Good morning, rise and shine! Missed me?
What you see above (click on it for a larger res) are the stats for this newsletter over the past year, since I started it. Keep on reading if you want to understand the numbers and their context. If not, just skip to the recommended articles section.
– I sent the first Friday Read on July 28th, 2017 to four people, encouraged by a dear old friend (who was also the first subscriber).
– Except for two Fridays in March, I sent an email every single Friday. That includes winter holidays, when I sent a special, longer than usual newsletter, with the best books I read in 2017. I decided to take the brief March break only because I traveled to the opposite side of the world and didn’t manage to write and schedule the newsletter in advance.
– I’m now sending this newsletter to 1,130 people, out of the 1,571 who subscribed in the past year.
– Because of my introverted nature, I’m the worst marketer, always afraid not to bother other people with my „look at what I’m doing!” requests for attention, so there was no pompous promotional plan or campaign for this newsletter. It had a slow and steady sustained growth, mostly via word of mouth (can’t thank you enough for your support – I’m clearly incapable of spreading the word about it, so I’m counting on you to do that).
– I only announced Friday Read through a blog post when I launched it, and a few shares on social media. Quitting Facebook on Christmas Eve clearly impacted the growth rate (I had 7k followers there, so a potential great source for promoting anything), but my mental health greatly improved, so I’m not going back there, at least not any time soon (I try to stay away from using the words „never” or „always”.
– About the 441 people who aren’t subscribed anymore. Half of them unsubscribed on their own, while the rest were manually unsubscribed by me in three batches – so that explains the suddenly shrinking bars in the graphic above.
– Theoretically, I manually unsubscribed those who didn’t open all the emails I sent 5 weeks in a row (now you know all my secrets and you don’t have to be afraid I’ll unsubscribe you for not opening Friday Reads while on your summer holiday ). „Theoretically”. I might have accidentally unsubscribed the wrong people once, from a segment I misconfigured. Including my own mother and mother in law. No complains received though, I don’t think they even noticed, so maybe they weren’t reading those emails after all? Well, oops.
– The first batch of unsubscribes went unnanounced, while the next ones received an email from me, where I let them know I unsubscribed them and why (also, I don’t think people can subscribe back on their own using the same email address, so they need to tell me they want back).
– Because I keep culling the newsletter, open rates vary between 60-70%, and click rates are around 30%, which is a lot. The book recommendations get the least amount of clicks – judging within the context of the circumstances (aka people’s reading habits), I came to realize those numbers are normal. It’s far easier to commit to reading an article than a 500-pages book that you might enjoy or not (solution? treat books as you treat articles).
– At the beginning of March, I switched from writing this newsletter in Romanian language to English – after many sleepless nights, going back and forth on this decision, afraid that I’m going to loose every single reader and I’ll have to start building the newsletter from scratch. My fears never came true.
– I made the (right) bet that those who read me don’t have an issue with English, since all the articles and books that I recommended in the newsletter were in English anyways. Only two people unsubscribed then and sent me an email to let me know it’s because of the language barrier.
– After switching to English, I was overwhelmed by the reactions. Over the following weekend I received more than 100 replies from readers who supported my decision and were sharing their personal struggles with me. While the reactions to my decision were positive, reading their stories was the most depressing thing I ever did. Most of them were from Romanians who already moved out of the country, while others said they want to improve their English language skills anyways, since they’re considering leaving.
– The main reason I switched to English was because I wanted (and still want) to reach more people over the long term. I consider that I succeeded in my mission, I know that a few friends/entrepreneurs based in Australia, Canada, America, South Africa and Singapore are now reading this (hi, guys!!! hope to get to meet you in person one day ).
– One of my main rules has been keeping the newsletter ads-free, without any sponsored mentions or links, and I plan to keep it this way. When I do mention a person or a company, it’s only because I genuinely believe there’s something to be learned from them, or I’m a loyal buyer myself. I was impressed to find out from one of the brands I mentioned that I sent them more customers than when they were mentioned by the top two social media influencers in Romania. My ego was bursting with joy. It’s also infuriating to realize how much money is wasted by brands on „online influencers” that don’t actually impact anyone, but oh well, I can’t save everybody in this worl.
