What are some tips for advanced writers?

Answer by James Altucher:

When I was seven years old I plagiarized stories from science fiction magazines so my teachers would think I was smart.

When I was 22 years old I thought girls would like me if I wrote a novel. I spent so much time writing that I was thrown out of graduate school.

My first book caused me to get fired when my boss thought I stole all his ideas.

My blog posts have caused me to lose my sister and mother and many friends who no longer speak to me. My sister wrote me, "you're a horrible person".

But I still want people to like me.

Tip #1: NOBODY IS AN ADVANCED WRITER. Everyone needs to improve. I've written 13 books. Some bestsellers. I write every day. I've written for many different media. The more success someone has, the more they think they are a horrible writer.

Tip #2: READ OUT LOUD. Read every sentence you write out loud. If it sounds boring, kill it.

Tip #3: TAKE A STORY YOU LOVE AND WRITE IT OUT. It has to be a great story you love. I like the story "Emergency" by Denis Johnson. I write it out over and over as if I'm writing it. I don't know why this works and maybe it doesn't (see Tip #1) but I like doing it.

Tip #4: STEAL. If you see a line you like in another book, figure out how you would rewrite it, even slightly, and then steal it. It's still beautiful.

Tip #5: I TOOK IT OUT WHEN I REWROTE THIS. It was bullshit.

Tip #6: READ. Read writers who write exactly how you want to write. Because then you will pretty close to them. But then mix it up. Read different writers every day.

Tip #7: THE 2 DAY RULE: If you don't write for 2 days in a row then you'll be a bad writer again and have to build up.

Tip #8: WAITER'S PAD. Any semi-interesting thing that happens to you or you think about, quickly write it down on a waiter's pad. YOU WILL ALWAYS FORGET IT if you don't.

Tip #9: SOMEONE DIES IN THE FIRST LINE. Even in a non-fiction essay about bioplastics, make sure YOU bleed in the first line. Else, people switch screens to Twitter.

Tip #10: THE F RULE. People read screens in an "F" pattern. They read the first line or two. Then they read down the left (hence list posts are so popular). So make sure you keep bleeding so they read more.

People are reading vampires. They only feed off the blood.

Tip #11: HUMOR. Kids laugh 300 times a day. Adults laugh only…5 times a day. Make an adult feel like a kid again. To "acquire" humor I often read something funny or watch standup. Humor isn't ON all the time.

Tip #12: THE 30% RULE: When you are finished with your masterpiece, don't stop rewriting until you have cut at least 30%.

Tip #13: URGENT. If a line is not urgent, take it out.

Tip #14: USEFUL: If your piece is not useful, or if it just repeats the boring stuff everyone else says, then don't do it. Even if it's fiction.

Tip #15: THE BILLIONAIRE RULE. If a girl barely out of her teenage years is not physically dominated by a billionaire who is plagued by emotional issues stemming from his father then chances are most of the world won't read it.

Tip #16: THE LEARNING RULE: Everything you do, everything you read, everything you watch, write down 10 things you learned from it. This gives you something to write about.

Tip #17: GET PAID, GET LAID, LOSE WEIGHT. If you write non-fiction, those are the three things people like to read most.

Tip #18: BLOOD TRANSFUSION. Even though you're bleeding your own blood, make sure it's the same color as everyone else's blood.

Tip #19. COFFEE: Drink coffee 20 minutes before you write. Sets your brain on fire. Makes you go to the bathroom. Cleans your body out before you set your heart on fire.

Tip #20: ABS: Always Be Storytelling. The story is how you were scared and you wanted something. Then you did something. Then you found something you needed.

Tip #21: BE VERY AFRAID: Don't hit publish unless you're scared what people will think of you.

Tip #22. BE A CRIMINAL. Break all of the rules. Not the above rules. EVERY rule. Artists steal, kill, lie, and play. Isabelle Allende says, "once a writer is born into a family, the family is over." Be a killer.

And then I met the girl and she fell in love with me and we lived happily ever after.

