In the spring of 2017 I appeared as a guest on David’s podcast, the North Star. We had a fantastic conversation about productivity, the future of work, design thinking, and the power of online content. Soon after, David took my course Building a Second Brain (BASB) to help with his own idea collection and content development.
He quickly became a star student, adopting wholesale the system I had taught for cultivating and publishing ideas consistently. His “second brain” became the foundation of his prolific output of podcasting, blogging, tweeting, newsletters, and consulting. At the end of last year David told me that BASB was not only the most impactful course he had done since graduating from college – it was the most impactful experience, period.
As we continued talking, we realized that we had both noticed something: the people who truly got the full benefit of BASB were not the ones who spent the most time on it, or who worked the hardest, or who reviewed the course again and again. It was those who moved on from “organizing” as quickly as possible and actually used their notes to create content.
I’ve talked to hundreds of people about the incredible power of creating content to share their expertise, build a reputation, and connect with like-minded people. But most of them seem to be waiting for something. They’re waiting to share their work until they are perfectly organized, or until they have a “critical mass” of good ideas, or until they know their “brand” or have found their “voice.” Like a surfer waiting on shore instead of in the water, they’re confused as to why wave after wave seems to pass them by. I’m here to tell you that there is no magic moment when everything is completely ready. The only way to know the right direction is to start. You find the way along the way.
The idea for a new course was born. While Building a Second Brain focused on the early parts of the creative process, helping people collect ideas, organize them by project, and summarize and distill them for easy access, this course would focus on the actual process of content creation.
We decided to create this new course as a sequel to BASB, building on digital note-taking with a new curriculum teaching people what to do with the knowledge they had gathered: how to create an online platform for sharing their ideas, consistently cultivate and publish new pieces of content, distribute them to build a powerful network, and use this network to meet anyone and attract unbelievable professional opportunities.
The key realization for me was that David and I have very different approaches to our work. I’m more introverted, while he’s extroverted. My core skill is deep focus on abstract ideas, while David’s is being able to meet and connect with anyone. Writing has always come very naturally for me, while David had to learn to through painstaking effort. But what we have in common is that both our careers are completely driven and enabled by the content we’ve created. I realized that the skill of effective writing could be taught, that there was more than one way to do it, and that any kind of person could benefit from it.
In Write of Passage we will share everything we’ve learned about content creation. By the end of the course, you’ll know how to:
- Shift from “outbound” – seeking jobs and clients who might want to work with you – to “inbound,” selecting from among pre-qualified leads who are already interested in your work
- Craft a writing premise that targets existing assumptions and misconceptions in your field
- Rapid prototype diverse ideas using email, social media, and live conversations
- Write in a persuasive, outcome-oriented (instead of academic) style that provokes responses, feedback, and resharing of your work
- Build a coherent body of work over time (not just one-off “posts”) that give you unassailable authority in your field
- Target specific channels and people with tailored pieces of writing
- Construct articles to attract and filter for specific kinds of people and opportunities
- Use content as an introduction to meet and collaborate with people you respect online
- Create an online profile that clearly communicates what you do and helps your audience find you
- Find the unique intersection of expertise and knowledge where you can build a “personal monopoly” of credibility
This is just a small selection of things we’ve learned over years of trial and error, and in this course we’ll share it all with you.
In a world of so many kinds of media, we’ve decided to focus on the most accessible, fluid, and fundamental of them all: writing. Writing is the foundation of every other form of media. It is the only form of expression that is accessible to anyone who can read or write, that can be reused and repurposed anywhere, and that stands the test of time. More and more businesses like Amazon and remote-first startups consider writing a critical skill for every single one of their employees. It clarifies thinking and logic in a way that no other form of communication does.
As our conversations continued and deepened over several months, we realized that creating and publishing content online is not only the key to effective personal knowledge management. It is the key to success in the digital age. If you continue to sell your knowledge in person and by the hour, you will never be free. You will never be free to fully capitalize on the knowledge in your head. You will never be free to focus on something else while your knowledge goes to work for you. You will never be free to step away from the office and your computer and know that things will continue to run smoothly.
The ability to write something down and distribute it instantly around the world, in a way that compels people to take action, is simply the most incredible superpower ever available to humans. When you have this skill, each piece of writing goes out into the world, seeking opportunities and jobs and projects and partnerships and friendships on your behalf. Your professional sphere of opportunities expands outward in every direction with every word you put to the page.
We built Write of Passage from the ground up to destroy four pervasive myths we’ve noticed about writing online.
The first myth is that creating content is just a means to having an “online business.”
Yes, you can create new income streams and make a location-independent living by writing online. But there are so many more profound benefits available. Every profession and industry is now exchanging ideas online, and you have a chance to stake a claim on a wide open frontier. You can meet thought partners who will push your thinking in new directions. You can find mentors and role models who you would never encounter in normal life. You can qualify clients who your ideas already resonate with before you’ve even spoken. All these benefits are available whether or not you ever make a single dollar online.
The second myth is that writing online is only for digital nomads or content marketers.
The first era of “blogging” was mostly limited to certain kinds of people. But the Internet is no longer a “channel” that you use for specific functions. It is a place. A place where everyone lives a significant part of their lives. A place where you can meet people you would never otherwise be able to find, where you can gather communities around niche interests that could never exist in the physical world. No matter what kind of work you do –whether you are a lawyer or a chef or a bicycle mechanic or an artist – the Internet is a place so full of possibilities that you cannot afford not to be a part of it.
