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How to do the best work of your life

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Today my new book, The Flinch, is launched on Seth Godin’s Domino Project.

It’s about how to push your own barriers and how to do things that scare you.

Writing the book was hardest thing I’ve ever done, and as an experiment, it’s available for free.

With the help of Seth, Chris Brogan, and many others, I made something so far beyond my usual capacities that it actually shocks me.

Godin called it: “a surprise, a confrontation, a book that will push you, scare you and possibly stick with you for years to come.”

If it’s even that good, the question then becomes, how can you, the reader, make something so great that even you are unsure of how it was made?

7 Steps to the Best Work of Your Life

1. Burn your bridges. I was conscious of the fact that I would never get a chance to publish under Godin’s Domino Project again. I knew that if I screwed it up, I was done. You do your best work with your back against the wall, when you are uncomfortable and you put yourself in freefall, on purpose.

2. Grow an eye in the back of your head. Your blind spots, whether they are laziness or settling for anything sub-par, will kill you. I had people the entire way telling me to make it better, over and over again, until I practically cried and didn’t know how.

3. Be willing to suffer. Forget about the “starving artist” myth. Starving is easy– deprogramming is hard. Because you are a human being, you are programmed to settle in one way or another, and breaking that programming will hurt. Get used to it– it’s the only way to make something exceptional.

4. Be comfortable making something that people will hate. No one will love your work unless it has an opinion– and with an opinion come those that disagree. The first person outside of our little circle that saw the work did not like it at all, perhaps even hated it. This is also how I knew that I had something that some people would fight for.

5. Consider the future. In the future, books either cost $50 or $0. They are frictionless and those that travel the fastest and spread the widest, win. Make your work as close to the future as possible– but only 6 months, not 18 months. If you’re too far in the future, it’s possible no one will get it.

6. Sharpen your idea. This part is damn hard. Only when the idea became “the flinch” did I know that I had an idea that was sharp enough to travel. Every other idea had too much friction, too much difficulty to be expressed. When the idea marketplace is saturated (and it is now, more than ever), your idea needs to be more graspable than ever before, because you only get one chance.

7. All content must be spreadable. Quotes in 140 characters. Links in the text. New phrases that stick in people’s minds. Everything must be a part of your “marketing campaign”– even in a book that’s basically unsellable. The best quote from Godin on this was, “make it a poem that doesn’t rhyme.” There is so much information out there now that your work can no longer simply be commerce– it must also be art.

As of today, you can download the Flinch for free. I hope it you like it– if you liked this post, you will definitely enjoy it.

* Filed by Julien at 11:28 am under direction, projects, taking action


Hi, I’m Julien Smith. I'm the founder and CEO of Breather.

Check out more of my blog, my free book or add me on twitter. Also, we're hiring. Check that out.

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61 Responses to “How to do the best work of your life”

  1. Meredith Says:

    You are definitely one electrate individual. Are you familiar with Dr. Gregory L. Ulmer? Because this: “7. All content must be spreadable. Quotes in 140 characters. Links in the text. New phrases that stick in people’s minds.”? This is totally in line with his teachings. It’s electracy at its best — going with the technology.

  2. Sam Says:

    Thanks for posting it for free. I’m looking forward to reading your book next.

  3. Joseph Ratliff Says:

    Julien,

    For a couple of years now, I’ve been “flinching” every time I get inspired to write a book of my own.

    This sounds cliche, but reading The Flinch this morning has me finishing my manuscript (finally, really, I’ve been trying to write this book for 2 years).

    Now it’s time to move to the next step, without flinching. :)

    Fuckin-A Julien :)

  4. Jeff Goins Says:

    Downloaded. This is awesome.

  5. DJ Waldow Says:

    Glad we finally had the chance to meet in LA during BlogWorld, Julien. Very excited to read your new book – seeing lots of great reviews already. Now … to get that Kindle (we have a Nook). Ha!

    By the way, this – “Be comfortable making something that people will hate.” – absolutely scares the shit out of me.

