Tag Archives: Startup

Zugzwang and the Cult of Doing

If you read the term personal development carefully, it is obvious that it’s about becoming someone rather than doing something. But after a while, those two words lose their meaning. They become just a pointer to the meaning that we assign to them.

What comes to your mind when you hear the term personal development?

  1. Is it consuming a bunch of books, podcasts, videos, and participating in live events?
  2. Is it knowing the concepts discussed in those books, podcasts, videos, and events?
  3. Is it applying those concepts in your life?
  4. Is it becoming the person that the application of those concepts make you?

I had periods when personal development meant one of the first three explanations above. Nowadays, it’s more about the last one.

There might be a person who hasn’t heard the term mindfulness, who hasn’t read a book on mindfulness, and who hasn’t meditated for a second in their lives, but they might be more mindful than another person who read dozens of books on the subject, participated in multiple retreats, and meditates for an hour every day.

Consuming, learning, and even applying doesn’t make any difference. It is becoming that makes the difference.

That’s a critical distinction to be aware of. That distinction is missed entirely by our culture, which is obsessed with doing.

The Obsession with Doing

Our culture is obsessed with doing. When we are in the school, we are packed in classrooms and given a bunch of tasks to complete. As if that wasn’t enough, we’re loaded with a bunch of homework.

What’s the goal of that?

I’m afraid no one asks that question. When I ask that question and try to find answers, I come up with the following.

  1. Keep the kids busy while their parents are at work so that they don’t get into trouble.
  2. Make them hard workers in the industrial complex.
  3. Make them great at something like math.

The first one is a legitimate goal. If you let kids by themselves, they tend to get into trouble, for example by playing Superman.

The second goal is slowly but surely losing its meaning. Industry jobs are getting replaced by automation and outsourcing to developing countries.

The third goal is the only significant one among the three. Yes, some kids are naturally good at some disciplines, and some become great by sheer effort, thanks to their growth mindset, but we shouldn’t miss the point here.

It’s not about effort and doing things. It’s about becoming somebody.

We’ll get the best results only when we keep that goal in sight and make our plans accordingly. The alternative is filling our to-do lists with a bunch of stuff that don’t even matter and mindlessly checking off those tasks, or worse, just doing whatever is in front of us without even thinking.

The Cult of Doing

You can see the obsession with doing in the industry. People are supposed to work 40 hours a week and 50 weeks a year and do something in those 2000 hours a year. You’re a bad employee should you do nothing in one of those 2000 hours.

One can clearly see where that mindset is coming from. Back in the day, there was a direct relationship between human effort and the output of a business. That is how the cult of doing emerged.

That relationship is already broken in most industries in the developed countries thanks to the automation and outsourcing, but most people haven’t realized it yet.

Nowadays, it isn’t the employee that works the most hours that produces the most value for the business. It’s the employee that comes up with the most valuable ideas and gets them implemented.

That ideation process requires taking some time off and reflecting on the problem. That’s literally doing nothing, not even thinking. The ideation process involves asking a question and letting the ideas bubble up from the depths of your psyche. The biggest enemy of that process is distraction.

Busy work is the most dangerous distraction. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The Virtue of Doing Nothing

Doing nothing is hard work. If you don’t believe me, give it a try for a day. Wake up, do your essentials to stay alive, like drinking water, having your meals, and so on, but for the rest, do nothing. Let’s see if you can succeed.

No, don’t turn on the radio or TV. No smartphone or computers. No working out. No chatting. No stuffing yourself with snacks or smoking or drinking. Just sit on a couch and do nothing. Soon, you’ll realize it’s an impossible feat. Yet, sometimes, we’re better off doing nothing.

Zugzwang is a chess term. It means all the available moves are hurting a player, but they have to choose one and execute it. They’re better off doing nothing and skipping a move, but the rules of chess don’t allow that.

Unlike chess, life gives you the opportunity to skip a move, to say “no,” to let go of busy work and distraction, and to not indulge yourself in mindless, aimless action. Use it.

Here’s Why Your Online Marketing Doesn’t Work

And what to do about it.

When we are producing and marketing, we tend to look at our craft from our own perspective. Unless you build something for yourself and market it to yourself, that’s a mistake.

That’s a typical mistake that software engineers do. As a result, they end up with overcomplicated software that the end users can’t use.

If the prospective customers can’t use a piece of software, it’s a waste of time and money, no matter how good it is.

The antidote to that mistake is to put yourself into the shoes of the prospective customer. For example, I’m producing and marketing blog posts. Here’s a question that could help me.

How Did I Find My Favorite Writers?

I found Steve Pavlina from a Google search. I kept reading his blog throughout the years, bought his book, went to one of his live events, and recently purchased an information product of him.

I found David Hawkins from a post of Pavlina. I read his book Power vs. Force and then kept purchasing his books and audio programs.

I have the Kindle and audio versions of some of Hawkins’s books and read and listened to them multiple times. I came across the Letting Go Method in his book with the same title. It became one of my favorite personal development practices.

I came across a piece by Nathaniel Branden in the book Meeting the Shadow, and I read his books Breaking Free and the Disowned Self. Now, I’m going through his audio program The Psychology of High Self-Esteem with the intention to read and listen to more books and audio programs by him.

