Derek Sivers

Cut out everything that’s not surprising

2019-10-14

This is my advice to anyone writing something for the public — especially a talk on stage.

People listen to a talk, or read an article, because they want to learn something new.

They want a little “oh wow” moment. “I never thought of it that way before.”

People only really learn when they’re surprised. If they’re not surprised, then what you told them just fits in with what they already know. No minds were changed. No new perspective. Just more information.

So my main advice to anyone preparing to give a talk on stage is to cut out everything from your talk that’s not surprising. (Nobody has ever complained that a talk was too short.)

Use this rule in all your public writing. If you already found something surprising in what you’re presenting, then remove everything else. If you haven’t found something surprising about it yet, keep looking until you do.