Increasing The Impact Of Your Value

Kent discusses strategies on how to increase the impact of the value that you produce.

Kent amplified the impact of his work by making stuff he'd do on the job public. Instead of sending an email to engineers he would write a blog post and link them to it. He made a closed-source project open-source so he could work on open-source on the clock. And, he gave his workshops to PayPal employees so he could improve his workshops on the clock.

There are stages to the impact of value. You have some value in your head. Somebody asks you a question, and you communicate it to them. You've created some value. The impact of that value that was in your head has increased to that one person. But let's say that instead of just communicating that value to one person, you schedule a meeting. Now that impact has been spread across these ten people in the meeting. But, what if you record that meeting? Then that value can be distributed across multiple teams. Now let's say instead of communicating the value directly, you write up a blog post. That value can now be distributed everywhere.

Automation is another thing you can do to increase the impact of your value. Even if you don't save yourself any time by automating, you are still increasing your productivity since you aren't making as many context switches.

Transcript

Michael Chan:
Hey, Kent.

Kent C. Dodds:
Hey, what's up, Michael?

Michael Chan:
I'm really excited to I guess continue our conversation about open source and finding your value in entrepreneurship and talking about how you're so productive. I think in our episode on open source, we saw that you had done a lot of open source in addition to your work. You had this phrase that I really like, and I want to kind of start with this idea as kind of like an umbrella for what we're going to talk about, which is to increase the impact of your value.

Michael Chan:
Something we didn't talk about in the open source episode was that there were projects that once you kind of let them die, you realized that you were doing work that didn't necessarily even need to be done. It didn't have a high degree of impact. It was just work that you were doing. I thought it'd be really interesting to talk about that in terms of your kind of adventure and experience from going from employee to independent. So I guess for the benefit of everyone, I think a year and a half ago, you went independent. So can you tell us what that transition kind of looked like, just as a reminder of kind of what that context is?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, so a year and a half ago, I was just wrapping up at PayPal, working full-time, and I made the decision that I wanted to change the things that I was doing during the day. I couldn't do that and still accept a paycheck from PayPal. So yeah, I was spending the evenings doing all of this work, this side hustle stuff, but wanted to do that during the daytime and spend my evenings doing other things, hanging out with my family or whatever it was. Now I'm my own boss, and I get to decide what I do. I still feel like I'm super productive, but maybe I don't give off the illusion of hyper-productivity anymore, because I don't actually have a boss.

Michael Chan:
Well, when you were doing all of the things, you wrote this really amazing post, and I think that resonated with a lot of people, which is How I'm So Productive. That's still on your blog, and you talk about strategies for trying to I guess double dip in maybe an ethical way.

Kent C. Dodds:
Right.

Michael Chan:
Not the negative kind of connotation way, but to try to see where those boundaries are so that you can create and contribute to and make open source and education part of your work at work. So how did that look for you? How did you make that happen?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. So double dip ethically is a perfect way to describe it. I am a father of four children and a husband, and I'm an active church member. I don't really do work or anything on Sundays. Saturdays are family days. I have a yard that needs mowing. Then when I was working at PayPal, I was a full-time employee. I was also doing side hustle stuff, like recording videos and developing content and stuff like that and then, of course, my open source stuff.

Kent C. Dodds:
So the way that most of this worked and why it worked so well, that PayPal was super happy and I was it's happy, is because I was able to say, "Hey PayPal, how do you feel about me just sending a couple paragraphs every Monday to my coworkers about something that I learned last week?" They're like, "Yeah, sure. Who doesn't want that? Let's share the learning" and stuff. I'd say, "Well, okay, if it's not proprietary information, then can I just put that on my blog and then send everybody to my blog?" They're like, "Yeah, sure. Why not?" So there you go.

Kent C. Dodds:
So now most of the content that I wrote on Mondays for my blog was written on the job. That was on the clock stuff, and PayPal was totally cool with it, because it helped PayPal engineers just as much as anyone else. Then I'm walking along, doing my coding thing, and I made this project. It was an inner source project at work at PayPal. I'm like, "Hey, PayPal, what do you think about let's take this closed source thing and make it open source? Now everybody thinks we're awesome." PayPal is pretty awesome. They have a pretty good open source presence already, and that's a value that they share, anyway. So they're like, "Yeah, totally. Let's do it."