I really don’t know how many Brian Tracy audio programs I have in my audible account, and honestly, I don’t care. I enjoyed most of them, and the Magic of Self-Direction is one of my all-time favorites.

I guess I’m one of those 1000 true fans of these writers.

The point I’m trying to make is that I didn’t come across a favorite writer because they followed on me Twitter or Medium. They didn’t comment on one of my posts. They don’t have online link wheels. I didn’t find them via their Facebook or YouTube advertisements. Two of them aren’t even alive.

We’re all sitting on immense value, but we don’t care to stop and look inside because we’re too busy trying to catch the next shiny object outside.

Did I buy products that had just good online marketing? Yes, I purchased two information products like that, and I promised myself not to come close to those producers again. That gives me another lesson.

No matter how good your online marketing is, if you don’t have a decent product, you won’t have repeat customers.

If someone gives you marketing advice, please take it with a grain of salt, including this one of course. Ask yourself, how you came across your favorite writer, software, or whatever it is that you are producing. Then go ahead and emulate that.

In my case, one piece of content I came across by sheer luck was so good that I had to consume as much content as I could from those people. That makes my strategy to write the best blog posts I can and let the universe handle the rest.

The Linchpin of Any Online Marketing Strategy

You must have heard the story of the elephant and the four blind men. Four blind men touch different parts of an elephant and argue with each other what the elephant is like.

One of them likens it to a tree, the other one to a hose, yet another one to a sheet, and so on. It all depends on where they touch on.

In reality, the elephant has various body parts, and they all feel different. It doesn’t make sense to jump to a conclusion with partial data without having the big picture. Yet, we do it all the time.

Sure, there are times we have to move on without perfect information, but if you have a chance to access meaningful data, you better use it.

The Algorithm Change in Medium

With a recent algorithm change in Medium, I saw a sharp drop in the stats of my posts published there. This made me doubt the future of my blog.

Was I wasting my time blogging daily if Medium didn’t distribute my posts to readers? Was all the work for the last nine months for nothing? More important, should I stop blogging daily and move on?

Questions like the ones above floated around in my mind. I had decent arguments to stop blogging daily. I also had solid arguments to keep doing that.

Then, I checked the stats of my blog on my own domain. I realized that the traffic to my blog was fairly stable. Only 22% of the traffic came from Medium. 37% was coming from Google, and 31% was direct traffic. The remaining 10% was coming from the so-called long tail.

Those numbers were soothing. Probably, only a nerd would be soothed by numbers, but that’s what their effect was on me.

Sure, I’d like to keep that 22%, but if I couldn’t, it wasn’t the end of the world for my blog. 78% was still a decent chunk of my existing traffic. There was no reason to get discouraged. That’s why the ability to find out the truth is the most critical skill that you can develop in life.

What Social Media Does and Does Not Provide

Medium does a lot of things right. It gives the readers the ability to highlight and bookmark the posts they read. It gives the writers the stats about the views, reads, claps, and highlights. There is a community that exchanges comments.

My blog doesn’t have interactive features as Medium has, and I’m fine with that. If someone wants to bookmark a post of my mine, they can do so in their own browser or using their favorite social channel. If they want to highlight a section, they can clip the post and highlight it with Evernote.

My blog provides me with something crucial that Medium doesn’t. That is control.

Bloggers who didn’t bother to set up their blogs on their own domains and only published on Medium are in serious trouble after Medium changed their algorithm.

If I solely relied on Medium as a blogging and distribution platform, I’d lose 99% of the traffic to my posts. That would be a death sentence to my blog. There’s no way, I’d keep writing and publishing for only 1% of the traffic my posts used to receive.

Since I kept 78% of the traffic to my posts, I’m fine with continuing. Sure, I’d like to see that number grow and not shrink, but a 22% hit doesn’t kill my enthusiasm.

In a way, I’m grateful for that 22% hit. It’s a sobering event, but I can reframe that challenge as an opportunity to stop and look at my blogging practice. It makes me think about how to change my practice so that I can overcome that 22% hit and create further growth.

What Does Your Blog on Your Own Domain Provide?

With all the social media channels available to us, it’s easy to fall in love with a channel and to avoid starting and maintaining a blog on your own domain. After all, it’s a lot of work to do that. And who reads blogs on independent domains nowadays?

The reality is some people do. What’s more important? It’s a matter of time that your favorite platform will change their algorithms, ban you from publishing there, or go belly up altogether.

What are you going to do if any one of those events happen if you don’t have your own platform? You’ll lose all of your traffic overnight. That’s why a blog on your own domain is the linchpin of your online marketing strategy. It’s the little piece that holds everything together.


A blog on a domain that you control might look like a small, irrelevant piece of an online marketing strategy, but when your presence on other social media channels takes a hit, it’s usually your blog that survives that hit.

We’re All Sitting on Immense Value

Yesterday, I wrote a post about setting being goals and cultivating personality traits to achieve our doing and having goals.

I shared the big five personality traits, the 13 virtues of Benjamin Franklin, and a link to 600+ primary personality traits.

One of the personality traits that I want to develop is resourcefulness.

When I reflect upon resourcefulness, immediately a short story in the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle came into my mind.