The third myth is that “blogging is dead.”
Many people we’ve talked to feel that they missed the boat on having a successful blog. We believe that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Blogging is reaching maturity, which means that it no longer makes the front pages of glossy magazines, but is now ready to become a foundational building block of industries and careers. For more and more professions, writing is the new resume. The posts and articles you publish are your portfolio.
The fact is, the golden era of blogging is just beginning. Success is no longer about reaching a certain quantity of pageviews – it is about the quality of the readers you attract, even if that’s only a few dozen people. It’s about the virtual relationships you can form with people around the world, based on the quality of your ideas.
The fourth myth is perhaps the oldest – that only a “writer” can publish their work.
Writing is no longer a specialized profession protected by gatekeepers. It is no longer restricted to a certain set of topics, or certain stylistic forms, or a certain educational background. Like the Internet itself, writing has exploded into a general purpose tool accessible to anyone. All it requires is a shift in how we write – from the formal, academic style we learned in school, to an insightful and action-oriented style that is necessary online.
We’re going to change your perspective on writing online, not with interesting lectures, but by catapulting you into action. We’ve come to understand that almost everyone knows intellectually that blogging is a good idea. They can’t help but notice the meteoric rise of people who have built reputations, businesses, and incredible careers by posting articles and essays on their niche.
But in their hearts they don’t believe they can do it. They don’t think they have anything valuable to say. Or they don’t have confidence in their self-discipline or drive. Or they don’t think they can carve out the time. We realized that we needed to not only encourage people to write and publish, we needed to show them exactly how to do it effectively in the current online landscape. Write of Passage is an accountability structure, like a virtual writing group spanning many countries that also guides you in creating results with your writing.
As we’ve built this course together over the past five months, David and I realized something else we really didn’t expect: that our networks of friends, collaborators, followers, mentors, role models, clients, customers, and thought partners aren’t just a list of email addresses for us. They are an extended system for thinking and learning far beyond what we could manage on our own.
While filming the videos, our videography team was shocked that every time we were stuck or in doubt, we immediately turned to Twitter or called trusted followers to get feedback on our options. The truth is, our best ideas don’t come to us as flashes of insight in the middle of the night. They emerge from conversations, observations, feedback, and high-velocity trial and error. If we had to rely on our own insights, we wouldn’t be able to publish a fraction of what we do.
We realized that our professional networks are actually a “third brain.” A collective brain that encompasses everything from our blogs to our email lists to our social media followers to our friends around the world. With this collective brain, we have instant access to more wisdom, experience, perspective, and diversity in one minute than we could gain in a hundred lifetimes. We are the curators of a hive mind that spawns ideas we can hardly fathom. We have the ability to direct this critical mass of attention toward problems that no human could solve on their own. The only price of admission is that we feed this hive mind a steady stream of our own insights. Every drop of value that we put in gets returned a hundred fold.
I constantly get requests for a “group knowledge management” system of some kind. I think people tend to imagine a new advanced software program with a clever design that will allow them to network their ideas and share their thinking. But such a system exists today – it’s the entire Internet.
Harnessing the Internet as your “third brain” is not an engineering challenge. It requires producing work that is inherently interesting and engaging, so people want to see it and test it and give you their feedback. It requires embracing spontaneity and improvisation instead of careful planning; learning in public instead of hoarding notes in secret; being curious in the face of uncertainty instead of being paralyzed by the fear of the unknown.
Writing in this way is a tacit skill that only comes with practice. Which is why you will publish more in this course than you ever have before. It takes courage and conviction to push through your doubt and fear about sharing your writing. But we know of no better way to develop that conviction than by working shoulder to shoulder with peers who are just as committed to a transformation as you.
In Write of Passage we will teach you how to use your writing to create such an extended mind for yourself. It’s not something you have to build from scratch – all the platforms are ready and waiting for you to hit “publish.” It’s a long-term and challenging endeavor, but one that will begin to produce benefits immediately.
I’ve learned so much from David this past year about how to take action beyond the published post. He is a master of crafting pieces of writing designed to attract attention. He has an almost supernatural ability to use his work to get in touch with anybody, and then recruit them into his vision for how the future should be. The truth is that accomplishing anything meaningful in this world requires working with people. To fully realize the potential of your ideas, you will need to learn how to connect with and enroll people of influence. One such person can unlock a door that years of solitary striving won’t make a dent on. The approach to writing we teach in this course is actually an intensively social and collaborative approach, using the written word as a bridge to the people who can make the biggest difference in your career and your cause.
David and I will be teaching this first cohort together, to provide the best possible bridge from what you learned in Building a Second Brain (and if you haven’t taken it yet, there’s a $100 off discount code you’ll have access to in the checkout process). Each Wednesday David and I will introduce you to a new facet of writing online, and then you’ll have the rest of the week to produce and get feedback on real work. There are no “exercises” in Write of Passage. Only writing deliverables, each of which will be added to a body of work that you’ll be able to show off by the end of the course.
Your tribe is waiting online for you to make your contribution. A world of career opportunities is ready to find you. There is a need that only you can fulfill. There is a group of people that will only have the breakthrough they need by hearing your take based on your unique experience.
Will you step up to the challenge?
Click here to enroll (or to view the full course curriculum, frequently asked questions, and schedule).
If you have any questions, email us at email@example.com.
Subscribe to Praxis, our members-only blog exploring the future of productivity, for just $10/month. Or follow us for free content via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or YouTube.