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August 17th, 2012

Flossing More Important Than Brushing, Dentists Say

Flossing is like Mitt Romney– it has an image problem it can’t seem to shake.

I was at the dentist the other day and we end up talking about it. I had to force him to choose. It was hard, but  he finally admitted it. In fact, the whole dental office agreed.

Flossing is more important, but nobody wants to tell you.

They don’t want to tell you because they think you’ll stop brushing, so no one has the courage to tell you flossing is better and results in less cavities.

So I figured, ok, now that I’ve gotten them to admit this, I wonder if this will change my behaviour.

Turns out it does. Once I knew flossing is more important than brushing, I started flossing immediately. Now I’m flossing all over the place. Twice, sometimes three times a day! And I didn’t stop brushing either.

The fact is, what’s wrong with most problems is their presentation. Not the idea itself, but the way it is

It isn’t clear enough. Being on the inside clouds our judgment. The project, and the public, suffer as a result.

I dare you to ask your dentist which is more important. I’d be fascinated to see whether it changes your habits.

So I made something I’d like you to share. Spread it. Maybe make it your iPhone background. Let’s see if it changes the way you think.


* Filed by Julien at 4:23 pm under experiments

February 22nd, 2012

Lessons I Learned Reading Over 200 Books

I recently realized that I’d been reading a book every week now for about 5 years straight.

It kind of made me wonder: what did I really learn? Am I smarter than I used to be?

I started to wonder, and this is what happened. 140 characters per book, for 200 books… 200 things you may not know.

Are you curious? I sure was when I started. Here we go.

A Walk in the Woods

The Appalachian Trail is a trail in the woods that’s over 2000 miles long. In 1990, Bill Irwin became the first guy to ever walk it– BLIND.

The Millionaire Next Door

Those that are wealthy are not those who ACT wealthy. Those that look wealthy are usually in just debt, while the rich tend to act broke.


“Sometimes we’re right about things– especially when we’re experts. Other times we’re wrong.” With a bunch of examples.

How To Succeed in Anything by Really Trying

The three A’s of careers are Ability, Ambition, and Attitude. If you have those three down, you’re good.

The No BS Ruthless Management of People and Profits

If your employees suck, nobody is happy. So fire them– fast. Stop being so bleeding-hearted about it.

The Dip

The real rewards come to those who can outlast the competition. If you can do that while staying unique, you win.

The Little Red Book of Sales

People do business with people they like. So if make it easy to be someone they like, you’re a big part of the way there.

Crash Proof

The US is carrying massive amounts of debt. This may or may not reduce the value of the dollar over time, so invest to compensate for it.

On Writing Well

Simplicity matters. Clarity matters. “Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it.”

The Little Teal Book of Trust

Trust matters, but more importantly, Jeffrey Gitomer is a master salesman, and it is always possible to write a new take on an old subject.

Everything Bad is Good for You

Even culturally “stupid” things like reality TV can have lots of value. In fact media is getting more complex over time. Don’t dismiss it.

The Myth of Multitasking

Do one thing at a time or you’re wasting your time. Man, I could still really learn this lesson. So could you.

What Would Google Do?

Companies that embrace Google-like qualities win over “closed” companies. Free, open, etc. wins.

Old Masters and Young Geniuses

There are two ways to success. Either be young and have a huge insight, or get older and gradually improve.

Pow! Right Between the Eyes

Surprises create emotion. Emotions create memories. Information has nothing to do with convincing someone.


Learn practical skills or you’ll regret it when you need them. Being useful matters.

Lance Armstrong: Every Second Counts

Persistence is everything. Ignore detractors and push forward no matter what.

Problem Solving 101

It’s easy to sell a little book to a bored guy in Chicago O’Hare airport… yeah, that’s all I remember.

Talent is Overrated

Work matters more than talent– this is like a much better version of Outliers. Focus on the work, always.

Culture Smart:Japan

There are at least 5 ways to talk to people in Japan, based on their status and yours. In America, we’re lucky to have social mobility.

Thank You and OK!

Even Zen Buddhists can be messed up. No single path will make you perfect.

The Way of Zen

Japanese Daruma dolls are really cool symbols for persistence. Keep real objects around you that remind you of your purpose.

Stumbling on Happiness

The stuff we think will make us happy usually doesn’t. We need to be clear on what those mistakes are or we waste a lot of time.

Not Always So

Enlightenment is about the practice, not the talking. You can’t intellectualize insight.


Simplify your life and you’ll appreciate what you have more. Yes, it’s that simple.

The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die

Most of the answers to happiness have been figured out by old people. Ask them, they’ll tell you.


Simple environmental changes can radically alter behaviour. It’s how change happens. So don’t blame yourself or your weaknesses.

The Game

Girls like confidence, and confidence is hard to fake.

How To Sell

Girls apparently like jewelry too. But not as much as confidence.

Six Pixels of Separation

Mitch Joel is an under-appreciated asset to the whole social media community. This book has secretly outsold every single other social media book out there, by the way.

