About three years ago, a post-graduate student stumbled upon Reddit, the biggest forum in the world.

A friend recommended it to him, so he made an account and started posting random stuff.

Not long after that, he created a new account and started focusing specifically on writing poetry. And people liked it.

In fact, people liked it so much, they started giving him thousands and thousands of virtual karma points.

These points are useless. You can’t do anything with them. However, they do give a sense of satisfaction because they represent how much people like what you write.

Recently this guy published an actual book, which became the number one seller in the Poetry section on Amazon.

Here’s a poem by Sam – also known as Poem_for_your_sprog, answering the question “In a rhyme, how would you best describe your sex life?

Often awkward,
often tricky.
Slightly clumsy,
lightly sticky.
Mostly harmless,
mostly boring.
Madly hopeful.
Sadly snoring.

Pouting. Doubting.
Dull and dreary.
Klutzy thrusting,
weak and weary.
Semi-humpy.
Semi-bumpy.
Jarring,
sparring,
loud and lumpy.

Indecision.
Arm-collision.
Best, affection.
Worst, derision.
Intermittent.
Inconsistent.
Unimportant.

Non-existent.

As far as my knowledge of poetry goes, this guy is good. He is killing it.

Is this a simple case of a talented writer getting discovered and “making it”? Or is there something more going on?

Do you even practice?

I believe Sam was able to get in a big chunk of practice time (10,000 hours, anyone?) because of the incredible increase in output due to the feedback of strangers.

It seems to be dramatically more difficult to get motivated on your own.

Information addiction is my bitch

Now, we might actually be able to use this to our advantage.

Can we engineer a situation in which we are seemingly wasting time on the Interwebz for fake points but are actually creating an incentive program for ourselves that rewards our information addiction?

Can we use the tricks of growth hackers to our advantage? There’s plenty to work with: Facebook likes, Reddit karma points, Imgur votes, DeviantArt favourites, HackerNews and ProductHunt upvotes, etc.

If learning is the prime directive to become successful, and if motivation is so fleeting in this day and age because of the Internet, can’t we then just invert this whole situation and transform ourselves into productivity machines, addicted to the next hit?

Clearly visible micro chunks of progress are addictive.

The reason why going to the gym is so hard is because there’s no day to day progress. The reason why eating that 12 pack of donuts in one sitting is easy is because there’s no immediate penalty.

I’ve heard someone say before that people overestimate what they can do in a day and they underestimate what they can achieve in a year.

Cut your feedback up into tiny pieces. It’s hard to get good reviews. It’s even harder to get a book published. But getting one person to click “upvote” is not hard.

When I’m working, I frequently get up from my desk and walk around. It drives people crazy. The reason is usually because a piece of code is compiling: I want to see the changes live on my phone. This makes it more visceral for me and I feel a tiny jolt of satisfaction after every successful change. This is a positive feedback loop, it wastes a bit of time but I like to believe it helps me in the long run.

Another Reddit guy started out drawing shitty watercolours, but then got progressively better and now he’s famous and works for the BBC, Intel, CNN, etc.

Here’s a progress picture:

(shittywatercolour.com)

He attributes a lot of his success to Reddit:

I had just been declined from a university that I wanted to, so I dug out a rather awful paint set that I got many Christmases ago, and began painting everything I saw on reddit. There was no artistic inclination or skill behind it, it was just something to fill the time that used to be spent studying. It only carried on because reddit received me well, and I’m grateful for that

 

Not every piece you write needs to be a masterpiece. Not every app needs to be a smash hit used by millions of people. Hone your craft, view by view, comment by comment, fake Internet point by fake Internet point.