Michael Ashcroft

Thinking out Loud No. 46 // Friday 27 August

Hello everyone!

Like the banner image? So do I. It’s a vibetrait of me.

A vibetrait, you say? Yes, like a portrait, but based on vibes. It was created by the talented Silvia following a 30 minute Zoom chat.

In this issue I talk about my creative cycles, aversion to becoming 'that guy' and I share some things I've made recently at the end. Enjoy!

1: Embracing my creative cycles

It’s been 52 days since the last one of these. Let’s talk about that in the context of creative cycles.

But first, by contrast with how things are now, let’s look at “a typical week day in the life of Michael” from 2010 - 2020:

There were 2631 working days between 01 October 2010 (when I started working) and 31 January 2021 (when I left). Assuming an average of 28 days' holiday a year (sorry, Americans) that’s still 2351 days that were, by and large, the same day.

That means 2351 days of needing to be ‘on’ and ‘at my best’ at particular times of day.

You’ve probably heard of the circadian rhythm, where we’re largely aligned with the sun. Wake in morning, go to sleep at night. Well, we also have an ultradian rhythm. Here’s an image I found (via Blue Zones) showing the repeating cycles that we all go through every day.

Put another way, we’re talking 2351 days of looking at that cycle and going not listening, not listening’ (Sméagol voice optional).

I defied that cycle through the use of state-sanctioned drugs, yelling at myself and guilt. The drugs were caffeine and occasional nicotine lozenges, before you ask, I’m not that interesting. If there’s a meeting at 3pm when you’re in a ‘recovery’ phase, no worries, get a double sugar latte thing from the convenient and suspiciously free machine.

Is it any wonder, then, that I’ve been struggling to embrace the fact that I may actually be a cyclical being?

Let’s look at the evidence.

What I’m beginning to see, or perhaps allow, is that this might not actually a bad thing. It might be the way I am naturally made to be, and the continuing absence of an imposed external structure is letting my natural ways of being emerge. I'm curious to allow them to emerge yet further.

But what about all the advice you see on the Internet that you should ship stuff consistently?

Well, Julian Shapiro seems to think it’s okay not to publish regularly, although he still stresses the importance of writing a lot.

My take on this is that shipping things consistently and at a high frequency (e.g. weekly) is useful when you’re a beginner, because it acts as a forcing function, and since you're not particularly good at that point anyway. I think I’m now in some kind of intermediate phase where I’m more interested in my craft, message and strategy than I am in proving that I can ship.

Eventually, a long time from now, I’ll be expert enough to ship regularly and insightfully, but that day is not yet here. And that’s what most of the big names with great weekly newsletters are: experts. I am not that.

In the meantime, I do have a concern about publishing regularly, let’s say weekly, for the sake of it. The act of getting something, anything out the door probably means sacrificing quality. It means embracing an attitude of “this has to go out today, what I have will do” and I don’t think I want that any more.

So perhaps this is the way. Writing every day: yes. Putting something in your inbox only when I feel like it’s appropriate and thus following my intuition? For now, also yes.

2: Some thoughts on becoming 'that guy'

So... I re-launched my course a few weeks ago and it went quite well. Very well actually. It sold 152 spaces at $250 each, generating $38k.

The course has now generated a total of $80k since September 2020, with around $70k of that happening since April 2021. This seems pretty wild. Perhaps I'm doing something right? Perhaps I should talk about that so that other people can do similar things?

The thing is, I actually really enjoy geeking out about the mechanics of this. I like talking about the numbers, the strategies I used, the technology, all the feelings I felt, and so on. But doing so in a useful way needs a big commitment of time, energy and attention, so if I were to really go into this, I would want to package it up nicely and maybe charge a modest amount for it.

But then, oh no! I've become the guy who makes money online by teaching other people how to make money online! That guy.

I wrote about this here a while ago, but it seems like I still have a hangup around actually doing it.

When I encounter a block like this my intuition tells me not to brute force my way through it. There is clearly a reason why I don't immediately want to do this and I want to honour that. I can imagine there is a conflict here between "yes this could be a way of making money" and "no this does not serve your long game".

I always want to serve my long game, so I will not make the thing. At least until I figure out a way to make it that feels right, that does serve my long game.

Although if you want me to make the thing then do let me know and I will consider making the thing.

3: Here are some things I made

These are each about 500 words, so very quick to read.



Some good tweet threads that may become notes:

That’s all! See you next time, which will probably be sooner than 52 days.



I publish a newsletter called Thinking Out Loud, which chronicles my journey as an online maker of things, but it's also is where I talk about whatever I'm interested in at the time.​ There are almost 1000 of us now, come play!