Why I’m Adding Amazon Affiliate Links to my Blog and Podcast

My current personal project is to read books about entrepreneurs and share what I learn from them via blog posts and audio podcasts. By sharing the journeys and wisdom of some of the most successful entrepreneurs, I aim to help entrepreneurs increase their chances of succeeding.

Why Did I Start Thinking about Amazon’s Affiliate Program?

I’ve conducted weekly feedback sessions with listeners as part of my feedback loop. A few weeks ago, one listener told me she purchased an autobiography on Amazon after listening to one of my podcast episodes. This was good because my post was valuable enough to her that she took action to purchase the book. It was also bad because I would have never known about the purchase if it hadn’t been mentioned during our conversation.

I wondered how I could get data on purchases that were prompted by my blog or podcasts. This led me to Amazon Associates, Amazon’s affiliate-marketing program.

What Were My Concerns about Using Amazon’s Affiliate Marketing?

I didn't like the idea of adding affiliate-marketing links. It felt tacky, and I thought people would think I was doing it only to make money off book sales. That would make them suspicious and defeat my purpose. I decided the only way to know for sure was to ask.

During my feedback sessions, I asked about the perception of affiliate-marketing links. To my surprise, listeners shared two important insights. First, it’s fair to include them because my blog or podcast might help them discover and purchase a book. Second, it’s such a common practice now that people don’t look down on it. They expect it. People are appreciative when someone helps them discover new things; it adds value for them.

That feedback proved I was thinking about this the wrong way. I decided to move forward and become an Amazon Affiliate.

Have I Implemented Amazon Affiliate Marketing Links?

Yes. I signed up last week. Friends purchased books so I could test the flow of data. I encountered an issue with links on iPhones initially routing to the Amazon mobile app but then quickly jumping to the Safari web browser. That was annoying because the data tracking was broken when the jump between the mobile app and Safari occurred. If I couldn’t fix this, there was no point in moving forward because a high percentage of people listen and read on iPhones. After spending more time on this than I had planned (and being annoyed), I figured out a hack that appears to be working. Fingers crossed!

I started updating links on my blog and podcast. Over the next week or two, most links to books will be updated to affiliate links.

What Should Blog Readers and Listeners Know?

  • I’m doing this only for books and Amazon. I don’t plan on using affiliate links for any other products or websites.
  • Any purchase you make via affiliate links doesn’t cost you anything extra. Amazon sells the item for the same price and shares part (a very small share) of the purchase price with me as a commission.
  • My objective is to get data, not money. From a monetary perspective, this isn’t a great use of my time. On a $10 book purchase, the affiliate commission is maybe $0.50 if I’m lucky. But from an insights perspective, it’s extremely valuable. Understanding what books are being purchased helps me understand what’s valuable to listeners and readers. Knowing this helps me double down on what’s working and focus my efforts on reading books from the type of entrepreneurs listeners and readers are interested in.

I hope this gives you insight into my thinking. If you want to share your thoughts on this decision, I’m all ears. Feel free to reach out!

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Weekly Update: Week Two Hundred Twenty-One

This is my two-hundred-twenty-first weekly reflection or update.

Four weeks ago, I changed my weekly reflection to a weekly update on a current project. For more on why I made this change, see here.

Current Personal Project: Reading Books about Entrepreneurs and Sharing What I Learned from Them via Blog Posts and Audio Recordings Distributed as a Podcast

Metrics (since 4/1/24):

  • Total audio recordings published: 63 (+7)
  • Total blog posts published: 84 (+8)
  • Average recording: roughly 13 minutes (+1) for a biography or autobiography

What I completed this week (link to last week’s commitments):

  • Read a biography of James Dyson
  • Had two additional feedback sessions—I missed my target by three; it was the fourth straight week I’ve missed this goal
  • Compiled and sorted feedback from sessions completed the week of 6/10/24
  • Implemented hack for Amazon affiliate links to resolve data-tracking issues when iPhone jumps from mobile app to Safari web browser
  • Finished editing Jim Simons series using Descript
  • Published a blog post explaining my decision to use Amazon affiliate links

Content:

  • Audio content changes: Continued testing doing five episodes for Wayne Huizenga  
  • Tweaked podcast titles and descriptions of older episodes

What I’ll do next week:

  • Read one biography or autobiography
  • Create a draft of questions I want answered about each book
  • Write seven blog posts and record seven audio posts
  • Compile feedback from sessions completed the week of 6/17/24 and identify insights
  • Complete three feedback sessions (reduced from five)

Asks:

  • Please test the links in my podcast and blog. Please let me know if the link takes you directly to the book in the Amazon app or web browser
  • Listen to my most recent audio recordings and provide feedback on how I can improve them

Week two hundred twenty-one was another week of learning. Looking forward to next week!

