Global Village People

Hand supporting tree
Photo: Neil Thomas

I first heard the term ‘global village‘ a long time ago. Marshall McLuhan coined it in the 1960s, imagining an interconnected humanity all coming together via the tools of media technology. This was long before social media and the Internet.

When the Internet came along, then the Web, it seemed to reinforce this idea–we’d all be connected, sharing ideas and information instantly, coming together in one big, borderless, egalitarian community. The phrase ‘global village’ was everywhere. We were all now One, no longer constrained by the boundaries of place, geography, or time–or even who we were.

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, we got a free-for-all electronic village of polarized, monocultural in-groups, corporate control, exploitation, and…isolation. We call those in-groups ‘communities’, but they’re really just monocultures of sameness, of ‘niches’, fetishes, ideologies, whatever. In other words, we became disconnected. Isolated into small groups or, more commonly, alone.

Why didn’t the global village come to be? I think it’s simple: electronic ‘communities’ are not the same as physical ones.

Social media and other media tools remove most of the constraints of physical communities, including a critical one: interdependence. In the global village, you’re not just unconstrained by place, geography, or time; you’re also unconstrained by obligations to or dependence on other village members. You can enter and leave whenever you like, take or leave whatever you like…and say whatever and act however you like. And if one electronic ‘community’ manages to exclude you? You can always find another. Or start your own. Or simply be in the community alone.

Witness the world of social media today: one part outrage, one part polarization, one part lonely people reaching out and doing what regular people do–seeking recognition and acceptance from others and trying to act like people do in physical communities.

But it’s not a global village at all. Those powerful media tools removed the friction from forming and maintaining and participating in communities, allowing us to instantly sort ourselves into like-minded groups, but without the usual rituals and consequences. Those tools made it enticing to be only with like-minded people, and easy to avoid the inconveniences of being in communities with people who are not just like us.

Removing the friction from communities was a powerful change. But that friction is what helped make communities before–expectations, customs, some kind of dependence on others for help and acceptance, and a reciprocal expectation that you’d do the same. Reducing (or eliminating) those limitations of physical communities also took away what really mattered, what really held people together and forced them to tolerate, to compromise, to cede some power for the sake of being in a community. To be interdependent.

I suppose this is a natural progression from where we once were: local businesses give way to Amazons and chain stores; whole food gives way to manufactured food products; block parties give way to Discord ‘chats’ and ‘virtual meetings’; physical communities give way to ‘remote workers’ connected to everyone and everywhere–except their own neighborhood. The Internet and Web just accelerated our efforts to achieve a sort of ‘independence’, freedom from needing anything from anyone else and being depended on by others. All freedom, but little responsibility.

And so when I visit physical spaces full of people, they often seem not…there. They’re on their phone, or laptop, or other device. They’re everywhere, yet not actually present anywhere. They call Facebook or Twitter a ‘community’, but it’s really nothing more than a loose confederacy of people with weak ties, short attention spans, and few real obligations to each other. They nod and murmur approval and concern, or throw money or button clicks out, but then move on.

I don’t want to romanticize physical communities, or entirely discount electronic ones. Surely the Internet has created tremendous benefits for humanity. But somewhere along the way, I think we lost the plot of what a village really is, and what it means to live in one with our diverse, not-always-like-minded fellow humans. And if we truly think we’re ‘free’ from being in community with other humans, what will we do to each other and ourselves?

Don’t Worry About College Majors

I’ve heard a lot recently about ‘picking the right college major’. It’s normal to worry about such things. I remember.

But I think obsessing over picking the ‘right’ college degree is a waste of time. If you have particular interests, follow them in college, but waste no more time worrying if you’ve made the ‘right’ choice.

I’m in my 50s. I’ve heard hundreds of stories of the twists and turns of lives and the role of college in them–including my own. I was dead set on being an electrical engineer, and the first year and a half of college was in that subject. I was certain I was destined to invent the next power source and change the world with it.

I ended up with an undergrad in history, and (years later) a graduate degree in urban planning. I’ve been in the ‘tech’ business for 30-odd years as a technical writer, then usability engineer, then software developer, then analyst/product owner/whatever.

The best software engineer I know has an undergrad in fine arts. They own three software patents; they also make pottery.

My ‘old guy’ advice to those staring down college decisions:

The road doesn’t matter very much. Taking steps matters. Just keep taking action and learning and adjusting and, for god’s sake, enjoy your life. It’s a dance, not a long march towards eventual happiness.

Book Notes: The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime

By MJ DeMarco. 323 pages.

NOTE: Whenever I read a nonfiction book, I like to summarize the ‘meat’ of it, the parts that really had value to me (I copied the idea from Derek Sivers). So, fair warning: this is less a book summary and more a ‘points I liked in a book’ summary.

Normally I’d avoid a book with a breathless, cheesy title like ‘The Millionaire Fastlane’, but I decided to read this one on the recommendation of someone I follow on YouTube. There’s plenty of hyperbole here, but once the author settles in to explaining his real point, it’s gold. The main message is counter to the traditional story of how to build wealth (see the ‘Slowlane’ in this book), but the message is clear: there’s a better (and faster) road to wealth than aimless spending or decades of saving to enjoy old age.


Wealth and true happiness is not defined by by money or ‘stuff’, but by the ‘three Fs’: Family (relationships), Fitness (health), and Freedom (choice).

There are three ‘lanes’ to that wealth and happiness, and each has its own belief system:

  • The ‘Sidewalk’: Poverty. Money is the most important asset. Time is abundant. Money is for spending. One life event away from broke. No real plan. Complete servitude to lifestyle. Wealth is an event, not a process. Wealth = Income + Debt. Primary income source: job.
  • The ‘Slowlane’: Mediocrity. Money is the most important asset. Time is abundant. Money is scarce. The most common lane, especially later in life. Get rich slowly. Work a job, live frugally, save for retirement in a 401(k), enjoy it 40 years later. Wealth is a slow process with a payoff someday. Wealth = Job + Market Investments. Primary income source: job.
  • The ‘Fastlane’: Wealth. Time is the most important asset. Money is abundant. Wealth is a process, not an event. Wealth = Net Profit + Asset Value. Primary income source: business systems and investments.

This book is about the Fastlane.

About Luck

  • Luck is a product of process, action, work, and being “out there”. And when you are “out there”, you stand a chance at being in the right place at the right time.
  • To create luck, engage in processes so probabilities move from nothing, to something. Luck is introduced when you play. If you don’t play, you can’t win.
  • In short: Do something, and your opportunities, understanding, and ‘luck’ will expand.


  • Sidewalkers love events but hate process. Sidewalkers seek “big hits” because their belief system tells them wealth is an event.
  • If you find yourself playing the odds of “big hits”, you are event-driven, not process-driven. This mindset is conducive to the Sidewalk, not the Fastlane.
  • The biggest anchor to the Sidewalk is to entrust your financial plan to others, or worse, no one.
  • Another anchor is to seek a wealth chauffeur; someone else that can drive the journey for you. This mindset makes you vulnerable to victimhood.
  • With increased responsibilities, perhaps a growing family, mounting debts, and future expectations not matching reality, the Sidewalker comes to terms with the uncertainty of the Sidewalk. He does the seemingly responsible lane change: He off-ramps and graduates to the Slowlane roadmap, a strategy touted and praised by credible sources.


  • Jobs suck because they’re rooted in limited leverage and limited control.
  • The 2008 global recession exposed the Slowlane for the fraud it is. With no job, the plan fails. When the stock market loses 50 % of your savings, the plan fails. When a housing crisis erases 40 % of your illiquid net worth in one year, the plan fails.
  • The plan is a failure because the plan is based on time and factors you can’t control.
  • “Pay yourself first” is a Slowlane doctrine. The problem is that it’s near impossible in a job.
  • A Slowlaner will try to manipulate their weak mathematical universe by trying to make the variables malleable: Manipulate intrinsic value by increasing hours worked; Manipulate intrinsic value by changing jobs or adding jobs; Manipulate intrinsic value by going back to school; manipulate compound interest by seeking better investment yields; manipulate compound interest by expanding investment time horizon; manipulate compound interest by increasing the investment.
  • Indentured time is time you spend earning a living. It is the opposite of free time.
  • Parasitic debt is debt that creates indentured time and forces work.

