25 Essential Books on Storytelling, Copywriting, and Marketing to Read

25 storytelling books

How do you teach yourself about storytelling? Why is it that some copywriters seem to nail it, while others flounder?

These were the questions I asked myself when I started first started my CAD drafting job in architecture. Fresh out of graduate school, far too many dollars in debt, and stuck behind the drafting table, I listened as clients and ideas moved in and out of the office.

I started to notice the same patterns happening over and over again: I saw brilliant designers and creative urban planners come up with strategies for re-designing cities — tools to change the ways buildings breathed and moved, how people interacted, how our public park systems worked — and I saw those ideas crushed, time and time again, under a lack of understanding.

The same things kept happening: during the presentation, ideas weren’t communicated in a way that resonated.

The same things kept happening: during the presentation with the client, the city, or the public agency, the ideas weren’t communicated in a way that resonated — and persuaded. Some people would get caught up in tiny details; others would miss the big picture. Sometimes a great idea got buried under the weight of myopic details.

In addition, your audience has different styles of decision-making. Some leaders make decisions immediately, swept up in ideas and willing to go along. Other leaders need to ruminate and process. Some folks want to believe that they’ve been the ones to come up with the idea.

The art of persuasion and conversation is its own art, its own field.

Knowing how to explain your idea in a way that is compelling, clear, and persuades others to adopt it (and give you money for it!) is no easy task.Tired designers kept arriving at brilliant solutions, and then faced the challenge of explaining themselves. Communication is the art of getting your ideas heard, shared, understood, and adopted. Designing and communicating are separate, but highly related fields.

I began to research communication, persuasion, and storytelling.

Over the past eight years, I’ve read more than 100 books on storytelling, persuasion, copywriting, content marketing, and designing presentations. From Edward Tufte’s books on information design to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, to the neuroscience behind storytelling. This year, I’ve compiled the top 26 books that I think every leader, communicator, thought leader and business owner should read.

This year, if you want to get better at communicating your visions, positioning yourself as a thought leader, and sharing your work in the world, you’ll need to elevate your storytelling, copywriting, and persuasion skills.

“If I ask you to think about something, you can decide not to. But if I make you feel something? Now I have your attention.” — Lisa Cron

If you want to up your game and grow your business, elevate your platform, or become a better storyteller — read these books. 

BOOKS ON PERSUASION + COMMUNICATION: 

1: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini. Influence is a science — it’s not magic; and Cialdini outlines six principles for how people relate to each other, socially, and why tools like reciprocity, scarcity, and liking affect how we interact with each other. It’s also delightfully fun to read.

2: The Elements of Persuasion: Use Storytelling to Pitch Better, Sell Faster, and Win More Business. Stories might seem simple, but understanding how to do them effectively is a skill to master. Maxwell and Dickman show examples of storytelling across every industry, outlining five basic components — passion, a hero, an antagonist, a moment of awareness, and transformation — that form the critical elements of a persuasive story, pitch, or speech.

3: HBR On Communication, by Harvard Business Review.  I haven’t picked up an HBR series book I haven’t liked — dense, packed with the latest research, yet distilled into essential tips, Harvard Business Review’s “10 Must Reads” lives up to its name. With essays on persuasion, influence, and understanding conversational style, I learned more about understanding gender dynamics and understanding leadership styles in 40 pages than I have browsing hundreds of internet click-bait links.

4: Trust Agents, by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. Destined to be a classic. How do people become online influencers? They do more than provide content: they establish valuable relationships, reputations, and utilize media to build trust relationships as leaders and agents in an increasingly interconnected, complex world.

5: How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ― Dale Carnegie.

“Often we don’t realize that our attitude toward something has been influenced by the number of times we have been exposed to it in the past.” ― Robert B. Cialdini

BOOKS ON WRITING:

As a writer, my favorite books on writing lean towards the introspective, the habit-building, and the people who devote time to this craft. Here are my favorites:

6: The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Want to tap into your inner voice? Julia Cameron leads a 12-week program that takes you through all the feelings you have while becoming a maker, a creative, an artist. Yes, you’ll get frustrated. Yes, you’ll get mad. Yes, stuff from your childhood will surface up. Cameron is here to guide you — and to remind you to play, because play is the outlet and source of creativity. Her “Artist Dates” remind me that exploring the world and documenting my thoughts is exactly what I should be taking time to do.