FYI: I’m still playing with the format for this weekly update. I’ll add and remove stuff until I settle on a format I like.

You can listen to audio versions of my blog posts on Apple here and Spotify here.

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Wayne Huizenga Part 5: What I Learned

I finished reading about Wayne Huizenga’s amazing entrepreneurial journey. His biography was published in 1995 when Wayne was 57 or so. He wasn’t done. He continued building before passing in 2018. The public companies he was involved with and the value they created for shareholders are testimonials to his entrepreneurial success:

Wayne also founded two professional sports teams and bought the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

How Did Wayne Become So Successful?

Childhood pain instilled drive in Wayne. He watched his father fail and go broke. This scarred him and sowed in him a fear of financial insecurity. Wayne was also born with an intense personality. These two traits fueled Wayne’s tireless work ethic and frantic pace. Wayne worked constantly and did multiple things at once. In the 1950s, friends realized that Wayne was different when he installed a phone in his bathroom. Wayne’s drive had a downside, too. His first wife divorced him, and he openly shares regrets of not being around to see his children grow up. Executives working under Wayne also sacrificed personally to keep up with him.

Another factor in Wayne’s success was his strategy. He focused on building large companies through acquisitions. Picking the right types of companies and markets was key. Wayne’s criteria were simple:

  • Service industries with repeat business
  • Growing industries
  • Industries dominated by mom-and-pop entrepreneurs, who are easy to take market share from
  • Economies of scale that a large player can benefit from

If you don’t know something exists, you can never benefit from it. Wayne worked to make sure he was in the flow of information, which contributed to his success. In private markets he had a network of wealthy, early-stage investors with whom he shared deals. On Wall Street, he had a network of investment bankers and analysts. Owning three sports teams kept him in the know with titans of various industries. When something was happening or about to happen, Wayne knew about it.

Last, Wayne figured out his playbook for compounding his wealth rapidly. He learned how perception on Wall Street worked and how to scale companies rapidly. He combined those two things to create his initial wealth base by growing Waste Management quickly. He then compounded that wealth even faster by applying the same playbook to Blockbuster.

What Kind of Entrepreneur Was Wayne?

Wayne was a buyer. He was a deal maker. He enjoyed the thrill of winning deals and building an empire by acquiring. But Wayne had no desire to run an empire. He was not an operationally minded entrepreneur. He could pick and acquire the pieces of his empire, but putting them together and managing them fell to others.

Wayne was never satisfied. He always wanted more. People who worked closely with him repeated this throughout the book. He never said “Good job.” Instead, he always said “You could have done more.” The $23 million fortune he accumulated at Waste Management wasn’t enough, so he quit. The $8.4 billion signed deal with Viacom to acquire Blockbuster wasn’t enough, so he pushed Sumner Redstone for more stock before the deal closed. No matter what, he always wanted more. His thinking about pursuing more when he already had enough is best captured in this quote: “Why do you climb the mountain? Because it’s there.”

What Did I learn from Wayne’s Story?

  • Entrepreneurship through acquisitions is a viable path to building a publicly traded company.
  • A deal-oriented entrepreneur is well suited to partnering with an operationally oriented person. Otherwise, the foundation could crumble as more acquisitions are added.
  • When building something to sell in the short to medium term, you’ll likely be playing the perception game. You can’t always control perception. Perception can lead you to do things that may not benefit your customers.
  • Dealmaking is a skill. If you’re doing a deal and you don’t have this skill, find someone who does. The downside to a bad deal can be big.
  • Wayne’s rules for making a deal:
    • Don’t fall in love with a deal.
    • Don’t paint yourself in a corner.
    • Never say anything that won’t allow you to come back in the front door.
    • Don’t say anything is a deal breaker (if you renege, you kill your credibility).
    • A deal is never dead if you don’t let it die.
    • Always let the other side set the initial price.
    • Recognize what the other side really wants out of a deal.
    • Know when to walk.
    • Don’t take no for an answer.

