David speaks with Paul Millerd, a Creator, Writer, and Consultant. He’s the author of the Pathless Path, an incredible book.
There were a lot of gems in this episode. You're gonna love this if you have any aspirations at all of being a creator or following your curiosity, finding your own path.
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📄 Show notes:
3:14 | Paul’s Background
4:37 | Finding the pathless path
7:59 | Getting rejected from everywhere
9:39 | Being an immigrant
14:38 | Finding meaning in life
15:27 | Avoiding fear
17:08 | A weird dichotomy
17:48 | Stop spending money
20:33 | Happiness is a key factor
21:45 | Have you tested that?
26:15 | Wonder Tips the Scale
28:59 | The weirdest path
32:22 | The journey of writing
37:39 | Empty page to finished book
43:46 | How to love your work
48:50 | Ambition Vs Aspiration
1:04:23 | Unbridled dopamine response
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David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist, and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.
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Paul Millerd: [00:00:00] The biggest risk for me is not running out of money, it's running out of curiosity and passion. So if I notice that is dwindling, it's like, all hands alert. I need to do something different. I'm hanging out with the wrong people. I'm not being active. I'm not getting enough sunlight. I'm not like getting enough space away from my work. I'm not writing enough. I'm not reading enough. So I'm always trying to like rejigger that and I'm currently in like a reset process. I want to go deeper. I want to like write more this year in like a deeper, more thoughtful way. And yeah, it's a, it is constant process. If you don't like, re shifting your day and constantly analyzing and experimenting, like this path is not for you.
David Elikwu: Hey, I'm David Elikwu. And this is The Knowledge. A podcast for anyone looking to think deeper and work [00:01:00] smarter. In every episode I speak with makers, thinkers, and innovators to help you get more out of life.
This week I'm speaking with Paul Millerd. Paul is a writer and consultant. He's the author of the Pathless Path, which is an incredible book, and we spent a lot of time talking about the book and a lot of the ideas around it.
We talked a lot about this idea of a default path, the path that you find yourself on and how easy it can be to craft narratives about why you are where you are and why that was what you wanted all along.
And then we talked about this idea of stepping off that path and finding your own, and being able to nurture your curiosity and creativity and see where that leads you.
And then we talked about Paul's journey from consulting to creator and a lot of the challenges that come with being a creator, how you need to lean into uncertainty and what that can unlock.
So, there was a lot of gems in this episode. You're gonna love this if you have any aspirations at all of being a creator or following your curiosity, [00:02:00] finding your own path. If you feel like the default is not necessarily what was best for you, it's not necessarily something that you chose and you want some inspiration or some guidelines on how you can step off that, you should definitely listen to this. And also check out Paul's book. He also has a podcast, which is the Pathless Path podcast, and he writes online at Boundless.
You can get the full show notes transcript and read my newsletter @theknowledge.io.
Every week, I share some of the best tools, ideas, and frameworks that I come across from business psychology, philosophy and productivity. So if you want the best that I have to share, you can get that in the newsletter at theknowledge.io.
You can find Paul online on Twitter @p_millerd and on his website at Think-Boundless. If you love this episode, please do share it with a friend, and don't forget to leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts because it helps us tremendously to reach other listeners just like you.
As an [00:03:00] additional note, if you are listening to this on a podcast player, you should be aware, we also have full video recordings from most of these episodes on YouTube, and you can find clips and different things on social media, all the links will be in the description below. Thanks.
I think where I'd love to start is you have a really interesting background, particularly from the sense that, you know, it fits within your narrative. you wrote this book called The Pathless Path, and a lot of what you talk about is this idea of breaking away from the stereotypical path that we are all, or many of us are pushed down, particularly from a young age.
And I think what's interesting about your journey is that there are some people that might come to that conclusion after falling off the tracks and feeling like they were already lost, and then coming to determination that it was fine. I was on the right path all along. But you took the very stereotypical path going to GE and McKinsey and all of the places that, you know, you took the path.
So I'm really interested in, first of all, the journey of getting [00:04:00] there? What was that like for you? And then what made you feel like it was fine to give up, having already achieved what many people worked so hard to achieve?
Paul Millerd: Yeah. well First off, thanks for having me, David. I'm excited for this convo and appreciate the work you're doing. For me, I, I did not grow up around like status and like prestigious world. And so when I found out about them, I was just like any young driven person that was like, boo.
Like I, I need to go after those things. Shiny, impressive. I could be, I could attach myself to those and feel special, right? A lot of that was unconsciously happening. But yeah, when I found out about strategy consulting in college, one, I was like, this is so cool and interesting. So like my curiosity was ignited and two, it was like, why didn't I know about this?
This is so impressive. They're recruiting from the Ivy Leagues. Why [00:05:00] can't I do this? And I hated that. I was like, not in allowed in that circle. So I worked so hard just to like break in and ultimately failed my senior year of college. After six months at GE, I started applying like a maniac again.
And as I write in my book, I kept getting rejected from like almost every company. And the only one that gave me a shot was just happened to be the number one consulting firm, McKinsey and Company. So it felt a little silly, like getting there, like, on the outside people are like, oh, wow, this is such an impressive job change. And inside I'm like, what the heck? I, I got rejected from all the like lower ranked firms. So I was just so grateful for that opportunity and so excited that I got to work at a place like McKinsey. I experienced this disconnect right away when I worked there of this is amazing. Like the training is actually way better than GE. The problems are way more interesting. The [00:06:00] people treat me way better. So I actually really enjoyed my time in consulting in the early years. I think the thing that changed once I was in that world is everyone there is obsessed about constantly moving, constantly achieving the next step, the next job, the next impressive achievement. And I got caught up in that. And to be honest, like I wish I had just stayed at McKinsey for five years and then quit and started my on thing. Like that probably would've been the best path for me. But everyone I knew at the company was leaving to go to business school or law school or grad school or going to work at some other impressive company.
So I got caught up in okay, I need to have my next step too. I went to business school and when I went to business school I was just like a bit lost. I thought, oh, I'll go work in healthcare. Maybe I'll go work in industry. I just went back to consulting cuz I couldn't come up with a plan. And I bounced around for five years and under the surface like I just kept wanting to learn and start from scratch and like work with people who challenge me.
But [00:07:00] the better you get at consulting, like the learning slows and what you're incentivized to learn about is how do you act like other people? How do you just go with the flow? How do you play politics? And man I just couldn't do that stuff. So it was like very easy for me to walk away because I'm not good at like playing politics and pretending I care about some fake company purpose. Like, I just don't care . So yeah that's kind of the long answer to your question.
David Elikwu: That's fair. How long did it take you to figure that out? Because obviously, you'd been at McKinsey prior to going to business school and you were there for a while. How long did it take for you to get to whatever the point was where things clicked that you've said, ah, this isn't it.
