I got two responses to yesterday’s email — both were poignant.
The first, from Rich R., poked fun at something I often overlook… proofing.
You really do need a proof reader. May I be so bold as to offer complimentary pre-publication assistance? See below for sample of my services! The turn-around time would be swift…
Rich’s email had bolded five glaring errors and, considering the quotes included from readers Keith B. and Alon S., the email was 1% in error — not insignificant.
I explained to Rich that the more I
refine overthink any piece of writing, the more likely I am to make errors and send without proofing as my anxiety kicks in and I just want to be done with it. That’s gotten me into trouble more than a few times and it’s high time that I bring on an editor — you’ll meet her in another email.
The second response, from Daniel A., was challenging to read:
I love you Brian but your emails increasingly just read as a long humble brag. We understand you’ve been successful but why do you feel the need to continually commit reams to that? I would value your emails more if they read more about the specific behaviors / actions which led to results and also if they had a balance between reflections on success and lessons learned from failure. We’re all human after all and it’s hard to build true empathy with someone who only ever seems successful. Failure is an important part of being human and growing.
Being candid because I know you prefer it that way.
I re-read my ‘Focus Ain’t Fluff‘ twice more… and then went back to read Daniel’s response. His feedback, while critical, was spot on. Inspired by the success Keith B. had shared, I had started that email with the intention of showcasing just how quickly focus can turn into a result. Reading back through, the vast majority of the emphasis was on my success — not Keith’s. There are two reasons this pained me.
The first reason is that the poor formatting of the email diminished the astounding successes Keith had generated over a three week period of focus. While I (hopefully) expressed that to him via private emails, I had completely botched the opportunity to dote publicly. Originally conceived as a ‘community’, I had failed this series.
Secondly, I had failed to deliver actionable value. While it’s extremely challenging to write every day, let alone provide something of value, it’s not an excuse for the lack of quality. I started with an idea and didn’t look back to see how far I’d strayed.
A few years back, one of the first clients that came to me through the Facebook Ads Prank asked me to submit their product to Reddit. I wasn’t as experienced then as I am now and, while the submission had 150 votes — it had a score of absolute zero.
People were not only critical, they were adamantly critical.
I brought the criticism to the client as feedback and expressed a need to change the elements Redditors had identified. While they had already raised $700K through crowdfunding, they focused on the $7,000 in sales the post generated and chose to ignore the feedback completely — a decision that ultimately killed the company.
In that experience, I promised to investigate the validity of all feedback.
It was with that promise in mind that I knew, as tough as it was to swallow, I needed to investigate — and ultimately accept the validity of — Rich and Daniel’s feedback.
Looking back, it wasn’t just the ‘Focus Ain’t Fluff‘ email that (to me) came off as a giant un-actionable humblebrag — it was the last several emails.
Every failure, yours or someone else’s, has the opportunity to be a lesson.
Serendipitously, the client I’m working with (the soon to launch publishing company) appears to be a hundred person company and yet they only have two editors. How can they pull this off? One simple reason, a baller editorial process.
They are magnificent at coaching contract writers to produce with the quality and voice of the brand and make no compromises when editing. If it’s not up to par it doesn’t get published, simple as that. I’m going to steal a few pages from their book.
Francois S. and Mark C., my badass web designer and developer, have been hard at work to rebuild everything that is Ghost Influence. These emails will become articles and I’ll be bringing in writers to create a wave of high value, actionable content. Taking yesterday’s criticism for the valuable insights that it offered has enabled me to see (far in advance) the value and power of this editorial process.
Without the criticism feedback shared yesterday, this editorial process would have been seen as a ‘nice to have’ and put on the back burner until it was too late.
Rich and Daniel, there aren’t words that could adequately express my appreciation for your candor. Thank you for your constant support and inspiration.