The Beggar and His Box

A man is sitting on a box, begging on the street. Another man approaches him and asks what’s in the box that he sits on. The beggar says that he doesn’t know. He never checked what’s inside.

They open the box and find out that it’s full of gold. The moral of the story is that we all sit on a box full of gold, but we don’t bother to look what’s inside. In other words, we all have access to resources to create and deliver value.

In this day and age, a lot of products and services are provided for free. Think about all the open source software, social media channels to promote your products and services, and even free versions of premium software like MailChimp and Evernote.

You have to add your creativity to the mix and produce value using those free resources. In essence, you don’t need more than $100 to start a business and to start making money. It’s not easy, and it requires a lot of sweat equity, but it’s possible.

Acres of Diamonds

The beggar story reminded me of another one, Acres of Diamonds by Russell H. Cornwell.

A farm owner sells his farm to travel to search for diamonds. Eventually, he runs out of money, can’t find any diamonds, and dies in desperate conditions.

The person who buys his farm finds some black rocks in the soil, which turn out to be raw diamonds. The moral of the story is that we look for opportunity far away while missing the opportunities under our feet.

Think about all the developers trying to make it to the Silicon Valley. I’m sure there are advantages of living in the center of information technology. Yet, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any opportunities where you live.

In this day and age, all you need is a laptop and an internet connection to tap into immense opportunities.

The Gold Miner Who Quit Too Early

Today’s third and last story comes from the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. In the days of gold rush, a miner works really hard to find a vein of gold. After a while, he gets frustrated and quits digging.

Another miner picks up digging in the same location and hits a gold vein after a few feet. This story points to another personality trait, persistence, but it fits nicely with the other two.


Sometimes, a short story brings a point home much better than a post of thousand words. That’s why I shared three short stories today.

The moral of these stories is that we all sit on immense value, but we don’t recognize the opportunities that are in front of us.

While we are looking for opportunities far away, we are missing the ones that are under our feet.

Opportunities come with subtle clues. They aren’t served in golden platters. It’s up to us to discover them, work on them, and to persist on them until we get the results that we’re looking for.

If you feel hopeless, remind yourself the stories of the beggar and his box and the Acres of Diamond. If you feel like quitting an endeavor, remember the gold miner who stopped too early.

Distinguishing an Opportunity from a Distraction in Disguise

Yesterday, I received an excellent comment to one of my posts. The question is relevant to all of us but mostly to the first time entrepreneurs.

“Could you elaborate more on how following the opportunities that appear and following each of them is in line with not getting distracted?”

“As an example in the last 2 months there were many different opportunities I could have taken, but doing so would have lead to loss of focus and in the end most likely would have lead to not getting anywhere.”

by Kevin Raetz

This is a topic that I have addressed in the past, but it’s so important that I have to elaborate again, using the ideas that I published recently.

Before I dive into the topic, let me recap my last two posts so that you have a context for this post.

From an Idea to Reality

My previous post is based on two observations that I made over years.

  • We are more capable than we believe we are.
  • The universe is more abundant than we believe it is.

If we let go of our distractions and limiting beliefs, and focus on our goals by visualizing them, then we will become more sensitive to ideas and opportunities that will help us realize our vision.

Effortless Success

The post Effortless Success is a summary of the book The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer. Singer was a college student who practiced mindfulness and yoga to quiet the chatter in his mind.

He merely followed the opportunities that appeared on his way and ended up as the founder and CEO of a billion-dollar software company.

Effortless Success is even more impressive than From an Idea to Reality because it shows that even our goals reflect our limiting beliefs.

Even our goals are a part of our limiting belief system.

If Singer had to come up with a set of goals when he was a college student, I’m sure he wouldn’t come up with the goal of becoming the CEO of a billion-dollar company.

We all have our worries and desires, and they limit us. We’re better off letting them go as explained in this post.

Mental Clarity

In both posts, I mention higher sensitivity to opportunities. When you have a clear mind, you recognize opportunities easier. They almost appear in front of you.

But how do you know an opportunity serves your goals, and it isn’t a distraction in disguise?

There are several answers to that question on different levels. Let me start with the intellectual level.

Resource Allocation

We, humans, are capable beings and the universe is abundant, but that doesn’t mean we have infinite resources.

Resource allocation is a critical part of your execution as an entrepreneur, even as a person. The scarcest resource is our time. Therefore, time management is crucial to all of us.

When you come across an opportunity, you have to ask yourself a question.

How does this opportunity fit into my big picture? How does it serve my vision, my long-term goals?

If it doesn’t, it’s obviously not an opportunity but a distraction in disguise.

If your vision is to become an entrepreneur, and you receive a better job offer, is that offer an opportunity or a distraction?

Sure, some jobs might lead to a business opportunity, but most don’t. This is something you have to evaluate and decide.

Low-Hanging Fruits vs. Lifetime Value

You might come across an opportunity that would provide you with quick cash. Does this opportunity serve your long-term vision? If not, it’s most probably a distraction. The only exception to that rule is that you actually need that cash to pay your basic needs.

Two months ago, I documented my usage of Steemit. I started to use it to evaluate it as an investment, but I quickly became addicted to it. After a month, I decided that it wasn’t worth investing my time or money, even though I started to make some quick cash using it.