Paul Millerd: Yeah so, business school was when I think I became lost. That was 2010. And I also just started to prioritize like learning and like I wasn't optimizing for my career. That kind of came back to bite me cuz my second year of business school I got rejected from all the consulting firms again.
[00:08:00] I think reflecting back what happened was that I didn't really have a clear direction or story of where I was going and I was in the same interviews as other incredibly polished, smart, capable and good storyteller peers. And they were like, what is Paul doing? He has no idea what he wants. Eventually got a job at a small consulting firm went to BCG after that. And then went to an executive search firm. So it took five years after business school to like really figure it out. And it was mostly just like floundering around going from job to job. And before I quit my job, I was applying for more jobs. I was applying to work in tech or in trying to explore jobs in people operations.
So the reality is it's like this is so common with people. It's sort of this like, looking back, it seems so obvious that I just should have done my own thing because I enjoy it so much, but it was never obvious. I kind of had to like fail and misstep and move around to different jobs to slowly [00:09:00] realize, oh, I need to just go take a chance of myself.
David Elikwu: That makes a lot of sense to me. I think a lot of what you've said resonates with me very strongly. Particularly there was one thing that you were saying that just made me think about this idea that, there's a default path and there's no point at which you choose the default path, you just fall into it. And I think that was very apparent to me.
So I came to the UK from Nigeria. So being an immigrant and kind of not being from, I guess this default path and realizing how quickly you fall in line and then you are whisk along on, on this journey. And I remember feeling very unprepared and very just, I didn't have all the knowledge, all the resources, and suddenly I was at a point where, okay, I have to start applying for things. I have to start making decisions. And I think the interesting thing is that is, this goes towards what you were saying about how you feel like there were other people that had much better narratives of what they wanted to do and how they wanted to be in the world. It made me think of a study that I was reading recently, [00:10:00] which is just around this idea that we can very quickly come up with post rationalizations for decisions that we didn't even necessarily make ourselves.
So in this study, they ask people to pick a picture and then later on. They show them a picture again, but the picture is not actually the picture that they picked. It was the other one. But they don't tell them that. They say, okay, so why did you pick this picture? And then suddenly people start giving you these elaborate descriptions of oh, why? You know, I liked it because of, I like landscapes, I liked it because I like this. And so it's very easy for us to create stories and to create narratives for why we are in the position that we already are, whether or not it was intentional, whether or not we actually made the choice to put ourselves into that position.
And I think the same very much applies to our careers where there's a lot of people that can very easily construct post rationalizations for, oh, I'm going in this direction because that's where I always wanted to be. This is everything that I always dreamed of. But really, you might not have gone through all the steps of thinking, is [00:11:00] this actually what I want? Have I considered other options, et cetera.
Paul Millerd: Yeah. I think in some sense I'm like an immigrant to the high status, prestige world. Like I didn't grow up in the soup of that culture. And maybe you experienced this as well, like the people that have good stories, like they grew up like thinking I'm supposed to be a partner at McKinsey. Like having to like generate that enthusiasm. Like I didn't know how to do it . So like eventually I'm like out-competed by these people that grew up like thinking they're supposed to be following these paths. Yeah, and experience is the same thing. It always was mystifying to me that people would be like, yeah, I don't know. I don't like this job. Like, I need to find something else. And then boom, they're offered a promotion $40,000 more, and they're like, all in again. It's like, what happened? Like you're just going to, you're just going to throw everything away you just said you claim to you care about.
And I realize like most people [00:12:00] will just drift along to whatever carrots appear in front of them. And I think I've not, I've just not wanted to that to happen to me. And so it's hard, like the reality is if you wanna carve your own path, you constantly need to be reflecting. you're incredibly humbled all the time.
And I think now the only difference is like, I sort of internalize how stupid I am. And what I mean by that is like I am gonna be distracted by things. I am gonna be carried away by things I don't know if I'm interested in. So the benefit of this path is it's so uncertain. It's changing so much. You're working on so many different things that like you constantly need to check in and reflect.
Whereas on my previous path, it seemed like everyone sort of just stumbled along, okay, I'll do this for two years, and then oh, some, something appears in front of me that drifts me in a new direction. What I like about being on my own is like that sort of happens like every week. It's like, well, what should I be working on?
Even with like a [00:13:00] combo like this, should I talk to David? There's no like framework for thinking about this but it's like a constant bet of okay, I'm gonna talk with David, see how I feel, how is my energy after that? I'm not like judging it based on like metrics or outcomes or like book sales or anything. It's more like, okay, reflecting back in a week, a month, do I like how I spent my time? And for the most part, I've realized I love podcast conversations, especially with people like you because you're on a similar path and you're deeply curious and like, I'm probably gonna get a few great ideas just from this conversation.
David Elikwu: Yeah. I think going back to what you were saying, just about the reason people don't leave the original path, I think a lot of it is fear and funnily enough, everything that you were saying that can end up being a benefit once you've left the path can seem like the negatives before you've left the path that you are on, right? It's this idea of uncertainty. What will my days look like? What will I be doing?
Paul Millerd: Yeah. People say, yeah, there's all the, I've heard [00:14:00] all these fears, right? Are you worried about going broke? Aren't you worried about not knowing what you'll do with your time? It's like, yes, yeah, I'm worried about all that. And people are shocked when I say that. What they're assuming is that the whole point of life is to avoid your fears.
The benefit of this is I get to grapple with them every day and come up with solutions. I am afraid of running out of money. I am afraid of embarrassing myself. I am afraid of not knowing what I'm doing, but that's also the opposite of that is like facing those and coming up with working strategies. It's like you're more in the flow of life rather than like, I think what happens in like full-time work environments is that people are sort of locked in this silent conspiracy of saying, if you don't mention that we're, we have these underlying fears, I won't mention it, and we can just pretend nobody has any insecurities or fears and we have everything figured out. It's like, I didn't like that cuz I kept bringing [00:15:00] up the questions and people will be like, sh shh, don't say these things.
David Elikwu: Yeah, I think it's a really interesting paradigm when I think about it as well. This idea of fear. Okay, so maybe that there's two parts to this. One is I think people fundamentally misunderstand loads of people are fans of the Matrix, but we misunderstand what Morpheus was trying to say to Neo when he gave him the choice of the two pills.
And when people talk about it, they talk about the blue pill, like it's the bad thing when actually the blue pill is for many people, the great thing, it's comfort and it is stasis. The monsters are not going to chase you and kill you. There's not gonna be aliens showing up on your doorstep. You can just have a nice, calm, happy life. Don't worry about any of the other stuff that's going on. It's choosing the red pill that's choosing this life of danger and reckless abandon, and anything could happen to you, but there are also the opportunities that great things could happen. So I think the blue pill the standard life is neither of the two.
