The real work of 1,000 true fans has little to do with marketing or funnels or optimization. Nor is it about following the Best Practices™ for building a business. Instead, it's about having the courage to be more fully yourself, and keep at it, in a digital ecosystem that's constantly incentivizing you to conform to transactional, economic norms.

In my parlance, a True Fan is someone who financially supports you for showing up authentically in your work. It's when someone resonates so much with the essence of who you are and how you show up in the world, that supporting you, financially or otherwise, feels good to them.

The thing with most marketing and business advice is that it nudges us away from authenticity and into various layers of performative mask wearing. It fills our head with even more stories about how we should show up if we want to build a profitable and scalable venture. By following those shoulds, we can absolutely create customers and build a business. But if our work feels inauthentic and forced, it won't be a Joyful Business.

There's a paradox here. There is so much value in learning about the mechanics of marketing and business. It's been essential part of my journey. But it's important to understand the Tradeoffs we're making when we prioritize the sense of certainty and control this advice gives us. As I talk about in The perils of niching down, it's possible to follow all these rules, yet end up building something that feels like a prison.

In my experience, the real work of 1,000 true fans isn't additive—where you're constantly learning new strategies and tactics to grow—but subtractive. It's about unlearning all the ways we hold ourselves back from authentic expression. I've sprinkled a bit of strategic and tactical guidance throughout these woods, because that stuff is important too. But please don't miss the forest for the trees. What we're really doing in this wilderness is so much deeper.

The real work is uncertain. It's vulnerable. It's uncomfortable. The real work requires ceding control instead of maximizing it. It requires developing deep trust—in yourself, in others, and in the great unfolding of life. It's the type of work that cannot be rushed through or optimized.

This, my friends, is how we break The Pattern, embark on Creative Individuation, and Find The Others. By being courageous enough to be fully ourselves. Month after month, year after year.