Why Best Practices Might Be Hurting You


Anyone can learn how to write or paint or play music, but the virtuosos who have historically merited our most thorough exegesis have been those who were willing to stretch the boundaries of text, of music, of art, in new directions – Youngme Moon

If you’ve been on the web for more than a few weeks and you do a search for ” How to get more traffic to your blog” you’ll be inundated with a list of “best practices.”  It wouldn’t be surprising if it’s 20 different people saying the exact same thing in a slightly different way.

But the problem with best practices is that everybody is following them. So on some level best practices are a virtual guarantee that you won’t stand out amongst the noise. Once you take care of the pillars of a successful blog, it’s time for you to innovate, to experiment and ditch your map for a compass.

Avoiding the The Echo Chamber

Avoiding the echo chamber of the web is easier said than done. It takes time, patience and the willingness to do the unglamorous things that you don’t hear about in people’s stories. Get into the habit of writing 1000 words a day. It doesn’t matter if the words are good. Early in your journey you need to just develop the writing muscle. It has to go from an item on your to do list to a habit. That’s how you’ll eventually develop a voice that people recognize from a mile away. 

One of the most common pieces of advice I’ve ever been given about how to improve my writing was to stop reading blogs about how to be a better blogger. Trust me the irony is not lost on me, since you’re reading my post about how to do exactly that. Instead of reading blogs about how to be a better blogger, read people who have a voice that you just can’t get enough of.


You have to be different not just better – Josh Kaufman 


Arrive Somewhere new, by going somewhere new

I’ve violated every rule of Facebook status updates. Mine are far from short. I’ve written 1000 word essays and shared them. People actually read them every single day. And many of those people were the driving force behind the success my most recent book. A Facebook marketing expert would never recommend this as a best practice. By exploring uncharted territory, you’ve got a possibility of arriving at a new destination.  Take a look at a best practice and flip it on its head.  The only rule I would say to follow is this. If you wouldn’t say it to somebody’s face, you shouldn’t say it to them online.


Borrowing from other art forms

I recently had a chance to speak with Erik Wahl, a graffiti artist who wrote a best selling business book called Unthink. One of the things he emphasized was the importance of exposing yourself to multiple art forms.

  •  If you’re into rock music, go to a symphony performance
  • If you’re into mainstream flicks, watch an indie film
  • If you read business books, crack open a comic book

Just  expose yourself to something that could result in a breakthrough. Recently I started teaching myself how to draw. I’m no Picasso, but  the simple process of doodling sparked a whole bunch of new ideas for revenue generating projects.

Playing with a box of Crayons

I see social media and all the tools at our disposal like a box of crayons. But where people go wrong is they try to create with every color. The result of course is something that even a kindergartner wouldn’t hang on a refrigerator. It’s a jumbled of mess of incomplete ideas, false starts, and no real contribution to your customers or the world around you. Take 4-5 colors, limit  the number of tools, and challenge yourself to create a masterpiece within the boundaries of those constraints.

Explore Small, Seemingly Crazy Ideas, and Ignore the Competition for a While

“When we spend too much time comparing our own brand performance to that of our competitors, it is easy to end up on a competitive treadmill” – Youngme Moon

Who in their right mind would find a limit of 140 characters a great way to communicate? It seems like a crazy idea when you boil it down to that. Yet millions of us use twitter everyday. We often resist our small ideas. But most big ideas are the byproduct of 100’s of small ideas.  Create a 20% time rule for your life.  Spend 20% of your time on projects just because they’re interesting instead of doing them because they might change the bottom line.

I’ve spent a significant amount of my time on the web looking sideways, watching my competitors, imitating, mimicking and adopting best practices. A few months ago I decided to explore uncharted territory, dangerous waters, and places where best practices go to die.  This is where your true ability to stand out in a noisy world lies.


Approach your life, your work, and business like a mad scientist. Try to blow something up and set your hair on fire. It’s not a best practice and that’s kind of the point