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Zero percent market share

If you have a million Twitter followers, that means that 99.9% of the people on Twitter are ignoring you, which, with a little rounding, means you have 0%.

If you write a book and it sells a million copies, it will be one of the bestselling books of the year. It will also reach far fewer than 1% of the country’s population, never mind the world.

There are very few things that ever rise to 1% of the market. You don’t need everyone, in fact, the act of chasing everyone is probably keeping you from reaching anyone.

Zero (rounded) is enough.

Contagious commerce

Early adopters change the world.

While one person choosing not to eat meat will have a small impact on our climate, it will have a much bigger impact on the restaurants, groceries and food suppliers who notice what you’re doing.

They’ll change what they offer, and that will lead to a multiplier effect of other people changing their habits.

Buying an electric car or installing solar before they’re the obvious economic choice has the same impact. Because once marketers and investors discover that there’s a significant group that likes to go first, they’re far more likely to invest the time and energy to improve what’s already there.

The same goes for philanthropy. When some people eagerly fund a non-profit with a solution that’s still in beta, it makes it easier (and more likely) that someone else will start one as well.

It also happens in the other direction. If we buy from a spamming telemarketer, abandon a trusted brand to save a buck or succumb to the hustle, the market notices.

Very few people have the leverage to change the world. But all of us have the chance to change the people around us, and those actions change what gets built, funded and launched.

A future of retail

What do traditional retailers own or control?

  • The building
  • The inventory
  • The relationship with vendors
  • Data about who is shopping and how they shop
  • Trust with vendors, customers, employees and landlords

And now you can see the problem.

When retailers move online, the things they used to own are either eliminated or transformed.

And many retailers, in their eagerness to compete on price and their focus on selling things that everyone else is selling end up failing to build much of anything.

Permission–the privilege to deliver anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them, and the ability to work with customers toward something better–is at the heart of every retailer’s future.

But many are so busy spamming about this week’s promotions that they forgot to earn much of anything.

Swap the line

Here’s a business idea for you, feel free to build it if you’re interested.

Don’t waste a waiting list

The waiting list has value, and it’s also a source of frustration.

There are people waiting for delivery of a new car, or to stay in a popular airbnb or to buy a limited edition jigsaw puzzle. There are people waiting for an appointment or a reservation or a handmade luxury good as well. Or let’s say two companies are waiting for a shipment of computer chips. One has a few left in stock, the other needs them to finish a high-value product that serves people in life-threatening situations…

On one hand, it feels fair. The people ahead of us in line got there before we did. On the other hand, perhaps someone behind us needs or wants our slot way more than we do…

Swap the Line is a simple smart-contract-based system that makes it easy to trade your spot in line. Pay money to someone who wants the cash and you can swap with them. Sell your spot for more than you think it’s worth. Stay put if you want to.

This addresses problems with our current scarcity due to the supply chain along with the trade-anything mindset of crypto.

Here’s how it works:

An organization with a waiting list enables swaptheline.com

They onboard with two simple steps:

  1. Uploading their waitlist (status and identifier) to the cloud.
  2. Alerting the folks on the waitlist that swaptheline is supported.

If you’re ready to swap yourself to a different spot on the list, simply enter how much you’re willing to pay to go how far on the list. Or enter how much you’re willing to take to swap with someone behind you.

Perhaps there’s a list of bids and you can grab one, or perhaps it’s done automatically.

Either way, the system simply updates the waitlist in the cloud and transfers the money.

Some percentage of the transaction goes to the host, and some percentage goes to swaptheline for running the smart contracts and user interface that makes it work.

There’s a popular jigsaw puzzle company that has a six-month waiting list for a chance to buy one of their $200 jigsaw puzzles. If they kept 15% of the swaptheline percentage, it’s easy to see how they could double their profit at the same time that they served their customers better–because no one buys or sells a spot on the line unless they want to.

Or consider the 50,000 people now eagerly awaiting news about their new Rivian pickup truck. The truck costs $70,000. The deposit to get on the line was $1,000. A person could swap their spot at #100 to someone who is #18,000 and probably make enough to pay for half the car. And if even 10% of the line did a swap at an average price of $6,000, Rivian would earn $5,000,000 in profit simply by giving their customers what they want. The rigidity of the line is a sort of tax that ignores the market.

Or perhaps it’s something more civic-minded. The organization could allocate their percentage, perhaps they set it at 50%, for a local charity. It could easily replace a fundraising gala or two…

This is one of hundreds of examples of the impossible things an always-on network can do, things that feel odd at first and then obvious.

