How I Enlisted the Help of Steven Pressfield and a Dozen Other A-Listers to Bring My Vision to Life

The Creative EntrepreneurLast week, I released the first-ever publication from my boutique publishing company: Insurgent Publishing.

It’s called The Creative Entrepreneur, and it’s a semi-annual, donation-based business and arts journal.

As you can probably guess from its name, it’s all about helping entrepreneurs (and creatives of all types) start, run, and grow their small businesses using creative and unconventional business practices.

We do this by getting the best entrepreneurs, artists and writers in the world to contribute content – from educational articles to inspirational works of art.

The donation-based portion of the journal refers to our philanthropic initiative: we’re teaming up with to donate a portion of all proceeds (up to 100% - the subscriber decides) to help fund entrepreneurs in developing countries.

To say I’m proud of what we’ve built here is an understatement.

A-Listers Who Contributed to the First Issue of The Creative Entrepreneur

One of the things people notice immediately is the incredible line-up of entrepreneurs, writers and artists we got to write, teach, and otherwise contribute to the journal in some form or fashion.

One of the taglines I use to describe the journal is: learn from the best in the world.

When I say that, I'm not exaggerating. 

In our flagship issue of the journal, we received contributions from some of the best entrepreneurs, writers and artists in the world:

Steven Pressfield – bestselling author of Gates of Fire (one of my favorite books of all time - I’ve read it multiple times and every time it’s a punch in the gut), The War of Art (another one of my favorites – it inspired me to start this blog), and most recently The Authentic Swing.

John Lee Dumas – one of the premier business podcasters on the planet (his show Entrepreneur on Fire gets hundreds of thousands of downloads every month).

Pat Flynn – an author, blogger, and hugely successful podcaster (The Smart Passive Income Podcast is usually ranked top 10 in the world under the business category in iTunes, and he’s one of the leading educators in digital commerce and online business).

Chris Guillebeau – bestselling author of The $100 Startup and creator of The World Domination Summit.

Natalie Sisson – author of the Amazon bestseller The Suitcase Entrepreneur (and founder of the company by the same name).

And many others, including:

John Corcoran – entrepreneur, attorney and networking expert (he literally networked his way into Silicon Valley, Hollywood and The White House…enough said).

Clay Hebert – founder of Spindows and all around creative instigator.

Dan Adams – visionary entrepreneur, creator of the 2012 ESPY Award winning Mission Kilimanjaro, and all around stud (yes that’s him stopping Pacman Jones at the 1 yard line in Pros vs. Joes).

Faith Watson – copywriter extraordinaire and founder of Pen to Zen.

Danny Iny – the founder of Firepole Marketing.

Nick Loper – founder of Side Hustle Nation (in the journal, you’ll learn how he side-hustled his way to $10 million in sales…very powerful stuff).

Brett Henley – author, branding expert and creator of We Craft Stories.

Stephanie Arsoska – writer, poet and founder of (she also has a truly captivating Scottish accent – listen to her spoken word performance on Courage that she did for the journal).

Justin Harmon – founder of Unplugged Recreated.

Leah Hynes and Nazrin Murphie – founders of and The Circuit Breaker Conference Series (which, by the way, I’ll be the keynote speaker for this coming February.  Check it out and grab your ticket here).

Emily Chase Smith – entrepreneur, small business attorney and money management expert.

Jesicka Labud – founder of Tipabl and Two Non Techies.

Jason Van Orden – one of the world’s most sought after experts in the world of marketing.

MP MacDougall – author, American historian and one of the most impactful writers I’ve ever read.

Tom Owens – author of over 50 published books and is now, officially, a poet.

Zander Galloway – entrepreneur and public speaker (his essay in the journal – Stepping Onto the Stage - will give you some of the best tips I’ve ever read for getting up onto the stage with courage and delivering a great presentation).

Kevin Wood – founder of The Counter Culturalist.

Jeremy M. – founder of

Adam Baker – founder of ManVsDebt and producer of the indie documentary: I’m Fine, Thanks.

*   *   *

Artisan Artists at Work:

Beyond the incredible written contributions, I also coordinated with artisanal artists, painters and photographers to create artwork exclusively for the journal:

Lucas Ferreyra – his work is internationally renown and has been featured in numerous publications.  He’s responsible for this amazing piece:

He's Ready from The Creative Entrepreneur
The Creative Entrepreneur

Shari Sherman – her works been described as happy art for happy people – and she definitely delivered on that promise with some very happy art for our journal!

Jesicka Labud – beyond writing an article for us, she also contributed some fantastic photography.

Alysa Passage – a branding and design expert – she contributed some really slick photography for the journal.

Mercedes Calcano – an international artist, writer and musician (she contributed several of the awe-inspiring paintings you’ll find in the journal).

Collin McClain – adventurer, photographer and art director.

