Why I Give it All Away

Pay What You WantI got a thought provoking email the other day from Resistance member Tom Owens.

With his permission, I wanted to share part of it with you:

You've done bang-up work on your two blog posts explaining PWYW and how it's helped you.

However...I think more than one person might pause. "If he's still doing so well with this business model, why is he letting others know? Why not a trade secret?"

...In other words, why are you sharing this?

I clicked the reply button in Gmail and thought about the question before responding.

Why not?  Why WOULND’T I share this info?...  I thought to myself.

To me, it went without saying why I was doing it.  It seemed like something that spoke for itself.

But then I thought about that response (‘why not’) and realized it was a cop-out – it didn’t actually explain why I was doing what I was doing.

By responding with ‘why not,’ I wasn’t really answering his question.  Instead, I was purposefully avoiding it.

Before I hit the send button, I deleted the few short lines I’d compiled and started from scratch.

When I finished, I hit the send button and didn’t think much more about it.

The next day, I got a reply.

To be honest with you, I was shocked by his response.

Not because it was offensive – it was the opposite, actually.  I guess I just didn’t expect my thoughts to be received this way…

With his permission, I’m sharing with you a portion of his response:

“you should use ALL OF THAT in your next blog post. That's a perfect response. I have not seen anyone spell this out so well…”

Because of his urging, and because I believe sharing my 'why' with you is important, I decided to share the email I sent him with all of you today.

*note: this is basically the same email, although I did elaborate a little bit more on some topics to give additional clarification to those who are new to me, this blog and my writing.

My “Why”

I started this blog a little over a year ago.

In that time, I’ve written over 100 essays, published 15+ podcasts, written several guides, and published 2 books – everything is free + Pay What You Want to support my creative work.

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know I write about the war of art, the conflict of creation, and why it’s important we fight the inner creative enemy every day to create our life’s work.

Life’s work…

Your life’s work is the cumulative results of all the things you’ve done in this life (creative or otherwise).  It’s the compilation of all the projects you’ve ever started, finished and shipped.  It’s your impact, your legacy, your story…

Life’s work...

That’s what it’s all about for me.

And I believe, deep down in my heart, that on the last day of our existence here on Earth, when we breathe our last breath, that’s what it’s all about for ALL of us.  We’ll be judged accordingly.

I hope this doesn’t come off melodramatic – it’s not supposed to.  If it sounds a bit intense, it’s because it is.

I believe everyone has creative work they'd love to do, that they OUGHT to do (because they want to), but life gets in the way.  Can’t start today, today’s the football game, or I need to pick up dinner, or I’m so tired – I’ll start tomorrow.

Years pass and the ideas that were so inspiring once upon a time are now regret inducing memories.

What a shame.

What a waste…

But if I can help more people take action today to start building / creating / designing whatever it is they care about, and I can walk with them over the finish line to actually ship it to market...

Well I feel like that's MY life's work. I get honest joy out of it.  In a way, it validates my existence.

And I think the best way to help people is by being on the ground with them, slugging it out in the trenches right beside them.

As a platoon leader in Iraq, I did that on a daily basis, training my platoon and taking them on mission every day. I was a convoy security platoon leader.  My job was to take a group of non-infantry cooks, warehouse clerks, and mechanics, and train and lead them in security operations for our daily logistical resupplies to neighboring bases.

I was responsible not only for them (a task in and of itself), but as the convoy commander, I was responsible for everyone and everything moving from point A to point B.

What’s important to realize is that I was always there with them, for the training and for the missions themselves. And since I was one of them, the more 'secrets' I shared (tactics, techniques and procedures) the better off I was and the better off we all were.

I treat entrepreneurship and art the same way.

We ought to help one another out. Share our work. And share our secrets...

At least if we care about great work.

And not just creating the great work ourselves so we get credit, but so there’s more great work in the world, period.


So yeah, that’s why I’m sharing this info.

That’s why I’m writing this book.

And that’s why I give it all away.

I hope that answers the question.  And I hope my work helps you start, finish and ship your great work.

If it does, let me know: your success is my success.

Take care.

- Tom


Started, finished and shipped in Dunedin, New Zealand.  Fuel: 2 double espresso's.  Soundtrack: Yeasayer.

Writing Time: 3 hours

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3 comments on “Why I Give it All Away”

  1. Saw this quote today and thought of you and your mission. Onward soldier.
    "Whoever wants music instead of noise, joy instead of pleasure, soul instead of gold, creative work instead of business, passion instead of foolery, finds no home in this trivial world of ours."
    — Hermann Hesse