You don't get the worst sides of life and you don't get the exponential positives that you could get from starting your own [00:16:00] thing or just figuring things out. And so I think that is the balance there. But also, I love what you were saying about this idea of the silent fears, that kind of lie unseen.
Because simultaneously, and I think I've heard you mention this before, what I find really interesting is when you are chasing status and you're chasing money and you're chasing a lot of the things that the traditional path espouses, there is also this idea that it's never enough. And so you have people that are making, 50, 60, 70, a 100K, 150 K, and they're saying, I'm poor.
Well, I, I also say this to be fair, I also say this, and I'm also stuck in this same trap where you're like, ah, I can't afford to have kids. I can't afford to have all this stuff that I want.
Paul Millerd: You're in London, right?
David Elikwu: Yes. Yeah, true. So it's expensive. But.
Paul Millerd: Just leave London
David Elikwu: That's probably what I need to do. But I think there's a really weird dichotomy where, look, the average salary in London, actually London is a great example. From the statistics I've seen. The average salary is like 33,000 [00:17:00] pounds. It's not a lot of money. And so for people that are earning, if you're earning like six figures or more, it's weird that on one hand maybe it doesn't feel like enough because it doesn't feel like it, it stretches. But then simultaneously, the majority of people in the country are having families, are happy or doing whatever they're doing on much less.
And so I think there's an extent to which you could still find a way. So I think there is still this fear. You never really escape the fear and you have to keep spiraling upwards. That's the incentive anyway.
Paul Millerd: Yeah. I, I do think these fears can evaporate in a sense. So I think I've resolved some of my money fears, and I did it by basically living on extremely low income. For a few years and going several stretches of time earning zero money. And basically what I did is I stopped spending money and I realized like that is a possibility.
So like, I'm gonna have a kid in [00:18:00] March, I'm having a, we're having a daughter. I'm not really afraid of money because what greater incentive to like, solve problems than like my daughter's well being. That's sort of solved. And another thing that just gave me confidence, and I think something I bet on early is like, I had this idea, I need to make money in a like 50 different ways, right? And every like minor way of making money, even if it's 20 bucks, gives me confidence. It's oh, I could do things right. And like my worst case is going to like get a job. But the thing is, like what people are saying when they say, I can't afford kids, they're not actually saying that. Cuz that's nonsense, right?
Like you said, the average salary in London is 33,000 pounds, right? The same thing in the US. People are doing it every day, right? And what they're saying is, I can't raise kids in the way I want with a [00:19:00] very low levels of stress. What they've done is baked in a certain way of living life that is very expensive and stressful.
The base assumption is both parents work, make a lot of money, buy nice things, live in a very expensive place, own a home, have nannies, daycare, expensive vacations expensive cars, right? What they're saying is, I'm worried about losing my status and that is terrifying. I'd rather just stay in this world of like this upper middle class lifestyle and follow that.
The thing is like, I think the upshot of doing your own thing for a while is like experimenting with different lifestyles, living in different places, stop, we like rarely eat at restaurants, like going out to eat. I used to eat at restaurants all the time when I was employed and making a steady salary. It's like, I just don't enjoy it. It fell out of my life and nothing [00:20:00] changed about my happiness. My happiness has not been correlated to how much money I've made. When I was making 24 grand in my first couple of years, I was super happy. I had so much time and flexibility. Yeah, and I think a lot of people are just pricing their time wrong.
David Elikwu: Yeah, I think the happiness thing is a key factor, and it reminds me of... Mo Gowdat who used to work at Google, has a happiness equation. I think he's written a book by the same name. But essentially the idea is you become happy by changing your level of expectations and happiness is the difference between your reality and your expectations.
And very often it's not saying that you shouldn't expect anything from life. And it's not saying you should lower your expectations and the negative connotations that come with that, but it's the fact that. We very often expect so much as though it must happen. And then because we expect so much when whenever we have anything less than that, we feel frustrated and we feel dissatisfied.
And I think that's exactly what you were saying, where it feels as though, because we've already decided that the status quo, that the baseline that [00:21:00] we will accept is status and it is wealth than it is all of these things. Then anything short of that feels like disappointment. It feels like sadness.
Whereas if you were to take a step back and reevaluate that completely, like you were saying, even when you were earning much less than you had been previously and much less than you could have been, suddenly you can be happier because you can untangle yourself from all of the assumptions that were trapping you before.
Paul Millerd: Yeah, I, I sort of have this line. It's have you tested that? People will say to me, oh, I could never do what you're doing. I'm like, have you tested that? Like, how do you know? This comes back to what you were saying at the beginning we're sort of dumb about what we think we want. And I sort of default to not trusting my, like first instinct.
Well, not like first instinct, just like my first reaction to something, do I, and around wanting, and I was making like 150 grand in New York. I was paying like 2100 a month for rent. And right [00:22:00] before I quit my job we, I moved with a roommate and we had this luxury apartment in Long Island City overlooking the New York skyline.
It was like beautiful. I moved from there to Boston after I realized, shit, I'm burning so much cash in New York City, and moved in with four other 23 and 24 year olds in Boston. We had one bathroom, I was paying $800 a month. We had all sorts of issues with the house. It was very old. And I was so happy. I ahh, I lowered my cost of living, my runway was extended. I like finally landed a freelance client. So I was sort of like covering my cost of living and I spent a lot of time wandering reading and like one of the guys was like a bartender and he was like a dropout of a PhD program at Brown. And like we talked about philosophy all day and it was super fun.
I was like, this is great. And like people would say to me, oh, I could never do what you're doing, that's so crazy. I can't believe. [00:23:00] Like we have these scripts, we run in our head, guys do this, right? Oh no, no woman will take me serious if I'm not having my own apartment. Right? It's nonsense, it doesn't matter. I met my wife and I was renting a room at an Airbnb with two other travelers and like a host who was like creepy. Didn't matter. And the thing is what we're really, what's really behind that is I don't feel confident if I don't have my own place. When I met my wife, like I felt really good about myself for like, basically the first time in my life. And I think that's why I like finally had the space to let a relationship blossom. Cuz like, I liked myself, I liked who I was showing up as. I was making $0 a month when I met her and like living on spending like 800 a month. And I didn't let that define me as being a failure or anything like that. And like [00:24:00] my wife jokes oh, buy low with me, but yeah. It, I don't know I just don't think people test that much. I think it's very easy if you're like an educated person to just go on the slipstream and assume like life is supposed to go like nicer things, more money. Like one of the greatest things that ever happened to me is I lowered my cost of living and sort of got lost. Dramatically lowered my income and got lost for a few years. And now I feel so free cuz I know I'm gonna be okay no matter what.
