TEI Talks - 8 of 18 - Publishing During Times of Social or Economic Distress
1:13PM Nov 14, 2020
Welcome, good to see some folks here in the chat today. We had for music, Japanese hip hop with a very interesting sample from a movie, I think from 1972, called across 110. And we had video of systems in various states of stability or instability. Welcome to this ti talk. Our topic today is publishing during times of social or economic distress. Your 2020 has been quite a year. Sometimes it feels like in years like this laughter is, as always the best medicine but it has been a really, I know for a lot of folks extremely difficult year. Among other things, it hasn't been a year that has brought us a viral pandemic. just checked Wikipedia before this, the infection number is over 52 million people have been infected with this virus, and over 1.2 9 million deaths attributed to it. On May 25, black man George Floyd was murdered in a very cruel and unjust way by a police officer. We've had wildfires galore on the west coast of the United States and a contentious, difficult, challenging presidential election, as most of them seem to be here in the US. And that's really just to name a few things that have been distressing events, many of which are asymmetrically hard, harmful. Meaning they don't affect everyone equally. They they're worse for some people than others. And when stuff like that happens, and you are publishing to an email list to your platform, it raises the question, what should I do? What can I do? What do I do? We all face that question. And a year like 2020 has, for a lot of us been the first time we've had to face it, in what feels like a serious way. Personally, I think 2020 is a warm up. I don't think it's the end of anything. You'll remember maybe if you were in the same sorts of online social media bubbles that I was in 2016. You remember, people were moaning about the deaths of celebrities. It seemed like, you know, princes, and Tom Petty's, you know, early, untimely death were these disasters that had been visited upon the human race. And for a lot of folks, you know, the sort of straw breaking the camel's back moment of 2016 was Donald Trump getting elected to the presidency of the United States. And it just seemed like, you know, for a lot of folks a rough year, well, it was probably nothing compared to 2020. So I think we can expect more. Not exactly the same, but seemingly stable systems becoming less stable. And the disruption that comes from that. I know, those are not comforting words. But also, I want to be realistic here and say that, I think that we can expect in a lot of ways more of the same, not more of exactly the same. And hopefully, the things that surface during 2020 come to a resolution that produces positive change, that would be my hope. But I don't think it's the end of that level of disruptive, distressing stuff happening. And so I think we need to as people who are embracing working in public, as a way of cultivating our expertise, and maybe as a secondary thing, building an audience. We have to think about how we respond to that stuff. Because I don't think that you know, 2020 of last year, we're going to have To
answer that question, how do I respond? As someone who has a platform who works in public? I think that question will be resurfaced regularly as we move forward. So, our context here is that we're talking about the expertise incubator framework, the first challenge of which is that you publish something daily on the internet for three months, longer if, if it's working for you, if it's producing positive results, but you do this for at least three months. That's the challenge. The first challenge that starts this framework of cultivating expertise and so you know, some of you are just curious, and haven't been doing this, others of you have been doing this, perhaps, by the time that you encounter this, this lecture. And maybe you have a miniscule email list as a result of whatever you've done thus far, like 10 people on an email list. Or maybe you're working in public has attracted a more sizeable email list, and you got a few hundred people subscribed and interested, not all of them, but many of them interested in what you are doing. Well, if you can consistently reach a group of people with some kind of message you have what marketers would refer to as a platform. Your platform could be bigger or smaller. But when you're able to consistently reach people that are not like, you know, your family and friends, but they're strangers who've signed up to hear from you. You have a platform. And having a platform and publishing it to it regularly. In my experience, always creates this challenging moment when things out there in the world get difficult and distressing. Always does, I saw it happen with myself and others, you know, sort of my business buddies, so to speak, who also have a platform, we all wonder, when there's something that in our lifetime is unprecedented, like a viral pandemic that has now resulted in the premature death of over a million people. We didn't know that you know how bad it