Wayne was an amazing entrepreneur. His biography is a blueprint for anyone interested in building companies by acquiring, learning about dealmaking, getting into the business of sports franchises, or compounding wealth in the stock market.

You can listen to audio versions of my blog posts on Apple here and Spotify here.

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Wayne Huizenga Part 4: The Deal of Wayne’s Life

Wayne Huizenga’s fascination with perception on Wall Street continued to fuel his desire to build Blockbuster into a diversified entertainment company. According to his biography, in June 1993, he met with advisors from Wall Street to discuss expanding into entertainment. The meeting resulted in a list of three potential partners: Viacom, Paramount, and Polygram Inc.

Over lunch, Wayne pitched Viacom’s Sumner Redstone on merging, but Redstone was busy trying to acquire Paramount. Viacom’s acquisition of Paramount meant that two targets on Wayne’s list would become one. Polygram was owned by Philips Electronics, which was restructuring and couldn’t entertain any deals.

Viacom announced its deal for Paramount, kicking off a bidding war between Redstone and QVC’s Barry Diller that gave Wayne an opportunity. As the price got higher, Redstone needed a partner. Wayne agreed to buy $600 million worth of preferred Viacom stock and receive a 5% dividend. Wayne did a stock offering at $30 per share to raise $424 million of the $600 million needed.

Diller bid higher, forcing Redstone to rework his proposal. Redstone needed someone willing to buy $1.2 billion worth of Viacom stock so he could use that cash to offer Paramount shareholders more cash in his cash-and-stock bid. Wayne agreed. He would buy $1.8 billion worth of Viacom stock, but with one condition: regardless of the outcome of the Paramount deal, Blockbuster and Paramount must merge.

The deal included a collar provision called a variable common right. If, on the first anniversary of the merger, Viacom shares were too low, Blockbuster shareholders would receive additional Viacom shares.

A lot of drama happened before the September breakup deadline. Wayne and Sumner’s relationship deteriorated. But the $8.4 billion deal was approved by Blockbuster shareholders and closed.

Wayne quit and owned a stake in Viacom worth $600 million. It was a bittersweet ending, but Wayne kept going. He didn’t need more money, but making money is still a challenge he enjoys. He summarized his thinking about this with this line: “Why do you climb the mountain? Because it’s there.”

In 1995, he and his friends invested $27 million for 6 million shares and warrants for another 12 million shares in Republic Waste Industries. Wayne personally invested another $13 million, and banks completed a private placement for $70 million. The stock went from $4 to $26 in months because of the “Huizenga effect.” Wayne was off to the races again with a new company and richly valued stock he could use to build a diversified services company!

You can listen to audio versions of my blog posts on Apple here and Spotify here.

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Wayne Huizenga Part 3: Perception Drives Blockbuster’s Transformation

Wayne Huizenga made Blockbuster Video's positive perception by Wall Street a priority. His biography details his success in doing this early. But business is never a straight line up and to the right. As business operations ebb and flow, so will perception.

In May 1989, Bear Sterns analyst Lee Seidler highlighted acquisitions-related accounting practices that he claimed inflated Blockbuster’s earnings and stock price. The inflated stock was used to acquire more businesses, further inflating earnings. Perception tanked, and the stock price took a hit. This marked the beginning of a rough patch for the company.

In 1991, the Gulf War began, and consumers watched the latest developments on CNN. Blockbuster reported growth of 31% that quarter, but Wall Street expected 40%. The stock tanked. The cable industry launched interactive cable with more channel options. Cox Enterprises, a major cable operator, announces its sale of eighty-two Blockbuster locations. Blockbuster had a confidence crisis, and some executives believed Wayne, not having the conviction of a founder, compounded the issue.

Desperate to change their perception, Wayne began diversifying. He struck a deal to buy a U.K. video rental chain, Cityvision. As part of that process, he convinced Phillips Electronics N.V. to invest $66m in Blockbuster, which provided the cash needed to close the Cityvision deal. Wayne hoped the vote of confidence by a $31 billion technology giant would squash Wall Street’s fears about technology risks.

Wayne went further by getting into music retailing. In 1992, Blockbuster spent $185 million in cash and stock to buy 236 Sound Warehouse and Music Plus stores from Roy E. Disney. That same year, he struck a deal with Richard Branson Virgin Music to open Virgin Music stores in the United States. Blockbuster went on to copy Virgin’s concept and open smaller Blockbuster Music stores, which didn’t go over well with Virgin and Branson.

That same year, Wayne met with an investment banker and Wall Street analyst to discuss Blockbuster entering the entertainment industry. In 1993, he purchased 35% of Republic Pictures Corp, its thousand-film library, and warrants for $25 million. Also in 1993, he purchased 48% of Aaron Spelling’s Spelling Entertainment and its hits, such as the Beverly Hills 90210 TV show and Terminator movies, for $140 million. Wayne combined the two publicly traded companies into one, of which Blockbuster owned 70%. He also bought 20% of Discovery Zone’s indoor playground business for $10 million in 1993.

Wayne used his dealmaking skills and transformed Blockbuster into an “all-around entertainment company.” Analysts took notice, and perception started to change. This, combined with positive and increasing cash flow, led institutions like State Street to buy and lift the stock price.

This increasing cash flow (and somewhat positive perception) would ultimately lead to the biggest deal of Wayne’s life.

You can listen to audio versions of my blog posts on Apple here and Spotify here.

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Wayne Huizenga Part 2: Garbageman to Blockbuster Videos

Reading Wayne Huizenga’s biography, I learned something unexpected: Blockbuster Video’s roots were in making software for oil and gas companies. David P Cook & Associates was founded in 1978. By 1983, when it went public and raised $8 million as Cook Data Services, it had employees in five offices and hundreds of oil company customers. Then the oil market tanked and customers stopped paying their bills. Founder David Cook sought ways to use the company’s barcode technology and settled on the exploding video rental business. Powered by software and a high-tech distribution center, he could build a superstore in an industry full of mom-and-pop entrepreneurs. The first store opened in 1985 and had more customers than it could serve.

So how did a garbage entrepreneur find a small, public company that was pivoting? Wayne, through Huizenga Holdings and wealthy friends, built a deal machine with great deal flow that they shared with each other. A friend came across Blockbuster and pulled Wayne in. Wayne visited a store and was hooked on the rental and service aspects of the business.

In 1987, Cook tried to raise money to grow Blockbuster, but a negative Barron’s article sunk his chances of selling $18 million worth of shares to public-market investors. He raised only $4 million. Wayne and his friends came to the rescue. They agreed to invest $18.5 million and receive 1.2 million shares, warrants to buy another 1.7 million shares, and 60% company ownership.

Wayne believed the company could be easily duplicated, so he focused on getting large quickly. In 1987, with just 19 stores, he acquired a large competitor with 29 stores. Cook, losing control and disliking acquisitions, quit, forcing Wayne to become CEO.

Wayne quickly realized this was an unfamiliar industry and hired seasoned executives to fill his gaps. This team would drive the hyperbolic growth he envisioned. Wayne preferred company-owned stores to franchising, but each store cost $500,000 to build. He planned to fund the growth by selling shares to public-market investors, but Blockbuster shares cratered by more than 50% during the October 1987 stock-market crash. Wayne hastily arranged for family and friends to invest $8.4 million via a private placement instead.

The company grew from 19 stores in 1986, to 133 stores in 1987, to 415 stores in 1988, to 1,079 stores in 1989. While Wayne’s lieutenants ran operations, he focused on acquisitions and on managing Wall Street analysts’ and institutional investors’ perceptions of the company. Positive perceptions led to a high multiple on the stock, his main currency in acquiring companies. Employees at all levels were partially compensated in stock options, which Wayne also used as motivation to run the company at a breakneck pace. The pace took a toll: one executive died of a heart attack and others divorced.

Wayne completed 110 deals in seven years. He needed a strategy to raise capital to fuel that growth, silence critics who said pay-per-view was a threat, and gain more credibility with Wall Street, and he devised one: he struck deals with Cox Enterprises and United Cable, two of the largest cable companies. Each invested $12 to $15 million initially and bought rights to open 100 stores. The companies perceived as big competitors were now Wayne’s investors and partners.

