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Tim Denning

Ten Tiny Ideas That Will Dramatically Change Your Life as They Grow on You

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Tim Denning
Tim Denning

A stupid habit everybody laughs at holds a lot of value.
Photo by Paulo Henrique on Unsplash

This isn’t enough cliche listicle. Sorry.

The best ideas are the ones that grow on you.

They are silly upon first glance. They are magnificent when allowed to grow into a Japanese forest. Each of these ideas has shaped my life in weird and wonderful ways. Let’s get into it.

A Stupid Habit Everybody Laughs at Can Change Your Life.

Let’s get right to it because I hate messing around. A habit you practice behind closed doors will dramatically improve your life. The problem? People will probably think it’s stupid. They may even laugh out loud at you.

It happened to me. I discovered bitcoin many years ago while working in a bank. I thought the idea was interesting. The computer games I played as a kid needed a currency.

I wanted to be able to trade a sword in Warcraft or a gun in Counter-Strike, without having to pull out my wallet and post a $100 bill to America from the Australian outback. It wasn’t possible. *Dreams shattered*

So I invested in bitcoin and ethereum.

Writing came after. I began writing startup press releases. They were terrible. I did it in public via LinkedIn. People shook their heads. I’d get odd looks in the corridor. A guy on the train would glance over his 1950s newspaper at me, and quietly laugh to himself.

One afternoon I got excited. I decided to pitch the executive team of a bank employing more than 30,000 employees a self-improvement event. Think of a Tony Robbins event fused with a Ted Talk. I found a person at a startup meetup who liked my idea. They managed to convince a notable organization to give me the speakers for free, that included the Prime Minister of Australia. I thought I’d struck gold. So I put together a Powerpoint deck and sent it off to the executive team.

An email came back: “What’s the ask?”

I had no clue. It was an idea. I sent a refined deck with a few asks. Two weeks later: rejection email.

“Thanks but this doesn’t meet our strategic goals.” (Corporate wank talk for “go get lost ya loser.”)

I went back to writing and stopped trying to put Ted Talks out of business. The idea of writing grew on me. I expanded beyond LinkedIn. I started writing about things I’d learned and stopped writing about startups raising money from venture capital vultures.

One article led to the next. The occasional practice became a habit. The habit became a side hustle. The side hustle became a passion. During one block of 48 hours, the habit of writing became my entire life.

So I guess a tiny idea people laugh at can change your life (assuming you can look the other way for a while) and even make a modest amount of money.

Build Things That Scale Without You.

Projects that need your time are crying babies. You always got to feed the meter with more time.

The biggest baby is your boss.

Wahh wahh … do the report. Wahh wahh … make more revenue. Corporate life is full of adult babies dancing around in diapers, hoping to be thrown a wad of cash. Time-intensive pursuits can become exhausting.

I used to do coaching a few years ago. I stopped. Coaching doesn’t scale. So, I got into the world of online education. When you record your teaching once it can be replayed multiple times. Game-changing.

Who You Follow Matters.

When my online life sucks, I hit the mass unfollow button. Who you follow subliminally affects what you say while being hardwired into the Matrix. Here’s a list of interesting characters:

  • Fiona The Millennial Money Woman
  • Jack Butcher
  • Sean Kernan
  • Vex King
  • Jeff Goins

Choose who you follow carefully. Change who you follow often. Dare to make 1% of who you follow a little crazy. Follow the right people. Their ideas will bleed into your life.

You Get More Done by Doing Less.

Working hard can lead you to burnout. I’m a recovering hustle-a-holic. Gary Vee is nothing, trust me.

Then I started reading about minimalism a few years ago. Marie Kondo taught me to face all my hanging clothes in the same direction. As I wear each garment I put it back facing the opposite way. You know what is crazy? Many items of clothing haven’t been worn for more than three years.

Plus, it takes ages to choose clothes to wear because all the crappy outfits I never wear block the gorgeous view of the closet. Last week I threw away all those pieces that haven’t been faced the other way (some clothing hasn’t been worn since I was 21, no joke).

Doing less transcends the wardrobe. A calendar jammed with events provides zero room for clear thinking. Entrepreneur Yannick Veys calls it The Productivity Paradox.

