2016 was a year for the record books, but the day you believe your own hype is the day you’ve created your own high water mark. As the year winds down, it’s time for an after-action review of your year. What went right, what went wrong, and how can you improve.
I’ll start with the negative. What went wrong in 2016?
Operationally I’m a mess. There are boxes of books for me to sign and movie posters and t-shirts for me to ship. I hired someone to help, and that didn’t work out.
It annoys me that this stuff hasn’t been signed. Some of the delay is not my fault, as product hadn’t arrived. However, as a business owner everything that goes wrong is your fault. (That’s why most fail in business. They look for others to blame. Even if it’s not your fault, it is.)
It’s a lack of gratitude for the people who have books/posters heading their way. I’m going to sit down and print out shipping labels myself. Every business owner will tell you that, no matter how glamours their lives may seem, if the toilet gets clogged you are the person who unclogs it.
What I’ve learned in 2016 is most people do not want to work hard. People want to get in front of a camera and get famous. When it comes to sitting down and doing the tedious details involved in my line of work, people disappear.
This presents a challenge for me because expanding operations requires delegation.
Two wins that should have been bigger.
MAGA Mindset did not hit “classic” status. This may be my fault, or it may signal a decline in viability of political books.
MAGA Mindset had a great opening month. Now book sales are mediocre. Don’t get me wrong, it has still already sold more books in a few weeks than 99% of books sell in a lifetime and will hit the magic 10,000 copies sold that makes a book a success by publishing standards. However, MAGA Mindset isn’t going to “tip over” into classic status the way Gorilla Mindset has.
Initially my idea for the title was, The Rise of Trump: The Cultural, Media, and Mindset Principles Trump Used to Win. Two people who give great branding advice hated the title, so I changed it. In hindsight, it’s impossible to say which idea was better.
The book cover, while awesome, may be preventing it from reaching a broader audience.
Or perhaps not. Ann Coulter’s great book on Trump didn’t sell as well as I expected it to. Most books about this election are poor sellers. Coulter and I actually have the two most popular books on the election. Maybe the entire market has changed.
It could be that the political books category is shrinking massively and that there’s no way MAGA Mindset could have reached classic status.
Silenced did not tip over to the mainstream.
Silenced, the documentary on free speech I produced, isn’t going to tip over to the mainstream. Some of the flaws of Silenced included a lack of narrative structure and a failure of A/B testing.
Silenced turned out well, I’m proud to be part of it, and by indie filmmaker standards, it’s a success.
At this point in my life, “success” is settling.
I want blockbusters or nothing at all.
That’s not because of ego, it’s because of work. What you’ll learn is that it takes as much work to earn a small sale as a large sale. (That’s why it’s stupid to write books thinking you’ll get rich or even make a lot of money. Writing books today means selling them yourself. If you can sell books, you can sell high margin products. Sales is sales.)
It takes as much time to write a book that breaks through as one that does not break through. The same is true of films.
In the time it took me to work on MAGA Mindset, I could have written another book.
My next film will be far more popular because I care what viewers want to see and will A/B test more carefully.
What went right in 2016.
Big picture, 2016 was a smashing success. Web traffic is up, book sales are up, my Twitter grew by 10x, our message is reaching millions of people. (If I owe you a t-shirt, book, don’t beat me up too badly, it’s been busy around here!) Additionally I produced my first documentary and wrote another book.
Silenced was a proof of concept as much as a documentary in and of itself. You backed Silenced even though I never produced a documentary, and it shipped in less than a year, and it was good.
Anyone but me would be thrilled by Silenced’s success. Everyone talks about wanting to make a movie “one day,” and together we made that happen.
Blog traffic hit over 12,000,000 views.
Danger & Play continues to grow year over year, averaging more than one million page views a month.
Book sales are up.
When MAGA Mindset hit, I sold over 10,000 total books in a month. I’m moving up the author food chain, which is cool.
I didn’t track book sales by year (see my operational shortcomings, above), but they hit a spike. Gorilla Mindset now has nearly 700 reviews on the Amazon.com store.
Gorilla Mindset is now available in hardcover exclusively at Barnes & Noble.
Media/journalism stuff went through the roof.
My influence on the election is hard to overstate. It was fun for me to create something out of nothing. I had no media or journalism career.
Yet somehow in 2016 I was on TV, profiled in the New Yorker, attacked in WaPo/NY Times/every other fake news site out there.
It’s rational analysis rather than ego stroking to say I’m a real player in the media game.
Friendships are up.
I made new and who will sure to be lifelong friends in 2016.
What’s next for 2017? (Navel gazing alert.)
Skip this section if, like most readers, you don’t care about the internal struggles of “content creators.” You want to see the end product and grimace at behind-the-scenes stuff.
My life vision is at a crossroads, and this will seem like humble bragging, and that’s how I’d have read an article like this years ago. It’s such a bitch move to pull an Andrew Sullivan, crying about how the fame and influence and attention has really got ya down, bro, and drives you to a silent meditation retreat. But….
As you know from reading Gorilla Mindset, you are what you do. Being online as I am rewires your brain. It makes you glib and superficial and gossipy rather than deep and introspective and philosophical.
- Read: Solitude and Leadership.
Writing about news and current affairs requires me to focus on individual people – people who are vile scum. The fake news media is made up of the worst people alive and the evil they want for the world is unimaginable to most.
There’s a conflict between my journalism and my interest in mindset. I have passion for the latter and not the former.
Don’t get me wrong. This “struggle” is a good problem to have. There are people truly suffering, and I’m by no means whining because – wow, just wow, how can I choose between all of these enviable options?!
Life is always a bit self-indulgent and solipsistic.
There have been around 108 billion of us humans who have lived or are living on this planet.
If I said your life and vision don’t matter because you are only 1 out of 108,000,000,000 you’d be startled.
In one sense, nothing any of us will ever experience is novel. The miracle of childbirth – happened 108 billion times already, welcome to nothing. The joy of seeing your child smile for the first time – get over it, happened. Falling in love – who cares, it’s no different from chocolate.
Life would lose its joy if you truly believed nothing you do matters. Your life does matter, and that’s why you must honestly and critically analyze your own life, asking if your habits and focus align with your vision.
Sometimes this means being a bit full of yourself. People will even hate on you for reflecting on your life. Don’t take that personally, as they are not mad at you.
Your own introspective shines a mirror on their failure to reflect.
Take some time to reflect on what you’ve done this year and how you can improve it.
Even though you are only 1 / 108,000,000,000 your life matters.
Happy Holidays to you and yours.
May 2017 be your best year ever.