The Paradox of Practice–or Do as I Say, Not as I Did

  • A Paradox of Practice exists when someone promotes a money-making strategy but that strategy is not what made them rich. In other words, they’re not practitioners of their own advice. These people effectively teach one wealth equation (the Slowlane) while they get rich leveraging another (the Fastlane).
  • Are you being sold one wealth equation while the player of the game uses another?
  • In a 2007 article Suze Orman was quoted as admitting to having the bulk of her wealth (an estimated $ 25 million) in bonds, primarily municipals. Additionally, she admits that only 4% of her wealth is tied-up in the stock market because “if I lose a million dollars, personally I don’t care.”
  • It’s clear that Orman acquired the $35 million not through the stock market, IRA, bonds, and treasuries; she acquired it by using the Fastlane roadmap, amassing wealth, then pouring that wealth into these instruments.


  • The Fastlane is characterized by Controllable Unlimited Leverage(CUL), hence creating an optimal environment for rapid wealth creation and extraordinary lifestyles.
  • Pay attention to these four segments: Controllable Unlimited Leverage (maximize control), Business (your own business and self-employment), Lifestyle (a commitment of blended beliefs, processes, and actions), and Rapid Wealth Creation.
  • Debt Perception: Debt is useful if it allows me to build and grow my system.
  • Time Perception: Time is the most important asset I have, far exceeding money.
  • Education Perception: The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop growing. Constant expansion of knowledge and awareness is critical to my journey.
  • Money Perception: Money is everywhere, and it’s extremely abundant. Money is a reflection of how many lives I’ve touched. Money reflects the value I’ve created.
  • Primary Income Source: I earn income via my business systems and investments.
  • Primary Wealth Accelerator: I make something from nothing. I give birth to assets and make them valuable to the marketplace. Other times, I take existing assets and add value to them.
  • Wealth Perception: Build business systems for cash flow and asset valuation. Wealth Equation: Wealth = Net Profit + Asset Value Strategy: The more I help, the richer I become in time, money, and personal fulfillment.
  • Destination: Lifetime passive income, either through business or investments. Responsibility & Control: Life is what I make it. My financial plan is entirely my responsibility and I choose how I react to my circumstances.
  • Life Perception: My dreams are worth pursuing no matter how outlandish, and I understand it will take time and money to make those dreams real.
  • The Fastlane is about building a better system, a better contraption, a better product, or a better “something” that will leverage your work. In the Slowlane, you are the source of heavy lifting, while in the Fastlane, you construct a system that does it for you.
  • On your wealth road trip, the Slowlane roadmap asks that you endure a long, tiresome walk to wealth. The toil of wealth is the process itself. In the Fastlane, wealth is driven in a business system you create — the toil is the creation and management of the system itself.
  • Decoding the Fastlane roadmap is as simple as joining the team that is custodian to the decryption key. The winning team is Team Producer. Reshape life’s focus on producing, not consuming. When you reframe your thinking from majority thinking (consumer) to minority thinking (producer), you effectively switch teams and allegiances. Yes, become a producer first and a consumer second.

To transition to the Fastlane, switch from consumption to production.

Switch from Consumption to Production

  • To consume richly, produce richly first. Most people have it backward: consumption and no production. Producers get rich. Consumers get poor. Switch teams and reorient as a producer first, a consumer second. Attract wealth, don’t chase it.
  • To switch teams and become a producer, you need to be an entrepreneur and an innovator. You need to be a visionary and a creator. You need to give birth to a business and offer the world value.

Accelerating Wealth

  • The primary wealth accelerant of the rich is appreciable and controllable assets. Within our Fastlane wealth equation, this second component is called “Asset Value.” Asset value is simply the worth of any property you own that has marketplace value.
  • The rich accelerate wealth by accelerating asset value and selling those upgraded assets in the marketplace.
  • The key to the Fastlane wealth equation is to have a high speed limit, or an unlimited range of values for units sold. This creates leverage. The market for your product or service determines your upper limit.

Seedlings that Become Money Trees

There are five business seedlings to money trees. These aren’t absolute and can intersect with one another.

  1. Rental Systems: The product is rented, not bought. Real estate, rental services, licensing.
  2. Computer / Software Systems: SaaS, websites and applications, enterprise software, video games.
  3. Content Systems: books, web content, systems of information.
  4. Distribution Systems: move products to the masses (e.g., Amazon).
  5. Human Resource Systems: The product requires people/employees to operate. Restaurants, consulting (you). Delivering the product is contingent on someone’s time.

Leverage Compound Interest (But Not To Slowly Create Wealth)

  • Just like education, Fastlaners and Slowlaners leverage compound interest differently. Slowlaners use compound interest to get wealthy, while Fastlaners use it to create income and liquidity. The difference: Slowlaners start with $5; Fastlaners start with $ 5 million.
  • When a rich politician or public figure discloses his finances, notice the common themes. Their wealth comes from business interests, while liquid cash reserves are tied into fixed income securities like municipal bonds, treasuries, and other highly liquid investments. The rich aren’t using the markets to create wealth; they’re increasing their existing wealth with leveraged business assets.
  • Fastlaners realize that the compound interest weapon is most effective with large sums of money. For compound interest to be effective, you must bypass 30 years of mathematical ineptitude by riding the crest where it is effective.
  • A 5% tax-free yield on $ 10 million suddenly creates a $ 500,000 per year passive income. Like a tidal wave at the seashore, compound interest rears excruciating force when pitted against large sums of money. This is where money transforms into a fully passive income stream.
  • As for earning your $10 million(or more), that solution lies in exponential leveraged growth stemming from a Fastlane business — net income plus asset value — NOT in expenses, NOT in the stock market, and NOT in a job.

If you want to get rich, start observing the true law of the universe: MATH.

Scale, Magnitude, Source, and the Law of Effection

The Law of Effection: the more lives you affect in an entity you control, in scale or magnitude, the richer you will become. Affect millions and make millions.

  • To exploit the Law of Effection, your business needs to make an impact of either scale or magnitude, or both. Within our Fastlane wealth equation, “scale” and “magnitude” are implicit to our “net profit” variable.
  • Make a giant impact a few times or make a small impact millions of times.
  • Effection of scale or magnitude always precedes money, either directly or indirectly. The more lives you impact, directly or indirectly, the more wealth you will attract.
  • An example of SCALE is reflected on our Fastlane roadmap via the profit variable in our wealth equation: units sold. If you sell 20 million pens and make 75 cents profit on each, you just earned $ 15 million. This is having an impact on SCALE with tiny MAGNITUDE. Obviously, selling a writing pen doesn’t have a major impact on anyone’s life. The wealth is transmuted via SCALE, not magnitude.
  • Scale creates millionaires. Magnitude creates millionaires. Scale and magnitude creates billionaires.
  • Retrace the source of millionaire money and you will find millions of something.
  • There are three barricades that prevent entrepreneurs from realizing the Law of Effection: Scale, Magnitude, and Source. Effection’s strongest barricade is scale.
  • For example, as an author, I have scale, and with scale, the Law of Effection is accessible.
  • How many lives have you touched ? Who has benefited from your work, your assets, and your handiwork? What problems have you solved? What value are you to society? If you’re working the front desk at a hotel, you simply aren’t making much of an impact, and your bank account will represent that same fact. The amount of money you have(or don’t have) is a direct reflection on the amount of value you have provided(or not provided).
  • Joe Magnitude owns a company that develops commercial real estate. He develops 14 office complexes and partitions the offices into condos. Each fully sold complex profits him $ 400,000(magnitude) × 14(scale) equals $ 5,600,000.
  • Joe Scale writes a book detailing a diet of the stars. He sells 800,000 copies(scale) and earns $ 7 per copy(magnitude). He earns the same amount: $ 5,600,000.

To ‘Pay Yourself First’, Own Yourself

  • If your primary income source comes from a job, your ability to pay yourself first is paralyzed because the governments are paid first! For “pay yourself first” to be legitimate, you truly need to pay yourself first in infinite amounts and the government last. You must own your vehicle.
  • To own your vehicle(you), start a corporation that formally divorces you from the act of business. Your corporation is the body of your surrogate.
  • Assuming a US – based business, the best business structures for your Fastlane business are: 1) C corporation 2) S corporation 3) Limited liability corporation. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but all share two common benefits: limitation of liability and tax efficiency.

