How to Craft a Life & Career That Lights You Up (F*ck The Playbooks)

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yeah, I did have wiggle room. I did have certain financial strengths, but the interesting thing I've found is that the amount of money people have seems to be independent of people's willingness to take this kind of risk. The kind of people who reach out to me who resonate most with my work, like they sort of have to, like, they feel like there's no other choice but to create their own path because they either feel so inside or so cynical or so broken that they're like, man, I just need recipes and playbooks.

And then I'll talk to like the guy at Google that has, like, I've had this conversation like 10 different times with like the same kind of person they have, like, they're like, I have like a million in the bank and I just feel like it's not enough. And I like, I think what you're doing is great and like, I just like, don't know what I would do.

Like, I feel like I need to make at least 200 grand a year when I'm doing my own thing. For me, that was not it. Like, I was fighting for like, I needed to save myself from my own cynicism and doomed path that I was very certain I was on.
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour, and welcome to another episode of Everyone Hates Marketers. com, the no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast for people sick of marketing bullshit. I'm your host, Louis. In today's episode, you will learn how to figure out what the fuck to do with your marketing career or your business or your life.

My guest today is a Seth Godin fanboy, the author of The Passless Path, also a podcaster with the same name as a podcast creator, consultant, ex chaser of big corporate dreams, just like I was. And he actually turned down a big offer from publishing companies to take over his book and give him some money around 200 K.

And I'm sure we'll talk about why he's done that. You can check out his work at Pathless Path. com. Paul Millerd. Hi.

Paul: Hello. Excited to be here. Excited to dive in.

Louis: So if you go to Amazon or any like site that sells books or even bookstores, and if I look at the like self-help entrepreneurship. you know, type of section.

I would find thousands and thousands and thousands of titles on how to figure out, you know, how to figure out what you want and how to do what you want and how to be free and how, you know, stuff like that. Right. So how is your core idea of the pathless path different or, you know, how did it solve a problem for you that, you know, couldn't be solved with all of those other approaches?

Paul: Yeah. I think what you're asking is how the hell I end up with 1700 reviews that I didn't ask for and sell 45, 000 copies of this book?

Louis: Not yet.

Paul: Well, indirectly, I think like, and I think it answers the same question. I think what happened is I got lost in my love for writing for years without any sort of goals.

And one of the sources of fuel for that writing was hundreds of conversations with people about their relationship with work. And so, I became absurdly interested in the question of like, what is our relationship to work? How have we become so obsessed with work? And so many people at the same time do not seem to be working on the things that they crave or really want.

And these conversations sort of fueled my exploration of this. And I was connecting exactly with what people were telling me with my own experiments in life. And so it was very raw and generative. for several years, and I ended up just publishing, like, what I found along the way. So my book is very much an exploration of the questions I was asking along the way, the sources that inspired me at specific moments along that journey.

I didn't spend a lot of time in my book, sort of saying, Oh, I need to inject a research study here, otherwise I won't be credible. It was just, this is literally the quote that inspired me this month. Here's how I was making sense of it. Here's how it helped me resolve this question or sort of sit with this tension I was dealing with and then share that along the way.

And so I'd say that's, what's different about the book.

Louis: So it's genuine like you had a genuine question, like a genuine intention, something to resolve, which was how have we become so obsessed with work? And it wasn't just your question. It was questions of the hundreds of people you talk to naturally throughout, through the years.

Right. And so you knew that there was something to write about because clearly, those people were in pain. In some way, I mean, I don't really like to use the word pain too much, but clearly, there was something that was annoying them in some way, shape, or form. Right?

Paul: Yeah, I think my book sales have surprised me and it's been a little bigger than I expected, but I knew there were at least like a few hundred people that were sharing these things with me.

What was so interesting about this, was this was 2017 to 2020 people were telling me things that they weren't telling any other people in their lives.

Louis: Why not?

Paul: I talked to a few people and they'd say yeah, I haven't told my spouse this, well, I would be like this is crazy. I think there's a certain amount of shame that you're supposed to That people have with saying they don't have it figured out.

They don't have a plan or they don't feel confident about what they're doing. Right. We're supposed to have it together. We're supposed to know what we're doing. We're supposed to, like, we have a job and we're stable and we're making a lot of money and we should be grateful for that. And people would just tell me what they actually thought.

And I'd be like, Well, why don't you share this with people?

Louis: For context, how did the conversations take place? So was it through your writing that you met people and connected this way? Like, what was the context of those conversations?

Paul: So early on, I had a very small audience, probably like a hundred, hundred or so people at the beginning.

I added friends and stuff and started sharing on a blog. I had. some small amount of traffic and signups I'd get from sharing on places like Medium and LinkedIn. And I saw all this advice in podcasts. I forget who I was listening to, but there was some entrepreneur who's like the most important thing you can do is protect your time.

Don't let anyone access your calendar. You are the most valuable person. Your time is so valuable. You should be putting every ounce of energy into making money on your own. And I was like, Oh, I think that's stupid. So I just opened my calendar, every Wednesday. In the beginning, it was any day. Anyone could book a call with me because there just weren't that many people.

And I would put this in my newsletter every week and on my website and it said, Hey if you are curious about these things, you can set up a call with me. It was just an open Calendly link. And eventually, it was every Wednesday. So every Wednesday, the only thing I would ever do is talk to people if they book calls with me.

