The “Favorite Writer” Experiment

The experiment: who is the one writer or blogger whose new material you make a point to go check out?

The motivation: a two-part hunch–
a) that people’s favorite writers are not necessarily the most well-known
b) that a lot of people actually don’t know who their favorite writer is

The distribution: 

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 3.33.31 PM

The full list (in order of frequency) + sample writing:

  1. Bill Simmons, sportswriter @ Grantland – God Loves Cleveland
  2. Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur & life hacker – Smash Fear, Learn Anything
  3. Seth Godin, entrepreneur – The Tribes We Lead
  4. James Altucher, investor & entrepreneur – The Only Rules You Need to Know
  5. Ta Nehisi Coates, culture writer @ The Atlantic – The Case for Reparations
  6. Zach Lowe, sportswriter @ Grantland – In Search of the Elusive Makeup Call
  7. Joel Stein, freelance writer –  The New Army Recruiting Pamphlet
  8. Paul Graham, investor & entrepreneur – Do Things That Don’t Scale
  9. Rembert Browne, culture writer @ Grantland – Taylor Swift, New York?
  10. Jason Silva, host of NatGeo’s BrainGames – The World in a Sentence
  11. John Siracusa, software developer & blogger – Creativity, Inc.
  12. J Kenji Lopez Alt, culinary director @ Serious Eats – The Food Lab: Poached Eggs
  13. Atul Gawande, surgeon & writer – The Best Possible Day
  14. Nicholas Kristof, columnist @ NYTimes – American Dream Leaving America
  15. Jhumpa Lahiri, novelist – Brotherly Love
  16. Ben Wellington, statistician & blogger – Affordable Housing w/o Representation
  17. Cass Sunstein, professor @ Harvard Law – “Nudge” & Decision-Making
  18. Roman Mars host of radio show 99% Invisible – Straight Line, Godless Line
  19. Pepto von Bismol, blogger/writer – Breaking News
  20. Brandon Sanderson, novelist –  Centrifugal
  21. Alastair Campbell, journalist & former political aide – Robin Williams Tragedy
  22. Megan Smith & Kara Parker, education bloggers –  Creative Language Class
  23. Ji Kim/Luxirare, fashion blogger – Ideas Cannot Be Imprisoned
  24. Chris Ballas, blogger @ The Last Psychiatrist – Who Bullies the Bullies?
  25. Shane Snow, entrepreneur & journalist – The Art of Strategic Laziness
  26. Tina Roth Eisenberg, designer – Clever Bike Rack
  27. Randall Munroe, former NASA roboticist, founder of xkcd – Physical Salary
  28. James Clear, entrepreneur –  The Theory of Cumulative Stress
  29. Tim Urban, founder of WaitButWhy Why You Secretly Hate Cool Bars
  30. Samantha Sharf, writer @ Forbes, Penn alum!! –  The Recession Generation
  31. Penelope Trunk, entrepreneur – What Type of Woman Should Freeze Her Eggs?
  32. Leo Babauta, Zen entrepreneur –  The Empty Container
  33. Adam Bryant, columnist @ NYTimes – Scratching the Itch to Create
  34. P. L. Thomas, educator – My (Often Painful) Online Education
  35. Arts and Letters Daily, Chronicle of Higher Education – The Cult of Speed
  36. Tadas Viskanta, founder of Abnormal Returns –  Daily Rundown of the Market
  37. Russell Brand, actor – Bare Minimum Wage
  38. George Will, columnist @ WashPo – The Nastiest Political Tactic This Year
  39. Ezra Klein, E-i-C of Vox – Washington Is Returning to Normal. And It Sucks.
  40. Tyler Cowen & Alex Tabbarok, economists/founders @ Marginal Revolution – The East 25 Years After Communism
  41. Sarah Kliff, senior editor @ Vox – The Secret History of Birth Control Pills
  42. Jon Youshaei, Googler, writer @ Forbes, Penn alum!! – Succeed w/o Being a Workaholic
  43. Venkatesh Rao, philosopher & decision theorist – How to Fall off the Wagon

The categories (terribly drawn):

The “Self”:
Tim Ferriss
Seth Godin
James Altucher
James Clear
Tim Urban
Penelope Trunk
Leo Babauta
Jon Youshaei
Venkatesh Rao

Ta Nehisi Coates
Atul Gawande
Rembert Browne
J Kenji Lopez Alt
Jhumpa Lahiri
Ben Wellington
Pepto von Bismol
Ji Kim/Luxirare
Chris Ballas
Randall Munroe
Arts & Letters Daily

Cass Sunstein
Alastair Campbell
P.L. Thomas
Tadas Viskanta
Samantha Sharf
Tyler Cowen & Alex Tabbarok
George Will
Ezra Klein
Sarah Kliff

Paul Graham
Jason Silva
John Siracusa
Shane Snow
Roman Mars
Tina Roth Eisenberg

General Opinion:
Joel Stein
Nicholas Kristof
Adam Bryant
Russell Brand

Bill Simmons
Zach Lowe
Megan Smith & Kara Parker
Brandon Sanderson

** if you’ve got better articles to include for authors, or better categories, or if you want to do this experiment at a bigger scale, hit me up!

Simple Ideas Take the Most Time to Execute Well

Simple is easy when you’re a beginner — you don’t have much of a skill set, and so you stick to really elementary expressions of ideas. Because these ideas are still expressed in very shallow terms, executing on simple ideas when you’re a novice is really difficult.

As skill grows and expertise grows, another problem pops up. It’s easy to delude yourself into packing everything in your now colossal toolkit into what you’re building. This piling-on might have various causes: insecurity, arrogance, overindulgence, etc.

People who are really good at what they do make it seem easy, make it seem simple, make it seem ordinary and quotidien, something that could very easily be replicated. Roger Federer. Yo Yo Ma. Ernest Hemingway or Jhumpa Lahiri. I’d even venture to say DJ Mustard belongs in that category.

I think many people view experts as those with huge toolkits. But what really makes them great is that each tool is finely honed, and that they know the simplest/leanest combination of tools to use in any given situation.