Making progress before time runs out

A framework for tackling seemingly impossible goals (when you're on the clock)

Hello to the 433 insanely talented and interesting Intentional Wisdom subscribers receiving today’s newsletter. It’s a little more inward-looking this week than usual, so if you’re new here, bear with me while I explain things like the value of Twitter followers this week. If you haven’t subscribed yet… let me help you with that:

One big idea for you this week:

One of my favorite follows on Twitter is the Year Progress account—and judging by the 536k followers it has, I'm not the only one. As seen in the picture above, the account's daily posts are incredibly simple, showing the percentage of the year that has passed both in numeric form and via an iPhone battery-like status bar.

There isn't anything particularly novel or Earth-shattering about telling us something we should already know. So why would over 500,000 people sign up to see regular updates?

Perhaps it is because there is something about this information, staring at us in plain, indisputable black and white, that is motivating.

Time marches on. We know this. So far, we humans have not found any way around it. Yet, we often choose to ignore it for one reason or another. Year Progress makes it harder to stick our heads in the sand.

This week, as we enter the month of June and approach the second half of the year, I'm taking inventory of where I am versus where I actually wanted to be when we embarked on 2021—from my career to my fitness to growing this very community.

I'm thinking about this with two well-trafficked quotes in the back of my mind:

"What gets measured, gets done."

"Hope is not a strategy."

I started the year thinking about the idea of making 10x improvements in multiple areas in my life. I wrote about how many of us may be thinking too incrementally—and how we need to think bigger—10x bigger—to actually accomplish anything big.

For me personally, one of those areas was growing Intentional Wisdom.

I wrote on my whiteboard—and it's still there today—that I wanted to grow my audience by roughly 10x. 

So where I am today in the first week of June? Well, I've made some real progress, which is awesome. But, it's incremental progress. And remember, I'm thinking 10x, so I need exponential progress. Long story, short, I'm not there yet.

As of today, my Twitter following stands at 811, up ~50% YTD, which is great, but woefully short of the pace I need to be on to hit my 5000 follower goal by December 31st.

On the newsletter front, today's Intentional Wisdom goes out to 433 subscribers vs. 153 on December 31st. I'm delighted that my subscriber base has nearly tripled this year, but I've got work to do to get the message out to more people.

Who cares how many Twitter followers or newsletter subscribers you have, Greg?

Good question. I used to think of this purely as a vanity metric or even an ego play. But my thinking has evolved.

Last week, I wrote about this equation:

Powerful Why + Progress = Happiness.

It directly relates to what I'm talking about today as well. The most rewarding thing we can do in life is to help others. I think writing Intentional Wisdom may be one of the best ways I can personally do that. So that's my 'Powerful Why'—to help others change their lives for the better.

But the 'Progress' component may be equally important. It helps with motivation, consistency, and making sure that the message is resonating. That's why I track Twitter followers and newsletter subscribers. If they are rising, it's a signal to me that I'm doing something right. If they're not, it’s a signal that I need to change; that my readers want something different.

A framework for tackling seemingly impossible goals

Along these lines, I spent some time this week thinking about the best way to enact change—or more specifically, the best way to approach big, hard, intimidating goals. Below is the framework I came up with. It's more or less how I've tackled long-term goals like passing the CFA exams or writing books in the past. But I think it can be applied very broadly—from career goals to fitness to everything in between.

The text in italics is to illustrate how I'm thinking about my own goal to grow the Intentional Wisdom audience through this framework—and it’s just to give you an example of how the framework can be applied.

1. Know & believe in your 'Why'

  • To help others change their lives for the better.

2. Internalize your commitment

  • This is where the idea of identity comes into play. In my case, 'I am a writer who helps people with habits, motivation, careers, and physical/mental health.'

3. Quantify your target

  • 5000 Twitter followers & 1000 newsletter subscribers by December 31, 2021.

4. Publicize your intention

  • You're reading it right now—let's see if there is anything to this idea of 'manifestation.'

5. Plan your approach

  • Scheduled, dedicated time every week for learning, creating, and sharing.

6. Act

  • Doing the work. Always showing up. Letting compounding do its magic.

7. Measure

  • Quantitatively assessing what's working, and what's not.

  • Qualitatively listening for feedback.

8. Adapt

  • Doubling down on what's working, and killing what's not.

  • Always trying new things.

Again, this is a framework that should be broadly applicable—whether your goal is to finish a marathon, to start a business, or in this case, to grow a community.

Next up on my personal mid-year review list? Fitness and nutrition. I'm way down a Gary Taubes (Why We Get Fat) rabbit hole—after I heard two people in a week say that his work changed their lives. Now my wife is feeling the brunt of this as I pummel her with obscure ketogenic grocery store requests. Don't worry, I'm not about to post any videos of me flexing or making delicious (yet low carb) smoothies, but I'll note that the framework I've identified above should be applicable in this area as well.

Anyhow, I'm about to veer dangerously into a world of providing keto-friendly dessert recipes and lesser-known tricep exercises, so for our collective sake, I'm going to leave it there this week.

I hope this framework helps you out. And a free copy of Say Good Morning, Like a Human for anyone who helps me come up with a catchy name for it. KIQPPAMA isn't quite grabbing me.


Have a great week.


Extra credit — Podcasts and Building an Audience

Podcasts - I shared this thread of recommended podcasts last week on Twitter. I think I've recommended all of these episodes in this newsletter previously, so they may not be new to you, but in case you'd like them in one place...

Building an Audience - This is a much bigger topic that I should probably write an article on but basically what I think is happening right now is a massive land-grab or gold rush for social media followers. And I think it's for good reason. Some major shifts have happened in the world that have put more power into the hands of creators—the proliferation of social media, a smartphone in everyone's pocket, and the growth of platforms like Substack and YouTube. We’ve also seen a growing distrust of media and more and more people wanting to a) get information from trusted sources (which may not be mainstream media organizations, but could even be newsletters like the one you're reading right now), and/or b) distribute their own information without a middle man—this is why so many companies are 'owning' their own content channels these days vs. going the traditional PR/mainstream media route. I think we are about to see the 'rise of the creator' and we're going to see a massive shift, especially for younger generations, of people earning a living online, on their own, without ever working for a traditional company.

What do all of these people need? An audience. Distribution. So that's why I think it's becoming so important, not just to build an audience but to build THE RIGHT audience. For me, that means smart, motivated, thoughtful people. That's you, by the way. For others, it could be totally different and going extreme massive market or extreme niche. But anyhow... that's part of why I'm tracking Twitter followers and newsletter subscribers.

Along these lines, I actually took an online course this week with Sahil Bloom and Julian Shapiro, both of whom are absolute masters of Twitter, writing, marketing... you name it. They taught a two-day course on audience building, which, if it wasn’t so incredibly helpful, I would cringe admitting that I actually paid money for such a thing. But these guys are brilliant and I learned a lot. You should check out their work if you have any reason in the world to build an audience. And I think many more people have a reason to build an audience than they might, at first, recognize.

That's it! See you next Thursday.