Find The Others, Wonder & 1k Book Sales 🥳 | #171
February 19th, 2022: Greetings from Austin! I’ve had an amazing first month in this new city and am excited to explore more. One of my favorite things is how outdoor-oriented most people and activities seem to be. I went for a walk by the rive with a friend this week and caught this beautiful sunset:
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🎉🎉🎉 Book Update - Sold Over 1k Copies and Broke Even!
It seems my book is doing pretty well even compared to books put out by publishers. This article from 2004 seems to say that only 4% of books each year sell more than 1,000 copies. I’m guessing that number is a little higher with the explosion of self-publishing, but still seems to be a pretty cool accomplishment.
In addition to hitting 1k, I also broke even on my upfront investments in editing, design, gifts, and self-purchases. Given that I own distribution and all rights to the book, this means every book I sell from here on out is pure profit. Nice!
A thoughtful reflection from Twitter:
Full stats at the bottom of this newsletter.
🎧 Made You Think Podcast - Escape From Freedom (link)
I did a guest episode on Nat Eliason & Neil Soni’s podcast where they deep dive into various books and essays. I highly recommend the podcast broadly and the specific episode we did was on Erich Fromm’s Escape From Freedom - written about the traps and possibilities of freedom in 1941 as the world was breaking out into chaos.
It was a fun conversation and you’ll likely enjoy it if you are on an unconventional path or like interesting books.
#1 Needing New Words For ‘Goals’ and ‘Work’
I love exploring things to their depths. I often find that many of the words we used to describe the world in English to be a bit lacking. “Work” is definitely one of them. Ask 100 people what they define as work and you’ll get about 140 different definitions.
Another word like this is “goals.” It triggers cynicism for some but is one of the most things to others. I’m always amazed when people seem to thrive on very clear goals - a good example is Noah Kagan, they seem to bring him alive in a way that they don’t seem to for me!
When I hear the word “goals” I default skeptical. A large part of this was my inability to cultivate a deeper game in the corporate world. I always struggled to avoid the powerful organizational gravity pulling me towards money and titles rather than what I claimed to care about.
I softened my skepticism towards “goals” dramatically, however, after listening to Chris Sparks’ interview on Modern Wisdom this week. When he talks about goals he’s not talking about a surface-level goal of “I want to make $5 million,” he’s talking about something much closer to what I’m talking about in the Pathless Path - the desire to grow as a human. For him, goals are only the start. The real point of goals is to continue to reflect on them and see how they align with your values, energy, excitement, and skills. I happen to be recording a podcast with Chris this week so I’m excited to explore this in more depth.
We can’t always listen to a one-hour podcast hearing everyone’s deeper take, so maybe we just need some new words:
Instead of Work, Meraki
I asked my friend Jonny Miller to find a better word for work and he delivered. He proposed the Greek word Meraki:
1. Meraki (Greek): To do tasks with soul, creativity and love
Ever found yourself accessing that elusive state of flow? Everything fits right into place.
Well, the Greek verb/adverb meraki refers to something rather similar.
Meraki is used by Greeks to describe scenarios when a person has really put a part of themselves into something. It could be cooking that comes from the heart, composing a piece of music that comes straight from the soul, or writing an article that expresses thoughts openly, honestly, and vulnerably.
Meraki highlights the intimate connection between humans and their work.
Instead of Goals, Anagoge
I originally stumbled upon this from John Verveake, who argued that what most of us are after is the feeling that we are growing. Hence I like the idea of “ascent.”
Anagoge (ἀναγωγή), sometimes spelled anagogy, is a Greek word suggesting a "climb" or "ascent" upwards. The anagogical is a method of mystical or spiritual interpretation of statements or events, especially scriptural exegesis, that detects allusions to the afterlife.
What other words need remixing?
#2 Find The Others
I’ve enjoyed reading reflections from others who have read my book. It seems to be igniting ideas I didn’t expect.
Here is a thoughtful reflection from Rika Goldberg on how success keeps us from finding the others:
This makes me think about my past self, the self that worked for traditional companies. Essentially, when you work for a company, and are on what Paul calls, the "default path," you automagically have a brand to lean on; and, in turn, a support network. You are proud to work for "Google" or "Kaiser" or "Deloitte" or "McKinsey" (where Paul used to work) or "fill in the blank" company. But, when you leave the traditional, default path, and embark on what Paul calls, the "pathless path", you must "find the others."
