A Simple 3-Part Framework To Rapidly Learn (And Play) The Digital Writing Game

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Ahoy and happy Monday!

Welcome to another week of Start Writing Online—where every week we dive into (and knock down) 1 of the 10 biggest problems all writers face:

  • Distractions
  • Over-editing
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  • Self-confidence
  • Generating ideas
  • Impostor syndrome
  • Writing consistently
  • Finding time to write
  • Loose feedback loops

(And, of course, if you want to crush all 10 of these AND master the fundamentals of Digital Writing in just 30 days, we'd love to have you in the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30!)

This week, we want to help you tighten your feedback loops with a simple 3-part framework to rapidly learn anything.

The single most powerful "skill" you can develop is learning quickly.

But the way schools teach us to learn is a horrible way to gain knowledge in the real world. It's like a rusty anchor with its slow, outdated methods. Eight hours of lectures, textbooks, worksheets, flash cards—all of it a waste.

The key to learning anything is seeing it as a game.

  • Rules / Prizes
  • Losers / Winners
  • Shortcuts / Levels

Every skill is a game.

Playing the game is exactly how Dickie became a pro-speed-cuber at age 11. And then a top 100 Call of Duty 4 player. And then college football player at Princeton, a hedge fund trader at BlackRock, and now a full-time digital builder scaling a business to 8-figures and beyond.

Let's dive in!

Step 1: Immediately Start Playing (Publish Something Before You Finish Reading This)

This is the most important part of learning any new skill—you have to start immediately.

No "thinking" about starting. No "preparing" to start. All of that is procrastination.

You have to start playing—and losing—quickly.

Here's why:

You will suck for your first 20 tries of any new game.

  • Your first 20 ads
  • Your first 20 videos
  • Your first 20 threads
  • Your first 20 cold calls
  • Your first 20 photographs

All of them will suck.

And that's a good thing. Because most people have too fragile of an ego to start something and suck at it. But you will learn more in those first 20 reps than you will from any book, Ted Talk, or course.

You will learn the rules of the game, including what winning & losing looks like. And more importantly, in those first 20 reps, you will experience your first win. And that is all you need to get hooked. But have you to start!

So, if you’ve been procrastinating, put this article aside and do these 3 things immediately.

  • Fire up Twitter. If you don't have Twitter, grab a pen and something to write on, such as scrap paper, a napkin, or a brown bag leftover from takeout. Grab anything that’s in arms reach!
  • Set a timer for 2 minutes and fill in the blanks of this template. It’ll take you that long to read the rest of this post and we would rather see you write and publish something than keep reading.
My first job taught me {Lesson}.

I worked as a {Job} for a {Type of Company}.

It was here that I was introduced to {Topic}.

Which helped me realize {Actionable Insight}.

I will never forget it!
  • Hit publish! 1 down. 19 more to go. Yes, they will suck. And that’s ok. When you are building a skill, there is no wasted effort.

BUT one of them will click—and that dopamine rush will keep you wanting to play forever.

Which takes us into Step 2:

Step 2: Create Your 1-Page Digital Writing Cheatsheet

At this point in the game, you've figured out the basics.

But it's only after learning the basics that you figure out just how little you know—and how far you have to go. This is the Dunning Kreuger effect in action.

Here's how to overcome it:

During your first 20 reps, chances are you came across one of the best players. No matter the game, there is someone at the top of the leaderboard. And now you're going to inhale everything they've put out—completely immersing yourself in their worldview.

For example:

When Dickie was learning the YouTube game. Guess who was sitting at the top of the leaderboard? Ali Abdaal.

So Dickie studied everything Ali’s said about YouTube:

  • Taking his course
  • Listening to his interviews
  • Exploring the ins & outs of his channel

This is where most people go wrong. They step straight back into productive procrastination—passively "learning" but not actually moving the needle. This has to be active learning.

And to do that, you need to distill & share everything you're discovering.

Your goal during the total immersion phase is to create a 1-page cheatsheet of the frameworks you learn. This forces you to not just "learn" but to distill, which leads to 10x faster learning All the while, you continue playing and applying what you learn.

Here’s how to create your cheatsheet:

  • Start a Notion Doc. Title it with a name & category. (e.g. Ship 30 for 30 - Start Writing Online)
  • List out each framework or principle you learn. (e.g. 4A Framework, Rapid Learning, etc.)
  • List your takeaways as bullets for each framework. (e.g. Get to 20 reps—fast.)
  • Curate a thread breaking down everything you’ve learned. (e.g. 1,000 hours in 11 tweets)

Now, it's on to Step 3.

Step 3: Spend 100% Of Your Time Finding & Removing Bottlenecks

At this point, you are a solid player.

Which means you are competing with other solid players. And the only difference between the good and great players? How quickly you can continue to improve.

To continue to level up, you need to:

  1. Choose the right next thing to learn
  2. Quickly learn that thing and move on to the next thing

Then, you repeat this cycle again and again and again.

But here's where the average player goes wrong. At any time, there is a single bottleneck to your improvement. Which means you need to spend 100% of your time solving that bottleneck to break through to the next plateau.

Unfortunately, most people spend time learning things that aren't their bottleneck (which is a waste).

They read books and articles and watch videos on things they think will be useful in the future, learning "just-in-case." But the truth is, most of it isn't useful—so this is once again productive procrastination. Instead, the best players learn "just-in-time."

  • Imposter syndrome in your way? Share 1 thing you know. It’ll remind you of your value.
  • Perfectionism got you trapped? Publish more. Your mind will shift into action mode.
  • Should you write about tips or steps? Just pick. A decision is better than no decision.

The best players are keenly self-aware.

  • They play.
  • They identify a bottleneck.
  • They surgically solve that bottleneck.
  • They repeat the cycle.

Their feedback loops are 10x faster than than the average player.

And this compounds day after day after day.

This is the goal.

Time to start playing!

That's it for today!

Chat next week!

–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

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