The second ideal

Philip Morgan

In my small group program, The Expertise Incubator, participants face 5 challenges. As we do so, we are guided by three ideals:

  1. Anything you create in this program should be good enough to spread by word of mouth alone.

  2. Anything you create in this program--if you give it away for free--should be good enough that some would gladly pay real money for it.

  3. You should be willing to work daily for 2 to 3 years to make ideals 1 and 2 become true in your work. In other words, you should be OK with not living up to ideals #1 and #2 at first so that you can build up the skills you need to ultimately achieve those ideals.

I would never ask anyone to live out these ideals if I wasn't also doing my level best to live them out myself. And I wouldn't have articulated these ideals at all if I didn't think they are powerfuly transformative. I do, on both counts.

Since January 2016, I've been publishing something I hope is worth reading 5 to 7 times a week. I have evidence that what I publish does spread by word of mouth alone (the first ideal), although I do use other ways to spread it (podcast guesting, for one example).

I also have some evidence that my thinking alone is worth money to others. Thus far, that evidence looks like successfully selling advisory services and my books. A few people have told me that they would pay to subscribe to my email list. Not a lot, mind you, but a few.

I'd like to see if I can make the second Expertise Incubator ideal true of my email list. I'd like to see if my thinking as expressed in that format is worth paying for.

This is me putting even more pressure on myself (productive discomfort) to live up to the second Expertise Incubator ideal.

So... my daily emails are now a paid subscription. I'll publish a free article once a week, on Tue or Wed. If you're subscribed to my list now, you'll get these free once-weekly articles with no additional action on your part. I'll publish an additional 3 emails per week, and to receive those or view them on my website, you'll need to subscribe, and that costs $10/month or $100/year. You're on a free 2-week "trial" right now, but after the 2 weeks (or before, if you like) you'll need to subscribe to continue getting those 3 additional emails per week. You can do that at

Those of you that are familiar with Ben Thompson's Stratechery will recognize this model, because I've emulated him almost 100% in defining the price, publication schedule, and so forth.

Those of you that are unfamiliar with his model can get an excellent overview straight from the horse's mouth from 15:23 to 25:40 here:

Ben's serving a somewhat different audience and talking about different things than I do, but I think the fundamentals of his model are quite relevant for me and my audience, so why not use what he's figured out as a starting point for what I'm doing?

I imagine some of you will have questions. Please mash REPLY and let me know what they are. The ones I would have if I were you are answered here:

Why are you doing this?

Again, the desire to more fully live up to my own ideals is a big part of this decision. The precipitating event was a few clients wrapping up their work with me around the same time and me wanting to broaden my revenue base, and the fertilizer was a combination of my ongoing admiration for what Ben Thompson is doing with his business and this podcast episode:

Do you think this will succeed?

There are two answers here: 1) let's find out!

  1. For an experiment like this, what would constitute success?

One number that's lodged in my brain is 1,000 paying subscribers, a-la Kevin Kelly's "1000 True Fans". That wouldn't be a living for me, but it would be a nice leg in a 3-legged "revenue stool" that's complemented by services and teaching revenue.

What was this decision like on an emotional level?

Not easy. It made me physically ill for about a day, and then it settled into part of the new status quo over the next week or so. It brought up imposter syndrome and other shitty feelings, and then those resolved into a sort of "eh, fuck it, let's give this a go!" feeling.

It's one thing to say, "your thinking should be so valuable that clients would pay for access to your thinking alone". It's next level to take something you've been giving away for free for years and put it behind a paywall. But it's hypocritical for me to say the former and avoid the latter. Not that I've been totally avoiding the latter. Again, I sell my thinking through my services and my books, and that works well. But I can take this further and test more deeply and push myself more, and that's what I'm doing here. Doing this is not emotionally comfortable, but it's necessary. Mandatory, almost.

Will the tone or content of the daily emails change?

We'll see! I'll probably joke around approximately 20% less, but still aim to write the emails in a way that's enjoyable to read. I'll still be pursuing the same core themes, and operating from the same points of view, but I hope with even more force and focus.

Happy Monday!