What Matters Now (or the best free eBook ever)

what matters now ebook cover

I’ve had a cold the past few days. I’ve only been able to mentally handle a few hours of work per day. I’ve been spending a lot of time sleeping, reading and watching TV (and by TV I mean a little Hulu, some DVDs, and Sports Center).

Lucky for me I’ve been enamored with a new book. More precisely, a free eBook entitled What Matters Now. The book was organized by marketing extraordinaire Seth Godin and can be downloaded on his blog.  The book is a collection of 70 essays from some of the very best entrepreneurial minds. The essays are concise, elegant, and thought provoking.  I highly recommend taking the time to download it and work your way through the essays.

I was shocked to see the list of writers. There were an unbelievable amount of my favorite entrepreneurs, bloggers, and authors. Among the names that stood out to me:  Jessica Hagy, Chris Anderson, Alan Webber, Tony Hsieh, Guy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuk, Chip and Dan Heath, Fred Wilson, Aaron Wall, Gina Trapani, Ramit Sethi, Merlin Mann, Penelope Trunk, Jason Fried, Arianna Huffington, Tim O’Reilly, and of course Godin himself.  It’s a freaking all-star cast.

When I first saw that list I didn’t believe it.  How did he organize this?  It’s seemingly impossible.  A few years ago it probably would have been impossible.  In 2009 though, the very best minds are willing to take time out of their super busy schedules to be a part of something special like this.  Each one of these people truly value giving some of their expertise away for free – no strings attached.  They got nothing more than a link back to their blog, which also gives away free information.

The collaborative environment that we are living in right now is fascinating to me.  It’s awesome.

And for what it’s worth, my favorite essay was called Enrichment (page 16) by Rajesh Setty – a entrepreneur, investor, author, and speaker that I had not previously heard of.

6 comments on What Matters Now (or the best free eBook ever)

  1. nethy (netsp) says:

    Godin and many of the other names that I recognise from that list are a new breed. Something that doesn’t really have a name yet. Maybe Public Intellectual 2.0 . They make a living, promote their NGOs, businesses or other ventures largely off their public persona. I say 2.0 because the 1.0 crowd, mostly authors, politicians, academics & the like. They are famous from their work.* These 2.0 people are effective at their work because they are famous.

    Seth Godin can get a book in to the hands of a lot of people (on the blog, he says he’s aiming for 5 million but that sounds ambitious). If you can deliver readers, you can get the writers. In this case, the ask was not really that big, a concise one page contribution.

    *I mean people like Christopher Hitchens, Salman Rushdie, Noam Chomsky, Peter Singer, etc. ). Maybe there isn’t really a 2.0. Maybe it’s more like 1.1.
    *”Creative capitalism” was an experiment in this kind of thing using the 1.0 intellectuals. http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Capitalism-Conversation-Buffett-Economic/dp/141659941X

    • Adam McFarland says:

      “If you can deliver readers, you can get the writers.”

      Good point. That totally works for these 2.0 people you describe. I wonder what the result would be if we went back to 1999 and did the same thing. We had a site with a large following and tried to entice 70 of the best thinkers on the web to write a short essay. I think it’d be near impossible. I think it would be hard to even find a way to contact a lot of these people, yet alone get them to agree to doing it…for free. That’s what really fascinates me. Just how much has changed in the last 10 years.

      Surely Godin and the other authors benefit by doing this. They increase their value in my eyes by giving me something I enjoy for free, therefore increasing the likelihood that I’ll read their blog and eventually buy their books or products.

      It’s just a totally different approach. Work for free now to get more later. I’m trying to figure out what exactly has changed. People just seem more willing to be nice. Is it because our entire lives are digital and our online rep can be tarnished with a few bad moves? That kind of makes sense, but it’s too much of a fear-driven thing. I think the technology is more of an enabler than the cause.

      Go back 50 years. The 70 best authors wouldn’t write a series of short stories in the New Yorker for free. I’m fairly certain that they’d demand payment for their work. Even though in much the same way they’d benefit by getting the exposure and subsequent book sales.


      • Nethy says:

        I’m with you Adam. I don’t have my head around it yet.

        I liked Anderson’s “Free” book a lot specifically because it didn’t put up a complete framework. Anecdotes, trends, a few principles and some interesting way that trends and principles interact (EG, long term prices approach marginal production costs + Moore’s law).

        People have done stuff for publicity before, that’s not new. Celebrities, politicians, academics, these guys never got paid to be on talk shows or that kind of thing. But I agree. Ten years ago some internet personality would have had a harder time getting famous people to work for free. Would he have been able to deliver the readers though?

        The really interesting thing is that for a lot of these people, the stuff they get paid for is the minority of what they do. I think that Godin makes his money off speaking once or twice a week. He’s also founder or board member of all sorts of ventures. I imagine he spends the majority of his time blogging, being a net citizen, writing books, organizing & distributing free content (like this) and other stiff that doesn’t directly pay.

        It’s like freemium but for people.

        • Adam McFarland says:

          Agreed. I thought Chris Anderson did an excellent job in “Free”. It’s a really tough subject to tackle and he provided a lot of history and analysis…but there’s still something missing. Let me know if you figure it out Nethy 🙂

  2. Owen says:

    Thanks for reminding me to download this. I saw this not to long ago and I never got around to downloading it. Its sitting on my desktop now so I can’t avoid it. All star cast is right. I look forward to reading it.


    Just starting reading your blog. (I found out about it by being a customer of Detailed Image. Love the new site by the way.)

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