Avoid Treasonous Choices

  • The leading cause of poorness is poor choices.
  • You are exactly where you decide to be. And if that’s unhappiness, you need to start making better choices.
  • People don’t choose to be poor. They make poor decisions that slowly assemble into a poorness puzzle.
  • Treasonous choices are actions that do irreparable harm to your life, your dreams, and your goals. The consequences of treasonous choices throw life onto unintended detours and hazardous roads that are difficult to escape and often times, permanent.
  • The smallest choices made in your daily life create habits and lifestyle that forms process — they are the ones that can make the biggest impact. You can’t decide to “go Fastlane” because that itself is just an event. A Fastlane process is hundreds of choices.

How to Change Your Life

  • How do you upload new beliefs and overwrite the old ones? Find the information, resources, and the people that align with the new beliefs.
  • Changing your life starts with changing choices. The Fastlane vehicle to wealth is driven on choice, not asphalt. You start making better choices using two strategies dependent on the decision’s gravity: Worse Case Consequence Analysis (WCCA) and Weighted Average Decision Matrix (WADM).
  • WCCA is designed to steer you away from perilous detours and treasonous choices. Conversely, WADM is designed to help you make better big decisions with multiple contingencies.
  • WCCA asks you to answer three questions about every decision of consequence: 1) What is the worst – case consequence of this choice ? 2) What is the probability of this outcome ? 3) Is this an acceptable risk ?
  • Your memories carry the same makeup as your choices. They’re treasonous, muted, or accelerative. Unlike choice’s consequences, you have a choice how your past is classified. The records of the past can be sealed.
  • Fastlaners understand that time is the gas tank of life. When the gas tank runs dry, life ends. Time is the greatest asset you own, not money.
  • Education: in the Slowlane, education is used to elevate intrinsic value, while in the Fastlane it is used to facilitate and grow the business system. Also, Fastlane education is secured by methods that do not produce parasitic debt or conformity. The purpose of education within the Fastlane is to amplify the power of the money tree and the business system. You’re not a cog in the wheel ; you learn to build the wheel.
  • The right road must lead to wealth and carry real probabilities ! How ? Your road must go near or through the Law of Effection.

How To Illuminate Your Road

To light the Law of Effection and illuminate your Fastlane road, cross-examine it against the Five Fastlane Commandments, the CENTS framework:

  1. Control: No one can derail me
  2. Entry: This isn’t easy
  3. Need: I want what you offer
  4. Time: This exists on its own
  5. Scale: This is useful to many

A road meeting all five commandments can make you filthy rich fast. As violations accrue, the road degrades in its wealth potential, and with it, your ability to get near Effection also degrades.

While it’s possible to violate one or more commandments and still create wealth quickly, you should aim for a road that satisfies all five commandments. Potent roads are potent wealth creators.

The Commandment of Control

* To hit big money or legendary money, you need to control every aspect of your system. When you relinquish control and defer power to a higher authority, you cede big money to the driver and accept good money as the passenger.
* When you control your business, you control everything in your business — your organization, your products, your pricing, your revenue model, and your operational choices. If you can’t control every aspect of your company, you’re not driving!
* Think manufacture, not retail.
* Hitchhiking a Fastlane is an epidemic that deceives many would-be entrepreneurs.

The Commandment of Entry

* As entry barriers to any business road fall, or lessen, the effectiveness of that road declines while competition in that field subsequently strengthens.
* Higher entry barriers equate to stronger, more powerful roads with less competition and less need for exceptionality.
* Want to know if your business violates entry? The answer is simple: Is getting into business an event or a process? Real business startups are processes, not events.

The Commandment of Need

  • Businesses that solve needs win.
  • Needs can be pain points, service gaps, unsolved problems, or emotional disconnects. Ninety percent of all new businesses fail because they are based on selfish internal needs, not external market needs.
  • Money chasers haven’t broken free from selfishness, and their businesses often follow their own selfish needs.
  • People vote for your business with their money.
  • People must care about what your business can do for them. How will it help them? What’s in it for them? Will it solve their problem? Make their life easier? Provide them with shelter? Save them money? Educate them? Make them feel something? What value are you adding to my life? Consumers are selfish. They demand to know is “what’s in it for me ! ”
  • To succeed as a producer, surrender your own selfishness and address the selfishness of others. Stop chasing money and start chasing needs.
  • Stop thinking about business in terms of your selfish desires, whether it’s money, dreams or “do what you love. ” Instead, chase needs, problems, pain points, service deficiencies, and emotions.
  • Money chasers are consumers who haven’t quite made the transition to producer. They want to be producers, but they selfishly think like consumers.
  • Money is like a mischievous cat; if you chase it around the neighborhood, it eludes you. It hides up a tree, behind the rose bush, or in the garden. However, if you ignore it and focus on what attracts the cat, it comes to you and sits in your lap. Money isn’t attracted to selfish people. It is attracted to businesses that solve problems. It’s attracted to people who fill needs and add value. Solve needs massively and money massively attracts. The amount of money in your life is merely a reflection to the amount of value you have given to others. Ignore this symbiosis and money will ignore you.
  • In a world of selfishness, become unselfish.
  • Make 1 million people achieve any of the following:
    • Make them feel better.(entertainment, music, video games)
    • Help them solve a problem.Educate them.
    • Make them look better(health, nutrition, clothing, makeup).
    • Give them security(housing, safety, health).
    • Raise a positive emotion(love, happiness, laughter, self – confidence).
    • Satisfy appetites, from basic(food) to the risqué(sexual).
    • Make things easier.
    • Enhance their dreams and give hope.
    • For “do what you love” to work, you need two things: 1) Your love must solve a need and 2) You must be exceptional at it.
    • Authoring a book is a crowded space. Just because I love to write doesn’t guarantee money will follow. In fact, no one cares that I love to write. Do you? Of course not! You want to know if my writing will help you.
    • Passion for an end goal, a why, drives Fastlane action.

The Commandment of Time

  • The goal: passive income and a vibrant money tree.
  • The goal of the Fastlane is a disconnection of your time from income. A business attached to your time is a job.
  • Net Profit = Units Sold × Unit Profit. If “units sold ” has a ceiling, you stifle leverage. Without leverage, you can’t create wealth exponentially.
  • Reach or Magnitude = Scale

The Commandment of Scale

  • Scale is about leverage, and leverage is what gives the Fastlane wealth equation its power.
  • Business leverage is like a playing field, or a habitat of water. You can choose to inhabit the ocean or a pool at the local park.
  • There are six business habitats:
    • Local/community (pool)
    • County/city (pond)
    • Statewide (lagoon)
    • Regional (lake)
    • National (sea)
    • Worldwide (ocean)
  • Scale is difficult to find locally or in a pool that fits only a small number of people. Sure, it can be done, but it requires magnitude, and magnitude doesn’t come cheap. If you own a tanning salon, your habitat is local. If you own an upscale restaurant, your habitat is county/city. If you own an Internet company, your habitat is worldwide.
  • Business is like baseball. Play on a field where you can hit home runs; don’t play on a field where they’re prohibited! Be in the business of home runs, not singles.
  • Most entrepreneurs undertake “singles-only” businesses. The home run is impossible and their habitat shriveled. If you’re a massage therapist, you’ll never have 10,000 patrons outside your door. There is no leverage! And if you don’t have leverage in the Fastlane equation, you don’t have a chance.
  • Reach, or magnitude equals scale.
  • To achieve scale, magnitude or reach must increase. Magnitude is naturally increased with price or cost.
  • Reach, exclusive of magnitude, also achieves scale. Reach is massive numbers. The more people you reach, the greater scale potential. Who does your business serve? The local neighborhood? Or the world? The bigger your pool of play, the bigger your potential for wealth.

The Five Commandments of Fastlane Purity

  1. Thou shalt not invest in a needless business.
  2. Thou shalt not trade time for money.
  3. Thou shalt not operate on a limited scale.
  4. Thou shalt not relinquish control.
  5. Thou shalt not let a business startup be an event over process.

The Most Potent Fastlane Roads: The Three Interstates

The most potent Fastlane roads are the “Three I’s, ” or “Three Interstates, ” because they possess the fastest upper speed limits and meet, or can meet, all five Fastlane commandments. They are: 1) Internet 2) Innovation 3) Intentional Iteration.

