A Dream Come True… And How it Feels
Quick message before we start – I’m going to be appearing live on stage in London on January 15th to give a talk with the How To Academy. I’m really excited – we’re going to be discussing the principles of Feel-Good Productivity and how you can get done the things that really matter to you, with some extras and a cheeky Q&A. Tickets are available here and I’d love to see you there 😜
Anyway, in case you haven’t heard, it’s official – Feel-Good Productivity is a New York Times Bestseller! This is absolutely mental – thank you so much for all the support you guys have given it over the past few months. We had over 36,000 worldwide preorders, and ended up with somewhere between 11-12k US hardback Week 1 sales, which was enough to get us onto the list. Tbh not sure how this happened – the week before the book was published, we were sitting at around 5,000 US hardback preorders, and so I was thinking: “There’s no way another 7,000 people will buy the book on release date…” and spent a lot of time journaling about equanimity, about how I’d be proud of the book regardless of how it did with the numbers, and practising my Stoicism: “Focus on what you can control, ignore what you can’t control”.
I’m very glad to say that I ended up not needing to test my Stoic resolve and ability to move through disappointment, because we ended up hitting the bestseller list, thanks to you guys coming through and buying the book in droves during the first week of release. So thank you again, from the bottom of my heart 🙂
It’s interesting though – achieving a “goal” like this has done absolutely nothing to change my life. And lots of people told me this would be the case. I remember speaking to Mark Manson, the ridiculously bestselling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fck. A few months ago, we were hanging out in LA and I mentioned to him how I’d love to hit the NYT bestseller list. He said something like: “Dude, I gotta tell you – sure, you might hit the list. And when you do, you’ll change your Instagram and Twitter bios. And then the next day, you’ll forget about it because you’ll realise it doesn’t do anything to change your life”.
And when I had a similar conversation with Ryan Holiday (who’s also sold a stupidly large number of books, including The Obstacle is the Way and most recently, Discipline is Destiny), Ryan said: “Tbh, hitting the New York Times bestseller list feels like nothing. You think ‘oh that’s nice’ and you get on with your day”.
When I was younger, I might have been tempted to dismiss this. I would’ve said: “Easy for you to say Mr Manson and Mr Holiday, you guys are famous and successful already”. In the same vein, I would’ve dismissed rich people telling me that money doesn’t buy happiness. There’s the classic retort of: “Sure, but I’d rather cry in my Lambo than in my Toyota”.
But over time, and the more stuff I’ve read, podcasts I’ve listened to and (increasingly) these sorts of people I’ve spoken to IRL, I’ve realised that they’re on to something. There’s almost no one I’ve ever met and/or interviewed who’s ever said: “Oh yeah achieving that specific goal I had really made a difference to my life”. They all say: “I realised achieving it wasn’t the point, but the process of getting there made me who I am today”. They all also say: “Yeah tbh I wish I’d taken the goal a little less seriously, and enjoyed the process a little more”.
So let me add my voice to the chorus: “Achieving goal X is unlikely to make you much happier. So make sure you’re growing and enjoying the journey along the way, because the journey really is the destination”.
There are a few caveats to this though. For some things, if you ask people: “Did X change your life?”, they invariably answer “yes it did”. For example, if you ask people: “Does having kids change your life?” The answer is obviously “lol yes”.
Similarly, if you ask people: “Does getting rich change your life?” They say something like: “Well… not having to worry about money or how the bills were going to get paid changed my life, and made me much less stressed. And yeah, being rich allowed me to quit the job I hated so that I could do what I loved. But beyond that, not really”. But I’d definitely class that as “life-changing”.
Given this, one of my favourite questions to ask people who’ve achieved a goal I think I want, is “To what extent did having / achieving X actually change your life?”
For example, I mentioned a few weeks ago about how I was in Cabo, Mexico, spending some time with a few entrepreneurs who were WAY wealthier than me. I asked: “To what extent does having 10x more money actually change your life?”. The general consensus was: “Tbh there’s not much difference between making $1.5m per year and $15m per year. But obviously there’s a huge difference between making $15k per year and $150k per year”.
But we all know this already. Or at least, I hope we do. Maybe a few decades ago, the idea that: “Money buys happiness but only up until a point” was novel, but these days, pretty much everyone knows that. The problem is that we still often don’t act as if that’s true.
Even though we’ve heard these stories plenty of times, we still believe the Arrival Fallacy – the idea that when we “arrive” at a particular place or achieve a particular goal, then we’ll be happy.
This experience of hitting the bestseller list has been, for me, yet another piece of evidence that the Arrival Fallacy is indeed, a fallacy. Don’t get me wrong – I’m incredibly grateful to my amazing team for helping out with the book creation and marketing, and to you guys, my amazing audience, for supporting the book and preordering / buying it when it was out. That’s great stuff. But… hitting the arbitrary milestone of a bestseller list has changed nothing about my life.