Kent C. Dodds:
So now I'm maintaining this project that I was building for PayPal. Now it happens to be open source, and when I'm working on that project for PayPal, I'm actually working on open source. So now, all of a sudden, I'm getting paid to work on open source. Now, that wasn't my full-time thing. I was still building products. But you can see that this ... Well, there's one other thing. So keep that to the side also. So I'm writing content, and I'm doing open source on the job. Then on top of that, I say, "Hey, PayPal, I'm pretty good at teaching. I have some material that I worked on for this other thing on the side for teaching testing. Are you cool with me teaching that to PayPal engineers?" They're like, "Heck yes. Let's do that."

Kent C. Dodds:
I say, "Okay, well, I need to make some changes and improvements to this to prepare to teach this." Literally every time I give a workshop, I'm making lots of changes to the content and material. So it's always evolving. So they're like, "Yeah, you're teaching us. That's fine for you to work on that material on the clock." So now I'm writing content, I'm doing open source, and I'm creating workshop material on the clock. Then on top of that, I'm also doing product stuff and stuff, but I'm not expected to do as much product stuff because I'm also doing these other things that are benefiting PayPal.

Kent C. Dodds:
So in that blog post, that's one of the first things that I say, is it's an illusion. I'm not doing as much as you think I am. You're comparing your work, the stuff that you do at work, with the stuff that I do at work, and then, in addition to that, I'm also doing these other things. But what's actually happening is you take a slice out of the stuff you're doing at work, and a big slice of that is actually ... For me, it's this public open stuff that everybody sees. All of that isn't so that I can, I don't know, do this other stuff and double dip. It is me trying to increase the impact of my value.

Michael Chan:
We had talked about something earlier on in this series. We talked about kind of business and you as a developer, you being you or me or the listener, that these relationships are really just temporary relationships. No matter how much you love the job, no matter how much they swear they love you, these are temporary relationships. These are not your forever companies. This is not your life, the rest of your life. Something I find interesting about your story is that you tried to make it your own, right? Like, "Hey, we're here together, you, me, PayPal. We like each other. But how can we make this a little bit more beneficial for both of us in a way that is both exciting for me and brings value to you?"

Michael Chan:
I like that you were able to frame that in a way that your manager was able to say yes. Now, did you have pushback at any point? Because that's something that I'm really interested in. Did you have a manager who was just super lax and saw your potential and knew that they needed your help and was unwilling to let you go, or did they give you a lot of pushback as well and you kind of had to figure out those boundaries as you went along?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, it's kind of interesting. So I really started pushing up the content stuff, on the clock content stuff when I was working at Alianza, before PayPal. All I did for them was ... or while I was there, on the clock was my podcast, because it was a live podcast. So I pretty much did it around my lunch break, but they were totally cool with it, and I provided a silly amount of value to them, anyway. So they were happy to let me do these couple of things to keep me happy. So that worked out okay. Then, oh, I also did opensource for them. So when I started using Angular formally really heavily and took it over was when I was working at Alianza, and we used it really heavily. So anytime I needed to work on Angular formally, I was actually doing Alianza work.

Kent C. Dodds:
So by the time that I started interviewing at PayPal, I was already doing these things. Then in the evenings is when I was doing my videos and stuff. So it was part of my interview, and, in fact, my boss's boss, who I interviewed with, he was really attracted by my open source contributions, which was really encouraging to me. So he just thought it was really awesome that I was doing this open source stuff and wanted me to continue doing it.

Kent C. Dodds:
So I didn't really get any pushback on the open source stuff. I did get a little bit of pushback on speaking at conferences. So at PayPal, they were super chill with you going to speak at conferences. That was encouraged. They liked you doing that, especially as a recruitment mechanism. Most companies are that way. But there was one little problem. So when I started at PayPal, they understood I had these previous set up engagements. I was doing this podcast. They were cool with that. That was kind of part of the whole sign-on thing, was they understood I was doing these things, and they understood that I spoke at conferences a fair amount, too.

