Last week, our tech founder and product lead for Kortex – Matthew Ao – had an epiphany.
First, for those who don’t know, Matthew is a homewrecker.
13 months ago Joey and I started building Kortex (formerly ValueVault).
10 months ago we hired one (1) developer to build this second brain app.
But not just any second-brain app. One that is actually useful. One that gets results. One that allows you to turn your database of knowledge into impactful writing for content, videos, podcasts, team collaboration, student projects, and more. Eventually allowing us to create a new kind of social media.
Most “second brain” apps are just glorified note-taking software.
On July 13th and Joey spending $50,000 – things weren’t going too well.
Our weekly calls and updates were slow and boring.
Our zest for the project was fading fast.
We weren’t making the progress we wanted to make. And I don’t know what we were expecting to happen with one developer… but we had never done this before. If you know me, you know I like to just start building things regardless of how much I know… and it tends to work out pretty damn well.
At the time, Joey was helping Dakota Robertson with his ghostwriting cohort.
I showed up for a guest call to talk about my writing process.
Toward the end of the call, I mentioned that Joey and I were building an app.
Matthew unmuted his mic, “Wait, what kind of app?”
We gave some brief details about the app, he said he had some ideas, and we took the conversation to the DMs.
In short, he convinced us to burn ValueVault to the ground and start over.
We brought him on as a founder.
Fast forward to now and we:
- Have a team of 10 incredible developers, 3 KortexU educators, a design team, and sales team along with the founders that have audiences and leverage to fuel it all (yes, the one-person business is long gone at this point (but is still arguably the best starting point)).
- Generated $180K in our first month of monetization (without the app being out… without investors… story for another time. We just did what I talk about in my business letters).
- Built Kortex University to be the best new school and program on the internet for building a digital career as a synthesizer, creator, or writer.
- Visited our dev team in Toronto and strategized the future.
- Are on track for a late January launch of version 0 of the app, specifically for those in Kortex University, not the public.
- Have no plans to accept any VC or investments outside of our own contributions – we will stick to our philosophy of using technology and social media leverage to grow faster than 99% of startups.
Here is us at our first in person product demo (for those that were in Canada).
Oh… and I’m writing this newsletter inside of Kortex 🙂
So if you notice the fusion of big ideas and lack of writers block, that’s why.
Okay, back to Matthew’s epiphany:
Curiosity Is Your Compass In The Unknown
The way to do great work is to explore your curiosity. Because every person who’s done great work in history has been the one creating footsteps, not following someone else’s. – Matthew Ao
Matthew was authentic enough to mention that this insight came from Paul Graham’s article on How To Do Great Work.
It’s obvious that if you want unknown results you must take an unknown path, but people are too quick to adopt the comfort of someone else’s dreams at the expense of their own.
Curiosity is your compass in the unknown.
Curiosity is the path of the synthesizer.
Curiosity is how the world was discovered and built.
Society created known (and heavily outdated) paths like going to school, getting a job, and retiring at 65.
The mind craves order, and people mistakenly latch onto the order that society has created for them.
The mind craves order because it is asking you to do the things that create order from disorder. That is to collect insight from curiosity and create with it – that is your human edge. Other beings don’t change the direction of evolution like we do.
Too much order, certainty, and living in the known becomes dangerous for your psyche with time. Eventually, it craves disorder. If you were on “vacation” for too long, it ceases to be vacation, you want to go back home and work.
It is the push pull of the Universe.
Everything unfolds in chapters and phases like a narrative. Your life, your ideas, your self, your city, your community, your business, society, culture, all the way up to the Universe. Trying to stay in one chapter for your entire life is a recipe for emotional turmoil. Life goes on while your mind tries to freeze time.
Schools and jobs have their merit, but following that known path for too long leads you to an enescapable downward spiral of mediocrity called entropy.
Those who pursue curiosity are collecting creative firepower to constantly create an evolving order in their lives.
Entropy states that everything tends toward disorder. That’s what evolution is. The order we latch onto is not permanent, like a job, and falls apart with time. Most people accept this and live out their lives in a sad state rather than pushing toward personal evolution through entrepreneurship.
In order to survive as an entrepreneur, you must continue to persist, iterate, and evolve.
Charles Darwin, Elon Musk, Einstein, and other greats pursued their curiosity.
