“The reason that God was able to create the world in seven days is that he didn’t have to worry about the installed base.” — Enzo Torresi. 1945–2016.
A few months ago, I published a story called “What I Learned Working for Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.” It was a re-published piece I’d written two years ago. The original had been read by a few hundred people, mostly friends and family and colleagues, received some positive reviews, and was quickly forgotten in the digital onslaught for your attention that is the internet.
When I re-published the blog post, I took the time to clean it up a bit, added a few sentences summarizing my thoughts, and highlighted a couple of key lessons in bold. Perhaps even more importantly, I updated its bland title to one that included the names of two icons of the industry. I figured a little advertising never hurts.
Within a couple of days, the new version caught fire. It had tens of thousands of views, it was picked up by the editors of Medium (the blogging site I use) and marketed on their front page, it was translated into half a dozen languages, it was offered by multiple publishers in syndication. Medium even paid for a professional artist to record an audio version. Editors of several online journals contacted me breathlessly asking to publish my other blog posts which had so far languished.
Suddenly, thousands of people were taking the time not just to read what I’d written but also to “highlight” almost each and every sentence in the story, a feature of Medium used by readers to draw attention to key parts of an article. Articles in totally unrelated fields were quoting me! To this day, it gets more views, “claps”, shares, and retweets than most of my other blog posts.
I was surprised by the response, to say the least. I felt like yelling from the rooftops: “But I said all this two years ago and no one even bothered to read it!” I guess I had something to say, I just hadn’t found the audience the first time around.
The key phrases from the article that were most often quoted and retweeted were the two lessons I attributed, respectively, to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates: that you should never fight a battle in a war that has already been lost and that everything in life is interesting, if you just pay enough attention to the details. I won’t repeat the stories here, you’re welcome to go read them for yourself: