Photo by Blake Hunter on Unsplash
“Wow! This was so cool!” my friend says. “How do you even find these things?”
I tell him that I got it from the newsletter of <so-and-so> website where people post interesting stuff.
And the next question goes, “Well, but how did you find out about the <so-and-so> website?”
And then I end up telling him about this person on Twitter whom I follow and how she tweets interesting things and how she is SO cool.
“Okay but how did you find out about this person?”

And every time, the conversation comes to an abrupt end either because my friend stops asking further questions at the risk of seeming too dumb (and ends up giving me an unsatisfactory “Oh Wow” reaction) or because I fail to remember the exact source (and end up telling something along the lines of — “I just found it while… hmm… browsing on the Internet”).

What I also want to say is that these cool webpages/people that I come across can come to anyone.
But that sounds like patronizing. Not helpful.

And I want to say that it’s all just easy and effortless.
But to the friend, it seems difficult, even impossible.

So, I don’t think any of those are helpful responses to bring this chain of questions to a satisfactory ending.

And this has bugged me for a long time now — what response could bring such a chain of questions to a good end?

I think I have come up with a good solution now. But before I discuss the solution, allow me to convince you why you should read this #-worded article on finding “cool” content online.

Why you should care

In his advice article, Patrick Collison lists “Aim to read a lot” as one of the few pieces of advice that he would like to give 10–20 year olds. Naval Ravikant once said that he values no other way of learning more than reading prolifically.

Use the Internet to become well-read

I believe that if done right, the Internet can help us become well-read. No, I am not just being lazy. There are a lot of high quality blogs and a lot amazing people you can follow to help in informing your own ideas.

I am not saying that it can replace books. But I do believe that reading over the Internet has similar benefits as reading books. Both of them allow us to mold our worldviews and open our minds to things far beyond our physical reach.

The Internet is one of the biggest advantages you have over prior generations. Leverage it. — Patrick Collison

If we can somehow just tap into that vast ocean, the Internet will enable us to:

  • discover ourselves — search for what we love doing, find motivation to learn something new, be inspired and just be “around” people whom we admire (and even get admired back by them!)
  • be aware of the world — and I’m not simply talking about your daily news. I am talking about having an informed opinion about the direction in which the world is moving: the longer trends, the major global problems as they emerge, and the up-and-coming technologies.
  • push the boundaries of our physical whereabouts — be able to get inspired by and shape our opinions based what some of the smartest people alive on the planet are saying.

And the first one is the most important. Discovering yourself.

Does motivation really come “from within”?

People say that, “Motivation has to come intrinsically”. They are largely dismissive of their unmotivated peers. Even when it comes to giving advice, the best speakers are quite unsympathetic towards the unmotivated crowd.

But motivation is an abstract concept. It isn’t something that the body physically produces on its own. I believe that it is rather a function of one’s personal environment and what one is exposed to. And the absence of the right kind can make even the best of us get demotivated and feel uninspired.

And being mentally surrounded by good, inspired content from across the world has the potential to counter the effect that a bad environment can bring. The Internet makes this possible.

There’s a saying which goes like — you are the average of ’n’ people you surround yourself with the most. So now, just imagine what happens to that equation when you spend hours surfing on the Internet every week, consuming ideas from some of the smartest people in the world.

So without further ado, let me present my answer.

Answer: Change the way you surf the Internet

Google is your oracle for pointing you in the right direction when you seek some information. Twitter is the aggregator that you go to when you don’t seek anything specific but still want to consume something of value. But they aren’t enough! You need to click links through to other links and navigate your way in the thick, amazonian forest in order to find the gems.

So here I have distilled what I believe are the necessary practices that can make you a better navigator and help you discover the gems of the Internet.

Untold Practices For Discovering Better Content over the Internet:

  1. It is worth your while to get to the source and try to find the goose that laid the golden egg. If you liked something on some website, go check out its homepage and About page. If some person tweeted/posted something good on some social media, check out their profile. Every once a while you will hit jackpot and it is going to become your new source of constant new cool information.
  2. Interesting articles link to other interesting articles. Don’t be afraid of going deep into the rabbit hole. Good, well-researched articles link to other good, well-researched articles. Mind you, such links are often quite subtle, meaning that they don’t always explicitly read like “Check out <this link> to know more” but are present more inconspicuously as an underline on some word or phrase in the article.
  3. Googling for stuff is more effortless and the results surprisingly more satisfying than you think. Whenever I wanted to know about something, Googling for it not only gives me the answer to it but also helps me discover something new related to it.
  4. Use Twitter. It is the media platform where some of the best thinkers (both popular and unknown) regularly publish their thoughts. No social media platform has that value proposition. Join it. Use it. Follow people of substance. And just as importantly, constantly weed out your timeline.
Don’t be afraid of doing the necessary housekeeping

In order to describe what I mean by this, let me describe one of my recent surfing sessions last week…

This week I discovered:

Patrick Collison, co-founder and CEO of Stripe.