7: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield. What holds us back? Ourselves, of course. This pithy and succinct book details the enemy that we all deal with — inner resistance. Resistance shows up in every form, from convincing to conniving to flattering to maddening. How do you overcome Resistance? Simple: show up and work, bit by bit, day by day. Great on a shelf for a little reminder every few days.

“If you find yourself asking yourself “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?”, chances are you are.” ― Steven Pressfield

8: Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury. Here are three quotes from this book by legendary Ray Bradbury: “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” ― “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.” — “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” — Ray Bradbury

9: Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. A book on writing and life, and all the zany-crazy-personality quirks in between. Fluttering between self-deprecation and frank honesty, Lamott tells the story of the difficulty of writing and getting out of our own way. Humorous at times and painful at others, I have owned this book for more than 10 years and refer to it readily whenever I experience my own writers’ block.

10: Still Writing, by Dani Shapiro. Practical, wise, clever, and funny, Shapiro takes her 20-odd years as a writer and a teacher and tells the story of what it’s like to write. Each chapter is a new essay, a piece of advice, a glimmer into what she’s done. Wise and brilliant.

11: On Writing, by Stephen King. Writers writing about writing is so wonderful — you see their tools, ideas, and childhood and work, all mixed together in a story well told. Stephen King doesn’t disappoint.

12: Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon. This book is about making things, just making them — and about sharing them. It’s time that you promoted yourself in a way that’s authentic and normal to you, and that’s related more to you sharing the work that you’re making (however discomfortable) than it does being a master promoter.

“But now I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.” — Austin Kleon

STORYTELLING:

13: Resonate, by Nancy Duarte. This book is a foundation for designing visual presentations that have emotional clarity and pull. She diagrams (beautifully!) the Hero’s Journey and the structure of moving speeches, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Bill Clinton. I’ve read and re-read this book dozens of times and keep a copy at my desk for close reference.

14: Winning the Story Wars, by Jonah Sachs. A lot of books on storytelling are stuffy and academic; this is not. Sachs shows how mass media and brands are failing to tell great stories, and why it’s now a race for businesses to reconnect with the vital ingredients of storytelling — or risk being left in the dust. This book is a clear look at how marketing, business, and storytelling are all tied together.

15: Joseph Campbell: The Hero’s Journey. A seminal work on storytelling, Campbell created the Hero’s Journey, which dissects the structure of great mythologies across religions, contexts, and time. Each Hero has a call to action and proceeds around the mythological clock (or circle) through a number of steps on an adventure from the known world to the unknown world.

16: Wired for Story, by Lisa Cron. “The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence”—Lisa Cron maps out how storytelling works and why we’re wired to listen closely, from hook to structure to finale. Stories ignite our brains in predictable patterns, and knowing the science behind why storytelling works will change your writing faster than any other writing advice might.

17: Improving Your Storytelling, by Doug Lipman. This book looks at the oral history of storytelling and places stories in the context within which they were born. I learned exercises of imagination, detail, and adding environmental cues from this book — and even dabbled in understanding the stand-up, performative aspects of storytelling (whereas most of the other books in this list are focused on narrative and written stories).

18: The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, by Jonathan Gottschall.  Humans spend as much as four hours a day in lands of make-believe (if not more). We make up fantasies, read novels, enjoy plays, and live in dream-lands most of the time. Gottschall combines neuroscience, psychology, and storytelling to explain what it means to be a human animal — and what stories have to do with instincts, decision making, survival, and behavior change.

19: A Million Miles in A Thousand Years, by Donald Miller. How do you live a successful story? How does a life become more than a set of random experiences, many of which you don’t seem to have any control over? Donald Miller sets out to write a book about stories, and realizes that his life isn’t very interesting — and doesn’t follow the narrative structure of a story. In this tale, he decides to make his life worth telling, and reveals how story structure works, one lesson at a time.

“And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”
― Donald Miller

MARKETING + UNDERSTANDING MEDIA:

20: Tested Advertising Methods, by John Caples. A primer on all things copywriting and advertising. Originally published in 1978, this book is still a standout example of how to write great copy, headlines, and advertisements. He breaks down the components of advertisements and why some ads sell three times as much as other ads. This is one of the most useful books on advertising, and, if you’re a copywriter, content marketer, or sales person — you’re in the business of writing headlines every day.

