I started this blog in October of 2006–3 years after incorporating SKMurphy, Inc. in August of 2003–so this month represents the start of my tenth year of blogging. In the last nine years I have published 1552 posts, which total 871,535 words of writing or the rough equivalent of a dozen novels.  What follows are some lessons learned from 9 years of blogging.

I Have Been a Writer All of My Life

I was a reporter for my high school newspaper and sporadically for the Stanford Daily. I wrote fiction for enjoyment from an early age, made easier by learning to type and then Emacs–even now I will often write my first few drafts in Emacs before transferring it to either an E-Mail window, a comment text box, or WordPress editor.

Writing Is a Collaborative Act

But I also look at writing as a collaborative activity. I was also editor of my high school newspaper and yearbook. I took a class in technical writing in college that qualified me as a writing tutor for project teams in engineering graduate school, and enjoyed the process. At Cisco I started the Product Marketing Newsletter when it became clear we needed to get the word out on a monthly basis to the field and interacted for the first time with real copy editors, which substantially improved my understanding of how to write for a global audience.

One of the ways that I leverage podcasts is to pick experts to collaborate with on a topic and then tape and transcribe the conversation. That acts as a shared first draft that we can then refine and hyperlink. I have also been invited to comment or take part in galley reviews for a number of books including the “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, “Moments of Impact” by Lisa Solomon, “Running Lean” and “Scaling Lean” by Ash Maurya, “Tempo” by Venkatesh Rao, “The Lean Entrepreneur” by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits, and “Traction” by Gabriel Weinberg.

A Good Writer Has To Read

In the nine years I have been blogging I have also read more than 360 books on a wide range of topics. Earlier this led to our “Book Club for Business Impact” webinar series and more recently I have been including fiction reviews with excerpts of well expressed concepts I think are useful for entrepreneurs.

My goal with many blog posts is to take a good book or article and extract some key points and then offer additional commentary.

I also like to collect quotes, because they condense insights and rules of thumb into a succinct package. What has been different this year is I am scheduling them ahead. I now work on three or four end-of-month collections in parallel, allowing me to slip in topical quotes, but also allowing me to meet a self-imposed target of tweeting one quote a day. When I started a few years ago my target was ten to twelve quotes a month.

Principles Drive Practice, Practice Refines Principles

“People are experience rich and theory poor. My role has been to give people ways of organizing experience.”
Malcolm Gladwell in “Geek Pop Star

I like to use simple mathematical models, diagrams, and graphs to communicate key principles of entrepreneurship. If I can understand the models and rules of thumb and entrepreneur is relying on it allows me to connect the dots between our two perspectives to arrive at a shared understanding and courses of action to consider. This means listening is key to giving advice effectively.  But it’s hard to write something that listens to the reader so I tend to write more about conversation and surprise and appreciative inquiry and effectual models of entrepreneurship.  One goal I have for the blog is to offer some interactive tools or models that the reader could manipulate and explore. Bret Victor has done some very interesting things (see his “Ladder of Abstraction” and “Explorable Explanations“).

I Am Living The Life I Have Chosen

“Ten years ago I started posting to this blog. One little blog post is nothing on its own, but publish a thousand blog posts over a decade, and it turns into your life’s work. This blog has been my sketchbook, my studio, my gallery, my storefront, and my salon. Absolutely everything good that has happened in my career can be traced back in some way to this blog.”
Austin Kleon “Ten Years

I have now been offering consulting for a dozen years as SKMurphy, Inc. and I still can’t believe how little I have figured out and how hard it stays. The risk with asking for regular feedback is that you get it. Getting better requires “deliberate practice” and while I am no longer a novice–having exhausted most of the basic mistakes yo can make–I remain closer to a journeyman than a master. It’s still a struggle, but this is the life I have chosen and one that I prefer to working in a cubicle: I find consulting’s drawbacks easier to tolerate than “regular employment.” This is also why I enjoy working with bootstrappers: they prefer their advice direct and their truth unvarnished and are not shy about offering frank feedback in return.

My Personal View on Why People are Entrepreneurs

I don’t encourage people to become entrepreneurs, I help people who are entrepreneurs. I believe most entrepreneurship is involuntary: caused either by a mix of recognizable personality characteristics or by economic circumstances that are not under the individual’s control. Entrepreneurship is a cluster of improvisational strategies that are behavioral adaptions to genes and upbringing and circumstances. If you are not blessed with attention to detail and a painstaking nature becoming an accountant may not be a good career bet. If you can’t help trying to change things, really value autonomy, are less influenced by tradition, and are committed in your bones to a quid pro quo exchange of value for value then you may be happier as an entrepreneur.

A Picture Of the Stones Before They Were Arranged In a Mosaic

Rock Collection

I think one defect with the blog has been my inability to impose some useful higher order structure or organization beyond the tags and search functionality. It remains a work in progress to refine a set of six to 12 posts into a longer article or 100-200 into a book. If  do write a book I suspect it will come start as a transcript from a talk or presentation where the need to organize key concepts into a longer coherent narrative for the audience will provide the necessary encouragement.

Photo credit: Rocks by Max Murphy

Questions, Suggestions, and Contributions Welcome

  • Suggestions for how I can improve my writing or the organization of the site.
  • Questions or topics you would like to see addressed.
  • Offers to do podcast conversations on one or more topics of interest to entrepreneurs, in particular engineers and scientists who are selling to businesses.
  • Drafts of a guest post of interest to entrepreneurial engineers and scientists.

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