#51: Dickie Bush [Feedback Loops]
Building an audience, product, and community in less than one year
Dickie Bush is a macro investor and the creator of Ship 30 for 30, a community of writers developing a writing habit in 30 days.
He is passionate about providing writers and creators with the tools, resources, processes, and mindsets required to find points of leverage and achieve exponential growth—both personally and professionally.
In this episode we talk about Dickie’s humble newsletter beginnings, his experimentation with Twitter, the growth of Ship 30 for 30, and why listening to feedback loops has helped him turn the flywheel of growth so quickly.
Dickie Bush is a macro investor and the creator of Ship 30 for 30, a community of writers developing a writing habit in 30 days.
He is passionate about providing writers and creators with the tools, resources, processes, and mindsets required to find points of leverage and achieve exponential growth—both personally and professionally.
And he is an adamant believer in the power of building a daily writing habit.
click to view episode transcript
Dickie Bush 0:00
So as we finish up that cohort, people are calling it life changing. They're saying they're sleeping better their stresses are, they're not even talking about writing. They're just saying, this became a keystone habit in my life that improved everything.
Jay Clouse 0:14
Welcome to Creative Elements, a show where we talk to your favorite creators, and learn what it takes to make a living from your art and creativity. I'm your host, Jay Clouse. Let's start the show.
Hello, welcome back to another episode of Creative Elements. I'm grateful to have you here with me once again, spending the next hour or so together. You know, I have a unique challenge with this show. Let me bring you behind the scenes here for a moment, when I bring on a really high profile creator. I know that episode will do really well in terms of listeners, new subscribers, all the numbers that I measure. But what I really want to do with this show is helping you earn a living from your art and creativity. And most of the time, it's not actually the highest profile creators who I think provide the best path forward for you or for me, because creators with the biggest names are often people who have been doing this for a long time. And it's that length of time that not only has helped them to build a public profile, but also means that the way that they broke through isn't necessarily an option for you and me. So lately, I find myself trying to interview more and more creators who started or found success on their journey much more recently. Which brings me to today's guest, Dickie Bush.
Dickie Bush 1:40
What I do full time is a portfolio manager at a hedge fund. So I spend most of my day predicting the global economy and it sounds a lot cooler than it feels sometimes. But outside of that I like to write and share ideas online via the Written Word.
Jay Clouse 1:58
If you spend any time on Twitter, chances are you've come across one of Dickie's tweets over the last few months. And if not his tweets, almost certainly a tweet related to his Online Writing Program, Ship 30 for 30. Ship 30 for 30 is built to help you create a habit of writing online through what Dickie calls Atomic Essays.
Dickie Bush 2:18
Atomic means the fundamental building block of everything else. So an atomic idea, I say that podcasts and books are just collections of atomic ideas, a podcast if you sliced and diced it would be there talking about five or six different things. And instead of seeing it as a podcast conversation, I see it as six atomic ideas that could be talked about in 100 different podcasts. So you kind of separate the not superficial but like the people talking to what is actually being said here. And how can I, you know, form an essay based on a bunch of atomic ideas. So I see it, it's just as small as you can get and separating the content from the medium.
Jay Clouse 3:00
Through Ship 30 for 30, Dickie teaches people to distill these ideas into short essays expressed in under 250 words. And instead of writing weekly, you write them daily, every day for 30 days. 30 atomic essays written in 30 days. And while doing this on the side, Dicky has created quite a movement. It's hard to log on to Twitter these days and not see someone sharing one of their atomic essays in the iconic Ship 30 for 30 as a template. Dickie himself has built his Twitter following from near zero in August 2020 to over 10,000 at the time of this interview, to now nearly 21,000 at the time of this recording. And what's really impressive about Dickie as well here in this interview, is none of this was by complete chance. All along the way. He had theories he put them into practice, took a critical look at the outcome and double down on the things that worked along the way. So in this episode, we talk about Dickie's humble newsletter beginnings, his experimentation with Twitter, the growth of Ship 30 for 30 and why listening to feedback loops has helped him turn the flywheel of growth so quickly. This conversation was a blast and absolutely flew by. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram @JayClouse and find Dickey on twitter @DickieBush, take a screenshot tag us let us know that you're listening. But now, let's hear from Dickie.
Dickie Bush 4:32
So I've graduated from college two years ago and went right into finance. And so I was a financial engineering and computer science major in college and was actually the last thing I wanted to do was write interestingly enough, and I didn't take any writing classes or really any liberal arts and I regret not taking some of those classes. As I look back on my college experience, I think I issued the idea of doing any kind of history or philosophy or writing just because I was math and tech net and that was it. But so my interest in finance definitely came first. But the more I dove into the form of finance, I realized how effective writing is just to clarify your thinking and kind of share your point of view. And so that was really the Genesis, it was definitely finance first and then writing.
Jay Clouse 5:23
Tell me more about that. How does writing help clarify your thinking in financial world.