Wall Street embraced the company, which moved from trading on an over-the-counter (OTC) stock market to the NYSE in April 1989. The stock went from $5.75 to $33.50. Blockbuster was perceived positively . . . for the time being.

You can listen to audio versions of my blog posts on Apple here and Spotify here.

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Wayne Huizenga Part 1: From College Dropout to Garbageman

Sumner Redstone’s autobiography detailed negotiations with Wayne Huizenga during Viacom’s acquisition of Blockbuster Video. I knew that Huizenga owned an NFL team, the Miami Dolphins, at one point, but not much else. I decided to read Gail DeGeorge’s The Making of a Blockbuster: How Wayne Huizenga Built a Sports and Entertainment Empire from Trash, Grit and Videotape.

Blockbuster wasn’t Huizenga’s only outsize success. During his career, he also took Waste Management, Republic Services, and AutoNation public. Each was valued at over a billion dollars. He also launched the NHL’s Florida Panthers and MLB’s Miami Marlins as expansion teams.

Wayne started off in the garbage business. His grandfather immigrated from Holland and ran a garbage business in Chicago. Wayne’s extended family would become garbage entrepreneurs too. Wayne’s father was the exception. He moved to Florida to build homes but went broke when the economy slowed. This scared Wayne.

After dropping out of college, Wayne borrowed money from his father-in-law in 1962 to buy trucks and routes to start his own company in Pompano Beach, Florida, at age 25. Wayne’s intense personality and work ethic, combined with an exploding population, grew his business from one truck to forty trucks and $3 million in revenue by 1969.

Wayne leveraged loans from banks and family to grow. After exhausting those options, he merged with the garbage company his cousin’s husband, Dean, ran in Chicago. Wayne was the deal person and Dean was the strategist and operator.

The combined company couldn’t borrow any more money, so they decided to take it public. In 1971, the company began trading on the over-the-counter (OTC) stock market. Wayne could then use the company’s stock, not cash, to acquire new companies. They acquired 133 companies in ten months in sunbelt states and suburbs. A key part of their strategy was to acquire companies that owned landfills, which created revenue from fees paid by competitors to use their site.

The acquisition pace was blistering. After a decade, revenues reached $772 million, and Wayne didn’t feel that his $23 million in stock and options was enough compensation for his efforts. He wanted more, so he left the company in 1984 and started what would become Huizenga Holdings.

His learnings from Waste Management were that service businesses and rental companies are ideal. Both have great cash flow and high levels of repeat business. This informed his investment thesis. Wayne bought most of a publicly traded lawn-care company, porta potty company, and bottled-water company, to name just a few.

Wayne leveraged his deal-making skills and always bought. He never started from scratch. Huizenga Holdings became a deal-flow machine. He cultivated a network of wealthy, deal-hungry individual investors who shared in the deal flow. Wayne’s early track record was mixed. A savings and loan he invested in was seized, and he lost over $1 million. But Huizenga Holdings would be the sourcing tool that helped him find investments early, including one of his most lucrative investments: Blockbuster Video.

You can listen to audio versions of my blog posts on Apple here and Spotify here.

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Last Week’s Hurdles and Lessons (Week Ending 6/16/24)

Because I’ve received feedback that others got value when I shared the struggles from my current personal project, I’ve decided to build this project in public and share my ups and downs openly.

Current Personal Project: Reading Books about Entrepreneurs and Sharing What I Learned from Them via Blog Posts and Audio Recordings Distributed as a Podcast

What I struggled with:

  • Distillation – I shared my thoughts in this post a few days ago. Identifying the most valuable wisdom and formulating insights is the key to providing maximum value per minute to entrepreneurs who read my blog posts or listen to my audio recordings.
  • Editing – Editing makes a recording concise, increasing the value per minute to the listener. Editing one recording per week—I’d be OK with that. Editing one recording a day was frustrating and required more time than I wanted to allocate to this task. It slowed me down in other areas of this project; specifically, distillation.

