🧑🏼‍🚀 Blueprint 036

The Choice Paradox, LeBron James & the 3rd era of content, digital member clubs, month 9 strategy update

Welcome back to Blueprint, a weekly series where I share an unfiltered, behind-the-scenes look into my journey as a full-time creator and entrepreneur.

My goal with Blueprint is to provide an unusual level of openness and transparency into my highest leverage learnings and ideas.

It’s been 36 weeks (9 months) since I went full-time.

Today’s topics:

  • 🤔 | The Choice Paradox

  • 🎙️ | JJ Reddick, LeBron James, & the 3rd era of content

  • 🙋🏻‍♂️ | Digital member clubs

  • 📈 | Week 36 metrics + month 9 strategy update (see last section in today’s post)

A reminder that the internet game is not zero-sum. Everyone reading this can win at an unlimited scale. I’m writing this for the internet astronauts building their own worlds. If that’s you…let’s ride 👩🏻‍🚀

CHOOSE WISELY
The Choice Paradox

The more options you have to choose from, the harder it will be to choose.

I call this The Choice Paradox.

And TCP often leads to the worst possible outcome for creatives…inaction.

Analysis paralysis. Immobilization from fear of picking the wrong path.

I’ve faced this a lot over the past few months.

The irony of success is that the more traction you have, the more bad doors you’ll need to close before you can move forward through the good ones.

Those extra options create decision fatigue and leech from your creative energy. You spend more time deciding than doing.

The good news is, there’s an antidote to choice fatigue…constraints.

The first time I observed the power of constraints was watching Jack Butcher build Visualize Value.

Jack’s primary content flywheel for VV came from simple black and white images visualizing popular sayings, theories, and motifs.

He put max constraints on himself…he was only allowed to use black, white and the font t.26 carbon.

The constraints helped him to simplify his daily workflow.

All he needed to focus on was generating the best possible visual…because the rest was already decided.

And that’s the key…he reduced the number of decisions on a daily basis.

Not only did this help him develop a signature style, but also it gave him the optimal environment to maintain the consistency required to win.

So what’s the tactical takeaway for creators?

The key, when facing choice fatigue, is to apply/reapply as many constraints as possible, such that you can compound traction around a single channel, single style, or single category.

I shifted from making one type of video to experimenting with all types of different editing styles, delivery styles, topics, etc.

My hypothesis was that by offering many different styles, fans would like me more for me and less for the style.

What I found is that the freedom of optionality actually decreased my productivity….because I spent less time making and more time ideating.

I had something working, opened my choice aperture too wide, got distracted by all the options, and lost traction on my core focus.

If you’re like me…this will probably also happen to you at some point.

When you feel this happening, you should refocus on the one core thing that most closely aligns with your authentic self and shut the rest of the doors.

For me, this is finding interesting stories at the intersection of business strategy, tech and culture.

Every time I go away from this, and try to "take advantage of a trend or theme” I see working elsewhere, I end up shipping fewer videos and having less fun.

The extra choices weigh me down.

Use constraints to help eliminate choice fatigue.

LBJJ
JJ Reddick and LeBron James just changed media

Last week, JJ Reddick and LeBron James launched their new basketball podcast, Mind the Game.

The first two episodes have a combined 5.1M views on YouTube.

During each episode, LeBron and JJ go into extreme detail about play design, coverages, and advanced basketball situations. They use terminology that players and coaches would commonly reference.

It’s amazing.

The show is a clear departure from “mainstream sports coverage” and will end up being the poster child for a major shift in media.

The shift is across:

  • Topic (broad → niche)

  • Coverage style (general → specific)

  • Hosts (talkers → doers)

Their show is a great example of what I call the 3rd era of internet content.

The 1st era was roughly from 2000 - 2010, which featured a huge mismatch between demand and supply for high quality content.

To be clear, there was probably 100x more demand than there was supply.

In this era, any consistent producer of content on the internet could gain huge mindshare, which is why we saw domination from networks (e.g., ESPN, MTV)

The 2nd era was roughly from 2010 - 2020.

During this time, many tools, playbooks, and platforms were developed to lower the friction barrier for content creation.

This is when social platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram emerged as significant alternatives for content at scale.

Because of this, we saw “internet-first” content houses emerge…places like Buzzfeed and Barstool Sports.

This also played host to the rise of the individual creator and catalyzed what is now considered the creator economy.

During this phase, supply caught up to and eventually exceeded demand.

Towards the end of this era, content needed to compete for eyes.

Those making general purpose content for entire categories could still win, but they needed to have differentiation, either through distribution advantages, better talent/personalities, or access.

During this 2nd era, there was a clear separation between “those who did” (the business builder, the athlete, the artist) and “those who talked about those who did” (the media, the journalists, the sports anchors).

But in the last few years, we’ve entered Phase 3…where the tooling, algorithms, and playbooks have gotten so accessible that the practitioners (those who did) have now also become the media (those who talk about what they did).

This is where we’ve seen shows like New Heights (Kelce brother’s podcast), The Manning NFL Broadcast (with Eli and Payton), and now Mind the Game (with JJ and LeBron).

It turns out, the best way to get high quality, deep content within a category, is to have the players/builders/artists be the ones that host the shows.

I could listen to Stephen A Smith spew nonsense about the NBA or hear about it from LeBron directly.

There’s a time for both, but almost all of the content to this point has been positioned as the former.

My prediction is that this is just the beginning for “doer-hosted” media.

There will always be a place for talent commentators to provide entertainment-first perspective, but an entirely new category will emerge for value-rich stories from the doers themselves.

What’s the tactical so what?

Most of these doers don’t have the time or interest in learning the entire content production/business stack, so there’s a huge opportunity to provide the infrastructure and know-how for them.

Sure, LeBron and JJ already have an in-house production team dialed, but there is a long-tail of athletes/artists that want to be a part of this wave and don’t have the resources.

Find them and supply it.

DIGITAL MEMBER CLUBS
The future of the internet is digital member clubs

After 9 months of creating on the internet full-time, I’ve observed several persistent trends.

The biggest one is that people (both creators and consumers) are lonelier than ever.

Because to this point, social media experiences have been designed as one player games.

  • As a creator, I’m creating in a vacuum (one) and blasting my content out to my following (many)

  • As a consumer, I’m scrolling in a vacuum (one) and consuming content from everyone I follow (many)

Not very social and a super individual experience.

To me, the future of social media will look more like digital member clubs.

A digital member club is a small group of people, aggregated around some topic, belief system, or goal.

It’s gated (either by opt-in, payment, or application) and the majority of the interaction is designed as many-to-many, where members engage with each other more than they consume by themselves.

This obviously isn’t a new idea (free & paid communities have existed on the internet for a while), but I think we’ll see this structure 100x in popularity over the next 5 years.

I think of the existing social platforms (Tiktok, Instagram, YouTube, X) as continents.

Massive land areas, lots of subcultures, difficult to know where you belong, etc.

Humans don’t normally associate themselves with the continent they live on. Instead, they typically describe where they live by their state, city, or neighborhood.

It’s a smaller subdivision, grouped by common beliefs.

I don’t know if you feel the same, but I’m dying to find my internet neighborhooda place where I can learn, connect, and grow with people that care about the same things I care about.

I’ve found these types of people on bigger platforms, but my interactions are littered with noise, ads, and junk from other topics on the feed.

This is a suboptimal experience.

Because of this, I’m building a digital member club for people like me, focused on using content to build businesses online.

It’ll be a place specifically designed to make 10x better content for creators, entrepreneurs and marketers.

I have lots of cool things in the works around this and it will be live in the next couple weeks.

If you’re interested, drop your information here (Blueprint readers on this list will lock in something special during launch).

WEEK 36 METRICS

My goal is to provide a deeper strategy refresh every 4 weeks (to minimize the weekly whiplash while still providing a super transparent look into my thinking).