Quitting Steemit was an easy decision. It didn’t serve my long-term writing goals. My lifetime vision was more valuable to me than the quick cash I’d make from Steemit.

The Challenge of Infinite Opportunities

As I have mentioned in a previous post, endless opportunities are indeed a challenge nowadays, especially for entrepreneurs.

The solution is similar to the low-hanging fruits. You need to have a crystal clear vision and evaluate whether an opportunity serves your vision or not.

If you look carefully, you’ll realize that most opportunities don’t serve your vision at all.


In some cases, it isn’t clear whether an opportunity serves your life goals or not. In those cases, you have to experiment.

At the beginning of my blogging journey, people would ask me whether I’d write a post for their publication or not. Back in the day, I’d accept those offers because the extra exposure seemed to be an opportunity to me.

After a few trials, I realized that those posts don’t bring any additional exposure at all. I’m better off investing that time in my regular posts in the Startup Publication.

In the last six months, I’ve written on a wide range of topics, writing, blogging, marketing, entrepreneurship, investing, cryptocurrencies, personal development, and life lessons.

My experience taught me to focus on personal development and life lessons. I wouldn’t be able to come to that conclusion if I didn’t experiment with all of those topics.

The 6 Months Rule

When you commit to an endeavor, stick to it for at least six months.

This is a rule I learned from the audio program The Ultimate Anti-Career Guide by Rick Jarrow.

I’d add another rule to the mix.

Don’t commit to more than two projects at a time.

Most of us have our day jobs. That’s already one big project. That means don’t commit to more than one side-project at a time. If you do, you’ll decrease your chances of success significantly on all of your commitments.


Quick and frequent pivoting is popular among startups. That’s obviously a violation of the 6 months rule. Do so only if you have a strong signal that your pivot will be a massive success.

I’d make another exception to the 6 months rule. If you’re just starting out, start 12 projects in 12 months. Try to complete each project within a month.

That would give you an enormous experience. And who knows one of those projects might end up becoming a home run.

After those 12 months, stick to the 6 months rule. Otherwise, you’ll risk ending up with an array of unfinished, failed projects.


As you gain experience and let go of your internal and external distractions, you develop your intuition. When your intuition is at a high level, you don’t need to analyze on an intellectual level.

You instantly see what’s an opportunity and what’s a distraction. In other words, you reach the fourth level of learning, where you’re competent on an unconscious level.

That’s why cleaning up your mind as explained in the posts about effortless success and letting go is critical.


Even though some of us complain about lack of opportunities, an abundance of opportunities is a challenge for others.

Following every opportunity and trying to be everything to everyone produce mediocre results at best. To avoid that pitfall, we need to determine our vision first, and then evaluate each opportunity according to its contribution to our vision.

That requires some intellectual analysis and experience. Over time, we develop our intuition which helps us quickly evaluate opportunities.

Letting go of distractions, unnecessary thoughts, emotions, and habits also improve our intuition.

At a certain moment, we reach a point where we recognize opportunities instantly and reject distractions without thinking. That’s the state of the Zen mind where we operate in flow and succeed effortlessly.

A Healthier Attitude toward Business Stats

There was a scene in the movie Social Network. Mark Zuckerberg and his team moved into their first office. They placed a big screen in the lobby showing the number of registered Facebook users. That number was going up continuously and motivating everybody in the team.

Business Dashboards

A similar practice is popular among executives nowadays. Instead of big screens in lobbies, executives have their key numbers on their computer screens. Those numbers are visualized in a few charts that fit a computer screen. This collection of charts are called dashboards.

An executive can see all the key numbers of their business with a single look on their dashboard. Think about the dashboard in your car. It’s a crucial part of driving. You need to know how fast you drive, how much fuel you’ve left, and whether your engine is overheating or not.

The Benefits of Dashboards

Business dashboards serve various purposes.

  • Motivation
  • Decision making
  • Determining the direction of the company
  • Detecting problems
  • Coming up with points of improvement
  • And so on…

The Numbers I Track

I track two numbers about my blog. The growth ratio of my Medium followers and my email newsletter subscribers. My target for both figures is 10% weekly growth. I explained this goal in a previous post called How I Use Growth Metrics to Optimize the Stats of My Blog and Email Newsletter.

Numbers are critical. Money is nothing but a collection of numbers in databases around the world. You need those numbers to pay the bills. If you want to improve your business, you need to keep track of your numbers. What gets measured gets improved.

However, numbers aren’t everything. When you’re driving, you don’t look at your dashboard all the time. You look at it at critical moments. During the rest of the time, you look at the road.

When running a business, it’s not so evident that you have to take your eyes off the dashboard once in a while. If you don’t pay attention, you can easily get lost in numbers and data. As a result, you might miss some critical aspects that can’t be measured by numbers.

Obsessing about Numbers

I was in that situation for a few weeks. The numbers of my blog are easy to track and extremely volatile. I hit my goals one week, miss them the next. This type of volatility can motivate you to the point of obsession. I wonder whether that kind of motivation is healthy.

Being obsessed with numbers can lead you to make mistakes. Think about a sales rep who makes unrealistic promises to their prospects to meet their targets. Think about a software developer checking in buggy code to complete their tasks before the deadline.