They were synthesizers of experience toward a vision for the future.
They reached breakthroughs not by following a regimented curriculum, but by synthesizing what they discovered on the path of curiosity.
Their curiosity led them to multidisciplinary study.
Nobody believed in them because they saw something that others didn’t.
They were mocked by those of low consciousness and known paths – because they didn’t have, nor could they replicate the information that came from curiosity.
I’ve noticed this in my own life.
My business results skyrocketed when I stopped studying business (but had a solid grasp on the principles after following others paths).
Then, I studied philosophy, metaphysics, and psychology.
I was able to note the same principles in those domains, but from a higher perspective, and enhance my business results because of it.
The pattern recognition brought meaning to my life, provided a source of motivation, and gave me a deeper understanding of all domains (because they are all encapsulated under the life domain)
Hamza asked me the other day on a call what led to my growth, and the only thing I can think of (that isn’t boring advice you can get everywhere else) is that I explained the perspective that came from pursuing my curiosity. I didn’t just regurgitate what I’ve been told, I repackaged it for better understanding. I wrote it in my own words.
Most people can’t know, and never will know, the information that shapes the perspective I’ve gained from pursuing my curiosity. This is why you are the niche. You are a synthesizer of your experience to help others understand.
You must have absolute conviction in your ideas and discoveries.
You have to be right when everyone is wrong.
You have to ignore the opinions that stem from a lack of understanding.
They can’t see what you see if you take a rare path in a known domain.
Few people realize that you can create a path that works by noting the patterns between other’s paths and your own.
Because of this, I can’t give a low-level tactical program to bring you certainty.
I can, however, give you a big-picture guide:
- Zoom out and consult with your ideal self
- Become aware of your goals to generate vision and clarity
- Perceive situations through the lens of those goals to find signal in situations
- Collect information, write about it, build with it, impact others with it
- Creativity is using your experience to actualize a goal
If you want to master one domain, acquire general knowledge in the meta domains.
If you want to master business, acquire general knowledge in communications, value creation, metaphysics, human nature, psychology, and anything else that is the glue of value exchange.
But, you have to actually build the business to digest the knowledge you gain from this pursuit.
You can’t just study all day and expect to make progress.
The Synthesizer: A New Career Path For Polymaths & Self-Improvers
This career path assumes you are ambitious, strive to improve yourself, and enjoy multidisciplinary study.
It is for those who are tired of modern jobs and business models.
You see the masses with a lack of meaning in work and life.
You don’t see a way to break out of the default path.
You’re not fulfilled with where you’re headed but love to learn and self-educate.
We help people turn their curiosity into a digital career in 90 days with Kortex University.
What Is A Synthesizer
A synthesizer is someone who takes a unique path with curiosity as their compass, connects ideas to actualize a self-generated goal, and distribute their synthesis to help like-minded people achieve similar goals.
A synthesizer is an obsessive reality explorer. They understand that reality cannot be compartmentalized into school classes like biology, chemistry, philosophy, and literature. They understand that those aspects of reality have been well documented, and if we want to achieve better results, we must view reality as the connected whole it is. Synthesizers create holistic solutions to profitable problems.
A synthesizer is a value creator. This is a type of creator on social media that is focused on education and understanding, not memes and excessive entertainment.
A synthesizer is a DJ but with ideas.
A synthesizer is a decentralized media company.
When people would write and publish books, a select few would go on live TV to promote it.
Now, they just post on social media and go on a podcast tour.
Everyone can be their own media company to earn a living doing what they enjoy.
Authors can build an audience and write a successful book without a publisher.
Musicians can do the same and produce a track without a record label.
Creatives can do the same and sell a product without being an employee of a company.
The path of the synthesizer allows for the potential to do what you enjoy (and earn as much money as you want doing it). Since you don’t rely on someone “above you” to provide a salary or commission, your earning potential is dependent on your skill, audience size, and creative ability.
The Synthesizer Worldview
It is difficult to be what you are not.
If you don’t have the mindset, values, or beliefs of a synthesizer to shape who you are – it will be difficult to act on the opportunities presented to you.
You change who you are by gradually exposing yourself to – and digesting – new information with study and practice. The change will not be instant.
You will have to shed old beliefs and develop a thick skin for boomers that tell you to “get a real job,” when they have no idea that this line of work is more secure and profitable than the old jobs that won’t exist in a few years.
