Academy for Wayward Authors email 30 of 45: Uncut Gems

I have spent the last few emails getting you to think bigger and more broadly. I have asked you to cast a critical eye on what you choose to do as a publisher and make sure it aligns with your why.

Now we are going to apply some of those insights in a practical way.

Did you ever have a rock tumbler as a kid?

It seemed like such fun. You imagined collecting rocks and turning them into cool items like jewelry or keychains.

When you got the tumbler, turning the rough stones into smooth gems took weeks and multiple stages. It was boring.

Thirteen weeks ago, I talked about putting suitable rocks in your bucket.

This was the Stephen Covey analogy of your time being a bucket, and if you didn’t fill it up with “big significant things,” the bucket would fill up with little insignificant things or go unfilled.

I want to revisit those rocks to see if some are uncut gems.

An uncut gem is a rock that, if it repeatedly passed through your Cash-Create-Launch-Reach (CCLR) loop, would continue to increase the value of your whole business.

The difference between an uncut gem and a rock is that an uncut gem is one of the vital few, the 4% that creates 64% of the results. The CCLR feedback loop is your rock tumbler to turn the rock into precious gems of ever-increasing value.

Uncut gems may look like regular rocks until you look at them under the lens of “What if you just worked on this rock over and over and nothing else?” Imagine if this was the only thing you could do. What would happen in your business?

Consider the gemstone’s facets as you do this mental exercise. Let’s take the simplest and most fundamental one of all: writing. This would be a gemstone that forms in the create phase of the loop. What is the frequency of your writing? What if you did it more often?

What if we found an uncut gem for each phase of the CASH-CREATE-LAUNCH-REACH loop and then just kept making that loop as many times as you are comfortable with each year?

The rock tumbler or gemstone polisher repeats the same motion with a finer and finer grit. The CCLR loop will do that to your gemstones; each pass will improve quality.

To help you flesh out your plan, let’s walk through a few examples, starting with the cash phase of the CCLR loop. What if you created a budget that was designed to return a 20% net profit on the cash invested for each launch?

Are you doing that now? If so, do you go back and compare the budget to the actual results and see how to make improvements?

Pick one uncut gem for each phase—the single most important thing you can do, the one that has the most impact. Do it repeatedly.

It’s not about doing more. It’s about doing the right thing, over and over.

I’ve attached a simple worksheet for you to explore the rocks you have identified for each of the four phases.

Write out the rocks you have planned for the next quarter or year for Cash, Create, Launch, and Reach. Determine if one in each phase is an uncut gem and focus on polishing it into the gem it should be.

This isn’t about doing things fast or to the point you feel you are under pressure. If your tumbler turns once a year, so be it. Just make the gems the focus.

Your toughest competition in a genre is not the author doing everything but the one doing the important things well repeatedly.

Let’s look at how this should work out.

In the classic 80/20 model, 20% of your work delivers 80% of the results, and 80% delivers the other 20% for a total of 100% of causes = 100% effect.

What if you cut out half of the 80% that delivered 20% of the results?

80%/2 = 40%

So now you are still spending 40% of your time on ineffective tasks, and you only get 10% of the results, plus the original 20% that gets you 80%. That’s 60% of your effort to get 90% of the best results—free time with little lost effectiveness.

What if you now fill the open 40% by repeating what gets you the 80% of your results? The output becomes 250%.

If we replace that same 40% with the vital few, the 4% that delivers 64%, you’ll get amazing results. Here’s the math:

40%/4% = 10x

4% = 64% ten times 10x = 640%

20% = 80%

40% = 10%

Output = 730% effective.

Now, this is all theoretical, as the actual time it takes to do the vital few may take longer than less effective tasks.

The point is to show you how eliminating the wasteful, less effective tasks and repeating the most effective work generates massive results.

Thank you for your attention,



Uncut Gems