Guest Post by Herwin Icasiano

This is part of the Blogging for Grasshoppers series

Do you want to know

how to do the greatest thing EVER in EASY, numerous steps?!

Image: jim crossley via Flickr, CC 2.0

Sorry, I won’t be telling you in this post.

Why, sometimes, steps are not OK

The title of this post, if you couldn’t detect it, is a play on articles that follow a certain naming pattern:

### [NOUN – plural, syn. STEP, TIP] {to, that will, on} [TASK, GOAL]

In other words, articles such as 20 Tips on How to Gain Traffic on TheWWWObserver or 101 Steps to Becoming a Better Blogger on Lifehack.

Steps that help

Although I am usually annoyed with these types of posts, as I seldom gain value from reading them, there are those that communicate worthwhile messages.

Shonali’s recent post, Seven Ways to Set Your Presentations on Fire, accomplishes this goal.

Disclaimer: these opinions are my own; I was not coerced by Shonali to include her post in any way.

Here are a few reasons why I prefer posts like Shonali’s rather than the two I mentioned before.

Lead, don’t lecture

In my view, a lecturer gives students information, expects them to listen, and assumes that they will absorb what they heard.

A leader, on the other hand, ascribes importance to the productivity of a group.

Image: BES Photos via Flickr, CC 2.0

Leaders cultivate intelligent and competent group members by communicating why certain methods work and should be replicated, and what about certain ideas are important.

While there are plenty of other posts on TheWWWObserver and Lifehack that do provide me with value, the two I highlighted above only provide me with directions.

They lecture: “Send an IM to your friends and mention your website to them.”


“Turn your articles into downloadable reports/ebooks.”

In contrast, Shonali includes tips, but also explains why they are important – she leads.

It is not enough to tell me to practice my presentation standing up.

Instead, communicate the value of the tip by explaining that practicing while standing up simulates the actual presentation environment and allows me to pay attention to my posture and gestures.

An article published on Edutopia titled Lead, Don’t Lecture, outlines teachers’ insights that are in line with these sentiments.

The article quotes Lisa Suarez-Caraballo, a middle-school bilingual math teacher, who asserts that if you simply give students rules for mathematical procedures – or in this case, directions to achieve a certain goal – they’ll forget them.

Teach your readers to take ownership of content.

In the event that your tips do not produce successful results, readers will be able to understand the logic behind each tip, discern what went wrong in their application, and then adapt your tips to their situation.

Additionally, they will be able to teach others valuable knowledge with their own perspectives.

This cultivates a thinking community where information is evaluated, and then adapted and built upon.

It’s about experiences

Lisa also provides her students with experiences they can draw on. From the Edutopia article:

“For example, when I’m teaching integers, I don’t teach the kids the rules for adding and subtracting integers. Instead, I show them how to manipulate blocks, how to make it zero by taking away and adding.”

Freakonomics, the bestseller by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, applies economic theory to unique cases such as, drug dealing or the Ku Klux Klan.

Copyblogger used this book as a guide to making boring content sexy.

Experiences ground even the most abstract concepts; they allow readers to not only recognize the practical applications of ideas, but also give them a framework to easily recall this information.

Establishing your voice

A blog post with pointers isn’t only meant to teach, it is also meant to connect with readers.

A list of directions conveys nothing about your personality and voice – how you think, convey ideas, and view the world.

Steve Crescenzo observes this problem in corporate communications.

Corporations constantly churn out copy for communication channels and PR campaigns. While they feel that they accomplished their tasks, no one reads the finished product; it is safe, sterilized, and boring.

Instead, Steve encourages people to be creative and to inject personality into their communications.

By doing this, it shows people a human side and assures them that a robot (or at least one with less sophisticated algorithms) is not on the other end of the computer screen.

Umair Haque, blogging for the Harvard Business Review, places the Gap logo debacle into this context of creativity.

He speculates that Gap’s new logo was not created by designers, but by “a suite full of suits” who only focus on operations, technicalities, and pushing content.

Creativity, for them, is an afterthought.

Apple, on the other hand, values good design where creativity is required. As Haque explains, while their book value is about $32 billion, their market cap is over $262 billion.

Image: Stuart Caie via Flickr, CC 2.0

Granted, it is possible that responsible operations and super-standard engineering contributed to the $230 billion difference; regardless, Apple’s reputation for creativity and design is well-known and highly attractive.

Umair explains that “in a hyper-competitive world where 47 billion low-cost factories from Madagascar to Fujian can churn pretty much, well, anything in the blink of an eye and for a few pennies,” to relegate design to a backroom is a big mistake.

When it comes to blogging, anyone can compile data and churn out a post. Your voice though, is unique to only you, and Brian Meeks is a great example of this.

Not all directions are bad

I do acknowledge that lists of directions are useful in certain situations.

I’ve never tied a bow-tie, and when I want to learn how to do so, I’ll look for a list because it is easy to follow and helps me with a task that can be accomplished in steps.

I even recognize the value of people who like to make lists in general; some even consider list-making an art.

However we, as bloggers, need to recognize the distinction


framing tasks with steps


framing goals with lessons, experiences, and creativity.

Herwin Icasiano is a recent Stanford University graduate. He does his best to stay informed on politics, tech, music, cultures, and social media. Herwin has a strong interest in pursuing a career in public relations, helping companies and organizations make personal connections past the corporate-consumer dynamic, both on- and off-line. He dreams of traveling the globe, experiencing a wide array of cultures, and making worldwide connections. He’d love to grab a gab on  Twitter.