While everyone was binge-watching Star Wars on May the fourth, I was getting ready for another interview.
The considerable difference between our setups was the first thing I noticed when Jake’s camera turned on. I was sitting in my room with an attention-seeking mandala in the background and used facemasks lying around. Jake’s background, on the contrary, was nicely set up, and he had a professional mic and headset — from his hobby as a pc gamer, he said.
After graduating from college, Jake worked in and for a few startups. It was an interesting experience, but he wanted to write more often. In June, he started freelancing.
For the first couple of months, he focused on reputation building and finding clients. By November, he had acquired multiple clients who pay him a flat rate per month. Now, he could relax and write daily, but he wasn’t happy with the output.
Being a productivity nut, he knew something wasn’t working.
He had heard about the flow state and thought it could help him stay focused. Concentrating was difficult with everything that was going on (COVID-19, I mean — in case anyone decides to put this in a time capsule and send it into outer space).
“Imagine your flow state as a muscle. With proper training, it will become stronger and more resilient. But when you don’t work out, it becomes weak and useless.”Jake Belford — Flow States On-Demand
What if he could learn more about flow and figure out how to write in flow every day? During his quest, he discovered that many know about flow but don’t understand it well. Was there a book opportunity?
Definitely. On 19 January, he decided to start writing. For the next few months, he wrote four hours daily. By 1 May, he was ready to hit publish after a total of about 300 hours.
When Jake first embarked upon his writing journey, he had this idea of writing a 350-page book. After a few weeks, he got stuck and realised this was too ambitious for his first attempt.
To find more clarity, he hired a writing coach, and he realised that if he wanted to write a book, he would need to keep it short. He reduced the outline and the content to around 100 pages.
Considering his goal again, he still wasn’t convinced about this target. Could he write 100 pages of helpful content? And besides, would people read those 100 pages over and over again?
Because that’s the goal. Jake reads the same 20-30 pages from Atomic Habits almost daily. He wanted to create something valuable that people come back to every single day. His book needed to be digestible, actionable and insightful.
After reducing more fluff, he reached about 45 pages. “Flow States On-Demand” wasn’t exactly a book anymore, but more like a manual for people who want more flow in their lives. Having read his book, you should feel like you always had the ability to find flow.
A bold sales move
Jake decided to sell his book on Gumroad for two reasons. First, Gumroad makes selling so easy it’s hard not to use it. Second, he’s a big fan of Sahil (Gumroad’s CEO) as a founder and writer. Especially Sahil’s framework for a good company speaks to his imagination.
Like all the author’s I’ve interviewed so far, Jake leads potential buyers to his book via Twitter. Additionally, he plans on creating a bigger audience via his new newsletter and podcast.
For now, he has an exciting marketing strategy. The first hundred buyers get a free call to talk about flow.
Hundred free calls. Sounds insane. Right? That’s 50 to 100 hours if everyone takes up the offer. When we talked, Jake had sold 32 copies. About 10 per day. If you hurry up, you might be lucky enough to grab one of the last free coaching calls.
Why this crazy decision?
Jake adores talking about flow. Friends have told him it’s helpful and powerful. Considering he could help them, he could also help other people. If he can change the life of only one of the buyers with his flow strategy, that’s all that matters.
Writing tips and secrets
Initially, Jake did his writing in Notion until two things happened. He discovered Roam, and a 20-minute writing session randomly disappeared from Notion.
From then on, he started writing in Roam and only used Notion to organise his thoughts. He switched to Google Docs for the final draft because it’s easier to share and put everything together.
Just like Ben, Jake writes first thing in the morning. He doesn’t set alarms, so he wakes up when his body is ready. But when it’s ready, it’s full of questions and answers. He needs to write them down to start his day. When he doesn’t write in the morning, he has a cloudy day.
“Writing is necessary to organise your thoughts,” he says, “but you only realise that when you start writing.”
Writing tips and solutions to excuses
- If you feel like you don’t have anything to say, you’re not consuming enough books or content.
- Writer’s block is no excuse. Write about what bothers you. Jake calls it “constructive complaining”.
- If there is a block at all, it’s called “outline block”. Just skip the outline and start writing. (This applies to shorter content; not a book)
- Write every day, and it will become easier.
- Define who you want to become to figure out what writing can do for you.
And his secret?
Jake says he’s obnoxiously curious. He thought that was a problem in the past, but now he discovered that it’s his superpower. Being curious makes you dig deeper and reach further than others.
Writing in a flow state
Flow shouldn’t be confused with deep work. You can do deep work while in flow, but not all deep work happens when you’re in the flow. Flow states tend to be shorter. And they can occur in all sorts of environments.
Both are exhausting, though. If you want to find flow states every day, you need practice. Flow is like a muscle. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll have a hard time finding flow. And if you somehow manage to find it daily despite unhealthy habits, it will deplete you.
“By making your goals identity-based and attainable, you create conditions that keep you in flow, constantly making progress.”Jake Belford — Flow States On-Demand
Finding daily flow is not impossible, though. People in high-stake environments dip in and out of flow all the time. Think of CEO’s, day traders, professional gamblers or emergency room doctors. It’s looks like an on and off switch for them, but it’s a muscle they’ve trained for years and years.
Ready, set, go!
Jake does his writing in multiple sprints. The first one is soon after he wakes up. This writing sprint can take two minutes, but it can also be a couple of pages. It depends on his mood.
For the rest of the day, he’ll try to add at least two more writing sprints of 25-45 minutes.
As I said, Jake’s also a freelance writer. So you may wonder how he combines both. He divides his week into client work and personal work. Some days are for client work; other days, for his projects, like his book.
I, too, have found that this is the best way to work. But it can be a struggle to apply this strategy. Good planning is required. And as you may remember, Jake got a writing coach who helped him a lot.
He’d get one again from the start for his next book, he says. And he would try to implement up to seven writing sprints per day.
With this strategy, he could have written “Flow States On-Demand” in under a month.
Jake’s favourite excerpt:
“A worthy goal makes it easy to access your flow state.
Worthy goals are (1) identity-based and (2) attainable.
A goal is identity-based exactly if it is part of who you want to be.
When you set identity-based goals, you aim to become someone, not achieve something. Contrast, “I want to be a better salesperson,” with, “I want to sell 100 units.”
The first goal is identity-based. The second goal is not. It has nothing to do with your new identity. It sounds like an arbitrary sales goal set by your manager.
A goal is attainable exactly if you can achieve it using the abilities you have.
Attainable goals are worthy because they are reasonable. It’s not worth pursuing an unreasonable goal. A reasonable goal, however, introduces challenges that allow you to use your skills and make progress. Contrast, “I want to run for 2 minutes straight without stopping,” with, “I want to run a marathon in 2 weeks.”
The first goal is attainable, the second is not. When your goals are reasonable, you are equipped to fight boredom and anxiety, which take us out of flow.”