Maybe this is unfashionable to say – maybe you’re supposed to say: “omg I’m so pleased, this makes me so happy, I can’t believe it, omg it’s soooo cool, I feel so proud etc etc”.
But I ain’t going to bullshit you guys in this email – the glow of contentment from hearing the news about the bestseller list lasted about 24 hours. And then I promptly forgot about it.
And the funny thing is – I KNEW this would be the case. Even as I was writing the book, whenever I’d get fixated on the idea of trying to make it hit the bestseller list, I’d tell myself: “No Ali, come on, we know about the arrival fallacy, we know that even if we do hit the list, it’s not going to change anything, and the goal should be to write a book we’re proud of and enjoy the journey along the way”. And some of the time, I’d take that advice, and remember to treat the process with a little less seriousness, a little more lightness, ease and enjoyment.
But a lot of the time, I wouldn’t listen to that voice in my head. I’d continue to “grind” away on the book, continue to “struggle” with it, continue to be racked with imposter syndrome thinking: “I can’t believe they let me write this book, I’m just a dude on the internet, wtf do I have to say that could possibly be useful to someone else…”. And I’ll be honest – a lot of the time, even though the book is literally called Feel-Good Productivity, I didn’t take my own advice during the process of writing it. For a lot of it, the process felt like a grind, it felt painful rather than joyful.
These days, people have been asking me: “So how was the process of writing a book?”. And I’m tempted to bullshit them with: “Oh yeah it was really fun, would recommend”. But it really wasn’t – most days felt like I was battling against myself to get it done. Not all days – some of the time, I definitely approached it with the philosophy of Feel-Good Productivity in mind. Some of the time, I approached it with lightness, ease and enjoyment, and invariably those were the days where I made the most progress. Where I wasn’t so in-my-head, worried about how critics or reviewers would receive the book, worried about the inevitable 1-star ratings on Amazon.
I guess I’ve rambled quite a lot in this email – but as I write it, it’s serving as a helpful reminder to myself, that whatever I’m working on, I shouldn’t fixate on the destination, and instead focus on enjoying the journey. For whatever comes next, whatever project I decide to work on, the true goal is to enjoy the journey working towards it.
So I’ll end with this – thank you so much for supporting my journey as a book writer and for helping make this book a bestseller out of the gate. Even though it hasn’t changed my life, it’s still pretty cool to be able to write: “NYT Bestselling Author of Feel-Good Productivity” in my social media bios (although I haven’t done that yet haha), and it’s all thanks to my wonderful team and lovely audience.
I hope this email has given you a bit of a reminder that the journey is the destination. If you can figure out what you authentically want, and work towards it while enjoying the journey, that’s all that really matters in the end.
Have a great week!
New York Times Bestselling Author of… just kidding 😉
❤️ My Favourite Things this Week
1 – Podcast – Tim Urban x David Perell – Seems like I recommend this podcast every single week, but oh well 😛 This week I loved the interview that David Perell did with Tim Urban (from the incredible blog, Wait but Why), on his How I Write podcast. Lots of takeaways – the main one for me being that when Tim Urban says that: “The more confident I am with the subject, the more playful I can be with my writing, and the more fun I have”. When I heard this I was like MAN THAT’S SO INSIGHTFUL! It’s definitely the experience I’ve had with writing and video-making, but I’ve never heard it distilled so clearly. Confidence leads to playfulness. Under-confidence in the subject matter leads to pain.
2 – Video – Sam Ovens recording about Productivity – This is a somewhat jankily-filmed recording of one of Sam Ovens’ masterminds from 5 years ago, where he’s answering questions about how he’s productive. I listened to the whole thing while driving yesterday: there’s certainly a lot that’s pretty extreme about this approach to productivity, but it’s so interesting to hear what happens at the extremes. I’ll share my personal takeaways another time 🙂
3 – Book – The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt – This is a really good book. Never thought I’d be recommending a book like this, because it seems so “boring” on the surface – it’s a story about a factory manager who’s struggling with his factory. One day he meets his old physics teacher who becomes his mentor and through the targeted questions the teacher asks, the main character turns his factory around. Sounds boring af, but there’s some INCREDIBLE lessons to learn here about goals, bottlenecks, systems and processes, policies, and the other “boring” bits about running a business that aren’t boring at all, but are actually super super interesting.
🎬 My New Videos
📘 3.5 Years And It’s Finally Ready… Thank you so so much for all your support, however long you’ve been following the journey for. I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to write this book for you all and I hope that it helps you, in some small or big way, to do more of what matters to you.
🎆How to Make 2024 The Best Year of Your Life Over the past few years I’ve thought a lot about how to do annual planning, and I think this is one of the best systems out there. A simple 3 step process. I hope it helps you do more of what matters to you in 2024. Enjoy!
✍️ Quote of the Week
“While making big changes and pursuing lasting happiness is certainly a worthy goal, when we ‘look under the hood at the dynamics of the process’ we’ve found that ‘we should be focusing on how we feel from day to day’.”