I recently listened to a conversation between Seth Godin and Brian Koppelman. Seth was offering a story about when he knew that David Chang, the founder of the famous Momofuku restaurants, was “on his way.”
Seth is a vegetarian and upon visiting Momofuku noodle bar several times in the past, was able to order a custom vegetarian version of a bacon dish. One day he showed up and they said “we only serve it as-is”
Seth was a bit disappointed he wouldn’t be able to eat there anymore, but was also secretly excited. He knew that Chang and his team had decided who they did not want to serve.
Writing on the internet is weird. People often look at what I’ve written and since it gobbles up equivalent attention to a CNN or New York Times article, assume I am trying to capture a mass audience.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I think that’s a bit crazy.
I am a big believer in the “1,000 true fans” model of digital creation popularized by Kevin Kelly. In his famous article, he writes:
To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.
I would actually update it and argue that you need even fewer true fans today because more people trust things they buy over the internet such as online courses. I imagine in the future we will be talking hundreds of true fans.
Kelly goes on:
1,000 true fans is an alternative path to success other than stardom. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum bestseller hits, blockbusters, and celebrity status, you can aim for direct connection
So who are the people I seek to find?
I don’t write for the person that has made life work on the traditional path.
Some of the people I hold in the highest regard have followed the default path. I wish that path could work for me, but that’s not where I’m headed.
I write instead for the weirdos who have always felt uncomfortable about doing what everyone else is doing and are excited by the possibilities that have emerged in today’s world.
I write to understand why the default path does seem to work so well for some and so poorly for others.
I write for the people that don’t think there is one “right way” to live.
If you’re loving your life on the default path, you should celebrate. You were born in a time in which following that path is more enjoyable and financially rewarding than ever!
I don’t write for the people that think there is only one way of seeing the world
I write for the people that are comfortable with a bit of messiness. The ones that can hold two opposing ideas in their head without getting angry. The people that look at someone that thinks something different and says “I wonder where they are coming from?” instead of dismissing that person.
I write for the person that can see that my writing is not an all out assault on work, but instead an argument that we should embrace a broader perspective of work and that looking at it from different perspectives (and sometimes on a provocative way) can be helpful for many individuals who are struggling.
I don’t write for mass appeal or approval
As I mentioned above, I write with a “1,000 true fans” approach rather than a billion true fans.
I write for myself because I find joy in the process – the challenge of trying to make sense of what I think and also share that with people in an accessible way.
I write because it has enabled me to make real-life friends who are excited about some of the things I’m excited about all across the world.
I don’t write for the people that think work is the center of life
If work is the center of your life and its working for you, I definitely don’t want to change your mind.
Instead, I write for the people that may think that different ways of arranging life are the key to evolving to a new future of work
I write for people that think work can become something that is a little more responsible towards our environment, integrated with a sense of community, and filled with a little more joy and freedom.
I write for the people that think just because something “is” does not mean it ought to be that way
Most of all I write because its an amazing way to find fellow people across the world that are headed in a similar direction with similar questions.
Are you one of the people I write for? If so, I’d love to have a curiosity conversation with you
Just published! The Pathless Path is Paul's book about walking away from a "perfect" job with a promising future and starting over again. Through painstaking experiments, living in different countries, and a deep dive into the history of our work beliefs, Paul pieces together a set of ideas and principles that guide him from unfulfilled and burned out to what he calls "the pathless path" - a new story for thinking about work in our lives. Learn More & Buy The Book Here