– The downside of not turning this newsletter into an income stream? I need to be careful with how much of my time gets dedicated to it. Unfortunately, that also means that it’s impossible to answer all the email that I receive (I do read them all though). I’m really sorry and I feel awful about this, but they’re too many and too draining for the introverted individual that I am. I might disappoint a few people, but on a long enough time frame I’m hoping that more will benefit this way. I’m also curious to know how those with hundreds of thousands of subscribers are able to keep up with their incoming email, when I’m already drowning in my own inbox.
– The only initiative I had towards turning this newsletter into an income source, while also providing something that I feel is highly valuable and only wish I could have had access to something similar earlier in my life, is the workshop I’m organizing together with Andrei Roșca (the one I announced in last week’s email). It’s probably just the first in a long series of events. I’m trying to figure out how I can reach more people at once, with the same allotted time and resources.
– With three or four exceptions, I wrote all these emails Friday early morning, right before sending them. No planning in advance. I do my best work when I’m under pressure, and sometimes I need to invent deadlines to self-impose that pressure. Good morning!
Now keep on scrolling for this Friday’s recommended articles…
1. Beat generosity burnout (by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele) – one of my closest friends sent this to me, correctly guessing that I’m on the verge of burnout, beating myself up with commitments to help others. If you’re a selfless giver who needs to learn more about how to be highly productive and spot those who’ll drain you, this article’s for you. It will take you through the generosity spectrum (takers, matchers, self-protective givers and selfless givers), the profiles of giving, and ways to help in a highly productive way – examples included.
2. Relentlessly turning input knobs to 0 (by Brad Feld) – after reading a book on why to delete social media accounts right now, Brad (a famous entrepreneur, investor and author) didn’t delete any account, but he did reconsider how he’s using them and how they made him feel. Eventually, he turned down the volume on the inputs that were helping him collect data, from social networks to RSS feeds, news sources and the likes, and went into broadcast mode only. Be active, stop reacting to others’ agendas!
3. How to disagree (by Paul Graham) – this one’s an oldie but goldie, published in 2008 by the entrepreneur and co-founder of YCombinator, probably the most popular and successful startup accelerators in the world. Graham deconstructs the way disagreements are made and puts them into 6 categories in the disagreements hierarchy. This can help you spot weak forms of arguments, put your finger on why exactly they stink and come with better counter arguments.
4. A warn against walking through life in an underslept state – if you know people who brag about how they’re able to sleep only 4 hours per night and be fine, send them this article. It also deconstructs the myth of falling asleep „like a baby” after drinking coffee, and why it’s actually not true that we don’t need more sleep as we get older (it’s based on a book I’ve been planning to read since last autumn, „Why we sleep„.
5. Fit Tales – a dear old friend (who’s also a food coach and excellent trail runner) started her own newsletter recently, where she shares nutrition and sports related resources. If you’re interested in the subject, she’ll send you a bimonthly email with all sorts of articles, podcasts, and anything else that she finds valuable and nonsense-free. Subscribe now, don’t wait till January for this
6. Mind the gap (by Jason Fried) – as Jason and DHH, the founders of Basecamp (former 37signals) worked on their new book (coming out this autumn), they had to impose limits on how they’re using their time: „It’s on us to inject a sense of enough so we don’t sink good time into something that doesn’t need it. Going from 99% to 100% is expensive. I’d rather we spend that 1% going from 0% nothing to 1% something (or 50% on the fence to 51% conviction) on something else.”
7. Here’s why you shouldn’t start a podcast (by Ryan Holiday) – you’ve heard all the arguments on how podcasts are great and why everyone’s starting one. Holiday came up with the counter arguments – if you read these and still want to start a podcast afterwards, then go ahead.
No new book recommendations for this week either. I’ve been on the road a lot lately, which means I also read a lot, but all of them were about startups and business, so they don’t fit the long term direction of this personal newsletter. If you’re interested in the subject, you can find out more about them (and other related resources) in the weekly email that I send to those subscribed to the The CEO Library – this is the project that I co-founded almost a year ago, with resources for aspiring entrepreneurs. And by „entrepreneurs” I’m actually referring to anyone with an entrepreneurial, creative mindset, so not just business founders.
One last thing. If you have any personal stories about how this newsletter impacted you in the past year, what and how you changed thanks to something you read in it, and you’re comfortable with making those insights public, please send them over.
Ok, enough read for one Friday. Stay uncomfortable!