When you do less you have time to think. Time to think allows you to make your moves quietly, like the main character in the book “The Art of War.

Lessons when fighting time battles (from the book):

  1. Choose your battles wisely.
  2. The best way to win is not to fight at all.

When You Have Less Time, You Do More.

Time constraints are a godsend for us natural procrasinators. The easiest way is to schedule events that can’t be moved either side of your productive hours. Add a person you love for extra leverage.

One hack gets repeated frequently: set a stopwatch for specified periods of time. A stopwatch tells your brain “work during this period” and “rest during this period you crazy over-worker.”

Getting Started Is Better than Over-Strategizing.

The first action you take is leverage. Once in motion, everything starts to make sense going forward.

We’ve all sat in one too many work meetings, where those with fancy job titles try to boil the Hudson River with a moderately priced kettle from Walmart. There is a reason MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and lean startup have become the national anthems of Silicon Valley.

Overthinking what you’re about to do is no different to fortunetelling. Who knows what the future holds. Go with it and see where you land. Where you land is better than where you predicted to go. Humans love surprises — we just hate to admit it. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman said jump off the cliff and assemble the plane on the way down.

Reading and 1–1 Conversations Are High Leverage.

Cliche advice is overlooked. It’s due to the packaging. A smart ass sitting on the beach with a laptop telling you to read more books when the economy is burning down can easily be ignored.

Reading is a high-leverage pursuit. Meeting heroes in real life is a rare gift, so it’s best to settle for meeting them in a book full of their wisdom. I never met Marcus Aurelius. I’m from the cyberpunk generation.

Marcus is from the murder people and eat grapes on a balcony afterwards generation. But I’ve still been able to take away some good from him through books like “Meditations.” I feel like we’ve sat on the balcony together and looked out over the evening sky, even though he died a long time ago and would never take a meeting with a big-eared guy from the outback. That’s the power of books. The lessons from the greats give you leverage.


Michael Thompson is obsessed with the second high-leverage activity: 1-1 conversations. Too often we collect a bunch of shallow relationships through online interactions. You never get to really know someone.

1-1 conversations are different, especially when held in the busyness of your local coffee shop. Eye contact bears your soul. Once a person has seen who you really are the possibilities to help each other expand.

Measuring Results in Days Is Problematic. Looking at Results over 5-Year Chunks Is Game-Changing.

Anxiety makes you impatient. I spent years dealing with severe anxiety. During the worst phase my hands would shake uncontrollably. I wanted everything to get better in days. Quick fixes were all I was interested in. Then I learned to zoom out from the graph of my life.

Days are blips. Years are slight deviations. 5-year chunks are patterns.

The worst thing you can say to yourself: “It’s been 30 days. Why haven’t I achieved more?” I see this problem with writers all the time. They start judging their writing skills after 10 stories. 100 stories and beyond is where the magic lies.

Thinking in Terms of Gives Energy vs Steals Energy.

Positive energy goes a long way. If you’re not feeling too great, surround yourself with people who are. The people around you can play a big part in either lifting you up, or bringing you down— Vex King

Tasks can either give energy or take it away.
People can either give energy or take it away.
A job can either give energy or take it away.
A business can either give energy or take it away.

Plug the energy leaks. Redivert the energy into people & tasks you care about.

You Can’t Control What People Think. Make Them Think Instead.

Opinions can be your downfall. Especially if you practice anything publicly online. Opinions can make us think silly things about ourselves. Unless you’ve mastered mind control, the solution isn’t to have people agree with you.

The goal as a writer isn’t to make people agree or disagree with an opinion. The goal is to make people think. When you think of opinions like this, it sets your mind free to be creative. Non-consensus is in our DNA.


  • Ideas people laugh at surpass the humor phase if sustained.
  • Follow the right people. Their ideas will bleed into your life.
  • You get more done by doing less.
  • The first action you take is leverage. Once in motion, everything starts to make sense going forward.
  • Eye contact bears your soul. Once a person has seen who you really are, the possibilities to help each other expand.
  • 100 stories and beyond is where the magic lies.
  • Plug the energy leaks. Redivert the energy into people and tasks you care about.
  • You can’t control what people think — make them think instead.
  • Build things that scale without you.