And so it was like one or two people a week once it got going, but at first, it would be like once every couple of months. And then what happened is in 2020, the pandemic happened. And for some reason, this conversation around work became more acceptable. And I was having like six, seven calls a week every Wednesday.

And so my anti-strategy of saying, ah, I think that's stupid turned into an actual strategy because those conversations fueled writing. And they were with people from all over the world, all different walks of life, all different economic backgrounds, all different interests. I think I had one or two people that were like, what are you supposed to do?

What, what is this? And like we ended the call like five minutes in because they're like, I don't want to do this. But 98 percent of the people were hyper-curious, interested in what I was doing, and like we just riffed and explored ideas and it was really fun and generative.

Louis: What was the offer should I make for the call?

Like what was the reason why people would book a call with you?

Paul: Yeah. So I think I still have the page up. I'm going to Google it just so I see what it actually, says, So I called it a curiosity conversation after this guy, Brian Glazer's book, A Curious Mind. He talked about having curiosity conversations with people in the film industry and trying to climb his way up the ladder.

So mine was sort of an inversion of that as like not climbing the ladder, but just like talking to anyone. So I said, yeah, here's exactly what I said, book a no, an agenda-free curiosity conversation with me. And then it was basically just like. I like talking to people about their relationship with work, taking leaps, reinventing their careers, all these things, and people would just join and actually be pretty strongly interested in the things I listed.

So it was a pretty great filter.

Louis: And after a while, you kept hearing the same thing, no?

Paul: A lot of similar things. There was a lot of like, I don't have anyone to talk about with these things. I don't feel good about my path. I talked to a decent amount of people who were making good money and would say the same thing over and over again.

I know I shouldn't complain, but then they list out this long list of terrible things about their situation. I'm like, well, it sounds like you should complain. You're literally being verbally abused by your boss. You just told me. And so, it was sort of shocking to me because, at the same time, I was doing all these experiments at reinventing my work.

I was making about 20 percent of what I was making in my former job for multiple years. And, seeing how that felt and feeling more alive with creative work and taking creative sabbaticals in my own life of not really trying to make money for multiple months. And so it was this very small corner of people I was connecting with.

For multiple years, it was less than like a thousand people on any sort of following I had. And so, uh, I was just having the time of my life. I was trying to make, like, I was trying to fund my life with as little work as possible. So I'd do like a little consulting for the first few years. And then I spent all my time just writing and reading and exploring these ideas.

And it was so fun. And I found in writing something I actually wanted to commit to and keep doing. And I didn't know where it was going to lead. But it felt like it was worth following because I think like you, I had spent enough time on a previous path where I was like, I'm good. I see all the people around me.

I don't want to keep going on this like a traditional path or climbing the ladder. It's like, sure, there's huge financial rewards, but I don't know. It just doesn't seem worth it.

Louis: Yeah. So there's a lot to unpack here. Before I start to unpack, we go deeper into what you said because, in a meta way, the way you described your own experience is what I want us to, talk about, to help others.

The context is that, and please correct me if I'm wrong, you started like me, a very corporate kind of life. Then, you talk about prestige and basically this idea of doing something to please others or like to be seen well by others in terms of status and shit like that. You did that for a few years.

Paul: Yeah nine, nine years.

Louis: Nine years. So yeah, it's a long time. And then you got Lyme disease.

Paul: Yeah. Halfway through that. I was still employed when I got Lyme disease.

Louis: Right. That's right.

But you started to question your relationship with work and stuff when you realized that, you know if I fucking die, Why does it matter to simplify?

Right? So in terms of the 20 percent of income you lived with, like, I think there's a discussion here, like a question or something to talk about rapidly around your own context. And, is it a rich boy issue we are talking about here? Meaning you made so much money before you come from, such a well of a family that you're able to do to get sick and then have sabbatical creative sabbaticals and shit like that and play with your career, or is it more.

Difficult than that.

Paul: Yeah, so I definitely had money, but I talk every week now and hear from people every day who have far more money than me and seem completely unable to do any of the things I'm able to do. So I think there are a couple of things at play. Do I have a foundation of a family I could go back to and live with that could support me?

Yes. Have I done that? No. I've always sort of been on my own even when I was sick. When I quit my job, I had 50, 000 in savings.

Louis: Fifty. Five zero.

Paul: Fifty in the US. Yeah. So I figured I had about a year to figure things out. And I actually think it was a benefit that I was not any sort of like financially free point in my life because it forced me like I knew I had to find work within a couple of months.

That amount in my savings was shrinking and like that felt really scary, but I had enough wiggle room. That's like, okay, I don't have to take the worst possible job tomorrow. And so I decided, okay, a year, I'm going to. Just see what will happen. Maybe I'll try freelancing. Maybe that's the path forward.

And in that year, I had enough breathing room that say like, Oh wow, I really want to lean into this and keep going. And therefore I'm willing to fight for this. And like, I'd pretty much do anything not to have to go back to traditional employment. So, One thing I realized quickly is I would literally be willing to make money doing anything to not have to go back.

Most people could be waiters or workers at a restaurant and you can make decent money doing that. And that is like totally on the table for me. That is not on the table for a lot of people who are in these full-time jobs because they want the status and identity that comes with that. I never needed that or like wanted that.

