In yesterday's lesson, we saw how to capture ideas as they pop into your head. But how to quickly get lots of ideas right now?
You can find great ideas in your past.
Today we’re going to learn about the Two-Year Test, which is a framework created by Dickie Bush and Nicolas Cole (Ship 30 for 30) for quickly ideating dozens of pieces of content.
The ideas in this lesson aren’t mine, but I’ve thankfully and successfully used them for several years. So, you’ll learn some curated ideas mixed with my own experiences:
- How to find your topic(s).
- How to make your topic specific.
- How to brainstorm useful content about your specific topic.
Let’s start at a high level:
Where were you two years ago?
“Everyone is an expert in something,” as Dickie and Cole like to say. It’s also the premise of the Two-Year Test.
No matter where you are in life, your previous life experiences make you an expert on some very narrow topics.
Take me as an example. I was an obese guy in my twenties, using food to still the pain of my traumas. I liked to party and eat out. And I was stuck in my ways.
Only when I discovered people like myself and started listening to their advice did I change positively.
Over the past years, I’ve learned to face my pains and deal with them more healthily with the help of Stoicism. I’m not the world’s top expert on weight-loss or Stoicism, but I can share my experiences and help guys like myself — just like how those guys on random internet forums helped me years ago. What matters is that I'm able to help people who are a few steps behind me on the same path.
Likewise, you are an expert at something. Anything. So ask yourself:
- What skills have I learned?
- What problems have I overcome?
- What hobbies have I gotten into?
- What life transitions have I experienced?
Ideas will start flowing once you see what broad topics you’re an expert at. But to never run out of ideas, you’ll have to dig deeper:
Get specific for more ideas
Paradoxically, the more specific you get with your content, the more ideas you’ll get.
For years, I tried to write for everybody and cram multiple ideas into every piece I wrote. Not only did I make writing much harder, but I also started to run out of ideas.
Until I niched down.
Dickie and Cole recommend to take our broad topic and make it as specific as possible. We can do that by thinking of:
For example, when I started to write about my philosophical journey, my audience was my past self. But that wasn’t a “Northern European guy in his twenties who’s obese.” While good at first sight, it's too broad.
So, I wrote for a more specific persona:
- A single guy in his twenties;
- Making $100,000+ a year from a corporate job;
- Used to the (hedonistic) good life but seeing the emptiness of it in recent months/years;
- Intrigued by history and ancient philosophies.
That better described me, and getting specific helped me picture an actual person while writing. Most people couldn't relate to me, but those who did were magnetically attracted to my content.
So, who is your specific persona?
Describe your path and proven approach
Getting content ideas becomes easy when you know who you’re writing to.
But to never run out of ideas, Dickie and Cole recommend we think about four types of content:
This type of content is the most popular and valuable. It’s also what most people buy. For example:
- Curation (best of)
This type of content breaks down what other people created and draws lessons from it. For example:
- Inspiration (swipe files)
This type of content makes people feel like they can do what you did. For example:
- Personal stories
- Underrated traits
This type of content describes why things are the way they are. For example:
I recommend you take an hour to watch and study the video I link to in the “Further learning” section for examples of how to ideate content for each type quickly. After that, take a peaceful moment to journal about your ideal persona.
Recap and what’s next
That’s more than enough for today. Let’s recap what we’ve covered in this lesson:
- You are an expert. There’s always something you’ve learned in the past two years that’s obvious to you but could be amazing to others.
- Write for a specific person. The more you zoom in on the one person you write for, the more content ideas you’ll get. Ignore this paradox at your peril.
- Mix up your content types. You can write about a single topic from multiple angles. From actionable “how-to” content to philosophical “why” pieces, the more specific you get, the more ideas you’ll have.
Tomorrow, we’ll use our persona as a starting point for “sales safari,” so please take the time to consider who you want to write for:
Prompt: Describe yourself from two years ago
As always, let’s learn from each other (and maybe even find like-minded people):
Who is the person you (will) write for?
Please take a few minutes to reflect on what you’ve learned in the past two years. Think of a problem you faced, where you lived, your financial situation, and other things that made your problem uniquely yours.
More likely than not, there are people right now who have the same problems and would love to learn from you.
Share your persona description as a comment, and maybe your persona will read it and reach out!
I hope to read from you.
The 2-Year Test: A Framework For Endless Content Ideas
(4 minutes reading time)
Much of what's in this lesson, you'll also find in this article by Dickie and Cole. But as I've been quoting them a lot, it's only fair to link to their email lesson about the Two-Year Test.
How To Generate 100+ Viral Content Ideas In 30 Minutes
(39 minutes viewing times)
I learned the Two-Year Test through the paid Ship 30 for 30 course (which I recommend if you're looking for a writer's community and accountability). This video is an outtake of one of their lessons that I keep going back to years later. I recommend you watch this workshop multiple times and take notes. If you do, you'll end up with a powerful content ideation system.