My 2014 Mid-Year Writing Roundup

August 5, 2014 — 10 Comments

Its already past mid-way through 2014, so I thought I’d put together a post containing all the articles I’ve published so far this year. I’ve written a lot this year and joined some new publications, which I’m very excited about. If you’d like to keep up to date with everything, join my reading list and follow me via Twitter. Enjoy!

The Obstacle Is The Way Launch

Betabeat.com: Behind the Book Campaign: How To Sell 30,000 Copies in 6 Weeks Huffington Post: How Dr. Drew Pinsky Changed My Life Cracked: 7 People Who Overcame Huge Obstacles To Become Famous Copyblogger: How I Wrote Three Books In Three Years FastCompany: 7 Ways To Turn Your Opponents Into Opportunities Art of Manliness: Finding the Opportunity Inside the Obstacle 800-CEO-READ: The 3 Stoic Disciplines: How to Turn Your Obstacles Into Triumphs Upstart Business Journal: Why Amelia Earhart’s 1925 Gamble Should Inspire Entrepreneurs Thought Catalog: How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything Thought Catalog: Should I Drop Out of College? Medium: Hey Millennials, It’s A Good Thing Things Are Bad Psychology Today: The Importance of Negative Thinking RyanHoliday.net: A Lesson From The World’s Worst Week RyanHoliday.net: A Practical Philosophy Reading List Beliefnet.com: Nine Ways To Turn Your Obstacles Into An Advantage Entrepreneur.com: A Leadership Lesson From Eisenhower’s Stoic Reversal at D-Day

New York Observer

A Burglar Stole My Engagement Ring — And It Made My Proposal - Feb. 18 Certified: Why It Feels Good When Your City Hits the Big Screen - April 4 Trading Up The Chain: Mainstream Media Takes Cues from Blogosphere - April 23 Dear Graduates: Lessons From a College Dropout – May 26

Betabeat

Fake Traffic Means Real Paydays – Jan. 16 I Own a Goat: Some Animals And a Mini-Farm Give a Tech Guy Some Peace – Jan. 21 Ryan’s Hope: Why I Took A Job At Betabeat - Feb. 3 Phoning It In: 3 Years of Lessons From Running A Remote Business – Feb. 6 Whats Wrong With Media? This Tech Investor’s Twitter Rant Nails It – Feb. 10 What to Measure? The Question Journalism Has to Answer – Feb. 12 Outrage Porn: How the Need For ‘Perpetual Indignation’ Manufactures Phony Offense - Feb. 26 Sourceless: Online Reporting Becomes a Race to the Bottom - March 5 Get Out Of Town: Why SXSW Isn’t Worth It - March 14 Airbnb Etiquette: A Wake-Up Call to Unprofessional Hosts - March 19 Let Me Come Out and Say It: The Ford Commercial Is Super Lame - April 1 I Was Plagiarized By Arbitrage Magazine, But I’m The One Who Feels Terrible About It - April 8 Personal Science Seth Roberts Passes Away - April 28 Tim Ferriss Publishes Betabeat Editor Under New Audiobook Venture - May 9 The Joke’s On Us: ‘Sharing’ Becomes An Excuse Not To Care - May 21 Skimming Off The Top: Social Giving Sites Take a Huge Cut Of The Check – May 27 Is Google’s Product Strategy Dumb, Brave or both? - June 4 For Giants Like the New York Times, Problems Are Hidden in Plain Sight - June 23 How 3D Printing Is Bringing An Ancient Art Form Back to the Future - June 3 Chasing Ghosts: ‘Attention Minutes’ Are Voodoo, CPM is Still What Counts - July 7

Thought Catalog

The Guilty, Crazy Secret That Helps Me Write - Jan. 2

24 Books To Hone Your Strategic Mind – Jan. 8

The Creative Secret: Quantity Over Quality — And Commitments – Jan. 16

How To Turn Your Day-To-Day, Chronic Procrastination Into An Advantage – Jan. 26

How To Market A Boring Business: PR, Advertising And Marketing Strategies For Regular, Button-Down Brands – Jan. 28

Information Vs. Knowledge Vs. Experience – Jan. 31

A Winner Does… – Feb. 6

I Am The Man Who Honks – Feb. 13

25 Recommendations For Life Changing Biographies For The Voracious Reader In You – Feb. 23

Print Out Good Advice And Put It Where You Work (You Won’t Be Able To Run Away From It) – March 3

Hey, Reading Isn’t A Race: How Speed Reading And Spritz Completely Miss The Point – March 9

Productivity Secret: Never Buy Airplane Wifi – March 17

Loving Los Angeles: 36 Books To Help You Finally “Get” LA – March 24

The Overthinker’s Guide To Launching Your Next Project Without Wanting To Kill Yourself – April 7

Why You Need To Understand The American Civil War -April 17

Should I Drop Out Of College? – April 28

How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything – May 1

How The Civil War Was Won – May 9

13 Moral Biographies That Make You A Better Person And Teach You About Life – May 14

We Love Ourselves More Than Other People, But Care About Their Opinions More Than Our Own – May 19

This Moment Is Not Your Life – May 28

A Letter To The Graduating Class Of 2014 – June 3

Things I Learned On The Way To 27 – June 16

30 Must Read Quotes From Icons Of History Required To Turn Your Adversity Into Advantage – June 20

Can You Call Yourself A Writer? – June 23

Sorry, An Epiphany Isn’t What’s Going To Change Your Life – July 1

Confessions Of A Binge Reader (Or, How I Read So Much) – July 8

7 Pieces of Life Changing Advice from Dear Sugar – July 15

The 10 Of The Greatest (True) Stories Ever Written—Read These Books – July 28

How to Get a Book Agent- July 31

Psychology Today

The Surprising Value of Negative Thinking - May 1 Why You Should Embrace Failure - May 12 Domesticate Your Emotions - May 26 Contemptuous Expressions: The Secret To An Objective Mind - June 20

Entrepreneur.com

Turning Crisis Into Opportunity: 5 Ways To Deal With Hardship - April 30 The Entrepreneur’s Secret Weapon: Persistence. (See General Grant.) – May 6 How Entrepreneurs Can Read to Lead - May 19 A Leadership Lesson From Eisenhower’s Stoic Reversal at D-Day - June 6

Growth Hacking Gig: I’ll Pay For Your Training

July 28, 2014 — 17 Comments

The most important step in becoming a growth hacker is real life experience. I ended my ebook on the subject with some suggestions of what to do next if you wanted to become one. I was disappointed that I couldn’t offer more. But with the launch of the revised and expanded paperback edition of Growth Hacker Marketing coming up on September 30, I had an idea. Since I’ve written so much about the importance of mentors and practical application, what if I could create a way for at least one person to get real experience, marketing a real product?

Here’s what I’m doing: Instead of spending the paperback’s marketing budget myself, I am going to turn it over–all $10,000 of it–to the person with the best growth hacking idea for the book’s launch. With my help, we’ll execute that idea, track, and record the results. At the end I will write the whole experiment up as a case study that features you as its star (like I did here with The Obstacle is The Way). For those of you looking to make your splash in this space, this is that opportunity—a chance to lead a high profile campaign, prove your ideas, and establish your credentials. In a way, the ebook was the MVP and now that it’s been proven (sold thousands of copies, gotten 200 reviews on Amazon, been translated in multiple languages), growth hacking can take it to the next level.

No experience is required. The best, most interesting idea/person will get the gig. But I do want BIG ideas, things that I wouldn’t have thought of myself. Ideas that will actually move books in a trackable, scalable way. As I’ve said many times, the best marketing campaigns prove the ideas in the book and I want this to do that.

Qualifications/Requirements/Process: I get a lot of emails from ambitious young people looking to intern for me or work for me. This is the kind of chance I would have jumped on when I was that age. To apply just email: ryholiday@gmail.com with a ONE paragraph pitch for your idea, no longer than 300 words and then at the bottom, include one link about yourself that you think I should see. Use the subject line: GHM Gig. (I will actually be checking these requirements so if you can’t follow them, you’ve already failed). Tell me what you would do with the $10,000 budget, why you think it would work, and a little bit about yourself. The deadline will be August 11th. 

Let’s go!

Ryan

 

**Winner has been selected. Info to come! Thanks to everyone who applied**

The Overthinker’s Guide To Launching Your Next Project Without Wanting To Kill Yourself

July 21, 2014 — 4 Comments

It’s the eve of a big launch.

Maybe a year went into this project. Maybe ten years. Your life savings or your entire reputation could be on the line.

Maybe you’re launching a book (as I did recently). Or a startup. Or a course. Or you work for a company that is rolling out a new product that they’ve put you in charge of.

Whatever it is, the reality is that you’re stressed, worried and overworked. And the closer you get the launch, the harder it is to have any idea of how this whole thing is going to come off. Less than half of all Kickstarter projects are successful. 93% of companies accepted by Y Combinator fail. Most books sell less than 250 copies (to say nothing of getting any significant attention). It’s impossible to tell whether a launch will be a success or not. And even if everything goes exactly as you hope—the results could still be disappointing.

So no wonder it can feel like you’re going to crack up, fall apart and die.

Every person who’s ever been there before you has felt this way at some point.

I’ve done my share of launches—under my own name and for other people. Some have been very successful (millions of dollars in sales, bestseller status, mainstream press and media recognition). Others have been catastrophic failures.

Staying sane is hard, but not impossible. Here are some things to keep in mind as you approach a launch:

-You’re not going to die. Whatever happens, it’s almost certain that the result—good or bad—will not be a matter of life or death. So calm down.

-Friends will let you down. It’s what happens. They’ve promised to help and they won’t. Others will decide this is the time to hem or haw, or nickel and dime you. Don’t take it personally. If it’s egregious, cut them out of your life. If it’s not, just forget it. They don’t know what they’re doing—they’ve never been where you are.

-Just don’t be that guy when it’s other people’s turn. “The best revenge is to not be like that.”

-Hire professionals and support—whatever you can afford and then spend a little more. You will regret cheaping out at this moment in time. You will not regret investing in your project.

-Don’t wait until the last minute. If you did, I have no sympathy for you. You just set yourself up to fail. That was dumb.

-Do your research. Figure out what has worked for other products in your space. For everything people try during a launch, the 80/20 principle still applies: most things don’t move the needle much. Use that knowledge to find leverage for your own launch to create big results. You aren’t reinventing the wheel here, doing your homework will save you time and stress. It will prevent fruitless chasing of vanity metrics.

-Have you run a premortem? In a premortem you look to envision what could go wrong in advance, before your launch. Today everyone from startups to Fortune 500 companies and the Harvard Business Review are using it to find big mistakes (and to prepare for unpleasant surprises) before they launch a product. The premortem goes back to the ancient Stoics, who had an even better name for it: premeditatio malorum(premeditation of evils). We can do the same for our launches, not only to find mistakes before they happen, but prepare ourselves mentally to expect the unexpected.

-You don’t control the results, only the effort.

-You don’t control the results, only the effort you put in. I’m saying that twice. I would actually say it more times if I had the space. Repeat it to yourself over and over again. Intention and effort are what matters. A million variables outside your control rest between you and a successful launch.

-But speaking of results, limit your real time accounting as much as possible. I’ve probably refreshed the Amazon rank for the book I am launching this month 250 times. That’s about 10% as much as I would have if I wasn’t restraining myself. Don’t waste time checking how far you’ve come or how far you need to go. Stay in the moment and work.

-Plan.