Like I really tried to get into consulting because I thought it'd be interesting and creative. And it became painful for me when I rose to the level where nobody was actually all that interested in going deep around ideas. And so, yeah, I did have wiggle room. I did have certain financial strengths, but the interesting thing I've found is that the amount of money people have seems to be independent of people's willingness to take this kind of risk. The kind of people who reach out to me who resonate most with my work, like they sort of have to, like, they feel like there's no other choice but to create their own path because they either feel so inside or so cynical or so broken that they're like, man, I just need recipes and playbooks.

And then I'll talk to like the guy at Google that has, like, I've had this conversation like 10 different times with like the same kind of person they have, like, they're like, I have like a million in the bank and I just feel like it's not enough. And I like, I think what you're doing is great and like, I just like, don't know what I would do.

Like, I feel like I need to make at least 200 grand a year when I'm doing my own thing. For me, that was not it. Like, I was fighting for like, I needed to save myself from my own cynicism and doomed path that I was very certain I was on.

Louis: What I found striking about your story and your way of thinking is that play, this idea of like creativity, the big C, right, is, fundamental to you.

Like your ability to take distance from your project and not really caring about the numbers in terms of audience and how big is my audience and how big my email list is or whatever, and focusing more on the individual conversations you've had for years. is like, I think what is the reason why we're talking today, not saying that you made it because you talked to on my podcast, far from it, but it all led to, to where you are today, which is like, you know, the, like, it's just a slow, slow, slow burn because you're doing things out of interest, out of curiosity, out of just enjoying what you're doing, not doing it to get something hypothetically, you know, in the future, which then I think led to the result that you're getting, which is, you know, that book that you wrote, which you know, read so well with so many different quotes, so many different reference on stuff where you're like definitely on the shoulders of giants and you acknowledge them and stuff, but you are also able to put your own spin on it, then I'm not surprised that your book sold like 42, 000 units so far without any sales launch strategies or anything like that, but it's probably because it was years and years in the making where you kept having conversation and you kept talking to people, you kept asking yourself the questions and having fun in the process.

Paul: It's sort of, it's sort of shocked me.

Louis: What? What? The sales?

Paul: The book sales. Yeah. So the reason is I felt like I had already won. I spent the first year after quitting my job in the US and I lowered my cost of living down to like 35 grand a year. And then I ended up moving to Asia because it was like, okay, I can move my cost of living even lower.

And I was living on like a thousand a month when I moved to Asia for that first year. And for me, this is glorious. I was like, Oh my gosh, I can work on this creative work for at least like five more years on this runway. And like, it was just like finding the work in writing and exploring these ideas was so, it felt so good.

And like, I felt like I had won. And like, I felt like I had tapped into this secret in the universe that it's like, oh, you can find work that makes you feel so good and so alive and so connected. That is everything. So then I really built my life around this idea. It's like, okay, I'm going to do some of these consulting things and training to like pay the bills.

It's going to be like a small amount of my energy and effort. As long as I can like break even and keep doing this, this is like, incredible. And so like my identity now is still trying to like catch up with the fact that I'm making money from this stuff, which only happened in the last two years after five years of not making any money from writing.

And it's like, this is crazy. It's, this is like a cherry on top. Like I don't even know how to think about it yet, but yeah, it's, it's been such a fun journey. But I don't know how to aim at that. And that's one thing I try to convey in my book is like, I don't actually know if you can do the work you love and make money doing it.

Louis: Yeah, I know. But this is one of the things I like about the way you describe stuff is that you're not trying to be seen as this know-it-all-all expert, that you're willing to keep asking questions and say, Hey, I don't know the answer to this. For you, it turns out that exploring stuff and exploring ideas is where you feel the most alive, right? And maybe some others, feel very alive when they do nothing. I don't know. Like, so yes, there is not necessarily a direct connection between doing the things that make you feel the most alive and the ability to make a lot of money. So just let's go into that feeling.

Because I know for a fact that when you said that about like feeling alive and feeling so connected and feeling like it's everything, it means everything to you. I can see it in your face and like you light up when you talk about it. I feel like I know what you're saying because what we're doing now is the same thing for me, right?

I love talking to people. I'm challenging them. Also write daily stuff in my newsletter. There are a few moments creatively where I enjoy the most, being cynical and sarcastic and challenging norms. I love to do that. So that lights me up being a contrarian anyway. So can you describe to me what you mean, like in your mind, in your body, this kind of feeling of feeling feels so good about it, feeling alive.

Describe that to someone who doesn't know what it means, please.

Paul: Yeah. I was very much someone that didn't know what it meant because. In the first chapter of my life, I was sort of pursuing an idea of what I thought success was, right? And so you get kind of deep in that and you're just following other people's playbooks of how to do that.

How do you get the job? How do you please the boss? How do you win the performance review? And you do enough of that, that you sort of like short circuit your own connection with the work that matters. I liked a bunch of stuff I did at work, but I wasn't paying attention to like, Oh, I feel totally different in my body when I'm doing this versus the other stuff.

Like, it wasn't a thought, kind of, because I was in this container, like, well, you have to show up to work tomorrow and do what other people want to do, so you shouldn't think about it. The first time I really became aware of it was about 15 months after quitting my job. I moved to Taiwan. I didn't really know how I was going to make a living because nobody wanted to hire me as a remote consultant.

A lot of the people I was talking to were like, Hey, I don't think remote can work. You need to be in person. It sounds funny today. And so I wasn't doing anything, but I kept for like two weeks straight. I kept making coffee in the morning and then sitting down and then being excited to open my laptop.