David Elikwu: Yeah. So an interesting question that I have is very much following on from what you were saying. I'm sure there's a lot of people listening to this now that are saying exactly what your friends said, which is, that sounds great, but how could I ever do that? How do you get to a point where you are okay with that?
Paul Millerd: Do you think people are thinking that? I feel like people that are listening to you are already probably like pretty open-minded and if they've made it this far in the conversation. So this is something I think about I think they're just like, I am not here to [00:25:00] serve those people. I don't know how to help them, I'm not wired like them. I am here to serve the people that probably are listening right now, who are like, Ooh, this is interesting. How can I use this information to like remix my life, upgrade my life improve myself? I think there's so many of those people, many of them have jobs. They're probably like me and you who were like in those jobs and a bit confused. Yeah, I don't know what to say to those other people. So what I'm saying, like I think they should probably shouldn't follow me or look to me for wisdom.
David Elikwu: Yeah. No, but I think, I think some of them do agree, right? I think so. What I was trying to get at is, what I find very often is that the essence of it is a lot of people know what they need to do and just don't have the bravery or the courage to do it, or they don't know, you know, something has to push them to jump. They have to almost imagine what the safety net is going to be or, or what the, almost what the path is going to be a lot of people are afraid to lean into the discomfort because sometimes there truly is nothing and there truly is [00:26:00] no structure on the other side of the jump. But a lot of people want to imagine, okay, I can see the benefits of making a leap, but there is no, I guess there's no mental safety in what's on the other side.
Paul Millerd: So I have a chapter in my book called Wonder Tips the Scale, and I've seen this over and over again. The risks never disappear. Even now, the risks are still like clear, obvious and I feel them, and I do have some like, I basically have like mini existential crises now rather than this abstract worry about, oh my God, what will happen if I take a leap? It's just like it's priced in to my day. Of course I worry about it, I pay attention to it. It's like, oh, I see you Mr. Worry. Like I'll schedule you in around these five minutes every day, but you're, it's gonna be okay. I'm gonna survive. What tips the scales for people is not figuring out how to manage those worries. It is a sense of wonder for there might be possibilities in my life that could be so exciting, [00:27:00] so interesting, so wonderful that I need to step into the uncertainty and just see. What will happen? People say these phrases. It's like, yeah, I might fail, but I might stumble into a new way of living or a new way of learning about life that could be so exciting.
And I think there's different ways to cultivate that sense of wonder. You do need a certain like optimistic curiosity to take your own path. I think long-term travel, like not a vacation, go somewhere, just don't have plans. Just wander. Just get yourself in a new context. Chronic illness is a very effective way. I don't recommend chronic illness, but like I was sick for two years and it's sort of like refactored how I looked at life and made things that formerly looked risky to me is not risky at all. Cuz I had spent months not being able to work and like really just like stuck. I think. Moving to a new location [00:28:00] can be super powerful for this too.
Cultivating this sense of wonder. I know psychedelics have worked for some people. I haven't taken that path. Reading books, podcasts, I think in underrated, like psycho technology. You can spend time with someone's vibe in your ears and like short of open up your mind a little. So like, listen to people who are optimistic and exciting and spend hours with David and his podcast, and you're probably gonna be a little more excited about life and possibility.
But yeah you need that wonder. If your whole frame is like, what if I can't replace my income? I have no idea. I didn't like match my income until this year, my fifth year. I have no idea how to do that in the first couple of years. I didn't pull it off.
David Elikwu: Yeah. So how do you pick what to do next? Because I think you tried a few things or more so went through a few iterations. I know with like strategy you, with trying to teach consulting to people and all the steps that led to you to writing your book
Paul Millerd: I still, I have no idea what [00:29:00] I'm doing like making it up as I go. I told my wife yesterday, I'm like, this is the weirdest path. Like I constantly have the sense of like, I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know how like the next year is gonna turn out.
I really try to just pay attention to my energy and I listen. I also listen to what people are asking for and I really take things pretty slow. So like, . I guess there are a few things. Some things I try to turn I like, I try generally to go from idea to action very quick. How can I test things as quick as possible? I think one of the biggest traps when you're on a path like this is letting ideas just like bubble around, right?
So I've shortened the time from bubbling around in my head to action, right? So it's like a lot of people have this idea, oh, I should do a podcast. How can you just like as quick as possible get six episodes out, right? If you're aiming to like crush it and maximize your spot in the rankings. I don't know how to do that, but I do know how to like [00:30:00] quickly test things and on this path. Testing things, trying things, action, that's information. Information is super valuable. Information about your energy, your excitement, like even like financial, like are you making money from this is super valuable. That can help you decide what to do next.
So for the past two years, I've been doing six weeks on one week off. And I used that one week off to like, reflect and like set intentions for the next six weeks. And that has sort of helped me, like try a bunch of stuff in six weeks blocks and then assess, okay, what do I want to do next? I want to double down, I wanna quit those things. And I'm actually quitting the like, I would send a letter to people at the beginning of the six week block to kind of hold myself accountable. I'm actually winding that down cuz like, I think I've like internalized the process now and I can do it on my own. But yeah I, I don't really know what I'm doing this year. I'm doing like, I'm running Strategy U, which is like [00:31:00] a course teaching consulting skills. I have my book, I'm leaning into my podcast.
My podcast didn't really make money until this year. But after my book, I decided to double down on it because it was something that brought me alive. And like that is just one of my principles coming alive over, getting ahead is doubling down on the thing that's making me money, but not bringing me alive. The podcast was like my lowest revenue thing. It still doesn't really make much money, if at all. But I'm gonna just keep going with it. It just feels true and real in, in the flow of life. And I don't know what, where it will lead me. So that's kind of how I decide. Just follow the vibe of what I'm excited by.
David Elikwu: I love that. So earlier, just before we started recording, we were talking about writing books. And I'd love to know, I mean, what sparked that in you? What gave you the nerve to think that you could write a book? And how has that process been for you, particularly going down the self-published path?
And I think that's what makes it interesting because usually in the traditional paradigm, you work [00:32:00] with a traditional publisher. It's almost like the publishers choose you. Even if you are pitching to them, they validate you and they validate your idea and they decide, okay, this is worthy of being shared.
Whereas non-traditionally publishing, you have to self validate and you have to say I am worthy of sharing this idea. This idea is worthy of being shared. And then you actually have to go out and do it.
Paul Millerd: Yeah. So I didn't care about a book as I need to be successful and sell a bunch of copies and make money. I like writing. I figured out I liked writing about five years ago. When I was in Taiwan, I moved there and like just had a lot of time in space and kept realizing, oh, I like writing. I keep showing up and writing.
