Giving Away the Crown

What do the makers of low-content books, a dropshipper, and a car company that buys 90% of its parts have in common? They’re crown-less kings, hoping to be something without doing it. Why else would you outsource the point?

A person who’s proud to design calendars, planners, and notebooks would call themselves a designer. A maker of “low-content books” calls themselves an author or publisher but doesn’t write a single word. Someone who runs Facebook ads to get people to buy disco lights on a Shopify store that ships said lights straight from China via Alibaba — sight unseen on both the buyer and the seller’s part — that person is not a maker but a salesman. And if you’re putting together car parts you bought from all over the world instead of making your own, are you really a manufacturer? Or simply managing a very expensive Lego factory with a long, convoluted supply chain?

When you consider starting a new venture that seems all too easy, ask yourself: Do you really want to do the work that comes with the terrain? Or are you planning on giving away the crown? The latter almost never leads to success, let alone the lasting kind.

Sometimes, however, we simply forget along the way. We perform the magic for so long, we get tired and ask for a break. Suddenly, four years have passed, and we realize we’re riding in a carriage without a driver. How could we ever have handed over the reins?

For around three years, I didn’t write any of the summaries on Four Minute Books. I handed off that responsibility. In hindsight, I should have just published less. Now I’m stuck with a lot of summaries I know should — and could — be better, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to fixing them. But I did take back my crown. I see other summary sites relying on poor, AI-generated content, and I shudder: When you give away the lifeblood of your project to a machine, you might as well give up.

This isn’t to say that outsourcing can’t support you in doing more of what you care about. I could never run a Youtube channel without Adam‘s help. But unless you’re amplifying the core work you’re busy doing, handing off work isn’t productive — it’s giving up.

Don’t throw away your crown, and don’t begin anything if you’re not willing to wear it. Take pride in doing the work in your arena, and when you need a break, remember that less magic is always better than no magic at all.