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If You’re Not Getting Better, You’re Getting Worse

Consider this concept: if you’re not getting better at something, you’re getting worse at it.

Maybe it’s not universally true for everything, but it’s an interesting general principle. It has many applications, from all types of skills and knowledge to just how you show up as a human in the world.

Ever since I first heard this idea, I’ve been thinking about it. At some point I made a list of what comes to mind for me on each side, reflecting on what I’m better at and what I’ve worse at compared to a few years ago. There are some definite patterns.

Let’s start with the “worse” column. Again, the concept is relative to a baseline—I’m not saying I’m amazing or terrible at any of these things, just whether I’m better or worse than I was before.

Things I’m Getting Worse At

Speaking at events. Public speaking is something that definitely fits in the category of “if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.” Once you learn a few basic skills and get comfortable with speaking, you begin to notice a big difference in performance from experience to experience.

In my case, I used to speak at 30-50 events a year. In the past year I’ve spoken at something like 3-5. Big difference!

When I was speaking regularly, it would be physically noticeable (at least to me) if I took a few weeks off. I suspect that public performance of most kinds draws on a muscle that needs to be exercised if you want to truly be good at it. Without use, it atrophies.

Fortunately, this is going to ramp up again later in the summer, with an upcoming tour for my new book. I look forward to improving again!

Social media. To hear more about this, follow my latest posts on … nowhere. Yeah. I don’t really post on many networks these days, at least not consistently. Among other reasons, social media has become algorithm-driven and saturated. Like many people, I consume more than I create these days, at least on the networks that belong to large tech companies.

I also just kind of “got over it” in terms of feeling the need to post all the time, especially for anything promotional. This might change in the future, or it might not. But I decided to focus much more on writing books (more on that in the next section), my daily podcast, and not stressing out about consistent social media for now.

At the same time, I do respect people who use social well without turning into weird influencers or allowing it to adversely affect their mental health. If that’s you, good work! But be careful. 🙂

Most business growth and optimization. Simply put, I don’t have the same businesses or revenue streams I did several years ago. I’ve focused almost all of my work on the books, blog, and podcast, without selling much of anything.

For the most part, that’s okay and it feels right for now. But just as with social media, I respect people who’ve gone hard in growing their business. Maybe I’ll return to it more in a year or two.

One more small thing that’s gotten worse for me: penmanship and journaling. I used to carry a notebook with me everywhere and would write in it every day, including notes for blog posts and even book excerpts. These days I still carry the notebook, but I write in it far less now, in favor of my computer or phone most of the time.

Things I’m Getting Better At

Book writing. After publishing The Money Tree in early 2020, I got stuck. I workshopped a few concepts with David, my longtime friend and literary agent, but we never really got up and running with something new. At some point we almost sold a proposal for a book, before pulling it off the market and taking another look. After a shift, we sold the concept for what would become Gonzo Capitalism, which I then got stuck writing for another six months. 🙁

In eight books so far, I’ve only been stuck once before, so it was unexpected and depressing to find myself there again. I eventually wrote my way out, and then a funny thing happened: I found a flow that worked really well.

I’m now writing something else that I’ll talk about much later (one book at a time!) but overall I’m very much back on track in the book-writing department. It would be nice to do everything, but all things considered, I’d rather have a smaller business and suck at social media but keep writing books and doing it well.

Lifting weights and nutrition. I’ve been running every day for several years, but I also increased my strength training to four or five weekly sessions instead of the two I used to do. At the same time, I began tracking my macros more carefully and paying more attention to nutrition. Because I’m fairly active, I eat a lot: at least 3,000 calories a day on average, and more like ~4,000/day during weeks of heavy workouts.

I still like running better than weight lifting overall, but it’s been fun to change up the focus a bit. I’m thinking that I might do some version of this a few months a year. Don’t worry, I don’t plan to start posting any workout progress photos! At least probably.

Attention to meaningful relationships. Every day I write down my five goals, one of which is “Cultivate harmonious relationships.”

Technically this is more of a value than a goal, but it’s measurable in a way that I can simply ask myself “Did I do that today?” I try to touch base with the important people in my life, spend time with friends and family, and generally be helpful when I can. It’s one of those areas where you intuitively know if you’re paying attention to it or not.

Over the past few years I’ve made this much more of a priority. Among other benefits, prioritizing relationships is good for mental health. Though nothing is a cure-all for depression or anxiety, it’s always nice to be helpful or do something good for someone when you’re feeling down.

You Can’t Improve Everything

There’s an important caveat to the rule of “if you’re not getting better at something, you’re getting worse at it.” The caveat is: you can’t get better at everything!

Life is about choices, you know? Gotta let go of stuff to thrive elsewhere. I try to keep this in mind when I’m feeling frustrated with myself. I’m writing books, exercising every day, and being purposeful in relationships. Those are three very good things.

Still, it might be nice to actively notice what you’re getting better and worse at. Then you can decide if there’s something you want to change, or if it’s just a matter of acceptance.

What are you getting better and worse at?


Thanks to my friend Nick for inspiring the idea for this post.