I’ve been publishing for 20 years and wanted to pass along what I’ve learned.
Giving away good information for free is effective marketing, and good karma. It works best if you start by going to where the clients are and always write to your target audience. Only engage those who bring out the best in you.
Related, there is huge option value in creating a higher personal profile, but beware the costs (links to Tim’s blog on fame). The higher profile part of my life worked best when I was tucked away in a small town in the Southern Hemisphere.
Once I realized I had much more success than I needed, my reasons for continuing to publish changed:
Catharsis – if an idea stays with me for a long time then the easiest way to clear my head is to tell the whole world about it. It’s my version of Crocodile Dundee’s Just Tell Wally (link is YouTube clip from the movie).
If publishing doesn’t do the trick then it’s a sign my values aren’t aligned with my life situation. I’ve made two big changes using this test (leaving finance and elite competition). Taking the time to “think-write-publish” is as a reality check on how I’m living.
When my tone turns negative, it’s a sign I’m not living right. It has nothing to do with the subject of my writing.
Legacy & Mortality – Leaving lessons for my kids’ future selves gives comfort. Each of us learns a lot as we move through life. I’m grateful to the writers who came before.
Publishing started around 1999.
Before 1999, I wrote.
35 years and counting.
My published material generated, and led me towards, money. As a young man, it also forced me to get-my-story-straight about who I was and what I believed worked.
My unpublished material generated wealth, connection and greatly improved the quality of my life.
Worth repeating – my most useful stuff has an audience of one, maybe two.
Writing is the quickest way to flush out my blindspots (COVID, the future, how I’ll feel next Tuesday). I need constant reminders of where I’m clueless.
It is also how I identify where I have the capacity for good judgement (fitness, finances, family).
If you’ve had success in any area then your mind will try to fool you into thinking you have been successful in every area. I’m told this is an occupational hazard for great surgeons in the mountains, or markets. It certainly applies to me whenever I stray outside my core competencies. Talking to a surgeon about medicine for example… 😉
Writing is my system to counteract this feature of human misjudgment (link to Munger’s famous talk).
While I forget most of what I write (Catharsis is real), I have access to a valuable record of what I was thinking at each key decision point in my life. I spent this past week reviewing budgets and financial projections from the last decade.
With searchable email you have the same thing. Make it even better by writing a one-pager before key decisions, or simply jot down ten thoughts to start each week. 500 thoughts a year. You will see patterns, you’ll learn about yourself.
My older material teaches me to be cautious with personal memories. My memories change over time and are magically back-fitted to actual events. The principles of a decision are much more sticky in my mind.
What you’re looking for is principles that work and remembering how often reality surprises us.
The act of writing is a step, on a journey of daily action, that creates incremental improvement.
Writing isn’t magical but the continuous compounding of small daily actions will appear to be.