was going to be back in February, March here in the US. But that uncertainty, coupled with having a platform leads to this question, What do I do? And it is a somewhat stressful question. If you have a platform, you feel that you are in the public eye, that what you are doing is visible in an asymmetrical way. So there are people who know more about you than you know about them, those would be the people who are subscribed to your email list. And so you wonder, well, they're they're all looking at me, like, what are they going to think? Do they care? If I have something to say about the viral pandemic? What should I say? So you're in the public eye, a lot of us are not used to that. And building an email list, even a small email list is very often our first way of being in the public eye. When this stuff happens, if you participate at all, in social media, you will witness a lot of we'll just call it noise. You know, a lot of people having things to say, having opinions about the thing that is happening, whatever it is, whether it's a viral pandemic, or a police murder, or whoever it is that got elected to the presidency of the United States, those are just three convenience examples from last year. People have something to say about it. A lot of people have a lot of things to say about it. And that creates this volume of information, you should remember, I think always at the core problem of the internet is an oversupply of information. For those of us that are trying to have impact and reach an audience through the internet. The core problem that we face is this fundamental oversupply of information on the internet. So something happens out there in the world, we wonder if we are contributing more noise at a time we shouldn't that is part of the second challenge of having a platform. So we wonder if, and how and how much we should speak to current events through our platform, which in the expertise incubator is probably an email list. First,
and anyone who has a platform is going to have to consider these questions, you're gonna have to face these questions, and it creates stress. And I think it is inevitable even if you are watching this lecture sometime far in the future. And 2020 is, you know, in the rearview mirror, so to speak, I think whatever year it is, you can expect more events of a magnitude and disruptiveness. That surfaces questions, this question of, I've got a platform, something happened out there in the world. It's distressing to people. It's perhaps distressing to me, What do I say? What do I do? You're gonna face this question, I think it's inevitable. So what I want to do is help you think through this, before you actually have to deal with it. That's one of the things it's a small thing. It's called planning over scenario planning. And a lot of cases, it's not a new thing. But it's the thing you can do, that makes the eventual occurrence of the thing that you thought through before it happened, a lot of times makes it better or easier to deal with. So I want to help you think this through before you actually have to face it. I'm going to present a framework today, not something that I would think of as a recipe or a step by step do this to this to this exactly, you know, it's it's a kind of a loose framework for thinking about how to approach this. And so what I will do is what Jay Rosen refers to as present something like a view from nowhere. And that's intentional. A lot of things about the expertise incubator, I have a very specific point of view. And I think that you should go in a certain direction. This is a situation where what is important to me is that you can sleep at night, during these difficult times a little better, because you've done something that's right for you in terms of using your platform during a difficult time. That's what I want to have happen. And so that's why this is not a recipe, this is a framework because it ultimately needs to include you, your way of seeing the world, your perspective, your values, and be based on that. So what I want to do is empower you to make a decision, I don't care what decision you make, I just want to see you make a decision and not avoid this because that is an instinct that we feel when there's crazy stuff happening out in the world, we have a platform, one instinct is to avoid dealing with it and try to carry on as if nothing has happened out there in the world. I don't think we can do that. I don't think we can afford to do that. So here's what I want to do to start, I want to look at some examples of how others have responded to some of the events of 2020. And we're going to look at this from different perspectives. And we're going to sort of sketch out a range of what you see in terms of how others respond. So as I do that, I'm going to pull up some examples that aren't what I would do necessarily, that's not the point at all. Again, I'm not trying to say Do as I do, because I figured this all out. Instead, what I'm trying to say is this is a range of how others respond. And I think it's informative to look at that. So let's start with this first example.