So I set this mantra for myself right most days. And I did that for three, four years at the end of that. End in 2020 a lot of people started getting curious about their relationship to work and I just kept talking to tons of people about work and writing about what I was finding. And [00:33:00] at the end of 2020, I had four or five people say to me, you should write a book. You have all these ideas. And I sat with that. I was with a friend Johnny Miller who's another Brit and I was like, John, should I write a book? He's like, yeah, definitely . And this is the great thing, like you should always have like other creator, unconventional friends cuz they'll cheer you on and just they won't laugh at what you want to do.
And so like for me, a book, like I design everything around my stubbornness and laziness. I don't like to work a lot and I don't like to work for other people. So I've had jobs, I don't want another job. So like publishing was just like, I don't want to do that. I don't want a manager, I don't want a slow process. I don't want to be part of meetings. Sounds freaking terrible. So like, basically I wanted to write a book cause I want to write a book. And the crazy thing is like how successful the book has been. If you had asked me like what success would've been, I would've been like, I don't know, maybe like 500 copies and.
Like [00:34:00] by the end of all of 2022, I probably sold like 9,300 copies, which is just like, so crazy. And I think it's helped me realize like a book turns a bunch of web of ideas into something that's digestible. It's sort of like an on-ramp. It's like the greatest on-ramp to someone's writing. And it made me realize there's like, I had 2,500 newsletters subscribers when I started writing my book. I now have, like, when I launched my book, I think I had 5,000. And so I've sold more books than people that were on my newsletter. And it's made me realize that your audience is probably way bigger than you think or potential audience because newsletters and like podcast subscribers, they may be small audiences, but they're highly resonant audiences, right? They're people that are like, hell yeah. And I think those are just undervalued, right? And publishers want [00:35:00] like massive audiences when they're trying to choose people to do books and they're sort of taking advantage of the fact that they know people's books are going to succeed. I just wanna own my own stuff and play my own game and figure things out.
I think part of why I wrote it myself and figured everything out along the way is like, I just wanna help other people do the same and it's just like fun for me to do that. But yeah, I think more people should write books, more creators should write books. As soon as people are like, you should write a book cuz I don't know where to start. You have a lot of stuff written.
David Elikwu: Yeah. I think our mutual friend David Kadavy talks about that, that the idea that everyone should write a book.
Paul Millerd: Yeah. And he's really seeing the returns on that now. I love that David shares his income reports and the returns for him are really starting to take off. He's published like 10 mini eBooks on Amazon and like a few books. And it was like his second or third book that written Mind Management, Not Time Management that really took off. So I'd suggest like people [00:36:00] check out his stuff. And you can get to a point it seems from looking at what David's doing that if your book reaches a critical mass, it might just sell indefinitely. Which just kind of mind blowing. And yeah, it's just like, it's really hard to understand the scale of the internet.
I think what you're doing is still so rare and so many people could benefit from hearing your story that like, just like, let it rip, put everything out there, write a book, tell your story. Like it's so helpful to so many people. And the thank you notes I've gotten from my book have really just blown me away. The thing you realize is if people spend time with a book, they're like, they're spending time with like your energy and they're gonna generate their own ideas. They're gonna make their own decisions to like quit their jobs, leave their jobs, carve a different path or whatever.
But they're going to appreciate that, like you took the time to say like, Hey, you're not crazy. Here's what I went through. Here's my crazy version of it. Like I want there to be [00:37:00] a hundred versions of the Pathless path, meaning like, I want you to write your story. I like, there's just not enough of these stories. Everyone thinks they need to write these books with like frameworks. Here's how to do X, Y, Z, and like a hundred of these pages are built around like the fire framework or the clap framework or the star framework. It's like, no, just like pull your heart in the page, let it rip. Don't worry about page count and put it out there.
David Elikwu: How did you find structuring the writing process? Or did you structure it at all? Because I think that's another thing that people preemptively perceive as being difficult is how do you go from empty page to finished book?
Paul Millerd: Yeah, it was, it was hard. I, my first like how I started, I was like, I sort of like lowered the stakes for myself. I'm just gonna write an ebook, a collection of my newsletter essays. What I quickly realized is you can't do that in a book because my newsletters are all like hyperlinked and interconnected and I re mentioned stuff and it [00:38:00] was like, this is a mess.
So I just started organizing. I wrote this all up in a post I can link to too. If you search like blog to book Paul Miller you'll get my whole guide. But I think my training and consulting help with this as well, which is like a similar process of going into the data and then stepping back and trying to structure the story. So I did that four or five times, head down right for a couple months, take a week off, disconnect from it, and then like figure out what I have, what is the story? What is the structure? And just did that four or five times. And then the final three months I worked with an editor that really helped me, like land the plane and yeah, it was just like endless iteration.
And I like iteration, so that made the process fun for me. If you don't like that process, like that could be a good reason to like work with a publisher or like, I think just finding a really good editor that could partner with you is probably good enough [00:39:00] for most people.
David Elikwu: Fair. Okay. So maybe just slightly outside of that frame, how do you continue to stoke your creativity and your not productivity? I guess your curiosity, cuz I think you mentioned slightly earlier the power of wandering, right? Whether it's traveling, whether it's wandering around. I think I'd heard you say in a previous podcast at one point that I don't think you started reading until you are well, reading in a intentional way until your early twenties.
Paul Millerd: Reading for curiosty, yeah.
David Elikwu: Yeah, exactly. So how do you find, I guess, stoking that fire now and staying both curious but also creative and not running out of steam and not feeling like, oh, you run out of ideas, you're hitting a rut. How do you keep yourself going?
Paul Millerd: So I'm very naturally curious. I love learning. I love reading. I spend hours reading every day. I think the thing is, I take that serious as a part of my life. And the biggest risk for me is not running out of money, it's running out of curiosity and [00:40:00] passion. So if I notice that is dwindling, it's like, all hands alert.
I need to do something different, right? I'm hanging out with the wrong people. I'm not being active. I'm not getting enough sunlight. I'm not like getting enough space away from my work. I'm not writing enough. I'm not reading enough. So I'm always trying to like rejigger that and I'm currently in like a reset process. I want to go deeper. I want to like write more this year in like a deeper, more thoughtful way. And I'm like blocking apps. I'm like trying to figure out like what the right time to like block off writing blocks and yeah, it's a, it is constant process. If you don't like, re shifting your day and constantly analyzing and experimenting, like this path is not for you.
But the payoff is so massive. Like I. My life is so amazing, like the shift from, for someone like me that loves curiosity and [00:41:00] loves being energized and connected to the work I'm doing and ideas. The shift from spending 260 days a year working for other people to 365 days a year, spending time on my own terms every day is so massive. Like I can't even articulate how massive that is, it's like night and day and the mode of being. This is what I tell people. Don't find a niche that's like business first thinking, thinking like, I need to be a business and then I need to build a operating system around that. Find a mode of life you can show up in consistently and if you find that everything else opens up.