Finding Open Roads

  • Have you ever wondered why people sell get-rich-quick books and yet the content is just regurgitated blather from 30 prior books ? The authors know that authoring is a potent Fastlane.
  • The challenge of any authoring Fastlane is never the book or the words themselves. Some of the greatest books in the world go unread, while the mediocre stuff sells millions. The difference lies in marketing, public relations, and just good old – fashioned business know – how. Writing a book is not a business; selling the book is.
  • You’ve got a great idea, but someone is already doing it ? So what. Do it better. “Someone is doing it” is a monumental illusion imposing as an impassable obstacle. Someone is always already doing it. The bigger question is, can you do it better ? Can you fill the need better, offer greater value, or be a better marketer ?
  • Successful businesses rarely evolve from some legendary idea; successful entrepreneurs take existing concepts and improve them. They take poorly met needs and solve them better.
  • Skip the big idea and go for the big execution.
  • “I hate…” What do you hate ? Solve the hate, and there’s your open road.
  • “I don’t like…” What don’t you like ? Remove the dislike, and there’s your open road.
  • “This frustrates me… ” What is frustrating ? Remove the frustration, and there’s your open road.
  • “Why is this like this ? ” I don’t know, why is it ? Remove the “why” and there’s your open road.
  • “Do I have to ?” Do you ? Remove the “have to.” There’s your open road.
  • “I wish there was…” What do you wish ? If you wish, others wish too. Make wishes come true, and there’s your open road.
  • “I’m tired of… ” What are you tired of ? Fix someone’s tiresomeness, and there’s your open road.
  • “This sucks…” What sucks ? Remove or reduce suckage, and there’s your open road.
  • The opportunities of open roads come in easily painted language: Discomfort, distress, inconvenience, complaints, problems, and performance gaps. You must attack these challenges and introduce solutions — offer solutions to the masses and I guarantee money will follow ! Moral: Solve other people’s problems and you will solve your own money problems.
  • Opportunities are rarely about inventing breakthroughs, but about performance gaps, small inconveniences, and pain points.
  • Fastlane success resides in execution, not in the idea.

Getting To Your Destination

  • Your destination is the lifestyle you want while having the freedom to enjoy it. There are two strategies to hit your destination. The first is a money system in which you save enough money that is large enough to support your lifestyle through monthly interest and dividends. The second is a business system that spawns passive cash flow that supports your lifestyle AND simultaneously funds your money system. To make this happen, you need targets. Specifically, how much money will you and your family need ? What is the price for the freedom and lifestyle you want ?
  • 1) Define the Lifestyle 2) Assess the Cost 3) Set the Targets 4) Make It Real
    • Step 1: Define the Lifestyle: Define the lifestyle you want and its associated costs. Do you want the big house or the nonprofit foundation ? What exactly do you want ? Write everything down.
    • Step 2: Assess the Cost: Determine the monthly cost for each, including all associated expenses ; taxes, utilities, maintenance, insurance, etc. Don’t forget life overhead, such as health insurance, food, etc. Three cars: $ 2,000 House: $ 5,000 Cabin: $ 1,000 Travel: $ 1,000 Private School: $ 1,000 Lifestyle Cost = $ 10,000 / month Next, determine your monthly allowance and other unknowns. This is for stuff like clothes, gadgets, toys for the children, entertainment, etc. Add this to your Lifestyle Cost to arrive at your Gross Living Cost. Gross Living Cost = $ 10,000 / mo.(Lifestyle Cost) + $ 4,000 / mo.(Allowances) Gross Living Cost = $ 14,000 / mo. Next, determine your Net Living Cost by dividing Gross Living Cost by. 60, or 60 %. This will account for potential taxes. Net Living Cost = $ 14,000 /. 60 = $ 23,333 / mo.
    • Step 3: Set the Targets: The goal of this step is to set your two targets: the business system income target and the money system target. To calculate your money system target, multiply your Net Living Cost by 12, then divide by. 05, or 5 %. Five percent is the minimum expected yield on a money system. Money System Target =($ 23,333 × 12) /. 05 = $ 5,599,920 For your business system target, multiply your Gross Living Cost by 5, the required parameter to achieve a similar result by a money system. Business System Target =($ 14,000 × 5) = $ 70,000 / mo. These are your two targets. First, seek to create a business system that generates $ 70,000 / month in passive monthly income. Of this income, 40 % goes to taxes, 40 % goes to fund your money system, and 20 % pays your lifestyle. This delivers your target lifestyle AND simultaneously funds your money system. The other target is your passive income from a lump – sum money system. To enjoy your designated lifestyle supported by a money system, your target number is $ 5,599,920. Five percent interest on this amount is roughly $ 23,000 monthly, which covers lifestyle and taxes.
    • Step 4: Make It Real: Get started today by looking three feet in front of you, not three miles. A long gaze at the mountain crest will overwhelm you, so stop looking at it.
  • Fund your money system at a brokerage firm. Designate an account that represents your money system. Typically, most brokerage accounts require a minimum $ 1,000 deposit. If you already have an account, pick an income fund that yields at least 5 % yearly and move the funds there. Or alternatively, you can open a trading account and leverage cheaper and regularly traded Exchange Traded Funds(ETFs) instead of a traditional mutual fund.
  • Fastlane wealth is created by the net income and asset value — not by the stock market or compound interest. Your Fastlane business should fund this account, not savings from your paycheck.
  • Get rudimentary knowledge of basic financial concepts.
  • Slowlaners seek to minimize expenses while the Fastlaner seeks to maximize income and asset values.

Play Chess, Not Checkers

  • Success requires that you drop the checkers and start strategizing multi – dimensionally like a chess player. How? You treat each business function like a chess piece. How they’re played will fate your Fastlane for speed or aimless drifting.
  • The King: Your execution
  • The Queen: Your marketing
  • The Bishop: Your customer service
  • The Knight: Your product
  • The Rook: Your people
  • The Pawn: Your ideas.
  • An idea is the event, the execution is the process.
  • Within our Fastlane chess game, ideas (pawns) are potential speed, while execution(the king) is the pressure applied to the accelerator.
  • Real money and momentum is created when an idea (potential speed) is matched with execution (accelerator pressure).
  • Look Big, Act Small.

Avoid Commoditization

  • Commoditization is a product or service that appears homogeneous among providers. For example: air travel. Most people aren’t loyal to any airline, they’re loyal to the best price. The product becomes commoditized.
  • People tend to make buying decisions for commoditized goods and services based on one metric: price.
  • If you don’t fall prey to commoditization, it’s because the business has done a good job differentiating its product from the alternatives.

Just Get Started

  • Get onto a Fastlane road. But don’t worry if you can’t decide which road; the road can pick you.
  • Train your mind to see needs, problems, and ways to improve things. Observe your thoughts and language, because they expose unmet needs, or needs met poorly.
  • You don’t have to find the next breakthrough ; just find an improvement opportunity, a pain point, or a service gap, and solve it.


Page Count

Shelf of old books

Today I was organizing my collection of book reading notes, and wondered: how many books have I read in my lifetime? I made a wild (and probably generous) guess: a few thousand.

I recently saw a clip of the old TV show Cosmos. As Carl Sagan strolled through a library, he said if we read a book a week our entire adult life, it would only be a tenth of a percent of all the books in just that library. “The trick”, he says, “is to know which books to read”.

So I wondered: how many more books can I read in my lifetime? Given my age and the average male life expectancy, if I read a book a week from today until the day I die I could probably squeeze in about a thousand.

A thousand books. It sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Not to me. And every week, whether I read a book or not, that theoretical number decreases. In a few decades, it could be less than a hundred. Soon after that–less than a dozen. Imagine walking into a library or bookstore and thinking “I’ve only got enough time to read another dozen books or so.”

About 600,000 to one million books published every year. There’s not enough time to read even a tiny fraction of them. If I used my hypothetical limit of a thousand to read only the most esteemed books of the past, it wouldn’t be enough. I’d barely scratch the surface.

I think of this now as I look at the tall stack of ‘books to read’ sitting nearby. Which ones should I read? Where should I spend that finite allotment of book reading time? Will I only get to read a dozen more? A hundred? Or maybe one of the books in that stack be the last one I read. Who knows? What I do know is that eventually a book I pick up will be the last, and the rest will go unread.