-Despite the narrative in your head, you’re not releasing a blockbuster movie. I repeat, this is not a Hollywood launch. For some reason we all fall into this temptation and it clouds our priorities and prevents success. You don’t need to get all your customers packed into a single week — no newspaper is going to be printing the scores the following Monday. Instead, focus on what matters: attracting the right people early and satisfying them. More will come if you do this right. Think soft opening, not grand opening.

-Make sure you have something else that you can channel your anger, anxiety, and excess energy into like exercise. This way it doesn’t matter how the launch is going, you know you had a good day at the gym, or in the pool or on your bike. Extra benefit: good ideas will come to you here.

-Remember, all’s well that ends well.

-Having a dog or an animal or something totally carefree that you can focus on is nice too. I am going to go water my lawn in a few minutes. It will help.

-Ask questions from the best people in business. Short questions — mostly about what was most effective and least effective. Don’t ask them to do your job. Just help prevent you from fucking up.

-Know that your life will be a mess. Now is not the time to move, to start a new relationship, to finally address some problem you’ve been putting off. Life goes on hold.

-Hey guess what, launching/promotion/marketing isn’t someone else’s job. It’s your job. Even if you hired other people to help, it’s still on you. No one cares about this project more than you. No one is a better spokesperson for it than you. If you think you can hand all this off to someone and still get amazing results, you’re wrong.

-Do crazy things. I’ve vandalized my own billboards. I’ve had clients give away enormous chunks of their own product. I lied to the New York Times, ABC News and the Today Show. Launches are nuts. The ends—almost any ends—justify the means.

-No one else understands what you’re going through. Launches are unique, even people that have been through them have trouble remember just how crazy they make you feel. Accept it and power through.

-Knock as much easy stuff as you can early. Have interviews? Pre-record them. Articles you’re writing? Do them in months in advance. Have travel? Book it. The fewer decisions you have to do while you’re in the shit, the better. Don’t sit around now when you have free time and then complain to everyone else when you’re overwhelmed later. Take advantage of the downtime.

-If you need a favor, ask. Ask people how they can help you. You’d be surprised how much good stuff comes from this.

-Relax man. If it fails, you’ll survive. If it succeeds, you’ll be happy — but don’t let that go to your head either. Because you should remember how easily it could have gone the other way.

Here are some resources on having a killer launch. Read them.

*The Right (and Wrong) Way To Market A Book – Ryan Holiday

*The Growth Hacker Wake Up Call – Slideshare

*Hacking Kickstarter: How to Raise 100,000 In 10 Days – Tim Ferriss

*How to Create a Million-Dollar Business This Weekend – Tim Ferriss

*4 Hour Chef Launch: Summary of Week One – Tim Ferriss

*How We Got Our First 2,000 Users Doing Things That Don’t Scale – Fast Company

*How To Self-Publish A Bestseller: Publishing 3.0 – James Altucher

*What Are Key Strategies To Acquire Your First 100K Users With Zero Marketing Budget? – Quora

Look, if you’re about to ship a product or launch a new company, open a restaurant, or make your debut on stage, you’re already ahead of 99% of the population. People would kill to be where you are.

So there’s no reason to add unnecessary stress or be so hard on yourself. If you approach a launch from the right perspective, you will better be able to remain calm and be successful. You won’t be able to control the obstacles that come your way during a launch, but how you approach and view them will determine how hard they’ll be for you to overcome. The important thing is to learn to be comfortable with the inevitable uncertainty and focus on the present. If you keep your head down and only focus on what you can control (your effort) you’ll be able to deal with the results, good or bad.

This column originally appeared on Thought Catalog. Comments can be seen there.

Here’s a Quick Productivity Secret: Don’t Buy Wifi on Flights

July 14, 2014 — 3 Comments

I have a productivity secret. It’s a simple one, but it works.

It’s this: I just don’t buy WIFI when I fly. Not at the airport and not in the air.

I didn’t intend for it to be one either. It happened because I was being cheap.

Whether I’m traveling for business (which I do a lot) or pleasure, I deliberately pass on the pretty unbelievable technological breakthrough that makes it possible to connect to the internet at 30,000 feet. That’s it. And it makes me amazingly productive.