What are some tips for advanced writers?


How can I get a top end software engineer job if I am from a tier-3 engineering college?

Answer by Balaji Viswanathan:

Be a super awesome developer who can build complex software.

That's it. If you can prove that you have that, your college degree don't matter at all. In fact, I won't even care if you never went to college. I recently hired a person at 10x the wage level you asked in the question. His college degree never even came into the picture [Of course CompSci degrees from older IITs would get a slighter edge].

Skills needed:

  1. Amazing problem solving skills – Were you a part of your college's ACM ICPC team? If not, what programming contests have you participated? What is your TopCoder level? How many coding challenges do you solve a week?  Do you really, really, really enjoy solving coding challenges? Top notch software companies want to hire those folks who are taking the challenges as though they are renting a movie. They want folks who love to complete those challenges.
  2. Can you speak algorithms? – Can you spend an evening with CLRS & think of it as fun? I mean can you think in terms of algorithms & complexities when it comes to building your solution. Can you look at both the forest and the trees with different sets of lenses?
  3. Experience building complex stuff  – What are the previous projects you have built? 2 decades ago developers who want to work on complex projects have to wait to get hired into major enterprises. Now, you can do that right through GitHub. It is an amazing opportunity available for freshers. How many GitHub projects have you contributed to? What are the other projects have you built? Top software companies look for developers who will keep building & fixing projects & tools just for kicks.
  4. Basic Managerial skills – How well can you work in team? How well can you communicate the issues you found to others in the team & the upper management? How well are your writing skills? Engineers who can communicate well often gain a high premium on wages.

If you think you have the above skillsets, get on sites like Hackerrank and solve their challenges. Many companies recruit through them. Also, if you are really active on GitHub and on your local developer forums you will get the high visibility needed to get infront of a hiring manager.

This is the best time ever to be a developer. Be someone who can solve complex challenges & companies would steal you without paying any attention to where your degrees come from.

How can I get a top end software engineer job if I am from a tier-3 engineering college?

How do you know when it’s time to leave your current company and move on?

Answer by Edmond Lau:

A number of red flags should cause you to reconsider your position at your current company, including:

  • being compensated unfairly.
  • being mistreated, undervalued, or disrespected.
  • disagreeing with the fundamental strategy or practices of the company and not being in a position to change them.
  • failing to get along with your manager and your teammates.
  • failing to fit in with the company culture.

These types of reasons aren't too hard to identify and provide concrete justifications for trying something new.

It's also time to leave when your learning rate at your job tapers off and starts to plateau.  This is a much more subtle reason for leaving that's harder for people to recognize but likely affects a much larger group of people.  Transitioning to another team or company provides an opportunity to switch to a different learning curve and to accelerate your learning.

Paying attention to your learning rate is important in general but particularly important for young professionals.  Learning is an investment in yourself for the future.  It also compounds — knowledge not only begets knowledge, but more knowledge gives you a foundation upon which to gain knowledge even faster.  This is why most people learn more in college than they did in high school and more in high school than they did in earlier years.  Ideally, out of college, you should set yourself up to learn even more than before.

Palantir co-founder Stephen Cohen captures the importance of the compounding effects of learning, in an argument for why college graduates ought to work at startups instead of established companies [1]:

If you graduate Stanford at 22 and Google recruits you, you’ll work a 9-to-5. It’s probably more like an 11-to-3 in terms of hard work. They’ll pay well. It’s relaxing. But what they are actually doing is paying you to accept a much lower intellectual growth rate. When you recognize that intelligence is compounding, the cost of that missing long-term compounding is enormous. They’re not giving you the best opportunity of your life. Then a scary thing can happen: You might realize one day that you’ve lost your competitive edge. You won’t be the best anymore. You won’t be able to fall in love with new stuff. Things are cushy where you are. You get complacent and stall.

Startups might not be for everyone, but the message about not shortchanging your intellectual growth rate still applies.