Stressing about Numbers

If you can’t reach your targets for an extended amount of time, you might be tempted to quit. Many people can’t handle the stress of not meeting their goals. As a result, they either give up, or they decrease their targets.

In our imagination, we expect linear growth. In practice, we experience long plateaus of mediocre results punctuated with growth spikes. You can check Malcolm Gladwell’s book Tipping Point for more about this.

My Unhealthy Relationship with Numbers

I had an unhealthy relationship with the numbers of my blog in the last few weeks. I obsessed about them. I didn’t think about hacking my way to reach my goals. Such a practice backfires in the long term, but I was demotivated when I couldn’t reach my targets in a given week.

A Healthy Attitude toward Numbers

I decided to change my relationship with the numbers of my blog.

  • I’ll keep tracking them, but I’ll quit obsessing about them.
  • I’ll use them as guides, not as punitive masters.
  • I’ll do my best to achieve my goals, but I won’t be attached to the results.

This approach is called high involvement, low attachment. I first read about this approach in the book Supercoach by Michael Neill. The idea is to do your best and let the chips fall where they may.

My New Practice

  • Check my numbers once a week. This is what I used to do anyway.
  • Brainstorm about action items to meet my targets of the next week.
  • Decide on action items to execute in the next week.
  • Execute those action items during the week.
  • Repeat all the steps every week.

The idea here is to work hard with a positive attitude. There is an optimal mental state for maximum performance. It isn’t being desperate, pessimistic, worried, or anxious. It’s being optimistic, having faith, being motivated, and accepting the results entirely.


Numbers are a critical part of a business. Without the numbers, you don’t have a business. Yet, obsessing about numbers can lead you to make mistakes. Worse, it can lead you to quit altogether.

The solution is to keep tracking the numbers with a healthy attitude, doing your best to achieve your goals, and letting the chips fall where they may.

Three Alternative Revenue Sources for Medium

In yesterday’s post, I explained why Medium’s subscription business isn’t sustainable. In essence, it satisfies neither readers nor writers.

I’m a big fan of Medium, and I want it to succeed. That’s why I’m going to share alternative income sources for Medium in this post.

Current Model Is Good for Users But Unsustainable

I’m not motivated by my interests when criticizing the current model and proposing alternatives. The current model is more beneficial for me than the one I suggest.

The current model gives me an excellent, ad-free platform to publish my posts and reach a significant audience. I’m afraid this won’t last long.

I propose a model that is less beneficial for me in the short term, but that will keep Medium afloat longer. That way, it will benefit us, writers and readers, in the long run.

Let’s go over the three alternative income sources for Medium.

Charge Writers for Publishing on Medium

Publishing on Medium is a privilege, and it should be treated as such.

If you charge for the opportunity to post on Medium, writers will approach the platform with greater respect.

Similar to the current system, a writer can publish three posts for free in a given month. That gives an opportunity to everybody to publish on the platform. Anything more than that will require the writer to pay Medium.

Writers would pay Medium for the exposure they get and for the audience they reach. That exposure and audience aren’t available anywhere else for free. It has a value that can be monetized.

What about Comments?

In this system, commenting will be free. If someone wants to publish a 45-minute post as a comment, that’s fine.

If my observations are correct, comments aren’t distributed as widely as standalone posts. Therefore, the writers who publish their posts as comments won’t get as much distribution as the writers who pay the subscription fee.

Charge Writers for Increased Distribution of Their Posts

Medium is a post distribution mechanism.

Writers benefit from getting their posts distributed to a relevant audience. They could increase their benefits by getting their posts distributed to more people. They could pay for that extra distribution.

I assume Medium is considering several criteria when distributing a post to an audience. These criteria might include the engagement of the readers, the tags of the post, the followers of the writer, and so on.

Each criterion has a weight in calculating the relevance score of a post to a reader. The posts with a higher score are displayed in a higher position to a reader.

We can add one more criterion to this overall score: the amount of cash paid by the writer.

I suggest keeping the weight of the distribution fee between 10% and 20% in the overall score of a post. If this weight is lower than 10%, writers won’t find it interesting to pay the distribution fee. If it is above 20%, the overall quality of the platform will suffer.

Sell Privacy Protection Packages

Nowadays, data is a gold mine, and privacy is a problem. In his last post, Ev Williams, CEO of Medium, states that Medium doesn’t sell data to third parties. This is an uncommon practice on the web.

Almost all digital products and services collect user data and sell it to third parties. This practice is a source of income for many websites.

By not selling data to third parties, Medium is benefiting its users. It’s only fair for Medium to charge for that benefit.

As I explained in my post on privacy, I recommend online businesses to offer two types of memberships to their users.

The first type is the free membership. Free memberships are subsidized by selling user data to third parties. This is the current online standard. Most of the websites, products, and services you use on a daily basis are funded with this system.

Privacy Protected Premium Memberships

The second type is a privacy-protected premium membership. In this tier, user data is not sold to third parties, but the user pays for the benefit.

Medium is leaving a lot of money on the table by not collecting and selling data to third parties. This alone could beat the income from their current paid membership model.

It Isn’t Possible to Safeguard Data Anyway

You might oppose this model, but third parties probably collect the data you enter to Medium and sell it further.