21: Breakthrough Advertising, by Eugene M. Schwartz.Did you know that there’s an urban legend about an elusive book known for it’s legendary advertising copy? Apparently it’s considered a special gift bestowed upon newbie marketers and copywriters. It’s in such demand that this book retails for $300 or more with used copies, and sometimes can be found for over $900 on Amazon! Called one of the best books in advertising and recommended by most of the top internet marketers out there today, it digs into the art and mastery of great copywriting. It’s not formulaic — it’s an evolving art, and one that you have to pay attention to and constantly adapt in order to do well.

22: Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, by Ryan Holiday. Blogs, tweets, and social media distort the news like never before. A single malicious rumor can cost a company millions. Products, celebrities, attention? It’s all a game. Ryan Holiday, Marketing Director for American Apparel, takes you behind the spin cycle of creating news, and shows how he consistently and deliberately changed the news cycle and created stories in his favor. Eye-opening and sometimes disgusting, it’s best to know what you’re getting into in today’s media landscape.

23: New Rules for A New Economy: Kevin Kelly. Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired, wrote this book in 1999 — and I still pick it up and re-read it. Offering wisdom about the changing connected world, Kelly suggests that communication is what drives change. Today, connectivity is everything, and “success flows primarily from understanding networks, and networks have their own rules.” He details ten principles of the connected economy and how they play out in business, economics, and life.

24: Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind, by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Considered the father of advertising and a guru of branding, marketing and product management, Trout brings together elements of psychology and user experience to show how to describe things to the people that matter to your business–your customers. It’s not how you understand what you do; it’s how well you explain it to others, in a way that stands out.

25: Oglivy on Advertising. One of the premier advertising and sales books of all times. Oglivy is a genius. “Ogilvy’s writing is captivating. His work, legendary. His ideas, timeless.” I’ve only begun to dig into the genius in this book, and fully expect to have it dog-eared, flagged, marked, highlighted, and re-read multiple times over.

“Where people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work.” ― David Ogilvy

BONUS — FAVORITE FICTION + NARRATIVE NON-FICTION BOOKS:

I think all great writers need to be great readers. If you’re feeling stuck on technical books, or like banging your head against the subway door when you’re heading home from work late, then toss the technical books to the side and pick up a great fiction book. The point of a story is to become absorbed in it, and we can pick up great habits by reading good works. (Although a few of the books above, like A Million Miles, Bird by Bird, Still Writing, and On Writing read like narratives).

Some of my recent favorites in fiction and narrative non-fiction are:

  • Americanah
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers
  • Bend, Not Break
  • Brave New World
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling
  • Ender’s Game
  • The Fault in Our Stars
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • The Fear Project
  • The Glass Castle
  • The Kite Runner
  • Life of Pi
  • The Longest Way Home
  • The Signature of All Things
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
  • The Year Without Pants

Hot Wallet vs. Cold Storage

bitcoin trezor wallet

 

Can you explain the difference between a Hot Wallet and Cold Storage?

Hot wallet refers to any cryptocurrency wallet that is connected to the internet. Generally hot wallets are easier to setup, access, and accept more tokens. But, hot wallets are also more susceptible to hackers, possible regulation, and other technical vulnerabilities. 

Cold storage refers to any cryptocurrency wallet that IS NOT connected to the internet. Generally cold storage is more secure, but they don’t accept as many cryptocurrencies as do many of the hot wallets. Cold storage devices (aka. Trezor, Ledger) also cost close to $80 USD, where as hot wallets are free. 

Should I buy a bitcoin wallet? 

If you’re going to own more than $100 USD worth of Bitcoin, Ethereum or any cryptocurrencies, you want to buy a cold storage wallet immediately! I use the number $100 USD because that’s how much a cold storage device costs. 

Maybe you’ve heard people say “Bitcoin is so empowering because you can ‘Be your own bank'”? It’s true. You are your own bank. Not Bank of America.  So with that responsibility comes some pros and cons. At the end of the day crypto has fewer middleman fees, and less sloppy bank regulation etc etc, but it is your responsibility to ensure your crypto investments are stored in a safe are yours and yours alone. 

