Happy New Year!
Before I get into today’s post, I want to say how thankful I am to have you here reading and sharing along with me on this journey. It’s been a great year for me and for my company and it wouldn’t have happened without your support.
My hope for you is that 2014 will be your best year ever.
To get started towards that end, here’s today’s article…
There are two things that thousands of people are going to do this week that are a complete waste of time:
- Make predictions
- Set goals
Why are predictions a waste of time?
First of all, they’re notoriously wrong. There is a lot of evidence to back this up. I’ll point to just two sources:
- This Freakonomics Radio episode that shares many scientific, empirically argued studies that show we are often worse than chance at predicting future events.
- This anecdotal blog post by my client and friend, Hugh Howey.
However, the problem with spending time on predictions isn’t the few minutes we waste making them. The real problem is found in the long-term distraction it causes for us.
If you read a few “What’s coming in 2014” articles about the publishing industry and then start making your plans based on those predictions, you are now heading in the wrong direction.
Even the smartest people in the industry will get most things wrong. The future is unpredictable and anytime we fool ourselves into thinking differently, we’re going to fail.
Look back, not forward
The last 1st generation product I purchased was the Macbook back in 2006. I bought one as soon as it was released.
It was a disaster.
First, the fans ran constantly. In my tiny office it sounded like I constantly had an airplane getting ready to head down the runway. Second, the hard drive failed. Twice. There were plenty of other little problems, but I learned my lesson.
I let other people live at the bleeding edge. They can pay full price, deal with the defects and help the company fix problems for future users like myself.
The same goes for predictions.
People are mostly wasting their time, money and effort when they live at the bleeding edge trying to guess what’s next and take action.
I want to watch what is happening around me. What are authors doing that is working? What are they doing that isn’t?
I don’t look forward. I look back.
What did authors do in 2013 that worked? What are new tactics authors are building on tried-and-true strategies? How can I deconstruct someone else’s success to make it my own? What successful authors can I email and ask advice?
This isn’t looking forward and making useless predictions. This is looking back at what is working and applying the principles to my own books. What is currently working for other people, will probably work for me.
In the very least, if we are using our experimental mindset, then looking at other people’s success is a great place to start.
Why are goals a waste of time?
I recently read Scott Adam’s new book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big (here’s a great summary of the book). My favorite quote from the book?
“Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners.”
“For our purposes, let’s agree that goals are a reach-it-and-be-done situation, whereas a system is something you do on a regular basis with a reasonable expectation that doing so will get you to a better place in your life. Systems have no deadlines, and on any given day you probably can’t tell if they’re moving you in the right direction. My proposition is that if you study people who succeed, you will see that most of them follow systems, not goals…”
Last year, I spent an entire day early in the year working through and setting my goals. One of them was to be in the top 10 during a competition in March at my local gym. What happened two days later? I hurt my back and couldn’t work out at 100% until April. I failed my goal before I even got started for the year!
What I realized is that the only thing I can control is my workout system. Now I go four times a week. Same days and times every week. What’s happening? I’m getting better, stronger and faster. At this rate, I’ll do pretty good come March.
No goals. Just a system that has a good chance of eventually getting me where I want to go.
I can do this forever
Every week I do at least two things to promote Your First 1000 Copies. Whether it’s be a guest on a podcast, setup a new webinar, speak at a conference or try out a new advertising technique, it doesn’t really matter. I figure out a couple of things that I think will help me sell books, and then I do them.
I can do this forever. I won’t get burnt out. I won’t hate myself if something doesn’t work. I can just check off my two things for the week and then move on.
I also read at least two non-fiction books a month.
Fiction is my real reading passion. I read it every night before bed. I can easily get lost in a fiction book. Non-fiction, however, is a bit more of a discipline. So I put a plan in place. I keep a non-fiction book by the bed that I read at least a couple of nights a week and I listen to a non-fiction audiobook in the car, walking the dog, buying groceries, etc.
While the odds of any one book changing my life are pretty low, I know that if I continually look for new sources of insights and knowledge, I’ll get smarter and make better decisions over time.
The secret is, I know if I do these things enough for a long enough time, I will end up where I want to be.
What is your system for success? What can you do on a regular basis that will get you were you want to go?
Instead of asking “What are my goals for 2014?”, ask:
“What are things I can consistently do in 2014 that will help me end up where I want to be?”
Yes, I’m a hypocrite
All of this “goals are for losers” talk is pretty funny coming from the guy that has made his 10k Experiment a huge, public goal.
I fall into the same traps as the rest of us.
But the truth is, it’s not as if I will sell 10,000 copies and then say “Great! I’m done!” and stop. After I hit 10,000 copies, I want to sell 20,000, then 50,000, then 100,000 copies. I want it to be the book that every author reads for decades to come.
How can I possibly make this happen?
By doing two things every week to promote the book.
What will your 2014 be?
Instead of making predictions and setting goals, here’s what you should do:
- Research and find out what other authors are doing to be successful. Read my book. Read Write, Publish, Repeat. Read 61 Ways to Sell More Nonfiction Kindle Books. Read Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. Talk to some authors to find out what they are doing.
- Think about where you who you want to be in the future. Sure, this smells a lot like goals, but it’s bigger than that. Do you want to be a fulltime writer? Do you want to release more books every year? Who do you want to be?
- Figure out something you can do every day, week and month that will probably get you there. If you want to release more books, writing every day will probably help. If you want to sell more books, doing something twice a week will probably help. I say “probably” on purpose. You’ll get it wrong here and there and have to adjust your system, but make a plan that you can stick to and work the plan long enough to see if it’s sending you in the right direction.
Follow this path, and miss the pitfalls that come from wasting your time on predictions and goals.
January 1, 2014