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The myth of the silver bullet

Posted in the following categories: Personal Development

Since Think Like a Rocket Scientist was published in April (and instantly became a #1 bestseller in several categories), I’ve received countless questions about writing a bestselling book.

What’s your publicity secret? 

Can you send me some hacks for book marketing?

How did you get your book on Amazon’s Top 20 of 2020 list?

The underlying theme is the same: Give me the step-by-step formula, the shortcut, the hack—the silver bullet.

I understand the impetus behind these questions. In school, we’re given the false impression that life is a series of right answers discovered by someone who came before us. There’s one curriculum, one right way to interpret history, and one right formula that spits out the one right answer on a standardized test.

Modern marketing exacerbates this problem. We’re made to believe that there’s one surefire way to launch a product, one surefire way to set up your business, or one surefire way to create a marketing funnel that’s guaranteed to work.

But there is no surefire way to do anything. The myth of the silver bullet is just that—a myth.

If there were a silver bullet, every book would become a bestseller, every Netflix show would become a hit, and every Silicon Valley start-up would become a unicorn.

Here’s the hard truth: It took me 4 years to launch an overnight bestseller.

I started blogging and podcasting back in 2016, with an eye toward a book launch several years down the road. At the end of my first year of blogging, I had only about 600 subscribers to my email list—a fraction of the 26,000+ people getting this email. I spent years building and nurturing connections with prominent authors who ended up blurbing my book, instead of asking them on the eve of my launch for an endorsement. I spent 6 months before the book launch lining up speaking opportunities, and media and podcast appearances. I also had a good dose of luck along the way—an often ignored component in any success story.

Steve Martin tells a similar story of being approached for advice on how to break into the entertainment business. “Nobody ever takes note of [my advice], because it’s not the answer they want to hear. What they want to hear is ‘Here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script,” Martin explains. Instead, Martin tells them: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Being so good they can’t ignore you takes a long time. No amount of tugging at a flower—no amount of searching for shortcuts, life hacks, and silver bullets—will make it grow faster.

Those who become so good they can’t be ignored are those who delay gratification in a world that has become obsessed with instant results. They reorient their calibration for the long term, not the short. They don’t quit simply because they realize it’ll take them years to defeat the werewolf in front of them.

When it comes to creating long-lasting change, there are no silver bullets, as venture capitalist Ben Horowitz says.

You’ll need to use a lot of lead bullets instead.

P.S. I’m giving away five of the best non-fiction books I read this year (though not all of them were published this year). As an added bonus, I’m also including a signed and personalized copy of my own book Think Like a Rocket Scientist.

To participate, simply enter your email address at this link.

After you enter, you’ll get the option to share the giveaway with others. For each person who signs up from your share, you’ll get an additional three entries to your name. The more you share, the better your odds of winning!

I'm giving away 5 of the best books I read in 2020

The giveaway ends one week from now on Thursday, December 10th, at midnight Pacific.

Enter here.

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