Generally as a rule of thumb you should only leave as much money on your hot wallet as you would with a leather wallet that you’d keep in your pocket. Think of it this way, if you were held at gunpoint while holding a leather wallet, then you’d only lose that money in your pocket, and not your entire bank account. If you keep all your money in Coinbase it’s as if you are walking around town with all your money in your pocket. 

In short, here’s an analogy to help you out: a hot wallet can be though of as a pocket wallet that you walk around town with, cold storage is a bank vault. 

Recap: Hot Wallet Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Free
  • Quick access to your cryptocurrency (many hot wallets are accessible via your cell phone) 
  • Easy to use, and user-friendly

Cons:

  • Hot wallets by definition are connected to the Internet which means that your cryptocurrency is less secure (e.g. hackers, possible regulation, and other technical vulnerabilities) 

Best hot wallets:

Cold Storage: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • The most secure option
  • As it’s completely offline this provides a greater level of safety.

Cons:

  • Expensive to buy  ($80 USD+)
  • Not ideal for quick or regular transactions (because I leave one of mine at home, and another in a safe deposit box. I personally don’t know anyone that carries around a Trezor for payments — if you’re that person write it in the comments, I’m sure you will)

Best cold storage bitcoin wallets:

  1. Trezor – Stores BTC, BCH, BTG, ETH, ZCash, Dash (more coming soon)
  2. Ledger Wallet  – Stores BTC, BCH, BTG, ETH, ZCash, Ripple, Dash, ARK, Stellar, (hopefully Monero coming soon) and more

trezor bitcoin wallet

 

Best cold wallet for Bitcoin, etc?

Here at One Month we all use Trezor. Trezor is a hardware wallet on which you can store bitcoin, ether, Dash, Zcash, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold and any ERC-20 token. It allows for 2-Factor Authentication, and if you lose your Trezor – as long as you remember your secret password you can quickly regain access to all your keys, money, history, accounts and emails. If you own or are thinking of owning cryptocurrency buy a Trezor.

 

What is Growth Hacking?

Key Takeaways

Growth hacking is marketing + coding. It includes things like: landing page optimization, SEO, public relations, advertising, and copywriting.

Three things that a Growth Hacker might do in a typical day:

  1. A/B testing landing pages
  2. Capturing emails before you launch your product
  3. Optimizing the virality of your product so that more people use your product.

How to Learn Growth Hacking Today

  1. Read “Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing” by Andrew Chen (5 minutes)
  2. Read “Find a Growth Hacker for your Startup” by Sean Ellis (5 minutes)

Additional Resources

  • Growth Hacker TV — Over 100 episodes where the experts on startup growth reveal their secrets. Multiple new episodes released every week.
  • One Month Growth Hacking — learn growth hacking in 30 days or less with Mattan Griffel

LLC vs. Corporation: Which is Right for Startups?

If You’re Starting A Startup:

If you’re starting a startup, and you want to deal with equity, you’ll need to start something known as a C-Corp.*

The two major ways you can create a company are as a C-Corporation (C-Corp for short) or a Limited Liability Company (LLC). If you want to have equity in your company, then you shouldn’t start an LLC. An LLC is just for multiple partners owning a business. A C-Corp will let you take investment and have equity in your company.

Another important thing about a C-Corp is that you’ll have a Board of Directors. That might start out as just you and your Co-Founder, but as you grow and get more investors, they may join as board members as well.

For now, you probably don’t need to know about A-Corps or B-Corps (but if you want to geek out, we won’t stop you from Googling). Focus on LLC vs Corporation.

*Of course, for questions specific to your particular situation, it’s best to seek the advice of an attorney or accountant.

Key Takeaways:

  • If you want to take investment (and have equity in your company), you’ll need to start a C-Corp.
  • The two main forms of company structure are C-Corp and LLC.

Why Should You Incorporate Your Startup In Delaware?

Startup Series: Why Delaware?

Why should you incorporate your startup in Delaware, even if you’ve never been there?*

A whole lot of companies in the US are incorporated in Delaware, even if the company doesn’t actually exist there. One Month, for example, is incorporated in Delaware, even though we’re headquartered in New York (and we’ve never been to Delaware)!

The reason? There’s a body of law in Delaware where many court cases have already been tried, so companies and potential investors have more certainty about how different legal disputes will turn out. It’s riskier to incorporate your startup in a state where the outcomes for legal problems don’t have any legal precedent, and it’s unclear what would happen if a case were to go to court.