Dickie Bush 5:27
So when I joined, it was you're inundated with information, emails, people reaching out to you, you know, street research all this and it's all written, right. And so your email inbox just is lit on fire. And so I said, There's got to be something to this. And the more I kind of dug into it, it was writing is the only way to take all of that information and put it back out to see what either is sticking or what makes sense. And so I started as I was consuming all this information, both in the real world, from podcasts and books and things like that. But also in while I did full time, it was like this unifying feeling of the only way I can start to understand these things is when I write them down. And so that was still to this day, the reason I write anything is usually it may come off that I understand it. But it's really, for me to understand it myself.
Jay Clouse 6:21
What does this look like? I'm thinking especially like in what seems to be like a kind of technical, scary world of finance. What does it look like for you to write things down to understand yourself? Are you like stream of consciousness talking to yourself? Are you trying to repeat back what you what you read.
Dickie Bush 6:36
It's a little bit of everything I like I keep a journal for and this is so fun to talk about. Because I've never talked about my writing through the lens of finance, I keep a trade journal where any kind of things that I interact with the market, I write down what I was thinking at the time, kind of a decision making log that I'm able to look back on, I have basically in this is the same for writing what I mostly write about versus what I write about at work, it's finding a forcing function to force you to understand that information. And so I had like a write an internal newsletter that I sent off the people there where every Friday, I kind of summarize what happened that week. And by writing it down, that's forcing me to either think through it and you have that forcing function. And the same thing as with my weekly newsletter, I actually have to interact with the things that I'm consuming. And then the natural result is you just understand it better.
Jay Clouse 7:30
I totally agree with this, I had the same realization I did the first year where I realized that it was important to me, I wrote everyday for a year. And what I realized was what you're saying, you have these constant interactions with the world around you all the time. And they're shaping your behavior and your thought patterns. But until you force it into the technology of the English language, you don't actually understand how they're shaping you and doing things. So I totally agree with that. I hear all the time that people in finance investors especially, they'll take notes on decisions that they made and why they made them, it makes sense, because then you can revisit that and make your decision making them stronger. But do people actually have like a consistent pattern of Okay, I'm gonna read my logs from two years ago, or is it like, there's some stimulus that says, Okay, I'm going to see what I said about this decision specifically.
Dickie Bush 8:22
I think the ideal scenario is you have something, some kind of regular practice where you go revisit it. And I think it's an idolize thing where, you know, I take all these notes, and every time I write it down, I'm like, Oh, I can't wait to get right back through this in three months when I really need it. Do I end up looking at them all the time? No. And sometimes I feel this guilt of like, I've written all these things down that I'm not revisiting that I said I would, but I, my kind of, you know, mental model or framework around this is just in time versus just in case where I know it's gonna be there, if I need to go back to it. But I don't need to reread things just in case, I miss something. It's what we underestimate is the power of search for all these note taking tools, and your brain is pretty good. It's thinking like, Oh, I think I remember saying something about that. And you just search and it does a good enough job of resurfacing so I don't have like a regular practice. But ideally, I would maybe we'll get there.
Jay Clouse 9:18
So you were writing internally, first that your finance job. What happened that you started sharing externally more publicly, you're writing generally.
Dickie Bush 9:27
So I came into it was 2020. And I'm super into just health and wellness and growth and at the time was just self improvement. I, I played football in college and played center and was 280 pounds when I played and coming out of that I kind of had to make a choice. And I like to say I was either going to 180 or 380 whatever decisions I made at the time, so I was kind of really into habits and just improving. I really had to kind of rewrite my life's operating system because for my entire life it was get as big and as strong as you can and that's all that matters. And then I stopped playing football and it's like, oh, wait, you can't do that in the real world and be, you know, a functioning member of society for the most part. And so I was just reading and consuming this information. And it goes back to I wasn't feeling like I was putting enough into practice. And so coming into the year I met Khe Hy, who's one of the he's the founder of RadReads. And I met him at a New York City happy hour that he was hosting for his newsletter subscribers. And he said, straight up to me write a newsletter every week for 52 weeks and watch it change your life. And I said, that sounds like a good thing. Like, what should I write about? He's like, Well, what do you consume? Like, what do you do? I'm like, Well, I listened to a lot of podcasts and read a lot articles, like just start sharing those with a little snippet. And see what happens.
Jay Clouse 10:48
I wanted to cut in here at this full circle moment, because back in Episode Number 29, of Creative Elements, I talked with Khe Hy, and we spent a lot of time talking about his own journey into writing while working on Wall Street. And for Khe, it was writing a newsletter that changed his life.
Khe Hy 11:05
I was sitting on a beach. I still was employed January of 2015. And I had some time because I was on vacation. And I just I always love to read random internet stuff. And I found five articles Keith Reblock article and Adam Grant article Mark Maron interviewing Louis CK, shows you were in a different time. And I shared this five links just to 36 people in a BCC Gmail. So I had that thing going on. And people liked it. And I was probably, you know, six months into into the newsletter, zero months into quitting. And people were just like liking and I think that was, that was something that was really good for me. Because I'm a very type A post organized person, like, I need to always have something that I'm working on. And so it gave me a canvas. And that was the magical thing about the newsletter is like the newsletter became a canvas of like, really like a creative canvas.