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

Frankly, this was not memorable. If you are reading a book and can’t come up with any significant quotes or ideas from it, you should probably stop. Trust me.

Mastering Your Hidden Self

Do yourself a favour and don’t read books about spirituality. They’re usually crap and are trying to sell you on something.

Man’s Search For Meaning

Between stimulus and response there is a space, and in that space lies our growth and our freedom. (This was the largest inspiration for my book The Flinch.)

Feel the Fear… And Do It Anyway

If you feel fear in non-dangerous situations, you should just go forward anyway. It’s rare that bad shit happens.

Blue Ocean Strategy

Low competition means it’s easier to win. Always search for the easiest, least competitive way.

What Should I Do With My Life?

Follow your passion or you’ll regret it. Speaking from experience, this is true.


Stuff doesn’t make you happy, but you’ll never stop thinking it will.

She Comes First

Lol. I can’t believe I’m admitting that I read this. It was good though. You should read it.

Purple Cow

Being remarkable means your customers will notice, and being noticed is the first step on the way to being successful.

50 50

Doing the impossible is often easier than you think. Most people don’t try to find the real limits– they just trust what others say.

Presentation Zen

Stop putting walls of text on your Powerpoint slides. Everyone knows this now, don’t they?

Getting Things Done

Having a system in place is necessary to facilitate completing lots of tasks. Otherwise, you get lost. But if it’s too complex, the system itself gets you lost.

Open and Shut

The Canadian government never would have let Obama win, or even run, because he’s an outsider. This stifles innovation from the Canadian system.

Rules of Thumb

Any lesson is easy to learn… but applying it is hard.

When I Say No, I Feel Guilty

Saying no to something is actually very hard, so learn social “techniques” to help you say no when it matters.

Crush It

Fact: It’s possible to talk into a microphone and have it be made into a bestselling book.

Status Anxiety

It’s programmed into our brains to seek higher status, and when we can’t do it, we feel like crap.

The Architecture of Happiness

Our physical environment is important. How we feel in a place influences our behaviour in it, so try to create a space you love.


Even if people are outside your social network, you influence them. In other words, humans aren’t like wolves, we’re like bees.

The Cluetrain Manifesto

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchies. (This sounds simple but it’s in fact very profound.)

Gambling Scams

Amazing book. Crazy stories. Most scams are about getting the mark to feel like they’re getting away with something, not the other way around.

Zen and the Art of Archery

Reading short books helps you get ahead on your reading list. Don’t underestimate this. :)

The Numerati

The world of the future will be controlled by those who have, and understand, the numbers. Intuition is no longer good enough.


Traveling full-time is easier than expected. You, yes you, could probably do it… just not as you are now.


If you have trouble with a book, persevere anyway. It’s worth it.

Your Money or Your Life

Your spending habits are changeable. Stop letting them direct your life. What seems “essential” usually isn’t.

Of the Dawn of Freedom

Black people had it really bad, you guys. We are all lucky to be alive when we are right now.


Motivation from inside gets you moving. Motivation from outside stops you dead cold.

The Social Contract

There are implicit and explicit “contracts” that occur between people all the time, without people even talking about them.

Shop Class as Soulcraft

Working on things (vs, say, ideas) is rewarding, because you can see the results of your work and how it improves the world.

Escape From Cubicle Nation

Quit your horrible job. ASAP. Trust me.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Unfortunately, all work sucks at least a little. But life is still good, so don’t worry about it too much.

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Amazing things will happen, and terrible things will happen. Deal with both in the same way.

The Paleo Diet

Removing sugar and grains from your diet is one of the best things you can do for your health.

7 Days in the Art World

Art is all about personalities and technique is no longer that important. Often, big artists don’t even make their own work anymore.


Change is about working with three things: intellect, emotion, and environment. Get all three and change is easy.


I read this while in Cuba. This is the book I wish I had written. I was both impressed and upset when I read it because it was what I had wanted to do.


Simplicity is often harder than complexity, and often, there’s a lot of garbage that can just remain unsaid.

The Art of Eating In

If you’re doing it right, food in the house can be just as great as eating at restaurants. Take time to work on your cooking skills.

The Fighter’s Mind

People that fight intimately understand something that we do not.

The Greatest Salesman in the World

Mindset is everything.

The Creative Habit

One of the world’s most famous choreographers gets in a cab every morning to bring her to the gym to make sure she works out. In other words, high achievers have more than just “willpower” to make it happen.


Books that say a little are often way better than books that say a lot.

Do More Great Work

Getting people to do exercises makes them think about things more than if they just read about them.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Starting a cult is easy. :)

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Think about your life as a story. How would you make it worth watching? Also, a character is what a character does. This is very important.

Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate

Zen Masters are just normal people that sit around a lot. They aren’t saints. I spent a month in a Zen monastery in Japan, so I know this is true.

