Don’t Throw Away Your Million Dollar Jackpot Ticket, or Why You Should Continue Writing on LinkedIn

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Lotto

In July of 2011, Sharon Duncan bought a lottery ticket at a local store in Beebe, Arkansas. She thought the ticket had no chance of winning and tossed it into a trash bin right in the store.

Turned out it was a winner! Her neighbor Sharon Jones discovered the ticket in the trash bin, and knew exactly what she had found. Ms. Jones claimed the prize money…a million dollars!

That’s just luck, you say. But is it?

Consider another “lost ticket” story. In 1976, Ron Wayne, one of the three Apple co-founders, owned a 10 percent stake in the company. However, after just 12 days Wayne decided to quit and sold his shares for…$800! In his interview with Cult of Mac Wayne said, “They (Jobs and Wozniak) were whirlwinds — it was like having a tiger by the tail. If I had stayed with Apple I probably would have wound up the richest man in the cemetery.”

Indeed, he’d be a billionaire today.

How many of us give up too easily when our chances of success seem slim?

Take LinkedIn Pulse authors. There has been a wave of changes on LinkedIn lately, some of which have made authors frustrated. I agree that LinkedIn Pulse has become less dynamic, and its algorithms are promoting a lot of cookie cutter articles while not catching all the quality articles out there. I also agree that with the growing amount of spam on LinkedIn, we are less optimistic even about communicating with new contacts.

But should we just stop writing and move to another platform? Can writing ever be easy?

No, writing is more of a lottery than a predictable sport. Ask Jack London, Emily Dickinson or Ernest Hemingway. Did they stop trying? Should we just forget about our winning ticket?

“Can one individual’s social media activities, meaningful and honest or pointless, impact a multitude of other minds significantly?” asks Milos Djukic, one of the most original writers on LinkedIn.

Comparing social media writing with the famous Butterfly Effect, he argues that every one of us can make a difference. “You are one in a million, equally unique, unrepeatable and unpredictable. A single flap of a butterfly’s wings may provoke a new Renaissance… It is your global social impact,” says Djukic.

So write to make this impact. Write, but don’t preach. Write to create positive thinking. Write to inspire. Write to make sense. Write to transform yourself.

Ray Bradbury, the king of science fiction, once said, “And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.”

Or listen to the advice from Karthik Rajan, another successful LinkedIn blogger, who heard a perfect advice on writing from his mother – “Just share your experiences, trigger the reader’s curiosity and let the audience draw their own conclusions, respect them as individuals and they will in turn respect you.” And shared he did! Thanks to LinkedIn blogging, Karthik is now sharing his thoughts in his Huffington Post column. Not bad?

“It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.”
—Robert Benchley

But what should you do with all of your LinkedIn articles? What’s the ultimate goal?

For me personally, writing itself is a rewarding experience. Yet, when I started writing on LinkedIn back in May 2014, I had no idea that my 42 articles would help me find new business leads, meet inspiring social entrepreneurs and non-profits, and open many doors. Most importantly, I found a great diverse audience, fellow writers and readers, who constantly guide me and improve my writing one article at a time. Isn’t that a treasure?

There’s not one single goal in writing, because its ROI is more than just a monetary reward.

So instead of throwing your dream into a trash bin, think of compiling your articles into a non-fiction book.

This is advice that I got from Derek Sivers, a successful entrepreneur, musician and the bestselling author of Anything You Want. This book changed me. It inspired me so much that I wanted to speak with Derek and learn from him. So when I read on the book’s back cover that Derek’s “main act of public service is answering emails from strangers,” I emailed him asking whether I should write a non-fiction book based on the articles I wrote on LinkedIn. Here’s what he said:

“Yes! Absolutely. Share whatever you learned. We should all do that. It’s just the right thing to do.

Tell the tales the best you can.  Start by telling them to friends & strangers, before you write them down.  Watch feedback.

Don’t worry about it becoming an official book. First just start by making each experience into its own blog post like this: https://sivers.org/1idea.

Once the blog posts are well-received, look into making them a book.”

How about that? Want to know how to improve your LinkedIn articles before you venture into the book business?

Following Derek’s blog advice, begin by “presenting one little idea, something anyone can read in under two minutes, and shine a spotlight on it.” Watch for comments, and see if other social media channels pick up on your content.

Important – “don’t bury your brilliant idea on page 217”! “Stop the orchestra. Solo that motif. Repeat it. Let the other instruments build upon it.”

Once you’ve selected your top winners, you can plunge into the excitement of book writing. After all, you’ve got nothing to lose! Your own LinkedIn audience improved and approved your articles. And while you’re waiting to receive your first freshly minted book from a publishing house, hear out this advice on how you can actually get paid for what you write, by Jeff Haden, a ghostwriter, speaker, LinkedIn Influencer, and contributing editor for Inc. who authored over 50 non-fiction books.

But always remember your duty as a writer, which Theodora Goss said best: “If you’re a writer, your first duty, a duty you owe to yourself and your readers, and to your writing itself, is to become wonderful. To become the best writer you can possibly be.”

Isn’t that like winning the jackpot?

 

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Writing the Blog Article of Your Life: How One Idea Can Get You Hired by a Top Silicon Valley Venture Fund

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Photo: Max Skibinsky with the author

Every year a few thousand startups are incubated in Silicon Valley. Few of them will succeed; the rest will decay or outright fail. Yet there always seems to be room for one more billion-dollar company. Besides appearing seemingly out of nowhere, the most radically successful startups are also the most unpredictable ones. What force seems to create these massive sources of wealth that initially look like “bad ideas” to everybody beside their founders?”

