2020 was a year of unexpected change and hardship. In the beginning of the year, many people experienced a sense of denial. How could a virus so fundamentally change our modern society? But in time, it became clear that one of the legacies of Covid-19 would be a restructuring of society. As the virus left China, we collectively woke up to the pandemic as a catalyst for societal change. And in early 2020, as the virus quickly spread to Italy, I sought to prepare for the coming future. A process that lead me to begin building digital age assets.
In short, I realized the world will rapidly shift towards a digitally immersive society. And through this shift, global society will experience the rise of the Sovereign Individual social class.
So I spent 2020 learning what it means to be a Sovereign Individual. As an oversimplification, think of a Sovereign Individual as someone that leverages technology to secure their freedom, security, and lifestyle. They are the first true citizens of the digital age and their emergence accelerates via remote work lifestyles. I’ve spent the past 6 months researching, writing, and exploring what it means to be a Sovereign Individual. From this work, I find myself pushing towards becoming a true citizen of the digital age.
Through this process I began creating digital age assets. Beginning with a weekly newsletter. And I’ve learned many lessons along the way. Below are a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the past 6 months of this future oriented deep dive.
Long Term Thinking, Planning, & Strategy
Building digital age assets forces you into a mindset of long term thinking, planning, and strategy. And for me, that has overwhelmingly meant using data to optimize the newsletter I’ve been building. I think of using data as a way to actively listen to my readers. What they open, click on, and share with peers are signals of interest they provide me. And they teach me valuable insights about the community I’m exploring on the internet.
As an example, I’ve learned that people want to learn how to become a citizen of the internet. A unique individual with a personal monopoly. It’s an innate desire to explore our own personal frontier via the characteristics that make us uniquely special. Because the data I’ve mined shows me this insight, my goal is to explore this topic in greater detail.
In the digital age – data is exponentially plentiful and is a strategic growth lever that must be used. If you ignore the data available to you when creating digital age assets, then you’re leaving value on the table.
For me, this insight manifests as long term thinking, planning, & strategy. It starts by designing a general thesis for the asset I’m building. Figuring out whether it’s something the world will value, and then experimenting with getting it to the people that will value it most. My newsletter has been a long form A/B test to experiment with a thesis, understand who might value it and where they reside on the internet. And most importantly, it shows the beginnings of the correct path forward for creating digital age assets of value.
On Addiction to Short Term Thinking And Gratification
In contrast to long term thinking is the addiction to instant gratification. I’ve learned working with several startup companies that the types of choices businesses make are frequently designed to get money in the door fast. They are not choices that will lead to future opportunities down the road. And these short term choices are a direct result of the financial stress the business is under.
It can be hard to make good, healthy financial decisions when we are desperate to bridge the gap to our next payday. But my observation of addiction to short term thinking goes beyond just seeing this in action. It’s an understanding that startups must find a balance between making short term decisions needed to stay alive and longer term choices designed to build a strong foundation for the business.
Short term decisions suck you into status and signaling games that don’t yield actual value. Going back to my newsletter as an example, if I have many subscribers that’s a sign that I’m successful right?
Wrong – the vanity metrics of the digital age can be deceptively addicting and often don’t indicate what we think they do. I could have 10,000 subscribers, but if only 8% engage with my content, then what do I actually have?
Bringing these observations together to form the lesson learned. It’s best to begin building digital age assets when you’re in a situation of low stress. When stable income is coming in the door. That way, you won’t feel the same pressure to chase short term results at the price of long term and sustainable value creation.
Lessons From Building Over the Long Term
Here are a few behind the curtain lessons that I’ve learned building a digital age asset.
Practice what you preach to become more genuine online. After starting my newsletter, I transitioned from self employed to a new full time job. I wanted to build a multiple income portfolio to take pressure off creating the newsletter and focus on long term growth.
My goal is to become a Sovereign Individual and share the lessons I learn along the way with a digital community. I think of my newsletter as the prototype for a Sovereign Collective. It’s a method to optimize the ideas, concepts, and morals of the digital age.
I’m building replicable systems to support the transition to becoming a Sovereign Individual while balancing other responsibilities. My mindset: how can I build the template for the world to follow while managing a busy life? I use these systems to sustainably build my newsletter (and several other digital assets) over the long term.
Build community by having amazing conversations with people. I’ve met some fascinating newsletter readers.
I experienced a viral moment when a reader shared a post that led to more visits and reads in a day than the entire previous year of my website. An exciting and revealing experience. On the internet, long term strategies take advantage of non-linear growth. This means that there is value in accumulating and curating information capital assets over time. It increases the likelihood of maximizing the value of viral moments.
You can create a valuable biproduct from the otherwise “waste” of your work. I realized I was interacting with a lot of content that readers might also find useful/interesting. So, I created a new feature for my readers. A byproduct of my waste. My focus will continue to incorporate the mindset of reader utility throughout my learning process. How can what I learn and do be repurposed into a valuable experience for my readers?
Growth Events Are Sporadic and Unexpected
Digital assets gain their value via network effects. This means you want more people to know and share your asset with the world so that they can increase in value. My newsletter growth has overwhelmingly come from readers sharing my work. And most of this growth came from Twitter. I learned it’s important to make digital assets shareable via the platforms with preestablished network effects.
The challenge then becomes finding the balance between the short term dopamine hits of chasing virality and long term growth strategies. Digital age assets like a newsletter need consistent intellectual value transfer to maintain their long-term value proposition. By accumulating and curating informational value over the long term, you increase the likelihood of viral events.
I’m trying to become a digital citizen and my research and learning creates biproducts that the internet values. My newsletter is an example of how I package this biproduct and share the value with the world. Creating a digital asset like a newsletter helps me crystalize my lessons learned and broadcasting them helps me to achieve one of my long term goals – building a Sovereign Collective. To me, my readers are my peers (citizens of the internet) that are learning along with me. They provide valuable feedback and lend unique perspectives that help me chart new paths towards a type of digital enlightenment.
In 2021, I am going to be providing new and unique digital assets to continue this value transfer. To that end, subscribe below so that you don’t miss out!