“Ya Got Trouble, My Friend…”
“Oh, this is a refined operation, son, and I’ve got it timed down to the last wave of the brakeman’s hand on the last train outta town.”
– Harold Hill, the Music Man
In my process of writing The Defining Moment there has been a task moving closer as I inch through the table of contents and near the release of the book. I’m dreading this task with a strange unease, a feeling that my hands, still glowing with the joy of creation, are about to be dipped in a tub of filth and putrid effluvia.
It’s called the Sales Page.
It’s not a difficult process – in fact, it’s been refined so much that everyone from style consultants to the 4-Hour God Tim Ferriss himself use it. I’ve created more than a few for clients in my work as a copy writer and web designer.
Yet for some reason putting The Defining Moment into that sales machine has all the appeal of putting a kitten in a sausage maker. I apologize for the gruesome analogy, but it’s taken me a while to really figure out what it is about that process – the process that has proven successful for many authors, the process that is proven to work – that feels so disingenuous and inauthentic.
“The Caliber of Disaster”
The problem is that the whole strategy behind that kind of page is as formulaic and manipulative as Professor Harold Hill in Meredith Wilson’s Music Man (who, I should add, I had the honor of playing during my senior year). It’s a process of inflation: your own credentials, the value of your product, and the problems it purports to solve among other things. There’s the creation of a sense of urgency (“Normally $500, order today and you’ll get it for only $250!”).
It’s all over the web, and it’s there for a reason: because it works. And surely I want my book to be a success, right?
That depends on what you consider success, actually. Here’s a section of the First Things First Manifesto, a call for more accountability among information professionals:
“…We have negated our professions’ potential for positive impact, and are using up our time and energy manufacturing demand for things that are redundant at best, destructive at worst.”
It’s a noble sentiment, and seems to be a great recognition of the need for more ethical creative work…until you realize the Manifesto was originally released in 1964, and then re-released in 1999. Now it’s being circulated again, a quarter century later, because it’s needed more than ever.
That’s why there won’t be a sales page based on the formula that works for The Defining Moment. The fact that something is effective does not make it ethical.
The answer from a lot of professionals to that kind of idealism is to shake their heads with a smirk at my charming naivety and say something like “Well, that’s fine, then, we’ll just save this kind of sales page for info products that want to be successful.”
I would not bother to reply, since they would not listen. But I would certainly be thinking “If that’s what it takes to be successful, perhaps you need to re-examine your understanding of that word.”
The real work is how not to hang your self-worth, your sense of success and merits, the fullness of your heart, and the stability of your soul on those numbers…if you are not rooted in the things that move you, then you’re not really going to be able to produce things that are meaningful. You’re just simulating what it is like to be a person who feels those things, right?
– Maria Popova in an interview with 99U
If you want to hear bitter laughter, go into a coffee shop filled with freelancers and say, quite loudly, “Do what you love, and the money will follow!” That first-world promise has been both liberator and desolator for countless people coming into the workforce just as the idea of “job security” became more urban legend than reality. I was one of them, enamored of Free Agent Nation with dreams of being the next Hillman Curtis.
It didn’t work out that way. Instead I learned through poverty what my cousin Adrian can teach through a book: the joys of minimalism and the luxury of doing a lot with a little. These were not lessons learned happily; they were mingled with feelings of failure and inadequacy.
Perhaps that phrase was translated (from the original Klingon) incorrectly. It should read “Do what you love and wealth will follow.” Or, more succinctly: “Do what you love and you’ll love what you’ve done.”
The Defining Moment is a labor of love for me, and yes, of course I want it to be successful. I would love to continue the trend that’s been taking place on my Patreon page, where Megan and Heather joined others to support the work here at Love Life Practice. There’s no lie that money is a form of energy, and even a $1/month patronage helps keep me going both physically and mentally.
While that is a measure of success, it is not the measure. What would our lives be like if we stopped trying to only measure success in terms of numbers, statistics, dollars and percentages?
What if you chose to measure it by the love in the life you practice? What would our world look like then?
“Great and wondrous things; made by great and wondrous people; who dream great and wondrous dreams; about making the world a great and wondrous place.” – Umair Haque