent.com

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