I receive a number of email newsletters. A few I subscribed to. Most I somehow got subscribed to.

(You know the drill: You respond to someone's email... only to realize a few days later they automatically signed you up for their newsletter... so naturally you unsubscribe... and then they email to ask why you unsubscribed... and then you feel bad, and go ahead and re-subscribe... even though you shouldn't feel bad because after all, they signed you up.)

(Or maybe that's just me.)

I rarely read the newsletters I receive, even those I subscribed to. 

But there is one I always read: Robert Glazer's Friday Forward.

Robert is also a fellow Inc. columnist, but that's not why. Most newsletters are, at best, thinly-veiled advertisements for whatever the individual wants to promote, no matter how much theoretically helpful information also try to include.

Friday Forward is different. All you get is an essay. No lists of articles, no products Robert recommends, no hundred year-old motivational quotes... just genuine food for thought.

Like, for example, this one on gratitude.

Robert's newsletter makes me think -- and also makes me think about why so few newsletters are worth reading. 

So I asked him about it.

You originally started writing those just for your employees.

I started sending a note to our team. I called it "Friday Inspiration." I just managed it through my email, and I had no idea if anyone was reading it.

But then people started to email back and say they looked forward to it. So I told some other CEOs about it. I said, "I've been writing to the team. It's good for me, it seems to be good for them... you should try it. I'll send you mine and you can augment it." 

Some people wrote their own, but most just forwarded it. And they told me they got great feedback.

So I decided to make it an email newsletter.

Since it would be external and not just internal, and that meant a different audience, were you tempted to change the approach or format?

No. I wrote it the same way. All I changed was opening it up as a newsletter.

That was the first flywheel moment. People started sharing it, started sending it around their companies... were basically acting as distribution points. The redistribution effect was a major factor.  

People said, "Why are you doing this? Where's the connection to your business?" There isn't a direct connection. If you just focus on quality and creating value, the opportunities come. I've never tried to benefit commercially from the newsletter.

I just try to write the best post I can every week. 

That's a mistake lots of people make; they think anything without a message and a call to action is a waste of time.

Most marketing is self-promotional. But when you're giving, the gift should always be about the recipient.

An object with your name on it is not a gift. It's marketing material.

So I focus on trying to make the most impact for the people who read it. That's the reward. That's why I spend the time on it.   

That's probably the biggest lesson. Don't force it. Do what you enjoy doing... and good stuff will come.

But you're not always writing sugar plums and fairies posts.

Kim Scott of Radical Candor talks a lot about challenge plus connection. Friday Forward is not Chicken Soup for the Soul. I like to be pushed. So I sometimes push people to be uncomfortable.

For example, I told a story where a speaker at a conference said, "Hearing you have potential is cute when you're five or ten years old. When you're forty, hearing you have potential is an insult." 

It hit me that I had told forty-something year-olds they had potential. That didn't feel great. But that's how you grow. When you've made a personal connection, that's when you can challenge people -- in a good way.

Occasionally people will say to me, "You write and speak a lot about self improvement. You must think you're perfect." Hardly. I talk about growth a lot because there are an endless number of things I can do better.

(Laughs.) Me too. I think I'm maybe a half to two-thirds of where I would like to be. It's an evolutionary process.

Take my professional life. Part of growing the business and taking it to places I've never been means I need to reinvent and learn and do things I've never done. That's basically a job requirement.

And that means I'll never be where I want to be.

As a company, it's the same thing. We're 70 percent of where we could be... and the problem, if you want to call it that, is that the goal post keeps moving. When you're growing at 20 or 30 percent a year, you're going to break a lot of things -- and as soon as you solve something, the goal post moves. 

For some people that's fun. For others, it's frustrating.

That's part of our culture. If you think that's fun, this is a great place to work. If you think that's stressful... this isn't the right place.

What we are, what we do, who our people are... all that forces us to keep doing things differently.

I don't like to do things the same for two years in a row. If our business wasn't providing that, I would need to scratch that itch somewhere else.

And really that's what Friday Forward is all about. We're all growing. We're all evolving. We're all trying to do things differently, to do things better, to become better people... it's a never-ending process.

Building your own capacity, increasing your capacity to lead, setting goals, sharing goals, setting goals... all that translates into happiness, engagement... life is a lot more fun when you focus on more than just keeping your nose to the grindstone.

Friday Forward is an extension of that. Really it's just version of my personal journal. When I find stories and share it's not because I have all the answers -- it's because those are things I'm struggling with. 

And trying to improve.

Published on: May 23, 2018