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Welcome (Back) to the Weekly ensemble
Happy Monday to everyone.
If you’ve been a reader for a while, you might immediately notice that things look different (again).
It was only 14 short weeks ago that I sent you all my first Weekly ensemble newsletter after retiring the Better World Weekly newsletter that I had been writing for over three years.
But if you’re new here, then welcome. It's great to have you. :)
For some, this email today will be an orientation, for others, something of an update.
This is more of an inside look at Grow Ensemble and my work, versus our standard sustainability-focused essays and explainers, the “ensembles” I typically share with you.
I promise we’ll be back with those soon.
Before we continue our journey together here on Substack, I want to share with you why I made the switch (from Convertkit) and what changes you can expect as we move forward.
Why Make the Switch?
To explain the switch, I have to start by explaining where I’m at with the book.
Many of you already know I’m working on a book about sustainability and ethics in business. Since finishing my manuscript and proposal earlier this year, I’ve been toying around with the idea of working with a publisher (vs. self-publishing).
I’ve dished around my work, and some highly generous friends of mine have made referrals, endorsements, and personal introductions (thanks, y’all!). Alas, the early exploration hasn’t been too fruitful or inspiring.
A few “nos” and “not yets” have me rethinking my next steps. Earliest conversations and feedback from potential publishers have somewhat validated my research from reading books like Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction—and Get it Published, where long-time editors and literary agents Susan Rainier and Alfred Fortunato write, “Gone are the days when most publishers can justify publication of a book solely on the grounds that it “deserves” to be published.”
“Commercial Viability” is the name of the game and a phrase that I’ve heard far too much recently.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% sure that I need to sharpen and refine my pitch and that there are other independent, mission-driven book publishers out there who might be a better fit.
Nonetheless, waiting around to hear that I don’t have the same name recognition as a corporate CEO who had to go through an existential crisis just to come to the conclusion that business as usual was/is destroying the planet and creating inexplicable human suffering to warrant enough confidence in book sales is…well…frustrating.
Perhaps I haven’t caused enough suffering with my work just yet to warrant a book deal. 🤔
The biggest realization for me in this process has focused on what I can control and what I can’t.
What I can control: writing the best damn book possible and executing a kick-ass marketing campaign around it.
What I can’t: my name recognition, the status of the book publishing industry, etc.
Of course, I could control my efforts to attempt to grow my followings on TikTok, Instagram, yada yada yada, but I have to say, that feels like a game I’m not interested in playing.
And as a friend recently said, that just might be getting good at the wrong thing.
So, while I’m not shutting off the traditional publishing door completely, I am getting back to work and proceeding forward as if I will be self-publishing the book.
Suppose the right-fit publishing opportunity arises, great. If not, no problem. I have a lot of books to write in my lifetime, and perhaps the industry folks will get one of em’.
I need to get on with this one.
So, back to action.
So…Why the Switch?
I had been wanting to make this switch to Substack for some time, but I was hesitant to disrupt anything with my “platform,” while entering into conversations with potential publishers.
Turns out a newsletter with 4500% growth in readership in 3 years, 120k lifetime downloads to a podcast, 4,100 hours of YouTube watch time, and 1.75 million lifetime readers of a blog isn’t much of a platform in today’s publishing industry, so I never had anything to worry about!
Shoulda spent more time on TikTok. ;)
Anywho, I’ve moved to Substack for two reasons 1) share-ability and 2) support-ability.
I spend a lot of time and effort on these newsletters (I hope that shows). Writing and researching for my writing is sort of…my job!
And so, I want to make the most of those existing efforts.
My previous platform (Convertkit) didn’t offer great built-in means for readers (or me) to share my work. After I wrote an essay and sent it with Convertkit, away into the internet ether, it went.
Substack was built almost exactly for this reason. As the homepage of Substack.com says, it’s “The home for great writers and readers.” Welcome home, you all. 🥰
What you lose in customization with a switch to Substack, you gain in its simplicity and prioritization of a network effect. Your readers can more easily share your work and other writers on the platform can too! Yahoo!
Whether non-monetarily (e.g., sharing) or monetarily, Substack makes it easier for writers and content creators like myself to offer ways for readers to support our work.
Also, I tend to see more Writers with a capital “W” on Substack than Writers hosting their private newsletters using something like Convertkit. As I’ve leaned heavier into this career path, I thought it best to toss my hat in that ring.
And while I’ve been so grateful to have partners willing to sponsor and support my and Grow Ensemble’s work, believe it or not, “Commercial Viability” hasn’t always been the name of the game around here.
Creating valuable things has always been the name of the game, but not always things that people can or will clearly pay for.