I’d better get reading.

Gentrification’s Wheel

Gentrification is complex. Many say it’s better than the alternative. In many American cities, “blighted” areas are redeveloped or otherwise transformed, often with significant help from local government. Rarely do citizens spontaneously change the makeup of a neighborhood; it’s an act imposed from outside, using money and (sometimes) good intentions.

And gentrification isn’t always about blight: The Rue des Rosiers, a centuries-old Jewish neighborhood in Paris (and by centuries-old, I mean since the Middle Ages), is undergoing the slow, inexorable crush of gentrification. Here’s an example of how gentrification, driven by the profit motive and executed with tools like tourism and hyper-consumerism, trashes a centuries-old ethnic neighborhood in a matter of a few years:

The district has been losing a vital chunk of its Jewish character to high-end designer labels in a slow transformation that residents say is reaching a turning point. Local officials estimate that as many as 20 Jewish shops in the compact quarter have given way to clothing stores in the past four years.

And now all that is left, as Cheryl Shanks described in the Nine Quandaries of Tourism, is mostly artificial authenticity:

“What remains is a sort of optical illusion,” said Jean Laloum, a historian at France ‘s National Center for Scientific Research, and contributor to a city-sponsored history of the surrounding neighborhood. “Tourists come to visit a sort of ghetto with an identity … which they read about in the guidebooks, but which today, in reality is gone.”

Why? It was a thriving neighborhood. For centuries. People who live there identify strongly with it, wanted it to remain vibrant and real. Not to be static, necessarily, but to remain a cohesive, connected neighborhood with a strong identity, as it had for centuries. But the inevitable forces of “progress” won’t be denied; this neighborhood, which even survived the Nazi occupation and its accompanying deportations, has mostly fallen prey to gentrification. Moshe Engelberg, who ran a Jewish restaurant in the district, gives us a clue at how the wheels turn:

After the city required Engelberg to make costly upgrades to the restaurant, he consulted a rabbi for advice, and concluded that renovating –a concept he didn’t believe in anyway –wasn’t worth the trouble.”It’s not the feeling of the ghetto anymore, it ‘s the feeling of something modern, without a soul,” said Engelberg.

And so it goes, then: first the removal of the authentic:

“They destroyed the oldest Jewish quarter in France in a matter of five years,” said Michel Kalifa, a kosher butcher and president of an association fighting to hold onto the area’s Jewishness.

…then the installation of the facade:

The mayor also said she hoped to install a Holocaust memorial library in the former Jo Goldenberg diner.

Of course not everyone loves the place. Many love gentrification or aren’t too nostalgic or attached to the identity of the district:

“It’s normal that we transform all this,” he [Buchwald] said. “We can ‘t always stay in the Middle Ages. “Leaning forward, he winked, and nodded toward the luxury clothing shops now entirely covering the western half of the street. “You know, the boutiques that are here, they’re Jews who run them,” he said.

It’s tempting to look at gentrification as some kind of manifestation of inevitable change. Urban planners even speak of growth as something to be accommodated or managed, not questioned, and recast it as ‘smart growth‘ or a similarly clever concept.

But I see it differently: instead of nurturing and protecting the delicate webs of communities, we instead treat them like a gigantic Lego set, consisting of interchangeable parts that can be (literally) lifted and dropped into place. Remove the old house, drop in a multi-story mixed use building.

This has a host of outcomes: forced diversity (of incomes, backgrounds, you name it) breeds resentment; racial tensions arise from economic bulldozing; hyper-consumers flatten whole ecosystems, then fly across the globe to those that are not yet destroyed. There are too many things like this to list.

But community, so much more fragile than a Lego set, rarely survives gentrification and externally applied pressure. And so I think we’ve become schizophrenic, craving that which destroys us but unable to choose differently in a way that requires wisdom, multi-generational patience and a deep regard for the limits of places and the fragility of their inherent connections. Our current way of life, in fact, cannot exist without trampling such limits.

Water We Waiting For?


Note: This first appeared in The Oregonian newspaper on June 18, 2007.

One of Portland’s best opportunities to be “green” is going down the drain.
Over three feet of rain falls on Portland’s buildings and streets every year,
flowing across millions of square feet of concrete, roofs and roads into 2,000
miles of sewer lines. Overflow from heavy rains goes directly to nearby
streams and rivers, such as the already ecologically overburdened
Willamette. Though well intended, “Green streets” and stormwater
management efforts divert only a small fraction of this sewer and river-
bound deluge.

As a result, homeowners pay an average of over $75 a month in stormwater
charges on their water bill. To keep pace, Portland has embarked on ambitious
efforts like the Big Pipe Project, which cost nearly $1.5 billion. But every year, more sewer infrastructure is designed, built and repaired to keep up with the city’s rapid growth and demand.

Surprisingly, fresh water is scarce: Less than 2 percent of the world’s entire
water supply is drinkable without desalinization or purification. And, a recent
U.N. report estimates that within the next 20 years, over two-thirds of us will
face fresh water shortages.

In Portland, we’re already placing a strain on our fresh water supply system:
Despite plentiful rainfall, we’ve repeatedly faced water shortages, largely due
to demand and our dependence on one main source — the Bull Run
Watershed — to meet most of our needs.

Europeans, for example, have already seen the value of this precious
resource and are moving ahead in leaps and bounds: they install over an
estimated 100,000 rainwater collection systems annually. In China, where
they’ve practiced rainwater collection for thousands of years, millions rely on
rainwater for household uses and the country is aggressively developing
technology and pursuing ways to make this ancient practice more

Despite Portland’s “green” reputation, we’re far behind in this and other
aspects of ecological design and practice. If we really are green — why not
make Portland the model for water use for the rest of the nation, or even
the world?

Within a few decades, every building in Portland could be providing much of
its water needs through use of affordable, efficient collection systems, many
of which are decidedly low-tech and already exist. Portland could become a
world leader in development and innovation, creating technology and
practices that would benefit the region and the rest of the world.

More importantly, collecting rainwater would transform our city and its rivers
and streams. It would reduce the need for sewer infrastructure, make us
less dependent on one main source of water and be a huge, positive step
towards a more local and ecologically sustainable way of life.

Let’s be bold. Invest in developing rainwater harvesting technology and
making it simple, affordable and ubiquitous. Give homeowners real
incentives for installing collection systems. Require those collection systems
on every new building within the next 5-10 years and make it financially

If we can do that, the rest of the world will be green with envy.

What I Learned From Writing and Self-Publishing a Nonfiction Book

How to Get Started as a Technical Writer

In 2012, I wrote and published the book How to Get Started As A Technical Writer. I did it without any preparation, marketing plan, mailing list, or ‘book deal’–nothing but an idea and a self-imposed deadline. Now, I’d like to share my experience–one person’s journey from self-doubt to success.

Why did I write a book?

Like many people, I’d fantasized for years about writing a book but never took it seriously enough to sit down and write one. But in 2012, I found myself looking for a new job after a layoff and discouraged by job hunting. I also had a toddler in the house, and the fantasy of “taking some time off” collided with the reality of “I need another job”. Writing a book was the last thing I expected to do.

One day, as I sat in my basement home office taking stock of my job search efforts, I found myself making a list of “things I want to write”. The very last item on the list was ‘how to get a technical writing job’. I put that list aside, distracted by other things. But when I looked at the list again a few days later, that last item stood out in bold.

At first, I thought “this would make a great blog post”. I spent an hour or two making an outline, and by the end I realized: this could be a book. Then: I could write this. It was an exhilarating feeling, and I hadn’t even started yet.

Before writing the book, I had nearly 20 years’ experience as a technical writer in the software and hardware industry. In those 20 years I was asked dozens of times “how do I break into technical writing?” It was a perennial question often asked by people with liberal arts degrees, or career-changers who heard the word ‘writer’ and saw the booming tech industry as a place to be. And as a technical writer, explaining things to people was something I enjoyed doing.

So, I had what a publisher might call a sellable proposal: experience, an idea, and a possible audience.

But even then I had a lot of self-doubt; my wife, on hearing me explain it out loud, didn’t have those doubts. “Just write the damn book”, she said. And so I started.

How I wrote the book

I tracked my efforts: it took 54 days of daily effort to write the book, from start to finish.