This is the beginning of a famous blog article by Max Skibinsky. It may be hard to believe, but because of the ideas raised in this blog entry, Max was offered a partner position at Andreessen Horowitz, a top Silicon Valley Venture Fund. Whether you are interested in startups and angel investing, or you’re just beginning your experiments with blogging, this article will help you to assess what it takes to write an influential blog entry.

During a recent trip to Palo Alto, I asked Max to share the story behind writing this blog article, as well as provide some useful tips for my LinkedIn readers on how one can create a very successful article.

Max’s Breakthrough 

A great article must come from a great idea, right? Where do you find your great idea? Ask yourself: what is the one thing that you can’t stop thinking about? What drives you? What wakes you up in the morning? 

For Max Skibinsky, a graduate of Moscow State University and the founder of a dozen successful startups, it was an obsession about why startups succeed or fail. He had an idea about this, drawn from a mathematical theorem called the Gödel Incompleteness Theorem

Max believes that “Gödel’s theorem is not really about our limits: it’s about possibilities always waiting to be discovered.

In the article, Max argues that similarly to strict formal mathematical systems which “always contain proof of their own incompleteness, the very act of formalization of reality undertaken by big established corporations will always contain within itself the seeds of its future disruption: true yet currently unprovable statements of the successful startups of the future. 

Every startup will start in a totally unprovable, unpredictable new domain they can discover only empirically, by building and launching something with no assurances of success.

“A new startup cannot be invented in the library of our past knowledge and existing systems,” explains Max. “It will always require an intuitive leap of faith or passion to cross the chasm of unknown and unprovable… Human intuition, unbound by limitations of pure formality, will always push forward, find new domains, and leverage the amazing powers of software formalization to bring the fruits of new knowledge to the rest of the civilization. Your intuition, just like your powers of formal deduction, is all you need to join in,” concludes Max. 

The article impressed Andreessen Horowitz’ partners and led to a series of intensive interviews with Max. While Max’s extensive startup experience and work with angel investors obviously helped to make an impression, his ideas expressed in the article were the key to his great success.

Now stop for moment, unplug your analytical reasoning, and think: where does your intuition take you? What is your one incredible idea? Is it your new social venture that you want to launch? Or a new international project that excites you? Whatever it is, put it down on paper, so that you can see it, study it, understand it and eventually build it.

The Genesis of the Idea

Max began his odyssey of writing this article by giving a guest lecture at Singularity University in California, the mission of which is to “educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.”

When Max gave his lecture, he spoke at length about the Gödel Theorem applications.

“I was fascinated with the fact that each startup comes and fills an unformalized niche and then begins to formalize it. Microsoft formalized its own niche – personal computers. Then, out of nothing – Google. And what happens next? Should we believe that these new IT giants will monopolize the whole world for eternity? Nonsense, because there are eternal possibilities around us. That creates an unlimited cascade process, because the mathematical process is permanent.”

After his talk, he realized he was on to something.

“All of a sudden, I noticed that this part of my lecture created the largest resonance among my audience. I thought, why don’t I work on this part and polish it further?”

It took Max another three years to develop an entirely new lecture just based on this part.

During these years that Max was giving this lecture, he noticed some particular patterns among his listeners. “Some of my listeners could not get it, they simply could not make sense of this. However, almost half of my audience were stunned and excited.” 

The effect of Max’s lecture was such that some of his students would say: “Max, your lecture blew my mind, and now I’m rethinking my whole startup life!” Singularity’s students are in fact quite diverse in expertise and education, and yet they were in agreement that this lecture helped them reassess their understanding of the world.

Max began receiving requests – where can I read about your theory? Are there any articles or printed materials?

“In this very moment I understood that I had no choice but to write that article.” Ultimately, over 100,000 people read the article — a phenomenal result for a dry mathematical piece.

8 Useful Tips on Blog Writing Process from Max Skibinsky:

I asked Max to share his advice on writing an engaging blog, and here are Max’s tips for your next amazing blog post:

1. Focus on your core professional skills. What makes you special? What differentiates you from others? 

2. Based on your expertise, find an interesting idea that will appeal to your focus audience.

3. Do not try to please everyone – write for those who would appreciate your content.

4. Sharpen the angle: dig deeper into the story. Find something unexpected.

5. Come up with your personal interpretation. Don’t be afraid to be bold.

6. Ruthlessly edit your draft. Leave only what matters.

7. Don’t wait years for perfection – it will never come. Publish your article.

8. Learn from feedback and continue to explore.

Do you need an elegant mathematical formula to have a great blog article? No, but you do need to be true to yourself and your core. Share your thoughts and ideas with the world.

Put it out there and don’t count the views – just keep on writing.

You might be on to something incredible…

Max Skibinsky is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor & start-up mentor. He is currently a Partner with Andreessen Horowitz. Max was founder and CEO of Hive7, a social gaming company known for its smash hit game “Knighthood” that has grown to 6M players on Facebook. In 2010 Hive7 was sold to Playdom/Disney. Later Max become one of the co-founders of Inporia that secured funding from YCombinator, SV Angels, Clearstone & NEA to launch number of consumer products that used machine learning algorithms for online and mobile e-commerce. Max is also a resident mentor of 500 Startups. Max holds a Master’s degree in theoretical physics from Moscow State University. When not designing, brainstorming, advising, and building startups, Max can be found flying in the general vicinity of Palo Alto airspace.

Andrey Gidaspov is a published author, international business expert, and rainmaker. He is passionate about connecting people and ideas, creating new social ventures and helping non-profits find new funding streams. Follow him on Twitter (@AndreyGidaspov) and check out his blog (www.gidaspov.com) for more useful tips on creativity, fundraising and marketing.