rob's writing roundup! (week one)
an executive summary of my shockingly prolific week
Greetings, internet friend!
This past week has been one of the most prolific writing weeks of my life. And holy smokes does it feel good. It's like I've been filling myself up with unexpected new ideas and experiences for 18 months, and now I've opened the spigot and am letting an entirely new worldview flow out unimpeded by self-doubt or fear. Pretty rad.
Anyhow, down below you'll find a list of everything I published this week, along with a lil summary of the big ideas. That way, you can get a sense of what I'm up to without actually having to read everything. On a related note, I'm trying to make Sunday mornings a bit more restful than the rest of the week during this publishing sprint, so perhaps I'll mess around with AI summarization for future newsletters. Probably not though. Something tells me I'll hate it lol.
If you only read one piece from this roundup, make it this one. It's def one of the best things I've ever written.
For those of you who've been in my world awhile, you know how obsessed I used to be with niche strategy. That was my entire schtick at Filmmaker Freedom, and during the early days of Ungated as well. Niching down is a powerful tool, and an effective one, but it also comes with some major downsides that take time to rear their ugly head. I had to learn that lesson the hard way, and it's the reason I am no longer a crusader for niche strategy. Because it rarely leads to a joyful business that brings you alive and makes you feel connected to your work and customers. Instead, it usually ends up feeling like a prison from which you can't escape, because you're economically dependent on work that no longer feels true or alive.
This piece dives into why I'm so bullish on the 1,000 true fans model, and why I think it's an effective antidote to the ideological growth obligations that get baked into nearly every business, and that make so much of the internet feel toxic and extractive. My aim with Ungated is to create a bottom-up cultural movement centered around small, artisanal, digital businesses, which are rooted not in the pursuit of endless growth, but in enough. If we can make that a cool and high-status endeavor, I believe the future of the internet will be substantially more beautiful than its present.
At the bottom of every daily post, I'm sharing an invitation to explore one of my paid products, and working on articulating them in new ways each time. This is partly an experiment in growing my business in a simple, non-coercive way. But it's also about recalibrating my nervous system, and learning that I will be okay if I talk about my products openly. For years, I've felt uncomfortable with anything that resembles selling, and it's led me to hide my products away and rarely talk about them. If I want to flourish in my life, and feel like I have enough financially, that's a pattern I have to break. And I'm hoping to do exact that over the next 100 days.
The world of "data-driven marketing" makes me sick to my stomach. It's a fast track to seeing people not as the unique humans they are, but as datapoints, as rows on a spreadsheet, as an abstract, depersonalized means to an end. Throughout this 100 day publishing sprint, I am not paying any attention to traffic, open rates, conversion rates, likes, or anything else. Instead, I'm choosing to measure internal resonance and external resonance. These two unconventional and qualitative metrics, I suspect, are a much better indicator that I'm on the right track towards a joyful true fan business that actually matters to people.
Ever since I stopped being The Niche Guy™, I've been trying to figure out how we can strategically set about building online worlds that not only bring us alive, but that help us earn true, lifelong fans. This new strategy—building a Container of Aliveness—is the best articulation of how I've been approaching this problem in my own work. Here are the three steps/ingredients for building your own such container.
Define one or more zesty, aspirational, open-ended questions. Find the questions that create an endless sense of curiosity and spark you alive.
Begin to live those questions and explore them, however imperfectly, in your day to day life.
Fill your online container with artifacts of your lived experience, thus leaving a trail for others who are on a similar journey.
It's possible I'm full of myself, but I think this approach is going to change the game of "creator" businesses, while also breaking the pattern of people just regurgitating the same advice over and over. In its place, we'll start seeing more work that is uniquely and unmistakably human.
Ok, let's recap. The secret ingredient of the Containers of Aliveness strategy is big, beautiful, open-ended questions. When we ask questions that feel uniquely resonant, and that have no easy or obvious answers, and then we begin living the questions themselves instead of merely intellectualizing them, our lives take on an incredible new dimension. And when we start filling our online containers with artifacts derived from our lived experience of the questions, it results in work no one else but us could do, and work that is insanely resonant to people who care about the same questions. That, in a nutshell, is how this strategy results in a richer experience of your real life, creative work you care about, and a business fueled by true fans.
Anyhow, this post digs into all of the questions I've been living for the past two years. This should provide some clues as to why Ungated feels nothing like any other marketing or business website lol.
Rob's Weekly Invitation
This year, my primary focus is building The Frontier into the membership community I've always wanted for myself, but just wasn't finding anywhere else.
Sure, the membership comes with literally all of the courses and workshops and templates I make. That's table stakes. But I want something deeper, something that's more than just a collection of static resources. I'm working to build a digital oasis away from the noise and pressure of the internet marketing industry. A place that supports all of us in courageously walking our own path, and building true fan businesses that are uniquely our own, instead of perpetuating the same cookie cutter approaches elsewhere.
Truthfully, walking your own path is terrifying. But courage, I believe, is contagious. When we're surrounded by people cheerfully subverting a broken status quo, it makes it a whole lot easier to trust ourselves and do our own work. That's what's happening on The Frontier, and the invitation is always available if you'd ever like to join us.