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Domino Project update

Seven months ago, I announced a new publishing venture, powered by Amazon.

To date, we've published four books. We now have more than 250,000 copies in circulation across the four titles, and every one of them hit the Top 10 list (either hardcover, Kindle or both) on Amazon.

The blog has a bunch of juicy posts you might have missed, and subscribers to the blog get first dibs on our limited, free or sponsored titles.

The collectibles (one of my favorite parts) haven't been as fast to catch on as I expected, though the last two sold out within two days. I've been delighted at the great work BzzAgent and our street team have done in getting the word out, and blown away by how effective sponsored editions of Kindle books are. We've also had good luck with foreign translations, with many countries and languages in the works.

In the next four weeks, we've got four new titles coming out, each very different in its own way. I thought this would be a good time to invite you to subscribe to the blog. I'll keep our readers (friends) updated on the Domino blog. Thanks for reading and spreading the word.

Day old news is fresh enough

The value of breaking news (news = whatever is new to you) is dramatically overrated, and the cost of keeping up with what someone else thinks is urgent is just too high.

If it’s important today, it will be important tomorrow. Far more productive to do the work instead of monitoring what’s next.

[Exceptions: Emergency room doctors, producers at CNN, day traders.]

Building a job vs. building a business

Either can work, both do, but don't confuse them.

The shoemaker/copywriter/plumber who seeks a regular itinerary of gigs is building a job, a job with multiple bosses at the same time there is no boss, but it's still a job. You wake up in the morning and you do your craft, with occasional interruptions to do the dreaded looking-for-work dance.

The entrepreneur is in a different game. For her, the gig is building the gig.

Embracing constraints

Every project worth doing comes with constraints. Our natural inclination is to fight them.

This has to be done by Tuesday. You must produce it in-state. It must work with the current operating system. It has to be sold by local retailers. You need to be able to get all of it done and still be home for family dinner. You'll need to pay taxes on your profits and pay your employees a living wage. You shouldn't leave PCBs in the ground. It has to work for left-handed people. It must weigh less than a pound. It must come in eleven different colors…

When we fight constraints and eliminate them, we often gain access to new insights, new productivity and new solutions. It also makes it easier to compete against people who don't have those constraints.

There's a useful alternative: embrace the constraints you've been given. Use them as assets, as an opportunity to be the one who solved the problem. Once you can thrive in a world filled with constraints, it's ever easier to do well when those constraints are loosened. That's one reason why the best filmmakers learn their craft making movies with no budget at all.

Confronting stupid

Some gigs are process oriented: Set up a process correctly and the rest takes care of itself. It's challenging and frightening to get it right, but after that, you merely have to do the hard work of showing up each day. Do the work and you'll get the results.

Other jobs require a different sort of hard work: the guts to be wrong, a confrontation with the risk of being stupid.

The comedian who fears that each new joke might fail, the writer who has to say something new, the leader who must improvise, solving new problems on a regular basis. What makes this work hard is that it might not work.

More and more people now have jobs that require them to confront the risk of appearing stupid on a regular basis.

From Asimov to Zelazny

When I was in high school, I read every single science fiction book in the Clearfield Public Library. Probably 250 books altogether.

I don't think I had a big plan, I was mostly looking for something to do. What I discovered, though, was that domain knowledge, edge to edge knowledge of a field, was incredibly valuable. It helped me understand where the edges were, and it gave me the confidence to be selective, to develop a taxonomy, to see what was going on.

As the deluge of information grows and choices continue to widen (there's no way I could even attempt to cover science fiction from scratch today, for example), it's easy to forget the benefits of acquiring this sort of (mostly) complete understanding in a field. I'm not even sure it matters which field you pick.

Expertise is a posture as much as it is a volume of knowledge.

Reading every single trade journal, for example, or understanding the marketing, engineering and sales of your field–there are countless ways to go deep instead of merely paying lip service to the current flavor of the moment.

What you should worry about

You''ve heard this question a lot. It's what a novice asks an expert. He's planning something or launching something and he wonders, "Should I worry about…"

Actually, it doesn't pay to worry about anything.

It might benefit you to pay attention to something or to learn about something, because that will help you make a better decision when then time comes.

If it's not something you can decide about, if it's not something you can avoid, then all you can do is worry. And what's the point of that?

A definition of a leader…

Leaders lead.

Is that too simple?

Writers write. If you want to be a writer, write. And be sure to have people read what you write.

And leaders? Leaders lead.

If you want to be a leader, go lead.

Naive or professional?

The naive farmer farms as his parents, grandparents and great grandparents did. She plants, hopes and harvests. Anything that goes well or poorly is the work of the gods.

The professional farmer measures. She tests. She understands how systems work and is constantly tweaking to improve them. When failure happens, she doesn't rest until she understands why.

I didn''t use the word amateur, because money isn't the point. The naive farmer is failing to take responsibility and failing to learn. The naive marathon runner straps on sneakers and runs (but doesn't finish). The professional marathoner trains. The naive office worker empties his inbox. The professional works to understand how the office functions.

Mostly, the professional asks questions… What's next? How to improve? What's this worth? Why is this happening?

[By the way, it's possible to be naive and happy. It's difficult to be naive and productive, though.]

I spent the last week working with Western Seed and Juhudi Kilimo, two vibrant companies that are helping small-plot farmers in Kenya (and beyond) dramatically increase their yields, their income and their well-being. It became clear early on that the real challenge is to help the naive become professional. Once you open that door (whether it's about how you build a website, swim laps or teach school), so many other things fall into place.

Before you can sell a service, a product or an insight to the naive, you need to sell them on being professional.

Half life

We define half-life as the rate of radioactive decay. The half-life is how long it takes half the material you have to decay. The half life of a substance might be a few seconds or a few years. Since Carbon 14 has a half-life of more than 5,000 years, it's easy for us to date how old something is.

Other things have half-lives as well.

The sales cycle of the typical popular book, for example, has a half-life of about two months After two months, the book will probably have made half of all the sales it will make in its entire lifetime. For an internet viral sensation, the half-life is probably closer to six hours, measured from the moment the traffic peaks.

Every once in a while, something in the media violates this rule. To Kill a Mockingbird, for example, has a half-life of perhaps fifty years.

The art is deciding whether or not your project has hit a natural peak or whether new investment and energy can boost it to a new energy level…