What about a passion for what you're working on?  A strong passion and excitement in your company mission or in what you're doing is critical to sustaining a steep learning curve.  Passion and meaningful work supply the motivation for long-term learning [2] and allow you to stay in a state of flow more often.  Mihayli Csikszentmihalyi, one of the world's leading researchers in positive psychology, developed the theory of "flow," a state where you enjoy what you're doing so much that you don't even notice the passage of time, and found that more flow generally leads to more happiness. [3]  It's hard to stay motivated to learn or to enter a state of flow in the long run unless you believe in and enjoy what you do, and it's also hard not to be getting better if you love what you're doing.

Assessing your learning rate first requires identifying the many different types of learning can happen on a job:

  • Technical learning specific to your job function.  For a software engineering position, for example, this might include things like learning a new language, getting familiar with new tools, improving your ability to design new systems, etc.  Getting better at these skills makes you more proficient as an individual contributor.
  • Prioritization skills.  Oftentimes, there are tens or hundreds of things that you could be working on that might generate value.  Figuring out the highest leverage activity that generates the most value for the least amount of work at any given point is hard, but it's probably the single most valuable lesson you can learn professionally. [4]
  • Execution.  Learning how to or how not to build and deliver a great product or service and how to do it consistently and on time takes practice.
  • Mentorship / management skills.  The faster an organization grows, the sooner you become a more senior member of the team.  Seniority provides opportunities to mentor or manage other teammates, to shape the company culture and values that develop, and to influence the direction of the team.
  • Team leadership skills.  The skills needed to make a team function effectively differ from those needed to be productively as an individual.  How should milestones be organized?  How do you coordinate effectively and minimize communication overhead?  How do you make sure a team gels?

At various points in your career, you'll value these skills differently and should seek out opportunities that develop the skills you value.  All of these skills are mostly generalizable beyond your job at your current company.  You take those skills and experiences with you to your next job.

There's also a type of learning that's important for career success but that is less transferable to other companies.  And that's institutional learning on how to function well within the specific processes defined at the company: how to get the approval of key gatekeepers for decisions, how to get projects you believe in prioritized on the roadmap, how to negotiate for more resources for your team given the company's resource allocation process, etc.  Some amount of this is necessary to do well, and some of the negotation and persuasion skills will help in the future, but to the extent that much of this learning deals with the particular bureacracy or process that you need to deal with, it's significantly less valuable than other types of learning.

When you first join a company, the learning curve usually starts really steep (hopefully, if you've made a good choice).  You're immersed in new technologies, in a new product, and on a new team, and there are opportunities to learn along multiple dimensions.  When I first joined Google right out of college, I learned a lot in my first six months there.  Google's done a great job with their GoogleEDU training materials.  I soaked in all the codelabs that discussed why core abstractions existed and how they worked.  I studied programming style guides to learn best industry practices.  I read design docs about search indexing and other scalable engineering systems being built internally.  I learned to build and ship something seen by tens to hundreds of millions of people per day on google.com.

Your learning rate might decrease due to organizational issues (maybe processes have become too bureaucratic and limit your ability to iterate and launch quickly) or due to maintenance issues where the team doesn't grow quickly enough to scale with the complexity of the product.  The second makes it hard for you to switch projects and work on new things.

Warning flags for me at Google started to appear when I realized that many projects either had no concrete launch paths or depended on non-transparent approval processes over which I had little visibility or control.  Being able to launch products was important to the extent that I wanted to learn how to build great products, and quick, iterative feedback is a necessary foundation for learning.  When I projected what I could accomplish and reasonably launch by staying an additional year, I didn't feel satisfied, so I left.  There was certainly more I could have learned by staying — I could have dug into the internals of more major systems — but my rate of learning no longer mirrored what I encountered when I first started.

I similarly left Ooyala when I felt that my own learning rate at the company began to plateau.  While I was there, I learned about building and selling an enterprise product, the intricacies of flash video and analytics, project estimation and team organization, and more.  I left when it became clear to me that I could learn much more on engineering and on building a product by joining a smaller and faster-growing team.  A contributing factor that I only discovered after working at Ooyala for a while was that I wasn't nearly as excited and motivated to work on an enterprise product as I was to work on a consumer product that I would actually use everyday.

