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Throwing out the playbooks


There is a tried and true, and often publicly available, playbook for pretty much anything anyone would think of doing. The remaining (= everything - pretty much everything) fraction is for truly new endeavors.

The playbook for starting a company is to build a prototype, find and sign early customers, grow a team, raise funding, profit, and then get to a liquidity event (loosely in this order, but not always).

The playbook for starting an online retailer is to find or create a product, create an e-commerce store, invest a good chunk of capital in direct response advertising, find your early customers, optimize your Customer Acquisition Cost, and then tune the machine ad infinitum to get to a state where net revenue is positive. This exact advertising-driven playbook rarely works (for reasons I'll likely get to in the future), but this is the general idea.

How about truly new endeavors? How do you explore those?

While I was thinking this morning about what this issue (#1 – the second one; I recommend you start with issue#0 if not already done) should be about, I noticed that diving into the question itself was more interesting than the outcome – the answer I was looking for. It's almost as if the journey to answering the question becomes the goal you chase, and not the end goal you initially had in mind.

A similar pattern shows up in money: I have yet to meet someone that made enough money to retire, and see them completely satisfied with the idea of retiring. That often lasts a short time, before they realize the journey was their goal all along, and get back on the wagon.

If the end goal stops being the goal, why bother to chase it? That's when you throw the playbook out the window, and start experimenting.

How is this experiment going?

Subscriber stats as of this morning

As of sending this issue, we are 422 people in this experimental newsletter about experiments ... which begs a few questions: 1/ what the heck did I just do 2/ who is everyone 3/ how fast can I make the number go down to 25.

There is no playbook to creating content for 422 (semi-)random people that decided to join a newsletter around experimentation – and so I had to throw the playbook out the window and ask the question: in lieu of a topic that could serve as a common denominator, what's the thing that could be bringing everyone here together? Yes, there is the "experimentation" topic, but so what? How does that translate into getting to know people at scale?

In the previous issue I mentioned a selection of topics that were at best, a shot in the dark of what I could passionately talk about for hours. Through a random series of events, those topics became themselves an audience self-selection gate: someone that decides to subscribe has a wide range of interest in a wide range of topics, and so is an open-minded, curious, and free learner / thinker.

As I finished this draft and got here, I asked again: So what? What did the reader get out of this wall of text?

Maybe there is a sense of belonging to something that could be interesting; maybe a sense of shared excitement with the 421 other people and a "can't wait to put a face on these numbers!"; maybe a sense of community; or ... maybe nothing?

I had to read the text again as a third party observer – as someone that accidentally stumbled on this text.

Solving that made me think of, whenever I come across an interesting piece of text I wonder "what was the author thinking in this moment that just triggered my own lightbulb moment". Not sharing that as part of the end product, I think, is a missed opportunity to create a bond with the reader and share the journey together; there is something magical about documenting the act of creation as part of the creation itself.

Building a newsletter / community around experimentation, in itself is an experiment. There are no playbooks, but I know having you here makes it a more special journey.