Global Citizens

Don’t downgrade your standards for books just because you’re getting on a plane in New Zealand. Just garbage.

Ogilvy on Advertising

People used to be very gullible I think. A wall of text used to convince people… wait, maybe it still does?

Tao Te Ching

This book made me appreciate Chinese writing. The fashionable thing is to like the Japanese, but honestly I think ancient Chinese philosophical writing is far superior.

Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography

History will distort what your message is, or it will forget you. Focus on making the people near you happy instead of your “legacy” or whatever.

All Marketers Are Liars

The story you tell yourself (and others) is really important.

In Defence of Food

If it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, it may not actually be food. So never go through the aisles of a grocery store– go around the edges instead, where the fridges are.

I Am Not a Gadget

The web is making you into a commodity and narrowing your thinking without you knowing it.

5 Love Languages

Behind the things your spouse does is a way of thinking. Aligning yourself with that will help you understand them.

The Vegetarian Myth

I was a vegetarian/vegan for 10 years and there were lots of talking points I believed without researching them. So the lesson here is, read up on sound bites before repeating them.

The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King

Big bets either pay off or wipe you out. But even if they wipe you out, you can still come back from it.

A Brief History of Everything

Systems look very different from the inside than they do from the outside.

The Gift of Fear

Your instincts have been honed by millions of years of evolution. When your intuition tells you something, don’t ignore it.

Three Steps of the Ladder of Writing

In order for great art to emerge, you must suffer. (I have also experienced this firsthand.)

Se liberer du connu

Any habit, no matter how stupid, will end up with religious significance if unquestioned.

The Primal Blueprint

One book on the paleo diet is enough. Stop re-reading the same information over and over again. (This also applies to social media books.)

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong

The French are best appreciated as a deeply distinct culture. They may have cars, McDonald’s, and shopping malls but they are not like you.

The Art of Non-Conformity

I could learn a lot from Chris Guillebeau. You can too.


When things go viral, it’s because they touch upon emotion, not logic. This is actually a big message most web people forget.

The Happiness Project

It’s shocking how much this book has sold. I guess it goes to show what happens when you put “happiness” in the title. It’s good, but…

The Little Black Book of Connections

Your network is everything. Access to the right people accelerates everything you do.

The Paleo Solution

Another paleo book may not have been the right thing to do, but it does prove that presentation matters. This book is the best presented of all the ones I read.

Hamlet’s Blackberry

People have encountered new technology many times before, so looking to the past can help you understand how you should deal with it when it happens to you.

The End of Food

Unless it’s local and needs to be refrigerated, the food you eat had a terrifying ride to get to your plate.


I think I’ve read enough Edward de Bono books. This was about success, but whatever. Why do I keep reading about the same things?


Old people have tons of amazing stories– but most of us don’t know them because we just don’t ask.

It’s Not Just Who You Know…

Pull other people up. Be considerate to everyone.

Good Calories Bad Calories

Native people all over the world, before being introduced to Western food, had significantly less chronic disease.

Making Ideas Happen

The productivity system you use must be available everywhere and give you your tasks only for today, not for next week.

Work the System

You should not be working inside your company putting out fires. You should be improving its efficiency instead. This book is like a better 4-Hour-Workweek.

Food Rules

When you name something a “rule,” everyone believes it even though it may not be true.

Foucault for Beginners

Michel Foucault was gay and came up with the panopticon.

A Treatise on Elegant Living

What you wear isn’t just surface– it also displays your personality and what matters to you.

Why We Get Fat

Science writers usually write a complicated book, and then a simple one after that. Always read one or the other. Never both.

The 4-Hour Body

Do the minimum possible to affect the largest possible change. Everything else is wasted energy (unless you want to master a discipline).

Emotional Intelligence 2.0

I was in Thailand while reading this. Skip it and go to Thailand instead.

What Technology Wants

Technology is a force and it’s going in a certain direction. If you work on the web, you need to understand what direction that is.

How I Became a Famous Novelist

Thailand again… this was the funniest book I ever read. It made me want to write other things than business books for the first time.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life

Large change is best done in small steps, because it doesn’t set off your emotional alarm system.

The Alchemist

Have a quest.

Program or Be Programmed

Most people on the web are writers, not programmers, and in so doing, they are less powerful than they could be.

As You Think (and other short books)

Writing down goals has power.

Poke the Box

Become a person that initiates. Others will follow.

What the Psychic Said to the Pilgrim

People give up extremely easily. If you don’t, you automatically win.

The Thank You Economy

Social media is all about basic human interactions, so being as human as possible means you have the most impact.

The Long Walk

All Stephen King books are about a regular thing that becomes evil. Carrie is a high school girl that becomes evil. Christine is a car that becomes evil. Cujo is a dog that becomes evil. The Long Walk is about a walk that becomes evil.

How to Get a Grip

Most self-improvement is in fact very basic to do. Stop kidding yourself.

Do the Work

Just sit on your ass and do it. It’s that “easy.”

