The Chicago Formula for Good, Impactful Work
No matter what you do, you can rely on 312
I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail. —H. L. Mencken
Hollywood is hype. New York is talk. Chicago is work. —Michael Douglas
Above: The City by the
Though far from New York, Chicago is a wonderful city.
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From its airy neighborhoods to its cozy walkability, near everything is great about the Windy City aside from January and February. Nevertheless, its cold winters are made a bit more tolerable by the warmth of its inhabitants.
312 serves as Chicago’s predominant area code as well as the name of a great local beer.
These three simple numbers are mostly insignificant except that they represent the formula/framework I use to write everything from consequential email to this very piece: The Chicago Formula.1
It seems straightforward but is far from easy:
Think for three hours, write for one, and edit for two.
That’s it. That said, don’t let its facile simplicity fool you.
After all, Andy Benoit said it best: “Most geniuses—especially those who lead others—prosper not by deconstructing intricate complexities but by exploiting unrecognized simplicities.”
What’s more, the framework perfectly balances thinking and doing, as 3 = 1+2.
Though it nominally applies to writing, it’s no secret that good writing stems from good thinking.
Good thinking is the difference between the very best decisions and the very worst ones.
Good decisions are the bedrock of any great business.
Most advice resembles treadmill desks: it sounds good but doesn’t really work and gets you nowhere.
With the Chicago Formula, I humbly pay homage to the sage wisdom of two great men:
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. —Abraham Lincoln
If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.
So get to writing that next book or business plan, but not before you’ve given it some deep thought.
Per my about page, White Noise is a work of experimentation. I view it as a sort of thinking aloud, a stress testing of my nascent ideas. Through it, I hope to sharpen my opinions against the whetstone of other people’s feedback, commentary, and input.
If you want to discuss any of the ideas or musings mentioned above or have any books, papers, or links that you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of White Noise, please reach out to me by replying to this email or following me on Twitter.
With sincere gratitude,
Rather meta, no?