  6. Shannon Zaher Says:

    I’m a new fan…read about you this morning on Seth’s blog. Immediately downloaded your book to my Kindle and will listen to it on my drive home. I have always believed that the only way to grow and excel is to be willing to venture outside your comfort zone. It’s one thing when someone else shows you new boundaries, it’s quite another when you need to figure them out for yourself! I eagerly await my evening commute. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Jackie Shelley (@jackinessity) Says:

    Well, well. Chris Guillebeau released a new manifesto this week, too, and Joshua & Ryan just published “Live a Meaningful Life,” and now I have three electronic documents on hand that I expect to merge and form a mind-blowing synthesis.

    Love this post, so can’t wait to get to reading the real thing.

    J

  8. Alison Green Says:

    Damn! I don’t have a Kindle, I like books! So, will the actual book be on sale? I’d pay money for it, I like your work!

  9. Scott Meyer Says:

    Great work Julien. Excited to read it!

  10. Tracy Lee Carroll Says:

    Excellent post, Julien! I’m sorry I have strayed away from reading your blog (the good part is I have plenty of reading material waiting for me) and now your new book. It seems like you have hit right on the main artery that’s bleeding in me. I can’t wait to read it…

  11. Robin Gerhart Says:

    This has been needed for a long time! Life changing, thank you.

  12. Jordan Mercedes Says:

    I can’t help but think about how this book can have a cultural and community level impact. You did an excellent job at explaining why we flinch and how to begin the process of moving forward. This is a great tool for educators, coaches and trainers to use in their work. I will use it in mine! Thanks!

  13. Iain King Says:

    The Flinch looks like an excellent book. Any idea when it will be available to download in the UK?

  14. David Says:

    I love this blog, and I’ve recommended it to some of my friends who I think will get it – I would dearly love to read The Flinch, but Amazon hasn’t made it available in the UK yet. Fingers crossed. Even without the book, the blog posts are powerful enough to make me stop, think, and even change, one step at a time.

  15. Mare Says:

    Is it possible to get a normal pdf of the book? I simply don’t know how to download this file from amazon because I don’t use it. I really am I dinosaur. I would be grateful if someone would sent me a pdf version to my email. I’m sure its spectacular! Thanks, if anyone has the time and will!

  16. Mare Says:

    Oops, its mare89@gmx.com. I apologize for being stupid.

  17. todd schnick Says:

    appreciating the read so far. and look forward to chatting soon…

  18. Wendy Says:

    Too bad this is only for Kindle.

  19. Tony Fuentes Says:

    Hey Julian, first time commenting. Your post compelled me to download the book. I look forward to reading it.

    Number 3 and 4 ring a bell for me. As a newbie to the blogoshere, I feel one of the hardest beliefs to avoid is thinking you have to be a “starving artist.” Truth is, you can make great things happen quickly if your heart is in it.

    Also, holding back what you really want to say, because you’re afraid people will disagree or be angry with you, is tough to deal with. Coming straight from the heart can be intimidating.

    It’s something I’m working on. For example, my recent blog post has more heart and passion than the two before it. The one I have in the works is even more packed with a punch! Sure, it scares the crap out of me, but I know that for every person who disagrees, someone out there will understand where I’m coming from.

    Thanks for posting this. Very therapeutic. :)

    Tony

  20. ipodlesley Says:

    I look forward to reading your e-book on my Kindle-for-PC. I find your blog very inspiring/challenging. Certainly the amazon download this kindle-for-pc taught me patience, because it was extremely f*ing messed up. Not your fault. I still look forward to reading it, but I won’t be buying a kindle. Thanks, and best wishes,
    ipodlesley

  21. Dave Delaney Says:

    It’s amazing Julien. This post is great too, but the book is fantastic.
    I knew you were a terribly gifted person right from when I first met you back at PAB. It’s been so fun to watch as you traveled and your wisdom grew. Your blog is proof of that.

