My superpower isn’t that I have more knowledge or willpower than the average bear.
My superpower is a willingness to take actual data, look hard at the cloud of data beyond just the numbers, and realistically evaluate what’s actually happened—not what I wish happened. Then take that information, fold it into a new understanding of complex systems, knowing that my understanding will ALWAYS be imperfect, but now I have a slightly better operational theory. Then I make a new plan based on that new theory and look for ways to test it—to get data that shows whether that theory works well enough for the goals or if it needs further modification. Knowing also that it will always need further modification at some point but there is danger in changing too frequently.
This is half engineering, half science—it’s the tinkerer’s approach, and it works for everything from lifestyle changes to selling books.
In the podcast I did Friday, I said that everyone listens to podcasts (or reads books on the industry, etc) because they want to know THE SECRET to selling books. Right at the beginning, I said, I would tell them the secret: the secret is that you have to figure it out for yourself. I wasn’t being cheeky or obnoxious (okay, maybe a little)–because that’s the actual answer. The REAL secret. That other people and their advice (including mine) are just bits of cloud data–you have to go through the process of understanding the system, taking the data, and experimenting yourself. You have to change your theory–not too quickly, but not too slowly either–and experiment again. That’s the TRUTH of how I learned what I know in this business, and how I continue to do well, year after year, no matter the market ups and downs. On average, I change my theory of book selling, sometimes radically, at least every six months. Because that’s how often the market changes. (And in case you’re wondering, I have plenty of failures along the way–but even those improve my model, so everything is a net win.)
There’s no point at which you have put in the work and now you can coast for the rest of your life. Which, ironically, is why you have to not kill yourself in a sprint of overworking–you need to pace yourself. Constant change takes a toll and you have to have the tools to weather it–mentally and physically. That’s where a lot of my tinkering takes place these days–learning how to live a fulfilling life in the 21st Century. There are legions of forces arrayed against us–overwork, underpay, relentless capitalism and consumerism, the numbing effects of the internet, food that is a threat to your health, not to mention the POTUS staging a coup on our democracy–the cool logic of the tinkerer’s approach is a balm to the madness, but also an essential tool for surviving it.
Be well, my friends. I’m off to tinker today.