David Elikwu: I love that. That's really, yeah, really great framing because I was just thinking about when I first started my newsletter and then eventually the podcast. I think I actually started the podcast before the newsletter, but the podcast was called something different and it's evolved about three or four times in the journey.
But with the newsletter, I think my intention [00:42:00] was, look, I'm not gonna say this is gonna be weekly, but I'm going to try and write it weekly and I'm just gonna try and keep writing. And that was a few years ago. And I think the impetus for me was not so much, it took a while to find exactly what the newsletter was about.
If you go back and look at the first 10, they were all about something completely different. But I think the aim for me was that, look, I'm just gonna share the things that I'm learning and it's gonna push me to keep reading and to keep learning and to keep being curious. And if I ever get to a point where I have nothing to write about, then that tells me that actually I'm doing something wrong. That's not a question of, there isn't something to be written about. It's a question of, you know, am I learning enough? Am I reading enough? Am I being curious enough to go out and find those things?
Paul Millerd: Yeah. And you'll know you've found a mode worth being in. If you stop doing those things and you miss it or you're like, something's off, I need to get back to writing. That's how I felt about writing in that probably four years ago, and anytime I stop writing or stop creating or I'm not [00:43:00] reading books, I just feel off and I know to get back to center, it's diving back into those things and it doesn't feel like work to me. It's so fun when I'm doing it, but we get distracted just like anyone else.
David Elikwu: Does it always feel fun? Because, so the follow up question that I wanna ask is, how do you keep going when things get difficult, particularly knowing what you have left behind or what you could go back to. And I think that is always, maybe for some people, something that is lucking in the background, like when things are getting rocky, particularly you mentioned before, there's a few years where maybe you might not be earning as much as you thought you would be or as much as you would like to be.
So how do you keep going and keep pushing forward even when things don't come easy or naturally or quickly?
Paul Millerd: I design for liking work, so I'm ruthless about this. Even If there's an economic opportunity, I won't pursue it. Like I can't even muster up the energy to do it unless I'm excited about [00:44:00] it. So I really just start with that. And the first few years I made 24 grand, 32 grand, 40 grand. That's like pre-tax too. And pre expenses. I am just stubborn. I don't want a job. I don't wanna work for somebody else, and I wanna stay on this path. And one of the ways I do that is I am not that risk seeking. I'm very risk averse. I have a lot more cash than make sense financially. If I was working in a job, I'd probably have much more invested for the future.
Right now I just have more cash and I build cash reserves as my FU fund. I want to stay on this path, I wanna keep going and if I make half of what I make this year, next year, I'll be fine. I can keep going.
And that's really what it's all about. I'm not trying to maximize income or follow any sort of script about where I should be. I just want to keep going on this current [00:45:00] slipstream I'm in, which is really fun. I've found work that does lead to money and I just wanna see how it turns out.
David Elikwu: Fair. There's one thing I wanted to get your thoughts on. So I wrote a while ago a post which was about, I think it was a newsletter, which was about the idea that like, Rules Don't Exist. And so there's a lot of things that people say, this is the way, these are the rules, and actually they're not. And all you have to do is pretend they don't exist and suddenly the world opens up.
But as part of that, one of the ideas that I talked about was this idea of desire paths and so, you know, when city planners or park planners are designing what the park should look like, they draw all these paths however they like doing it. But over time people start walking off and just creating their own paths. And then slowly over time you get all of these kind of like earthy paths that develop because either people are taking the most straightforward way instead of following the well designed path all the way around or they're wandering off and going and getting lost. And suddenly now future people that come along get to reap the benefits of, [00:46:00] oh, here's another path I can follow.
But what I find interesting as a paradigm to regular life is that the desire path often becomes the path. Once enough people have taken this weird route, then it seems almost like the default that now everyone wants go down this route. So school is an example of this where before, a long, long time ago, further education was something that was elective. You had to really care about wanting to study philosophy or wanting to study something. You go, you sit with some master, you sit with a few people and they tell you all this stuff. You are taking time out of your life to go and do this when everyone else is going to work. Whereas now that's the default, you actually have to do this before you even get to do any work. And then I think the next level of that is okay, so now everyone's going to school then you have some people that drop out of school, they drop out of school, they build a startup, they go on and do this thing. Now everyone wants to drop out of school and build a startup and go and do this thing.
And I'm interested to know, like you see people talking now about like the creator economy and this idea that actually everyone is gonna be some [00:47:00] kind of one person business where they're gonna have their own thing and they're gonna, you know, do you think that is, what do you think about this idea that eventually everyone kind of operates as a creator in some capacity and everyone has a work, everyone has a podcast, everyone does a lot of these things.
Paul Millerd: Yeah, I love that idea around the path becoming the default path. And I think what happens is, as we were talking about before, what makes this path exciting for me is the unknown, the sense of adventure, the wonder. And the key is, to have enough like ambiguity and uncertainty such that wonder still emerges.
There's a tendency, even on these paths, I call 'em hustle traps of basically just copy pasting someone else's script, right? This person is doing courses, this is what I should do, and they're disconnected from what their heart, they're disconnected from their body, they're disconnected from their passion, right? And so the only true path [00:48:00] is the one in which you can deeply connect to yourself. I think what happens is when a path becomes legible and you can see that path using your metaphor, you're like, oh, there, there's something to follow. What happens is that the joy gets sucked out of it. There's not enough randomness and what's happened in the modern world is we figured out how to create prosperous humans by just showing up at a job, which is pretty remarkable. A hundred years ago, people would die for these average jobs, right? But now it is so predictable, and what a lot of people are doing is just performing work. They're showing up, they're just going through the motions. There's no passion. There's no joy. There's no like connection to what they're really doing.
And Agnes Callard has a great framing for this. It's like ambition versus aspiration, and ambition is knowing what you're going to [00:49:00] get at the beginning of your journey. Aspiration is not knowing what it will feel like or what values you're going to adopt at the end of your journey, right? So that's like the pathless path. Ambition is aiming at being a managing director in finance, knowing that the payoff is a lot of money and a lot of status. You already know what you're seeking, right? So what's happening is you're taking the joy out of the process. And every religion wise, sage, throughout history has advised you have to enjoy the process. So what's happened is we've created a lot of very easy path to create wealth, prosperity, security, comfort, but they stripped the joy out of the process.
