Paul Jarvis

Cracking the best-seller list

Maybe you want to write a book because you want to crack some best-seller lists. Maybe you want to create a course because you want to blog about making $100,000 from it. Maybe you want to start a mailing list because you want to reach 10,000 people.

But here’s the thing…

These are status symbols, that are the online equivalent of being able to park a Lambo (hashtag #lambogoals BRO) in your driveway to make your neighbours jealous.

We equate goals like these as “making it”, when really, they’re meaningless. You can buy your way onto any best-seller list (or publish a book about your foot in an obscure category on Amazon to achieve it). You can make 6 figures on a course launch if you put enough money into ads. You can grow your list quickly if you employ ever tip, trick and tactic imaginable to get subscribers (imagine all the popups and screen take-overs, firing at all times).

Would you even like yourself if you reached these goals by means that don’t fit who you are or your real purpose? Are you after these goals because you actually want them or because some internet thought leader in a fancy skirt suit told you that your life would be better if they happened? Do you want a fancy car in your internet driveway just because it’s a status symbol?

Technically, I’ve hit all those things (minus the fancy the car – I drive an awesome, cheap, old VW hatchback). Not a single one of those milestones changed my life in any drastic way. The book sale that went from 9,999 to 10,000 didn’t magically unlock a section of Amazon’s site that I could get free publicity from. The course sale that went from $99,700 to $100,000 didn’t automatically put me in touch with Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin so we could pal around, smoking cigars (I’m not actually sure if either of them even smoke cigars because I don’t know them). My 10,000th subscriber wasn’t any more special to me than the 2nd subscriber.

(Interesting fact: my second subscriber to this list was a guy named Dustin who unsubscribed 2 days later with a nasty unsubscribe message calling me a jerk…)

On each of those days when those arbitrary life-goals was hit my day probably included: doing dishes or the laundry, cleaning poop out of the rat pen, putting on my Costco sweatpants on one leg at a time…

I’m not saying any of this because I’m ungrateful. I am so continually surprised and incredibly appreciative of what I have and the support for my work I receive. The point I’m trying to make is that chasing the “INTERNET DREAM” of these things is a vapid pursuit that will either leave you jaded (like me), feeling shitty about yourself or chasing something you never really actually wanted.

I didn’t initially quit my job because I wanted to travel the world with my laptop and work 1 hour a week from a beach somewhere. I’m introverted and hate sitting on the sand (it gets in too many places and electronic devices) — I quit my job because my boss was more interested in cocaine than clients and I didn’t want to go down with that ship. I kept working for myself because I’d rather not deal with the social anxiety of leaving my house on a daily basis and being a freelancer let me feed that neurosis.

I didn’t start writing books to get on a speaker circuit and command 5 figures for speeches. I’m enochlophobic and think most conferences are thinly-veiled industry circle jerks—I’ve never even done a speaking gig. I wrote my first book to challenge myself to actually do something I expressed interest in doing, instead of just continually saying, “Oh yeah, I’d love to write a book.” I imagined a handful of people might buy it. I did, however, get sucked up into the whole best-seller thing and totally used that on my website (I’ve since removed it because I know it doesn’t matter).

My first course was created because I was angry that schools weren’t teaching business and marketing to creatives. I started making courses when I was doing client work full-time and figured I’d sell enough to break 4-figures over 12 months.

It’s easy to get sucked up in the Internet DreamTM though. I’m not immune either. It’s satiates some human voyeuristic trait to read those blog posts about making lots of money or having a big audience or making it or unlocking that one secret that’s holding us all back. But these things are one tiny segment of one person doing one thing, and more-over, it doesn’t mean that person is even happy or enjoying what they do.

We only ever hear what the loudest talkers are saying at us. We hear about their accomplishments through their lens of purpose.

There are countless people online who are doing amazing work but just don’t talk about it in a way that publicly pushes their own agenda. We only hear from the people who want us to know just how much they’ve accomplished, which helps them draw some invisible and meaningless line that they can stand on one side us (and then sell us access to cross over it and stand with them).

Adding “best-selling” to your author page increases your street cred when asking an extra zero in your speaking fee. Writing about your “6 figure launch” builds trust when you want to keep selling your course to more students (honestly, I’ve done that here and here – and they’re two of my most popular articles ever).

So what’s the point?

I want you to make things because you want to make things. Because they should exist in the world, but don’t yet. Because you actually, really, honestly fucking enjoy creating them. And yes, partly because you like making money and feeling accomplished (who doesn’t?), but also because your voice should be heard. Not the voice of how you reached some bullshit milestone, but the voice of you sharing what you know with the world.

And if you want to show off your accomplishments, that’s cool. Everyone that’s legitimately reached any milestone they feel is important has earned the right to feel damn good about it. And even talk about it a little, if they want to. But when the only reason you want to do something is so that you can reach some arbitrary goal—then maybe you should reconsider doing it in the first place, just skip the hassle and hard work and go right for the glory (or possibly just buy a badger of honor):

Badger of Honor

(The official Badger of Honor – unfortunately no longer available on Etsy)

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