I guess, in a way, the Pathless Path does make you needy, but it also makes you realize that you always were needy. It also makes you realize how much goodness you already have in your life - people and things you may have previously taken for granted - so a sign of support from someone in your life could mean 10x what it would previously would, because that support is a signal that they understand. And we all just want to be understood.
The question becomes, how do you find the others?
You find the others this by putting your authentic self out into the world through the Internet.
#3 Erasing Wonder
One of my favorite newsletters by Shivani Shah had a great reflection on wonder this week. She told me that she started reading my book after this and stumbled upon my eerily similar description of wonder. It’s cool to arrive at similar ideas in a different way.
Here’s what she wrote:
When we don’t know what will make us happy, we go on thinking, “Well, at least I’ll have money and a strong resume to fall back on.” We’d rather give up our time in exchange for a ~potentially~ valuable currency than spending it on the unknown. Exploration is not an option, because exploring for its own sake isn’t considered productive enough in our society.
What this creates is a systematic erasure of wonder and curiosity from our lives. It destroys our sense of play and it’s highly unnatural.
By definition, play must be purposeless in order to be considered play. It requires comfort with uncertainty, which directly threatens social and financial progress. In order to eliminate such risk, we are taught to avoid ambiguity and replace it with monochromatic formulas of success masking as happiness.
It’s a really good essay, check it out. Also definitely subscribe!
#4 The Path Not Taken (h/t Tom Morgan)
A great essay by Jared Dillian, on leaning back into the “road not taken” after following a finance path early in his career on the advice of his mother
Everyone has a path not taken. Everyone has something they wish they had done, some athletic or artistic pursuit, that they put aside in favor of a more practical profession. And for the vast majority of people, they never take that path. Not in their 40s, not in their 50s, or 60, or 70s, and they end up on their deathbed, filled with regret. They regret not doing the thing that they loved, the thing they always wanted to do. I like to live my life in such a way that I won’t have those regrets. I started my electronic music career at age 34, when most people do it at age 14. After I’m done with my MFA, I’m going to take up painting, and sell my art to raise money for mental health charitable causes. If there’s something I want to do, I do it—I don’t wait for anyone else’s validation.
#5 Organizational Bureaucracy
I found some interesting reflections on organizations in this essay from Richard Hanania. Ostensibly writing about how progressive ideas have become central in many organizations, I found this part about the vagueness of US law resulting in the creation of internal power centers in organizations the most interesting part:
Dobbin and Sutton argue that this is a general feature of American law, where the state is selective in enforcement and gives vague guidance that is subject to interpretation, like improving “safety” or fighting “discrimination.” They compare the US to France, where the government is more inclined to just issue direct mandates to businesses, who spend a lot less time and effort on private sector bureaucracy to keep up with how regulators and courts are thinking. The creation of bureaucracy means that it eventually gains its own power base and becomes able to advocate for its own interests. Ironically, if the US had just mandated gender and racial quotas, compliance would’ve been simpler and there would’ve been no need for permanent bureaucracies within each organization with an open-ended mission to stamp out all forms of “discrimination.”
I could also see this vagueness being a massive advantage for organizations that are able to navigate it and use it to their advantage. Perhaps this is an element of what’s enabled the broader US business ecosystem to thrive. I am not sure!
#6 Book Update
Here are the latest book stats.
You may notice that the royalties for IngramSpark are very low. This is because there was a 55% price discount that they suggest you offer so that the book stores would be more motivated to stock my book. However, after reading some Reddit threads, it seems that this is just giving money away, so I’ve lowered the “discount” to the minimum - 30%-35%. It seems that I have a low chance of being picked up anyway so I might as well get a higher royalty. The suggestion is just to see if the book continues to succeed and generates more interest, it’s suggested to start increasing the discount again.
In the US, this means if you buy my book through Barnes & Noble, Walmart, or other non-Amazon publishers after 2/25 I’ll earn:
$8.32 for the paperback
~$10 for the hardcover
The takeaway is that the IngramSpark royalties will now be much higher and a bit more than Amazon too. Pretty cool.
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