Go Forth and Kick Some Ass

eBooks are quick to read and people will probably buy lots of them.

Against the Gods

Insurance companies (and others) understand risk in an extremely sophisticated way– but most individuals do not. They consider risky things safe, and safe things risky.

The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins is not nearly as much of an asshole as some think he is.

Five Little Pigs

Agatha Christie is the greatest fiction writer in the history of mankind. She is a master.

Rules for Aging

Amazing short book about important life lessons. Very funny.

The Places That Scare You

“Drop the storyline.”

Born Standing Up

Even if their movies are bad, celebrities usually aren’t idiots… especially the comedians. Also: read more biographies.

Born to Run

Marketing, especially when applied to things we have been doing for millions of years, can really screw things up. People with expensive shoes, for example, get more injuries than minimalist shoe runners.

The Dip

Wow, I read this twice! Well, this one was an audiobook, so I guess that’s different. Kind of like being on the Camino de Santiago with Seth Godin.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

After finishing this book, I realized that I should be reading it every single year. It’s that good.

A Whole New Mind

The mind necessary in the 21st century is not like the one we were taught to use. We need to learn to think and learn differently.

Getting Unstuck

Godin also recommended I read some Pema Chodron. He was right.

The War of Art

This is the perfect writing book. It’s so good it makes you never want to compete with it.

The Thing About Life is That One Day You’ll Be Dead

Sickness and aging happen very slowly, so you never actually notice it happening. Plan accordingly.

Your Dog is Your Mirror

Bad dogs aren’t bad for no reason. They have been with us for longer than any other animals, so they are uniquely attuned to our emotional states.

The Consolations of Philosophy

Most of our basic human problems have been solved a long time ago. If you start digging, you can solve them pretty easily.

When Things Fall Apart

Even though pain may seem catastrophic, it’s actually temporary. And again, “drop the storyline.”

Evil Plans

When you draw, you can say a lot with a little. I plan on drawing a lot of my work in 2012 and beyond.


I read this because I was asked to blurb it, but it was actually a good primer.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting

Most time in offices is wasted. I heard the other day most people actually “work” around 2 hours per day. Meetings are partly responsible.

Purple Cow

When I read this for the second time, it was because I was trying to “distill” the Flinch. It worked.

Self-Reliance (Domino edition)

Always read the original.

The Power of Myth

Joseph Campbell, although not “undiscovered,” is still under-appreciated. The dude did things his own way in a time when conformity was the norm.

The 22 Laws of Marketing

Tim Ferriss was right. This book is simple yet awesome.

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness

People who give you simple formulas are spoon-feeding you. Be skeptical.

L’art de la sieste

Some books are inappropriately titled. I thought this book was about napping, but it isn’t. It’s about people napping in paintings. No kidding.

End Malaria

The most easily marketed work is the one that is publicized collaboratively. In order to facilitate this, you should also write collaboratively. (See Godin’s What Matters Now for another example.)

The Pilgrimage

Universal themes in books never get old, and Paulo Coelho is a master. As he visited each town, I remembered how I felt while visiting them.

The Warrior Ethos

Throughout history, there have been cultures that have been hard, and others that have been soft. We are soft. The Spartans were hard.

5 Minds For the Future

The most appreciated people in the 21st century will be those who do the jobs that computers are bad at.

We Are All Weird

Find a little tribe that is like you, be yourself to them. Build yourself a business around it. (See also: 1000 True Fans.)

Accidental Genius

Freewriting unlocks ideas that your brain may never have otherwise encountered. Read this and try it for yourself.

Rum Socialism

I should go to Cuba again. You should too, probably. It’s going to change a lot soon. Foreigners just got the right to buy property there.

Falling While Sitting Down

You can radically change your writing and still keep a lot of your audience.

The Game Master

Yes, I still play Dungeons and Dragons. Yet there is little writing about how to write a game. This was a good one. You can download it here for a donation or for free.

Cognitive Surplus

When you free up a lot of your time, or give yourself many more options than before, your creativity and that of society is entirely transformed. Kickstarter and Sokap are great examples.


Each fact in a book should be considered separetely. For example, Willpower says glucose depletion is a primary cause of making bad decisions. Not sure about that.

The Education of Millionaires

I should be going to more events. Summit Series, for example.

The Lean Startup

There is a methodology behind exploration of new concepts. Don’t just do it chaotically– have a method behind the madness.


Get advice from people who have been there before. Don’t reinvent the wheel.


This is a kind of Gladwell-style book, but much more interesting. I also learned here that there are about a million books about psychological errors that people make.

The Power of Eye Contact

It literally took me a year to finish this. I started in January and finished in December. Anyway, eye contact is important for relationships.

Never Eat Alone

You are not networking as much as you should be.

Strong Enough?

Incremental change can make you amazingly strong. (This applies to all areas of life.)

Think Twice

We make cognitive errors all the time without knowing it. Correcting them usually means big rewards.

