Build a Personal Monopoly

Jerry Garcia once said: “You want to be the only person who does what you do.” 

The ultimate goal of writing online is to build a Personal Monopoly. It’s your unique intersection of skills, interests, and personality traits where you can be known as the best thinker on a topic and open yourself up to the serendipity that makes writing online so special.

The Internet uniquely rewards people with Personal Monopolies because it rewards differentiation. But just as global markets increase the upside of having a Personal Monopoly because every creator can broadcast their ideas to a global audience, they make it hard to create one because of all the competition. 

Your Personal Monopoly should reflect your innate interests, not what you think the world wants. There are two reasons why: (1) the Internet creates power law outcomes so if you’re not fascinated by what you’re writing about, you won’t be world-class at it, and (2) due to the immense scale of the Internet, the audience for almost every topic numbers in the thousands. If you’re chasing a trend, you’ve already lost.

Listen to the world as you publish. Decorrelate yourself from others, so you can build the kind of skillset that makes people say: “I’ve never met somebody like you before.” Your skills should be unusual, complementary, experiential, and specific. The less the skills in your Personal Monopoly Venn-diagram are found together, the better because it reduces competition and helps you define a genre. 

Some Personal Monopolies are more valuable than others, so think like an investor. Pick a small, but ever-growing market and learn everything you can about it. Build expertise before the other settlers arrive. All you need is a tiny, but lucrative sliver of intellectual real estate. No matter where you settle, subtle tweaks in your positioning can create vast differences in your financial outcomes. Say you want to build a Personal Monopoly around teaching math through humor: You’ll make $50,000 as a 3rd-grade math teacher but potentially millions of dollars as an online math teacher with an influential email list.

If your Personal Monopoly isn’t immediately obvious, that’s okay. Most people take five years to find theirs. As you search, double down on the ideas that captivate you, the compliments people give you, and the projects you enjoy working on. Then, share the best of what you learn online. Write about every aspect of your Personal Monopoly: the people, the concepts, the history. All of it. Then, persuade your readers to cross your Public to Private Bridge. 

When you build your Personal Monopoly, you say yes to playing a worldwide game that most people don’t even know exists. 

Forge a distinct path instead of copying what everybody else is doing. Work on ambitious projects, study the unexplored intersections of ideas and find the questions that people are asking but nobody is answering. There is a vast intellectual frontier waiting for you to find it. As you settle upon these lands, you’ll build your Personal Monopoly.

Photo by Olia Gozha on Unsplash

Sign up for my free writing course if you want to learn more.

You’ll learn about Personal Monopolies, the Netflix Principle, and how to build your email list.