Having worked at Quora for two years, I'm happy that I'm still continuously learning new things at a good rate [5, 6], and it certainly helps that the product itself is also so learning-focused.

When I interned at Microsoft the summer of my junior year in college, I received a good piece of advice secondhand from a friend's mentor: always re-examine and reflect on where you are in your career at least every two years.  Even if you're perfectly happy with your job, the exercise forces you to check that you are actually enjoying your work and learning on the job rather than just being comfortable.


[1] http://blakemasters.tumblr.com/post/21437840885/peter-thiels-cs183-startup-class-5-notes-essay
[2] What motivates an early employee to work in a startup?
[3] Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 2008.
[4] What's the single most valuable lesson you've learned in your professional life?
[5] http://www.quora.com/Edmond-Lau/Slipping-into-Reverie/A-Year-at-Quora-10-Things-Ive-Learned
[6] http://www.quora.com/Edmond-Lau/Slipping-into-Reverie/Using-a-habit-of-disengagement-to-increase-productivity

How do you know when it's time to leave your current company and move on?

What can I learn right now in just 10 minutes that could be useful for the rest of my life?

Answer by Rimjhim Agrawal:

7 Reasons Why You Will Never Do Anything Amazing With Your Life

Yeah that’s right; you heard me… I’m talking to you… I’m calling you out.
I’m looking you in the eyes, (OK well, not really since you are probably reading this article, but figuratively, I am burning a cyclops type hole in your face right now) and telling you that you don’t stand a chance.

I’m telling you that if you can read this article, look through this list and not claim it as your own, then you should be a little worried.

Actually, you should be very worried. You should drop everything and immediately question your existence on earth. You should find a mirror, look yourself in the eyes, raise your hand and slap yourself in the face.

Got it? Now repeat that until you come to your senses and continue reading whenever you’re ready.

I’m Talkin' ‘Bout Street Skills Son!
I’m not talking about the: study hard, party light, graduate top-of-your-class skills.

I’m not even talking about the: slack-off, skip class, smoke weed, drink and party but still graduate, skill-set your $50,000+ diploma has led you to believe you have.

I’m talking ’bout, step out your door, make some moves, and get-some-shit-done, kind of skills! Some, move out your mama’s house, quit your job — say “fuck the world” — and then actually go do it, kind of skills.
The kind of skills you develop in the real world, outside the bubble of your parents protection or the ideological indoctrination that has overwhelmed our entire educational system.

Skills that can be had by anyone willing to pay the price to get them. Skills that are quickly becoming extinct.

I’m talking about skills that cannot be taught in a classroom or in a textbook. Skills you can only learn by doing; by learning how to fly after jumping off the cliff.

Skills that can only be developed when you find your true self. When you put yourself on the line or otherwise expose yourself to the possibility of failure.

The skills you can only develop when you are willing to risk it all in order to do that one amazing thing.

Skills that up until now, you thought you had.

Basically, what I am trying to tell you, is that, in this game called life, you don’t stand a chance

1. Because You Have Not Failed Enough

Because you are comfortable in your mediocrity; because you choose not to try.

Because it is easier to talk about learning that new (programming?) language as opposed to actually learning it.

Because you think everything is too hard or too complicated so you will just “sit this one out”, or maybe you’ll, “do-it-tomorrow”!

Because you hate your job but won’t get a new one; because it is easy to reject rejection.

Because while you’re sitting around failing to try, I am out there trying to fail, challenging myself, learning new things and failing as fast as possible.

Because as I fail, I learn, and then adjust my course to make sure my path is always forward. Like the process of annealing steel, I’ve been through the fire and pounded into shape. The shape of a sword with polished edges and a razor sharp blade that will cut you in half if you are not equally hardened.

2. Because You Care What Others Think About You

Because you have to fit in.

Because you believe that being different is only cool if you’re different in the same way that other people are different.

