Are Small Books The Future? | #256
February 10th, 2024: Happy Lunar New Year! We are planning on eating lots of great food today and feel lucky that my holiday season now runs from Thanksgiving to Lunar New Year.
+ Wilderness Retreat/Coaching: A couple weeks ago, I got to connect with Dom Francks in Boulder. As he was describing his work, his entire body was alive. I am always so inspired being around people like that. He’s doing something pretty interesting, connecting the virtual to nature. He’s launching his VIVIFY Regenerative Leadership Program, which is an online program that is taking applications for their summer 2024 cohort. This is a wilderness-based deep dive with built around a weeklong off-trail backpacking trip in the High Sierra in California. (Not sponsored)
+ Write Online David Perell is leading a Using Writing To Build Influence Workshop on the 13th. I may be doing some experiments with the team for their upcoming cohort too, so if you sign up through my link, you’ll learn more :-) (affiliate)
#1 The Shorter Books Hypothesis
Here’s something I’ve been thinking about:
70% of my book sales are audiobook and e-book
No one knows how many “pages” those books are
But people still think about writing books as a set number of pages and words
But what kind of books do people recommend?
Books they finish.
What is the top complaint people have about non-fiction books?
Could have been a blog post
Some of my favorite books have been short books, including things like The Great Stagnation (Cowen) and Anything You Want (Derek Sivers)
Thus, I sense there is a hidden market for 50-120 page books around core ideas
And luckily, this is somethingpulled off in the past couple of weeks, so we can see what happens next.
About two weeks ago, we were sitting around in Boulder and she was telling us about her idea of “Creative Dysregulation.” As she spoke I had a powerful feeling that this was a powerful idea. I wished she had written about it so that I could share it with a couple of people I talked to in the last week who were struggling with their creative habit.
I jokingly said, I bet you could publish that in a week. I challenged her to write a 10,000 word essay and publish it as an e-book.
I love offering people these challenges. In Bali a few years back I helped someone launch a new podcast in under an hour.
I think these experiments can be powerful. Just starting something can snowball into more interesting things down the road.
She agreed and throughout the week, four of us who were at the table were in a group chat following her progress. It was pretty exciting.
Here’s the crazy thing, IT’S REALLY GOOD!
Not only that, she got totally carried away with the process and ended up crowdsourcing a pretty cool cover:
If you are someone who has ever been stuck and struggled with the inner game of cultivating a creative habit I think you will resonate deeply with her story.
I’m sort of shocked because not only is the book really good (I literally read it straight through in one sitting even though I already knew a lot of what would be in it), it is something that is changing my perspective on what a book can be.
Personally, my aim with books of 55k word lengthis to pack like 50 different mini-books in one. I want to create things that are so densely packed and synthesized that almost everyone will get something out of it.
But this has me thinking about different opportunities to package my writing in interesting ways. The internet has made the difference between traditional and self-publishing trivial and in the same vein, I think page count is just not as meaningful as we might think. Good ideas are good ideas.
I think Kelly’s situation is unique. She was already a very good writer and had been thinking about this idea for more than a year. It flowed out of her as if she was meant to do this. But like breaking the 4-minute mile, once you see it’s possible it might challenge your own ideas of what you can do too.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this but I do plan on doing some experiments this year. I’d love to hear people’s thoughts!
Chinese in Chiang Mai: Dan Wang’s Annual Reviews are always worth reading and this year he writes about the young Chinese people decamping to Chiang Mai to have a little fun and for a little more freedom
AI & Knowledge Work: Dan Shipper has been writing about AI and I enjoyed his reflections on how he thinks it will change knowledge work:
I think LLMs will change knowledge work. In doing so, they’ll change how we think of ourselves, and which characteristics we deem uniquely human. But these days I’m not particularly scared. In fact, I’m mostly filled with excitement.
I think this is an interesting topic that needs far more exploration. So much “work” people do these days is non-value added admin work that is still necessary because we don’t know how to automate. However, this kind of work is how people derive meaning about their lives. They see doing the work as important and feel threatened by the idea that there might be far less work to do.
Worth Reading:is someone I’ve recently stumbled across on Substack. His writing is very good. I recommend starting with this piece talking about losing his mother while her daughter was supposed to get married during covid.
Sabbatical:has some amazing reflections on his “year of zero” taking a sabbatical.
Careers: I liked this reflection from Jack Raines on the three career paths for people in their early twenties. I was lucky to pair #1 with #3 but was not wise enough to change course once the mentorship and learning faded:
Path 1 serves three purposes: you will make a lot of money in a short amount of time (~two years), you will have a permanent status signal on your resume that will open doors over the course of your life, and you will have a variety of lucrative exit opportunities that would otherwise be more difficult to access.
Path 2 serves two purposes: First, it will likely be the most fun path. Living in a foreign country, doing a “weird” job, and/or hitting the ground running with an exciting startup are all more fun experiences than grinding away in a cubicle for two years. Second, it will give you a unique perspective that can’t easily be replicated.
Path 3 serves one purpose: working under an elite mentor, whether they are an entrepreneur, writer, investor, craftsman, or anything else will accelerate your development 10x.
Speaking of links, here are two of my favorite rabbit hole newsletters I read most weeks:
#3 Podcast Experiment
I’m going to launch a Ramit Sethi style podcast experiment where I’ll interview people about their relationship with work and give them a free coaching session. It will include people:
People who have “made it” and are successful but are still struggling
Who are financially well-off and want to take a leap but don’t know how to start
People who are thriving on a pathless path but not doing the work they want to be doing
People who are on a sabbatical and struggling with what’s next
People who are struggling to find their thing
People who are approaching “retirement” but still want to engage with the world
I think this will be pretty fun - I have 8 applications already.
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