Working Hard to Not Work Hard
My conversation with Nik Göke - the writer behind Four Minute Books
Hey everyone 👋. This week I gained the trust of my 400th reader*. Thanks so much for your support. I’m two years into this project and there is still a lot I want to explore through my writing. If you’re new here, you can find my best writing here. If you’ve been here a while but missed the last newsletter, here's the previous edition, Writing Through the Dip.
How do you monetize your writing? How do you find alignment between work and creativity? What are the habits of a successful creator?
Eight years into his writing journey, he’s written hundreds of book reviews and published two of his own books. Pretty prolific to say the least.
Here are some highlights from our conversation.
Aligning work and creativity
Nik has never been formally employed and he never plans to be. “I’m probably unemployable at this stage,” he says jokingly.
From a young age, he knew he wanted to follow a creative path. He devoured books and enjoyed writing essays at school. But he also had other talents (in math and science) and like other young people looking for financial security, he ended up enrolling in a bachelor’s degree to study management and technology.
Creating something under his own name was always on his mind though. After completing his master’s and a short internship at BMW, he decided to give writing full-time a shot. “Luckily my parents were supportive of me and I had the degree to fall back on if all else failed. I gave myself a few months to figure out how to monetize."
He started writing on the platform Medium and became quite successful. Later on, he directed traffic to his own website, with the stunning tagline “I write for dreamers, doers and unbroken optimists”.
He earns a living from a mixture of revenue streams on Four Minute Books, like ads and affiliate deals, Medium posts, his own writing course, and the books he’s published. And he doesn’t think he’ll ever need to supplement his income with a job.
It’s great to see someone (1) have the confidence to follow their own path and (2) actually make it alone.
A day in the life of a full-time creator
Make no mistake, Nik still works hard, probably harder than the average 9-5er. He has just substituted working for someone else with working for himself.
He has impressive habits. “I try to write and publish my thoughts daily. In addition to this, I aim to put out one book summary every week, release a new YouTube video every Friday, and then there are several bigger projects on my radar.”
Because I've experienced the corporate and creator worlds myself, I had to know – does all the writing and time he puts into his passion eventually feel like a job? “Not really. I happily do this work because it stimulates me and it's better than any job I can think of.”
This attitude reminds me of a similar sentiment shared by one of my favourite authors Cormac McCarthy (RIP). In an interview with Oprah, McCarthy said his life’s work was to work hard at not working:
"Well, you have to be dedicated. [...] it was my number one priority. [...] you didn't wanna have a nine-to-five job. I thought you're just here once. Life is brief and to have to spend every day of it doing what somebody else wants you to do is not the way to live it."
Thanks tofor sharing the video originally.
Levelling up to books
In 2020, after five years of writing book reviews and blog posts, Nik decided to level up and write a book.
He first published The 4 Minute Millionaire: 44 Lessons to Rethink Money, Invest Wisely, and Grow Wealthy in 4 Minutes a Day, which compiles 44 lessons from 20 of history’s best books about money, finance, and investing. This was followed by 2-Minute Pep Talks: 67 Jolts of Inspiration for More Hope, Comfort, and Love in Any Situation - a collection of his best writing.
According to Nik, writing a book is like the Olympics for writers. “Books are writing’s final boss. Cranking out article after article is all fun and nice until it isn’t.”
I nodded my head in agreement, while secretly hoping to just get back into my weekly publishing cadence. No Olympics for me just yet.
He has a point though. There are benefits to having bigger, long-term ambitions. Another writer I admire, Nat Eliason, shared a similar reflection on X (still feels funny writing this instead of ‘Twitter’) recently. He expressed his fear that some of the best writers of our generation are stuck making tweets and newsletters instead of writing books. As Nat says:
“The longer form of writing you focus on, the slower you’ll see results. But the more durable those results will be.”
I like this plea to aim higher while recognizing the role shorter-form writing plays.
Nik wouldn’t be where he is now if it hadn’t been for his blog. Firstly, the shorter posts become the building blocks for his long-form writing. He could go back to old articles, see which themes and patterns emerge and repurpose them for his book. Secondly, by writing regularly he developed the writing habits necessary to sit and work away at a full-length book.
On the topic of writing habits, he has some sage advice.
So you want to become a writer?
Here are Nik’s 3 best tips for other writers:
Don’t niche down too soon. Try different things. Follow your curiosity. Don’t pigeonhole yourself if you don’t want to. Obviously, if there’s a topic that can make money or make you a subject matter expert, that’s something you can focus on. But generally, people are more interesting who write about a range of things and show different sides of themselves.
Set constraints. Nik promises a book review in 4 minutes or less. This means he caps himself at 1,000 words per post. This helps his readers - they know what they’re in for. And it helps him by forcing himself to compress his writing and keep only the most salient points. (Something I can definitely learn from)
Write every day. Nik tries to write (and publish) daily. This is inspired by one of his favourite writers, Seth Godin, who has this to say about the daily practice:
“Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it. There’s countless reasons why it’s a good idea and I can’t think of one reason it’s a bad idea.”
Thanks for a good time, Nik. Looking forward to more conversations and walks through Englischer Garten.
💬 Quote: If you’re ever scared about sharing your thoughts because you fear what other people think, remember there is a generation of young people looking up to you for guidance.
“Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you.” – J.D. Salinger
✍️ Essay I. To mother or not to mother by. Whether you agree with her view or not, you can’t help but admit to the beauty and fearlessness of her writing. She discusses multiple difficult topics like her choice not to give herself over to motherhood and her relationship with her mom with poise and grace. Thanks for encouraging the rest of us to write without fear, Haley.
✍️ Essay II. My Only Quota by. A magnificent essay I had the joy of editing. This should be required reading for anyone starting their career right now. His biggest point? Find a mentor. Find someone you can trust and learn from. Second point: don’t chase other people’s dreams. You will wake up one day realizing you’ve spent a lot of time and energy doing something that doesn’t motivate you. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, James.
⭐ Small win. I’ve been invited to present a drawing workshop to’s Small Bets Community in January. They have over 3700 members and it’s the first time I get to compress everything I know about visualization into a 90-minute lecture. This should be fun.
*Thanks tofor the beautiful phrase on earning trust. In a funny coincidence, he also crossed 400 readers last week.
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