For investors, it’s also more attractive for them if they know you’re incorporated in Delaware, because this gives them more certainty. If your business has a legal question and it needs to be figured out in the court system, investors prefer the certainty of knowing that previous cases have established precedent (known as case law) in this state.

*Of course, for questions specific to your particular situation, it’s best to seek the advice of an attorney or accountant.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ideally, you’ll be incorporated in Delaware (you don’t have to live there to incorporate there) because many of the laws and cases have already been figured out
  • The steps to incorporating a business are fairly simple, and there are people who can do it for you.
  • If you try to do it the manual way, it can be more complicated, but still do-able.

More Links:

Startups + Fundraising Series:

Learn How to Launch An MVP In One Minute

Key Takeaways

A Minimum Viable Product centers upon the idea that you should release a new product ASAP. Don’t spend nine months building all the features. Instead, build the most important features — just enough to learn whether or not people even want the thing you’re making.

Repeat after me: an MVP means getting the most learning for the lowest amount of effort. Ask yourself, “How can I get this product in front of people as quickly as possible?”

Example of Minimum Viable Product in action

  • Dropbox started as an MVP
  • Here at One Month, we use Launchrock to build a landing pages, and to collect email addresses for classes that aren’t yet in development. This helps us learn which classes are most in demand.

How to Learn to Build an MVP Today

  1. Steve Blank, and Eric Reis: Read about the experts and follow them on Twitter (5 minutes).
  2. Data Drive Products Now! (slideshow): Check out this cool case study from on Etsy developer Dan McKinley (12 minutes).

Additional Resources

If You’re Not Embarrassed By Your Startup, You Launched Too Late

“If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” — Reid Hoffman

If your startup is successful, no one will remember how ugly your product looked the day you launched. (And if it’s not successful, no one will care.)

When we think about successful companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, we tend to forget the modest beginnings from which they came. As Paul Graham recently wrote, “Think of some successful startups. How many of their launches do you remember?”

In celebration of modest beginnings, here’s a dose of reality: I recently came across the landing pages of some of the most successful companies we know. This is something everyone should see.

The moral of the story: don’t name your company BackRub. Also, don’t worry about making something pretty, worry about making something people love. As Reid Hoffman (the founder of LinkedIn) once said, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

It’s easy to say “have a growth mindset,” and “follow lean startup principles.” It’s a lot harder in reality, when you have to launch quickly, and put out versions of your product that feel unfinished, raw, or even ugly. Take a look at the startups below, and how they launched their first product — and maybe you can launch a little earlier. Or a lot earlier.

(Credit goes to Phil Pickering for finding these.)

Twitter’s first landing page:

Early Facebook screenshot:

Early Google homepage (from 1997):

The precursor to Google, BackRub:

An even earlier Google homepage:

Yahoo!’s homepage in 1994:

Early tumblr dashboard screenshot:

Early Amazon homepage screenshot:

Apple circa 1997:

AuctionWeb before it became eBay:

Burbn (a Foursquare clone) before it pivoted to… Instagram:

The first ever prototype of Foursquare (shown at SXSW in 2009):

Reid Hoffman’s original LinkedIn:

And finally… Reddit (some things never change):

What stands out to you? How would you have designed things differently?

It’s easy to think that you need to have a great design and get everything polished before you release it to the world. In reality, you should launch things as soon as you can, as quickly as you can, to get validated learning. The Lean Startup talks about this as validated learning — getting immediate feedback from users as to what they actually want, not assuming you know all the answers.

How can you launch a beta version earlier? Why is getting feedback on a somewhat-shitty design more valuable than perfecting a design that no one wants? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

Creative Email Campaigns: Why an Online Education Company Sent an Email About Football

Can a coding company send a relevant email about football? Or will we just spam our friends and students?

Every week, over team brainstorms how to reach out to people in clever, funny, and interesting ways. We don’t want to clog up your email inbox (annoying!) or send messages that just push sales (boring). Our aim is to inspire, delight — and just maybe deliver something unexpected in your inbox. Our company is focused on accelerated learning, experimentation, and a little bit of quirkiness.

Last week, our team had to think about how to connect over football. (At least American football, because the Super Bowl was this weekend — some of us are soccer fans, or what the rest of the world knows as “football.”)