And one morning I'm just sitting there. I'm like, this is like, I had this idea in my head that I want to do escape work. And I'm like, Well, this is like kind of work and, but like, I can't wait to wake up and like open my laptop. That's really cool. And so I became more and more aware of it. And I just sort of had this idea.

It's like, I want to protect that, like whatever's happening there. I want to like to think about the conditions to enable that excitement and I don't want to lose that. And so a lot of my path even still has been around that. I was so burnt out and frustrated with my work when I quit. I was just so determined not to create another job for myself.

And so the question was always not, how do I make, how do I become successful? It was like, how do I actually find a path I want to stay on? I have this somewhat rare story of for the last six of the seven years after quitting my job absolutely loving my path. I haven't come close to burning out.

I haven't wanted to quit the things I'm doing. Like I really like everything I'm doing and like, I'm really happy with like how everything's set up.

Louis: It's inspiring and I think it's going to inspire a lot of people. I'm taking notes by the way. It's not, I'm not paying attention, but I like what you said earlier.

You said like, by following other people's playbook or whatever, you short circuit, you short circuit your connection with the world or your short, how did you say it exactly? Just to repeat it.

Paul: You short-circuit your own connection with what you actually like, right?

Louis: Yeah.

Paul: And so I have this principle in my book called Design for Liking Work.

Sounds simple, but people don't do it, right? And this is like, the trap of marketing, right, is you design around optimizing metric. Well, if you design around actually liking what you're doing, you're going to make decisions that under-optimize metrics, right? And so people were shocked when I didn't do a massive book launch and send my book to people and set up podcasts.

I didn't do any of that, because I determined it would like drain me. And like, I. I might become resentful of the book. So that was really risky for me. So I was just designing to like the book launch and promotion strategy. And I published it two years ago and I'm still excited to talk about it because I've never become resentful of like anything I've done along the way of doing it.

Louis: It's, I'm nodding by the way. So if you're listening to this on audio, you don't know that I'm nodding, but I'm nodding. I'm nodding on so many levels because I think as humans, whatever you pick to optimize, you'll do whatever it takes to optimize it, right? So like, if you pick a revenue thing, you're gonna fucking obsess over it if you pick like, the quality of the question you ask yourself and the quality of the tension you need to resolve in your life is a direct as a direct correlation with the results at the end.

Right. So like you, by you asking yourself the question, how can I just enjoy what the fuck I'm doing every day? How can I optimize that? I just naturally kind of drifted to that. And just to tell you a little bit of my own story, I was brought up by teachers, right? My parents were teachers, my grandparents were teachers.

And I had this idea of a very rational way to do the, you know, nine to five, pick a career, get your diploma first, pick your career, stick to it, and that's it. And then you go fucking go die, go retire, and go die. And then I discovered that path, the other path, the pathless path, in a sense, by looking up to people like Seth Godin as well, right?

And creators and stuff in the early days of the internet realized that there was another way and shit like that. And only recently, so I, I was touching on things that really really love doing. So interviewing people, launching stuff, being very contrarian and challenging norms and stuff like that, talking about marketing in the true sense of the word.

But my anxiety was so high that that actually to use the words you used that short circuited my connection with those things. And instead, I kept coming back to making money, must make money, must make money. You know, must be jealous of others who are making more money than me, you know? And it's only by solving my own fucking anxiety that I started to actually just optimize for what you said.

Right? So I don't know why I have such high anxiety stuff. I think it might be my thyroid or whatever my GP told me. So I need to check that out more, but I just want to say that, yeah, like once you find that path, it becomes obvious how it feels like. And then the rest follows, which is, this is why it's important, right?

I mean, it's not a guarantee, maybe it doesn't follow for you, but like, to me, when I start doing things that really energize me, that I love to do, that I could do all day, every day, that's when good shit happens, you know?

Paul: Yeah, and I think this stuff is really hard to talk about because people do want playbooks or roadmaps.

Like, how do you, how do you find your thing or how do you do your thing? And the best way I've found to tell people this is that there is a state that exists that you can feel this connected aliveness. And if you're not, experiencing that fact should drive you crazy and you should be thinking I need to search for that state.

And then the whole game is searching for that state by like trying stuff and changing stuff.

Louis: Exactly. That's the key, right? The key is to try things, to play, to allow yourself to wander like aimlessly on to be, to let accidents happen, right? Good accidents in a sense. So like I discovered my love for quizzing people and interviewing people.

When I did this event at my local chamber of commerce years and years ago. When I was running my first business and I enjoyed it so much, I was interviewing a CEO on stage, but I wasn't really, it was the first time I was doing it. I didn't overthink it. I just did it. And at the end, people were like, the attendees came to me and say, you're very good at this, right?

They're like, that's really cool. I never thought I'd be good at it. I just enjoyed my time. I really felt, you know, in the zone. And others seem to recognize that I'm good at it. But that was, to me, that's a little accident, right? It's something I didn't overthink. I just fucking did it. And I agree. It's difficult to advise others to be more like to be that directive and say, you know, maybe organize your own event.

That's not the point, right? It's like, try to listen a bit more to that gut feeling that sometimes, you know, points you into the direction and just listen to it without expectations. And you might stumble upon something that you fucking love.

Paul: Yeah. And you might not. I think that's the thing.

Louis: You might, or you might not.


Paul: I think that's the thing I'm willing to say. I think like so many people want to over-promise success to other people because you can make money by over-promising. And it's like, yeah, that would be the pitch for my book is like, I'm going to share my recipe of how it happened and it might not work for you, but you might still enjoy reading it.