Dickie Bush 12:02
You know, I did that for the first 30 weeks of the year. And that was the real genesis of my writing. From there, I started a blog, and then we can get into like, the acceleration that has kind of happened in the last few months. But it all kind of started publishing it weekly newsletter to I think I wrote 26 additions and had 55, 56 subscribers. And I think I signed up every single one of them. But I just committed to doing it for a year and said, I'll see where this takes me.
Jay Clouse 12:32
Where did it take you? How did things change?
Dickie Bush 12:34
So I was publishing a weekly blog post up until maybe September and still writing my newsletters. And I just felt this lack of growth, it was it the early months of running line or lonely. If you do it the way I was doing it, which was publishing, kind of to the quote unquote playbook, a weekly blog post, I mean, I here I am sweating over a hot keyboard on Sunday mornings, thinking every word needs to be perfect to what would eventually be read by about 55 people. And you know, the number of them that I sent it to is probably half, right. And so it's this idea of, I was just kind of frustrated in August, where I got frustrated. And I said I have all these things that I think I want to write about. And I have all these things that I think people want to read about. But I have no clue, because I don't have any data or any feedback. So I stopped publishing so much on my blog and said, I'm just going to start sharing ideas on Twitter. And Twitter, to me is the ultimate idea of refinery, where you share one idea. It's everyone will forget about it if it's not any good, but people will interact with it if it is good. So you can just share a ton of ideas and get immediate feedback. So that's what I started doing. I said, Okay, in August, I'm going to tweet 30 times a week on whatever I was interested in. And at the time it was, you know, health relationships, wealth, values, habits, those kind of things.
Jay Clouse 14:01
That was a literal benchmark you set out for yourself. 30 tweets this week.
Dickie Bush 14:05
Yep, six tweets a day for five days a week, I went from writing a weekly blog post that took three hours to sitting down and saying, I'm going to write 30 tweets sharing 30 ideas that I think people want to read about. And I think I want to write about, right. And so from there, it's okay, I published 30 tweets.
Jay Clouse 14:23
One more clarification. And was this like, Hey, I'm thinking about writing about this?
Dickie Bush 14:26
No, it was more of the kind of the platitude style tweets where it's like you tried to distill an idea like I would talk about what a good morning routine looks like, or you know, how to be consistent in your relationships, things like that, like little nuggets of value that people scroll across and say, Oh, that's useful.
Jay Clouse 14:45
After a quick break, Dickie breaks down how he grew his Twitter account from zero followers in August of 2020. To now over 20,000 and April of 2021. And later we dig into how he created his very popular Ship 30 for 30 writing challenge. Right after this
Welcome back to my conversation with Dickie Bush. When we left off, Dickie told us that he had set his own benchmark of 30 tweets per week, six tweets per day may not sound like much. But if you've ever tried it, you probably realize how quickly you may run out of ideas. So I wondered how Dickie kept up with that pace of creating new ideas? And his answer was pretty ingenious.
Dickie Bush 15:24
While I take the five areas I'm interested in, which was health, wealth, relationships, content creation, and then just regular personal growth. And I had these like six or seven values that have been fundamental to me, which are consistency, leverage, efficiency, momentum, things like that. And I just had a random number generator. And I would pair up random pairs and then forced myself to write on it. So I like eliminated this, this creative can or created this creative constraint and said, okay, you have these two, you're going to write on it. And what I did was, I wrote every single one of them down in a notion database, shared all 30 of them. And then at the end of the first week, I came back and said, which one of these ideas one did I enjoy sharing, and two did people interact with and I had, at the same time to kind of get more eyeballs on what I was tweeting, I was summarizing every single podcast episode I listened to into a thread. And that would take me an extra 45 minutes every time. But I went from zero followers at the beginning of August to 600 at the end of August, right? So I had more eyeballs on these ideas, right? I accelerated a little bit, because I had a thread get picked up by the fall. And then just like that, the feedback loop rapidly accelerates, right, I have twice as many eyeballs, share the ideas, etc.
Jay Clouse 16:42
Where you batch creating the tweets, and then you kind of schedule them out or put them out six a day for five days.
Dickie Bush 16:49
Exactly. It's exactly what I did. And that was my sacred writing process. For those six weeks, it really was where I sat down for two hours on Sunday, and I wrote them out. And because of what I do full time, I just couldn't spend all day on Twitter, just for distraction purposes. So I just kind of scheduled them off and then came back in the, you know, I check in throughout the day, etc. But I couldn't be creative on what I was interested in sharing about on Twitter as much during the day. So yeah, I just scheduled them.
Jay Clouse 17:15
Going from like zero to 600 followers probably was like, life changing in a way. And I imagine it didn't happen immediately upon, you know, the first couple of weeks, right? So there's probably a point in time where you're like, Am I shouting into the void? Even on this strategy? How long did you give yourself for the strategy of 30 tweets a week to know if it was working?