So this one comes from this guy, Brian Armstrong, who's the CEO of a company called Coinbase, a cryptocurrency company. And this was this blog post, when it came out was pretty controversial. A lot of people that I'm connected to had opinions about this. I have an opinion too, but mine doesn't matter, really here. I'm not going to read the whole thing to you. It's lengthy. I'm going to pull out a few excerpts, doing my best to fairly summarize the argument that we see here. So I will read a few parts of it. It's not hard to find if you just search for on the internet. Coinbase is a mission focus company, you'll find a copy and you can read the whole thing yourself if you want. So Brian, or whoever actually wrote this. I don't know. Maybe it was written and published under his name, written by a PR person, I don't know. I'll just assume he actually wrote it himself. He starts out by saying there have been a lot of difficult events in the world this year a global pandemic, shelter in place, social unrest, widespread riots and protests and West Coast wildfires. On top of that, we have a contentious US election on the horizon. Probably sounds familiar, that's kind of how I started this talk, not intentionally mirroring what he's doing there, but it's what we all do. We try to, you know, establish some context when we start some statement like this. Everyone is asking the question about how companies should engage in broader societal issues during these difficult times while keeping their teams united, and focused on the mission. So he's doing a little bit of sorry for the commentary here, I just can't help myself. He's doing a little bit of framing there. He is framing all the above as what he calls societal issues. Maybe they are, maybe you see them as some in some other category. Coinbase has had its own challenges here, including employee walkouts, I decided to share publicly how I'm addressing this in case it helps others navigate a path through these challenging times. And I think part of the criticism that this piece got was because he set himself up for it by coming across with a little bit of arrogance, like this particular passage. Anyway, skipping down a bit to what might be the main part of the argument, there are many places that a company can choose to allocate its limited time and resources. There's never enough time to do everything. So companies need to choose what change they want to see in the world. Again, he's echoing, I think, Gandhi with that. And when I say again, I mean, again, setting himself up for a bit of criticism. So companies need to choose what change they want to see in the world and focus there, it can take decades to move the needle on large global challenges. And I'll do a bit of summarization here. So what follows is our author, the CEO of Coinbase, saying, we're gonna focus on the core business problem that we're focused on, which if we skip down towards the end, our mission at Coinbase is to create an open financial system for the world. So that's the business mission, that's the scope of their focus. And this article is a I mean, I think you could argue, reasonably well written, reasonably well reasoned defense of Coinbase, saying, we're going to focus on that, that mission to create an open financial system for the world. And we are not going to engage with broader societal issues. And that framing that he did a bit earlier, where he framed all the stuff that happened in 2020, as broader societal issues is connected to this point. And basically saying, we are not going to spend the company's energy on that stuff. Unless it was something like a bill that's introduced around crypto or, you know, we do we give 1% of, I don't know, revenue, profit, I'm not sure to this nonprofit, or these, not to nonprofits anyway. So
if we reduce this down to its essence, what we have is the CEO saying, we're focused on our business mission here. And the stuff that I described at the top of this article, global pandemic, social unrest, protests and riots, we're going to as much as we can ignore those things unless we see them starting to interfere with our missions through things like legislation and regulation, and so forth.
coin base has employees. It's not just a one person show. That's probably obvious. And so a lot of what you see here is the CEO defending an approach about workplace culture. And I realized for a lot of us that's not exactly relevant because our workplace culture is us. We're, you know, we're so Lewis, we're one person outfits. So that's why I'm skipping over a lot of this is a lot of this is him saying we want to have a workplace culture or workplace environment, where this may not be a fair summary of what he's saying, but where people just don't talk about politics or these broader social issues where they're like 100% laser focused on the mission that we have to create this open global financial system based on cryptocurrency. That probably was the most contentious part of this article, or this blog post, when it came out was basically saying, you get when you when you come to work here, we want you to focus on the work. And our definition of the work excludes social impact. I point this out, because this is this defines for me anyway, based on what I've seen, in this conversation out there in the world. This defines one end of the spectrum. And I think we would call it we're focused on the business here, keep your politics, keep your social issues, keep all that stuff out of the office. Because we we see it as a distraction from what we're trying to do. And so if we think about ourselves as custodians of a platform, we could adopt elements of that if we wanted to, in response to social issues. Here's the other end of the spectrum.
Amy hoy and Alex Hellman are, I would think of them as online friends. Like I'm I'm acquainted with them, I don't know the Coinbase CEO at all. They're really wonderful people. And they have a business partnership that's resulted in this course called 30 by 500. And the the course is kind of is the business in a way. They have other ventures, other things they do, but I think of 30 by 500, sort of as their business. And so they, when was this? Not sure what the date was, this was earlier this year, though, they published this. And I'm going to do the same thing I did with Coinbase. blog and just pull out a few elements that help you understand what they're saying and do my best to fairly summarize what they're saying. So they have this online course called 30, by 530, by 500. Academy. And this is announcing some changes that are a response to direct response to distressing stuff happening out there in the world. The changes are summarized here, designing the 30 by 500 business model or changing I would say their business model to have ongoing positive impact on people who are most impacted by systemic racism, inequity and inequality. And then second, making 30 by 500. This is course their flagship product financially accessible to more aspiring entrepreneurs. Those are the two changes that they're announcing here, just one more layer of detail on what those are. So they are going to start donating 5% of all the course sales to this cause, which is, I think, a basket of charities that are oriented towards fighting systemic racism, inequity and inequality. And I'm not sure that they had figured out yet at that point what those what those organizations are, but donating 5% of sales just across the top 5% donation to support social justice causes. That's the first change. And then the second is to changes. So financial assistance for those who are black, indigenous, or people of color is the first and then a sort of pricing adjustment based on where the customer is and if they live in a place with lower purchasing power, giving them an automatic discount. That would be the second of these two changes that have to do with essentially reducing the profitability of the business for Amy and Alex in order to accomplish A goal, which is to make their product make their course more accessible to folks who have been on the receiving end of something, maybe it's just where they live, maybe it's the color of their skin, maybe it's something like that. But they've been on the receiving end of something that reduces their ability to pay full price. I hope that's a reasonably fair summary of the changes that they've made. So when you look at what Amy and Alex are doing, it is almost the complete opposite of what you see Coinbase doing. And so it's a very useful example, for defining the other end of the spectrum, which is we're going to make deep fundamental changes to how we do business in order to respond to what we see going on out there in the world. These are both in their own way, wonderful examples that define a spectrum of how you could respond to distressing things happening out there in the world. They are, I think, useful examples.
So, back to the expertise incubator framework, it's an investment. Meaning the work that you do in the publishing challenge isn't investment in your future expertise value. So when you make that investment, a lot of times you're saying, I'm doing this because it's good for me, and my ability to help people in the future. And you might do stuff that sacrifices, the other half of the equation here, which is the reader experience, you might do things your readers or subscribers don't appreciate or don't understand or don't have any use for right now. Because publishing in that way, doing working in public, helps you better serve them down the road. So you might sacrifice the reader experience temporarily, or momentarily for the publisher experience, which is the value that you're trying to create for yourself through expertise through working in public. So we make that trade off. Sometimes in the expertise incubator, we do stuff that just doesn't make sense to our readers, because we can see how chasing that thread exploring that cow path, or writing about that thing, whatever it is, will have value, maybe down the road. A lot of it's speculative. So we do that. And what we're doing is we're saying this email list is, well, it's about me, and my effort at creating future expertise value. But we can't do that in a completely unbalanced way. Because eventually, if we create no value for our readers now, then there's no reason for them to stick around and be on our email list. So we need each other. And so it's worth thinking about this question, you have a platform. stressful stuff is happening out there in the world. How do you respond? That's the question. It's worth thinking about that question from the perspective of the subscriber, what is their experience like? And it's an email list we're talking about. So we don't know, you know, we don't know everyone who's on our email list, usually, unless it's extremely tiny. And so we can never really know. But it is worth looking at an example of what the subscriber experience can be like. And so let me show you an example of that.
This is a guy, Daniel M. Rothschild, who is the executive director at the mercatus Center at George Mason University. And I think in the sort of American political spectrum, the mercatus center would be defined as a right of center. In terms of their perspective, their sort of political orientation, they would be defined as right of center. That's probably worth noting. This is an email that this guy Daniel M. Rothschild, sent to the CEO of a company called expensify. And then published as a sort of open letter. I'm going to pull out a few parts for you from this. Especially because the type is pretty small. I did a little bit of research. I don't know exactly when the email from David, the CEO of expensify went out. I mean, I know it was prior to November six or November 3 2020 because it was about the presidential election. And the news articles that I saw that were commenting on this or reporting on this said that it went out to 10 million people this email from not the email from Daniel Rothschild to the CEO, but the email from the CEO to well to apparently all, I said, customers, I just can't imagine that expensify actually has 10 million customers. But anyway, the news article said that the CEO of expensify, sent an email to all expensify customers, they probably sent an email to active customers, and anyone who'd ever signed up for a trial and on and on. Anyway, this is Daniel Rothschild, saying, oh, and I should point out email from expensify expensify CEO said vote for Joe Biden. That was the message of that email. And David, found that objectionable. Let me see if I can pull out the kind of the pivotal parts of what he's saying here. Your email contributes to a breakdown in social trust, we basically trusted you to do a good job of running this expensify company. Now, you've messed that up, by recommending urging us to vote for a presidential candidate. And I think from his email, you would see Daniel Rothschild identifying as neither a democrat or republican but as an independent. And basically, he's saying, You violated my trust, I trusted you to focus on your business. shades of the coin base perspective here. Again, this Daniel is saying, I focus, I trusted you to kind of focus on running a good business and provide value that way, and now, I trust you less, because you've politicized the company, in my mind. And so I would assume that Daniel Rothschild was getting some kind of value from expensify. And now feels like he's getting less value from that company. So we could easily imagine the complete opposite of this, in terms of what the reader experiences, we could imagine the reader experiences. Well, yeah, I support Joe Biden for President and I plan to vote for Joe Biden. And I'm glad that you used your giant ass platform to support something that I also support. So we can see it going the other way with the subscriber experience. The example from Daniel Rothschild is just one example. But it's a really, it's a pretty kind of poignant one. And that's why I wanted to use it as an example here. As people who have a platform, we will feel varying amounts of care about the subscriber experience. Again, we will temporarily turn our focus away from the subscriber experience to do something that's important to us. But we will feel some level of care, I think, for what is the subscriber experience, what is it like for people who are subscribed to my email list? There are some platform custodians who have a sort of
That said, this is a great example of a really nice middle ground. And if you detect a sense of admiration in my voice, then you're hearing that rightly. You know, I promised you a view from nowhere. But obviously, I have my own preferences and biases and really admire what Chris is doing here. But that's not why I pull it out. I pull it out because it's a really good example of using a platform to respond to changes that are happening out there in the world.
Active middle ground. So we're publishing we have a platform of some kind. We feel some fears when things happen out there in the world beyond just the whatever personal fear they might evoke for us, like will I get sick with this deadly virus? That would be a personal fear but As publishers, we feel some fears. And those fears are somewhat predictable. We fear being misunderstood. It's interesting, as I read through the Coinbase statement, that's something that the CEO specifically calls out, he says, I probably will be misunderstood about this. And so he's touching on a fear, we all feel when we have a platform, and we make use of it to respond, or perhaps choose not to make use of it to respond in both directions. We, we fear being misunderstood. We fear being criticized. We fear a loss of opportunity. We fear harm to our business. And we fear a loss of status. And there's probably a few others, but those are the ones that would most commonly come up. And, you know, as with a lot of fear, these are based on uncertainty. They're really they're forms of uncertainty, will you be misunderstood? There's actually less uncertainty about that you probably will be Will you be criticized, there's a lot of uncertainty about that, I do not know whether if you choose to respond or choose to not respond, if you take the 30 by 500 approach, the crisper Nandi approach or the coin based approach. I don't know if you'll be criticized, there's a lot of uncertainty there. And with ti, in these previous talks, I have called out the areas of uncertainty, because this is this framework really is based on taking risks in public. So I've called out the fears that that's going to evoke for you. And most of the time, I have quickly dismissed those fears, because in reality, most of them evaporate as soon as you start taking action. But these fears about responding to distressing events out there in the world actually seem more legitimate to me, they seem less likely to evaporate as soon as you take action, and they actually just seem like they're part of the deal. And they're not going to go away as easily. So I don't have quite as dismissive a approach to the this set of fears about using your platform to respond to stuff that happens in public. Or sorry, that respond to stuff that happens out there in the world. I have brought together this wonderful tossed salad of examples. I'm really mixing a lot of different kinds of examples here. So Chris's article is responding to systemic racism. Some people would label that a political issue, I do not I consider that a human rights issue, which to me is a much deeper sort of foundation of the idea of building a fair and just society. Some people would say, Oh, that's politics. I disagree. But so that example speaks to something I would consider a human rights issue while the response from Daniel M. Rothschild, I'm sorry, I'm making fun of this guy, just I don't know what's wrong with me today. I'm over pronouncing his name. I don't mean to mark his his action or his position, but I find myself doing it anyway. That's not nice. Anyway. You know, Daniel Rothschild is saying, Please don't use your company platform to advocate for a political candidate for political office. And so those two examples, something that's more of a human rights issue, and something that's more of a, like a political contest for a political office. Those are definitely coming from different categories. So I know it doesn't make things easier. As you're thinking about this, that I have pulled examples from wildly different places, but on the other hand, I think it's okay, because I'm not trying to present a recipe here. Anyway, I am trying to present a way to think about this. And I think it's informative to see the full breadth of what you might consider, as you think about this issue of how do I with my platform respond to distressing stuff happening out there in the world?
I do have a proposed approach after all of that. It's simple. It is a little different than something I saw once when I was it was in the 90s. I was traveling for work and was on a flight Back home that connected through Detroit. And the flight was delayed due to weather or the connecting flight was canceled due to weather. So the airport was or the airline was, you know, putting folks up in hotel and there was a shuttle fan to take us to the hotel, the folks who got bumped from the connecting flight. And I remember seeing this old, small, frail woman I didn't have the language for to understand what was going on back then. But now I know she was having a panic attack. She was freaking out. Because she felt completely out of control. she, her husband was supposed to be waiting for her on the other end, she didn't have a way to get a message to him. She was just overwhelmed, and completely powerless in the situation. I mean, she had the same help that everybody else in the van did, which was a really nice guy was driving us to the hotel. And so you know, she had a place to stay. But she was having a panic attack. And this van driver became a treated her like his own mother or grandmother. He treated her with such kindness. He tried to help her the best he could. And it was something that he didn't have to do, he wasn't going to get fired. If he didn't do this, he could have just said, Ma'am, please get in the van, I need to drive you to the hotel. And he could have essentially ignored her. But he didn't he he stepped out of the routine, the expectation. And he just dialed up the kindness to, you know, 10 to 11. And did what he could to help this poor woman who was having a panic attack. For me, this was an incredibly memorable example of kindness, of doing the right thing, even when it wasn't convenient. It was late at night, it was cold. This guy was probably tired, almost certainly underpaid. And he did the right thing anyway, that is a model for responding to something happening, see something that's going wrong, try to fix it, see a place you can help try to help somebody. And that model seems like to me a great fit for you know going about your life and something happens. And it's kind of a one on one thing. And you do what you can to make it better in that situation. I think it gets a little different. And I'm not quite sure exactly how to explain this. It's something I feel but can't fully explain yet. When you have a platform, when you have an audience, there is a different level of sort of implicit responsibility. Because now you have a group that's tuned into you paying attention to varying degrees among the group, paying attention to what you say. And I think you can't pretend there's two things you can't pretend about. One is that it just happened by accident. Most of us are not the children of celebrities or born to royalty. So if we have an audience, if we have a platform, it's because we decided to build it. And anything else in the world that you decide to build. Generally, the government takes some interest in taxing it, if it has ongoing value if it's a business or something like that. And there's some level of rules about how you use it. Platforms built in a digital space or this, I'm not talking about platforms like Facebook or Twitter. I'm talking about the kind of platforms that people like us would build. They're not taxed and regulated the way that physical stuff is. And so we live in this kind of, you know, weird, I guess liminal space, where we have a platform and the benefits of a platform, but without the obligations that society would generally impose on similarly powerful physical platforms. And so that's kind of a weird thing that's different about having a platform. And then the other thing is, you might want to pretend that you don't need your audience that they need you more than you need them. But I think really, you need each other.
So if you have a platform, it becomes your decision about how to respond when you could use the platform to help others. No one's going to make you do the right thing. But I think it's a little different than The van driver in Detroit, in that you're not just potentially helping one person, you're potentially helping a lot of people. And this is also part of what makes this a stressful, weird place to be. Stuff happens out there in the world. And we wonder, how should we respond? Do we have a duty to the people in our audience? Should we do anything? Should we ignore this thing? I have a proposed approach, it's pretty simple. I run through it.
