The 2-Year Test: A Framework For Endless Content Ideas

Dickie Bush and Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Ahoy and happy Monday!

99% of writers fall victim to the same 3 problems:

  • “I’m not sure what to write about.”
  • “I feel like I’ve already written about this before.”
  • “I know what I want to write about but I’m not sure how.”

We know these problems well because the vast majority of people who join Ship 30 for 30 enter their first cohort saying these are some of the biggest obstacles holding them back. They aren’t sure what to write about, or they feel like they’ve written about this idea before and can’t possibly write about it again, or they know what they want to write about but aren’t sure how to bring their idea to life.

Which is why, whether you hop aboard a Ship 30 for 30 cohort or not, we want to give you a simple framework for solving the above 3 problems.

Because once you learn how to overcome these obstacles, you’ll be well on your way—writing and publishing and sailing off into the sunset.

Let’s dive in:

The 2-Year Test: A Proven Framework For Endless Ideas

One of the core frameworks we teach inside Ship 30 for 30 is called the Endless Idea Generator.

But inside the EIG is another framework we call The 2-Year Test.

The 2-Year Test is a simple way of thinking, and once you put yourself in this headspace you will find yourself having so many ideas that you’ll have the opposite problem—now you have SO many options, you have to figure out what’s worth writing and what you should ignore instead. (But hey, that’s a better problem to have than: “I don’t know what to write about.”)

Here’s how it works:

The 2-Year Test Mindset

Everyone is an expert in something.

What this means is: if you have experienced something, that makes you an “expert”—in the sense that you had a problem, you found a solution, and now you’re standing on the other side. Here are a few simple examples:

  • You were in 1st grade. You were afraid of what 2nd grade was going to be like. You entered 2nd grade. Now, to a 1st grader, you are an “expert” at entering 2nd grade.
  • You were addicted to cigarettes. You really, really did not want to give up smoking. But eventually, you did. Now, you’re clean, and to a smoker, you are an “expert” at giving up smoking.
  • You watch tons of TV. So much TV that you’ve watched almost every show on Netflix, Hulu, and HBO combined. To someone who doesn’t watch a lot of TV but is looking for show recommendations, you are an “expert” at knowing what’s worth watching and what’s worth ignoring.

Anything you’ve experienced, anything you’ve overcome, any problem you’ve solved in your life, any skill you’ve acquired, to a beginner (yourself 2 years ago), you are an “expert.” This is why, when you start working for a new company, they pair you with a manager (or at least someone who has been there a little longer than you, or is one job rank above you).

You don’t need the CEO telling you what to do.

You just need someone 2 years, or even 2 months ahead of you, to show you the ropes.

Yourself 2 Years Ago

So, who were you 2 years ago?

  • What skills do you have today, that you didn’t have back then?
  • What were you struggling with back then, that you no longer struggle with today?
  • What hobbies were you just starting to get interested in?
  • What life transitions had you not experienced yet?
  • What topics were you uneducated about?

Think back to who you were before—versus who you are today.

Do you see any gaps?

Can you pinpoint ways in which you’ve changed?

OK, now consider how many people in the world are exactly where you were 2 years ago. And imagine you met one of those people at work one day. What is their name? What do they look like? What are they struggling with? What are their hopes and dreams? What do you see in them, that you can also see in your former self?

Write for that person.

Be their older brother or sister. Be their mentor.

Show them the way.

Obvious (To You), Non-Obvious (To The Reader)

The entire secret to becoming a prolific Digital Writer is learning to see yourself outside yourself.

Because to you, everything about your life is “normal.” You think what you do for work is everyday knowledge. You think your daily routine is uninteresting. You think your habits are the same habits everyone else has. You think the choices you make are “just what you do.”

But to someone who isn’t you, there is a lot to be learned.

To someone 2 years behind you (in age, in expertise, in experience, etc.), you are an “expert” and someone worth learning from.

If you have siblings (older or younger), this way of thinking probably makes a lot of sense. If you have an older brother or sister, then you can recognize how much you look up to them, turn to them for advice, etc. And if you have a younger brother or sister, then you can recognize how much they ask you for help, come to you with questions, etc.

This same dynamic is at the heart of writing.

And as the writer, you are someone else’s older brother or sister.

Which means, if you never want to run out ideas, imagine you are talking to that person. Imagine they come to you with a question: “Hey, what was it like going from middle school to high school?” You would never say to your middle-school-aged sister, “Sorry Jane, but I’m not qualified to answer your question. I’m not an expert.”

No way!

You would sit her down and say, “Oh wow, let me tell you…” and then proceed to share all sorts of stories and insights from your own experience graduating middle school and entering high school.

So, if you’re willing to do that in person (which we all do, every single day of our lives), why not do that at scale on the Internet?

Stop waiting for permission.

Anything you have experienced, any obstacle you have overcome, any topic you have learned every a little bit about, to someone 2 years, 2 months, 2 steps behind you, you are “an expert.”

You are someone worth learning from.

So, don’t defer your responsibility.

Turn around, and give that person a hand.

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