Dickie Bush 17:36
I actually started a new Twitter account on August 1. And the reason I did that, and this is kind of tactical, but I was using a Twitter account that was 10 years old. And my social graph was all my friends from high school who were no longer using Twitter. And part of kind of the social discovery algorithm is who interacts with your stuff, who you're tagged with when all that and so when you went to my profile, and you said Who is this person, like it was 10 inactive accounts. So there was no way I was going to hitch on to any kind of organic growth. So I started a new account in August, and had some small following come over until I really started with like, 150. But that was kind of eye opening. It was like, Oh, I thought I had 700 800 followers. But here I am saying I'm making a new account, and I get 100 of them. Right. So I didn't start from nothing. I've been tweeting out my newsletter and things like that. Yeah. So that I didn't start from zero, but pretty close. I got lucky. I got very lucky. So here's basically what happened was I did it for four weeks. And I knew I was going to do it for at least a month. And I'm coming up at the end of the month. It's the end of August. And what I did was just sorted the tweets by likes and said, what happened here, like what ideas were interesting, but at the same time, I wrote a thread on Balaji Srinivasan and so I it's my still, I think it's my most popular thread. I think it has 2000 or 3000 likes on it. And it was just the way he sees the world. I listen to him on one podcast. And instead of summarizing one episode, I listened to five, and then put all his worldview together. And I tweeted out at 7pm, I went to bed, woke up. Naval had liked it. And I went from 600 to 1300 Twitter followers and from 300 to 700 newsletter subscribers because I put my newsletter at the bottom. And so I like to say it was it took me 35 weeks to go to 200 newsletter subscribers in 12 hours to triple from there. So I definitely got lucky kind of with one of those threads. But I say I got lucky but I wrote 25 threads before that they got no engagement, right so it's lucky when it shows up but it comes from that consistency.
Jay Clouse 19:47
And threads are no joke. You said it took you 45 minutes each and that's what hangs me up all the time because I'm like, Okay, I know I can write and I know I can take some of the stuff that's more long form and craft it into a native tweet, or even my own podcast episode. I could turn into tweets and make something useful. But it takes so much time, how do you do it?
Dickie Bush 20:05
I got very good at taking notes, listening to podcasts at two times speed on a morning walk. And it's a knack that I developed. But when you have the lens of I'm turning this into six tweets, podcast kind of changed how you listened to them, you stopped listening for a conversation, and you started listening for kind of atomic ideas that could fit in one tweet. And as I would listen to it, I'd say, Oh, that's one, three bullet points underneath, boom, that's a draft of a tweet, I can craft that later. Right? So it was kind of I really enjoyed taking just long walks. And so it was finding a way to kind of write while I did that saved me a lot of time.
Jay Clouse 20:44
So you're having this success with your your Twitter strategy? How did your writing strategy change then outside of Twitter.
Dickie Bush 20:52
So I saw the beauty of having a tight feedback loop for sharing ideas. And so I actually wasn't writing blog posts during that month of August and September. And what I realized when I came back was, I had been writing these long form posts on things that I wasn't even sure if I wanted to write about. And so these tweets were almost small bets of total upside if people resonated with the idea. So at the end of those two months, I again, had more clarity on what I wanted to write about, which was just kind of growth in optimization in general. But the same time now I had these tweets. But I had all these ideas. Now that felt too short for blog posts, but too long for tweets. So I needed a new medium that kept the same feedback loop type. And at the time, I saw people were doing this 100 essays in 100 days on Twitter. And I thought, I really want to do that I want to accelerate this feedback loop, the same way that I did with my Twitter strategy. So I just started writing small screenshot essays, which I call atomic essays every day. And that was the genesis of Ship 30, obviously.
Jay Clouse 21:59
Explain what a screenshot essay is, for folks who are listening to this and haven't seen it.
Dickie Bush 22:03
So if you, you could picture, when you read a anything on your phone, you're gonna have to scroll. But on Twitter, you can't consume content that you scroll through, like a thread, it's not very continuous. And they're supposed to be small. But you can use kind of either Figma or Canva, and create what we call an atomic essay template. And you basically put all the text on one screen, one screenshot. And so when someone opens the image, they're able to read the entire thing without scrolling. And it's just like a different medium of content consumption on Twitter, which I think is why it stands out.
Jay Clouse 22:41
Yeah, it's really interesting. And you doing that, and the folks that you worked with through Ship 30 for 30. Doing that is the first that I really saw across the platform. And it seems kind of counterintuitive, right? Because Twitter is really optimized for written texts, and even threads are introduced to say, Okay, we'll give you more space for this. So it's surprising to me how well the algorithm seems to favor an image that is almost holy texts.