To write it, I followed a simplified version of the general process I’d used to write software manuals:

  1. Identify and analyze the audience: what are their goals and problems? What do they want and need to know and do? How will they use the book? I already had a good idea of this.
  2. Outline: because I began with a clear idea of the contents, the basic outline wrote itself, and only changed slightly as I got closer to finishing the book.
  3. Write and edit
  4. Prepare for publication: Formatting and preparation for distribution as an ebook.

The first step was fairly easy for me; I’d been in the industry for a long time, had heard all the questions people asked, and had a good sense of the challenges involved. Plus, I’d interviewed a lot of technical writers over the years, and had my own sense of what it took.

I also knew my general strategy:

  • Focus on getting the first job, not how to do the work: I wanted to write a book focused on how to get your first technical writing job, not how to do the work itself–there are already many books on the process and technique of technical writing (this turned out to be a key distinction that many readers didn’t get).
  • Keep it short, sweet, and practical: The book needed to be concise, not too long, and have practical activities that readers could do to accumulate information they could use in their own job search.
  • Ignore the rules and ‘best practices’: I’m happiest when writing in a direct, personal style, and that’s what I wanted to do with the book. Much of what the book ended up containing isn’t the typical ‘advice’ you’d get from technical writers. I view that as one of its strengths.
  • Write until done: I knew from experience how easy it would be to get distracted or discouraged, and to put the book aside for ‘later’. So, I committed to writing daily until I finished.

How (and why) I self-published the book

At first, all I knew was that I wanted to see the book in print. I wasn’t sure how.

I knew several people who wrote technical books for publishers like O’Reilly, Wiley, and Microsoft Press, and I’d heard their experiences: months of rewrites and editorial passes, with varying degrees of control over the end product–and mediocre pay for a significant amount of work. The average ‘contract to publication’ pipeline seemed to run 12-18 months. As in fiction, the ‘prestige’ of a publisher putting out your nonfiction book means a lot to some; but I didn’t care about that. I wanted:

  • Complete control over the book, including the pricing, format, and distribution
  • To make the book available as soon as possible, to as many people as possible
  • The option to publish updates when I wanted to

It was clear from the beginning that I always wanted to publish the book myself.

I’d bought books directly from authors (mostly technical ebooks) for several years. While writing my book, I also stumbled across a few blogs of self-published fiction writers, and looked at how they sold what they wrote.

I soon realized I wanted a kind of hybrid of those two: I didn’t have the time (or established audience) to sell the book myself off my own website, but I wanted an established way to distribute the book as widely as possible.

The ‘traditional’ advice for self-publishing a book is to first establish an audience, and promote your book to them even before you publish it, building a list of willing buyers who will make a successful launch. I didn’t follow that advice; not because it isn’t a good idea or doesn’t work, but because I wanted to move faster.

Amazon turned out to be the best answer–automated distribution, some algorithmic promotion on Amazon sites, and a fast, low-friction write-to-publish process. In other words, Amazon had the distribution and audience.

So, I chose Amazon. I heard self-published fiction writers rave about how easy it was to publish and distribute, and I could earn most of the cover price.

I won’t describe the entire process of publishing your own book on Amazon, but when I published my book, the basic process went something like this:

  1. Set up an Amazon account
  2. Format and convert your book into Amazon-mandated ebook format ( .mobi, used by Amazon’s Kindle).
  3. Design and include the cover (Amazon provides templates and guidelines)
  4. Upload the files for validation. Amazon checks the files, and when they’re approved, they’re ready for publication.
  5. Click to publish: When I did this, the book was available on Amazon in less than a day.

It’s really that simple. I also published a print-on-demand version, which involved a separate (but similar) set of steps through a partner service called CreateSpace (today, Amazon owns CreateSpace and it’s all one process).

The first year after publication


Amazon (and others, too) set an upper price limit (I think it was $9.99), but made the rest easy: if my book was $2.98 or less, I earned 30% of the cover price; if $2.99 or more, 70%. I introduced the book at $4.99, based on a quick look at related books and what I’d heard about how competitive book pricing was on Amazon and other sites.

The first sale

I sold my first copy of the book on Amazon within 48 hours, and 30 copies (both print and ebook) within the first month. By the third month, I’d sold a few hundred. Every copy sold was cause for celebration, as any author will tell you.

The first review

I got my first review (on Amazon) a week or two after publication. I’d mentioned the upcoming book on a blog, and the blog owner decided to buy and review the book. Four stars. It felt incredible.

Publishing a print (on demand) version

After publishing the book (ebook version) on Amazon, I set about formatting and preparing the book for print on demand. This was a bit trickier then, though I’m not sure why; CreateSpace rejected my book file a few times before it was successful. After approval, it took about three days for it to appear on Amazon. Though it’s simple today, in 2012/2013 you had to do a fair bit of wrangling to get your print and ‘Kindle’ version to appear on the same page.

A crash course in the self-publishing world

While the books were selling on Amazon, I read obsessively about self-publishing and what other options I had. This led me to put the book on Barnes & Noble and a few other services, all as ebooks. I continued to learn about self publishing, and even bought a few books about self-publishing. Most were overwhelmingly focused on publishing fiction. The rest were too generic or self-promotional to be of much use to me.

Sales and (a lack of) promotion

By the end of the first year, I’d sold about 2,000 copies across several services (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo), and with a few clicks the book was available worldwide. I sold many copies outside the US.

All without following any advice about marketing and promotion. I was stunned.

Year two and beyond

The weird and wonderful world of online reviews

As reviews started coming in, first on Amazon but later on sites like Goodreads, I began to see patterns. One and two-star reviews were usually either blunt, terse ‘this sucks’ messages, or a complaint about Amazon itself. On Amazon, the ones I found most useful were three and four-star reviews; these called out potential flaws and reader desires that helped me think about improvements. Five-star reviews are great for the ego, but don’t usually offer much useful feedback.

Eventually, I realized I could safely ignore review comments, or at least take them with a grain of salt. And as far as I could tell, they didn’t seem to affect sales.

Making a website–then abandoning it

Eventually I set up a website, but it contained only two things: links to buy the book from various outlets, and a selection of quotes from the positive reviews the book received on Amazon. I linked this website to the book’s Amazon page and my Amazon author page, and tracked the website traffic for over a year. It received almost no traffic, and not a single visitor clicked one of the purchase links. So I took it down after a few years and let the domain lapse.

Experimenting with an Amazon 24-hour ‘free giveaway’

At the beginning of the second year, I tried one of those ‘free giveaways’ on Amazon. For 24 hours, I made the book free to download and read. There were hundreds of downloads. Afterward, I saw a very slight uptick in sales for a few days, but I attribute those to the slight increase in visibility on Amazon’s site. Then–it went back to normal.

Sneaking my book into the library

After about a year, I wondered how books made it into public libraries, especially self-published ones. After encountering several dead ends, I wondered–couldn’t I just donate my book to the library? Sure enough, my local library system took donations. I called them up, explained that I wanted to donate copies of my book to the library, and they were happy to get them. I dropped them off at the nearest branch, and a few weeks later, they were in circulation.

Eventually, I discovered that my book had made it into eight library systems, scattered around the world from the United States to far-flung locales like New Zealand and Botswana. I can only claim credit for one of them.

Who’s making these large purchases?

After a year or so, as I tracked sales, I noticed periodic purchase of several copies of the book at once–always the print version, and typically in quantities of five or more. One order was for 17. I couldn’t imagine what was happening; was it bookstores? A library? After a bit of Internet sleuthing, I finally stumbled on a clue: a college instructor in Texas had put my book on the required reading list for their class, and it coincided with a large purchase I saw. Bingo. As time passed, I found other mentions of the book in college courses and undergrad papers. This little 85-page book had really gotten around.

Sales decline

Around 2017–about five years or so after I published the book–I noticed a steady decline in sales. It wasn’t sudden or precipitous, but it was steady. Reading around, I found out that this was not only common, but that it usually happened much sooner than five years. And, given the complete absence of effort to promote the book, it’s not surprising. More practically, declining sales on Amazon become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, since the less a book sells, the less likely it is to appear in front of customers viewing the website.


The book is still out there, selling regularly. I still don’t market it. At last count, I’ve sold several thousand copies and earned far more than I expected.