Because you are afraid to embrace your true self for fear of how the world will see you. You think that because you judge others, this means that those people must, in-turn, be judging you.

Because you care more about the stuff you have as opposed to the things you’ve done.

Because while you’re out spending your money on new outfits, new cars, overpriced meals or nights at the bar, I’ll be investing in myself. And while you try to fit in with the world I’ll make the world fit in with me.

Because I will recklessly abandon all insecurities and expose my true self to the world. I will become immune to the impact of your opinion and stand naked in a crowd of ideas; comfortable in knowing that while you married the mundane I explored the exceptional.

3. Because You Think You Are Smarter Than You Are

Because you did what everyone else did; you studied what they studied and read what they read.

Because you learned what you had to learn in order to pass their tests and you think that makes you smart.

Because you think learning is only something people do in schools.

Because while you were away at college, I was studying life; because instead of learning about the world in a classroom I went out and learned it by living.

Because I know more than any piece of paper you could ever frame from a university. Because smart is not what you learn, it’s how you live.

Because I might not have a degree but I challenge you to find a topic that I can’t talk to you about cohesively.

Because I could pass your tests if I had to, but you couldn’t stand for a single second in the face of the tests that life has thrown me. Tests that are not graded on a bell curve or by percentages; tests that are graded by one simple stipulation: survival!

4. Because You Don’t Read

Because you read the things you are required to read or nothing at all.

Because you think history is boring and philosophy is stupid.

Because you would rather sit and watch “E!” or “MTV” instead of exploring something new, instead of diving head first, into the brain of another man in an attempt to better understand the world around you.

Because you refuse to acknowledge that all the power in the world comes from the words of those that lived before us. That anything you desire can be had by searching through the multitude of words that are available to us now more abundantly than ever before.

Because you are probably not reading this article even though you know you should.

Because the people that are reading this already know these things.

Because you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

5. Because You Lack Curiosity

Because you get your news from copy-cat members of the state-controlled media.

Because you are unwilling to ask this simple question… “What if it’s all a lie?”, and accept the possibility that maybe it is; that just maybe, the methods of mass media are under direct orders to: keep you distracted.

Because you call me a know-it-all but refuse to call yourself a know-nothing-at-all.

Because I thirst for knowledge, regardless the topic.

Because while you’re busy playing Candy Crush, or Megalopolis, I am reading about string theory and quantum mechanics.

Because while you waste your time with Tosh.o I am learning how to edit video, build websites and design mobile apps.

Because if we were to go heads-up in a debate, I would crush you. I would make it a point to defeat my own argument; from every imaginable angle; in order to understand everything you might be able to use against me.

Because I would dedicate myself to understanding both sides of the argument so thoroughly that I could argue your side for you and win; even after having just handed you a defeat in the same debate.

6. Because You Don’t Ask Enough Questions

Because you do not question authority.

Because you don’t question yourself.

Because you don’t understand the power of properly placed questioning in life, respectful disagreements and standing up for what you know to be right in the face of someone telling you otherwise. Unable to question reality; stuck in a self imposed survival strategy within a matrix-style monotony.

Because I know that you will give me all the information I need to destroy you by letting you talk.

Because I study human behaviors and you ignore everyone but yourself.

Because I watch how you say the things you say just as closely as I listen to what you say; and you say way too much!

Because control comes, not from spewing your ignorance like some incurable case of logorrhea, but from properly structuring the context of your questions.

Because I study the premise of your argument and destroy it from the ground level before you even get a chance to establish your ideas.

7. Because You Can’t Handle The Truth

Because you refuse to admit that you don’t even know the things you don’t know.

Because there isn’t an article online that would make up for all the time you have wasted in life.

Because even if I told you everything could be different tomorrow you would wait until then to begin doing anything about it.

Because even when you think I’m not, I’m aware of my surroundings.

Because you think that since I have not acknowledged you, it means that I have not seen you.

