Create a lot of value, extract a small part of it

Ryan Holiday writes in his lessons from writing The Daily Stoic for seven years:

Give a lot of value away and capture a small percentage. I mentioned that we’ve essentially published seven books for free through the Daily Stoic email. On top of that, over the years, we’ve essentially created the largest Stoic library in the world. Hundreds of hours of video on the great Stoic works, the rules the Stoics lived by, Stoic habits, Stoic don’ts, and Stoic questions for a better life. Hundreds of thousands of words across articles on the Big 3 (Marucs Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus), timeless Stoic strategies for happiness, dealing with stress, getting and staying motivated, overcoming procrastination, and handling rude people. We’ve done something like 63 million views on YouTube (4.4 million hours watched). The podcast does around 5 million downloads a month (well over 150M lifetime downloads). The vast majority of people who have ever heard of or consumed anything from me, have done it for free. That’s absolutely cool with me. A very small percentage of people buy a book or a coin or whatever…my goal is to provide a lot of value to a lot of people and capture a tiny bit of it. That’s plenty for me.

When I interviewed Shane Parrish in 2016, he told me:

In the long run, blogs — and really, media companies of any size — will not build a strong, loyal core of readers purely chasing pageviews. “They’re not building any sustainable relationships with people. [The relationship] becomes transitory and transactional, instead of based on reciprocation, value, and trust,” Parrish said. “There is the value you create and the value you capture. Most people focus on the value they capture and not the value they create….

“We’re adapting the business model to what we think works best. The world will change and we’re pragmatic about it. We’re not against making money but we want to ensure that we’re capturing only a small part of the value we create.”

This is a timeless strategy and approach: create a ton of value, and extract just a small amount of it. It reminds me of Chamath Palihapitiya paraphrasing one of Bill Gates’s notes on platforms, “This will be successful when the economic value of Facebook platform exceeds the economic, or is exceeded by, the economic value of those participants within it.”

One observation: the value of your work can be amplified through proper distribution, contextualization, and promotion.

It feels like I’ve come across a lot of reflective posts lately.

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