Mark Manson Didn't Need Curation to Succeed — Do You?

Thinking out loud about creativity and one's creative voice

Mark Manson didn't need curation to be a successful writer.

Neither did Seth Godin or Tim Ferriss or Steven Pressfield or Neil Strauss or Brene Brown or any of the highly-regarded, ultra-successful, best-selling modern-day writers and thinkers.

Damn, I had no idea I could put that many hyphens in one sentence…

[Checks off bucket list item…]

I've been thinking a lot about what the need for curation is doing to the amazing minds that you find on content platforms. What is it doing?

My initial thought is it's playing to the desire to be validated:

  • When I'm curated (or anyone is for that matter), I am validated by the "higher-ups" that my writing is good.

The next thought, however, tends to take a different route:

  • Is the need for one's work to be curated actually stifling creativity? When we try and fit our creative work, our thoughts, our ideas, and desires into the box of another just so it can hopefully get a wider appeal — are we actually hurting our own expression?

It makes me think about the modern-day education system — at least the one I went through. While I was blessed enough to go to a competitive public school, what was I taught? Really, it was to make sure that you always have the "right answer" and you do things the "right way." Thoughts of Algebra class are coming into focus when you could get the right answer, but you didn't show all the steps and thus you received negative marks.

If you're reading this — chances are you're a writer. You probably have dreams, goals, and wants with this pursuit. I want to outline a case for following your own thoughts, ideas, and creativity above all in pursuit of getting your voice out to an audience who's looking for it.

Why did you start writing in the first place?

I know for me, it started because I was confused.

I had just lost my job (a job I hated) and didn't know what to do with my time. I was on unemployment. I bought a domain and website hosting and began writing. I promised myself I would write for 30 days without compromise. 30 days turned into months of just straight work.

It was horrible. I cringe looking at it to this day.

That was 4 years ago.

Now, I write because I am making a living and want to grow my craft. Shit, I want the prestige, I want the fame, I want the book deals.

But above all, I want freedom.

I bet you do too.

Why did Mark Manson start writing?

That, I'm not 100% sure.

But seeing as all writers have some form of neuroses — I figure it was because of creativity, entrepreneurialism, and freedom (just to name a few).

Manson started in 2008 with a dating blog. He was set on helping simps get laid. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but Manson believed he had the knowledge, skills, and abilities to help men struggling in the dating realm find the woman of their dreams.

That grew into his first book, published in 2011, Models: Attract Women Through Honesty.

Did he need curation for that to be successful? No.

His work and influence kept growing and he was catapulted into the stratosphere with, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (published in 2016) after previously writing an article with the same name in 2015.

Did he need curation for that? No.

Now I don't think we need to go into the traffic strategies Manson used to get his work out in front of the people looking for it.

The point I'm trying to make is that he put his head down and for three years just wrote for people looking to get laid.

Now? The world is at his fingertips with two New York Times Bestsellers selling over 13 million copies of his book.

Who are we creating for?

I'm nowhere near Manson in terms of scope and influence.

I do run a sustainable online content business, however, and I can proudly say, I work for myself.

And that's what I think many people can do as we head forward into this connected and digital world.

We can already see changes in the economic landscape with repetitive jobs being replaced due to automation. Jobs in writing and the creative realm are on the rise.

The opportunity has never been better to try your hand in a creative pursuit — even if it's a side hustle starting out.

But it begs the question,

"Who are we creating for?"

The two most important things you should always be considering when you're writing are:

1. Who are your 1,000 True Fans?

Who are you targeting with your content? If you are unfamiliar with the 1,000 True Fans idea, it essentially states that to make a living as a creative in the digital age, all you need are 1,000 True Fans (fans that will buy your product, come to your show, purchase your membership, buy your book, etc.).

The math computes to making $100,000 a year if you can sell a $100 product to 1,000 True fans.

Sure, being a New York Times Bestselling author is probably better — but you have to start with some meaningful goal first.

2. What problems you are helping solve for those fans?

  • Why do music fans go to shows? Because they want to be entertained.
  • Why do readers buy books? If it's non-fiction, to learn. If it's fiction, entertainment, or connection.
  • Why do carpenters buy tools? So they can make their work easier.

This has to be considered when you're trying to claim your slice of the creative-enterprise attention pie.

People are always thinking to themselves,

"What's in it for me?"

People don't love you for the same reasons your mother loves you. People love you because you make their world better in some way.

Think about the genius title of Manson's most popular book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

Let's break this down. What problem-solving messages do that title convey (which subsequently helped its success)?

  1. It's "subtle" and people don't like to work hard. In fact, according to master copywriter and author, Jim Edwards in his book, Copywriting Secrets people buy because they like to "avoid effort" (among other reasons).
  2. It's an art. People are creative by nature. It's one of the things that distinguishes us from other animals.
  3. The entire playbook revolves around the idea of "not giving a f*ck" which again appeals to our "avoidance of effort" as well as "escape of mental or physical pain" (another reason outlined by Edwards).

What Manson has done is addressed these two considerations perfectly:

  • He's addressed his 1,000 True Fans (which turned out to be 13 million). These are people who are looking to improve their lives but aren't subscribing to the archaic, traditional philosophical models.
  • He's addressed the question, "what's in it for me" and told people upfront what problems he's going to help you solve by reading this book.

It's highly possible that he would have had a very hard time trying to shop this article idea (again, remember this was an article before a book) to a publication for curation.

Think about the risks he was taking by being vulgar.

However, he was true to his own voice and creativity.

There's more than one way to skin a cat

The same goes for composing a song.

Or working out at the gym.

Or writing an article.

I want to be clear — I don't have the answer. I have been able to achieve a lot of success in the writing world and I owe a decent amount of that to having my work curated in the past.

However, the present is different than what it was. I've been writing online for over 4 years now. 4 years ago, content platforms were like the wild, wild west. You could put an article down and it would get 250k views — I would know, I've done it.

Now, it doesn't seem to have the same effect. Algorithms are much more nuanced.

Plus, we're producing content on a platform that is run by others with their own hopes and goals.

What is the way forward?

It's nice when a content platform pays you.

Do you know what's better, however?

When you pay yourself.

"Wuh, wait, Jon — what the hell are you talking about?"

I'm talking about going into business for yourself. I'm talking about creating an actual business that you have full control over. An actual platform that you run that your 1,000 True Fans come to over and over. A platform that isn't contingent on someone else's algorithms.

It's possible.

But you have to work for it.

You have to create content that perhaps only a few people will see at first. You have to maybe even spend years in obscurity.

If you're connecting with people, however, and they're coming back to read your content or watch your videos, over and over, you're doing yourself a disservice if you're not allowing those followers to continue the conversation via an email list.

I'll stand on my soapbox, dressed in drab, looking like the crazy town crier advocating for people to build their email list. Because that is the ticket.

With everything you put into the world, you should always be:

  1. Putting an invitation to join your newsletter (even if you don't know yet what the newsletter is going to be about).
  2. Continuing the conversation with your list via email.
  3. Surveying your list as to what they are having trouble with (identifying their problems).
  4. Delivering solutions.

I'm not sure as to Manson's book launch strategy

But if I were to take an educated guess — I'd imagine that he leveraged his email list.

And they didn't need curation to get there.

They needed their voice.

They needed consistency.

They needed perseverance.

They needed the willingness to show up every day and put in the work and deliver that work to the audience that was looking for it.

So I leave you with one question as we close this out,

"Mark Manson Didn't Need Curation to Succeed — Do You?"

Like this? Then check this out. It’s here if you want to excel and earn more than what you’re currently making by doing what you love.

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