And this is a term I've been playing with the serendipity economy. I think there's huge upsides to throwing yourself into working online because there is so much serendipity at play. Just us [00:50:00] connecting and meeting. I didn't know about your stuff a month ago. I have no idea what it'll emerge. There could be things emerge where we work together. The thing is our days are free in that we can make choices and opt into things. That kind of serendipity creates a lot of positive optimistic energy in my life, and it's worth not knowing what I'll make this year, not knowing where I'll be, what I'll be working on next year. For some people, that is just so overwhelming. Because we're just looking at what other people are doing. If most people were following my path, people would look at people and say, you're gonna do a job and just do the same thing every day. That's crazy, right? Because that would be the non-default thing. And people would be writing about the risky job path, right?
David Elikwu: Yeah, it's really interesting. Oh, I love what you were just saying. It makes me think about just this idea that uncertainty is almost [00:51:00] the price that you pay for the possibility of having the asymmetric absurd for having the potential positive outcomes. right? Like, Unless you are willing to pay the price of being uncertain, you don't get to enjoy the potential benefit of being happily surprised. Right, or you know, you do take the risk that you might be negatively surprised, but I think in some ways the certainty then becomes boring. The certainty then becomes mundane because you know exactly what it's gonna be like. You go to work every day, your boss is the same, your colleagues are the same, everything is the same. You know what work you're gonna do. You know everything that's going to happen. And I think that is what, eventually is what drains people and what makes people feel disillusioned and frustrated because every day is the same, and it's funny that you actually have to maybe embrace the willingness to go the complete opposite of that if you want to have some of the outcomes that lie outside of that as well.
Paul Millerd: Yeah. And asymmetric outcomes. In terms of life too, I think a lot of people [00:52:00] don't value these things. We've narrowed life down to an economic formula and that just short circuits people's brains of imagining possibilities that are noneconomic. The ability to take a bike ride for two hours in the afternoon, to me, I price that at a million dollars an hour. It adds so much substance to my life and I didn't know that until I actually had the space to try it. And that's the hard thing about imagining different possibilities for your life is you won't know until you try it. You can read my book and say, okay, this seems less crazy than before. But ultimately I put at the end of the book, I think the first thing. Go and find out. That's my, that is my formula, my how to. I don't have any howtos or frameworks in my book. It's go find out, go test this, and then tell me, like write your own stuff and tell me if it works. I wanna learn from you cuz there's not [00:53:00] enough people taking these paths to learn from you.
David Elikwu: Going back to what you were saying about serendipity, what are your thoughts on this idea of making friends online and finding online communities, finding people that are going along the same journey. I think that's something you touched on before, but I'd love if you could expand a bit more on that.
Paul Millerd: Yeah, making friends on this path is a necessary thing. It is probably the most important thing at first. Sure, spend the first six months trying to make money and make it work. But you need friends. The reason is your friends in jobs you left are the default path, will not understand you, and most of 'em will not be active cheerleaders or supporters of you. For one, they're just, it's gonna be too triggering for them. It's gonna force them to grapple with their own insecurities. A lot of those people might drift away from you cuz they, you might scare the crap out of them. You might have a few cheerleaders who emerge and surprise you, but you need to find people on a similar path because you need people that will not laugh at [00:54:00] you. You need people that will give you the space to say crazy things, come up with imaginative possibilities and say, oh, that sounds interesting. Here's how I'm thinking about that, or Yeah, go for it.
Finding my friend, Johnny was so valuable to me. He walked up to me after meeting me, gave me this book. This is where I discovered the phrase, the Pathless path. And along the way we've just joked over and over again about how lost we've been at every step along the way and we don't need to talk about how that feels cuz we already know. And then we can just exist in this container of friendship that's like, yeah, you don't know what you're doing. I don't know what I'm doing either. Let's move on to other stuff. Right? And you need those people and I write because writing enables me to find a lot of those people I'm living in Austin because there's just happens to be a lot of internet creators and weirdos and underemployed people and self-employed people who are here and it's amazing. And [00:55:00] some of these people are just so incredible. I think I've been blown away with the quality of some of the friends I've made in the past few years and it's made almost everything worth it because when you're connecting with other people on shared vulnerability and shared just possibility it's such an optimistic, amazing way to like start friendships. Cuz you're meeting around vulnerability, you're saying I'm scared. A lot of friendships in the modern economy are like, let's stay in touch so one day you can potentially help me.
A lot of those friendships evaporate as soon as you leave the company or context. I don't talk to like a lot of people, just by nature of the people who are making $500,000 working as partners at McKinsey. One, I can't afford to hang out with them. They just have fancy rich lives. And two, we just don't have the same context anymore. I wanna take a bike ride at 2:00 PM on a Thursday, so I need like different kind of friends [00:56:00] and I'm excited to see like where that takes me.
David Elikwu: Yeah, and just like you were saying, I think it's interesting, the serendipity on it unlocks down the line as well. Because what I find interesting or different is that, okay, so I used to work in corporate law, and I think, you know, going back to what you were saying earlier, I remember you mentioned, oh, you should have just stayed at McKinsey for five years and gone off afterwards to do your own thing. That's kind of what I did. I did a bit of wandering around, I did some consulting and stuff before getting into law, but I was at my dream firm, the firm I'd always wanted to work at. I was there for about five years and then I ended up leaving. But I think what is interesting is that even at the beginning of this journey, some of the, the friends I made or people that I encountered. So one of them is Thomas Frank, as an example, who I think is largely responsible for helping me get my first few hundred subscribers. I already had maybe like 200 and I can't even remember why we connected. But this is years and years ago. And then he just came on the podcast not too long ago. [00:57:00] And seeing even my journey within that time, within that interim, just being able to keep in touch. I think, like you say, having those people that have an exponential growth path, and I think that's the difference. When you are working in a corporate field or in a corporate job, very often it's a linear path. You know where you're gonna be 10 years from now. That's set in stone. I know exactly, like if I stayed at the firm where I was at, I know how much I'm gonna be making each year. I know what job I'm gonna be doing, where I'm gonna be doing it. Most of it is set in stone. You can change maybe the flavour of exactly what it looks like.
Paul Millerd: Here's the interesting thing, I think I would guess I have this idea that on the default path, people sort on income on the Pathless Path people sort on interest and curiosity, I would guess Thomas gets a lot of being friends with you too, because you're shared around your vulnerability of creating, putting yourself out there, trying different things. Right? He doesn't wanna connect with the McKinsey partner because they've reached a certain [00:58:00] level of success. Right. And I don't know Thomas too well, but I, I've loved following his stuff, like he's still trying to figure it out too. He just figured out courses in the past year, right? And he's still trying to figure out what that means. Is it gonna be a long-term thing? Is it gonna stay? What platforms do you put it on? All these silly questions. But these silly questions create a shared context of figuring out things together. That is what makes this path a lot of fun. And I, I've befriended some people who extrinsically seem like very successful creators. But the funny thing often is, and I don't know if this is the case for Thomas, but I talked to Ali Abdal a couple years ago and he was terrified of quitting medicine. Why? Because his parents and relatives don't really know what the heck he's doing with YouTube. To us, it's like, oh, he is made it. But to the rest of the world, these paths are still very weird. people just [00:59:00] don't really understand how early it is for this stuff, right? A lot of people, even if they're making a ton of money or successful creators, their parents are saying to them, why are you on this weird path? When are you gonna get a real job? Are you gonna be okay? Aren't you worried about this? And that's why you need to be friends with these people. So you can share and say, Yeah, is your parents disapprove of what you're doing? Yeah, me too.
