“May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be at your back.”
— Old Irish Blessing
Dear Money & Crisis Reader,
Irish country roads are two way; or so the Irish would have you believe.
Yes, it’s true, you can drive up a country lane, just the same as you can drive down a country lane.
No policeman will stop you.
But should you meet another car along the way, you’ll find these narrow roads, flanked by stone walls and overgrown hedgerows, to be far less accommodating.
At that point, you have two options: Reverse the car until you find a spot where the ditch is wider, and let the other car pass you. Or press on and force the other car to reverse, adding minutes to their journey.
It’s a sort of modern day moral dilemma.
In order to get where you’re going on time, you have to count on the kindness of others to get you there…. And just the same, they are counting on your kindness to get them where they need to be.
If you’re from New York, Philadelphia, or any big city where folks try to minimize their daily interactions with strangers, this probably sounds like a nightmare to you.
But surprisingly… the system actually kind of works. Folks understand that if everyone goes forward all the time, no one ever gets anywhere. The system only works if everyone backs up sometimes.
There’s probably a metaphor for the U.S. political system in there. But that’s not my point today.
My point is: sheep.
Sheep are inconsiderate b*st*rds who will never back up and will always take up the whole road.
Which is how I ended up late for a meeting in Waterford, stuck in a taxi, and talking to a 70-year old Irish man about his amazing idea for a Sci-Fi novel.
“So, what d’ya think? Is it a bestseller?” he said, after revealing that the time-travelling detective, who was tasked with solving his own murder, was the killer all along. “It’s about suicide.”
I had to choose my words carefully. After all, this man was my only hope of ever seeing civilization again.
“Okay. I think it’s a solid idea,” mustering up some light praise. “And yeah, I’d probably buy it. But do I think it’s a bestseller? Probably not.”
He deflated a little, clearly disappointed by my answer. It was like kicking a big old Irish puppy.
But then I explained that it wasn’t his idea that was bad. It’s just that writing a bestseller is so much more than writing a good book.
A bestseller has to have that something extra… something that taps into the public unconscious… and convinces them they need something they didn’t even know existed.
“How do you do that?” he asked as the last of the sheep cleared from the road, bleating angrily like we were the ones inconveniencing them.
“Hah. If I knew that, I’d write one myself,” I said. “If I know anything about the world, there’s no formula for writing a bestseller.”
Of course, I now know that I was wrong. All the best writers have a formula for writing their books. They just keep their winning formulas to themselves, so they don’t have to deal with the competition.
But New York Times bestselling author AJ Jacobs isn’t scared of the competition. In fact, in today’s issue of Money & Crisis, he just flat out tells James Altucher his winning formula.
Read on and steal it for yourself. I know I’m going to.
All the best,
Editor, Money & Crisis
P.S. You don’t need to write a bestseller to make money as a writer.
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The AJ Jacobs Formula for Writing a Bestseller
I hate lunch. I hate going to lunch.
I hate walking there, waiting, ordering, waiting, eating, paying, walking home.
AJ Jacobs does also.
So we came up with a solution. We have Skype lunches. I make a sandwich. Skype AJ, and we talk for a half hour while eating.
Problem solved. Friendship on track.
I love AJ. I love his books.
Every one of his book is a New York Times bestseller:
- The Year of Living Biblically (He lived a year of his life EXACTLY how the Bible would prescribe.)
- Drop Dead Healthy
- The Know-it-all (He reads the Encyclopedia Britannica from A-Z.)
- It’s All Relative (He throws the largest family reunion in the world. he’s my cousin.)
- My Life as an Experiment
- And then Thanks a Thousand (He thanks 1,000 people for his cup of coffee in the morning. Just came out.)
The AJ Jacobs Formula for Writing a Bestseller
AJ has a unique writing style that turns all of his books into bestsellers.
They are funny, smart, and filled with stories.
So I wanted to break down “the formula” for how he creates and writes a book.
And then why they become bestsellers.
A) HIGH STAKES
Pick a high stakes idea: religion, health, family, knowledge… gratitude.
B) PUT YOURSELF IN THE STORY
Don’t just write an academic text on the benefits of gratitude.
Or what it would mean to live a Biblical life for a year.
Or the history of Encyclopedia Britannica. Or the benefits of knowing your family tree.
Put yourself in the story:
AJ LIVED a Biblical life exactly according to the rules of the Bible in The Year of Living Biblically (which became a TV show).
AJ READ the Encyclopedia Britannica from A-Z in The Know-it-All.
AJ THANKED 1,000 people in his latest book, even traveling to Columbia to thank the farmers of the coffee beans.
AJ OUTSOURCED his marital arguments to an outsourcing firm in India in My Life as an Experiment.
When you put yourself in the story, you get thousands of anecdotes along the way. Document them. Take the most interesting and funniest moments and now there’s a book.
C) GO EXTREME
Where’s the line?
If you want knowledge, don’t just take a class. READ THE ENTIRE ENCYCLOPEDIA.
If you want to feel gratitude, don’t just think it. Don’t just say “thank you”.
Personally thank the people who made the lid on the cup of coffee. The people who provided the water, the oil, the trucks, the coffee sleeves, etc.
When is too extreme?
This is where humor starts to come in. Should he thank Beyoncé for being on the speaker in the coffee store? Should he “stone” an adulterer in the Year of Living Biblically?
The comfort zone is there for a reason. It’s comfortable.
But AJ goes where it’s not comfortable. The extremes on these high stakes ideas. Then he documents the results on himself and his family and the people around him.
The result: Funny stories, almost unbelievable, crazy, knowledgeable (because he’ll also consult the experts to learn more about where the extremes are).
Example: In the Bible, it says a man can’t sit in the same chair as his wife if she is having her period. So AJ would avoid his wife’s chairs.
His wife, commonly referred to as Saint Julie, sat in every chair in the house when she began her period.
So AJ bought a fold out chair and carried it with him so she couldn’t sit in it.
Result: Knowledge of the Bible, AJ experiencing the story directly so he could write about it (“show” don’t “tell” is the best writing advice), and… it’s funny and crazy and a bit creepy.
Result: A New York Times bestselling book.
D) THE ARC OF THE HERO
AJ is an ordinary guy.
- He gets inspired (the “call to action”) to live a high stakes concept at the extreme.
- Meets enemies and allies along the way.
- Confronts bigger and bigger problems at the extremes.
And then returns to share the knowledge.
Every famous story in history has this arc.
That’s why every one of AJ’s books are bestsellers.
Are you ready to write YOUR bestseller?
I believe everyone has at least one good book in them.
So I created a course dedicated to helping you unlock your potential. I guide you through the entire process, from writing to publishing…