On Wednesday, I came across a promotion for a domain and web hosting from Dreamhost, so I sent it a couple of friends who had mentioned to me recently that they wanted to set up a website.
One of them, my friend Dan, emailed back to say that we should get together, but he was going on a road trip shortly cross-country. My immediate reply was to ask him “how are you going to document it?” I told him if there was ever a reason for a blog, this is it. And I also explicitly told him that he should write a book, along with expressly telling him how jealous I was.
Dan replied that he hadn’t thought about writing a book, but felt it was a good idea. He said that he planned to keep a specific trip journal, and that he liked the time of no technology – just him, the open road, and the wilderness. If I wasn’t jealous before, now I really was.
I suggested to Dan that he could use a notebook to write, and then pay some intern to type it all up when he got back. Add his best pictures, and list it as an e-book on Amazon for $1.99. I’d buy that.
Dan replied that he’d never even thought about it. According to him, on his last road trip cross-county, the last journal he wrote was pretty ridiculous, filled with life revelations and drawings and musings. He asked me, “do people buy that stuff?”
Wow. My friend’s life revelations? I’d love to read that. I instantly replied: YES!
Then I gave him some good reasons to self-publish it:
1. If I would buy it, plenty of other people would buy it.
2. It costs very little to publish and e-book and put it on Amazon to sell.
3. Being a published author is an AWESOME way to tell people who you are. It’s the 2013 business card/website.
I would love to read what Dan wrote on his last trip. Now, it might need some editing first. And it might never reach the NY Times Best Seller List, or even break the Amazon top 100. But, you can bet that people will read it. I know I would. And his second book would be even better.
Later that day, I went to Physical Therapy. The aide working the reception desk, Andrew, asked me what I did for work. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, but I went in to my usual answer about how I work in IT. Then I just kept talking. ” I help people take whatever they love, and become recognized experts in that area.” I was actually a bit shocked I said that out loud. So I asked Andrew what he did – not what he did between 9 and 5, but what he really loved. “Beer”, he answered. “I love drinking it, brewing it, craft beers, all of it.” I asked Andrew if he could talk about beer for 10 minutes. “Definitely,” he said. I told him he could probably talk for 2 hours about beer. I asked him, “why not make a YouTube channel? Start talking about it. The beginning won’t be good. But you’ll eventually build some recognition about something you love. You don’t care about impressing anyone, but only being noticed by people who love beer the way you do.”
This is the part where I think I scared him. Because I told him to start writing while he was sitting at the reception area with nothing to do. I told him to write the first 5 pages of the book about beer filled with what he wished he knew 5 years ago. I saw the look of panic cross his face. I told him to write two pages. Two paragraphs. Anything. But I could tell I lost him.
I tweeted one of my favorite consultants on this topic, Ted Rubin. I asked him “how come whenever I suggest that friends start to build a following around what they love (YouTube/Twitter), they get scared?” His reply was that they’re lazy. I don’t think of these people as lazy, but rather, unwilling to do what very few people are doing right now. They would love the recognition, but don’t realize the work it takes to get that recognition.
In this day and age, when all of us have short attention spans, when we’d rather look at what our friends are doing than make something cool happen and show it off, it’s hard to motivate ourselves. We expect that right off the bat, if what we make isn’t amazing, it’s not worth doing because someone else will be doing it better than we will be – so why bother? It’s true, but if we remember that we’ll get better if we put in the time, we can accomplish anything.