If you use Google’s Chrome browser or the Android OS, Google is collecting and commercializing your data anyway, even when you use Medium.

Even if you don’t use Google products, data finds its way to third parties. Here’s an experience I had recently.

My Medium Comment Leaked to YouTube

I access Medium only via Firefox on a Windows PC and Medium’s iOS app. Recently, I added a comment about IKEA to a Medium post. A few hours later, YouTube started to show me IKEA ads on another device.

I have no idea how that data is leaked to Google, but it leaked anyway. Data finds its way to third parties. Why not sell it yourself and charge the people who want to protect their privacy?


Medium’s current subscription-based business model doesn’t seem sustainable in the long run. There are three alternative revenue sources for Medium.

  • Charge writers to publish on Medium
  • Charge writers to increase their distribution on Medium
  • Commercialize the data of the free users and sell privacy protection packages to premium users.

These revenue sources seem to put readers and writers in a disadvantaged position in the short term, but they are more sustainable than the current model in the long run.

If the current model fails, we will lose Medium altogether. Paying for publishing posts, increased distribution, and privacy protection is a small price to pay to keep Medium afloat.

Your Turn

  • What do you think about the revenue sources proposed in this post?
  • Do you have alternative revenue sources for Medium?

Is Medium’s Business Model Sustainable?

If you look at my archive, you’ll see at least a dozen posts on Medium. Almost all of those posts are praising Medium.

I take Medium seriously, use it as the single source of traffic, and learn a lot of lessons from my Medium stats. It’s an excellent platform for readers, writers, and humanity.

In short, I’m a fan of Medium. Nevertheless, I don’t believe in its business model, and I’ll explain why.

The Number of Paid Memberships Is Growing

In his last post, Ev Williams, CEO of Medium, shares the progress of Medium’s subscription business.

Mr. Williams shares a chart of the daily new members and the total number of members. Both numbers seem to be growing, but there aren’t actual numbers on the chart. We don’t know whether the total number of premium members are 10K, 100K, or 1M.

50K Weekly Writers, 80M Monthly Unique Visitors

Mr. Williams cites other stats. More than 50K writers publish at least once a week on Medium. Medium received more than 80M unique visitors in a recent 30 day period. Those are some strong numbers.

There is a critical question to be asked though.

What is the conversion rate of the 50K writers and 80M unique visitors to premium members?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t think that conversion rate is high enough to sustain Medium in the long run.

Spotify’s Value Proposal

To justify the premium membership model, Mr. Williams mentions other businesses based on similar models. One of his examples is Spotify.

I’m a premium Spotify member since it became available where I live. There’s a huge difference between Spotify’s premium and free offering.

  • Ad-free
  • Unlimited skips
  • Listen offline
  • Play any track
  • High-quality audio

That difference is worth more than the 100 I pay them every year, especially considering their vast, ever-growing back catalog.

Medium Premium’s Value Proposal

I don’t see a difference that is worth $50 / year between the free and premium versions of Medium.

  • Premium posts don’t have marketing messages, not even links to email newsletters.
  • You can save stories to an offline reading list.
  • There are some commissioned stories.
  • You can listen to the audio versions of popular stories.

Medium Premium’s Competition

In the premium content space, Medium’s offering can’t compete with Kindle and Audible as far as I’m concerned.

In the free content space, Medium is the biggest competitor of its own premium membership business. In the free audio segment, there are more than enough quality podcasts.

While trying to prove his case, Mr. Williams is making some sad remarks in his post.

“There is — and probably always will be — a surplus of free content. But that’s like saying there’s a surplus of free food in the dumpster behind the alley.” Ev Williams [1]

“Will people just lower their standards? Perhaps. In fact, our standards have been gradually lowering for years. We’ll read crap on the web we wouldn’t have put up with in print.” Ev Williams [1]

Free Content Isn’t Necessarily Crap

I don’t read “free crap” on the web. The posts that I read on Medium aren’t the content equivalent of the free food in the dumpster.

I always have a Kindle book or an Audible audiobook as an alternative. I read a free Medium post, because I think I’m going to get something out of it. The cost of a Kindle book is irrelevant to me compared to the time I invest in it.

Who decides that the premium content on Medium is better than the free content on Medium? What is the decision criteria?

A Medium post is premium, because its author decided so. Outside of the no marketing rule, there are no criteria that separate a premium post from a free post, as far as I can see.

What’s the motivation to provide outstanding content on Medium?

A writer can have several motivations.

  • Spread ideas.
  • Get some exposure.
  • Build an audience.
  • Market products or services.
  • Make some money.

A paid membership website isn’t the best way to spread your ideas, get exposure, and build an audience. Marketing isn’t welcome in premium posts. Money isn’t significant either.

“In February 2018, 56% of authors who published at least one story for members earned money — making $58.45 on average for the month.” Medium Marketing Message [2]

Sure someone made $9K in a month, and a post made $1K, but those figures are possibly outliers. They probably don’t represent a reliable income. If I were that writer, I wouldn’t get a mortgage counting on that $9K monthly income.

Buy a Membership to Support Medium

You might argue that you have a Medium membership, because you want to support Medium’s cause. I acknowledge that. I donated to Wikipedia and other non-profits in the past.