Kent C. Dodds:
But this was the one year that I way overbooked myself for conferences. I didn't realize what I was doing, and I think I went to something like 17 conferences that year or something.

Michael Chan:
Holy cow.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. It was too many.

Michael Chan:
That's too many.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, yeah, and I was not at DevRel or something. If you're at DevRel, that's like your job, and that's still probably too many. But I was not at DevRel, and, to top it all off, PayPal was in the middle of a hiring freeze. So I couldn't even really do recruiting. Yeah, so I remember having a conversation with my manager, and he was like, "Hey, did you know that the time that you're spending at conferences is basically amounting to one day in five you are not working? So one day a week, you were doing conference stuff."

Kent C. Dodds:
Not all of that was actually at a conference, I was traveling, or whatever else. They weren't paying. They were paying my salary, but they weren't paying for my tickets or anything. I was speaking. So they weren't just paying for me to attend these conferences. But yeah, that was an eye-opener for me. I was like, "Wow. Yeah." He's like, "The team kind of has to pick up the slack because of that. We're happy to have you do that, but you can't even recruit for us. So maybe pump the brakes a little bit on the conferences."

Kent C. Dodds:
So yeah, there was a little bit of pushback on some of that stuff, but the rest of it was just ... There wasn't a whole lot of pushback. They'd already accepted open source was a big thing that I was doing, and I never worked on open source stuff that didn't also benefit PayPal. So it was kind of like, "Hey, boss, I'm doing my job. It just so happens that the code I'm writing is not going to PayPal repos. It's going to open ... But it goes into PayPal products. So I'm just doing my job."

Kent C. Dodds:
Then the content, yeah, I never got pushback. In fact, my manager really enjoyed reading my blog posts. So that ended up working out nicely. So yeah, a little bit of pushback when I went too far and my team had to pick up a lot of slack and when I was doing things that didn't really directly benefit the team or PayPal, which I think is totally reasonable.

Michael Chan:
Yeah. You mentioned having to sort a lot of that out upfront for the stuff that you were already doing. What did it look like in terms of content ownership? Because I know that's kind of a big thing, is if you have this kind of mushy boundary around work and open source and your content, well, there could also be a mushy boundary when you leave, and whose content is that? Did you have to discuss that, or did they kind of leave that up to you from the beginning?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, they didn't ask me about it. It was kind of like a don't ask, don't tell, sort of, I guess. Odd reference. But yeah, it was never an issue. I know that they do have policies for if you produce whatever you do on the company's computers and stuff, it's the company's. But yeah, it was never really an issue. Even when I left the company, the open source stuff that I created for PayPal I always put within the PayPal org. I did create React Testing Library when I was at PayPal. But I did that all on the side. The initial creation of it I did on the side before bringing it into PayPal. So that's why that one started out under my org, and now it's actually an org on its own.

Kent C. Dodds:
Actually, Downshift, with that, I created it at PayPal for PayPal. Then when I was leaving, I said, "Hey, there's nobody at PayPal who maintaining this. We're going to be having somebody else maintain it. It'd be really weird for them to maintain it when they're not working at PayPal and it's in the PayPal org." So I asked around, and they said, "Yeah, we'll make an org for it and then hand that off over to them." That was not unheard of. I think PayPal has a couple of other projects that were spun off like that.

Kent C. Dodds:
So yeah, as far as ownership goes, I should say also that I would not recommend you just go and hope for the best on this kind of thing. Not every company is as excited about open source as PayPal was. Some companies don't even let you contribute to open source projects, let alone create your own and make them open source. At PayPal, when I opened sourced something, I always had to go through legal and make sure that names were correct and things like that. So yeah, there is an element of being ... Diplomatic's not the word, but doing your due diligence when you're working at a company and creating stuff that you don't want to be owned by the company, I guess. It wasn't a problem for me, but you'd want to check that, for sure.