Have fun.

Shift your tech time horizon

Ten years ago, if you were as good at using networks and software as you are today, most of your peers would have considered you some sort of wizard.

The question isn’t whether or not each of us is going to get better at using our tools, the only issue is: how soon?

We can choose to live behind the curve or ahead of it. It turns out that there are significant rewards for pushing through discomfort and getting (much) better at all the resources that are suddenly freely available in data acquisition, learning technologies, financial tech, marketing and networks.

What if instead of resisting until we had no choice, we decided to pioneer instead?

PS the same thing is true for our other skills, including leadership.

Life by anecdote

“What evidence would you need to see to change your mind?”

The honest answer to this question is usually: “I need a new story that’s more immediate, more vivid and most of all, more culturally aligned than the one I have now.”

It took humans 100,000 years to invent the scientific method. Before that, we lived our lives by stories, examples and the urgent.

We still do.

An anecdote is not evidence. But we often treat it that way.

“In it together”

That’s not what we usually hear. To have “us” we often need “them.”

To make a profit (or a commotion) in social media, the math is usually division, not addition.

And as media has crept into every corner of our lives, it often thrives on discord.

The irony is that the network effect that powers our culture (it works better when others are using it too) depends on connection.

When Stewart Brand put a picture of the Earth from space on the cover of the original Whole Earth Catalog, it was a revelation for many. The photo was new, but the image was also a timeless reminder of how futile it is to forget the very nature of our finite world.

Ideas can spread and multiply, creating new opportunities and new frontiers. But we’re still on the same planet, no matter how much a few people spend to go (almost) into orbit.

As we begin to move beyond a century of industrialism, all of us are coming to grips with the impact that the industrial engines we depend on have created. The chronic shift in the climate of the entire planet is going to be the most significant driver of change of the next twenty years. For all of us, not just a few.

Unlike current events or politics, this is neither local nor temporary. It’s hard to fight the weather, as it changes all of the inputs and the outputs of our life.

The first step is to realize that we’re in it together.


In the old days, when I was a book packager, I created a series of bestselling almanacs. Almanacs have been around since Benjamin Franklin, and even in the age of the web, they serve a useful function. Collecting relevant tables, facts, explanations, lists and history in a format that’s easy to reference and share gives us a chance to agree on what we agree on, a common foundation for moving forward.

I’m putting together a worldwide team of people who are interested in volunteering to contribute to the new Carbon Almanac. It’s a zero-profit venture, a group effort designed to create a print and digital document that fills the vital niche between the cutting edge and apathy.

There are currently 40 of us, from 20 countries, working on the early versions. If this is something you have the time and inclination to contribute to, I hope you’ll take a minute to fill out this quick form. We’ll be inviting some folks to join us next week. Thanks.

Crowding the pan

No matter what it is you’re cooking, if you put too much in the pot, it’s not going to come out as well.

Very few things scale forever.

The hardest moment to stop scaling our work is the moment when it’s working the best.

And that’s precisely the moment when we need to have the guts to stop making it bigger.

Tools for modern citizens

It has taken us by surprise, but in our current situation, when everyone has more of a voice and more impact on the public than ever before, it suddenly matters. You wouldn’t take your car to a mechanic who didn’t know how to fix a car, and citizens, each of us, should be held to at least as high a standard of knowledge.

Everyone around us needs to know about:

Statistics

Germ theory

Epidemiology

Decision making

Propaganda and the status quo

Semiotics and indoctrination

The mechanics of global weather

Network effects

and artificial intelligence

Either we are the makers of our future or we’re the victims. And if we don’t understand these fundamental components of how the world works, our actions may undermine our goals as well as the people around us.

The world is changing fast and we’re all more connected than ever before. The good news is that these are all skills, they can be learned and it’s imperative that we teach them to others.

When they ask you to lead, will you be ready?

Akimbo, an independent B corp., continues to show us how cohort-based learning can change lives for the better. I hope you’ll check out what my friends at Akimbo are up to:

The applications are open for altMBA’s January 2022 session.

You’re invited to write and publish a book in the next six months. It works because you don’t do it alone. It’s the last day to join the current session of Writing in Community.

Bernadette Jiwa’s breakthrough Story Skills Workshop starts next month, register by November 2nd.

The Creative’s Workshop, which inspired The Practice is starting now—register by Oct 12th.