Jesse Thorn -- Make Your Thing: 12 Point Program for Absolutely, Positively 1000% No-Fail Guaranteed Success

Here's a fantastic essay by our friend Jesse Thorn (creator and host of the Bullseye radio show and podcast) about how to make a living doing what you love.

It took a few years, but now I make a good living from my show. I’ve got three full-time employees, and two interns. I also pay thousands of dollars a month to several teams of producer/hosts whose wonderful shows I’ve helped monetize. I’m not rich or anything, but when my wife had a baby a couple of months ago, I didn’t have to be all freaked out about it. Well, I was freaked out about it, but not so much about the money part. My business is stable, and maybe even thriving, despite the reticence of many parts our industry to embrace my show. I still love public radio, and am immensely proud to be part of it, but it’s a great relief not to have to rely on it to pay my bills. (Just ask Luke Burbank, or Faith Salie, or Bob Edwards.)

But here’s where you start asking a very pertinent question: JESSE, HOW DID YOU DO IT?

I achieved all of this through something I like to call my 12 Point Program for Absolutely, Positively 1000% No-Fail Guaranteed Success.

Whether you want to build a show like mine, build your own media empire, or simply re-grow up to 50% of the hair you’ve lost due to male pattern baldness (especially at the temples and crown), my program is for you.

Here it is. Make Your Thing: 12 Point Program for Absolutely, Positively 1000% No-Fail Guaranteed Success, by Jesse Thorn


  1. I hope he applies the 12 point program to his website so it doesn’t display a 500 error and also a 404.
    In the meantime, here is Google Text cache: NEVER Mind- the cache was of some old page about Audio Levels….

  2. Oops! Google Chrome could not find

    Not quite the “Absolutely, Positively 1000% No-Fail Guaranteed Success” that was promised.

  3. The page seems to be having trouble loading.  

    Maybe it would help if we all head over to his site and keep pressing F5 over and over again until it is fixed…Hope it’s back up soon, I’m looking forward to reading this.

  4. Apparently the way to succeed is claim you have a way to succeed and then disappear? Seriously, though, I look forward to the hyperbolic humor that I presume the article is composed of.

  5. In fairness, isn’t Jesse Thorn’s site, it’s a site started by another well known public radio producer, a bloke named Jay Allison.

  6. Was ‘Boinged but now back up.  It’s a nice list of 12 examples of how people have unconventionally made their way into lucrative (mostly) media-related careers through pursuing their passions.

    1.  Not everyone will be able to make it big in media – even if you do have the right personality, which you probably don’t. I’m sure Jesse knows this.

      What he’s done is use examples of successful people (including Boing Boing, number 5 on the list), and explained how they achieved their success. You can tell from his description of these people that personality does have something to do with it, but it’s also an extremely diverse group.

      So the takeaway is that it is possible for nearly anyone to be successful at this if you try, try, try – and if you have something meaningful to add to the wealth of media already available. That’s the hard part, not having the right personality – think about the “personalities” that you may be familiar with – radio DJs, TV announcers, whatever – the fact is that they don’t actually have any personality or anything interesting to bring to the table, they’re just charismatic and have a nice speaking voice.

  7. Here are the 12 points (and the names of people/thing that are shining examples) :

    1. Start Now (Kate Beaton)
    2. Make Deadlines (Jonathan Coulton)
    3. Keep Your Legs Moving (Killer Mike)
    4. Don’t Confuse Content & Medium (Boing Boing)
    5. Be Authentic (Andrew WK)
    6. Follow Your Passion (Chris Hardwick)
    7. Focus on Great Work (Merlin Mann)
    8. Connect with People You Like (You Look Nice Today)
    9. Own What You Create (Felicia Day)
    10. Find the Money (Kasper Hauser)
    11. Build a Community (Insane Clown Posse)
    12. DO A GOOD JOB

    And here’s the final motivational paragraph:

    I don’t really think that most of what you need is born into you, though. Mostly, you just need to care, and try. You need to make something, and then make it again, a little better. You need to look around for money. You need to reach your hand out to meet someone when it would be easier to keep to yourself. You need to make something for you when it would be easier just do what someone else tells you to. All of these things are hard, but none of them require anything more than gumption. Which I bet you have.

    So: make your thing.

    *  *  *

    For the whole article, here’s the Google cache that Brian Easton posted earlier:

    “Gumption” is now my favourite word. ;-)

    1. 1. be yourself.
      2. you have one life.
      3. look for money but don’t count on it or get pissed off when it ain’t free.
      especially as a substitute for the miracle you are learning you are.
      4. count on your goodness, your zone.
      5. smile.
      6. a lot.
      7. ‘cept when ya can’t and can’t stand smiley faces.
      8. it’s all valid.
      9. none of it is terminal.
      10. embrace other people. (and their different ways when ya can)
      11. smiling is as natural as breathing.
      12. define gumption like robert persig did and wavy gravy and bukowski lived.
      13. embrace your life and wrestle it to the floor before you want to wrestle anyone else to the floor.
      14. whenever you have the need to wrestle others save up and visit turkey or greece and offer to pay for the olive oil.
      2. you have one life.
      15. never, never, write a book or an advice column.
      16. always, pick up your trash and leave the planet the way you found it.
      oops, live is 13 and the others follow suit.
      all found on page 43.
      dive into it.

  8. Succeed, mostly through dumb luck.  Retrospectively fit a twee 12-point framework over what happened to make it look like it was all down to your drive, courage and intellect.  Support your framework with random anecdotes.  Ignore all of the time people did what you say, but were overcome by circumstance.  Claim anybody can do the same and be guaranteed of success.  

    Didn’t work for you?  You’re a lazy, gutless idiot.

  9. This article immediately reminded me of an old Doonesbury cartoon. I’ve done a GIS and can’t find it.
    Jason B. Thorn was also reminded of it when he read Laura Vanderkam’s 168m Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

    To wit: “…There’s an old Doonesbury cartoon that I couldn’t stop thinking about: Jane Fonda complains to her cleaning lady that she (the housekeeper) should be more interested in Fonda’s exercise videos. The housekeeper says she’s too busy, and Jane responds, a la Vanderkam, “Nonsense—look how busy I am, and I have plenty of time to exercise.” The housekeeper’s answer is quietly devastating, and entirely appropriate throughout this book: “Yes, but you’re as busy as you want to be, and I’m as busy as I have to be. There’s a difference.”

    Maybe we should print out Jesse’s points in bullet form and hand them out to the people in, oh I don’t know, Darfur.

  10. Remember, if you fail, it’s entirely your fault, and it’s probably because you weren’t smiling hard enough.

  11. The problem with telling other how to achieve anything based on your experiences is that most people aren’t you.
    In other words: If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!

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