I’ll break this down into:

  • Month 9 recap (income, traction, focuses)

  • Current strategy

  • Month 10 priorities

Month 9 Recap
  • Income: I made it a priority to find consistent cash flow so that I could cover the costs of outsourcing my editing. During month 9, I came to terms with the fact that I hate editing and must outsource it if I am going to last in this game for decades. I used content strategy consulting for brands mixed with selective brand deals to increase cash flow. In the last 4 weeks my income was $9,549 ($124K annual run rate).

So I temporarily solved my cash flow problem, but still haven’t plugged the editing hole. I’m currently trialing editors looking for a long-term solve.

  • Traction: My biggest problem from Month 9 was traction and audience growth. I tried experimenting with several new styles of short-form content, which didn’t work. Views during this 4 week period were 790K (not great for me). Net follower increase was +3,269 (again, not great. Got bailed out by Snapchat which doesn’t really matter). Felt super lost during this phase, couldn’t figure out what my content identity should be, didn’t feel like I made the best videos I could, suffered from comparison trap. Was a tough little stretch mentally

  • Focuses: My focus going into month 9 was to slowly scale short-form, long-form, podcast, and newsletter simultaneously. This didn’t work as I burned out trying to do everything myself. Was super pumped about the feedback from the wknds podcast. Sadly Roberto stepped away from the show. As I retooled, realized I didn’t like the stress of booking different guests every week. Will need to figure out what this becomes

Overall, month 9 felt like a down month. Didn’t make a ton of progress around brand identity, didn’t grow materially grow the audiences, didn’t launch anything new.

Was a lot of wandering and frustrating talks with my wife trying to figure out the right strategy.

This happens a lot along the way. It doesn’t really bother me personally anymore, but frustrates me until I have clarity.

Current strategy

If there’s one thing I’ve realized in the last 30 days, it’s how important it is to clearly define what winning looks like for you.

Winning is different for everyone and without crystal clear parameters for what you want, it becomes easy to suffer from The Choice Paradox.

Humans map their feeling of progress against their vision for winning. When you don’t have a vision for winning, you map your progress to every possible path, and you’re never happy because your progress is never enough.

Another small learning on this…

Shaan Puri talks about the ABZ framework. A is where you are today, B is the next iterative step you need to take, and Z is where you want to get to.

Not having a Z (i.e. not knowing what winning looks like) means that every B step you take feels wasted.

You must define what Z is so that your B step can be in the right direction.

So I have now defined what winning (Z) looks like for me:

  • $250K/month income ($3M profit/year)

  • Creating something daily that I’m proud of

  • Spending my days exploring curiosity rabbit holes on the edges of tech

  • Top mental/physical shape

  • Working with a super small team (I don’t want to be a professional manager)

  • Spending a portion of my time teaching others what I’ve learned

  • Buyers get 10X+ value on anything I sell

This is the end point that I’m working towards from now on.

Current strategy tactically breaks down to this:

  • Top of funnel - primary focus on short-form, continue writing Blueprint, will scale YouTube (once I have editing capacity) and podcast (once I redefine a format that is fun for me)

  • Bottom of funnel - digital member club is the nucleus (where my goal is to help everyone in the club earn 10-100x the membership per year)

For now, this is the primary focus, and I’m going to say no to everything else that doesn’t map to this vision.

Month 10 Focuses:
  1. Reinvigorate my short-form content

  2. Launch digital member club

  3. Launch YouTube long-form (with editing support)

CONTENT FROM THIS WEEK

My best content from this week:

  1. 🤖 | Elon created the first human cyborg: Watch

  2. 🍕 | Chick-Fil-A is selling pizza: Watch

  3. 🦾 | Putting ChatGPT into a robot’s brain: Watch

  4. 🎿 | wknds in Big Sky, MT: Watch

  5. 🧮 | wknds 019: Building a premium community with Jordan Mix: Watch

  6. 🧑🏼‍🚀 | Blueprint 035 - We're entering the next Tiktok moneymaking era, I'm giving away a free luxury vacation, storylenses, portability: Read