Stop joining mailing lists.

Everybody wants to be on the Do Not Call list: the productive, the unproductive, the young, the old. Everyone.

So why do so many of these same people willingly give out their e-mail addresses?

Are cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses really that different?

I completely understand why Internet marketers and salespeople adopt this approach: Conversion rates are much higher for e-mails than anything else on the Internet. E-mail addresses are as much Internet currency as Bitcoin is.

I also understand why self-help, productivity-ish writers — who are marketing and selling products too — adopt this same model. Yet I can’t help but smell some hypocrisy in the air.

Many of these people — in the content on their website and in their free e-book they give you in exchange for your e-mail address — advise you to unsubscribe from everything.

But I understand why they do this. And, to be fair, you can usually Unsubscribe.

But what I do not understand is why productivity consumers go along with it. These are people who are learning how to better organize their lives, get things done, accomplish, goals, etc. Why are they distracting themselves?

The obvious response is: But how will people get paid? Are they supposed to just write for free?

There are all sorts of ways to get paid. But more importantly, that’s a silly reason to support mailing lists. It’s not the job of the consumer to worry about how the producer gets paid. The producer should be crafty. If mailing lists disappear, the crafty producers will figure out another way to do things.

It’s not unlike the reasons I’ve heard when I toyed around with the idea of starting a company. It was to be called Libeerty. The basic model was to shame stores that sold out-of-date beers and bars with dirty tap lines, and give some sort of badge of honor to stores with fresh beers and bars with clean lines.

People had no problem with the latter — clearly bars are responsible for cleaning their own tap lines.

But the former met resistance: “It really isn’t the store’s fault. It’s the brewery’s or the distributor’s,” people said to me. While this may be true, the store is much more accessible to the consumer than the brewery or distributor.

Here, too, it’s not up to the customer to figure out — or even care, really — how the salesperson. That’s their challenge. That’s capitalism.

This all begs the question: Is e-mail ever productive? I would argue that it is productive when it saves you resources — time or otherwise.

For example: Blog posts sent to e-mail in lieu of a RSS reader. This is far better than opening up a bunch of tabs and having to remember the URLs of your favorites. (I remember when I used to open up CNN in one tab, RealClearPolitics in another, Lifehacker in a third, and then my four or five favorite blogs in other tabs. Not all of the blogs would be updated. The time wasted, added up over time, is substantial.)

Another example: A course in which lessons take the form of a series of e-mails. Sometimes this is efficient.

Oh, and keeping in touch with people. Writing e-mail every so often to your closest friends and family takes far less time than hopping on Facebook or Instagram on a daily basis to keep up with people.

Well, okay, then, how do you plan to maintain contact with readers and potential customers? What’s your big alternative?

Here’s my idea:


Here’s how it could play out: 
1. “Give me your e-mail and I’ll send you free lessons and helpful tips for understanding my book.”
2. “I hope you’ve benefited from these e-mails. If you’d like to check out my second book, here’s a link. Oh, and if you want to sign up for another course, you can do so here.”
3. Then BOOM. Mailing list DELETED.

I have such a list now. I'll update here and we'll see how the experiment goes. 


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The difference between ‘conventional wisdom’ and ‘convenient wisdom’: Questioning What Google Says About Self-Publishing Tactics

If you've ever thought about self-publishing, I’m willing to bet that at some point you’ve come across this advice:

  1. Write blog articles/Medium stories/etc., growing an audience, creating demand for your book(s), and
  2. Capture the e-mail addresses of everyone who visits your blog, forming a mailing list that you can use to sell your book(s.)

This is the conventional wisdom in self-publishing and blogging. And it makes perfect sense. Selling a book is, in many ways, no different than selling anything else: You want a reliable customer base, and you want to be able to find customers loyal enough to make multiple purchases and tell their friends.

But let’s examine what these two conventions actually mean:

  1. Write every day… But don’t spend your time on the book you want to self-publish. Instead, write some much shorter pieces. Then, later, you can get to work on the actual thing you want to do. (To be fair, this might include compiling those shorter pieces… but I think we’ve all read those choppy books with three digits worth of chapters.)
  2. Greet those who visit your website with a “Hey! Join my Mailing List!” In the real world, it is cashiers who offer to put us on special e-mail lists or sign us up for discount cards — store greeters don’t hound us to join anything as we enter the store. If they did, we’d turn right around, leave, and rightly consider the store to have terrible customer service.

Do I have some empirical evidence that the above advice is wrong? Nope. In fact, I bet it’s right. I won’t dare challenge it. What I will say, though, is that there is appeal in working backwards:

  1. Write your book, giving yourself something to sell and multiple snippets to post as articles, stories, etc. to draw readers in.
  2. Gain loyalty from readers after you’ve earned it.

Even if you’re not trying to self-publish a book, turning conventional wisdom on its head is sometimes worth considering. Google around to see what smart people think, but before acting, give thought to whether a different path — a more authentic path — makes more sense.


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When Goals Collide

Most of us have long lists of goals we want to accomplish, forcing us to make tough decisions about what to pursue now and what to pursue later.

An important consideration when determining which to pursue now (in other words: good goal management) is considering the effect of goals upon each other.

In particular, we want to create synergies and avoid conflicts.

Goal synergy occurs when two or more goals have an effect greater than the sum of their parts.

In other words: If at all possible, pursue these goals concurrently so you reap the benefits.

Goal conflict occurs when two or more goals have an effect less than the sum of their parts.

In other words: If at all possible, it makes sense to avoid pursuing these goals concurrently. Pursue one first, and then the other down the road.

How Goals Conflict

Sometimes goals draw on the same resources, taxing our productivity system. Example: trying to start two entirely-unrelated, complex businesses.

Other times, progress towards one goal hurts progress towards another. Example: trying to train for a marathon (which involves burning substantial amounts of calories) and trying to train for a bodybuilding competition (which involves consuming substantial amounts of calories.)

These are obvious examples of conflict. Is it always so obvious?

No. These are extreme examples.

Goals conflict in myriad, often subtle ways. And mental models shield many from us too.

The conflict might be obvious, it might not. But the only way to avoid or mitigate goal conflict is to look for it.


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