Michael Chan:
Yeah. I just wanted to kind of shine a light on it, at least for a little bit, because I'd hate for someone to try some of these strategies and then just get kicked at the end of it, right? Kind of end their employment to find out, "Oh, great. Now I'm in a legal dispute over whose content this is." So it feels like if you are going to do this, finding out what those boundaries are, whether that be specific times where you do it, like only after 5:30 and everyone knows and you use your own computer and you leave your work laptop in the office or whatever you need to do, it feels like that's an important thing to figure out as you start to employ some of these strategies.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, and I know that there are some companies ... I have witnessed some companies do really mean things in that regard. So yeah, definitely talk with your manager about that and maybe get a paper trail for it.

Michael Chan:
Yeah. Now, another thing that kind of you've been really great at doing is automating things. So whether that being automating certain questions that people ask you over and over again or kind of always answering something in a public forum, where it benefits more than just one person. You're really good at trying not to do work twice. Tell me kind of how that started and some of the tactics that you've found most valuable with automation.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. So honestly, I don't know when it started happening that people started coming me from the public space to ask questions of me. But yeah, on Twitter, I'd just start getting, "What's your opinion on this or that or the other?" So eventually I decided ... I actually was inspired to create an AMA on GitHub by [inaudible 00:15:08], huge open source guy. Then I just started directing people to that. I would not answer very many questions unless it was a really quick tweet. I wouldn't answer questions. I'd just send them over to that. That ended up working out really well, and then I started blogging as a response instead to make it even more of a public sort of thing that would be easily searched and do well on SEO and actually improve the SEO of my own site and that kind of thing.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, so I try really hard to not answer the same question twice. Then on top of that, I make it really easy for me to share my answers to questions by making short URLs. So years ago, I bought a ... There's this hive.am, I think is what it was, and they do short URLs, because Bitly charges a ridiculous amount of money for custom domain short URLs. Well, they do it kind of in a tricky way. So you can get a custom domain short URL for pretty inexpensive, but your namespace for what the short URL should be is the same namespace as everyone else, even though it's on your custom domain. So if you want your own namespace ... Yeah, yeah. So if you have a Twitter as a short URL, somebody else can't have a Twitter, even if it's on a different domain. That's their thing.

Michael Chan:
Oh, fascinating.

Kent C. Dodds:
It's super stupid. It's just so that you buy their next tier, which is ... I don't know. I think it was $500 a month or something. It was just outrageous. So I got this other thing, and it worked out pretty well. Now I actually use Netlify redirects for my short URLs, and it's awesome. It takes five minutes to set up, and I've got a YouTube video about it. It's kcd.iam/shortner, and I'll teach you how to do that. It's pretty great.

Kent C. Dodds:
But yeah, so I made the short URL, memorable short URL so I can easily direct people to these answers. So for the last couple of years, I've felt like a search engine for my own content, because people will ask me a question on Twitter, and I'll just give them a short URL to my answer. I think I need a bot or something. [crosstalk 00:17:03].

Michael Chan:
Yeah. I was going to say you're like an automated bot. It's time for that next level of automation, where [crosstalk 00:17:08] the KCD bot.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yep, yep. Totally, totally. So yeah, but that has been super effective at further increasing the impact of the value. I already created the value. Let's take it in stages. So I've got the value in my head. Somebody asks me a question, and I communicate it to them. I've created some value. The impact of that value in my head has now been increased, right? To that one person. If instead I say, "Okay, let's schedule a meeting. I'll answer your question in that meeting," now that impact has been spread across these ten people in the meeting. What if we record that meeting? Okay. So now we can distribute that on multiple teams, and now it's been increased, or what if instead of answering your question right in front of you, I type out a blog post? Now the impact could be extended everywhere. Now I make a short URL that makes it easy for me to share, and anytime I get that question or see somebody with that question, I share it. So now the impact is just really increased.

Kent C. Dodds:
So you've already got the value. You just need to find ways to distribute that value, yeah, to increase the impact. So that was kind of the whole idea behind the AMA, the short URLs, my blog, and just automating as much of that process as I can so I can do it really quickly.