Tim Ferriss is right. Email received is a function of email sent. Take yourself off the grid for a second—stop the bleeding—and then go through your inbox offline. You’ll be amazing at how quickly you start banging them out, how many emails you’d saved for later you are now fine with deleting, how easy it is to get back to Inbox zero.

In the air, free of distractions, I have ideas. I have the patience to deal with that problem email I’ve been putting off. I can reflect. It occurs to me to send my girlfriend a nice note. I put together tomorrow’s To Do list. I am re-energized. I have a clear head. (Extra tip: I usually listen to the same song over and over while I do this.)

Of course it’s not just email and planning. I’ve edited books in the air. I’ve filled out Q&As. I’ve written articles. I am writing this article right now, in the air between Dublin and New York. The map on the screen tells me I have about two hours to wrap it up before I land.

read too. I’m like a binge reader and air travel is my enabler. Give me a cross country (or god forbid, an international one) and I’ll burn through everything I’ve been meaning to read.

But of course, none of this is possible if I am on Gchat or getting hit with real time emails. Or if I’m checking out articles designed deliberately to push my buttons. The whole equation falls apart if the endless choices of the internet are available.

This productivity zone is possible for $9.99-14.99 free. That’s why you shouldn’t fight Airplane Mode. Embrace it. Let it be your friend.

I’m not the only one to do this. In fact, I’ve found it’s a trick shared by some of the busiest people I know. Some of us even plan travel if we feel stuff piling up. It brings new meaning to the advice of the writer John Fante: “When stuck, hit the road.”

The new version: When email is piling up, when you have a bunch of boring things you don’t want to do, when you need edit/write/create, book a long flight.

If you want a satisfying feeling, here it is—opening up the laptop when I get to the hotel or back to my house and seeing the outbox launch a hundred emails one right after another, like paratroopers out of the back of a transport plane.

How much have I actually saved doing this? I don’t know—a thousand dollars over the last five years? But that’s pennies compared to the work I got done.

Next time you fly, treat yourself to not getting WIFI. You’ll thank me.

This column originally appeared on Thought Catalog. Comments can bee seen there.

Reading Isn’t A Race: How Speed Reading And Spritz Completly Miss The Point

July 7, 2014 — 15 Comments

Reading is good. So reading faster must be better right?

This is the well-meaning logic behind every person who googles “speed reading” and all the recent excitement about the Spritz speed reading app that makes it possible to read 1,000 words per minute. It’s one of the reasons people like ebooks so much too.

The problem is that it’s wrong. Not stupid wrong, it just misses the point.

I took a speed reading course and read “War and Peace” in twenty minutes. It involves Russia. —Woody Allen

Reading is the quiet time in which you reflect and learn, it is not a race. It is where you teach yourself that which you don’t know—it is your time with some of the smartest (or at least different) people who’ve ever lived. This is not something to be rushed through, but enjoyed, savored and done deliberately.

In fact, smart readers do more than just comprehend words. They ask questions, they take notes, they look things up, they make connections, they produce marginalia. People who read a lot of books spend a lot of time reading. There’s no way around this.

But still, everyone asks how to do it faster. Let me tell you why this is so short sighted:

-If you find yourself wanting to speed up the reading process on a particular book, you may want to ask yourself, “Is this book any good?” Life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy reading.

-Yes some people read faster than others, just like some people eat faster or walk faster. But when you ask, almost all of them don’t think or know that they read fast. In other words, it’s not conscious. We all have our own pace.

-The best way to read quickly is to be smart and, paradoxically, well-read. Like anything, you get faster at reading the more knowledge and experience you bring to the table. You can guess where things are going, you don’t need to double back to check things, and you won’t get caught by surprise. It’s how you build up cumulative advantage.