“I don’t understand football, honestly,” I admitted sheepishly to my colleague.

He laughed — “Me neither!”

“Wait,” I said. “Can we go with that?”

What if I sent an email about football and asked people to teach me what they knew? We crafted an email to reach out to people and sent the following:

What happened next was pretty cool. Over 200 people wrote back to me, and I spent Saturday morning hanging out and writing replies back to folks.

A lot of people had REALLY funny things to say, and I have to say, you taught me a lot about football. Moreover, I got to know several hundred faces in the One Month community and get to know a lot about who reads our blog, what they’re interested in learning, and — of course — what they know about football.

The thing is, we’re always learning here at One Month, and when there’s something we don’t know much about (like football), we want to learn from each of you. Thanks for taking the time to write in and teach us. It was a great way to learn about y’all.

Here are some of the highlights of what you shared and taught us about football:

“Football to me is all about memories, nostalgia and loyalty. Just like a group of developers get together and nerding out over the latest grunt or rails package, football is a common thread that we can all get behind to rally for — regardless of race, religion or any other preference.” — Andrew

“It’s like a new episode of a TV show every Sunday and Monday, except it’s a very real business with very real people.” — Shafiq

“The Super Bowl is like Thanksgiving in February: Your family wants to do a big dinner and bring everyone home for the weekend while you secretly wish you were drunk with friends watching the game without having to talk about what you’re thankful for.” — Saif

“I felt similarly to you, until I was watching the Ravens take on the 49ers in the 2013 Super Bowl. Suddenly, I saw the strategy, the patterns, how each team used each play to advance further along the board. Each player had a role, a specific skillset and position. The coach and quarterback coordinate to take control of the game. The game is even more complex, as each position is dynamic with injuries and individual player performance. In order to win, you must keep track of a strategy that is constantly changing in response to the other team’s moves, players, and the end objective to move along the board and win the game. I’m now a fantasy football addict.” — Melinda

“It’s a national ‘Sickie’ day in the UK on Monday for those that stay up to watch.” — Howard

“You mean the Katy Perry concert? The show opened and closed by some soccer thing?” — John

“Loving a football team is like working at a company. So when your company/team does well you feel like you did well. Even if all you did was cheer in the stands or write emails asking about football, you share the glory of your team’s success.” — Taylor

“It may not look like it, but there is real grace and skill behind it, both individually and on the field and as a team. The things these players execute are as athletic and sometimes as elegant as figure skaters or gymnasts, even on the Offensive or Defensive lines (the pile up).”

“They are trying to open up or close down gaps where someone might run or throw the ball, and like sumo wrestlers, they push against each other to do so, leveraging their bodies to knock the opposing blocker down. The game is also deeply rooted in American history. Listen to this week’s Radiolab for the full version, but it does come out of a tradition where guys had to show they were tough…because previous generations of men had The Civil War and wars in the west against native Americans to really show their toughness. Teddy Roosevelt had to intervene to make the game less brutal (people were dying on the field playing the game)…the biggest thing to come out of that era was the forward pass.” — Ian

“Every play is an opportunity for strategy. It’s like playing a more complicated version of rock, paper, scissors. Whatever both players just picked will affect each player’s decision in the next round. And both anticipate the other side’s anticipation of their own behavior, leading to a sort of strategy arms race.” — Peter

“I’ll probably get punched for saying this, but one of my favorite things about football is honestly the food and beer/whiskey, then onto friends and family and lastly it’s the game.” — Brandon

“At a basic level movies are great because they transport you to a different world (the willing suspension of disbelief). Football fans experience something similar; when your team is on the field nothing else matters, you’re in a different world.” — Michael

And if that doesn’t convince you, maybe these videos will:

In addition to all of the helpful commentary, we also got a bunch of links, videos, and references. Radiolab did an exceptional piece on American Football, and the YouTube videos we got were hilarious. Here’s a few of the best:

Andy Griffith explaining football in this 1953 commentary:

Bad British NFL Commentary:

And a Guide to American Football:

What about the haters?

As Taylor Swift says, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate …”

You can’t please everyone. As a marketer and a long-time communicator, I’ve learned this through trial and error. You simply cannot please everyone. One of my favorite branders and designers says that it’s better to have a brand that’s both loved (and hated) than to have something that people feel indifferent about.