Kent C. Dodds:
Another thing about the automation stuff is I actually automate more than just making my blog posts and short URLs and stuff. It is really easy for me to create short URLs, but also even creating the blog post in the first place, I have a script that I run to automatically create the files that I need. It lets me choose an image for the blog post, and it will compress that image automatically and all sorts of really fun and cool things.

Kent C. Dodds:
Then also my open source stuff, I could not manage maintaining the number of open source projects that I do if it weren't for the level of automation that I have on those. I have 100% code coverage on pretty much every library that I maintain, and so I'm really confident when there are changes that ... If CI passes, I'm confident to ship it out to the hundreds of thousands or millions of people or downloads that it gets a month.

Kent C. Dodds:
Then on top of that, most of the projects that I maintain are not even on my machine, because I'm not actively working on them. So when somebody makes a pull request or review it, CI passes, and CI also publishes it to NPM. I've been doing that for years, and it has been liberating. So most of the releases that I do, most of the publishes are actually from my phone when I'm just chilling around and I review a pull request and merge it from my phone. Then it goes out as a release, which is kind of fun.

Kent C. Dodds:
So yeah, automation makes me super productive and I strongly advise anybody to spend even just a little bit of time automating anything, because even if it doesn't actually save you time, it will still make you more productive, because you don't have to do the context switching, which science has proven context switching is expensive. So I avoid that context switching through automation.

Michael Chan:
Yeah. So I think this actually ties into two other things that you mentioned in that How I'm So Productive post, which is actually enabling others and then avoiding burnout. It seems like with the automation that you have now, you can do things once, or you have an open source. You have the things set up in such a way that you can say yes a little bit more, either by just posting a link to someone who has a question of you or seeing that the test pass from your phone just being like, "Yeah, publish." That seems like it has kind of a virtuous effect on the rest of your life. Tell me a little bit about kind of before automation and post-automation Kent C. Dodds.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. Before I got into testing, it was ... Well, I hadn't really gotten a whole lot of contributions before I got into testing, but I know that when I ran into a bug and I needed to fix it, it took me a lot of time of manual testing. I'm thinking of one library in particular called GenieJS, which is actually used by CodeSandbox now, which is kind of fun.

Michael Chan:
Oh, nice.

Kent C. Dodds:
But it's basically like Spotlight or Alfred for the web, and GenieJS had a ... I didn't have any tests for it, and anytime I would make a change, I'd go to the little webpage that I had running it and I'd do all my regular tests, manual tests. It was just so slow, and so I wrote a bunch of tests for it. Then I was able to suddenly make rapid changes. Ever since then, I've just been 100% code coverage on my libraries. I don't recommend 100% for people in their applications. I want to make sure that's clear. But for my libraries, 100% code coverage, because it's typically pretty easy to do that, and those tests normally have pretty high impact, because this code is used by many projects.

Kent C. Dodds:
But yeah, adding that just made me so much faster. Again, it's the context switching. Now I run into a problem, I go to fix that problem, and then I go ... So I'm working on a product, and I run into a problem with this library. I go to that library's project, fix that problem. I go back to the project that I had the problem. So I'm always thinking about this same problem, whereas before I'd have to say, "Okay, here's the problem. Now here's the project. Now let me run through all of the things totally unrelated to the problem to make sure I didn't break anything, and now let me run this handful of scripts to release this." I have to do all of that locally. Yeah, so there's just a bunch of context switching there.

Kent C. Dodds:
Now, it also applies for contributions from other people as well. So I have to pull it down. I have to run my manual tests or just run through things myself. I have to run the release scripts. So yeah, just saves me a silly amount of time, and then, as you mentioned, I can say yes more now. So if I didn't have the blog posts that I do and all of the content that I do, first of all, I probably wouldn't get asked as many questions as I do, because I wouldn't be as well known. So people wouldn't care about my opinion. Sometimes I wonder why people do. But I don't expect that I would, if I didn't have the concent that I do. But because I have that content, I'm able to give them answers. If I didn't have that content and I got the number of questions that I do, I'd spend my entire day answering those questions over and over again, and I wouldn't be able to get anything done and then people would stop asking me questions, because all I would have opinions on is how to answer questions.