What I learned:

  • I read the biography of Wayne Huizenga last week, and this week I’ll create blog posts and recordings about it. It helped to remove the pressure to write and record about what I read the same day I read it. It gives me more time to process and a buffer for the unexpected.
  • Kirk Kerkorian’s journey as told in the biography was complex. Three blog posts or recordings wouldn’t have done it justice. Some books won’t fit into a three-part series, and that’s okay as long as I stay focused on providing as much value per minute as possible to entrepreneurs who read my blog or listening to my recordings.
  • I’m now editing as the last task of the day. It’s mindless work. It doesn’t make sense to do it earlier, which wastes the time of the day when I’m mentally sharpest.

Those are my struggles and learnings from this week!

You can listen to audio versions of my blog posts on Apple here and Spotify here.

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Weekly Update (a New Format): Week Two Hundred Twenty

Weekly Update (a New Format): Week Two Hundred Twenty

This is my two-hundred-twentieth weekly reflection or update.

Three weeks ago, I changed my weekly reflection to a weekly update on a current project. For more on why I made this change, see here.

Current Personal Project: Reading Books about Entrepreneurs and Sharing What I Learned from Them via Blog Posts and Audio Recordings Distributed as a Podcast

Metrics (since 4/1/24):

  • Total audio recordings published: 56 (+7)
  • Total blog posts published: 76 (+7)
  • Average recording: roughly 12 minutes (+0) for a biography or autobiography

What I completed this week:

  • Read the biography of Wayne Huizenga
  • Had three additional feedback sessions—I missed my target by two; it’s the third straight week I’ve missed this goal
  • Compiled and sorted feedback from sessions completed the week of 6/3/24
  • Began implementing Amazon affiliate links for books
  • Partially edited one of the Jim Simons series using Descript—I missed my target by five

Content:

  • Audio content changes: Tested doing five episodes for Kirk Kerkorian instead of three

What I’ll do next week:

  • Read one biography or autobiography
  • Write seven blog posts and record seven audio posts
  • Compile feedback from sessions completed the week of 6/10/24 and identify insights
  • Finish editing Jim Simons series using Descript
  • Complete five feedback sessions
  • Update links in podcast and blog with Amazon affiliate link
  • Write a blog post explaining my decision to use Amazon affiliate links

Asks:

  • Listen to my most recent audio recordings and provide feedback on how I can improve them

Week two hundred twenty was another week of learning. Looking forward to next week!

FYI: I’m still playing with the format for this weekly update. I’ll add and remove stuff until I settle on a format I like.

You can listen to audio versions of my blog posts on Apple here and Spotify here.

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Adjusting to the High Value Entrepreneurs Put on Their Time

My current project is reading books about entrepreneurs and sharing what I learned via blog posts and audio recordings I distribute via a podcast. I started in April, and as of now, the following are the major steps in my process:

  • Read, notate, and highlight a book
  • Distill my notes and highlights
  • Write and publish a blog post
  • Record an audio post
  • Edit the audio recording
  • Publish the recording via podcast

I did a survey (basically customer discovery) earlier this year and learned that many entrepreneurs don’t read physical books because reading doesn’t fit their hectic lifestyle. However, they want to learn, and they consume a large amount of audio while they’re multitasking. I figured I could read for them and share what I learned via audio.

When I started this project, I thought reading was the most important thing, given that most people weren’t doing it. I figured reading two hours or so a day would position me to share my learnings at an accelerated rate. The reading is important, but the last few weeks have highlighted something else.

Let’s say a 300-page book takes someone 10 to 12 hours to read. I could easily share everything in the book in a two-hour recording. But entrepreneurs won’t listen for two hours, even knowing it would take them much longer to read the book.

The value per minute spent listening to a two-hour recording about a book is higher than that of reading the book. But it’s not high enough. Entrepreneurs want maximum value per minute of their time if they give you their attention. I suspect they want a value per minute that’s 15x to 20x that of reading a book.

Now that I understand this, I see the distillation process as a key step in my project. Identifying the most valuable wisdom from books and formulating insights are key to providing maximum value per minute.

It’s easier said than done. This past week, I began testing approaches to distilling what I’ve read. I’m still not where I want to be, and I’m going to keep trying to improve. My goal is for people who listen to one of my recordings to feel that the value they receive significantly exceeds their time cost. I think that indications of this are people thinking deeply about something in the recording or being motivated to keep persevering on their journey, whatever it may be.

You can listen to audio versions of my blog posts on Apple here and Spotify here.

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