*   *   *

How I Got the Best in the World to Help Bring My Vision to Life

The question I usually get asked, after people see the top tier lineup involved in the flagship issue of The Creative Entrepreneur, is: How’d you get these people to contribute to your journal? 

And while they might not say it out loud (probably to be polite, which I respect), what they’re really asking is: how did you, a relatively unknown author and a publisher with essentially zero experience in the industry, get guys like Steven Pressfield, John Lee Dumas, Pat Flynn, etc. to contribute to your brand new, unproven journal?

That of course is the real question because, let’s be honest – we don’t ask the publisher of Forbes how he gets people to contribute, do we?

Nor would someone ask me, had I failed to get any of these A-listers to contribute, why I DIDN’T get them onboard (“hey Tom, you’re journal is cool, but why didn’t you get Steven Pressfield involved?”...unlikely).

I say all that to say this: it’s a good question and it deserves an answer that dives deeper than ‘believe in your dream and things work out’ (which might be true, but ignores the sometimes uncomfortable truth of real life).

In the following paragraphs, I’m going to show you exactly what I did to get Steven Pressfield and over a dozen A-listers to help bring my vision to life.  For all of you working to bring your great vision to life, consider this your field manual: it will show you the way, but you still have to do the work.

Good luck.

Step 1: I Started Before I Was Ready

I got the first whisper of an idea for this journal back in September of 2013.

In the beginning, though, it was just that: an idea.

I didn’t know what form it would take, who I’d get to contribute, or whether people would even want to pay for it once I’d created it.

These uncertainties were compounded by my own lack of experience in the field:

  1. I had no prior experience in the publishing industry
  2. I had zero formal education in curating, editing or producing a journal
  3. I had no one telling me what to do or how to do it (no board of directors, no publishing mentors, no editing staff  – it was just me and my idea).

With all these things working against me, anyone with a sense of reason would have told me the idea was stupid and to move on.

I started anyway.

ResistanceProTip [click to tweet]: Start before you’re ready.  By the end, you will be.

Even though I had to deal with dozens of hurdles, obstacles and setbacks, I still managed to bring it altogether in beautiful form by the ship date.

But there’s an even more important benefit to all this: now I’m ready to leverage my newfound knowledge for the next issue of the journal and future books I publish through Insurgent Publishing.  Because I started before I was ready, I’m now more ready than I’ve ever been for future projects.

Step 2: I Acted Like a Pro

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we're thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don't show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin', no matter what." – Steven Pressfield

When I started work on The Creative Entrepreneur, my mindset changed.

I saw the journal in the hands of readers.

No, I didn’t know what the cover would look like, or what they’d be reading inside the pages, or even what it would be called (I settled on the name less than 2 months out from launch)…

I just knew that I would finish and ship this thing, or break myself trying.

When Steven talks about mindset, this is what he means.

Of course - and this is an important thing to realize – I didn’t FEEL like a pro at the time.  There were dozens of times over the past few months I thought this project would fall apart.  I doubted my abilities.  I questioned whether I’d actually finish and ship on time (and whether anyone would care if I did or didn’t).  I mentally beat myself up every step of the way…

Which is why I didn’t worry about whether I felt like a pro or not – I focused on acting like a pro instead: I showed up daily, I did the work, I kept trucking when things got difficult and uncertain (which happened a lot, by the way).

For a better explanation of what it means to act like a pro, here’s Ben Affleck’s educational speech from The Boiler Room on Acting As If…(warning: foul language ensues):

ResistanceProTip [tweet]: The real power behind acting like a pro: eventually, it’s what you become.

I acted as if I was a pro.  As a result, I got professional results.

Step 3:  I ASKED

With the pro-mindset mentioned above, I set to work building the journal.

This meant doing the uncomfortable work of approaching hundreds of entrepreneurs, writers and artists and asking them to contribute.

When I first approached people, I was nervous: I expected to be ignored and to face a lot of rejection.  I wasn’t sure anyone would like the idea.  I was scared not enough people would contribute and that I’d have to scrap the project…

Instead, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Hundreds of people embraced the idea with excitement.  I started receiving dozens of essay submissions.  Even better: many people who submitted essays shared it with other entrepreneurs, helping me spread the message with little effort on my part (this was clutch - it allowed me to focus my attention on the broader editorial scope of the journal).

ResistanceProTip [tweet]: No matter what you’re working on, you’re going to need help.  If you want to bring your vision to life, get comfortable with asking (rejection and all).

In the end, I received more contributions than I could fit in the journal (which created the painful process of cutting submissions, but that’s a topic for another time).

Step 4: I Built Relationships Before I Needed To

In reality, this isn’t step 4, but step 0 – the thing you have to do before you think you have to do it.

While the message behind the journal was powerful enough to encourage many people to give it a chance, regardless if they knew me, the vast majority of contributors were friends or acquaintances of mine.