How To Be a Man

In an anarchist state, manners would become the main substitute for laws. So be polite.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Many famous and well-respected writers have copied, or translated, other people’s works. See also: Hunter S. Thompson.

18 Minutes

Set your phone to ask you once an hour whether you’re being productive. Watch massive change occur.


Influence on the web comes from working with regular people, not “influencers.”


Almost all decisions we make are influenced by our biology.

* Filed by Julien at 10:53 am under experiments, random

February 13th, 2012

A Short Contest

Hey, happy Monday. I have a cool idea and, if you have a minute, I’d love your help.

I’m looking for the best quotes from the entirety of this blog for an experiment I’m going to try out.

My theory is, I can take them, present them in a cool and unique way, and have them do really well on social networks– much better than they would do inside of a blog post.

I’d love your help to find them.

You’re probably new here– most of my readers have joined this site within the past month– so it’s highly likely that you’ve never visited my archives. There’s a lot of good stuff there.

I’d like to offer you the incentive to check them out.

So in one week, I’m going to give away between 5 and 10 prizes (not sure yet how many) for finding the best quotes from old posts on this blog.

They can be of any length and come from any post, but you’ll probably notice that anything before 2008 or so is not worth going through. (Just being honest.) :)

How to “enter”

Find a quote in an old post, and tweet it out mentioning my name, like so. Bam! You’re done!



To those who come find the best stuff, here’s my offer. Your choice of:

A Kindle Fire. The price for this baby is currently at $199. I’ll send you one! Yay!

A hardcover, signed version of my most recent book, the Flinch. There is no hardcover of this book available at any price, but I am printing a few for personal use and will send you one, signed, numbered, etc.

A one-hour phone conversation about your company or project. This can’t be bought either, but I have done things like this for large corporations at rates of near $1000 per hour. I’m, like, a total genius so this is huge too. If you want we can talk about kittens.

Something else? Honestly I haven’t thought this out that much, it’s kind of an experiment. Have something else you’d like? Add it in the comments and I’ll see what I can do. :)

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program. Thanks! :)

* Filed by Julien at 10:11 am under experiments, random

January 21st, 2012

What is the real price of free?

The reality of publishing is extremely strange to me.

Sometimes I’ll walk into a bookstore and consider whether I’ll want to buy something. I’ll sit there, and consider it for a while.

What do the blurbs say?

Does it look like it’s an easy read?

Is it a bestseller?

All these questions enter your head.

Here, in Chicago O’Hare airport where I write this from, a book retails for about 25$. It also weighs a few pounds. So even if I’m interested in a few books, and I’m ready to spend $50 bucks, at most I’ll be buying one book.

As I’ve discussed before, ebooks turn this all around.

Last month, I put out a short ebook through Seth Godin’s Domino Project. The price was zero, and it was promoted by pretty much every blogger out there.

I’m told a book is a national bestseller when it sells around 15,000 copies. This is considered a phenomenon, causing at minimum a blip on the national radar, versus most books, which don’t blip at all.

So what happens when you put a promotion machine in place, and give people no resistance to buying whatsoever? Well, the results are dramatic.

In the past month and a half, more copies of The Flinch were sent out than copies of Trust Agents, our previous book, over a whole two years. In the first day alone, Amazon showed over 15,000 copies were released, and it’s now sitting around 75,000.

Today we’re going to try that again.

Colin Wright and Joshua Millburn, two friends of mine, are trying the experiment. Alongside the Flinch, their books will be free for the next three days only (click on their names to get them). Already, only a few hours in, Joshua’s book has hit #1 in the short story category. Who knows how far it’ll go?

So back to the question at hand. What is the real price of free? Well, it isn’t a dollar sign.

It’s an opportunity cost.

What would you give for the opportunity to be in front of fifteen, seventy-five, or even a hundred thousand people?

Think carefully. We’re actually in a very unique time. Soon, the market will be flooded. You won’t have this chance for long.

* Filed by Julien at 5:18 pm under experiments, the book

February 4th, 2011

The Future of Blogs is Paid Access

Update: Aaron Wall left an epic comment here which adds significantly to the discussion. Click here to see it (it’s #55).

Pay attention. This will be on the test.

I remember having a conversation with Chris, sitting in Café Méliès in Montreal one time, talking about business. We had an idea for a private forum. This was a few years ago, I think– maybe even before the book.

We would base is on Aaron Wall’s private SEO community, base it on our expertise in social media etc. We’d split whatever money we made, pay any blogger who wanted to be an affiliate. The idea was simple, but good and scalable. It would make a lot of money if we did it right. So we called Brian Clark– he was doing Teaching Sells at the time. He said, “Good stuff. I’m in.”

The joke is, Chris and I never did it… at least, not in that format. :)

Much later, Third Tribe would be released– pretty much the same thing we talked about. Good on Brian for actually having the initiative. :) Aaron Wall’s forum would increase in price, from $100 to $300 per month (still a good value IMHO) and continue to grow. Chris would launch Kitchen Table Companies and other private communities of the same type.