  • Books sold: approximately 13,500 (roughly 60% ebooks, 40% print).
  • Total royalties: I don’t want to quote an exact number, but it’s north of $12k. About a third of that total was in the first year or so.
  • Distribution: Most copies sold in the US, but I’ve sold copies in 14 other countries
  • Libraries and colleges: I’ll never know who’s using the book, but I’ve counted at least four or five colleges, three college papers, and eight libraries who have bought (or wrote about) the book.


The two most common criticisms I’ve heard about the book?

  1. It’s too short
  2. It doesn’t say much about how to do technical writing

I agree with number 1, though the book’s length was intentional. I wanted to focus only on the essentials of getting a job, and to publish that within a few months. I met those goals, but it’s clear that there’s a demand for more information.

Number 2 is more complicated. Despite the book’s explicit title, and explaining its focus in the introduction of the book, a lot of readers also expected to learn how to do technical writing, not just get a first job.

Lessons learned

I know that I made many mistakes and missed out on opportunities to sell my book and better establish my ‘author credentials’. I suspect any established writer who’s self-published will see a lot of mistakes and missteps in what I’ve described here.

1: It’s critical to have something to say, and a potential audience who might want to hear it

I’m the first to admit: I got lucky. I had a lot of professional experience in a subject, and a history of a potential audience asking me about it. Those two helped me know from the start what I wanted to say and who to say it to. But I had no clue if anybody would buy the book or find it useful. So often, I see books in search of readers, rather than the other way around. The most interesting book is a paperweight if nobody reads it.

2: I got what I wanted from self-publishing–mostly

Book publishing (in any genre) is brutal and strange. In ‘traditional’ publishing there are a lot of gatekeepers between you and readers, and those gatekeepers can offer a lot of benefits, typically in marketing and distribution services. But today that’s far less common in any genre, nonfiction or otherwise–publishers expect newer authors to come with an established platform or following, and to participate heavily in their own marketing. Only well-established, successful authors tend to get the concierge treatment from the publishing industry. Book publishing is risky, and publishers are looking to (surprise!) minimize risk and maximize income.

In the end, self-publishing meant I didn’t need to get permission from the publishing industry, an agent, or anybody else. There was a simpler path to readers, and I took it. Self-publishing was viable and easy, and I wouldn’t have gained anything from going the ‘traditional’ publishing route.

But to be clear: Amazon is a gatekeeper too, and I’ve never been entirely comfortable with that. They dictate book format, payouts, and pricing limits, apply DRM (to ebooks), and limit how you can use their services when using competitors. And the Amazon ‘algorithm’–how they determine where and when to promote your book to website visitors–is opaque. You have no access to it. Amazon has a lot of advantages, but they come at a price.

3: Online reviews are an unreliable metric

Like I said before–reviews tend to be either effusive praise, random complaints, or (occasionally) useful feedback. Only one of those categories was useful to me, though I admit to taking the first few 4 and 5-star reviews as proof I had done something right. But after a few years of watching them accumulate, I realized they weren’t a useful measure of how ‘good’ my book was.

4: I shouldn’t have waited to publish an updated edition

After the book was published I procrastinated, wasting a genuine opportunity to build on something that people clearly found useful and help more people. But I had no plan or Big Goal other than to publish one book and to try and help a few people with it. After the first year or two, however, it was clear that demand was there, and I had useful feedback and ideas ready to go.

5: I love teaching and explaining and can help people with it

I knew this about myself long before I wrote the little book, but publishing it gave me some powerful feedback. It’s been beyond gratifying to hear from so many people about how the book helped them, and how they wanted more. I never expected it.

What happens next?

To date, I’ve received 86 emails (and numerous other informal contacts) asking about a new, expanded edition of the book. Will there be one? What’s in it? When will you publish it? I realize that most writers would kill for this kind of interest and attention.

A few years ago, I ramped up efforts to write and publish a second edition. I had an outline, and armed with several good ideas for additions and revisions I started. One of those was to include a ‘real world’ chapter that included Q&A with several working technical writers. But–career shifts, changing house, growing children…life had other ideas, and I put the book aside. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, could’ve done better but I don’t mind.

Today, I’ve pulled out the outline for the second edition. I’m looking at it now, and thinking about how I could make a better, more useful book. How I could reach people, create other materials, and do more. I’d better make up my mind.

Just Like They Did In Key Largo

Dennis Quaid
Photo: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License


A long-ago encounter with celebrity:

In the 80s, one of my college jobs was driving a cab. One night at about 3am, I get a call to a bar downtown called the Key Largo. It had closed half an hour ago, so I figured it was an employee.

I arrive and it’s dead quiet–except for a guy, standing in the middle of the street, looking around. He was about the size of a large hobbit, wearing a camo t-shirt and looking several sheets to the wind.

I pull up next to him, roll down the window.

Me: ‘Did you call a cab’?

Guy: ‘Are you a cab?’

Me: ‘Somebody at Key Largo called a cab.’

Guy: ‘Are you a cab?’

Then I realize: it’s Dennis Quaid. He looks like he just drank everything in the bar, and he’s got that goofy smile. Yep, it’s him.

Me: ‘Shit, are you who I think you are?’

Quaid: ‘I am who I think I am!’

Me: ‘You need a cab?’

Quaid: ‘Are you a cab?’

Me: ‘Yep.’

Quaid: ‘Hang on, I gotta get somebody.’

He jogs off towards the bar, and I pull over, waiting. Five minutes later several people spill out of the bar, laughing and yelling, Quaid leading the way.

They come to the cab, and Quaid said ‘roll down the windows’. I roll them down. He takes a dive through the window but misses on the first try, hitting his head on the door frame. The second time, he makes it. Sliding over to the far side, he says ‘well get in!’ to the others.

There were four or five of them, but they all crammed in the back. Quaid pulled one of women onto his lap. They’d obviously had a good time at the Key Largo.

Me: ‘Where to?’

Quaid: ‘That hotel, the big one, you know.’

For some reason, they all find this incredibly funny. After a minute, I get it straightened out–they’re going to the nice hotel by the river. I think it was called the Riverplace. It’s all of four minutes away.

As we’re driving, they talk about ‘playing the gig’ at the bar. It turns out Quaid was not only in town making a movie, but he had a band and they’d just finished playing. That movie turned out to be Come See the Paradise. This was pre-Meg Ryan.

We get to the hotel, and I ask for his autograph. He writes it on a $20 and throws the pen into the front along with the cash.

Me: ‘Thanks Dennis, it was great to meet you.’

Quaid: ‘Well hell, let’s get breakfast sometime!’

And with that, they piled out of the cab. Through the door this time, laughing all the way to the hotel entrance. That was my last fare of the night. I turned in the cab early and went home. I spent that twenty on gas.

Book Notes: Tools of Titans

By Tim Ferris. 736 pages.

NOTE: Whenever I read a nonfiction book, I like to summarize the ‘meat’ of it, the parts that really had value to me (I copied the idea from Derek Sivers). So, fair warning: this is less a book summary and more a ‘points I liked in a book’ summary.

I admire Tim Ferriss. Not because he’s wise or successful or holds the keys to enlightenment, but because he relentlessly asks questions and challenges his own understanding. Ferriss is likely the first to admit he treats life as an experiment, and in that constant experimentation he elicits answers from a veritable who’s who of successful people, from scientists to athletes to philosophers.

This weighty book is something of a culmination of the questions he’s been asking for years. Interviewing a few hundred of those successful people,  he asks them a similar set of questions which boil down to: how do you approach being healthy, wealthy, and wise?

To get the full benefit of this book, you have to read the interviews. What follows is only the points that felt important to me, grouped in the same three categories (Healthy, Wealthy, Wise) as they are in the book.

No matter who you are, I believe you’ll find something useful and important in this book.