-Seriously, give me some examples from history of greats who were “speed readers.” I can name many who were dyslexic and struggled through books anyway like Alexander Graham Bell, Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg and Richard Branson, but I can’t think of a speed reader. I’ll say it again: People who read a lot do it because they love it and put time towards it.

-I like to remind myself that no matter how fast or how many books I’ll read in my life, I’ll never have or surpass a small branch public library. And this thought calms me. Who am I trying to beat? The only thing that matters is if you’re getting smarter and better.

-How many books do you really need or want to read in a week? The most I’ve ever done was 7 (some were short, reading was all I really did that week). I’ll be honest: I don’t remember ONE of those books.

-Let’s say it again once more: if a book is skimmable, skip it altogether. You don’t get a prize for completing it. And there are better ones out there.

-Tackle the big books that will take you a while. No one speed reads The Power Broker. But if you make a go at it, it may just change your life.

-On the other hand, if you find yourself hitting a wall with a book and start to feel the Resistance, don’t feel ashamed to jump to another book to keep the chain going. I also apply this to my work life so I’m never stuck and always have something productive to do.

-Also ask yourself, “Am I reading slowly on this book because it’s poorly written?” You have paid the author once for the book and again with your attention. If they haven’t delivered value back to you in the form of a clear, coherent and masterful book then put it down and find someone else who can. The author is also supposed to pull the reader from page to page.

-An important part about reading is taking notes, marking the passages and quotes that you find to be important. Tell me how you plan to do that with an app that turns your book into a series of flashcards.

-Reading, especially reading physical books, is about seeing a concept laid out in front of you. It’s seeing the paragraph, the sentence, the page. As the great literary critic Northrop Frye once said, “The most technologically efficient machine that man has ever invented is the book.” I’m with Northrup, I don’t anticipate any technology, especially Spritz, beating a book anytime soon.

-This is an issue I don’t think Spritz can solve. They know that sometimes books have charts right? And what about the translator’s introduction, footnotes, and editors notes? All of this is important and I never skip them because this information adds context and sets the stage for the text you’re reading.

-Doing this is akin to cutting out establishing shots in movies. What about all those downs in football where they aren’t throwing the ball? Or the set up and communication in baseball before a pitch? Don’t ever tell me why you came to think something, just tell me your final conclusion with no context. Life would be so much better without all that “waste” wouldn’t it?

-I like Richard Feynman’s line about how if you can’t explain something in a simple straightforward way then you probably don’t understand it yourself. This is unfortunately true for far too many books. If you’re reading a book where the writing is obtuse or the author can’t easily explain what they claim to be an expert about, they’re probably a charlatan. Put the book down—that will save you some valuable time.

-What are you going to do with this time you “save” speed reading? Work more? Watch more TV? Respond to email? Ugh. By doing this you miss out on all the ancillary benefits of reading: peace, quiet and concentration. Don’t toss that out.

-I’ll put it another way: Why is this the area in your life you’re trying to optimize? I’m laughing thinking of the time we waste in meetings, in traffic, in restaurants waiting for the check, on projects we’ll quit halfway through, on small talk and a million other ridiculous, preventable things. But reading books is the wasteful part we need to address. Be serious.

-I think I know why people focus on speed reading. They want the results without the work. There is and never will be a substitute. Put the time in, you’ll get the results.

I promised myself I wouldn’t end this with a cliche as simple was “quality over quantity” but I think you know that it’s true. The same applies for working out—there are tricks and strategies that could help you get most of the effects of a full workout in just 15 minutes. But I’ll tell you what: is that even worth putting your gym clothes on for? Are you actually decompressing and getting your mind off work in that short of time? Do you really want to be the person who crams a leisurely but important process down into mere minutes and loses the intangible benefits in the process?

Because that’s what speed reading does.

Reading is a ritual thousands of years old. One partaken in by some of the smartest, wisest and most accomplished people who ever lived. And you want to rush it so you can get back to TV or Twitter?

There’s a better way: Take it slow and do it a lot.

This column originally appeared on Thought Catalog. Comments can be seen there.