Looking for consensus
I was listening to Jason Fried (founder of Basecamp) in an interview on Hurry Slowly, when he mentioned “looking for consensus” (an idea he credited to Jeff Bezos).
He said that instead of looking for consensus, people should look for commitment.
Bing! I immediately knew what he meant.
And, it immediately helped me sort a dilemma I was facing in my own business.
Rock Your Genius had been around for a while (ten years, in fact). It wasn’t going anywhere. It was the main way I’d worked over the years (aside from writing), the (mostly) freelancing side of my business.
CSCTP (Chicken Shit Conquers the Planet) was my passion project. It was (what I considered to be) my “legacy work”—it was the way I wanted to make an impact in the world.
BibliOBSESSED was the side hustle. It was the “fun” work. It was where I knew I’d spend my time if left to my own devices. I loved reading—loooved, as well as consuming podcasts and TED Talks and almost any kind of content that helped me (and my friends) improve in those “one-degree turn” kind of ways. (If I had my way, it’s what I’d do with every second I could spare.)
Over the last couple of months, I’d been using some new-found work time to get these projects launched (or re-launched), so I’d spent a lot of time considering business (and business growth and business direction and all the other business-y things that come with launching and side hustles).
Each day, I felt a little more confused.
“Grow!” they say.
So I wondered if I should be on social media.
“Be a millionaire (no, better, a billionaire)!” they say.
So I wondered if I should invest in the “sure shot” (focusing on the project that made the most sense, based on the likelihood of scalability and growth).
I started the days asking the same, simple question: What did I want?
Answer: BibliOBSESSED. (At least in my top spot.)
I wanted to build it (and make it great) and to grow it to 1000 members.
So, I asked myself a second question then: What was the problem?
Answer: Wanting consensus.
The Consensus Problem
So, when I thought about growing BibliOBSESSED (and, to give you some perspective, BibliOBSESSED is a member-based newsletter that costs $5/month; my goal was to grow it to 1000 members to start).
When I thought about growing it, my immediate concern was, Will people be willing to pay for it?
I’d been circling this same question for weeks.
This morning (before hearing Jason talk about consensus), I thought about it and came to the conclusion that:
a) You don’t really know what people will pay for. (Example: Just yesterday, I almost signed up for a paid Pocket account—also $5/mo—on impulse, because I thought it would make my life better.)
b) You only need some people to be willing to pay for it, not all. (You only need your 1000 people.)
c) Make it so good those 1000 people will happily pay for it. (And how do you make it good? Ask your current subscribers, the people who liked the idea enough to be a part of it already.)
So, fine—conclusion made.
The second-guessing might continue, but at least I’d have my argument in place.
But then I heard Jason.
People want consensus.
That was exactly what I wanted, and I knew it.
Sure, the logical, rational, reasonable side of me knew that I only needed 1000 willing-to-pay members (not everyone on the planet, not a million people on the planet, just 1000 people on the planet). I only needed a small subset of people to be willing to subscribe and pay. But that didn’t matter. My lizard brain wanted EVERYONE.
My lizard brain wanted validation, acceptance, approval.
My lizard brain wanted consensus.
I wanted to know that people agreed with me. Not just 1000 people. ALL OF THEM. That the idea was good. That they were willing to pay. That it was worth something.
It wasn’t good enough for 1000 people to say it was worth something to them. I couldn’t stand the thought of saying, “This isn’t for you.” And that was the real problem.
Not willing to pay? Okay. This isn’t for you.
Don’t like it? Okay. This isn’t for you.
Think it’s [boring/been done/already freely available elsewhere/not life-changing enough/whatever]? Okay. This isn’t for you.
But—what about the people it is for?
What about the people (like me) who would spend forever exploring great content in order to share it with people like BibliOBSESSED members, who want the highlights delivered to them in an easily-digestible way?
Are we all the kinds of people? No.
Are we most of the kinds of people? Probably not.
But are we out there? Definitely.
Consensus was not what I needed. I just needed to be committed to those people.
Commitment. Not consensus.
Note: Jason explained the idea of looking for consensus in more detail at 44:44 in the episode, if you want to hear his full explanation.