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Advice from Asimov to Share your Problems

I learned the value of sharing online in a funny way. If I spend more than half an hour researching a topic or idea, I save the highlights for future reference. What started as I observed the my most frequent problems led me to great advice from Isaac Asimov and Richard Feynman.

In the workplace as a product manager on a small team, I help my teammates with problems as they come up. And I usually write myself a short note so I can more quickly answer that question the next time it comes up.

After months of doing this, I collected enough notes to present them to the team. When I answered the follow up questions, my topics list expanded. I realized we found a very helpful process to keep learning and improving.

My experience sharing lessons and getting good feedback helped me discover more shared problems to discuss.

I am aware that meeting weekly to share lessons is not a new idea. Just having the meeting encouraged other team members to ask questions and also to share their own knowledge. And it has pushed me to share online, and here are the lessons from that process.

Isaac Asimov Rules for Writing

Isaac Asimov wrote over 500 science fiction books and heavily influenced the genre. His method of writing was very simple:

  1. Get up and write until noon every day.
  2. Don’t worry about how good it is.

Asimov also disagreed with the notion of editing. It may not be my favorite part, but I find editing to be crucial to write clearly. My biggest takeaway is that when you show up every day you can’t help but figure things out.

When you are busy, you end up discovering what you need to be working on. That said, I am not a fan of busywork. It’s easy to fill your days but actually just end up running in circles.

I find focus when I write out my ideas and goals and share them. It helps me to talk through my priorities with others. Especially with smart friends and peers. Their questions challenge my assumptions and clarify my ideas.

Don’t just sit around thinking all the time – start writing and talking and you will get feedback on your ideas.

I started writing daily in February of 2020. At first, I had no idea what I should write about. As I got through one month of writing daily and then two months, I felt more comfortable putting words on a page.

It wasn’t until I saw the value at my office as I shared lessons that I figured out how my writing could be valuable to other people. I moved on from that previous job, but I still make a point to talk with people and collect their lessons about making physical products.

Put it all out there

And another secret is to put it all out there. Don’t save an idea or concept to write in the future. Get it out there and see what happens. Another idea will inevitably fill its place.

Hopefully, a few of the ideas you put out there are good, but often you just need to move on.

George Carlin threw out his material every year and started from scratch.

What idea have you been stuck on for a week or a month? When you build momentum with other ideas it can often help to come back to that first idea where you got stuck.

Learn through the Feynman Principle

Richard Feynman, the renowned physicist, could teach anything to anyone. His method was simple: explain it as if you were educating a child.

It might sound like you’ll insult your colleagues by talking as if they were children, but that’s not the goal. If you act like everyone knows the underlying concepts, you make too many assumptions and it makes it harder for people to ask questions.

I have also found that as I share things using the simplest explanations possible, I understand them better. If you can’t clearly define every concept or topic you are presenting, maybe you don’t understand it that well yourself.

Keep sharing

Now that I am many months into sharing ideas and reaching out for feedback I’ve learned far more than I had in the past three years combined.

Ali Abdaal, the junior doctor and YouTuber, explains it well when he says that amazing things happen when you start sharing publicly.

He used the analogy of spending your entire life in a small village. You might get lucky and meet your future wife when she rides through town on a horse. But otherwise, you are limited to the things that happen in your village.

What lessons do you have to share? How can you start writing or talking or drawing your ideas? And then share them! Expand your perspective outside your small village or community.

[Header photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters]