15 Things I Wish I Knew

The great thing about writing articles is that I get to pick the topic. I try to only pick topics that I either have some familiarity with, have done research on or have at least spent a lot of time thinking about.

The problem with writing articles is that people assume I know everything. The 800 articles I’ve written and a few small books represents a few cherry-picked ideas I’ve obsessed over and believe in. But, there are still a ton of things I’d like to know.

Considering the power of this audience in contributing answers, I thought I’d share a brief list of some of the skills I’d like to be better at, and the ideas I wish I had. Hopefully some of you brilliant people can share answers (or at least suggestions) to some of them and we can all learn from the crowd-sourced wisdom.

Links to blog articles, books or even personal responses are all welcome if they address any of these questions.

So, here goes, a brief list of things I’d like to know:

  1. How to Collaborate Productively. I’m great at managing my own time and energy. But I wish I could read a guide for how to work productively with contractors or joint ventures. Particularly in an online setting where you may never meet the other person face-to-face.
  2. How to Network Online. Having spent most of my life located in the vastness of the Canadian prairie, I can say it’s often difficult to meet people with similar careers/businesses, face-to-face. As a result, almost all my networking has been online. Only problem is that I’m much more effective at meeting people face-to-face than on the web.
  3. How to Get Started Writing Fiction. Beyond no-brainer advice like, “start writing,” I’d be interested in reading some basic tips for writing fiction. I’ve contemplated writing fiction as a hobby for a long time, as I think it has the ability to improve my non-fiction writing as well.
  4. How to Train Yourself to Pronounce Foreign Sounds. Although, to a certain extent, it’s almost impossible to completely replicate the sounds of a foreign language after the age of 10 or 12, some people are good at getting very close. I’d like to know how they do it, as being able to soften my accent is a goal of mine in learning French.
  5. How to Create Higher Quality Video/Audio Recordings, Without Tons of Time/Money. Moving beyond text is something I’ve wanted to do since starting this blog. However, my skills at creating professional recordings are far below my writing ability.
  6. How to Sustain an Exercise Routine While Traveling. Admittedly, this is something I could figure out on my own. However, I’m interested to know how experienced vagabonds manage the bizarre schedule and culture shock while continuing to exercise.
  7. How to Manage Irregular Income Streams. Irregularity of income can be nice (irregular income boosts), but it makes it harder to budget and plan for the future. I’d like to know how people with 10+ years of experience manage it. Particularly when they have bigger commitments such as kids or a mortgage.
  8. How to Conduct a Proper Product Launch. Perhaps I’m the only one here who cares about this problem, but after only 3-4 product launches of my own, I wish I knew more.
  9. How to Go From Good to Great with Writing. The bulk of my writing improvement came in my first 100-300 articles. But now, on article 800 or so, I don’t feel my writing is still improving. I’d love to know what steps other writers have taken to improve their craft once their main writing gigs have become routine.
  10. How to Understand Website Statistics. I know what page views, incoming traffic and the various numbers on my Analytics dashboard are. The question is, what do I do with all that data? I’d love if there were a guide that actually went, step-by-step, in teaching how you can cut out all the noise of irrelevant data into a clear process for decision-making.
  11. How to Sustain Friendships Over Long Distances. I’ve had the privilege of meeting many cool people, from all over the world. The difficulty is in keeping up ties which, realistically, I may not have a chance to reconnect with for a decade or more. Does anyone have tips they’ve gleaned from international friendships?
  12. How to Do a Handstand Push-Up. Alright, this one is just a vanity, but I’ve been curious since I’ve started working out. I managed to train myself to do a one-arm pushup. However, I’m not sure the best way to go about training for a handstand pushup. Has anyone done it before? What were your intermediate steps?
  13. How to Live Abroad While Running a Business. Well, this one I’m doing successfully right now. However, my year-long visa was based on a student exchange program. I know of similar visa-granting procedures for work-exchanges. But what if you don’t plan on switching your job? I’d like to know in case I choose to live in another country after I’m no longer attending university.
  14. How to Cook on a Budget. My grocery expenses doubled moving from central Canada to southern France. But, more than just recipes, I’d like to know if there are any all-purpose tips that can allow you to eat frugally without completely sacrificing taste or nutritional value.
  15. How to Travel Without Checked Luggage. I have friends that can do a several day trip with nothing more than a handbag. While I’m a fairly light packer, I don’t yet have the mysterious science of carry-on luggage perfected. I’d be interested to see how people pack so light while traveling, and, in doing so, what they choose not to bring with them.

  • Lanaer

    For learning to write fiction, I’d recommend the book from the Gotham Writers’ Workshop ( http://www.amazon.com/Writing-… )

    It’s not as light as a collection of tips, it’s more of a workbook (lots of included exercises).

    Or, the Writer’s Book of Wisdom ( http://www.amazon.com/Writers-… ) is a collection of 101 tips.

    For handstand push-ups, start with learning to do a headstand. If you have a narrow hallway, and a pillow or some sort of padding, you can have your head on the pillow (by one wall), hands on the floor, and walk your feet up the far wall, until they are over you, and then resting your heels against the near wall. After that it’s pretty much up to your arm strength, I think.

  • Keivan


    To do hand stand pushups, do a hand stand against a wall and lower yourself down slowly. Next push up. Push one foot off the wall and balance with one foot barely grazing the wall. repeat. If you want to build your strength to be able to pushup your body weight, do dumbell military presses. Essentially a hand stand pushup is a military press with using your body weight.

    as for traveling lightly: sometimes i envy women, because they can get away with wearing a lot less clothing (actual fabric on their bodies). As men we are forced by social constraints to wear more clothing. If you figure that one out let me know.

  • Rob

    #6: Here is Mike Rowe’s (from Dirty Jobs) take on the question:


    #13: Brian Armstrong (he has a good blog) has moved his online business to Argentina, and he’s been blogging about it:


    – Rob

  • David

    #8 product launch

    Chris Guillebeau’s Art of Nonconformity blog has several helpful posts as to how he does it. While I have not launched any of my own yet I found his posts to be very insightful.

  • Christopher Gronlund

    For a list of books that may help with writing fiction, go here:
    Editor Unleashed – 10 Best Book for Writers.

    Also check out Elmore Leonard’s 10 Writing Rules.

    Beyond that, start small. Work on basic short stories (beginning, middle, and an end), and get feedback from people who have been writing longer than you. (Attend a larger writing group for help if needed.)

    You clearly have the ability to sit down and write regularly, so you’re well ahead of most people wanting to to write fiction.

    Good luck, and have fun!

  • JRF

    “How to Cook on a Budget”

    Generally you can exchange cooking time for price, without sacrificing taste and nutrition. For instance, oven roast will cost you about 1/4 of a quick-to-cook tender meat and take something like 2-3 hours to finish cooking 1-2 kg of finished meat.

    A lot of dishes, like soups, do not require fresh vegetables, use canned or frozen instead.

    Food that can sit for a few days in the fridge allows you to eat that instead of expensive food when you’re busy.

    Do not throw good food away. If you have stale bread, you use it as thickening for soup, make french toast, and so on. I think something like 10%-20% of food costs of the typical household is pure waste.

    Learn to like the cheap stuff. That varies by season and whether a grocer has overstocked or not.

  • Hanne

    as a passionate learner of languages, I might be able to help you with # 4. (then again, maybe not, because it’s a strictly personal experience and I might not be able to express myself clearly enough).
    First of all, stay away from phrase books with “pronounciation helps” and even the phonetic alphabet. Except maybe at the very start of learning a language, these will only make your accent worse.
    I argue that pronounciation is not (only) a technical skill, but something that grows out of an understanding of the language as a whole.
    If you really can’t pronounce a sound, practicing it over and over again can help, of course, but I don’t think it’s really useful if you want to get the accent of the whole language right.
    Instead, put yourself in an environment where speaking that language is natural (ideally, travel to the country) and then try to imitate people. Discuss their values with them, get to know their culture. Try to get a grasp of what the idea behind the word is, with all its connotations, not only the translated meaning. This will help you, because if you can do that, you no longer have to “forget” the rules that your brain has to pronounce certain sounds, you only have to make new ones that apply for the new language. As we all know that the hardest part of adopting new habits is to “unlearn” the old ones, this is a neat sidestep, and it really helps (me, at least).
    I can’t really explain how it works, but I found that if you continue to look at the world through the ideas of your cultural background, it’s really hard to pronounce words any other way then you’re used to.
    A different language represents a slightly different view of the world, and this is reflected in all aspects, including pronounciation. Don’t try to learn it the hard way- embrace the idea of being a kid again, at least in terms of that certain skill, and be open to let yourself being “molded” by other people. This is a really hard thing to do for most of us, because we are so used to learning by arguing a point until we either understand it or can judge it as wrong (which is a good thing) that it’s hard to accept and imitate input that we can’t argue with or even analyze.
    The key, I think, is to be impressionable.
    I hope this helps at least a little, even thoughit is not a simple list of steps to follow with guaranteed success.
    Have fun with learning French, it’s a beautiful language!

  • Michael

    Some ideas for you:

    3: Nanowrimo is fast approaching. http://www.nanowrimo.org/ I’ll be doing it again this year.

    4: The idea that you can’t do something new (sounds or otherwise) after 10 is rubbish. You can, and faster and easier than any child. One suggestion is: http://www.tomatis.com.au/lang…. Another is face a native speaker of the language you want and reproduce the movement of their lips, tongue and throat, rather than the sound itself.

    8: You’re not the only one. I wish I knew much more too!

    10: I’ve not used them, but I’m told by people I trust in this area roirevolution.com knows their stuff. Also read/watch anything by Avinash Kaushik.

    11: Keep in contact. That contact might only be once every 6 months, but send them a personal email/card/gift. Depending on who you’re dealing with, this contact might be more or less frequent. For example I’ve got good friends I hear from every 6 months or more, others monthly. Use their behaviour as a hint for how often you need to contact them. Also, social media is a godsend for this – not so close friends can be updated & kept in touch via facebook and the like.

    13: Location independence. There’s a whole bunch of useful sites out these that discuss and teach this. My favourites right now is: locationindependent.com

    15: I travel a lot (once every two weeks, usually). I’ve been meaning to do a whole video set on how to pack for short, long, extended stays as easy, light and/or compact as possible. This might be a nice kick in the pants to do it…

  • steve

    besides something like a military press to make sure the main muscle groups are strong, you need to work all your stabilizers for the very unusual task. The shoulders are delicate and you can completely ruin your life injuring them. Do handstands against the wall with your shoulders enganged but not extended.

  • Maxine

    Quick tip on foreign sounding words – sit next to a native speaker. Have him or her repeat the sound and tell you where her tongue is placed, whether her teeth are together or apart etc and try and replicate the positions. Producing foreign sounds is quite often just a technical issue – of knowing how to align your mouth to make that particular sound. May not work for all sounds and languages.

  • Tom

    “11. How to Sustain Friendships Over Long Distances” I’ve been kicking around this question too. I have to classify my friends into people that I have deep connections with and people I have more of a surface level connection. I want to maintain contact with both, but I also want to keep better contact with my deeper friends. Facebook is great for the surface level connections. It’s easy to just check in with someone real quick on that. For the deeper connections you really have to make more of an effort.

    What I did, was make a list in a spreadsheet with my closest friends in the first column. In the top row I put the months of the year. Every time I speak to one of my friends on the phone I make an x in the cell for that friend and the particular month. This lets me see how when the last time I talked to someone was and lets me know how many months it’s been since I checked in with a particular friend. You could adapt this for e-mails instead of phone or whatever medium you prefer.


  • Barry Wright, III

    With regard to #12 (handstand pushup), 99% of the work you have left to do is strength training. A handstand pushup is, essentially an overhead shoulder press of about 95% bodyweight (an impressive lift in its own right).

    Once you have that down, there’s a pretty good tutorial over at BeastSkills: http://www.beastskills.com/Han

  • Mia

    For number 3, definitely read “Immediate Fiction” by Jerry Cleaver. He breaks down fiction into its simplest form and gives you a clear and concise step by step approach to writing it. Out of all the advice I’ve been given for writing a story, his helped me the most, hands down. In fact, it’s probably the only book you’ll really need on the subject. As an added bonus, it’s not written like a boring textbook. It’s a fun read. 🙂

  • Anthony

    “4. How to Train Yourself to Pronounce Foreign Sounds.”

    I think there are several issues here. Here are a few:

    1. Your brain (ear) may not distinguish sounds that are not made in your native language. You will have to focus on the sounds until you can actually distinguish them (for example, go back and forth between one sound and the next, focusing on them, until you can actually distinguish the sounds).

    2. As Maxine says, once you can hear the sounds, you may not be able to physically make them, so you have to find out how they are actually physically made and then practise that.

    3. When I was learning Japanese my teacher was impressed by my (lack of) accent. This is what I did:

    a) I listened to how Japanese people sound when speaking English.
    b) I internalized that model, by speaking English as if I were a native Japanese speaker.
    c) I then carried that ‘model’ into speaking Japanese itself.

  • Will

    For Handstand Pushups.
    Head over to http://www.crossfitkids.com/in
    You’ll see a link for HSPU Progressions.
    Personally, I think the BeastSkills site is inadequate for this particular skill if you’re starting from scratch. It’s a great site, but the dude was way beyond average before he started.

    Why do you think this is a vanity? It’s a legitimate basic gymnastic skill.

    Anyway, I suggest doing 5 sets of 8-15 bridged HSPUs once in the morning, once at night.
    Build up to 5sets of 5 barrier HSPUs, then try a HSPU.
    You need the volume to train your nervous system to fire the muscles that you want.
    You’ll be able to crank out your first HSPU around 4-6 weeks.

    A HSPU is very different from a shoulder press. It will take you a ridiculously long time to crank out a BW shoulder press…way longer than 6 weeks.

  • Will

    How to Sustain an Exercise Routine While Traveling :
    I can’t say that I’ve been on extended (1-year) road trips like you, but when I’m on the road and I don’t have access to barbells or any equipment, I switch over to Tabatas using burpees.
    This is a good description of Tabatas : http://www.rosstraining.com/ar
    The Crossfit link I posted earlier should have a link to burpees too.

    Basically, go full out on burpees for 20secs. Rest 10 secs. Repeat 8 times. If you’re not completely sucking air after 4 mins, then you’re an Olympic class monster. No matter where you start, if you do this regularly, I think you can build up to 50+ burpees fairly quickly.
    You can do Tabatas with sprinting, pull-ups, cycling, whatever.
    This 4min exercise sounds easy, but you won’t want to do anything else afterwards.

    Another very painful exercise is 10 sets of 10 burpees, with 30sec rest in between each set.

  • Shanel Yang

    Hi Scott,

    This should help you with #3, #8, and #9: Right now I’m reading Dean Koontz’s “How to Write Best Selling Fiction” and it is AWESOME! Though it might be much more detailed than what you’re looking for, why waste time with “basic tips” when you can get the down low on writers, agents, editors, and publishers — all in one book?

    A couple of caveats:

    1. Some of the advice is dated since he wrote it in 1980; but, if you check out the many excellent reader reviews on Amazon.com, you’ll see that it’s still very much worth the read.

    2. It’s pricey. $35 and above for used copies. (I was lucky enough to find one copy in the entire Los Angeles public library system and snatched it up real quick.)

    I admire your constant quest to improve in so many areas. You’re an inspiration! Good luck with all of that!

  • Will

    BTW Scott…while I’m on a mostly paleolithic diet, I was once a strict vegetarian for 3 years. I lost a lot of muscle mass during that time, and if anything, I feel like my insulin response got messed up.
    I read a lot of pro-vegetarian literature back in the day (though not the books that you recommended) but it just doesn’t make sense to me…I know you’ve read The Red Queen. So you know that agriculture wasn’t invented until 5000-10,000 years ago. Before that, we were hunter-gatherers…there’s a lot of evidence from archeological records that indicate our diets consisted heavily of large game animals.
    And we evolve very slowly…our endocrine system’s last major update was about 200,000 years ago.
    I know some people will respond to a vegetarian diet far better than I did… I stuck to it for philosophical reasons, it certainly did not do me any advantages health wise. A pure vegetarian diet just doesn’t make logical sense to me – we are evolved to be omnivores.
    I doubt I could do any heavy weight training without meats in my diet. I avoid junk-foods, processed foods and refined carbs; that’s the stuff that will probably do you more harm than good in the long term.

  • Dan

    This is a great post, nice to see something different. It has made me realise there are a lot of things I would like to know and I really need to write them down so that I can take action on them. I’m not sure when you changed the blog theme but it looks great, nice job, I’ll keep on coming back.

  • Jennifer

    On #14 Budget Cooking:

    In southern France, there are usually a lot of farmers markets with local, fresh vegetables and fruit. Probably of good quality and definitely cheaper than in a supermarket. Lovely in an oven dish with mozzarella and pine nuts!

    Buy processed/sustainable foods, like whole grain pasta, rice or cereals in large packings. The cheapest products in the supermarket are placed in the lowest racks.

    Eat locally and choose products that are in season.

    Be creative with left overs! Use them in your lunch of next meal.

    Make meals with just a few ingredients (and invest in some dried herbs for extra flavour, that should be easy in the south of France!)

    The more work you are willing to do (wash and slice vegs, longer cooking time), the cheaper your meal usually is.

    Search the internet for a few budget recipes. You can easily find a few decent recipes online! If not, you can always contact me for some cooking inspiration 🙂

    Bonne chance et bon appetit!;-)

  • Adam Welch

    1) One of my mentors develops properties, working with a banker and a real estate lawyer.

    5) You can download cool edit pro for free I believe for recording
    I think pro tools is the industry standard if you have money though

    6) Easy, get a fitness hobby you can’t help but do, like martial combatics

    9) Interesting. The only thing perhaps is to improve yourself. If you improve confidence, wit, or sense of humor, or depth of soul your writing will naturally improve no? Interesting comment though. Thanks.

    12) This is really easy, just flip yourself up against a wall and figure it out, and keep trying. hand stand

    14) lol post these answers

  • Arden

    6. Isometrics

    3. Don’t try to be productive with your writing, in terms of trying to write 4 pages a day (or something) with the goal of getting better. Instead just try to come up with a great idea, and this is where the ‘just write’ advice comes in. But instead of trying to write specific things (first ten pages; prologue; character profiles; dialogue; etc as they just cause resistance due to perfectionism – even if you don’t care about writing a bad draft – because you haven’t worked everything out well enough yet) instead just write to try to fully work out the idea by writing free form about anything, similarly to how you’d write an email to a friend talking about your story, and as you do this more ideas and realisations shall come until you reach the point that you’re ready to write the story itself once everything (including character’s and scenes) are worked out. Once you reach that point I suggest to still follow this ‘process’ method rather than try to face a blank page in the hopes of completing a specific number of decent pages out of thin air. Instead write free form, as if talking to yourself about specific actions happening, for example :
    Instead of doing ‘Matthew walks up to Paul. He says…’ it’ll be easier to even just write like saying ‘Okay, this is the first scene, I’d decided to have Matthew meet Paul in this area. What are they here for? Blah blah. Now, Matthew walks up to him. What does he need to say? Blah blah. Okay, now judging by his personality how would he specifically say that? Maybe he can say blah blah or maybe even blah blah’.
    Anyway that’s just a suggestion, it’s my way of working through it which I believe is easier as you aren’t trying to face a blank screen trying to actually write something, the entire time you’re just working stuff out (whether it’s planning or actually writing it or editing) and you take the great bits out of there and put that on a separate paper where you’ll edit that into the final piece.
    Hope that made sense and helps!

  • Arden

    9. If you want to be a better writer in terms of content, I wouldn’t care about becoming a ‘better writer’, just come up with better ideas and new and better ways to express them, the ‘writing’ part itself doesn’t really matter. If you are more interested in the language part then you could set goals to learn new words, reading/writing poetry can help. Both are different things that really boil down to what matters to you most in terms of what you want to express and how.

  • Ignacio

    On #4, you might wanna try some accent neutralization course for the language you’re trying to learn, ideally one targeted to people who are native english speakers (as I believe you are). This helps you to quickly spot the most important sounds in that language, and then use that knowledge to practice while speaking it.

    An interesting side-effect is that you grow very aware of accents and sounds in general, which will help you when you move on the the next language.

  • Scott Young

    Thanks for all the advice guys,

    As always, the advice isn’t entirely for me. I’m glad you’ve shared your thoughts because I’m guessing if I’ve had the question, another person has, and they will appreciate your input!


  • Olga

    #4– try to find opportunities to speak with children who speak the language you are learning. They won’t be nice about your mistakes the way adults tend to be. Also children tend to exaggerate intonation and sounds, it is much easier to copy them than to copy adults. I am suggesting this from my experience of learning Korean. When I was at solid intermediate level, I was fortunate to get a part-time job tutoring Russian to two Korean kids, 8 and 10 year olds. Since their Russian was very limited, I had to do many explanations in Korean and it turned out into a great accent-training for me–whenever I mispronounced something, they would mercilessly correct me. After about six months of that, I could fool Korean native speakers on the phone to think that I was Korean, as long as the conversation itself remained rather simple.

  • Keith Haddock

    Scott – The group “CrossFit” has collected a list of body weight exercises and exercises which require only basic equipment (e.g., a pull-up bar) for people who travel. I travel a lot and typically find these exercise routines harder than the ones I do at full gyms. You can check them out at http://www.crossfit.com and/or I can send you one of the lists. Keith

  • Will

    Scott, I read some of the replies on advice HSPUs…this is from personal experience, but if you’ve never done a handstand before, it’s going to be pretty hard for me to tell you to do a handstand, and then just lift off.

    The handstand itself requires some basic mechanics…you need shoulders locked tight to the body, good core balance, solid locked arms to hold the isometric force, and a commitment to push off your feet into the headstand.

    Goto the link below and search for handstand and you will find an introduction that will explain it far better than I could :

    To develop the shoulder strength to do the HSPU, doing negatives from the handstand are ok, but will be frustrating as hell. You go into the HS, lower yourself, but you will lack any ability to lift off. If you lack the strength, then bumping head to floor will also be painful…and getting back into the HS requires so much energy in the first place.

    Learn to do a HEAD stand first. That one’s pretty easy. Then I highly recommend you do the progressions – bridged HSPUs, barrier HSPUs, then full HSPU.

    You will get the necessary concentric reps in, you’ll see daily progress and it’s far more fun than going into HS and then lowering yourself.

    As for shoulder presses, that is wholly unnecessary for this exercise…it’s a completely different movement & feel. fyi, if you’re 181#, the Kilgore & Rippetoe standards for a shoulder press at advanced level is 164#, and elite is 218# (less than 1% of weightlifting population will hit that mark). Doing BW presses for reps is no joke. It will take a long time to reach that.
    So just stick with HSPU progressions.


  • Robin Hancock

    For #15 have a look at this: http://www.onebag.com
    It will tell you everything you need to know about getting everything you need into one carry on size bag, from choosing the best kit to how to pack it.

    Keep up the great work with the site by the way-some really inspiring stuff here!

  • fith

    I can help you with travelling light. Wear a thick Levi’s,for you can wear it for a year without washing it. bring several underwear and bring two t’s. if you’re working and required to wear a coat, put them in the small bag your bring.

  • Tiff


    I have a lot of homemade 30-45 min meals that take 10 to 15 mins to prepare. Most is cooked in the oven. Little to no work at all. I am big on inexpense and time.. but also eating good. If you are interested, email me.. Too much to type otherwise. If I hear from you I will create a dinner log for you and send it over your way.