With emails — the only way you can have zero unsubscribes is if you have no one on your email list, or if you never send any emails at all. We track all of our open rates, subscribes, engagements, and unsubscribes and we learn from every campaign. (The highest opened email of all of our blog campaigns so far has been the “Drunk Mode” video release.)

Everyone has different opinions, and for the football email we got a couple of replies (just a few, thankfully) that sounded like someone got out of bed on the wrong day. (In that case, I just crank out the T-Swift and keep going).

In one instance, someone said:

“Who the *bleep* is Sarah?”

Right. So, hey y’all. I’m Sarah. I joined the One Month team to help them with creative writing, copywriting, marketing, and content creation. You can see all the awesome people on the One Month team on our about page or check out the recent talk Mattan and I did on content marketing last week in our free webinar (info below). I’ve been writing a few blog posts and I’ll be writing new essays on accelerated learning, growth, and ideas here on the blog. (If you want us to cover anything specific, or you have a question, just leave a note in the comments or reach out to me by email, happy to chat).

Another person more politely asked: what’s the point of this email?

Emailing is a conversation — it’s not just blasting information and shouting at people. If you use it creatively, it can be a way to get to know more of the faces at One Month, including many of our students, friends, and alumni.

Out of 200+ responses, we had three grumps, hundreds of awesome explanations, and a lot of conversation. As a marketer — which to me, means conversationalist, you’ve got to hold space for dozens of conversations with tons of customers, students, and people engaging with your brand. How do they interact with you? What’s the overall tone and reaction?

Several people cheers us for not selling anything —

“Great (and engaging) email. Way to not sell anything, and not be offering anything, but still be interesting. Well done!” — Josh

“I admire your willingness to dive in and learn about this wonderfully complex game. I hope that you received some clever tutorials.” — Jay

In addition, being able to explain a game — a process, a strategy, a theory, a team — is much more similar to understanding coding and creation strategy than you might expect. Here at One Month, we think learning new things is fun, and we might continue to surprise you every now and then — with new classes, interests, ideas, and questions.

Or email campaigns.

In all the responses I got, I learned so much from everyone, which resonates with our own spirit of wanting to learn, well, everything. Lee is practicing to become a world-champion DJ, and Mattan is teaching himself to play piano. Chris and Mattan take improv classes and I just signed up for my first singing lesson. What can I say? We’re nerds who like accelerated learning.

Thanks to everyone who played along! Hope you enjoyed the sport, the entertainment, and the conversations. We had a blast doing this.

We’re constantly experimenting with what we send people — developing a style and then testing out new things to see what we can tweak, improve, and better. If you want to learn more about content marketing and how to communicate in a way that’s different, unique, and fun — check out our content marketing free webinar or our upcoming class launching the last week of February.

In the end, the highest email open rates come from creative emails.

In our free webinar, Mattan and I chat about our top ten quick-wins for making content that actually gets shared. We break down the definition of content marketing and share ten strategies for engaging with your audience in a more meaningful way. In our upcoming class, we’ll be breaking down what content marketing is, who’s doing it really well, and how to construct email campaigns, experiments, and incentives so you can grow your own business, brand, or project.

And last but not least, the email winners:

Also, I have to announce the winner!

We had so many creative replies. Congrats to Craig Morrison for having the funniest response. You made me laugh out loud.

Here’s what Craig wrote:

The best part about football is the singularity of the sport.

It’s just you, versus your opponent.

You’re both surrounded by thousands of people, staring down at you as you play, all intensely watching your every move.

It’s intoxicating, knowing those players and the pressure they’re under.

Seeing them play what is much more a mental sport than any kind of physical one.

The sweat on your hands, the racquet slipping from your grip as you swing.

The pain in your knees you barely notice as you sprint across the court to take a last ditch effort at hitting the ball back to your opponent.

Wait that’s Tennis, football sucks.

PS: Don’t get me started on football, with all those different clubs and the tiny white balls. It’s barely even a sport.

And congrats to the following people who also sent amazing emails:

Also, bonus congratulations to Melinda Pandiangan for your awesome storytelling and sharing that football is about patterns, strategy, and complexity. Scott Johns explained that that football strategy is more like game theory than crushing humans, Caroline Bagby for sharing her evolution from not caring to learning all about the game to becoming a marketer for the Patriots (and subsequently learning all about the game), Jeff Charleston for giving some insight into the game (having played a super bowl himself!), and Yonathan Ayenew for reminding me to stick to my guns and read a book if that’s what I want to do next. You all rock!

