Ran Zilca

Ran Zilca - 2014Ran is an entrepreneur, scientist, author, and coach, who pioneered the use of technology to deliver positive interventions. He is currently Chief Data-Science Officer at Happify, Inc.

Ran’s different companies developed innovative offer offerings together with partners like Stephen Covey and Deepak Chopra. Prior to that, he has led R&D teams at IBM Research, Amdocs, and the IDF.

Ran’s research, collaborating with leading psychologists, has been published in major scientific publications.

He is also the author of Ride of Your Life – a Coast to Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peace, describing his 6,000 mile solo motorcycle ride of personal transformation.

Ran holds and MSc in Electrical Engineering, and is a Senior Member of the IEEE.

 

1.What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something?In the earlier years of my career I wrote research papers and professional documents. Then in 2008, when I was CEO of Signal Patterns, I started writing a company blog, and later on started posting on Psychology Today. Initially the idea was to write about the research the company was conducting at the time, collaborating with research psychologists. Yet when I started writing, I found myself focusing less on the professional aspects and more on life experiences: how the research findings apply to daily life, and how one can use them to make life better. A couple of years later, when I was contemplating going on a coast-to-coast motorcycle ride, it was clear that I would want to write a book. When I was on the road, I wrote a blog post every night about my experience during the day, and when I came home five weeks later I essentially had an initial working draft of the book – which then took a good four years to finalize 🙂

2.What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured? When I wrote Ride of Your Life I often extended business trips or even went away specifically so I can have some dedicated writing days. I find it much easier to write when I’m away from home, disconnected from my daily routine, and can focus solely on writing as much as I can. When I’m not traveling, I find that I can’t just simply schedule time to write. I actually need to be away from my desk, doing something completely different, sometimes for a few days, while the ideas continue to brew in the back of my mind. At some point the ideas reach a point of maturity and then I have to sit down for a few hours, very focused, and almost frantically pour it on paper.

3.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it?What people see as writers block is often a junction in the writing process where some development and thought work needs to be done. I find that I spend only a fraction of the time writing, and most of the time developing the ideas and thinking about them. It does feel like a block because I am anxious to just write away, but in essence I think that this is a natural, key part of the writing process. 

4.Are you a plotter or pantser when it comes to writing a story?
What works for me is something like 80% plotter and 20% punster. I think that when the concepts and structure are well-developed and clear, writing pours out of ones fingers very naturally.  

5.Are you traditionally or self-published?My first book, Ride of Your Life, is published by Booktrope: a Seattle-based hybrid publisher which specialises in community-based team publishing. I find it immensely useful to work with an editorial and marketing team. Having partners in a book project is an invaluable thing.   

6. What was the publishing process like for you? Any advice to aspiring authors?The book industry today focuses much on marketing and less on “product”, and I think that many authors find themselves falling into that way of thinking. Some of the seminal literary work of the past 100 years has been written by authors who were anonymous at the time and had no “marketing platform”. My advice is to focus all of your energy on writing an authentic book that you would be proud of. The rest will follow.

7.What has been your highlight since becoming a published author?When I meet for the first time people who have read my book, it feels like there is already an existing friendship. They read the book and know fairly intimately who I am and what I am like. In many respects it feels like readers are new friends.

8.Can you share a little of your most recent book with us, including genre and targeted audience? My book is titled “Ride of Your Life: A Coast-to-Coast guide To Finding Inner Peace”. It describes a 6,000 miles, 5 week solo motorcycle ride I took in 2010. I rode form New York to California and along the way stopped in research labs, temples, and spiritual centres, and interviewed some of the leading authors and researchers like Deepak Chopra, Byron Katie, and Sonja Lyubomirsky. The hours spent each day in contemplation, conversations with people I met on the road, and the expert interviews, all fused onto a short guide to help one find their new path and go metaphorically “go on the road” in their own life. I am very fortunate to have the Phil Zimbardo write the foreword for the book. Phil is one of the people who shaped modern social sciences. His contribution to understanding human behaviour is simply seminal.  

9.What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.)Regardless of the channels you choose and the way you go about it, the important thing is to dedicate time to your following every single day. As you dedicate this time you will quickly discover what channels work best for you, and then focus mostly on them. For some people it’s social media, for others working with book clubs. The only way to discover what works for you is to try it.  

10.How long on average does it take you to write a book?It took about three years to write the book, and another year to finalize it and make final edits. One of the reasons it took that long is that I found myself almost completely rewriting the entire book twice. Initially I thought of the book as being more prescriptive, and gradually realized that it has to tell a story, and focus first on my subjective experience while on the road.  

11.Tell us about the book cover/s, how the designing came about, whether you had much input etc. I think that most authors find it hard to pick a cover design, or even think of a direction. It’s hard to convey the spirit of an entire book in a single image. I was lucky to work with two different designers, and together we went through a number of iterations until a final cover was developed. I always like the visual concept of an open road going into the horizon, and that was the primary element we used.  

12.Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time?I am the Chief Data Scientist of Happify, a company that develops the new breed of technology to help people lead happier lives. I also coach and teach, and play guitar and bass in a band 🙂 

http://rideofyourlife.com/ Online course (free):

https://app.ruzuku.com/courses/11964/about

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rideofyourlifenow

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ranzilca

Psychology Today blog:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/confessions-techie

 

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