I’m Reading 850 Books in 2012: Part Two

by Scott - 7 Comments

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In the first part of this post, I defined inputs and outputs in the context of progressing your career. The main point is that you should consider the degree to which inputs enhance outputs when evaluating how you spend your time. Reading 850 books might sound cool, be fun and make you feel good, but it might not yield the highest return on your time if you looking to become the startup sensai you set out to be.

I think a much more effective way to become a badass is to focus on outputs. Here’s why:

Real Learning and Behavior Change Occurs

Consuming content (inputs) in terms of building skills allows me to familiarize myself with things. I can learn what SEO really means and how to go about doing it. I can understand what the process of raising money might look like. I can grasp best practices on content marketing. These are all critical first steps to building a skill-set. But these are just first steps. I will never become an SEO wielding, fundraising baller who excels at content marketing without doing any of these things. If you want to become this person you need to get your hands dirty. You need do more than just learn about it and it doesn’t take a whole lot of content to get started.

Focusing on outputs takes you beyond simply familiarizing yourself with concepts to actually building skills and internalizing behaviors. When I first started blogging I consumed a ton of content about how to be an effective blogger. I didn’t really blog much, but man did I have every tip out there tucked away in a distant mental cavern.

You know what improved my blogging the most? Consistently writing. I learned far more actually creating output than by reading 6 books and buying the AppSumo version of a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast. The experience inspired behavior change instead a growing repository of knowledge I occasionally called upon if I remembered it.

I find the old saying the best way to learn is by doing to be true.

Outputs Create Assets

Under normal market conditions, people with adequate resources should always choose to buy a house instead of rent. Why? Because they have more to show for their investment. They’re building equity vs lining the pockets of their landlord. They have an asset.

The same goes for how you spend your time progressing your career. When I focus on creating an output, I’m actually creating surplus. This can manifest itself in a book, a meetup, original content, a class, a web app etc. All of these things if done well can offer you some sort of return. Note skills are also typically easier to monetize than knowledge. Skills are developed through output.

Inputs obviously have return too. Reading a ton of books is obviously going to make you more knowledgeable and may enhance the way you think about things. But in terms of forward progress it’s important to prioritize your time by what gives you the highest utility/ROI. Outputs accomplish this because they expose the value creation of inputs to the outside worldWithout the output, its difficult to receive some sort of external return like the confidence from an investor or that job I’d love to have. I could be the most incredibly knowledgeable cat herder in the world, but no one will ever know unless I actually put the knowledge to use somehow in the form of an output.


I find it most effective to think of imputs as stimuli meant to enhance something I’m trying to create. Within that vein, its most efficient to use inputs to the extent required to execute an ouput.

In Conclusion

By focusing on outputs I learn to a more valuable degree and usually have some type of external fruit to show for my labor. This is why I think people should focus on them. Make no mistake this is much harder to do. It will always be more difficult to fight through the challenges of doing something than simply reading about doing something. But in my experience, you get to where you want to go much faster this way. It’s worth it.

Closing thought:

Do people remember and want to help the person who reads the book or the one with the strength, discipline, and courage to write one?

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