Because, you walk around with your head up your ass, oblivious to the world around you. Blissfully ignorant of the reality that sits so close to your face that if you stuck your tongue out, just once, you would taste it and realize how delicious the truth actually is.

Because you would become an instant addict. Unable to pull yourself from the teat of truth. Finally able to understand your lack of understanding, and then you would see; then you would know that the only thing holding you back from doing something truly amazing, is you.

Edit: I apologize for not mentioning the source earlier, I couldn't remember where I'd read this.

Source: medium.com

What can I learn right now in just 10 minutes that could be useful for the rest of my life?

What’s a cool/useful skill that only takes five minutes to learn (that has not already been posted below)?

Answer by Premnath Deenadayalan:

How to wake up without an alarm device?

I have been practising this technique for last 8 years and the result is amazing.

You need to practice this technique for a week or more to make it as your habit.

When you go to sleep at 10.30 pm, lying on your bed, with your eyes closed, think why you should wake up by 5 am and run through the events that you will probably do the next day. Tell your subconscious mind why you have to wake up by 5 am. Repeat "I want to wake up by 5 am " for 10 times in your mind.. This should be your last thoughts for that day. Subconscious mind is like a person inside us who never sleeps. You are actually requesting your subconscious mind to wake you up. It will wake up whatever the time you set to wake up unless you are not physically tired. If you are physically tired, your subconscious mind knows that you need rest and it will not wake you up.

In the beginning, have a good sleep duration (at least 6 hrs) to make this trick work. Once you get used to it, even if you sleep at 2 am, you can wake up at 5 using this technique. Hope this helps someone.

What's a cool/useful skill that only takes five minutes to learn (that has not already been posted below)?

What decisions should I be making about my life while I am 25?

Answer by Amit Banerjee:

1. Leave your home and start living on your own. Sooner than later, you will have to do it so start early.

2. Embrace failure. Fail badly at something. You must fail early on. Give yourself that permission to fail and suck at something.

3. Do weird things with random people. Do things which your peers arent doing and keep doing it. I formed a band at 23 and was told to practice music for 10 years before attempting to participate in a "War of bands" contest. It was humiliating but hey, today I can play three instruments while most of my peers can't/won't.

4. Travel. Please do this. Travel alone in a jungle and stay there for 7 days completely alone.

5. Get rid of that credit card from your wallet. Simply crush it and throw it away. Debt isn't worth it.

6. Find beauty in less. Things gather dust. The more you have, the more you will bog down. Clutter weighs you down, purchase less and cleanup often.

7. Avoid drugs. Getting loaded and acting like a jerk ain't worth it and don't do it to win women. Trust me, being a gentleman helps.

8. Invest in education. Education is a huge trump card which will carry you miles.

9. Try earning money through freelancing/own means. Not much, but try earning some money doing things on your own without the need of an employer. This will teach you lessons which will help you through a rainy day.

10. Love is a valuable gift. Try to preserve it, nurture it, value it. If you have found him/her, try to keep. Be a keeper but don't lose yourself in the process.

11. Opportunity will not come everyday. It will come very silently and give a humble knock at your door. You got to hear it and jump.

12. For women, don't get married at 25 just because you are told you are ageing and nobody will marry you after 30 – 32. That's a lie they have sold and they are selling it forever so you submit.

13.  Your head is a sleeping beast. Keep it awake. Read. Write. Paint. Program. Play music. Have some sort of daily exercise to move the muscle between your ears (for me, its writing you got to figure out yours).

14. Stop chasing perfection. The pursuit of perfection is never ending and you end up having a blunt and dull life. "Good enough" is better than "perfect". Get used to imperfection since pursuing perfection will lead you nowhere.

15. Passion is overrated. If you have a passion, that's good. If you don't have a passion, that's good too. Don't kill yourself because everyone is running after their "passions". Passion is a lot like love. It will come on its own, no need to find it.

16. Listen to what other people say. But 25 is that age of discovery when you got to make the choices you want to make. So listen to advices (like this list). But act according to your instincts.

What decisions should I be making about my life while I am 25?