Kent C. Dodds:
So yeah, so getting that automation in place helps me produce more and say yes more, and then enabling others has also freed up my time, too, where I say, "Hey, how about you?" I see an issue on an open source project I'm working on, and I know exactly how I'd solve it, or I know I could figure it out in 15 minutes. This person who's asking, I don't know their skill level. Maybe it'll take them two hours or something. It would be really beneficial for them to figure it out, though. That would help their learning.

Kent C. Dodds:
So instead of me spending 15 minutes solving this problem, I'll just say, "Hey, how about you do it?" I've done all of the stuff. "Here's how you contribute to my project" or whatever. I've done all of that upfront so I can enable them to do whatever it is I want them to do instead, and now I've just saved myself 15 minutes and I can go and do this again to someone else, probably. Sometimes it takes longer than 15 minutes. There are some challenges that take a lot of time, and people are more than willing to take that up, as long as or because I've enabled them to do so.

Michael Chan:
Yeah. So you're able to kind of refocus your attention. It sounds like there's a lot of focus happening here, whether that automation is allowing you to focus quickly into the project and then get out or to kind of buy you time so that you can focus on a person as opposed to an outcome. You're able to kind of take that focus and kind of reduce some of that context switching cost and place it on the things that you care about more. Is that kind of fair to say one of the goals of this is?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, yeah. Very well said. Yeah. Yep.

Michael Chan:
Now, with regards to content, you have this kind of cycle now where you have content that's drawing people to ask you questions and then you're able to send them answers from content that you already have, but then you also have new questions, I'm sure, all the time. How does that play into your content cycle? I think we'll probably talk a lot about content in another episode, but how does this play, now that you have this kind of cycle of people being interested, asking new questions, et cetera, into your building of content?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. Actually, we can talk deeper about this in going independent as well. But one of my big fears with going independent was how do I stay relevant when I'm not working on a big product for millions of users, right? As it happens, I get asked questions ... So imagine that you're building a product for a million users. You're doing all the things. No matter how many users you have, some of those things are going to be the same, whether it's big or small. It doesn't make a difference, and lots of those easier problems, you figure out and it's no big deal. You're just churning away. But then you hit a really hard problem, and you're not sure what to do.

Kent C. Dodds:
So let's leave that to the side for just a second. Where do we get our experiences? Our experiences come from being exposed to problems and having experience dealing with those problems. So my biggest concern was, "Well, if I'm not working on a product that has a million users or millions of users, then I won't have those experiences anymore. I won't be exposed to those problems." Well, so you're sitting here. You've run into this problem. You don't know what to do. So you decide to go to Kent C. Dodds and ask him how to solve this problem. So now Kent C. Dodds is sitting here, getting exposed to all of the biggest problems that people have when they're building their applications.

Kent C. Dodds:
So that ends up just turning into this flywheel of content where they say, "Okay, I've got this question. I don't know how to solve this." I'm being exposed to all of these really hard problems. Some of these things, I've never dealt with before. Some of these things, I have dealt ... Many of these things, I have dealt with before, and I can say, "Well at PayPal, this is what we did." For the things that I haven't experienced before, I can say, well, "I've never experienced" ... I never give the impression that I know things that I don't, or I try to avoid giving that impression. So I'll often say, "Well, I've never experienced that before, but my intuition tells me that this is the first thing I would try. If that didn't work, then I would try this."

Kent C. Dodds:
Then what's cool is for those experiences, which I really crave and I need for my own experience, they will try those things, and then they'll come back and they'll tell me how things worked out. So then that turns into a thing like, "Oh, okay, that's interesting." So now I can turn that into a piece of content that I can recommend to people, because they tried it and it worked out for them. It's really validating when that kind of thing happens.

