After I sold Bleacher Report in 2012, I did all the things that founders dream of doing when they strike gold in an exit.
- I chipped in with my co-founders to fly the whole company to Vegas for a blowout party.
- I roamed around Southeast Asia living out of a backpack for a couple months.
- I island-hopped the Mediterranean on a fifty foot sailboat.
- Most glorious of all, I didn't check email for weeks at a time.
After I got all that out of my system, I decided to re-enter the real world. So I did what I thought founders in transition were supposed to do.
I had meetings. Lots of them. Coffee meetings. Lunch meetings. Meetings for drinks. Meetings to catch up. To bounce ideas. To pick brains and have mine picked over too, like some kind of meeting-crazed zombie.
For an activity that is 75% bullshit, the meeting parade amounted to a lot of work. But I felt like I needed to do it to "stay relevant." That voice in my head that sounded like some over-the-hill business guru told me to "keep my network active." If I didn't use it, I might lose it.
But was that really the case?
Eventually, I started another startup because that's what I felt the world expected me to do. After all, being "in transition" means you have to transition into something.
Nine years later, I've sold that company, too. And after moving on, I'm taking a different approach to this next period.
First, I don't see it as a transition at all. By practicing mindfulness, I've learned to appreciate the present moment. I avoid the urge to look ahead to what's around the corner or over my shoulder at past accomplishments and failures. I keep my head in the now, for however long it lasts and wherever it takes me.
Second, I've opted out of the meeting gauntlet. Instead, I'm spending my mental energy creating content and building an audience.
Why? Because audience is leverage.
I don't need to schedule meeting after meeting to have the same small talk and repeat the same updates. Why do that, when I can have an ongoing conversation with thousands of people across several channels?
Before, I would throw out the same ideas at each one-on-one encounter to see if they bounced or fell flat. Now, I can hit 'Publish' to broadcast my thoughts to anyone who shares my wavelength. And I get instant feedback.
The content I create works for me when I'm having downtime with my family. When I'm sleeping, it's still going. Making new connections, generating opportunities, and creating deal flow.
For a crash course on the value of leverage, check out this explainer from Eric Jorgenson.
Creating content and building an audience is still work. It takes repeated, concerted effort. But compared to hustling from meeting to meeting, the work is infinitely more scaleable.
I'm late to the audience-building game. Which is a bit ironic, since I spent my whole career building huge audiences for Bleacher Report and Inverse.
But I never tried to do the same for myself.
These days, audience building is all the rage. Experts and builders from all over the business world have discovered that audiences create unfair advantages.
Last week on Audience Builders, I talked to James Camp and Codie Sanchez about this very topic.
Codie built a successful career as a public and private equity investor. She could have continued on that path and crushed it. But she's gone all in on building an audience.
Contrarian Thinking, Codie's newsletter, grew to over 200,000 subscribers in a year. Her readers come for the unconventional cash flow ideas, and stay for the captivating writing.
Codie's an expert in applying financial leverage to grow wealth. And now, she's building audience leverage to do the same.
A lot of investors today, we're realizing that there's a new form of leverage out there
And who loves leverage more than financial professionals?
And that new form of leverage is audience.
- Codie Sanchez
James has a career as an entrepreneur, internet marketer, and website flipper. Now, he's executing a roll-up of e-commerce websites. And his Twitter audience is the secret weapon generating proprietary deal-flow.
Sure, there are risks to building audience. To gain the leverage, you put up your reputation as collateral. If you fuck up or do something dumb, you could ruin it.
This risk alone stops many people from ever starting out. It held me back for years. But a reputation is only as good as what you do with it.
As James said:
You'll never know how successful you can be until you stop caring what people think about you.
In other words, YOLO.
I still take meetings. As the world springs back to life, seeing people face-to-face feels more vital than ever.
But I've stepped off the meeting treadmill. I don't worry about staying relevant or keeping my network active.
With that pressure gone, I enjoy the meetings I do have a hell of a lot more now.
By creating content, I'm building leverage. By activating an audience, I'm applying it.
Day or night, I know it's working for me.