I have known about Patrick Collison and that he is a co-founder of Stripe for a long time now. But it was this tweet by Paul that got me particularly intrigued about him —

And add to it the fact that several of Paul’s essays thank Patrick Collison for reading early drafts. Such an immense validation from Paul Graham!

So, one day I decided to look him up. I googled “stripe patrick collison and visited his weirdly simplistic personal website.

If you know the reason for this design, please leave a comment below… I would love to know about it!

The first link that I went to was the Advice page (because I am always craving advice). There, he has a few pieces of advice for the 10–20 year olds. The one that resonated the most with me was —

If you think something is important but people older than you don’t hold it in high regard, there’s a reasonable chance that you’re right and they’re wrong. Status lags by a generation or more.

But more importantly, it was the links, which that Advice page sent me to, that proved to be even more helpful as they allowed me to discover even more great content!

The paragraph mentioning the links

Here, let me expand on that a little more and explain how the article was helpful. These are some of the links that I visited later on during that surfing session —

  1. Emergent Ventures which led me to discover a new interview podcast:
    This is a fellowship grant to support entrepreneurs with high risk, high reward ideas. So, as I was checking out this website, I stumbled upon Tyler Cowen’s podcast — Conversations with Tyler. It was exciting to discover this podcast since now I will be able to know how one of the most famous economists of our time thinks…even though his economics blog is largely incomprehensible to me.

I have, since, listened to two of his podcasts (one with Sam Altman and the other with Peter Thiel), got another one downloaded (with Vitalik Buterin), and am totally excited for more!

“You can’t imitate a worldview. But you can form your own by listening and learning (and learning how to listen).”

2. The (n+1)st mention of Pioneer which finally led me to fill out my first Pioneer application:
From the Pioneer website —

“The differentiator of the Ivy League isn’t curriculum. It’s brand and network. Pioneer aims to scale those elements. Our goal is to build a decentralized network of young, creative and exceptionally motivated outsiders who don’t fit in to the traditional system.”

Now that is something that I want, too!

You need to apply with any project that you feel like and then you compete with your fellow Pioneers for the best progress made. I have applied to this month’s tournament with my Good Surfer newsletter (that I will briefly talk about in the end).

3. What should you do with your life by Alexey Guzey:
This is the densest article that I have linked to on this page. Probably the densest one that I have ever read. It is filled with links to other cool, interesting articles and pieces of advice across the Internet.

I also discovered Alexey Guzey because of this. His fame is very self-made. It is his blog. He lives in Russia but counts Naval Ravikant, Patrick Collison and Michael Nielsen amongst his Twitter followers, of which there are just 1272 at the time of writing (It feels so good to be a part of an early cohort of something awesome!). I’m inspired by him!

Meandering through his website, I discovered another great podcast — Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. I find history interesting and I have wanted to keep in touch with subject ever since I read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. This podcast seems to be just the thing that I wanted!

Also I saw that he talks about and links to Gwern’s blog a lot. That’s another thing on my surfing list now.

I also checked out Patrick’s Twitter and it looked meaty. Going through it —

  • showed me that Stripe’s work culture is particularly good.
  • led me to discover the podcast Minds and Machines by Andrew McAfee. He has interviewed Patrick Collison, Eric Schmidt of Google and Reid Hoffmann amongst others. (Yeah I love podcasts! I can’t wait for my next 90 minute trip to and from college when I can listen to them! :p)

Similarly, a few weeks before that I found out about Blockstack

A startup that wants to build a new decentralised Internet. (Feels familiar? That’s because the popular sitcom — Silicon Valley’s last few seasons were heavily inspired by this show).

And as I read about it, I got more and more excited.

Talking about the importance of doing what you love, Steve Jobs once said,

“The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work it to love what you do. If you haven’t found it (what you love) yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

Okay, that’s all well and good. But where do I look? How do I search for what I love, Mr. Jobs??

I believe that surfing the Internet can be an answer.

Checking out all those websites and all these articles that inspire you feels like a step in that direction.

Reading about and seeing people do what they love, either through an article they have written or a product they have made, makes you want to imitate them. Makes you feel the urge to be just as passionate about something in your life too.

And above all else — doing this, it gives you hope. Hope that maybe you can be just as good.

If you are someone who struggles with surfing on the Internet maybe check out my free email newsletter — Good Surfer. In this weekly newsletter, I try a different approach to answer the “How to surf” question — by showing you what I did during the week. It’ll be a collection of the best articles, tweets or any kind of web content that I come across on a daily basis.

The links will be structured in 2 characteristic ways which I think will help the reader be a better Web-surfer —

  1. How I came across it section after each link, where I briefly tell you about my source and what led me to stumble upon that piece.
  2. This Week I Discovered section at the end of each newsletter, written as a prose, where I describe one long surfing session where I go deep down on one thing.

Thank you for your time! :)

Let me know your thoughts on the approach that I discussed in this article by commenting below. Or you can contact me via Twitter or LinkedIn or shoot me an email at nityeshagarwal[at]gmail[dot]com. Also, you can follow me on Twitter; I won’t spam you feed.

How to surf the web to find motivating and insightful content was originally published in on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.