As you consume books, social media content, and have conversations around your future – try to make connections with this list of values and beliefs of the synthesizer:
- Money is a tool for building what you want but doesn’t exist.
- You live in a time where you can create your own career, rather than be assigned one.
- Personal responsibility determines the outcome of your life in a decentralized economy.
- You won’t get average results with average goals. You will get rare results with rare goals.
- Curiosity, reality exploration, and eventual obsession with a craft is your key to greatness.
- Self-education is a cornerstone habit that you must do every single day, no matter the topic of study.
- Humans are meant to expand, transcend, and create. Constant self-improvement and evolution is not optional. If you as an individual get stuck, so will your endeavors.
- There is a way to build whatever life you want with technology and the internet. If there isn’t a way, create it.
With repetition and training your mind, you can adopt this worldview as your own, and once that happens, it will be difficult not to succeed. Your mind is a system that helps you achieve your goals.
The Skills Of The Synthesizer
Learn to sell, learn to build, if you can do both, you will be unstoppable. – Naval
Now, you can’t just “pursue your curiosity” and hope that everything ends up okay.
That’s exactly how you become a starving artist.
As Naval says, you must learn to sell and learn to build.
From a big picture, this comes down to human nature (selling) and technical know-how (building).
From this, we can group skills into 3 camps:
1) The Evergreen Skills
Studying “human nature” is a difficult task.
It can be done through observation and questioning, which should be a habit of yours, but we can make it more practical.
Human nature can be connected with mechanics and psychology. The principles of both help you understand and predict human behavior.
Human behavior boils down to awareness of a problem, setting a goal to overcome it, and strategizing a plan to achieve the goal. This can be conscious or unconscious. Many people are assigned problems and goals by society, and if society is a behavior system, this explains why most people are comfortable and miserable.
The evergreen skills are writing, speaking, marketing, and sales.
All together they represent interactions, communication, and value exchange.
These skills are the boundaries for how you synthesize ideas.
How are your ideas going to be impactful if you don’t understand how to distribute them in an impactful way? How are you going to build an audience if you don’t understand the skill of audience building (communication and value exchange)?
Buy courses, drown your mind in books and podcasts, and study the evergreen skills like your future depends on it, because it does.
2) Technical Skills
Technology has advanced in a way that massively benefits the individual.
You can learn to code, which is a very viable path, but we also have access to tools that allow us to build without learning to code.
What used to take multiple employees now takes one-person and some self-education.
You can build a website, landing page, or funnel in under a day.
You can write an email and send it instantly (rather than using the pony express).
You can download Photoshop and have AI generate an incredible brand asset.
Building digital real estate has become seamless.
I recommend practicing the evergreen skills almost every day.
With technical skills, I recommend learning them as you build a project according to your personal interests.
In short, you will have to learn every technical skill associated with building a modern business.
Graphic design, email marketing, content writing on social media, product hosting, and service tools like scheduling software.
This is rather easy nowadays, but will take some time for it to become second nature.
3) Personal Interests
How are you going to learn these skills and ensure that you take a unique path that is worth passing down to others?
Again, by pursuing your curiosity.
In order to forge your own path, you will have to write, speak, market, and sell channeled through the technical skills you choose.
Personal interests provide the direction for your projects.
Personal interests stem from becoming aware of problems in your life – not mindlessly sweeping them under the rug.
If I become aware of the fact that being overweight is stunting my potential, and I mean truly aware of how it branches into the quality of every aspect of my life, then I automatically become interested in fitness.
From there, and as I experiment in that domain, I become interested in certain diets, training modalities, and lifestyle choices. This alone creates a unique path.
Now, if I want to add meaning to that endeavor, I choose to monetize it. Because business is a vessel for living with purpose. I can reap the benefits of passing down my results and lessons to others to raise the well-being of humanity at scale with the internet.
To do this well, fitness now serves as my vessel to build and sell with the evergreen and technical skills.
The Habits Of The Synthesizer
If you want to become a synthesizer, you have to be a synthesizer.
That doesn’t make much sense, so let me explain.
You aren’t getting the results you want because you aren’t the person that would get those results.
“Who you are” is composed of your worldview or perspective.
