Here are my goals for 2020. I’m publishing them for public accountability, and just in case anyone out there has a goal that is aligned with one of mine.
1. Write and publish Building a Second Brain book by June 1, 2020, with 100,000 copies sold by end of 2020
This is the big priority for 2020. The last few months have been a wake-up call, as I’ve taken far too long to get the second version of the book proposal finished – I can’t do this as a minor side project, whenever I have time for it. The book is so monumental, its intellectual and emotional mass so difficult to move forward, that I have to put all my weight behind it this year.
To be able to do so, I’m limiting myself to 10 goals in 2020, and the projects directly associated with them. I’m putting stronger filters on what is allowed to occupy my attention, such as having our new course manager handle all course-related emails, having all cold mails routed to my personal assistant, saying no to all interviews and speaking gigs until the book is out, and blocking off all weekday mornings for deep work.
The book will be the beginning of a new era for me and my work, there is no doubt in my mind. It will create a platform far larger than the one I’ve had so far, by creating a delivery mechanism that can reach a far greater range of people and places. Every decision I am making about the book is to maximize its accessibility – from the terminology I am using, to its length and organization, to the metaphors and explanations, and eventually, to the licensing and translation deals I’ll pursue. I intend to make at least the possibility of a Second Brain available to every human being I possibly can. It is one thing that the world needs, that I am able to provide.
2. Produce an amateur documentary on Wayne Forte, his work, and his life, and screen it in a private theatre with family and friends for his 70th birthday, by June 30, 2020
This project has already been one of the most interesting and rewarding projects I’ve ever undertaken. It has led to some of the most profound conversations with my father and the people most important to him. It has opened so many black boxes I didn’t even know were there. Using nothing but a smartphone and some questions. It would have all been worth it even if I gave up right now and threw away all the footage.
But I don’t plan on throwing it away. I’m more determined than ever to see it through and to share it with the widest possible audience. Not just because my father’s life and work is extremely interesting and worthy of attention. But because it also contains profound insights into what it means to live a life of creative inspiration. A question that once was only for the artistic few, but today is relevant to the entire class of creative knowledge workers emerging around the globe.
I plan on completing the film over the next few months, once I incorporate footage from our trip to the Philippines and a few key remaining interviews, and learn some crucial editing techniques such as motion smoothing and color correction. I plan on renting a small theatre somewhere in Orange County, inviting all our family and friends, and premiering the film as a celebration of his 70th birthday in June.
Later I will premiere the film online for my followers, in a worldwide synchronized viewing that people can attend via local watch parties, or by themselves from home. Besides the lessons on creativity and life, I want to demonstrate how a meaningful community event can be catalyzed using nothing but the smartphone in our pockets (and tons of work and software and social media).
I believe amateur documentary filmmaking could be one of the most powerful sources of social change in our generation. With the proliferation of powerful smartphone cameras, easy-to-use editing software, and social media networks, that possibility is more feasible than ever. The only remaining constraints are our courage, our willingness to learn, and our ability to get ourselves organized and in action.
3. Praxis reaches 2,000 paying members by June 30, 2020
The past year I’ve been focused mostly on public writing to gather as much feedback as possible on my Second Brain ideas. And on interviews, for the same purpose. But this year I’m going to return my focus to my subscription membership program on the Praxis blog.
Despite being only two years old, Praxis counts over 800 members that I know represent the very best and brightest audience for productivity and personal effectiveness on the planet. There is practically no limit to what such a group of people – meaningfully committed to exploring and implementing radical new ideas about human potential – can accomplish.
I’ll be doing a deep dive on Praxis v3.0, gathering the best ideas I’ve seen from the past few years on how to create subscription products and services, virtual communities, and crowdsourced collaborations that deliver far more value than they cost. I deeply sense that there are enormous opportunities here, just waiting to be tapped. I don’t yet know what the third version of Praxis will include, but I’ll focus on a small set of new features that work synergistically together and are uniquely valuable to my audience and work.
4. Forte Labs content is licensed to 5 organizations, producing $5k per month in revenue, by December 31, 2020
In 2019 we had our first recurring licensing partnership, with Discover Praxis, a 6-month program that trains young people in modern workplace skills and places them in apprenticeships with startups. They adapted the Building a Second Brain material to fit within their curriculum, and put a few cohorts of students through it. It produced so much value, from amazing case studies and testimonials, to new ways of explaining the techniques that underlie a Second Brain. And best of all, it happened without our involvement, except for a short onboarding call.
I can clearly see that this is the future of our business. We aren’t going to build a vast organization with staff delivering our content in every possible format. We aren’t going to hire legions of professional, full-time corporate trainers who fan out across the business world. We aren’t going to have customer support call centers staffed around the clock. My #1 value is freedom, and leading an organization with a large headcount isn’t compatible with that. But I also believe that it isn’t necessary any longer to build a large organization to have a large impact. What I do best is create new ideas and ways of teaching them, and I’ll do best by focusing on that and keeping Forte Labs lean.
This of course means we need to develop licensing and partnerships as core capabilities of the business. This includes continuing to refine and expand the BASB online course, which is the standard bearer and reference for all the other formats. But it also includes forging win-win alliances, negotiation skills, creating solid contracts, carefully documenting our methods and exercises, strong and enforceable copyright protections, and who knows what else.
I don’t know how the licensing world works, but this year I intend to find out.
5. Enroll 1,000 new students in BASB course by December 31, 2020
Despite the above, continuing to drive forward the quality and growth of our online courses is more important than ever.