What’s the best email campaign you’ve ever received? What do you love getting in your inbox?

3 Ways to Know If A Developer Is Good

If you don’t necessarily have a technical background and you’re thinking about bringing in a developer, how do you assess them? How do you even know if they have the very particular set of skills your site or application needs?

On this Founder Friday, Mattan and Chris tackle how to win devs, and make an exciting announcement for all you geeks on the comic book side of the spectrum.

Programming is its own language. Or rather, it’s a language with lots and lots and lots of different languages that different developers speak. But as a non-speaker, there are several ways you can break through all the C++ and CSS to get an honest, accurate picture of a potential developer.

1: Master The Phrasebook

The hard truth is if you’re hiring someone to code for you, you should learn at least a little bit of code. That takes time, and some effort, but it’s worth it for a couple of reasons.

The first is that you need to know what you’re talking about, at least at the surface level, because that’s going to inspire confidence and trust in your developer that they’re working for someone who knows what they’re doing; that they’re working for someone who values their contribution.

But beyond that, you need to, at least on the surface level, know what they’re talking about, and the basics of the argument they’re making for themselves. There are many places all over the internet you can get access to an hour of code, just to start you off.

But rather than leaning only a little bit of HTML, or a little bit of Java, the best play is for you to develop (ha) a holistic sense of what code is and how it’s useful to your business/startup/site. More about that at the bottom.

2: Check The Portfolio

It’s not your job to know everything, however. The best lens into a developer’s skills and experience is through a portfolio of their work.

Whether it’s just screenshots or whether they’re able to bring in an application they worked on, actually being able to see examples of their work can give you a sense of what they’re capable of.

But you can’t just look at webpage. You need to be strategic in how you’re ask a potential developer to describe their experience, and drill down on their portfolios. Find out what their personal contributions were. Push for the reasoning behind why they make that choice and not a different one. Get them to describe how they worked on their projects, whether it was remote and freelance or leading a team.

Look not only for their expertise, but how engaged they are in telling those stories. It’s worth taking at least 5 minutes on each example to really get a candidate talking. People will reveal themselves once they’re put in the position of having to relate their experience.

You want someone who’s thoughtful and excited about what they do, not disengaged, condescending to a non-programmer, or talking over your head.

3: Ask For Recommendations — From the Candidate

The other way to get a thorough, but thoroughly non-technical, sense of a good developer is to ask for recommendations. Before you make a call or shoot off an email, ask the candidate what they think their references are going to say.

Before you actually call and contact the references, ask the candidate what they think their references will say. This will tell you a lot.

Again, pay attention to the language they use — whether they’re hesistant or dismissive or really eager to talk about their old team.

Don’t worry about the imagined imposition of reaching out to someone who’s worked with a candidate. It isn’t one.

Talking to someone on that person’s team can give you a whole other window into not only what that person’s skills are, but how effective they are in accomplishing projects and collaborating.

Whatever you need a developer for, you’re going to need them to keep you in the loop. So, just keep the “no jerks” rule in mind. No jerks. Don’t do it. You want someone on your team to be on your team.

And lastly… Should you require a developer test or not? Some specific questions to ask if you do:

There are a few additional ways to judge a developer.

A trial period, or beginning a working relationship with someone on a project basis, is almost never a bad idea. It gives you a chance to test their ability to contribute effectively to your team — and see the progress they make with their code — without the full commitment of a salary and benefits.

Ask them what their experience with and how open they are to regular check-ins. Again, good developers won’t just be able to code. They’ll also be open to feedback and willing to present their ideas to non-technical teammates.

Some specific questions that can help you gauge a developer: ask them what their favorite stack is, what language do they like to code in and why? Do they do any testing, and if so, what kind of system? Do they use version control, like Git? Just because someone’s been coding for a while, that doesn’t mean they’re good.

Look for someone who’s open to trying new things, and who seems like they can adapt to the constantly changing methods and technology.

It’s really that willingness to communicate, and the ability to explain themselves and be held accountable, which separates good developers from just developers.

Even if you only need some one-off help, you’re bringing someone into your team’s locker room. It’s not enough that they can code. They also have to communicate.