Your perspective influences your perception of situations (yes, I repeat this often, because it is the most important thing to determine the outcome of your life.)
Your perception of situations determines the choices available to you, and from there, you make a decision that benefits a conscious or unconscious end goal.
With time and conscious practice, these decisions become habitual.
So, who you are is a dance between perspective and habits.
You don’t adopt the worldview we broke down above as your perspective overnight.
You slowly introduce habits into your life that push you into the unknown and expose you to positive feedback that reinforces the identity you are trying to create.
You must adopt the lifestyle of the synthesizer – on a smaller scale – if you want to become a synthesizer.
This goes for anything you want in life. It must be embodied in your daily life.
With time, and as you get the results that allow you to, you increase the time spent on those habits so it becomes your full time lifestyle.
You must be a part time synthesizer first, then go full time when you are ready.
We can condense these habits into 2 simple blocks that you can increase with time and results:
Habit 1) Productivity Blocks
Productivity blocks are for building, creating, and maintaining.
During this 30-90 minutes:
- Engage in focused work
- Write content to build a readership
- Build a product to provide value to that readership
That’s it. Those are the levers. You must set aside time to build a potentially profitable project that can replace your source of income. You must also acquire customers for that product so you can transition to full time.
On that note – the new FOCI Planner is available to order. I know a lot of you were waiting for a physical planner.
That contains the exact system I use to structure my focused work blocks:
- Create a minimum viable vision for the future
- Deconstruct it into monthly, weekly, and daily goals
- Set your priority tasks to achieve those goals from the bottom up
- Iterate your vision as you learn what you do and don’t want
This process alone creates clarity for habit 2.
Habit 2) Creativity Blocks
Creativity blocks are for idea capture and connection that can be used for your creation (those are the 3 tabs in the Kortex app).
During this 30-90 minutes:
- Go on a walk. Get away from distractions and use this time to listen to videos, podcasts, books, or read in alignment with your vision.
- Hunt for ideas. To be creative, you must collect novel ideas that catch your attention so you have something to synthesize into your writing or building.
- Contemplate. Rest and let your Default Mode Network activate. Move your focus inward and let ideas bounce around as you contemplate and connect them to create novel perspectives for your writing and building.
Productivity and creativity blocks are not optional as a synthesizer. These are the 2 things you must do on a daily basis.
The Main Lever Of The Synthesizer
You are a writer.
Almost everyone is.
The sooner you realize and accept this as a part of your identity, the better you can get at it.
Writing is how you:
- Send emails
- Write content
- Write video scripts
- Write advertisements and promotions
- Send networking DMs
- Clarify your ideas to enhance your speaking (in text messages, conversations, videos, and anything else… writing can and should come first).
I am not talking about technical or academic writing.
I am talking about impactful writing.
Writing rooted in persuasion, marketing, sales, human nature, and psychology.
(Good) writing is how you turn words into value.
You don’t “just write” about whatever you want whenever you want.
You must base your writing around the fundamentals of your readers psyche:
- Burning problem – imply or state a problem they want to solve.
- Desirable goal – preferably a goal from your vision so you can attract people like you (those who you can help most).
- Path to bridge the gap – from personal experience, your system to achieve that goal.
I’ve broken this down before in the Value Creation letter.
Writing is how you synthesize ideas into something tangible so you can improve them with time.
Without writing, your ideas will not get better, and neither will your results.
And, you won’t be doing the one thing that puts your value in front of other people.
Monetization Paths Of The Synthesizer
Your monetization paths and revenue streams are endless as a writer, creator, or synthesizer:
- Writing a book
- Selling digital products
- Selling physical products (like a planner)
- Selling mentorship, coaching, or consulting
- Freelancing with writing or any other evergreen/technical skill or personal interest
All of these paths are low-cost (aside from physical products) and allow you to make a living doing what you enjoy.
You can observe the creator economy and see that people are earning from these options with almost any interest imaginable (don’t get stuck in an echo chamber thinking that only certain things sell better than others).
Build your base of readers, then build whatever you want.
And once you have the cash flow and readership that allows, you can build literally any kind of business you please, like how we are building Kortex.
Lastly, a promotion.
If you want to become a synthesizer in 90 days, apply to be one of the few students in Kortex University.
Be mindful of the next cohort start date.
Thank you for reading and enjoy your weekend.