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Don’t just do something, stand there

What if you spent one day a week (hey, even a day a month) without meetings, phone or email?

How will you know unless you try?

A few seats reserved for a fundraiser

My post last week about an upcoming publishing seminar got a great response… we sold out in less than a day. A few people asked if they could weasel their way in—a great idea for a fundraiser, no?

I'm using a silent auction to generate end-of-year donations for the Acumen Fund. There are six seats available and you can bid on them here. Bidding closes on Thursday, December 2nd at midnight.

The one who isn’t easily replaced

The law of the internet is simple: either you do something I can't do myself (or get from someone else), or I pay you less than you'd like.

Why else would it be any other way?

Twenty years ago, self-publishing a record was difficult and expensive. A big label could get you shelf space at Tower easily, you couldn't. A big label could pay for a recording session with available capital, but it was difficult for you to find the money or take the risk. A big label could reach the dozens of music reviewers, and do it with credibility. Hard for you to do that yourself.


Now when someone comes to a successful musician and says, "we'll take 90% and you do all the work," they're opening the door to an uncomfortable conversation. The label has no assets, just desire. That's great, but that's exactly what the musician has, and giving up so much pie (and control over his destiny) hardly seems like a fair trade.

Multiply this by a thousand industries and a billion freelancers and you come to one inescapable conclusion: be better, be different or be cheaper. And the last is no fun.

Unwarranted fear of claim chowder

John taught me this fabulous term. Claim chowder is what happens when you make a prediction about the future and you end up being totally and tragically wrong. Like Steve Ballmer on the iPhone, "There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance."

While I wouldn't encourage anyone to go as far as Ballmer in this endeavor, it turns out that no one ever got a terminal illness from claim chowder. While it might be frightening to imagine, it's not so bad in practice. Try it.

Have an opinion. Defend it. It will make you smarter.

Your noise is still noise

I was talking to a colleague about all the noise out there in the world, all the messages, ads, announcements, pitches and friend requests. "And you're sending even more every day into that maelstrom."

"No we're not," she said. "Ours isn't noise."

Yes it is.

When you criticize my choices…

I'm less likely to trust your judgment, because you just challenged mine.

I was the victim of a business to business sales call. After the introductions, the CEO of the company pitching me started badmouthing a firm I've worked with. I had just finished talking about how much I liked working with them and how I respected what they were trying to do.

As she and a few other people chimed in with their take on how misguided, lousy and doomed this company was, I couldn't help but notice myself thinking less of my hosts. The only other choice I had was to think less of me… and it was easier and more fun to think less of them instead.

Far more effective, I think, to congratulate the judgment of your prospect based on the information they had at the time, or the goals they had at the time or the resources they had at the time. In fact, it's almost certainly true that given the information, goals and resources they had when they made the decision, they did exactly the right thing.

Then, because things change, it's totally okay to make a new decision based on new information, goals and resources.

Tell me about how things changed. Don't tell me I was an idiot.

A modern thanksgiving

Wherever you are, you could celebrate Thanksgiving today.

Not the Thanksgiving of a bountiful harvest before the long winter, the holiday of pilgrims and pie. That's a holiday of scarcity averted. I'm imagining something else…

A modern Thanksgiving would celebrate two things:

The people in our lives who give us the support and love we need to make a difference, and…

The opportunity to build something bigger than ourselves, something worth contributing. The ability to make connections, to lend a hand, to invent and create.

There are more of both now than there have ever been before. For me, for you, for just about all of us.

Thanks for joining me every day, thanks for your support, but most of all, by a longshot, thanks for doing the work, work that matters.

Where do ideas come from?

  1. Ideas don't come from watching television
  2. Ideas sometimes come from listening to a lecture
  3. Ideas often come while reading a book
  4. Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them
  5. Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom
  6. Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide
  7. Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do
  8. Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner's mind. A little awareness is a good thing
  9. Ideas come in spurts, until you get frightened. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week
  10. Ideas come from trouble
  11. Ideas come from our ego, and they do their best when they're generous and selfless
  12. Ideas come from nature
  13. Sometimes ideas come from fear (usually in movies) but often they come from confidence
  14. Useful ideas come from being awake, alert enough to actually notice
  15. Though sometimes ideas sneak in when we're asleep and too numb to be afraid
  16. Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we're not trying
  17. Mediocre ideas enjoy copying what happens to be working right this minute
  18. Bigger ideas leapfrog the mediocre ones
  19. Ideas don't need a passport, and often cross borders (of all kinds) with impunity
  20. An idea must come from somewhere, because if it merely stays where it is and doesn't join us here, it's hidden. And hidden ideas don't ship, have no influence, no intersection with the market. They die, alone.

The full day publishing seminar

[I'm told this sold out already. Perhaps I'll do another one soon. Sorry to disappoint… ].

Book publishing is in the throes of serious change, from format to content to marketing. Since my first book in 1986, I've been thinking about this–as a writer, a self-publisher, an ebook creator and as a marketer. I've probably had my hands on 200 books or booklike projects over the last twenty-five years, and I've learned a lot.

For the first time, I'm running a seminar to talk about it. This is a day, at the fabulous Helen Mills Theater in New York City, to understand how effective book publishing works starting now. I'll talk about what's worked and what hasn't, describe my vision for how an asset can be built going forward, and most of all, interact with you about your projects and opportunities.

Because everyone in the room has a similar agenda, we'll be able to focus really closely on how the new marketing and the changes in our world are going to impact our industry.

The day is created with writers, editors, agents and publishers in mind. I believe now more than ever that a book has a significant impact, that it can change minds and that it can be part of a useful business model as well.

If you'd like to come, please sign up as soon as you can, because there are fewer than 100 seats. Use discount code "pilgrim" to save 25% if you get in before this Thursday.

Reasons to work

  1. For the money
  2. To be challenged
  3. For the pleasure/calling of doing the work
  4. For the impact it makes on the world
  5. For the reputation you build in the community
  6. To solve interesting problems
  7. To be part of a group and to experience the mission
  8. To be appreciated

Why do we always focus on the first? Why do we advertise jobs or promotions as being generic on items 2 through 8 and differentiated only by #1?

In fact, unless you're a drug kingpin or a Wall Street trader, my guess is that the other factors are at work every time you think about your work. (PS Happy Birthday Corey.)