Recommended Reading/Listening/Viewing



  • MCT oil
  • Bone broth
  • Metformin
  • ‘Duck shot’ oolong tea (
  • Magnesium. Anti aging mineral. Good at bedtime.
  • To increase testosterone, lower cortisol.
  • Slow carb diet
  • What you put in your mouth is a stressor, and what comes out of your mouth is also a stressor. —Charles Poliquin
  • NutriBullet


  • Kettlebell: one or two arm swing, Turkish get up, goblet squat
  • Two hand kettlebell swing might be single best exercise
  • To increase reps, do half the number you’re capable of throughout the day.
  • Do cat-cow stretch

Mental Health

  • Try microdoses of mushrooms
  • Calm is contagious.
  • Ashwaganda for anxiety/stress
  • Guided meditation by Sam harris or Tara Brach
  • Bedtime relaxer:
    – 2 tbsp ACV + 1 tbsp honey stir in hot water
    – Yogi soothing caramel bedtime tea
    – California poppy extract
  • 80% of world class performers have some form of meditation/mindfulness practice.
  • Cultivates present state awareness.
  • Take one mindful breath/day. It builds momentum and you add more later if desired.
  • One pushup, same idea.
  • Just note ‘gone’. When an experience/sound/whatever is over, notice it is over. Gone.
  • 10-second exercise: identity two human beings nearby (or not) and think “I wish for this person to ne happy and for that person to be happy”. The giving of a kind thought is rewarding in and of itself.
  • Impatience in dealing with frustration is the primary reason most people fail to achieve their goals.
  • Let go of what’s not working and really assess what is working and ‘what can I be excited about’? —Jason Nemer
  • Always ask, ‘why am I having this thought?’
  • Anger is a hot coal you hold in your hand while waiting to throw it at someone else. —Buddhist saying

Body care

  • If you’re over 40, there’s a 70-80% chance you’ll die from one of four diseases: heart disease, stroke, cancer, or neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimers etc). So, mitigate those.
  • Gotu kola for loose skin/stretch marks
  • Rumble roller
  • Flat shoes/barefoot whenever possible (kids too)
  • Dvorak keyboard layout is easier on your tendons and helps prevent carpal tunnel syndrome (Colmak even more efficient).


  • Follow what angers you —Casey Neistat
  • Losers have goals. Winners have systems. —Scott Adams
  • Amplify your strengths rather than fix your weaknesses.
  • ‘All of my biggest wins have come from leveraging strengths instead of fixing weaknesses.’ —Tim Ferriss
  • Figure out your Target Monthly Income for your ideal lifestyle, and work backwards to figure out what to charge.
  • What did you want to do when you were a child, before anybody told you what you were supposed to do? What was it you wanted to become? What did you want to do more than anything else?
  • If I gave you 1 billion dollars, how would you spend it? If I asked you to spend a billion dollars improving the world, solving a problem, what would you pursue?
  • Any time I’m telling myself ‘but I’m making so much money’, that’s a warning sign that I’m doing the wrong thing. —BJ Novak
  • Are you doing what you’re uniquely capable of, what you feel placed here on earth to do? Can you be replaced/are you interchangeable?
  • When in doubt, scratch your own itch.
  • Earn with your mind, not your time. —Naval Ravikant
  • What you choose to work on, and who you choose to work with, are far more important than how hard you work. —Naval Ravikant


  • Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious. —Thomas Edison
  • When you complain, nobody wants to help you. —Stephen Hawking
  • Find what nobody else wants to do and do it
  • The minutiae fit around the big things, but the big things don’t fit around the minutiae.
  • When struggling, ask ‘what would this look like if it were easy?’
  • Write down the 20% of activities and people causing 80% or more of your negative emotions.
  • Don’t believe everything you think. —BJ Miller
  • What would you put on a billboard?
  • The purpose of life is a life of purpose. —Robert Byrne
  • What would your future self (10 years maybe) tell your current or past self?
  • Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. —Benjamin Disraeli
  • What we fear most is usually what we most need to do.
  • Write to get ideas, not to express them
  • When people seem like they are mean, they’re almost never mean. They’re anxious. —Alain de Botton
  • Don’t expect others to understand you. —Alain de Botton
  • The more you know what you really want, and where you’re really going, the more what everybody else is doing starts to diminish. The moments when your own path is at its most ambiguous, that’s when the voices of others, the distracting chaos in which we live, the social media static start to loom large and become very threatening. —Alain de Botton
  • You have to believe in your capacity. Believe in yourself more deeply. You’re bigger than that. Dream bigger. —Rainn Wilson
  • In any situation in life, you only have three options: change it, accept it, or leave it. (You have to choose otherwise you’ll be miserable)—Naval Ravikant
  • Nothing that we do lasts. Eventually you will fade, your works will fade, your children will fade, your thoughts will fade, this planet will fade, the sun will fade…it will all be gone. …there is no excuse for spending most of your life in misery. —Naval Ravikant
  • Learn the macro from the micro.
  • To be trusted, be vulnerable.
  • No hurry, no pause.
  • The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life. —Tony Robbins
  • Go first. Try it.
  • Don’t do what you’re bad at, unless you’re trying to improve it
  • The secret: show up, do the work, and go home. If you’re committed to a long-term goal, then that’s the only decision you need to make.
  • Be your unapologetically weird self. —Chris Sacca
  • It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.
  • Choose the plan with the most options. The best plan is one that lets you change your plans. —Derek Sivers
  • The reason you’re suffering is you’re focused on yourself. —Tony Robbins

Questions to Ask

  • What would your future self (~10 years) tell your current or past self?
  • What if I did the opposite for 48 hours?
  • What do I spend a silly amount of money on? How might I scratch my own itch?
  • What would I do/have/be if I had $10 million? What’s my real TMI (target monthly income)?
  • What are the worst things that could happen? Could I get back here?
  • If I could only work two hours/week on my business, what would I do?
  • What’s the least crowded channel?
  • What if I created my own real world MBA?
  • Do I need to make it back the way I lost it?
  • What if I could only subtract to solve problems?
  • Am I hunting mice, or antelope?
  • What would this look like if it were easy?
  • How can I ‘waste’ money to improve the quality of my life?

 [Buy this book]

Book Notes: Atomic Habits

By James Clear. 306 pages.

NOTE: Whenever I read a nonfiction book, I like to summarize the ‘meat’ of it, the parts that really had value to me (I copied the idea from Derek Sivers). So, fair warning: this is less a book summary and more a ‘points I liked in a book’ summary.

There’s a lot of science behind successful habit formation. Much of the strategies and tactics involve working with our genetic (brain) requirements to make it attractive to the brain, or to fly ‘under the radar’ so as to not activate certain brain mechanisms.

There’s a lot of overlap with Jocko Willink’s ideas about discipline, and how to practice it. One key example: the idea of just ‘showing up’. Willink calls it ‘going through the motions’. Both authors emphasize it’s important to perform the habit ritual regardless of the outcome. For Clear this is to activate neural circuits; for Willink it is the essence of practicing discipline. There’s even more overlap with Robert Maurer’s One Small Step and Scott Adams’ How to Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

Goals vs. Systems

  • Forget about goals, focus on systems instead.
  • Acheiving a goal is only a momentary change.
  • Goals are about the results you want to achieve; systems are about the processes that lead to those results. Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.
  • You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

Consider: It’s not goals that differentiate winners and losers. Winners and losers have the same goals. It’s the systems they create and follow.

Creating Habits

  • You get what you repeat.
  • Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits.
  • Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits.
  • Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits.

Get clear about what your habits are today, and what you want them to be. If you keep saying something is a priority but you never act on it, then you don’t really want it. *Your actions reveal your true motivations*.

How to Create a Good Habit:

  1. (Cue): Make it obvious
  2. (Craving): Make it attractive
  3. (Response): Make it easy
  4. (Reward): Make it satisfying

How to Break a Bad Habit:

  1. (Cue): Make it invisible
  2. (Craving): Make it unattractive
  3. (Response): Make it difficult
  4. (Reward): Make it unsatisfying

Habit-Forming Strategies

1: Associate habits with a time and place
People who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through.

2: Stack habits

  • You often decide what to do next based on what you have just finished doing.
  • To build a new habit, identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.
  • The habit stacking formula is: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”
  • Example: When I serve myself a meal, I will always put veggies on my plate first.
  • Remove a single cue and the entire habit often fades away.
  • It is the anticipation of a reward – not the fulfillment of it – that gets us to take action.

3: Reframe habits to highlight their benefits

  • Reframe your habits to highlight their benefits rather than their drawbacks.
  • Instead of telling yourself “I need to go run in the morning,” say “It’s time to build endurance and get fast.”

4: Add pleasure to good habits, pain to bad habits

  • What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.
  • Add a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run and a little bit of immediate pain to ones that don’t.

[Buy this book]