If you’re wondering about how I got some of the more well-known names on board, the process was the same as above – I asked – with one caveat: I had established a relationship with many of them months and years prior.

ResistanceProTip [click to tweet]: Relationships are important, but when it comes to publishing – they’re everything.

Take Steven Pressfield for example: I met him in person at a book signing at West Point (in 2007 or 2008).  A year later, after having been a fan of his from afar for years, I reached out to him to thank him personally for his work.  Since then, I’ve emailed him several times and he’s always been generous enough to respond (and he might be one of the busiest people on the planet – no doubt inundated with emails from hundreds of others on a daily basis).

By the time I asked him to contribute, he knew who I was.

The same goes for Pat Flynn (who I met in person in Nashville in 2013), John Lee Dumas (who I had on my podcast and since started collaborating on a new project together aimed at veterans), Clay Hebert (who I also had on the podcast and actually met at the Seth Godin seminar I wrote about in 2 Days With Seth Godin), and many others.

Step 5: I Hustled

I’ve written about hustle before.

Hustle is the differentiator between the outlier who successfully bring his vision to life and the vast majority who wait and watch.

It would have been much easier to admit my limitations, accept my lack of experience, and not produce this journal in the first place.


  • I spent a ridiculous amount of time connecting with writers, artists, editors, and designers to bring this journal to life
  • I sent personal emails to hundreds of people
  • I personally edited every single essay, usually more than once, sent them back to the writers for a re-write, did another once over before green-lighting it for publication (where it went through another editor, then back to me for a final edit)
  • I handpicked the fonts and colors and hand-placed every image
  • I went through every line of the journal, making sure every line and every image lined up perfectly
  • When the journal released, I sent another hundred emails to promote and sell the journal.

And I’m still not done.

If you were considering publishing because you thought it might be an easy money-maker, I assure you it’s not.

A Final Lesson

I definitely didn’t do everything right

I put a ton of work into making this journal happen, but I’d be remiss not to recognize that a certain amount of chance plays a part in everything we do.

I got lucky connecting with certain game-changes when and where I did, I’m lucky I have the freedom and the technology at my fingertips to make this journal possible, and I was lucky that many of these amazing contributors had time on their schedules to devote to this crazy idea of a journal…

If there’s one piece of advice I could give anyone in business (or in life), it would be this:

You might not have the experience you think you need, or the connections you want, or the money/background/circumstances that would making bringing a vision to life easy – but you don’t have to.

All you need is 100% commit to your vision and the persistence to see it through, no matter what, and the rest inevitably takes care of itself:

 “Luck, often enough, will save a man…if his courage hold.”

-13th Warrior

If you're interested in the journal, you can find out more about it here.

Would love to hear your thoughts below.

What vision are you bringing to life right now - tell us about it in the comments?  Or, if you aren't bring your vision to life right now - what's stopping you?

Share your thoughts below!


Started, finished and shipped in Serpong, Indonesia

Writing Time: 7.5 hours


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20 comments on “How I Enlisted the Help of Steven Pressfield and a Dozen Other A-Listers to Bring My Vision to Life”

    1. Brad - really appreciate it my man. I'll be emailing you about journal 2 - think you could contribute in an awesome way with your story.

  1. Great post Tom! A good reminder that we all need to keep working on what we love day in and day out! Congratulations on the shipping of your latest project!

  2. I just noticed - you have at the end, the total time it took you to write this blog post!

    Keep on doing that...I found that empowering, helpful and totally relevant with under the nature of 'kicking ass'.....

    1. Bruce - glad you dig that. I just started doing that recently, mostly to keep track of my work (and how much time I spend on things), and as a great reminder looking back year from now the time I spent on this stuff 🙂

      Thanks and look forward to connecting again soon!

  3. Freaking awesome Tom! This is timely advice for me to read for my own project. Thanks for the inspiration, encouragement, and map to follow. I'll let you know how mine turns out using this advice :).

  4. I was inspired by your vision and your generosity. I have little experience writing in English and never though about my story being something valuable to share. You helped me with both and I am very grateful. I have learned a lot from you, this post comes very "handy". I am also jumping out from the helicopter into uncertainty with no parachute to build upon a dream. Thank you Tom.

  5. Hey Tom,
    Thanks again for allowing me to be a part of this. Your passion and hustle are inspiring, and I appreciate you giving me an outlet. Keep hustlin'!

    1. MP - thanks so much. Absolutely loved your contribution and look forward to reading more of your writing in the future.

      Stay in touch!

  6. Amazing work Tom! You know I'm a huge supporter - I'm definitely going to share this with everyone I know. Keep doing what you're doing - it obviously works!

    I tip my hat to the king of hustle...

    - Cheryl

  7. It's a great project and you have put so much of yourself into it! I am happy to be on the 'team' for such an awesome publication!! Way to make it happen Tom and show others how they can "be like Tom"!