Louis: But clearly a lot of people enjoyed reading it. So to go back to your book then, so 42, 000 units sold, you didn't have a launch strategy because you were afraid it would drain you. You didn't have bookstore distribution. You didn't reach out for testimonials from beta readers. You didn't do any of this stuff, right?

Of what could be expected of a self-published author.

Paul: I had five people read my book. I did have an editor. And I had some feedback too, because a lot of the ideas have been sort of half-baked in newsletter issues and tweets and stuff. So I sort of had a sense of what the story and the ideas were. But yeah, I never, I didn't think about the launch.

I sort of thought, okay, I'm going to finish the book and then research how to launch a book. And I probably should have put in a little more energy, but I decided, okay, it's done. I'm going to do a three week. Pre-sale. And then I put the book up on Kindle, set the pre-sale date three weeks from now, and then I put it on paperback, and when I'm uploading the paperback to Amazon, I'm noticing, oh, there's no place to enter a date.

I guess they'll approve it and then ask me when the pre-sale date is. The next morning I woke up and it said, your book has been published, it is available for sale here. So I'm like, shit, this book is for sale now. So I said, all right, let's, let's roll with it. So I moved the Kindle pre-sale date out two days and was like, all right, I'm going to do a pre-sale over the weekend at least.

So I did, I think I pre-sold like 60 books and I just launched it. Right. Why is launching a book so important, why do people obsess over it so much? It's all because the industry is obsessed with status and prestige around these weird New York Times lists. But like, good books sell, right? You do need to actually seed people to sell it.

The best metric I've seen, which is something worth aiming at, is a thousand books in a hundred days. Which is not that, that didn't sound stressful, scary, or hard to me. So that was really the only goal I had. I was like, all right, let's see. see if I can make that happen and I think I made that happen.

People started sharing it after they read it to my initial audience, but I probably only had an initial audience that like was like, all right, I'm downloading this and reading it immediately of like 100 to 200 people. I think that was enough because enough of those people. Wanted to share it with people.

And I think the number one way my book has spread has been word of mouth.

Louis: Which is like, I mean, if Seth Godin was listening to this conversation, it'd be like, this is music to my ear. Like, please keep talking about this because that's, I mean, that's textbook Seth Godin philosophy, right? In fact, when I was reading your book before you mentioned, actually, I didn't know you liked Seth Godin that much or influenced you so much.

I thought Jesus was writing like him. I'm not saying you copied his style. I'm not saying that. But you, you come across as someone who has a similar mind, which is a good compliment, by the way, I think.

Paul: I appreciate that. Very humbling.

Louis: You know, ask questions and go deep and he's willing to say he doesn't know and shit like that.

So anyway, so word of mouth. So within the first 100 days more than 1000 sells, right?

Paul: And then I think, um, I think I ended up selling about 10, 000 in the first year, but the majority of those, I think 70 percent came in the last three months. And that came...

Louis: What happened then? Like, would you, was it, was it because I have a feeling that I think I know where it's coming from, but.

What was the difference like in terms of trajectory? Like why was there an acceleration in the last three months of the year?

Paul: So one of my fans who like read all my stuff for years now happens to run a YouTube channel with millions of followers, and he loved the book, um, and put it as his number one book in a recommended list of like 25 books to read for 2023 and it took off and then his team followed up with another video that was standalone on the book and that really led to a big spike and then I think what happened is the Amazon algorithm saw that and like started promoting it more and then it sort of reached a new baseline of sales and now it sells about like 20 a day that seems to be the baseline and yeah it's pretty wild.

Just keep selling. I've never had a day without it selling.

Louis: Beautiful.

But thanks for sharing the little details behind it. And this is why I wanted to go into the details because yeah, as you said, one of your fans, so one of the people who've been followed your work for years, meaning reading your blog posts that you've been publishing for years, even if you didn't have a massive audience or whatever happened to be, I'm going to forget his name now.

What's his name?

Paul: Yeah.

Louis: Who's ex-doctor, quit his job, became a massive fucking, you know, influencer in the right sense of the word and, and ended up promoting your stuff. And then I think that was a catalyst. But the reason why he did that is because of all the fucking work you've done for years before.


Paul: Yeah. And this is actually something worth talking about, which I don't hear a lot of people talk about so there are social dynamics at play. And I know how to connect with people genuinely. And I know sort of like the subtle art of actually building real relationships. Right. And I think a lot of new creators or people that are younger really struggle with this.

Which is like, how do I get other people to promote my stuff? And, you can easily turn people off doing this. I probably had enough credibility and connection to literally just ask people to promote my stuff and they would do it. I've always been committed to this, like, what if I don't actually do that, right?

What if I cultivate a sense of like enoughness, where I'm like, I don't desperately need that, right? And I sort of have embraced this idea of giving generously to other people, because it's a mode I actually enjoy in. I love giving to other people more than asking for things. And so, Ali signed up for my presale on Gumroad, even before the Kindle presale.

I had a presale on Gumroad. And he paid 50 on Gumroad. You can pay whatever you want. It was like 9. 99 for the presale and you get all the versions in my book because I wanted to support those people. He put in 50. So I'm like, Oh my gosh, I sent him a big long email. We had connected and exchanged emails, but, I'd never like to ask him for anything. So when the book launched, I said, Ali, you were my biggest supporter on the Gumroad. Can I send you some books? I sent him 10 paperbacks and 10 hardcovers to his office in London. And he said a lot of his team started reading the book. So, like, everyone on his team read the book and, like, loved it.