Dickie Bush 23:07
So I think it's, it stops people in their tracks a little bit. And I think that's what it breaks up the straight text narrative, or kind of whatever you are, when you're on Twitter, it's same thing, same thing, same thing. And like, you can just scroll through everything and not pay attention to it. What atomic essays do Is it just kind of breaks up the monotony of Twitter. And at the same time, you can learn how to be a copywriter as well, because you are getting someone to first stop scrolling, and then to click on your essay and then read it. Right. So it's like this three pronged process for improving as a writer that you get to do all in one. So that no part of it is Oh, I wrote a great essay. But now I need to make sure people read it because it's easy to scroll right past something on Twitter. And I think people do plenty on right. So it's kind of a two part game there.
Jay Clouse 23:55
So you were doing this yourself for your account, did you make yourself your own Figma template.
Dickie Bush 24:00
So I was using just taking screenshot of a text editor. And from there, it was like day seven. And I realized I could not do this anymore. It was hard to write and publish every day. And I'd been a big study or have James Clear and atomic habits, and I knew the one thing that makes habits easier is community accountability. So I said, I need to find some other people to do this with me, which was the genesis of Ship 30.
Jay Clouse 24:29
And how did you find those first handful of people or how did you approach them and tell them about this idea?
Dickie Bush 24:33
So I spun up a this was really Okay, I need to find people to write with me, how do I do this? And I spun up a landing page, a type form and said, I said Ship 30 for 30 join me on a 30 day writing challenge. Didn't say like, I just need you to write with me. It was, you know, okay, I think people are going to be interested in this because people kind of resonated with the few essays that I had shared already. And then so I put out that email form and a couple people picked it up. And I I'm in compound writing, which is a writers group and they put it in their newsletter like this is a cool idea as well. And we have like 285 email signups in the first two days. And I said, Okay, like, this is gonna be a lot more than I thought at, but we're clearly on to something. So we got started three days later, we were going, we just spun it up, put through everyone in a Slack channel to go. Who's we? Me? I guess we, I guess we is me I so I, I kind of spearheaded just the Okay, we, you know, I guess I just talked in the second person too much. But I spun up a Slack channel and threw everyone in it and said, Okay, here's the challenge we're doing every day for 30 days. And we're just kind of off and running. And that was an instrumental process, which is having that first cohort of people because I learned so much about Okay, what does it actually mean to run a community? What's it mean to build a writing habit? What do these people actually struggling with? And this goes back to the feedback loops, I got an insane amount of data of like, what do people actually struggle with here? And then from there, we just kind of kept building.
Jay Clouse 26:06
It sounds like that first cohort was just like a free community who wants to do something, right.
Dickie Bush 26:11
So it was 50 bucks, and you got your money back if you completed the challenge.
Jay Clouse 26:15
Dickie Bush 26:16
And so that was the original and which was an absolute nightmare to deal with logistically of like, okay, I believe you like it, I'll send you your PayPal back. I'm, I'm using like a PayPal pool trying to do all this things, super things that didn't scale. And, but I mean, we had 60 something people. And I'm like dealing with Pay Pal's, and all this and just now what I needed to be doing at the time, but it worked out. And I think we had half the people complete the challenge, which is good.
When we come back, Dickie talks about the next steps he took with Ship 30 for 30 and how it's grown to nearly 300 members within each cohort. So stick around, and we'll be right back.
Jay Clouse 26:54
Welcome back. With his first ever cohort of Ship 30 for 30, Dickies feedback loop was beginning to tell him that something was working. After all, half of the people involved finish the intense 30 Day Challenge.
Dickie Bush 27:08
So it was, clearly we're onto something. And I witnessed the power of writing every day for 30 days, both personally and seeing it in other people. So as we finish up that cohort, people were calling it life changing, and they're saying they're sleeping better their stresses are, they're not even talking about writing. They're just saying, this became a keystone habit in my life that improved everything, someone wrote me a message and saying my relationship with my wife is is better because of this. I said, Wow, this is good. This clearly transcends this whole thing. And so I felt very passionate right away of, I need to get more people to do this. So from there, it was okay, we're onto something, I just need to get this out in front of more people. And I went on just a content binge, and took my atomic essay, instead of writing atomic essays every day. During that time I wrote threads, which got a little bit more engagement and where you're able to kind of link things together a little better. And I've wrote 20 threads in two weeks on how to build a writing habit, why you should start running online. What the biggest troubles were I got really good at kind of pointing out the problem of Okay, what is it that they struggle with consistency, finding people to do it with them, thinking that every piece of content has to change the world, all those things that you just kind of talk about and get in the conversation that people are having with themselves of, oh, that's exactly what I'm struggling with. And then you kind of put we position Ship 30 is a solution and solve all of those problems that early writers face.
Jay Clouse 28:39
Well, right after the end of the first cohort? Did you say to yourself, this is going to become a paid product? Or do you say this is interesting? I'm going to think about this for a while I'm going to go back to writing on my own, like, how did you come to the decision to do another cohort and name the thing and those bigger decisions?
