I connected with a very cool reader named Patrick. I wrote up, "On Getting More Done – Top-down, or bottom up?" and "Want to read more? Okay, here’s a few ways to do so" upon question/request from him, and we've had a nice correspondence.
He just sent me this really smart email, and graciously allowed me to share it with you -
Thanks again for the terrific emails you took the time to write last time on the topic of reading more. And great stuff on the blog lately, keep that up.
I've recently come across some pretty interesting stuff in the motivation field, I guess you could say. So I thought I might share my discoveries in case it might grant you some more insight on the topic.
It started with a TED-video I saw. I'm sure you're already familiar with TED, in other case it's definitely worth checking out. The video I saw was Tom Chatfield talking about how video/computer games reward the brain. Gaming is pretty fascinating imo, how it can motivate such a large number of people to so much, who in other parts of life are maybe not as productive. I have a couple of friends and a brother as anecdotal evidence to support this :) Mr Chatfield talks about how gaming motivates people to put a lot of effort (and money) into something virtual and how this possibly could be applied on education. I found the video interesting, and recommend it if you would find this kind of stuff interesting. Here is the url: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/tom_chatfield_7_ways_games_reward_the_brain.html
So, I thought I might keep a look out for things that include a couple (or all) of the ways that gaming motivates, and rewards the brain (this might be an interesting topic for a blog post in the future btw, or at least I would find it interesting, ha). And I found the ReadMore application for iPhone. If you're not familiar with the ReadMore app; it's sort of a "Current targets"-list that you wrote about in the email/blog. Except in ReadMore, you clock your reading time, which gives you some interesting data on what pace you are reading in and so on. I found this motivating partly because of the tracking element (reward system in the brain is lit up by being able to get positive feedback from yourself when you have been a good boy). Also, since you track every session of reading, you get som data on your reading tempo as I said, which at least made me more motivated to read more efficiently (so my stats wouldn't be bad). So I feel like my willingness to read, and my reading efficiency went up thanks to this.
Your thoughts on this?
My thoughts? I think it's really good stuff. I actually studied game design and reward mechanisms a little bit because I thought it would help me build out my tracking better and keep myself engaged and productive. It also seems like an area full of rich data and examples that's been neglected by formal thinkers thus far, which means you can get ahead of the curve by studying/applying it.
Like anything else, you want to be careful that you're optimizing for the right things - you don't want to read too fast at the expense of retention/understanding just to fill up your stat sheet. But I think that's a minor risk - overall, I think the value of the tracking, data, and game mechanics would help read more, encourage, inspire, and educate.
Very smart letter, great stuff Patrick. A pleasure corresponding, and thanks for letting me share this with everyone.
I. This post outlines Patrick McKenzie - a brilliant technologist and entrepreneur - how he's done such amazing things and learned so much, and why he's getting drastically underpaid and how it's his own fault. This post will be most valuable for technologists who underestimate themselves and undervalue themselves.
II. Hacker News is the best tech community on the internet, and patio11 - Patrick McKenzie - is the best contributor there. I don't even think that's controversial, I think it would be near universally agreed by the HN crowd that Patrick has made as many or more important contributions as anyone.
If you're from Hacker News, you know Patrick already. But for my readers that don't know him, let me give you a quick overview.
III. Patrick is a multi-faceted genius, and I don't throw the word genius around casually.
Patrick McKenzie is many things - he's an expatriate to Japan, he's a talented coder, tester, metrics/split-testing/analytics user, a great writer, extremely modest and helpful. He can recruit people, evaluate talent, and manage people well. He understands ROI very well and is good at purchasing advertising. He's good at customer service. Outsourcing. Automation. Coding. Ecommerce.
I'm rereading Habit - very good if it sounds interesting to you - and thought that applying some of that information would make it even more powerful. The golden rule of habit formation is:
to change a habit you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward but insert a new routine.
For example, after dinner I used to always want a sweet dessert. My cut was that dinner was finished, my routine was to eat chocolate and my reward was the pleasant feeling of sweetness. Since reading the book I've replaced the routine part with a piece of gum and this change has been a resounding success.
Originally I thought about titling this post "How to change your habits and 10 you can do right now" but shining a light on my own life would be much more relevant.