So you got to acknowledge context. That is the first thing experts operate this way anyway, as part of what defines expertise is that you have this awareness of context that makes your solutions better. So acknowledge context, I think if you have a platform, something distressing out there happens in the world, don't ignore it. You may not do anything more than just acknowledge it. But don't ignore it, it becomes very easy for folks to put you in a bucket with the label on it out of touch or tone deaf, that's the label on the bucket, and you get put in there. If you don't acknowledge context, there's a lot of ways you could do that acknowledgement of context, but don't not do it. As you do so, avoid cliches. This might be me sort of over inserting my own preferences a little bit here. I just hate the cliches during these difficult times, how many emails have you gotten? That started with that exact phrase or some variation of that phrase. In fact, you saw this, maybe in the coin base example, I won't pull up the screenshare. But pretty early on in that one. these difficult times that exact phrase shows up. We're all in this together. It's another cliche. And these cliches are to me offensive, because of something I said earlier, in almost everything that's happened in 2020. We are not all in it together. The damage that some of this stuff causes is asymmetrical. There is an extent to which an event like World War Two, you could say, yeah, we're all in this together. You know, we're all dealing with ration cards, and having a limited amount of cheese in our diet as a result, or whatever it was during World War Two here in the US and perhaps elsewhere. But the society doesn't really work that way anymore. So I don't want to get on a rant about this. But no, we're not all in this together. The people who get to work from home who are already working from home, like me, were so much less affected than delivery drivers or warehouse workers or what have you. So you have to, I think, acknowledge context and do the emotional labor, of avoiding cliches as you do. So next, look for leverage, there's really, I think, two main forms. So think about the ways in which you might have leverage you might have leveraged through your platform, your platform may, in fact, be an excellent example of leverage, I think, the 30 by 500 example I presented earlier, it's a pretty good example of someone saying, our platform has leveraged we provide an educational product, it is a digital product and operates under those sort of unlimited supply, very high profit margin norms that digital products tend to operate under. So there's no reason we can't discount this a lot for people who can't pay for reasons that we want to help with. So that would be platform leverage. And that may be a form of leverage you have you may have a very large audience, they may think you walk on water, and you know, eat up everything you say, they may really respect you, they may think of you as a thought leader, you may have a lot of authority through your platform. That would be leverage, potential leverage to do something in response to something you see happen out there in the world. Or you may have a different form of leverage, which is leveraged through your expertise. And that looks like I have this expertise. It's valuable in the marketplace. I'm able to monetize it in the marketplace. And so I run a profitable business. And that means I have disposable income that I can use to respond to what I see happening out in the world that I would like to help with or contribute to, or make a change around. That would be leverage that flows from your expertise, perhaps more so than your platform. Those would be, I think, the two forms of leverage that you would most immediately look for, as you're asking yourself, how can I help? Maybe you have neither of those.
In which case, you have the leverage of being a human. So maybe you have a small platform, you're like, well, the platform's not that impactful. Or I want to manage the platform in a way, where I'm not really functioning as an advocate for some social cause through the platform. And also my business is not that profitable, well, then you might lack either those forms of leverage. And so what you could do, if you chose to, is to be vulnerable, through the platform and say, you know, what, I'm acknowledging context, this is happening, this bothers me, I don't like this, this is a problem, it needs to change, I have no idea what to do. But I just didn't want to let this moment go by without acknowledging what's happening out there in the world, and saying, I'm confused, I'm scared, I'm overwhelmed. If you are too, you're not alone. And you know, that sort of acknowledgement of humanity would be be its own form of leverage that you could apply. And finally, if you're in just a kind of a just scraping by just surviving mode with your business, maybe the best form of leverage you have is to keep the wheels on and keep the business going and not create a worse situation for yourself or your family. And just sort of keep it together. That would be a form of leverage, that would be the least expansive in its scope. But it also could be the absolute best you can do. And what I would want you to do is feel really good about applying that form of leverage. For the second thing you do, first thing you do is acknowledge context, the second thing you do is seek leverage. And the third thing you do is look for connections between the context and the leverage. So our examples, returning to our examples, Amy hoy and Alex Helman with their 30 by 500 course. The context, systemic racism, the leverage, a high profit platform, the connection, let's use our platform to make the thing that we sell more accessible to people, and especially folks who have suffered from systemic racism. That's an example of finding the connections between the context and the platform. Christopher Nandi platform as an educator, the context systemic racism, the connection using that educational platform to say, folks, this is habitual stop doing it, it's support something that you probably don't support, which is systemic racism, do things differently, here are some options for doing things differently. coin base, the context, all the stuff at the top of their article, all the stuff that happened in 2020. Their leverage, they believe, you may or may disagree with them, but they seem to believe they're the CEO believes their leverage is their business mission. And maybe he would argue, I don't know, I don't know the guy at all. And I haven't read anything else he's written. But maybe he would argue that the second and order consequences of us pursuing our mission with an absolute laser focus is a better world. And we're not going to immediately work on issues of social justice, we're going to try to create this infrastructure of an open financial system. And we believe the second order consequences of that will be the kind of change we would like to see in the world. But the instrument we're using to create that change is a very laser focused pursuit of our business mission. I think that's defensible. It's not popular in a lot of circles. But I think that's a defensible approach.