    I respect you a lot Julien. I truly think that more people need to fight the flinch. I’m proud to be a witness of you fighting your own for so many years now.

    Keep up the amazing work… I know you will.

  22. Anne Says:

    Wonderful article. Would love to read your new book, but since I don’t have a kindle, I won’t. I’d probably pay for a PDF to read it, but I won’t pay for a kindle to read it!

  23. Anne Says:

    OK I’ll shut up now – just figured out how to get Kindle for Mac, and just downloaded your book. Thanks so much, and I look forward to reading it now!
    Best,
    Anne

  24. John Doe Says:

    Great book!

    But there’s something you’ve got to know about lions:

    In the wild the female lions are the hunters. They bring the food to the table. So the male lion, who is the king of the pride, doesn’t have to care about finding food either, just like the lion in the zoo :-)

    The job of the male lion is either protecting the pride from another opponent male lions or animals or to kill the head of a pride to get the leadership over a existing pride. There’s no room to flinch because it’s kill or get killed situation.

  25. Jorgen Sundberg Says:

    A massive thank you for giving out your hard work for free! Look fwd to reading it. Best, Jorgen

  26. Joe Abraham Says:

    Thanks Julian for this thought-provoking post! And thank you for “The Flinch”!

  27. Jon Weedon Says:

    Brilliant, just downloaded from the UK site. Looking forward to reading. Thanks for sharing!

  28. Grace White Says:

    Love the post! Can’t wait to read the book.
    Always appreciate your ability to “adjust” my thinking.

  29. Christine Says:

    “You do your best work with your back against the wall, when you are uncomfortable and you put yourself in freefall, on purpose.”

    You could be talking about childbirth. Childbirth is freefall and I don’t know one person who wouldn’t tell you it was their best work or that it didn’t make them killer brave. Thanks fro making the experience accessible to everyone.

  30. Christine Says:

    Oops! “for” : )

  31. Gaetan Lanthier Says:

    Thank you Julien. You know I do not read fast but your book just became my PRIORITY one on my list!

  32. Corey Koehler Says:

    Took a cold shower today… LAUGHED MY ASS OFF and I’m still grinning. Wasn’t expecting that.

    OH AND do I get bonus points for doing it in Minnesota in the winter time? :)

  33. Adam Says:

    Thanks, Julien. This book hit at some stuff I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, so it was particularly meaningful.

  34. Jeremy Victor Says:

    Julien,
    Awesome. Best of luck.

  35. yigit Says:

    Will your book be purchasable from Europe? I’d like to read it.

  36. Cyberquill Says:

    Speaking of considering the future, the world is now a 7-billion-person final exam.

  37. jane eamon Says:

    I love this post….I wonder if I might be able to post some of it on my blog this morning….I’ll link back of course…

  38. April Says:

    Any options for those of us who strayed from the norm by buying something other than Kindle or for the few w/o eReaders? (Yes, I know there’s a way to “decode” the Amazon/Kindle ebooks, but it is also illegal.)
    For what it’s worth, I would happily pay for your work too (& have: Trust Agents:), Julien.
    Keep inspiring us please!

  39. Simon Heikkila Says:

    Julien, I have been a fan of your stuff ever since hearing you rant a few times on Mitch Joel’s SPOS podcast. I downloaded and read the book today and it really hit home.

    To be honest, with most other books of a similar topic, I have read them and moved on without ever really taking anything on board (classic flinching in action). But for whatever reason, this book was the one that has finally elicited change in me.

    To start training myself, I have taken on two main goals: morning cold showers (as recommended) and I have stopped using any smart devices at mealtimes. I also found myself flinching away from writing so decided to flinch forward and began writing straight away. As a king of procrastination I am very proud.

    I rarely ever engage in social media. I am more of a consumer. But I felt this book such a big impact that I should write to thank you. Thanks for free access to this life changing idea.

  40. avi Says:

    Hi
    Just finished reading the book. It’s very, very, very good. It was hard hitting honest and inspiring like hell. This is one among the best books by domino projects. :-) worth $ 50 for sure.