David Elikwu: Yeah, I think a really great example that came to mind when you were just saying that is, I think it's Ben Thompson that writes the Stratechery newsletter. He started that I think in 2003, and I remember he was talking on a podcast and he was saying he thought it was too late at that point because he was looking at some people that had already started in the late nineties, and he's like, ah, you know, I wonder if it's too late, but I'm gonna start this thing anyway, 2003 is now in retrospect, so far before the peak of any kind of online writing it like most of the platforms that people built their blogs on didn't even exist at that point [01:00:00] in time. But it just shows how often people always think, oh, I've missed a boat, or It's too late, or I'm not gonna necessarily be able to make it because everyone already has a YouTube channel. Everyone already has a newsletter or a podcast. But I think there's a duality there where on one hand, you shouldn't assume that just because other people have one, it's too late. But then on the other hand, just like you mentioned earlier, you shouldn't assume that, that is what you have to do simply because the people that are not taking the traditional path are doing that thing. Like There might be something else that you could explore that is not going down kind of the new desire path.
Paul Millerd: Yeah, the whole too late framing is the wrong frame. This is why I keep coming back to don't find a niche, find a mode. If you can find a mode of showing up and creating things that is energizing and feels sustainable, and you can do that over a long period of time. Nobody can compete with you. This is the thing, if you wanna build a channel like Thomas Frank, 2.8 million subscribers. I was just checking that out. You [01:01:00] can do that. It's actually not that hard. The hard thing is, can you be excited enough about creating videos, staying curious about ideas. So if you're a hyper curious person that loves engaging with ideas, loves connecting with other people, you're on third base already. You just need to find the space in your life to consistently show up and create and share something and you'll stumble upon success. And it really doesn't matter where you're creating. There's still a scarcity of interesting creative people. And I think that surprises people just cuz we see so much stuff.
But there's a massive scarcity. Most creators, I know all their non creator friends and 0% of them are sharing anything or doing anything digitally or anything.
David Elikwu: Yeah, that just reminded me of on Twitter, I think I saw a stat that, I can't remember the exact stat, but the essence is when you look at all of the people that [01:02:00] have hundreds of thousands of followers, a lot of those followers, first of all, are the same people because the majority of people don't actually tweet like the vast majority of people on Twitter.
The reason that Elon Musk is having such a hard time figuring out who the bots are is because a lot of normal people behave just like the bots. All they do is they don't say anything. They just go around liking stuff, following people, and not actually really engaging much beyond that, they're not necessarily engaging in conversations. The bot accounts, just our engagement bots, and then a lot of the ordinary people are just people bots, like they're not doing much either. Not in a negative way but I think to show the idea that most people are just consuming really passively. So it actually does take a lot to step beyond that and to actually start to engage.
Paul Millerd: Yeah. I, my big thing is a lot of people don't want to create cuz they see so much cringe stuff online, right? And they equate creating and sharing with being cringe. Right? The fact is, if you have that default [01:03:00] response, you're fine. Because you already have these parameters in your head who are like, I don't wanna be cringe, I don't wanna rip people off. I don't wanna be scammy. Trust those instincts and just put your stuff out there. We need more people creating and sharing in the world. It creates permission for people to do brave things. It enables you to find things worth doing. It's so worth it and I want more people listening to this podcast who have been thinking about doing something. 2023. Let's ship it baby.
David Elikwu: I love that. I think that's, that's a great place to end. One last question I might just ask is, I think earlier you mentioned. The idea of, okay, so I think when you launched your, the book, you already had like 5,000 subscribers and you had your newsletter with around 2000 at one point. How do you, I guess it's a two part question. One, just going off what you were saying, how do you find yourself keeping your originality and well, not necessarily keeping your originality. I think what people [01:04:00] have trouble with is a step before that, which is finding their unique voice in the first place. So how do you find your voice and avoid falling into the trap of doing the cringey stuff or doing whatever's popular? Cuz for example, on Twitter, I know there's so many trends. Everyone tweets like this, then everyone tweets like this. Some people start writing threads like this, everyone starts writing threads like that. How do you keep yourself original in that respect?
Paul Millerd: So I think some people just have an unbridled dopamine response and basically can't control their ability to not chase, like optimization and stuff. I'm just a little lazy so I can only consistently do what I like doing, and that has been a benefit for me because I'm default skeptical of any hack or optimization. So my stance toward it is be pragmatic and pay attention. Now it was very clear that threads were one, an interesting way to engage with people, and two, a way to build an audience. So I started [01:05:00] doing thread. I also noticed there were threads where people would just put super scammy titles and I just don't want followers that follow that stuff I want to have, so I have less followers than I could have. I just riff, I just like post threads and like my random thoughts as I'm like wandering around or walking ground and I don't even, I just ship them. There's often spelling errors. I don't add the tweet at the bottom that links back to the beginning. I just don't wanna do that. I'm lazy.
So yeah, I very much optimize around the things I can do over the long term. I call it the long, slow, dumb fun way or long, slow, stupid fun way. And I don't optimize in the short term, I only optimize around designing for liking what I do. But you do need to pay attention to things. If you're gonna create and share online, you do need to pay attention to trends. Sometimes these massive opportunities open up of huge [01:06:00] engagement and you should test it. I've tested reels in the past three months. I don't really like it. Like short clips and stuff. I don't know. Doesn't seem like there's much substance or depth there. Maybe you can get a lot of followers, but I don't know. I haven't found the right formula where I can spend a decent amount of time to do it in my way. But yeah, there's obviously a massive opportunity there right now, but I haven't found a way to do it in a fun way.
David Elikwu: That's fair. So I guess that that comes back to what you were saying before, right? Optimizing for fun, finding the mode of doing things that brings you joy, and then the work and everything else comes after that. And it will fall into place if you set things up in the right way in the first place.
Paul Millerd: Yeah. And this stuff is hard. The thing I, I would close with is this stuff is hard. There's no easy formulas. And it might suck, but it might also be worth it. And that's the opportunity we have in the world right now.
David Elikwu: Awesome. Thanks so much for [01:07:00] taking the time to join Paul. I really appreciate it.
Paul Millerd: I appreciate your curiosity too, David. Thank you for having me.
David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time.