Become a God of Learning Your Trade

Post written by Leo Babauta.

A lot of you are like me — trying to do what you love, and figuring out the best way to do that.

It’s not always easy to do what you love, because:

And these are tough problems.

But I have a method for beating them. And it’s a simple trick.

Do it in public, and get immediate feedback.

It’s one of the most powerful things you can implement, I promise. Here’s why and how.

The Lessons of Street Performers

Consider the street musician or juggler or magician: they do a show in public, in front of people who have other things to do and haven’t planned on watching a show, and have to convince that crowd not only to watch, but to pay them money after having already seen the show. (Read more.)

That’s an amazing business model. If a street performer isn’t good, people won’t watch. But making a small change in the performance, like a better setup or better patter, can make huge changes in audience reaction and payment.

And here’s the thing: they see the effects of those small changes immediately. There’s no wondering, “Will this work? Will it be an improvement or make things worse?” Because they know if it works, if it makes things better or worse, right away.

Instant feedback is the most valuable thing you can get. It’s better even than a sale, because a sale might result in a satisfied customer or it might not, and a sale doesn’t tell you how to improve.

Whatever you want to do, if you can do something publicly, even in front of a small group, and get instant feedback, that’s pure gold. There’s no better way to improve. There’s no better way to evolve a method or creative process or business model than through this simple technique of constant iteration and natural selection.

How to Be Evolve Like a Street Performer

Blogging is one of the best ways to do something in public. Consider: you write about an idea, and you get instant feedback from readers, in comments, emails, tweets, G+ posts, etc.

When I started Zen Habits, I don’t think I was that great … I wrote a bunch of posts that didn’t thrill readers. I wrote a couple that did thrill some people, and so learned what works best as a writer — more than I’d learned as a writer in the entire previous decade of writing. Through this kind of public writing, instant feedback, and constant evolving, I got better over the course of months, not years.

No matter what you do, you can put ideas out on a blog. You can also put software out to beta testers, as soon as possible, with the simplest possible version of the software. You can test recipes by making them for people, maybe selling them on the street in a cart. Artists can put artwork online instantly. Musicians and actors can put stuff on Youtube. A business can put itself online in as small an iteration as possible, without taking months of blind development.

For some work, it will take a bit more creativity. But use this idea of working in public, getting instant feedback, and evolving through constant iterations to improve better and faster than ever before.

I admit it can be scary. Which is why you can start with a small group, less public but still using the same ideas, and grow the audience as you grow more confident.

Be a street performer. There’s no better way to get amazing at something.