And so, like, they're the ones that write his videos, too. And he liked it. And so I think a lot of it was from me just, like, giving and sending the book. And I didn't just gift to people like Ali. In fact, 95% of my gifts to people are just like random people who want books. I will send my book for free to anyone who wants it, including listeners right now.

Just send me a message. I'll mail it to you anywhere in the world...

Louis: Careful what you wish for, man.

Paul: No, I've done, I've gifted like thousands of book books at this point. Yeah. I've like, I expected to break even in this book, so the more I can spend on like gifting it that it's. It's great.

Louis: Yeah. I mean, to go deep into what you said, there's a lot here already, but I think your idea of enoughness is what's striking me as well.

Like your content about what you're doing, uh, you don't have this like growth at all costs mindset. And I think that defaults, you then default back as I would say, the basic human interaction, you know, that we used to have thousands of years ago, which is like, don't be a fucking dickhead with your people and be helpful.

And then you turn others with, you know, we'd return the favor. And that's how you have a cohesive society, right? Function and shit. The other thing that you mentioned is that I know how to build connections with people. I know to be, I know how to connect with others, that younger folks or others, like just in general, that some people might not know how to, I have a feeling.

I know roughly what you're going to say based on this kind of generosity. principle that you shared and all of that, but what's your take on this? How do you connect with others in a way that you know, might be a bit different than the rest?

Paul: Well, I've always been a people person and I really care about people.

So I don't see people as just like a name on the internet. It's like, I want to treat people with the same respect as I would in person. And maybe this is easier because like, I didn't really, we didn't really grow up with the internet. Like I'm almost 39. I think I'm in an interesting generation that I understand the internet and like to know how to connect with people online, but also spend most of my time offline.

For the majority of my first. 25 years of my life. So yeah, I just, I see people online as like real people and I also treat people as real people. So I actually talked to Ali and like, I don't really care about his following. And when we talked for the first time, like before my book was published, I was just like super curious.

It's like, man, it must be scary to like leave medicine behind. How do you feel about that? How do your parents feel? And I asked him all these questions and I think like what people sense is like, Oh, this is a person like actually just curious about me as a person. Which is true, so you can't fake that, right?

And I was excited to come on this podcast because I've listened to a bunch of your episodes. Actually, like, fun story, I was listening to your episodes when I went through my, like, maybe I should, like, try to get into the marketing phase, but not in a cringe way. And I listened to a bunch of your stuff and it was super helpful because it was filtered through a lens of cutting out the bullshit, right?

It's like, Oh, there are ways of thinking about this in a healthy way. And it's like, Oh, I like this personnel. And like when our mutual connection Jovian mentioned, like this podcast is like, Oh, I've listened to his stuff. That'd be super cool. I'd love to have like a conversation with him. And like you, I get a lot of energy around these conversations.

Louis: Thank you. It's nice to hear. Yeah. I do hear we have similar personality traits around that, but like you, the way you describe in your book, you basically, there's this sense of you can do it too, right? It's like, if I think of my dad, for example, none of his role models, none of the people in his family ever talked about this kind of stuff.

Obviously, the internet has changed everything for us, but like he never knew anyone else doing anything remotely like that. And I feel like with this podcast and what I try to do in other parts of my work, just showing up and saying, you know what, you can actually have fun. You can make a living without selling your soul, you know?

And they're like, Oh shit. Yeah, I can. So just the, just the idea of letting people discover that there's another way. is to me helpful enough or like generous enough without going into tactics, you know, like this guy done 42, 000 sales without launch. I'm not saying you can do the same, exactly the same, but I'm saying that it's possible to do it your way in one way, shape, or form.

Paul: Yeah. I don't know if this was your case in the corporate world, but I never received a lengthy thank you letter from anyone I ever worked with. But like in the first couple of days of publishing my book, I received this really long email. And I've since received hundreds of these that one email.

Louis: Do you keep folders of it?

Paul: No, I suck at organization and saving stuff.

Louis: Well, I suck at organization as well, but, whenever I receive a nice email...

Paul: I try to save them. Yeah.

Louis: I screenshot, put them. Cause it's so, you're right. It's a question I never asked myself in the corporate world, which I have worked with for not nine years, but close enough.

Yeah. Never. It's such a fulfilling thing, isn't it? To like, to get those emails, to get those tweets or whatever.

Paul: Yeah. And I got them, I got them early on my journey and it was actually a big thing for me because I think part of these journeys is you need to figure out what you actually need. Like, I think the biggest trap is if you're trying to convince yourself you don't need status when you really deeply desire status.

Similarly, I think early on in my journey, I did this like value or like, I forget it was this exercise from a Tim Urban article called Like the want box and it's like, what are the desires you have and the yearnings you have? Right? And I realized like one of my top ones is I actually wanted to be appreciated, like, yeah, I needed some form of, like, love or respect or appreciation from other people.

And I think denying this really can be painful for people. Some people really want money and love it and need it and feel great with money. Like, if that's true, you should go work in finance, probably. Right? Like, you can't deny how you're wired. And so getting some of the early messages from random strangers, like, Oh, I love this article.