Dickie Bush 28:55
I think it was people wanted to keep going. And what's so great about Ship 30 is everyone who participates in it becomes a marketing asset for the challenge, right? Because they're just doing it in public. So we had a lot of inquiries of people reading these essays saying, Oh, I want to do this, I want to do this. How do I sign up? How do I sign up and we throw up an email capture form instead of a signup form? And that had 400 or 500 people in it? So you know, the the flywheel nature of it was huge. And so from there, I was like, okay, clearly, people want to do this. People want to pay for something where they learn and feel more accountable because clearly what they've done in the past hasn't worked. And they're looking for a solution. And so from there was this clearly a market for this and let's just build it.
Jay Clouse 29:40
This nature of customers being your best marketers also because they're doing this in public is one of the most remarkable aspects about this as like a business and as a product as I see it. Was that predictable to you? Did you design that in or is that just kind of like a pleasant surprise?
Dickie Bush 29:57
It was almost a realization when I started the next cohort seeing how many people found out about it just from people doing the challenge. And I said, Okay, there's clearly a bit of a flywheel here are the more people that do it, the more people that are successful, they're going to share it. There's success stories. And so it was kind of a, whoa, I didn't mean or intentionally create it. But when I saw it, I said, Okay, there's clearly a flywheel in motion here.
Jay Clouse 30:22
As you have more cohorts, what is the growth in enrollments been like?
Dickie Bush 30:28
So the first one, we had 55. And the second one, we had 171. And then we had 270, in the most recent, and right now we're on track, probably to do around that 270 mark. But I think we raise the price on this one to keep the cohort at a certain size that I don't think we could do more than than 250, which is, you know, just I think you lose out on some of the community benefits when you get too large for something like this, I think.
Jay Clouse 31:01
And why is the community important for this.
Dickie Bush 31:04
the habit building technique that we took from James Clear on this is, you want to find a community, where you have both accountability and your behavior matches that of the tribe, where sticking to something is very easy when everyone else that you know and interact with is doing it. So the community aspect is the most important part. Because you wake up, and you don't feel like writing that day and you refresh our Twitter list and you see 200 others writing that day. It I got to write if if, you know, obviously there's 1000 different factors that can make someone right or not right, but it's just an additional forcing function that you don't get when you try to do it on your own.
Jay Clouse 31:42
How intertwined do you find Twitter to be in this experience, obviously, very closely related. But are there people who come into the program who are not on twitter at all? Who don't want to be on Twitter? Is it important that they're on Twitter?
Dickie Bush 31:54
If you look at our Google Analytics traffic, I think it's 85% of traffic comes from Twitter. And I don't know where the rest comes from. Maybe email, but I think almost every single person is founded on Twitter. And that's kind of the beauty of it is we encourage everyone to publish it on Twitter. And we actually have a lot of people who come into it are like, I don't have a Twitter account. And we say, we suggest you make one because Twitter is the place for a challenge like this, where you can get that feedback and interact with people. There's just no other platform where you can both write and interact with the things that other people are writing so easily.
Jay Clouse 32:28
Yeah, it's interesting. I've seen kind of a trend of a lot of writers who realize, Oh, I got to be on all those social things eventually. You know, James is an example. He puts his blog posts in his Instagram stories. Have you played around with that format? For Ship 30?
Dickie Bush 32:44
Interesting. No, we haven't we kind of stick to the one platform rule for now. And I think more it's interesting to see James Clear, I think James clear went to Instagram because he had almost a million subscribers and was running out of room on the other mediums. I think we have plenty of room to kind of to keep tackling Twitter for now. But Instagram could be interesting. But I like to say Twitter is Show me your mind, kind of thing. We're more conducive to ideas and less, you know, I would probably scroll past a lot of atomic essays on Instagram.
Jay Clouse 33:15
As a Ship 30 cohort is progressing. What are you looking at or measuring to know how well it's going or when to intervene or how to intervene.
Dickie Bush 33:24
So we have a couple things we look at the first is engagement in the circle community, we so we use Circle to manage the community. And it shows you everything like number of dm set, number of active users, we have a number of active users that come on to our atomicessays.com website to publish their essays. And we really just look for those to either look, there's going to be some natural kind of fall off. And we try to do everything we can to give people the resources of if they're struggling, you know, here are some prompts to use or if you're struggling, lean on your accountability partner, but there's naturally going to be some things but our goal is to have as many people completed and what we bookmarked just as last week, which day 15 out of 260, we counted roughly 160 in our Twitter list. So we're still publishing, which I felt pretty good about. It's about 60%. And then we are encouraging people to kind of get back in for these last few weeks if you fallen off, which we've already seen some success with.
Jay Clouse 34:20
You're still saying we, you still mean you?
Dickie Bush 34:22
So recently, I partnered with Nicolas Cole, who is one of the most prolific online writers across all platforms. He's been a top writer on Quora on medium is really a pioneer in the online writing space. And so I partnered with him at the beginning of this most recent cohort, we were introduced to one another and then he joined Ship 30 and started doing it and said, Wow, this is awesome. And we kind of started talking he has a book called The Art and Business of Online Writing, and he is far more versed than I am on the ins and outs of writing online. Whereas I am sharing my mistakes and lessons that I wish I knew just a year ago. And that I think, is some of the beauty of the internet, where you don't have to be a master or an expert to teach people, you have a natural audience of people who are just a year behind you on your journey, and you can share tons of wisdom with them. And the thing about the internet is, if you solve one person's problem, you're gonna solve 1000s. And so Cole, what he's doing is launching a follow on writing course to shepherd for 30 called write the ship, which is far more focused on actually writing in distribution and attention grabbing and kind of we say that if Ship 30 for 30 is getting your ship going, you can't steer a stationary ship. So you need to build that writing habit. And then once you're kind of churning, then and getting feedback, and you have data and you understand maybe this is what I want to write about, then you can focus on the quality of the content, which is what rights ship is going to do.