But, I do see that my role might be like something of a weed, a dandelion, maybe.
Dandelions are insanely resilient plants. They, by definition, grow in places where nothing else can. Nutrient-deficient soil, compacted so hard the ground almost feels like concrete; a dandelion can still come up strong with its roots beneath, breaking apart the dirt, which allows water to infiltrate the soil.
Its flowers are the first to feed the bees early in the season. And, of course, it has a generous nature, as dandelions capture atmospheric nitrogen and store it in the soil for future plant life to use.
Dandelions exist to create the conditions for future plant life to thrive.1
I know, I know, it might sound a bit ambitious to compare myself to a plant that’s so brave and magnanimous. Still, if I have the courage to do what might be culturally valuable and important, not just commercially viable, maybe I can, in effect, create the conditions for others to do the same.
I’ll humbly say I aspire to be like a dandelion, although I might not be one yet.
Armadillo World Headquarters, which opened in 1970 and closed in 1981, is perhaps the venue responsible for making Austin, Texas, the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Artists like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Ray Charles, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bruce Springsteen, and ZZ Top all played the Armadillo. And they loved to.
Armadillo had done what no other Austin music venue had done before.
Eddie Wilson, the founder of the famed establishment, wrote in his memoir, “We were in it for the music and the lifestyle, not the money. Nowadays, that might sound like a bunch of hippie-dippy hyperbole, but it’s the damn truth.”
It turns out that when you do things not for the money but because they matter, you might make something that matters.
While I’m not trying to court “the rednecks and the hippies” like Eddie Wilson did, I feel I am similarly doing what I do with Grow Ensemble because I feel it’s important. And my outputs are my current best assessment of how I can put my unique strengths, skills, and abilities to use for the world.
And for those who find that valuable and have the means to pay for that, great. And for those who find that valuable and don’t at the moment. No problem.
And for those who don’t find that valuable? What are you doing here? This isn’t a vanity game to me, just unsubscribe!
It’s not like I need the subscriber numbers to land a book deal or anything. 😅
Okay, enough of the rambling manifesto…
So, What’s Going to be Different?
Well, not tons. You’ll continue to get a (mostly) weekly email. And on rare occasions, two emails.
But as well, if you find what you are reading here valuable and have the means to support the work, you’ll have an option to do that as well.
That community-driven support of my work and Grow Ensemble keep this show going for everyone and allows me/us to be more courageous and ambitious with our storytelling for the sake of a more significant impact.
Along with books, there are short films/documentaries to produce in the future.
You might’ve noticed a shift in our podcast content production if you’ve followed along. Perhaps no surprise that’s introduced a shift in the amount of time, energy, and effort we allocate there as well. :)
I do see the production of our shows as a fun, engaging way to get students and young professionals experience and hands-on training in the cross-section of media/storytelling and sustainability. They’ll need to be paid too, because I believe unpaid internships should not exist.
If you decide to become a supporter of the newsletter and the greater Grow Ensemble ecosystem, you’ll receive several bonuses as well:
Bonus Interviews / Podcasts
At any point, I have queued up anywhere from 10-15 recordings with fascinating people in the world of social impact and sustainability.
Sometimes, we’re just taking pieces from these recordings to make it into our final show or the recording won’t be published for months.
As a paid supporter, you’ll get access to additional exclusive full interviews through a private podcast feed.
It’s rare that full interviews make it into our public podcast feed these days. One section that we usually cut out now is our 🔥 rapid-fire question round. These are book recommendations, favorite documentaries, career advice, and more from our many incredibly accomplished and knowledgeable guests.
For paid supporters, we’ll be aggregating these answers into private posts and updating them regularly.
Get book and resource recommendations from experts in the field, advice and insights you didn’t hear on our show, and more.
Bonus GIFT 😱
This is a super secret project I’m working on that founding members (the highest tier paid supporters) will be able to participate in.
Each year, founding members will receive a gift as part of their membership. These gifts will be products that we’ll be adding to our future Grow Ensemble online storefront.
This is a storefront that we’ll be launching in conjunction with the launch of the upcoming book. Working with a few businesses I’ve profiled in the book (and on the podcast), we’ll offer products that redefine “BEST” in any industry or category.
Our founding members will receive early product samples and help to co-create the final product that will be sold publicly.
The Weekly ensemble is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
And with that, welcome (again for some of you) to the Weekly ensemble newsletter. For those of you who missed some earlier editions, I’ve aggregated a few to this new Substack site for you to sample.
Many of these ensembles will eventually become podcasts/videos. Last week we released our first podcast/video combo of my very first ensemble, and our second will be published tomorrow.
S/o to my wife for this idea. 🙃