Again, you're eventually going to face this, if you have any kind of platform, this question of what do you do? As you do that, you got to be kind to yourself. I think we all live, all of us humans live in something like a double bind, damned if you do damned if you don't, really, that's the kind of overly negative way of expressing that life is about trade offs. And sometimes you can't do all the things that you would want to do. You have to make the best decision you can about whatever it is, and deal with the fact that it doesn't accomplish every possible goal. We live in this world of trade offs. And any response that you have to distressing things happening out there in the world where you're using your platform to respond to it as potential trade offs, or imagine, for a moment that you decided, I'm bothered by systemic racism, I think it is a problem, I want to do something about it, and that you secretly gave half of your revenue to really effective nonprofits that were doing something about it. And you did that for the rest of your life, and then you died. And the people who all along thought that you were doing nothing found out after your death that you've been contributing half of your business income to this cause. During your life, you would have made a trade off, you would trade it away the status of being a generous donor, for something else that might have been more important to you, which is silently secretly supporting something that you feel strongly about. That's what I mean, when I talk about this double bind thing is, sometimes it comes down to that you might decide the best leverage I have is not something that I will get publicly recognized for. And if you were to make that choice, I hope that you feel incredibly good about it, even though it involves us a certain sacrifice that is that no one else would ever know that you're making. Got to be kind to yourself, because of this double bind, trade off thing. The expertise incubator is largely about using writing to deepen and extend your thinking to cultivate expertise through writing. That is risky, in and of itself, it's already risky. And then you're doing that something happens out there in the world. And now it gets harder. And what I want to tell you is that is that you're not doing anything wrong, if that's how it happens. So you're already taking on the risk of working in public, and then something happens. And then you now have this question, how do I respond through whatever platform I have? Or how do I not respond and use other forms of leverage? Things just got harder. That's, that's the deal. Try to embrace it, maybe it'll be productive. Be kind to yourself. You can't ignore this stuff. That's the thing. If you ignore context, you're doing something that's fundamentally incompatible with expertise. So don't avoid risk. Don't try to kick the can down the road. You know, when distressing things happen out there in the world, don't try to ignore it. The cost of doing nothing, I think is worse than the cost of trying and not getting it quite right. might be an argument for a sort of general tone of humility in your communication. So to wrap up here, when I was preparing this talk, practicing it, I kept wondering if people are going to hear something different than what I'm trying to say. Are they going to hear me say, well just say I kind of do whatever you like, use your platform, don't use your platform doesn't matter. Just do whatever. And that's not at all what I mean here. Here's what I'm trying to do here. And I've mentioned this before, I want to demystify this for you and I want to give you a framework for thinking about how to approach it. I hope I've done that. So I think it's inevitable that you're going to deal with situations where you've got a platform, something happens out there in the world. I just want to take out some of the mystery show you some examples. Some of them are intentionally provocative just to get you thinking. I want to take the mystery out of this for you. And then I want to suggest you know how to think about it.
I want to urge you to embrace self forgiveness. This is not easy stuff, be kind to yourself, do the best you can realize this is all experiential learning all of it. And try to remember that maintaining healthy average velocity is a really, it's a worthy goal. So, you know, we've got these forms of value creation that we're engaged in, you're creating this future expertise value for ourselves, we're creating value for our subscribers, and maybe creating economic short term economic value for our business along the way. Your balance between those will shift. And so maybe you decide to reduce the profitability of your business, like you see Amy and Alex doing in pursuit of some other value creation. We're always making these little kind of micro adjustments to how we balance those different forms of value creation. As we do that, try to maintain a healthy average velocity. I don't know how to tell you how to do that. I just think that that is the goal that we're going for. And I think that's woven into how I recommend you approach the expertise incubator behind you yourself. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of these ideas.