"I am the founder of Ness Labs, a mindful productivity school for knowledge workers who want to make the most of their mind. Every week, I write neuroscience-based articles about creativity, mental health, and metacognition that are published in my newsletter Maker Mind."
Ness Labs started as my own personal laboratory, where I could learn and experiment with anything I felt curious about. When I learned how to code, I used Ness Labs as a platform to launch a browser extension. When I was learning about self-publishing, I used it to launch an ebook.
During my neuroscience studies, I discovered something called the Generation Effect, which shows that we understand and remember things better if we create our own version of the content. So, instead of taking passive notes, it’s much more beneficial to rephrase, perform extra research, and connect the dots in your own way.
In order to build consistency with this helpful habit, I started Maker Mind, a weekly newsletter where I share original articles based on what I learn about neuroscience in my studies and elsewhere. A year later, I didn’t expect to have more than 15,000 subscribers.
I would say Ness Labs is a place for curious minds to connect together and learn how the brain works so they can be their most creative and most productive. It’s no surprise Ness Labs’ audience is mostly made up of knowledge workers: their brain is their most important tool. The same way an athlete cannot afford to get hurt, a knowledge worker needs to take care of their mind; to be mindful of their productivity habits; and if possible to avoid burning out. Ness Labs offers content, community, and coaching to such people.
With everyone! I always work in public. I post screenshots on Twitter, ask for feedback, and I’m part of several groups of makers where I can get inspiration from others.
Yes, I had a few thousand followers on Twitter.
Twitter has been instrumental in building an audience for Ness Labs. I always share my content there, I engage with the community, I ask questions. I have learned so much thanks to Twitter, and a big part of my traffic comes from there.
15,000 people have my email address, and they do reply to my newsletter. My DMs are open on Twitter. Just by letting it be known that I appreciate feedback, I get lots of constructive messages.
It’s important not to just broadcast to your audience. We now have an online forum where people can discuss articles and start their own conversations, as well as virtual meetups which are a great opportunity for people to have real-time conversations. Another way we help people connect is Mind Match, a matching service for Ness Labs members to grab a 1:1 virtual coffee.
I don’t consider these two separate audiences. It’s the same audience at different levels of engagement. Some people may like a tweet, others may subscribe to the newsletter, and yet others may join the private community—but ultimately, they’re all part of the same audience.
I had my first blog when I was a teenager. It also had an online forum, and I was sharing all of my process in public—albeit with a much, much smaller audience. So it’s not something I suddenly discovered, I just always enjoyed working this way.
Many people wait until they think their product is “perfect” before launching is. The reality is: a product will never be perfect. The sooner one starts sharing their work with the world, the sooner they can get feedback from actual target users.
My very first blog. It’s not online anymore, but I was very transparent in the way I was building it, and I was involving my readers in many decisions regarding the content and design.
Feedback is incredibly precious, but people are more willing to share their honest thoughts than you would think—you just need to give them the space.
James Clear is incredibly transparent in the way he is building his business. He is the one who inspired me to start writing an annual review. Andy Matuschak is also a great public builder: he created a public notebook for his raw thoughts, which led many other creators to do the same, including myself.
It can sometimes be anxiety-inducing to put your work into the world before you feel it is ready, but it becomes easier over time. And, of course, I would probably not recommend it for industries where intellectual property is crucial.
I don’t try to stay on top of all my inboxes. I’m pretty clear with people that they should not expect a quick reply. I like slow, asynchronous communication. In my current line of work, it’s pretty rare for something to be truly urgent.
Except if you work in an industry where IP equals money, ideas don’t really matter. It’s all about the execution. So I don’t waste my mental energy worrying about people copying my work. Most of the time, people will lack the consistency, passion, or dedication to turn the idea into a business. And if they do work hard enough, there is room for everyone.
I’m currently working on a course. It’s a lot of work but I think it will be a helpful resource for my readers who are interested in shifting from a collector mindset to a creator mindset. I also have a library of ebooks based on my articles, so people can read them on Kindle or when they’re offline.
My goal is for Ness Labs to be the best mindful productivity school, bringing together curious minds from all around the world, and helping them fully realise their creative potential. In terms of execution, this vision could take many forms, and I don’t have an exact plan. That’s the joy of working in public: I can experiment, learn, and adjust my strategies as I go.
Launching the Ness Labs membership was probably the biggest decision I made for the business in the last 18 months. It has allowed me to build a stable revenue stream so I can focus on what I do best: writing and engaging with the community.
The best place is probably Twitter.