It helped me connect this dot. It was worth so much more to me than all the things I did in my 10 years of working in the corporate world. And so I really just, yeah, and I, I leaned into that and I tried to design a life around that and share my work publicly. Cause like, I, I'm not going to say I'm like, um, this, like I can just like to lock myself in the woods and write my work and ship it and never pay attention to readers. It's like, I want people to like it. I think everyone does need something from their work.

Louis: But don't deny how you're wired is a very, very powerful thing. But to not deny it, you first need to know how you're wired. And then you need to accept it, which is another layer.

And then you need to like, really thrive on it. Like if I had to answer that question that you didn't ask me, But I'm going to, I'm going to be a guest.

Paul: What do you need?

Louis: I think, you know what I need, I do connect with this appreciation stuff, but actually it's a bit slightly different. I want to feel like I'm challenging others.

I want to feel, I mean, I do appreciate what you're saying. I love what you just said or whatever. I do prefer, I thrive for, I never thought about it this way, or, you know, it unlocked this unknown unknown. So I like to, I thrive on challenging others. You know what I mean?

Paul: Yeah.

So when I say like, Oh, I loved how you were thinking about like, uh, email marketing in one of your podcasts, you'd be like, Oh, that's great.

I unlocked a different way of how somebody thought about it.

Louis: Yeah. Yeah. I'll change my mind about it. You know, stuff like that. I like the contrarian stuff. I liked it, I want to I want others to react. And usually, that's by reacting in that way. So yeah, but that's such a good question to ask, right? And, and probably a good idea for listeners to do this if they haven't done so.

Do you, I don't know if it's mentioned in the article by Tim Urban, but are there buckets, like categories of stuff that tend to be?

Paul: Yeah. So the magic of the exercise Is it forces you to trash certain things. Let me see if I can find the article. There's like five left.

Louis: I have it in front of me now.

Paul: Yeah, how to pick a career that actually fits you. Right? And he has these yearnings, and it's all about like ranking them, right? And it's the nonnegotiable bull at the top, right? It's like you must achieve these at all costs. For some people, it's security, love, respect, financial freedom, status. Yes. All these things.

But then I think the thing is the trash can is also just as helpful. So you're supposed to take like three to five of them and say like, I'm not going to prioritize those, right? So for me, it's like status. Like, I genuinely don't want to prioritize. care about like traditional forms of status and prestige and people can look at my former path and they're like, well, that's all you optimize for.

Well, I got enough data that it was like, this didn't do anything for me. And I can't tell people not to do that. You should never take my yearnings or desires and try to map them to your life. But for me, it's helpful because I can look at something like Penguin offering me a book deal and realize that the big thing there for people is status and prestige.

And it's like, okay, I know I've deprioritized that. This is an act of very useful opportunity to lean away from that and made the decision very easy for me.

Louis: You see, like in my personal story, in my personal story, in my personal life, I have someone I know who has a few kids and he went. He's going across the globe to work for one month in this specific industry that is quite demanding.

And you need to be there. You can't work remotely. You have to be in that place requires like 36 hours, a trip altogether. So he would go for one month, go there, and come back with one month's holiday, even though he still kind of works. And he's being paid very well for that. Right. I mean, I think it's around 250, 300 K a year for that.

And I kept telling my wife, I was like, you know what, even for I would say, you know what, even for 20, 50 X that amount, I wouldn't even fucking consider it because if I had to do the exercise that you described quickly, I'm going to butcher it. But one of the biggest things for me is this like freedom.

Paul: Yeah. Same.

Louis: Choosing the time with my daughter above everything else. And if I miss a week, a month with her, like this is like, this is not negotiable for me. You know, I can't. Same for you. You said.

Paul: Yeah. Same for me. I mean, I was just playing with my daughter right before the call.

Louis: Yeah. So I think she's around the same age, right?

Paul: 10 months.

Louis: Yeah. So mine is two, but, uh, I mean, in 10 years' time, they'll be the same age.

Paul: Yeah.

Pretty much. Yeah. And I think that's like one really interesting thing to talk to, because like, talk about because like men were not supposed to want this. Men are supposed to go to a job, leave the house and go acquire the cash, and come home.

And the possibilities of structuring your life have radically changed and we're still operating with the old scripts.

Louis: Yeah. Do you feel like the old script is slowly being rewritten as the internet is obviously not that new of technology, and more generations are born in it, what the possibilities are?

Paul: Well, I think this is the biggest tension people feel, is they're still running the traditional script, but the world is like, Not quite delivering what they're expecting. Like a lot of people are running the formula in their head that says get traditional employment, dot, dot, dot, everything will be taken care of.

Right. And they're like, well, I can't even afford the home I want. In the place I want to live, like, my company's laying people off randomly. There doesn't seem to be job stability. Now I and my wife are both working and we're doing daycare and it's wildly expensive. So there's all this tension that, okay, this script doesn't quite deliver the expected, like, easy, good life, right?

And then people are questioning around the edges. And. I think the internet turns everything into like not another clear story, which is what people crave, but 500 to a thousand different versions of it. And that drives people mad. Like the amount of people that talk about, Oh, we just need like Tom Brokaw or whoever the guy was like 50 years ago.

We need this guy that likes to deliver the. The news tells people what the truth is and the one clear storyline. First of all, that was fake and like top-down manufactured consent of what the truth was. But now there are hundreds, thousands of different reality tunnels, and this is just the weird reality we live in.

And the best thing you can do is sort of take ownership of that and opt into the best structure for your life that works for you. But it's, it's freaking hard. It's so hard.

