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August 24th, 2010

Free to Cheap to Expensive

“It’s all chips.”

Chris and I once used this phrase when keynoting at Affiliate Summit last year– it represented the idea that you need to buy-in to every game (like poker) with winnings from another table. As you move from one table to another, the competition gets tougher but you can also win big.

What follows is a basic analogy to help you understand how people begin to make a living from the web. Each table is defined by how well you get paid by it, and for each, you’ll need different kinds of chips.

The first table is easy to understand, and all of us know it well– free. The buy-in for this table is sweat equity, otherwise known as the Crush It method. Free helps you gather audience as long as you do something wild enough, or interesting enough, to get some micro-attention and develop an audience. Free helps you build the channel.

Once you have a powerful channel with a significant audience, you can use that as chips to join the next table in the media game: cheap. You do this to buy onto the next platform of credibility, make an ok living wage (depending on where you live), and free up your time from your job, if you still have one.

Expensive is the final table, and the table stakes is a significant amount of credibility. A huge or powerful audience is necessary, or significant enough credibility that you have become known for what you do. Once you have this you can make a decent or great living, enough to buy back your future time as well as your present (some people would call that a contingency fund).

This series of rounds is a cycle, where you can buy your way from free > cheap > expensive and then back to a different level of free (say, that most people can’t get into) which requires more credibility or access. There is also another table called debt, but I would urge you not to get into that since most of the time, what you really want to spend isn’t money, but time and effort. (Spending money is easy but spending time is hard, so it’s worth more.)

I don’t need to name examples, but you can easily take web household name and apply this model to them and find what table they’re at. Once you figure out which one applies to you, it’ll let you know where you need to be heading and what your gameplan should be.

In poker it’s safe to jump to higher stakes once you have 300 times the big bet. The same is true for any level of this game– if you jump too early you might not have the necessary amount to cover early losses and get wiped out. But I can’t decide this for you– you have to make your own mistakes.

* Filed by Julien at 7:49 am under random, systems

July 19th, 2010

The Importance of the Physical

If you do yoga, your body is relaxed, so your mind is relaxed too.

If you push yourself through long, tough endurance races, you know that pushing past your mental barriers is just as essential as training through your physical ones. In a lot of ways, the body and the mind are connected; just not in that weird, pseudo-spiritual way that some people believe.

You need to train to relax and to push through barriers. Both are necessary so that when you come across obstacles, your mind knows how to react. If something is difficult you will either relax or you will force your way through, depending on the situation. If you never trained, you won’t know how to react. You might freeze or shy away. You might avoid pain because you’ve never learned that you’re capable.

Physical pain is important because it’s so much more visceral than emotional pain, which we can avoid or numb if we know how. Physical pain is there, in front of you, and it always has your attention. So dealing with it is a lesson.

The lesson is this: The same way a body develops scars, a mind forgets and becomes happy after its time of suffering. As David Horton said in The Fighter’s Mind, “it never always gets worse”… at some point, it gets easier.

This is another way of talking about The Dip– a personal way that will teach you how to deal with your professional life, instead of the other way around.

When you have the right attitude, it all becomes possible. Some people prepare through prayer and meditation for the moment of death. We prepare through physical training for a mental challenge.

It’s contradictory, but it works.

* Filed by Julien at 9:02 am under challenge, clear thinking, systems
* 1 Comment

June 23rd, 2010

The Perfect Watchtower

It occurred to me this morning that checking email often may be a feature, not a bug, of information culture.

Productivity people talk all the time about how you have to stop checking email, you have to stop checking Twitter, in order to start doing real work. I’m not sure checking email is the problem. I think improper filters are.

Let me say it another way. Since the invention of the web, the real-time web has been kind of inevitable. So many updates, so fast, mean updates must get shorter, which in turn means they must be updated faster, and so on. Endless cycle, leading to endless updates.

What we really need to be working on right now is proper filtering methods for this always-on web. Because we don’t know for sure what’s really relevant to us, we subscribe via RSS to stuff we generally care about and hope we get good stuff from it, but often, it isn’t interesting enough to subscribe. We are left with a lot of stuff that’s 50% relevant, not urgent, and which often, we’d rather not see.

So the problem is filtering based on mood, free-time, and urgency. These are all non-trivial problems because there are no hard lines between in any of these categories– ie things are not 30% urgent, we don’t always read 100 words per minute, etc. They are themselves subjective and based on circumstance.

What I need is someone exactly like me that knows exactly how I feel at this moment that can tell me what I want to see right now that is pointed in my direction. This can be a human or a robot. But this is practically impossible so we’re left with highly rudimentary filters that are always throwing stuff at us at improper times, as in “I’m having dinner with my girlfriend, is this call I’m receiving more or less important than that?”

So the result of all of this is a constant checking of all these sources– RSS, social networks, email, etc.– which leave us super distracted and prone to getting absolutely fucking nothing done for really long periods of time.

There is no solution to this other than a perfect personal assistant, whether robot or human, that takes in everything you have to look at and judges whether it’s important enough for you to see. Nevermind that some things set off your creativity while others don’t, and those are impossible to know ahead of time.

Somewhere down the line there is a real solution to this, a perfect watchtower, but it involves total dissolution of privacy. Would you be willing to have it– for perfect peace of mind?

* Filed by Julien at 11:31 am under clear thinking, systems