Michael Chan:
Well, I really like this. I think a big theme through this episode and the one on open source has really been the importance of building community. I think that that can be a really tricky thing to figure out, and I know a lot of companies try to crack the code on community, but it seems like what you've done is really just tried to give people a nudge in solving their own problem and then inviting that response to come back to you. If you can have that level of self-awareness and humility, it feels almost like a superpower in community building, to just partner with people in this way.

Kent C. Dodds:
Absolutely. I feel like sometimes people feel like I'm on their team. Well, that's what I hope people feel, is that we're all in here, just trying to make the world a better place. You're doing it in your way, and I'm just here to support you in what you're doing by teaching you this stuff. You bring me your problems, I can help you with solutions, and together we can just make things better for everybody.

Michael Chan:
Yeah. Now, obviously, you can't respond to everyone. Not everything has a clean bow around it where maybe you give a little bit of advice or you link a blog post, et cetera. How do you handle the things that you can't respond to, or how do you decide what to respond to? What are your metrics for keeping balance around not just being owned by your Twitter presence?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, man, I could definitely just all day answering questions. That's for sure. It's not just Twitter, either. Luckily, I don't get phone calls, but, but I do get pretty much everything else, emails and DMs and all sorts of things like that. Honestly, I've had to shut off DMs on Twitter and Discord and everything, because I just can't. It gets in the way of other things.

Kent C. Dodds:
So yeah, my metric around it is it comes back to the impact of my value. So do I have this value that they're looking for, first of all? Can I answer their question, and can I do so in a way that is actually valuable? I often will get people asking me, "Hey, can you tell me about this open source project I worked on?" Of all categories of questions, that's probably the biggest one I get asked. Most of the time, I say no, because if I don't use it or if I don't have the problem that you're trying to solve, I am not the person you need feedback from. So I'll often kind of respond with that kind of concept or whatever. Sometimes I won't respond at all, because if I spent time just responding to tell them I can't give them feedback, then I'd spend a lot of time doing that, too. So sometimes I don't end up responding at all, which yeah, it feels sad in my heart.

Kent C. Dodds:
But yeah, so it typically comes down to can I provide them value, and then how can I provide them that value and then increase the impact of the value I provide to them? So unless it's just like a really quick and easy response, I am going to end up writing a blog post about it or something to increase the impact of that value. Then a blog post could turn into a talk or could turn into a video or something like that. But yeah, it typically ends up being I focus on the things that I can maximize the impact of the value that I create, and that ends up not being everything.

Michael Chan:
Now, you have another concept in this blog post. It's one of the final concepts, but talking about spending more time producing than consuming. I know that that's kind of a tough balance for people, because sometimes you do need to escape into just this purely consumptive mode. Sometimes you can kind of fall into the allure of learning something that is fun, but not practical. How do you find that balance to make sure that you are constantly producing more than you're consuming?

Kent C. Dodds:
I think it's because I don't read very much.

Michael Chan:
Hot tip. Hot tip. Don't read.

Kent C. Dodds:
So in the last seven years, I've probably written almost as many words as I've read. That doesn't sound as impressive, but think about it, and how many words do you read today versus how many words do you write for consumption, right? That's a lot. You probably are reading a lot, and I just don't read stuff. I'm a slow reader. That's probably my biggest problem. I just have a hard time reading fast. So if I look at a blog post, and you'll see me do this. I'll retweet a blog post, and I'll say, "This is a great blog post." It's just because I looked at the headings. I skimmed just a couple of things. I never spend more than two minutes going through a blog post. This is a character flaw. I'm not suggesting that people do this. But yeah, so part of it is that I just ... Yeah, it's that.

Kent C. Dodds:
Another part of it is over the course of the last six years, I've trained my brain to be able to consume audio input very quickly. So I listen to your podcast, React Podcast, at 3X.

Michael Chan:
Dang.

Kent C. Dodds:
So your voice is very slow for me right now. Just kidding. Actually, when I'm talking with somebody, having a conversation, this is a question people ask me all the time. It does not feel slow, but if I'm listening to somebody else talk, yeah, that feels very slow at 1X. So everything's at 3X. On YouTube, they only go up to 2X. Sometimes I'll open the dev tools and make it go to 3X. I just consume it. I've trained my brain to do this. People who are blind, they actually can listen at 6X and faster. It's amazing. Your brain is really capable of this stuff. So yeah, anyway, that is another thing that helps me spend more time producing and consuming, is because I'm able to consume so quickly.