It’s important as content creators that we have exposure to real students. Otherwise we risk losing touch with what’s happening on the ground, and having what we’re teaching lose relevance, which would be a death sentence in the category of professional development. In the past this would have meant running in-person workshops and corporate trainings, which are time-consuming, expensive, and can’t reach many people. But now we can reach a global audience while keeping our organization extremely lean. That’s the magic of online courses, and the reason I am focusing on them and saying no to virtually all in-person trainings this year.
We’ve just hired our first full-time course manager for cohorts of both Building a Second Brain and Write of Passage, which we will run back-to-back all year long in 2020. Will is charged with managing all aspects of the courses, from promotion to onboarding to student experience. This leaves David and I with more time to promote the courses and continue to develop major improvements to them. We are looking at everything from the material itself, to how we communicate with students, to how we plan and deliver live calls, to ways of supporting the alumni community. Every new cohort this year will be launched alongside a fresh round of such improvements.
The course will also be crucial to the launch of the book. Having an easily monetizable “upsell” for readers ready and waiting means I can make the book itself a loss leader, investing all of its proceeds and then some into promotion, publicity, and hiring the best consultants and advisors. Instead of haggling with the publisher over half percentage points, the profitability of the course allows me to make strategic decisions and investments more aligned with the long-term success of the book. That means it can find its way into more hands in more countries, while giving the most committed students a pathway to receive in-depth training.
6. Reach 25k subscribers to Forte Labs Newsletter by December 31, 2020
In 2019 my eyes were opened to the incredible power of email marketing. Like a secret subterranean society, I discovered email is the real way that business is done online. It’s hard to fully appreciate since most of the attention goes to social media. But if you really look at where the money is made, and how businesses become sustainable and build defensible business models, it’s through email.
I made a lot of major investments in 2019 in this direction: from joining a 10-week course accelerator in the summer that focused primarily on email marketing, to hiring a marketing coach to work with me for the next year, to moving my entire email operation from Mailchimp to ConvertKit, to taking an online course on how to use ConvertKit, to publishing new subscription forms and my first lead magnets on the blog. My email list growth has skyrocketed as a result of these and other investments, growing from 100 new subscribers per month to about 800. But I still believe I’m barely scratching the surface.
Email addresses represent a meaningful relationship with a customer, that they have explicitly agreed to and welcomed. A relationship that can’t be taken away with a change in an algorithm or a frivolous copyright strike. Along with a self-hosted blog using open-source software, it is one of the core pillars of any online business that wants to stand the test of time. It’s definitely not as trendy or prestigious as a follower count on Instagram or YouTube, but is much more consistent with the long-term business I want to build.
I’ll continue making investments to gain subscribers and improve their experience after they sign up. I currently have about 9,000 subscribers to my weekly newsletter. Which means I’ll need to nearly double my average subscriber growth over the course of the year to hit my goal of 25,000 by year end.
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7. Enroll 1,000 people in Write of Passage, and reliably deliver a transformational experience for their writing and career, by December 31, 2020
I continue to have a stake in the success of our newest course launched in 2019, Write of Passage. The results have been tremendous, beyond our wildest expectations. The testimonials that stream in after every cohort inspire me to keep going all out in our goal of making writing online a more accessible path to professional success.
It’s an interesting role for me, to remain committed to every aspect of the course, while remaining a couple steps removed from its operation. Our new course manager handles the operations, while David is responsible for the overall strategy and direction. I am focused on the underlying plumbing of our shared infrastructure and operations, plus occasionally injecting ideas and suggestions for how to improve other aspects. It’s not a sexy job, but one I’m finding increasingly interesting and full of opportunities for creativity.
My goal is to help Write of Passage grow several-fold in 2020, increasing both its enrollment numbers and the impact it is having on students.
8. Visit 3 new cities/regions of Mexico with Lauren by December 31, 2020
We didn’t do as much traveling in Mexico in 2019 as I wanted, only visiting nearby cities like San Miguel de Allende, Puebla, and Oaxaca. One of our main reasons for moving to Mexico at the end of 2018 was being able to easily visit the regions of Mexico, and that is something I intend to do more of in 2020.
I’m focused less on the quantity of places visited, which is never a good metric. We’ll do just a few regional trips, but focus on quality. In July we’ll spend a couple weeks in Guatemala with our Guatemalan friends Max and Dani – it’s not technically Mexico but it counts for my goal since it will be a deep cultural immersion. I also want to visit Yucatán, Guadalajara, and Merida. But I’ll wait to opportunistically jump on those depending on where we have friends or projects.
We are falling in love with Mexico, its people and its culture, and looking seriously at how we can make it permanently part of our lives in the future.
9. Buy a home for our family, in Long Beach or nearby, by December 31, 2020
We’ve gone back and forth on this, but are leaning toward buying a home in or around Long Beach in 2020. We plan on moving back to California if and when we get pregnant, to be close to our families in Southern California.
Long Beach has stood out for us as an ideal home base due to its proximity to both LA and Orange County, the fact that it’s a cosmopolitan, walkable city with a good downtown and public transportation, and its rich Latino culture. It will put us close to everything LA has to offer without leaving us at the mercy of its downtown traffic. And when we eventually get cabin fever and decide to move abroad again, it will make an excellent investment property to rent out.
10/ To Be Decided
Even with my more limited focus this year, I always like to leave one slot open for the unexpected, the surprising, or the serendipitous. Looking back at my goals over the years, some of the most rewarding and impactful were completely unplanned and unforeseen. Truth is stranger than fiction, and the opportunities that life throws my way are often far more interesting than I could have invented myself.
Here’s to an exciting, profound, eye-opening 2020! If you have an idea for how to move one of my goals forward, that also moves forward one of yours, let me know.
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