10 Year Vision: Write of Passage

Tweet Size Summary: The school I want to build helps people start writing, build an online audience, and start a company in their niche. They’ll graduate once they have a profitable business. 

One Paragraph Summary: Writing online is the fastest way to accelerate your career. In Write of Passage, we already help students start writing online. Next, we will help them maintain a weekly publishing cadence and attract a niche audience of trusted readers. Once a student builds their audience to a critical mass, we will help them launch an online business.

The Plan: When people join CrossFit, they spend the first five weeks learning exercises like deadlifts and kettlebell swings. Then, they sign up for a monthly gym membership where they meet a community of people who hold them accountable for working out. Regular gym visitors who see transformations in their bodies develop a near-religious affiliation with the CrossFit brand and the people they exercise with. The most passionate customers turn their enthusiasm into cash by opening their own gyms and starting fitness-related businesses. 

Write of Passage will follow the CrossFit model. Right now, we host five-week live cohorts where we teach people to build a website, write clearly, and meet people on the Internet. Between new students and alumni, cohorts have an average size of 300-350 people. In 33 days during the course, students learn the mechanics of writing online by publishing five articles. Most students are in their 30s and 40s, but in the last cohort, we had a student as young as 17 and as old as 72. In just four cohorts, we’ve attracted students from more than 40 countries without any paid marketing. That’s possible because I have an email list with 40,000 people, 165,000 Twitter followers, and 2 million people who visit my website every year. Students graduate with a Personal Monopoly — a unique blend of skills, interests, and experiences that make them one of a kind. The existing course resembles the first five weeks of CrossFit training, but students are desperate for more. 

Eventually, we may even open a subscription “writing gym.” Students would receive accountability and ongoing writing instruction. We believe we can justify the subscription by facilitating friendships, hiring group writing coaches akin to personal trainers, and offering advanced workshops for fast-growing writers. This is where the steady work of compounding begins. Building an audience takes time, and like CrossFit, writers are more likely to persist when they have social support. 

The final step is building a collection of Audience-First Products. Each student will be encouraged to attract readers in an obscure niche. Writing online teaches you entrepreneurship because the skills you need to build an audience overlap the skills you need to build a business. It’s a process of discovery because you can only write well about ideas you’re interested in. Furthermore, writing about an industry is one of the fastest ways to learn about it. As a student’s audience grows, their readers will tell them about their problems and industry trends, both of which will inform their future business. 

Once students have an email list of 5,000 people who trust them and share their interest in a valuable niche, they can build a software business. Not a Facebook size one, but a capital-light, software-driven product like EndCrawl, which builds, edits, and renders end credits for feature films, or Jetboost, which provides no-code add-ons for Webflow websites. You probably haven’t heard about these businesses, and that’s the point. The total addressable market for profitable niches on the Internet numbers in the millions. 

Using an audience, we will help people build a business that makes $200,000+ per year in profit for the founder. Once they reach that threshold, they’ll be able to support their families and control their destinies, no matter where they live. We’ll take a 10% ownership in each business, similar to Y-Combinator. All our companies will be built upon existing social media platforms like Twitter, scalable server infrastructure like Amazon Web Services, and No-Code platforms like Shopify and Zapier. 

Ultimately, we will use the Internet to build thousands of profitable and sustainable software businesses that people can run from anywhere in the world. Inspired by CrossFit and made possible by the Internet, Write of Passage will become the business school of the future.  

Each week, I write two popular emails. Monday Musings is a collection of the coolest things I learn every week. Meanwhile, Friday Finds is a links-only newsletter where I only share the kinds of ideas you won’t find anywhere else. 

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