Jay Clouse 35:54
How did you know that? Or why did you decide that a partnership was the right direction, I feel like a lot of people in your shoes may have been kind of afraid to let somebody else into the thing that they had made and kind of felt like maybe they'd gotten lightning in a bottle.
Dickie Bush 36:10
So I knew that there was no way I was going to be able to teach anything beyond Ship 30 for 30. On the writing side, it was just an awareness that, you know, I am a average writer screamingly average. And I can't wait to learn more from Cole. But I'm good at communicating problems and sharing lessons with people. Right? So I knew from there, it was what what I really want. If I were in these same shoes, have I just completed a 30 day writing challenge. Now show me how the internet works. Now show me how you can repurpose content, show me how to gain more data from what I'm doing. Show me how to create a library of content, all that kind of stuff, I wouldn't be able to share or do anything with so would be like, you go through Ship 30 for 30. And then you stop. And there's nothing following up from there. So we really wanted to build a follow on and that was just the ideal partnership.
Jay Clouse 37:01
So has anything really changed? You know, like functionally from the first cohort?
Dickie Bush 37:07
Yeah, so the biggest changes now we have weekly office hours that kind of go through a lot of the things that we think people under appreciate with writing, you know, capturing attention, kind of giving more practical writing advice, kind of like the 80-20 of it. And But no, not too much has changed, we move from Slack to Circle because Slack got a little messy. But you know, the fundamentals of it have not changed.
Jay Clouse 37:32
I think all the time about the story at Facebook, when they realized there was like this magic of once you have seven friends on Facebook, the product is sticky. Have you noticed anything from behavior of shippers, that once they get to this milestone that habit is created or things really do seem to start rolling.
Dickie Bush 37:49
I do think that there is a lot of the amount of feedback and engagement you get early on, where if you write a couple, if you write two or three essays in the beginning, that kind of hit home runs in people in ship 30 that start out with small but not zero following are definitely at an advantage where they're just kind of steps ahead in that feedback loop. And, you know, part of what we say is, don't think about growth. So linearly, you have to think in kind of doubling terms. And going from two to four to eight to 16 followers can feel very slow. But when you realize it's a doubling time, you're just if you're at 600 versus 16, you're just like four or five doubles away. But that doubling time can be kind of long. So it is good to have some kind of basis. So the ones who've seen the most success, start with a small following, jumping to the challenge, and people kind of are unfamiliar with it, see them start writing it. And they get a lot of feedback and engagement. And that just kicks off the internal kind of motivational flywheel of like, oh, if I actually write every day, and share these ideas, people add, they're already resonating. And it just makes it easier.
Jay Clouse 38:59
Imagine as this has grown, it's taken up more and more of at least your mind share if not your actual time share. And so how are you wrestling with that tension between finance, economics, Dickey, and creator Dickey,
Dickie Bush 39:14
I wish I had a good answer for you. It's I do the best I can. It's kind of just a segmenting of the day, which is what the beauty of kind of markets are, they're closed a good amount of time. And so during the day, from 7am to 6pm, it's I'm completely focused on on markets. And then it's good because you can only stare at markets in the economy so long, because they don't move very quickly. And so it you do need to step away and refresh your perspective. So what's beautiful about doing both these things is they're orthogonal ways of thinking, where I don't have to think as hard about like second order effects and different quantitative ideas around finance and economics when I'm writing and so it doesn't feel like additional work because it's such a break.
Jay Clouse 40:00
Are you going to run new Ship 30 cohorts every month for the foreseeable?
Dickie Bush 40:04
No, we are going to do every not every month, but every six weeks because I need a nice two weeks in between we tried to do right back to back. And I think every six weeks is a nice games where I get to rest a little bit people get to rest a little bit, we have what's cool is we have a lot of people roll into the next cohort, or I think we had 20% of the last one rollover, and we're already kind of getting up there on this one. And they want a little bit of a break, too. But every six weeks feels like a good cadence for now.
Jay Clouse 40:34
How important do you find the like literal financial buy in if somebody's buying into this program to be for their follow through.
Dickie Bush 40:41
I would say from the anecdotal evidence I have of the people. If anyone reaches out looking for a student scholarship or parody pricing, I let him because I think it's something that you want to pay it forward and all that. But I will say I have not seen much follow through on the people that we've let in. Because it's just too easy to give up. If you don't have any skin in the game, there's a reason that people are willing to pay for it because they've tried everything else and realize that it's a very good forcing function.