I could buy a Medium membership to support it. However, that’s not the point. Medium doesn’t ask us to donate them money.

Medium is trying to sell us something as a for-profit company. There’s nothing wrong with that. I evaluate Medium as a commercial product, not as a non-profit.


Medium’s premium program doesn’t provide sufficient value to the consumers. It doesn’t offer enough value to the writers either.

If the subscription model can’t satisfy the primary stakeholders, how is it going to become a sustainable business?

The subscription model doesn’t convince me, but there are other business models that Medium can use. I’m going to publish a post about one of them tomorrow.

Your Turn

  • What do you think about Medium’s subscription-based business model?
  • Are you a premium member?
  • If so, what made you a premium member?
  • If not, what keeps you from becoming a premium member?

Three Reasons to Take Medium Seriously

Medium Can Be the Pillar of Your Content Marketing Strategy

I expect two groups to read this post.

  1. People who are interested in Medium and the art of writing
  2. People who are interested in marketing

I’m writing this post for the people who are at the intersection of both groups.

Some people in the second group won’t be interested in creating content in written format. As I explained in a previous post, some people are better at creating content in audio and video, and others in written form.

There’s good news for both segments. Medium isn’t a text-only platform anymore. It also serves audio. More about that later.

Do You Hate Marketing?

I’m not afraid of the people in the second group. It’s the first group that I’m scared of. Some people associate marketing with evil and hate everything about it.

In the past, marketing has been abused to get the most out of people’s pockets without providing something significant in return. However, times are changing.

The New Wave of Marketing

There’s a new wave of marketing. The new wave of marketing is enabling great work to sustain itself and reach its target audience who are willing to consume it.

When I’m writing about marketing, I’m writing about the new wave of marketing, not about getting the most out of people’s pockets.

I’m interested in building a business that provides as much value as possible to its customers and receives a fraction of that value in return. Marketing is a part of this business model.

Keep Marketing out of Medium?

There’s a notion that all marketing is terrible and it must be kept out of everything that’s good, including Medium. I don’t agree with that notion.

Not all marketing is evil and decent marketing can enable great content on Medium. That’s the topic of another post that I’m going to publish tomorrow.

In this post, I want to focus on the value of Medium for content marketers. Among others, there are three reasons Medium is valuable for content marketers.

Medium Is a Content Platform

There are two types of social media platforms, content platforms and promotion platforms. Medium is a content platform.

A Medium post is 95% content and 5% promotion. Go over 5% promotion, and you have no chance on Medium.

That is good for consumers, and that’s good for content producers as well. People can immediately see whether a content producer is worth their time or not.

A content producer doesn’t need to bother with promotion, which is a secondary activity anyway. That’s why I focus on Medium as the single source of traffic for my blog.

Facebook Is a Promotion Platform

It’s almost impossible to get your content consumed on Facebook.

On Facebook, you have to create convincing promotional posts, pay Facebook to boost those posts, and hope that some people click through to your actual content. In contrast, your Medium post is your actual content.

The average Facebook user will ignore anything longer than a few sentences or a few seconds. In my experience, 6-7 minutes long Medium posts perform the best.


Medium is taking the content delivery to the next level with audio.

I consume content in two formats. When I have time, I read content in written form. Reading is an efficient way of consuming content. But I can’t read a post when I’m working out in the gym. Then, I listen to a podcast or an audiobook.

Medium combines both formats, and this is an opportunity for you. I don’t use this opportunity at the moment, but I don’t underestimate it.

If you can provide your content in two formats, in written and spoken, on the same platform, you’ll have a massive advantage over your competition.

Suppose that I follow you. I get stuck in a traffic jam. Instead of sitting there doing nothing, I can listen to your latest post, instead of waiting to arrive at home to read it.

Do you see how many other writers you’ll beat by providing the audio version of your posts?

If you record the audio versions of your posts, you can eventually broadcast them in a podcast or on YouTube as well.

Medium’s Algorithm Change

In his last post, Ev Williams, the CEO of Medium, explained the changes they made to Medium’s algorithm.

The new algorithm favors evergreen content over fresh content. This change seems to be disadvantageous in the short-term, but it’s great news in the long run.

There are enough news sites that report about the recent events. There are enough books that provide evergreen content on timeless topics such as personal development.

I also want to have something quick to read like a blog post on those timeless topics. Medium is meeting that need now. There aren’t many major platforms that do that. Medium is distinguishing itself this way.

What Are the Implications for Content Providers?

The new algorithm is good news and bad news for content providers.

It’s bad news, because your next post has to compete with the complete back catalog of Medium.

It’s good news, because if your next post succeeds at this competition, it’s going to pay dividends for the rest of your life.

I prefer long-term value over short-term benefits. Medium’s new algorithm favors this approach.

You better invest more time and effort in your next post so that you can reap its rewards for the rest of your life. If you don’t, it won’t produce any short-term benefits either.

80% of My Post Views Come from Older Posts

Last week, my Medium posts received 2701 views. 2134 of those views came from the posts that were older than a week.

You’ll need to invest a lot of time and effort in your posts upfront and won’t be able to see any rewards in the short-term. Your efforts will pay dividends in the long run.