Louis: But isn't it fun though? Right. In a sense, it's like...

Paul: I think that's the thing I've realized is it is really fun for me, but I also have talked to enough people to know that for some people, it's not fun.

They just want. The script they can opt into and not have to think about these things.

Louis: Which is fine.

The big unlock for me mentally was when I stopped trying to fight chaos and instead welcomed chaos, like even inviting chaos in. Like you said in passing early on, you know, I'm shit at that. organization, right?

And I'm pretty sure that someone who's very head down into like trying to optimize everything with still force themselves and drain themselves to figure out how to organize their Notion, calendar, and shit like that. Right. So like accepting the chaos and knowing that my business will never be unchaotic was such a freeing experience.

Paul: I still have that impulse, but yeah, like you, I try to just remind myself. Yeah. I have this idea, oh, I could bring in an operator and everything would be smooth and I could run things on a cadence and I could just sort of like step out of the business. That's just a bullshit story my head is generating.

I have a couple of friends I talk to and we sort of come back to like, uh, well, I'll text one of my friends sometimes and say he's been on a path longer than me, similar to this. I'm like, and I'll be like, it never stops being weird, does it? It's like, yeah, this is, this is the weird path we're on. And, but for me, I've turned that into enough, of a feature, not a bug.

Because it forces constant reflection and awareness and conversations with myself and conversations with my wife about what we really want. What are we optimizing for? What are the trade-offs? Is this worth it? Should we keep going?

Louis: Is your wife on the same type of path, like your type of career and job?

What's the situation?

Paul: When we met, she was working in the tech industry in Taiwan and then was quitting her job to become a personal trainer. And then after that sort of became self-employed and dabbled with freelancing and creative stuff. She never really like found her thing. I think writing is actually emerging as her thing too.

Right now she's taking time to just really be present. As a parent, she's also working part-time on a book. So that's, that's a huge advantage. I think a lot of people always wish like, Oh, I wish I had a partner that like had a stable job with benefits. I don't want that. Like, I love being able to talk to her about ideas and our creative paths, and both like trying to make it work.

And it's like an ongoing experiment. And it feels very normal for us because it's, it's just how we live for the last six years together.

Louis: I like, I like my wife having a normal. Or a different path because it puts, keeps me in check as well, because I do, I would go too far. I would be too intense about it and I would think about it all the time.

So I like to be able to just step out of, my garden shed and just be a dad and be present and not talk about work too much. Do you know? So I like that.

Paul: I think it works because generally, our actual interests are very different. So yeah. Like what I'm interested in, she's interested in other stuff, right?

So we sort of have our own silos, but the convos I'm talking about are like, how are we thinking about our path? How are we thinking about how we spend money? What are we opting for? What are, where are we going to live long-term? How are we going to think about school and all these things? Which is what every parent has to do.

But yeah, there's a certain, there's a little more chaos. Yeah, yeah. That we've learned to. That feels very normal and fine for us. But other people are like, wow, your life's crazy.

Louis: Yeah. I'm pretty sure that's exactly what people would say because you're fucking nuts. I love it. So to summarize what you said, I'm not trying to summarize everything and butcher it, but there are a few things that stood out to me.

You know, don't short-circuit your own connection with the world by trying to follow someone else's playbook or someone else's way of seeing the world. Another thing that I love is when you talked about how to connect with others. To me, you understand the kind of the principle of reciprocity and gifting first and giving first and leading into that not on purpose to hack the game, but just because you love how it feels like, and then they want box exercise from wait, but why just Google it, right?

So how to pick a career that actually Jesus, that fucking, it's so long. I can't scroll back up. Hold on. How to pick a career that actually fits you.

Paul: Yeah. I would skip the article and just do the yearnings exercise.

Louis: Yeah, but yeah, yeah, yeah.

So, you need to scroll down all the way to the anyway. Yeah.

It's a long article, obviously. That's his style. So you, for example, want to be appreciated, but you don't care about status, right? Don't deny how you're wired. with something that's as well. And then I think overall your kind of enoughness, your tranquility about things, your philosophy of being in the moment and recognizing where you're in the, in the zone is something that I think everyone should really remind themselves of.

And everyone should also read your book, right? So they can go to, uh, they can Google the pathless path. I can't find like my French ancestry pathless path. com. Yeah, there you go. Much better. What are the three resources? You'd recommend the listeners today besides your book.

Paul: Yeah, I mean, there's been like dozens, but some other books, if you're interested in this stuff, I think David White's Crossing the Unknown Sea is just a beautiful book and a beautiful exploration of work.

That is far more poetic than I think I can channel. The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope is another great book. I love how that book explores various people throughout history's relationship with work through the lens of the Gita. And I'd say, yeah, a final one would be Tuesdays with Morrie. That book just really inspired me because Mitch Albom writes about a personal transformation of going from chasing kind of his fast-track career to questioning everything. And the cool thing about that book is you can look up on Google what happened to Mitch Albom after the book. And he took a really interesting life path after that. And he really likes walking the walk.

So I think that's a very powerful vessel of inspiration and change because it's true.

Louis: Wonderful, man.

Once again, I'm Thank you so, so much. I could talk to you for hours, but I think we need to stop so we can spend more time with our daughters.

Paul: Fantastic. Keep doing what you're doing and rooting for you as well.

I love how you're approaching things.

Louis: Thank you, man.

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How to Craft a Life & Career That Lights You Up (F*ck The Playbooks)
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