Jay Clouse 41:13
Yeah, I saw that with my mastermind program, I see it with communities a lot too, especially paid communities are like, ah, but I really want this person and I guess I'll just give it to him for free. They have literally placed no value in it, they're not going to stick around, they're not going to act as if they value it. Right. So I believe that while the cohort is going, what does your time commitment, look out to the different things that the cohort itself needs? Where are you putting most of your time,
Dickie Bush 41:37
most of my time is just engaging with the essays on Twitter and making sure people are getting feedback that kind of keeps them going. And so I spend, I'd say most of my time either answering questions or tips on how to do this. And the other thing right on the circle channel, or just reading essays and saying, you know, just tossing them likes and things like that, where people feel like, okay, someone is reading this, someone's engaging with it. Yeah, that's where most of my time goes. And then office hours, of course, but that's only once a week.
Jay Clouse 42:06
This all seems pretty good. Seems like everything went according to plan and has been really successful. What's the thing that's really hard and scary and keeping you up at night?
Dickie Bush 42:16
I think it's when you realize when you have kind of ownership over a project like this, there is always more you can do. There's always something else you can do. I could spend all night engaging with every single person's essay, right? And I still would feel inadequate. It's the biggest struggle by far is that feeling of I want to provide value to everyone. But I know that it is an infinite game of if I tried, it's just impossible. There's a feeling of one I know I can always improve the product and the experience and the onboarding and, and the landing page and share more. And it's a never ending game. And getting comfortable with that I've done enough today is by far the hardest thing. But it's a good problem to have. I will say that.
Jay Clouse 43:03
Is there anything that I'm not asking that I should be asking?
Dickie Bush 43:07
I don't think so I could talk about just the beauty and leverage of sharing ideas on the internet. And that I still think to this day is has accelerated so quickly, and people don't understand it. And I love this idea of you and I are having a hour long conversation right now, that is going to be recorded and uploaded for over 2 billion people to have access to. I don't think that anyone on Earth has started to comprehend that you go back to Marcus Aurelius in ancient Rome, and he's having a conversation and he could have it with one person, if you wanted to communicate it to 100, he'd have to stand on top of a castle and shout it right? The idea that you can share a conversation, or an essay or anything infinitely. I don't think we can even our tiny human brains can't process it, which is why I feel so passionate about writing.
Jay Clouse 44:00
I know. And it's really easy to get lost in like the, but it's too late. What do you tell people who are like, Is it too late? And do I need to get more specific in what I'm writing? You know, what would you say to those people out there thinking about starting a writing habit?
Dickie Bush 44:13
So the first one, I would say, ask 100 of your high school friends if they're writing online, and I bet you get five maybe. And so that's the first one is what you think is it's too late. It's not even close. You're in the first inning, or seriously in the first inning of the I think you know creators online sharing ideas in recognizing I love this idea from James Clear, writing his leadership at scale, where your nothing will transcend kind of the if you have a good set of ideas and a unique experience and you aren't sharing that online, you're missing out on this unbelievable amount of kind of distribution. And as for niching down, I think you want to delay that as long as you Because you don't know what you want to write about, and you don't know what people want to read, and this goes back to the feedback loop, you want to share a ton of ideas, see what resonates with you and with others. And that's an overlapping Venn diagram, you dive into that Venn diagram and say, Okay, here's, you start with 1000 ideas, you find the 100, that resonate with you and others and you dive in, and then you share those 100. And from that 10 will resonate with you and resonate with others, and then you dive into those 10. And then you share those 10, you find three, and then who knows how long that process takes. But once you kind of have three or four core ideas, you find a way to say them in 1000 different ways. So don't worry too much about niching down in the beginning, because you don't know what the market wants and you don't know what you want. And so just get started.
Jay Clouse 45:47
I am super impressed with Dickie, with nearly 300 members and each cohort have Ship 30 for 30 in a price point of nearly $200 per person, you don't have to study the financial market to see how quickly that adds up. And if he runs Ship 30 every six weeks, that's around eight cohorts per year. It's really inspiring for someone who really started this journey in earnest less than a year ago. And yet you can hear from his demeanor in this interview. This is a really humble guy. Not only that, but he's genuinely trying to serve as many people as he can. He's not focused on the growth of the number of students. He's focused on student experience and helping people create a life changing habit. I've taken part and Ship 30 for 30 I highly recommend it and in fact, I am an affiliate of Ship 30 for 30 so if you want to start a writing habit or experience Ship 30 for 30 visit Jayclouse.com/Ship30. That link is in the show notes and it will save you $20 on the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30. And if you want to learn more, follow Dickie on twitter @DickieBush. Thanks, Dickie for being on the show. Thank you to Emily Clouse for making the artwork for this episode. Thanks to Nathan Todhunter for mixing the show and Brian Skeel for creating our music. If you liked this episode, you can tweet @JayClouse and let me know and if you really want to say thank you, please, please, please leave a review on Apple podcasts. Thanks for listening. I'll talk to you next week.