Medium’s new algorithm will eliminate a lot of competition and make good work pay off. Our posts won’t be archived after a few weeks and then forgotten.


Medium is an excellent platform for content marketers who are willing to provide more value than they ask for.

If you post on Medium, you don’t have to promote your content. There is an audience willing to read excellent blog posts. If you’re good at blogging, your content finds its way to this audience.

You can include the audio versions of your posts on Medium and at least double your audience.

The new version of Medium’s algorithm will eliminate a lot of competition, but there’s a catch. You have to be willing to put in the time and effort, and be patient enough to wait for the long-term rewards.

Coming Soon…

Today’s post was about the positive sides of Medium. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll discuss the downside of Medium’s business model and Ev William’s vision.

Don’t forget to check my post tomorrow. Better yet, sign up to the email newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of my most recent posts.

Your Turn

  • Do you use Medium as a part of your content marketing strategy? If yes, how?
  • What’s your take on the audio feature and the new algorithm of Medium?

How I Deal with Failure

In the last six weeks, I was focused on two numbers to measure the success of my blog. These are the weekly growth rates of my Medium following and the number of my email newsletter subscribers.

My weekly goal for both figures is 10%. That goal is at the ambitious side and I have a difficult time achieving it every week.

So far, my average was 7%. Not bad, but not being able to succeed my goal every week frustrates me a little. That’s why I want to look at other sides of my efforts than the weekly goals.

The Big Picture vs. Short Term Challenges

Online business expert Gary Vaynerchuk recommends to focus on “the clouds and dirt” and to avoid everything in between. The clouds is the long term vision. The dirt is the tasks and challenges in front of you.

In my case, the dirt is my weekly goals and how I want to achieve them. I’ve been focused on the dirt for the last six weeks. Today, I want to look at the clouds, the vision, the big picture of my efforts.

The Karmic Management Model

I’ll use the karmic management model of Michael Roach to analyze my blog. I discussed this model in detail in my post A Buddhist Monk’s Take on Business.

The Ideal and Less than Ideal Business

I make a distinction between ideal and less than ideal businesses. Ideal businesses add value to humanity. Less than ideal businesses extract value from the humanity.

Ideal businesses make a positive difference in the lives of other people. They provide value. That value has a financial equivalent. Ideal businesses receive a fraction of that value.

Less than ideal businesses extract value from the humanity. They do that by exploiting the weaknesses of people.

Most of us have their irrationalities. Some of those irrationalities are predictable. Less than ideal businesses build their business on exploiting those predictable irrationalities.

The World Is Not Black and White

Obviously, we can’t make a black and white distinction between ideal and less than ideal businesses. As I explained in my post the Fallacy of Extremism, that would be a childish outlook on life. Most businesses are somewhere between both polarities.

For example, gambling businesses provide some value by entertaining their customers. Educational businesses have to use some marketing techniques to convince their prospects to pay for their products and services.

In either case, I want to be closer to the ideal end of the spectrum.

Four Stakeholders in a Business

The karmic management model takes into account four parties to measure the potential of a business.

  1. Customers
  2. Employees
  3. Suppliers
  4. Humanity at large

I want to add a fifth party to this model: myself.


I plan to build an information marketing business around my blog. So far, I have been writing mainly about personal development and marketing.

Personal Development

I consumed a lot of personal development products and services. Those products and services made significant differences in my life. Some of those products and services were paid. There was an exchange of value both ways.

In some cases, I paid more than what the product or service was worth for. In some cases, I received great value for free. Some free YouTube channels and videos made significant, tangible, positive changes in my life.

In either case, I’m more than satisfied as a paying customer of the personal development industry. My own experience is a validation of the personal development business.


In the past, I developed several products. Those products benefited their users, but I wasn’t able to commercialize them. Marketing and sales were the missing link between those products and their prospective users.

I’m not alone. A lot of gifted people have a difficult time building a business around their skills. They have a difficult time building products and services using their skills or commercializing the products and services they offer.

I want to create content that helps people build and commercialize products and services around their skills. But first, I have to figure that out myself. I work on it and I document everything that I learn on my journey.

I already receive the feedback that the lessons I share resonate with people. If you want to receive the latest lessons I discover on my journey, sign up to my weekly email newsletter.

Bottom line, I believe that there is value for my prospective customers in my information marketing business, both in personal development and marketing segments.


I don’t have any employees at the moment. There’s only one person who helps me with household once a week. I’m grateful for their services, because they save me a complete day every week.

As I build a business around my blog, I could hire freelancers such as virtual assistants, programmers, and writers.


My business would benefit several suppliers. I already pay for hardware, software, internet connection, and for some tools, such as Evernote and Google Drive.

I review the tools that I use in my blog posts. I believe that is fair value provided to my suppliers.


I serve humanity by providing as much value as I can in the ideal side of business.


I enjoy blogging, writing, developing products and services on personal development and marketing.


Sometimes, we lose the big picture of our businesses by being too focused on day to day details. That was the case with my weekly goals.

Today, I wrote down my business vision using the karmic management principles. Now, I can clearly see the long term benefits of my business to its prospective customers, suppliers, employees, humanity at large, and myself.

All of that helps me put things in perspective and not get frustrated when I miss a weekly goal or two.