  41. Ramin Rakhamimov Says:

    Took the cold shower today in the first freezing day of the winter here in NYC. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing. I think I almost cried from excitement. Let the journey to overcoming the Flinch begin! Thanks Julian!

  42. Ciprian Says:

    Thank you so much for this book! I can’t believe I’m not even half way through and I can already feel the difference. I have started doing things that I would never do just to break my habits. I’m on my fourth day of cold showers and I couldn’t help but notice that it gets easier. I still flinch – a lot – but I notice it and it pisses me off. The thing is that now I know what to do and I flinch less.

    Thank you so much for having an impact in my life.

  43. James Hagarty Says:

    I downloaded “The Flinch” on Jonathan Fields’ recommendation and I’m really liking it so far. You hooked me with the line about “basic understanding that sits in the body as well as the mind.” It fits in really well with all the learning I’ve been doing lately about the body/mind connection, and the cognitive benefits of exercise.

    I took you up on the first homework challenge, and jumped into an icy cold shower after my run this morning. It wasn’t fun, but the lesson was definitely learned. I’ll continue through the week, as you suggested, and note the improvement. You might like to know, however, that despite your assertion to the contrary, this exercise CAN have social consequences when your girlfriend posts to facebook about all the weird noises that her crazy boyfriend is making in bathroom. ;)

    Thanks for putting this out into the world, Julian.

  44. Pedro Mendes Says:

    Love the idea. Is there a pdf version? :)

  45. Shahzor Khan Says:

    Hi, The book is not available for Asia Pacific Region, hence I wasn’t able to get it. Can you see to it that its available for us too.
    Thanks

  46. Kyle Reed Says:

    Cannot wait to read it.

    Thanks for offering it up, really appreciate it

  47. Kelly Rainford Says:

    Julien, your book was very well-timed. You have inspired me – so with my knees knocking, I am moving forward.

    Thank you.

  48. Maria Says:

    Hi Julien!

    Congratulations on the release of the new book! You said you give it for free, as an experiment…All experiments start with an initial hypothesis. What is yours? :)

    Good luck!

    Maria

  49. Jason Says:

    Can’t wait to read it. Thanks, and congratulations.

  50. Anthony Says:

    any way to get a nook version?

  51. Lila Solnick Says:

    Read Barry Cripps’ review of “The Flinch” today on paleodietnews.com and how he relates it to the Paleo diet. I don’t have a Kindle, but may borrow my brother-in-law’s Kindle Fire just to read this.
    Thanks!

  52. Kristina Says:

    I was also wondering if someone could send me a PDF version, since I do not use Amazon or a reader. (weimerkm(at)gmail(dot)com)

  53. Ruba Says:

    I finished reading the Flinch yesterday.

    My astronomy professor sent out an e-mail today asking who wanted to volunteer working at the university’s observatory talking to people during observation sessions. I’m not the most confident public speaker. I replied with yes.

    I was talking myself out of it as I was writing the e-mail with my response, but I realized I was flinching, and just pushed the send button.

    Thanks for your incredible work.

    Good luck with everything!

  54. Korou Says:

    Thank you, Julien! I came across your blog yesterday and loved it, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading your book.

  55. Rabab Khan Says:

    Stumbled across this blog today and boy have I been missing loads. Sadly, I cant download the book because Amazon says it isn’t available in my region: Middle East.

    Off to go around your blog some more. Cheers and thank you for such awesome information!

  56. Rosenmac Says:

    I agree with most everything in The Flinch. I don’t know what a person can do when married to someone who’s deeply loved, yet is a supreme flncher. Fear and desire for comfort rule. How to advance and go through the flinch when the closest person to you resists and holds back all along the way is an exercise in frustration and futility. Or so it seems.

    Ideas?

  57. amnah Says:

    Hey Julien, heard good stuff about your book but can;t access it as it’s not available for download through Amazon in Pakistan. Is there a PDF version that I can access?
    Thanks

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