This is now old news. Or is it?

Except I’ve been talking to Mark O’Sullivan at the exceptional Vanilla Forums, who says that big web personalities are asking him about private forums for their sites. I’ve been interviewing Brett Rogers, who funds his documentaries partially by having people come along on his adventures. And I’ve just started working with Martin Berkhan, who can’t handle the flood of questions people ask him about his workout and nutrition methods because they seem to work so well.

What is there was a solution to this? I think there is. But let’s veer off for a second.

I think you can lead an exceptional life, market yourself correctly, and the life itself will help pay its own way.

Something big changed with the web. We could create personal brands, broadcast ourselves for free, and create a following. Except if we got popular, we started not being able to pay attention to everyone anymore. This is normal.

I’m thinking of Richard Nikoley. His (successful) experiment with not washing his hair for two years has led to articles in the Chicago Tribune and other places. He can’t handle the emails he gets anymore. Also Chris Guillebeau, who recently got 800 comments on a post he put out.

As Aaron Wall has said, popularity is an inequality between supply and demand. You solve it by raising price.

Books and conferences are price points– they are old methods that people are used to and don’t flinch at. I use both, and they work well. But there’s a problem with them.

Middlemen take over the old methods. They live as parasites off what you and I produce. Many of them do it without adding any value whatsoever.

There is something missing from Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans method. It is fine for artists, for producers of actual artifacts, artists, etc. This is one reason Seth Godin’s Domino Project is so interesting. It cuts middlemen out. But it still requires the creation of an artifact… of a product.

What if YOU were the product?

I believe that what people want when they read your book, when they come to see you speak, or sing, or when they buy art from you– I believe that what they actually want is you.

This method has worked for authors before. Gary Vee and Tim Ferriss basically sold 1-on-1 time with them in exchange for bulk book purchases. This has the advantage of making them look big to a mainstream audience, but the end result is the same. People often want them, not the book. Same with all the people I mentioned who do amazing things.

Your audience wants to be a part of your life. Maybe, in some cases, you should let them.

Here is another assertion which I might be a bit shocking.

The future of the web personalities is the monetization of weak ties.

The web naturally creates an ecosystem of micro-stars, like television, but doesn’t necessarily have a way to turn this into a living. If you keep answering emails, forever, you become exhausted and your personal time is sucked out of your life.

The solution is paid access.

Of course, you don’t want to monetize your strong ties. That would be insane. The social norms space stays pure. You don’t pay your wife for the nice dinner she made.

But weak ties, by definition, take more than they give. They do not, as many people say, “pay in terms of attention,” except in huge masses which become unwieldy because of a new kind of demand– bug fixes, emails, etc.

Here is my theory. Once supply and demand of personal access are no longer equal, solving it through price not only helps you maintain a solid personal life but accelerates the process of popularity, by helping you free your time and do cooler shit.

A new stream of income means more freedom, which turns into a more interesting life, which turns into more popularity, which turns into more income, etc. A virtuous circle.

Of course, most of what you do is free and public. That’s one level of access. But I think that you should turn on different levels as well. Everyone in social media right now wants books and speaking gigs. You only get those at a certain level of popularity, but you could turn lesser levels on as well. Forum access, email access, Skype access– any of these could become an income stream for various types of web personalities.

But wait!, I hear you saying. Let’s say some of these weak ties become strong ties! What do we do then? Well, easy. Stop monetizing them. We could call this the dinner party rule– if you’d invite someone to dinner, then they should have free access to you. This impacts the bottom line, but that’s natural with friendships– wanted, even. Besides, friendship is more valuable than $47 a month or whatever.

Help me out here.

Look, this post has already gotten much longer than I thought it would. I could go on forever about this– it’s so logical to me that I could argue it until the cows come home. But I won’t.

Instead, I’ll ask you what you think, and to spread it if you think the idea is interesting or worth talking about. Tweet or subscribe below.

By the way, I don’t know if it’s something I personally want to do– although I’m pretty sure I could. Maybe you could too, once your audience reaches a certain mass. Wouldn’t that be easier than trying to get a frikkin book deal or becoming a social media expert? Besides, I suspect there’s only enough of those to go around.

* Filed by Julien at 11:09 am under business, community, experiments, social media, trends

December 21st, 2010

Future Kings and Paupers: Why Making $1,000,000 is Only the Beginning

This post will probably be ignored. It isn’t about Twitter and it doesn’t include an infographic. It’s complex, not easy, which is why it’s kind of a mess. Skip it if you think you can’t handle it, no problem.

But first, a question.

Do you think you’re a good judge of character?

Most people do. But how would you know if you really were?

Being able to judge someone’s character is a sign of success. But it isn’t all it takes. Properly assessing someone you meet requires more: It requires being a good judge of someone’s potential. It helps you know what kind of relationship you want to have.

But how can you tell if someone can be a leader, or if they’ll be successful? How can you tell if they have initiative, or if you can trust them?