Kent C. Dodds:
Then a problem that I see happen a lot for people is they just go through blog posts and tutorials and stuff. Just that's how they do their learning. That is not how I do my learning. I very rarely will go through like a guide. I'll sometimes reference a guide, but I will not follow ... I don't remember the last time I followed a tutorial on how to build X. I never went through the React tutorial on how to build something with React. I never went through the Angular JS Superhero App tutorial. I didn't do that. I would much rather build a tutorial as I'm learning. That's kind of what I mean by spending more time producing than consuming, is production is a mechanism for learning, just as much as consuming is, and actually more so, because you end up running into the problems that you don't typically find when you're consuming stuff.

Michael Chan:
I think that's such a fascinating thought, the idea that production is a mechanism for learning. I know for me, I'm not as extreme as you, where you're learning as you're doing the thing. But I have found that to be the final step for my own learning process, right? So I don't feel like I really know something until I have taught it to someone else as well and actually seen that light bulb go off for them and see that they understand it. I think it was Richard Feynman was kind of classically gifted in this way of making sure that anything that he felt that he had mastery over, he could explain to someone who didn't even care about physics.

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah, it's amazing.

Michael Chan:
I love that idea of producing is a big part of understanding this. What are some ways that you think are good for people to explore that want to do this? Is it live streaming? Is it writing more? What's the buffet of things that people could choose from as they're trying to figure out what their productive learning style is?

Kent C. Dodds:
Yeah. That's great. Blog posts are great. You don't even have to publish them for that production to be valuable to you. Now, if you don't publish it, then you won't do the brand building or whatever it is that you might want to do. But if that's not what you want to do, then that's fine. Who cares? A huge part of the value of producing something is having produced it, that process of learning that goes into production. So yeah, writing a blog post, recording a video. A live stream is also a great thing.

Kent C. Dodds:
Contributing to open source is actually really great, because not only do you get to write the code and work in the code of somebody else, but often you will get feedback on your code that you wrote, and they'll give it to you for free. It's amazing. So that is a terrific way to produce and learn at the same time, is contributing to open source, and yeah, giving meetup talks and conference talks, the value you get out of those come in the preparation of them, not in the delivery. So you could even just prepare talks and not deliver them, if that's not your thing. But yeah, that's pretty much like all this stuff that I do. You could write a book. I haven't written a book yet. Maybe I'll do that eventually. But yeah, those are some ideas hopefully that are helpful.

Michael Chan:
Awesome, awesome. Well, before we I guess end this topic, is there anything else that we didn't cover today that you want to make sure that people know in terms of how to be productive, to produce well, and to maximize the impact of their value?

Kent C. Dodds:
Two things really quick. Remember that you already are creating value. Anytime you write code or talk to another person, that is value creation. So the trick in increasing the impact of that is finding a way to distribute that contribution. So if you're writing code, see if you can write that code inside of open source instead of just enclosed source stuff. If you're having a conversation, maybe record it. Turn it into a podcast, or it can just be a one-off thing. It doesn't have to be a regular podcast. So find ways to take the value you're already creating and making it public and available to other people.

Kent C. Dodds:
The second thing that I want to make sure everybody remembers is how important it is to balance yourself and know yourself and your limits and what is reasonable to expect of yourself. I have, in the past, not had a very good balance, and it impacted in a negative way my relationships with the people I care about most. So I don't care how productive you are. If you fail in those relationships, you will not feel satisfied. I found that cultivating the relationships that matter most to me is the way that I find satisfaction in life, and so take care of those things first and then go ahead and increase the impact of your value. Yeah, that's it.

Michael Chan:
Great pieces of advice to end on. I'm really excited. We're going to continue these discussions, talking about building an audience, public speaking, why users care about how you write code. But this is really great. Thanks so much, Kent.

Kent C. Dodds:
Thank you so much, Michael.