I propose that judging someone’s potential– even someone you’ve just met– is easy. It’s based on one fundamental character trait that you can develop with practice and, with it, change your life. I’ll explain below.

It’s clear to many of us here on the web that there is a new class emerging. Robb Wolf, a research biochemist, blogger, and New York Times bestselling author is a part of it. So are Everett Bogue, Tim Ferriss, Chris Guillebeau, and many more. You may be, too, and if you are, you already know it.

If you don’t, then it’s possible you have no idea what I’m talking about, so here it is.

Almost two years ago, Chris Brogan and I started writing a book called Trust Agents, about a set of people who were taking advantage of digital technology to grow their influence. The book would become pretty popular here on the web, and continues to sell well, which is great. I realize now, though, that the phenomenon is about more than that.

One main aspect of this new generation (who can be young or old, btw) is their understanding of systems and games and how to find workarounds (“gatejumping” or “lifehacking”). It’s clear that they don’t need a million dollars to be happy– so they figure out what they really need and find easy ways to get it.

In other words, these people have built systems around them that faciliates financial and career success. Generally, they aren’t chasing the dream of massive wealth– they know it has very little to do with happiness– so they work on new, more fulfilling goals instead.

Ev Bogue recently decided to become a yoga teacher. Tim Ferriss hacked his own muscle mass and wrote the 4-Hour Body. Guillebeau is exploiting the loopholes in air travel to visit every country in the world. I could name many more of these people, each doing it in their own way.

Whatever you decide to call it, it’s big, and it’s because of access to information and the ability to see others doing it in real time. Still, some people want this and get it– and others do not. Why? Because of this specific character trait.

This brings us back to our first point.

How do you judge someone’s character instantly, find out what kind of person they are and how likely they are to succeed? Easy.

Challenge them.

Ask them to do something unusual (like a bet). Or, question the way they’re doing things and see how they react to a totally different method of thinking.

Their reaction is based in their ability to deal with change and experimentation, and the ability to experiment is directly related to their real-life success.

The basic difference is whether you are willing to test your environment and lead an experimental life. And it is a trait that is taught to us by our environment– by games, by seeing other people doing it, and by seeing inefficient models of reality (such as school=success) that we can choose to avoid.

Here is the simple reality of the situation.

Accept what your parents, your teachers, and your peers say, and you’ll be a slave to what they’ve said. You’ll base your decisions on what they’ve decided, instead of what you have. Your learning will slow down and much of what you want will not come true (unless you shrink your expectations).

Test everything for yourself– assume nothing– and the opposite will happen. Your results will be based in what is real. You’ll become a king. You will accelerate as you learn and your momentum will carry you past obstacles you never thought you could conquer before.

You’ll quickly learn you don’t need a job.

You’ll free up your time.

You’ll find out how boring it is to do nothing. :)

You’ll seek out other things that fascinate you.

You’ll become an expert in them, faster.

Finally, with no one to tell you what to do, you’ll be happier.

Some will say: “That’s not really my style though, I like to take it easy.” Well, I’d argue that you’re thinking too small, and that you’ve chosen that small is ok for you.

This brings me to my final point: if you want to be someone like this, you can be. All that it takes is to transform how you deal with challenges.

Do you see life as a game to experiment with, or do you see it as a series of corridors? This will change what you’re capable of.

For years, we’ve been here on the internet, blogging and talking about “lifehacking,” then returning to our dreary real jobs under the guise of “being more productive.”

I have an idea. Why don’t we apply this to our actual lives?

Some of us do, and the results have been extraordinary. You can too.

Do you live this way, or want to? Let’s talk. Leave a comment. Enter your email in the box below and press enter, we’ll figure out how together.

Oh, one more thing: I think how to do this, and the phenomena that have made up why it’s happening, could make a very interesting book. Do you?

* Filed by Julien at 10:00 am under culture, direction, experiments, systems

December 15th, 2010

How to get smarter, sleep more, and get more sex - today

Some stories are easier to tell than others.

We learn not to touch a hot burner because it hurts like hell. It’s obvious.

Sleep is not obvious. It wastes you away slowly if you don’t get it, and half the time you won’t even notice because we’re too hopped up on caffeine.

When the guys at Zeo sent me a Personal Sleep Coach, I already knew a lot about sleep. But I knew there was a bigger idea here. So we made this infographic for you that tells the whole story, and why it matters.

Oh! I also convinced them to give away a free Zeo, which Tim Ferriss talks about (along with paleo diets, etc.) in the 4 Hour Body.

Click to see the whole thing!


* Filed by Julien at 10:30 am under experiments, infographics

October 18th, 2010

Expand, Contract, Experiment, Iterate

Xeni Jardin put up a great slide in a presentation I saw at MIMA, seen at right.

Those four words represent a lot about life, growth, business and strength. Put those four words together and you have a continuous, cyclical process for how to try new things and what to do once you have.

Chris and I have been thinking a lot about this pattern recently for the new stuff we’re writing, so I have my own version of this loop, as follows. I think of it as what happens when a child is learning to walk– after all, that’s the definition of experimentation, balance, and resisting pressures (gravity, etc.). The metaphor is fundamental and can be understood by all.

Step one is to experiment– trying something new. I’ve called this touching the burner because it is a fundamental risky act, but in all aspects of life, the small, easy experiment is what leads to the potential success. Walking eventually becomes a rote activity, but it began as a purposeful attempt at something that was previously impossible.

Practice is what happens after that. This is a combination of our old stuff and new stuff. If we learn to play the piano we are integrating new movements into old movements so they happen without us thinking about them. We increase our range of motion to include the new thing until it becomes an entirely banal part of our behaviour instead of a risky new thing.

Next we go for balance (contraction). When we do this it is an attempt at the new thing becoming a new normal that is more capable than the last. Contraction is a process where we take the new behaviour and take advantage of it, and where we bring ourselves back to a stable state.

Then, finally, it’s about starting again (iterate), trying it again to expand more. This is how we learn to move, or interact with people, or build castles or empires. It’s a fundamental act, and you need to know where you are in the cycle in order to behave properly. Once you do, though, you know which direction to take.

* Filed by Julien at 6:00 am under experiments, systems, taking action

September 23rd, 2010

30 Days of Home Cookin'

You may not have had the pleasure yet, but trust me: Cooking for friends is actually pretty great.

I did it yesterday while I had some friends over to roll some dice and, man, was it different than ordering pizza. I also put down some charcuteries out on the table and we devoured that stuff. Really happy about the result. A++ would buy again.

For a long time I resisted the basic skill of cooking while people around me learned about it. I figured if I could afford it, what was the harm? As it turns out, there can be a lot. If you cook for yourself, you know what goes into your meals. By definition, you eat healthier. You learn how to welcome people at home. You put yourself closer to the source and know what you’re supporting. These are all good things.

So I’ve decided to throw myself headlong into this by eating at home for 30 days, and I recommend you do the same. Here are my ground rules– feel free to make up your own.

1. Drinks = Ok; Tupperware = No

I’m not a big drinker, so this shouldn’t be a big deal. I am allowing myself to have coffee or tea, but not to consume any calories, so no food can be eaten outside my house. If I’m not at home, no big deal, I just won’t eat.

2. I will keep previous engagements.

I travel a lot for work, and if I look at my calendar over here, it has a few engagements I’ve agreed to already. I don’t intend to break them, but I’m also not making any new ones. So this will be 30 days of eating at home while I’m at home in Montreal, obviously.

3. I will invite people over at every opportunity

I happen to be in the process of trying to make my house more welcoming, so this will be a good way to apply pressure to that goal, too. I just invited three acquaintances from Twitter over for breakfast. I intend to do it again. This will help me spend more time with people I want to get to know better, rather than having superfluous lunch dates with them.

4. I am taking requests

I eat a paleo diet, so as long as what you offer me can be eaten that way, I’ll make it for myself and/or for others. Have a favourite recipe? Send it my way, as long as it’s grain- and sugar-free, and I’ll try it and let you know how it went.

5. It’s very easy to do this, and you should too.

You will probably lose weight, learn a lot about food, and make your significant other, children, and/or friends very happy. Blog it, tweet it (#eatingin), and tell your friends– the social pressure will help you make it. See you in 30 days.

* Filed by Julien at 2:53 pm under challenge, experiments, random

August 26th, 2010

The Body Remembers

If you have been healthy before, you can get there again, easier.

Research shows that muscles that have been strong remember how to be strong again. Your body remembers where it has been and what it has adapted to, and even years later, it keeps that adaptability the same way those that have been fat gain weight easier. (This is definitely one reason to start working out today.)

The mind remembers too, but it’s in a way that people see in marketing, sales, and in themselves.

The hardest part of getting someone to try your product is to have them try it once– so putting yourself at the crossroads to be seen and tried (like in the famous jam example) is a great way of getting people to cross that threshold.

Sales uses the method of the small yes to get you to a place where they can make a big sale by gradually increasing the level of commitment (increasing the yes) until you arrive at a place where it feels natural.

The same method we use to sell jam can also be used on yourself, on purpose. A small commitment today can turn into something you would never imagine doing, all by slowly adjusting how you think about it. A cold shower can turn into quitting coffee if you want it to (among other benefits), and you can start taking cold showers by reducing the heat gradually, a day at a time. Small stressors also increase your comfort with risk and will make you a more forward thinking, edgy individual.

You can try this yourself if you want by starting a small, inconsequential thing again and again until you are comfortable with it (trying a new food, for example). It will eventually become second nature and your increased comfort with it will extend outward into other aspects of your life. The result is increased adaptability, which means increased success.

But it starts small, and it starts today.

* Filed by Julien at 6:43 am under experiments, random, taking action