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Getting a Grip with Matthew Kimberley
Monday, June 06, 2011

I don’t remember exactly when I came across Matthew Kimberley’s site HowToGetAGrip.com, but I do remember than when I did I spent about an hour going through the archives. The wonderfully in-your-face life advice site had me hooked from the first post I read. Kimberley recently turned the site into a book, and this week I caught up with him to find out more about how he got a grip, how his life has changed since then, and why he feels tough love is sometimes the best medicine.

Adam Bernard: You consider yourself a “recovering workaholic.” How did you beat that, and how has beating that changed your life?
Matthew Kimberley: Yeah, funny thing is I probably get more real work done now that I've given up being in the office all the time. There's this insidious and erroneous idea that physical presence should be a barometer of how much work you're doing. For a long time, particularly after I started my first business, I'd spend hours and hours and weekends at the office. It sucked. I beat it through necessity. My son was born, I wasn't getting to see him. I had hemorrhoids from sitting down all day. I looked at different working models and realized the one where I walk twenty minutes along the Mediterranean shoreline to get a coffee each morning was the best, particularly combined with lunch in the sun and an enforced "no-more-than-four-hours-a-day-at-a-desk" (ideology). My personal income shot up since I made that choice, and I get a lot more done.

Adam Bernard: When you hear people talking about how much they work, what are your thoughts?
Matthew Kimberley: Work is what you do, not who you are. If you're, say, a carpenter who gets a real thrill from working the grain, and you choose to spend eighteen hours a day at it, then that's great. But for the vast majority of us, the number of working hours we put in is either worn as a badge of pride, or a cross to bear. If you're putting in more hours with your boss than with your family, then you're a douche. If you're pulling sixteen hour days to get a possible promotion in the next five years, then you've got the strength of character to fire your boss and start your own business. So, when people boast about "pulling an all-nighter" in the office, my reaction is always, and only, "why the fuck would you ever, ever do that?"

Adam Bernard: Moving to How To Get A Grip, it started as a website and is now a full length book. What inspired each?
Matthew Kimberley: How To Get A Grip was a website first. It was a form of therapy. I was pulling the aforementioned long hours in an industry I had no love for, and I was the owner of the company - go figure. How To Get A Grip was a creative outlet. It had been going for about two weeks when I got asked by a UK publisher to turn it into a book. I thought about it for about three minutes, then said yes.

Adam Bernard: Where does your wellspring of knowledge come from?
Matthew Kimberley: Dude, I don't know shit other than what we all know. My take is that we've all got the tools to get unstuck in life, but we don't use them. And I'm as guilty as the next guy. My wife told me yesterday that if I implemented 25% of what's in the book, then she'd be happy. But that's the thing; you can read How To Get A Grip once, or you can read it a hundred times, and it will ALWAYS be relevant because we have all the answers, we're just not saying them out loud. I don't have any advantage, I'm just documenting the stuff that gets lost in the grey swirl of brain matter.

Adam Bernard: With that in mind, do you feel common sense is as common as it should be?
Matthew Kimberley: Common sense is overrated. Common sense is too often lazy shorthand for "tradition" or "etiquette." It's too often used as an excuse for not doing something. Common sense dictates that base-jumping, vodka, and free-diving are all bad ideas, but they're not, they're all EXCELLENT ideas. But there is a place for common sense. Base-jumping without a parachute is ludicrous. Common sense is inherent in most of us, and yes, is as common as it should be. It's rarely a lack of common sense that lets us down, that lets us grow fat, or allows us to let our relationships fizzle into nothing; it's ignoring the voices of common sense and not taking action.

Adam Bernard: You have a “tough love” style of giving out advice. What have been some of your favorite responses to this, both positive and negative?
Matthew Kimberley: The responses to my style have been overwhelmingly positive. The self-help industry is built up on platitudes and softly-softly approaches to "recognizing your worth" and "being all you can be," which is great for continuing to milk funds from those that are afraid of progress. The drill sergeant's style to getting your life in order is the only one that actually reaps results, but it's not for the faint of heart. For every ten emails I get that say "thanks" I get one from a dickhead. My favorite is here.

Adam Bernard: Other than the portability factor, how does the book differ from the site?
Matthew Kimberley: Most of the site is included in the book, but only makes up 35% of the total content. All the rest is brand new. Some people find having a tangible asset they can put in a handbag to be a more effective medium of communication than reading words on the screen. I had a duty to put it out there. Plus, it's fucking cheap. Buy four copies.

Adam Bernard: Why is it that the UK can get the book, but Amazon is making those of us in the US, like me, wait? Is this some indication that Amazon needs to fill a WAY bigger order because Americans are so far gone?
Matthew Kimberley: {laughs} I hope so! No, it's more about the vagaries of the publishing and distribution rights. It's been published by a UK publisher who has signed a distribution deal with a US publishing house who has scheduled everything much later. It's annoying, but I'm not high profile enough for them to listen to me. Everything in traditional publishing takes eight times longer than it should. It's a frustrating model, particularly as 90% of my blog readers are in the States. You can only launch something so many times. You CAN get it with free worldwide shipping from The Book Depository, though.

Adam Bernard: You give a lot of information away for free. Do you, at any point, hold back and say “wait, this is something I have to charge for?” What’s the cut off point?
Matthew Kimberley: Yeah, I've been thinking about this. The stuff on How To Get A Grip should be given away for free. The book is so cheap it's basically free. For the "real world" work I do I get all of my clients and business offline. I use the internet as a marketing tool, but I don't sell products yet. The higher the quality of the free stuff, the better the quality of my paying clients. There's a strong argument for giving nothing away for free, but information is an infinite resource. For the moment, I'm happy with my business model. I'll certainly start offering paid products in the future, but it's unlikely to be very soon.

Adam Bernard: Finally, what’s the one result you’ve had from How To Get A Grip that you never expected?
Matthew Kimberley: The book deal. Everybody wants to get a book deal from their blog. I was one of the lucky bastards who happened to have a commissioning editor take a look at my site at the right time. I couldn't have planned it better.

Related Links

Website: MatthewKimberley.com
Website: HowToGetAGrip.com
Twitter: twitter.com/mjkimberley
Twitter: twitter.com/HowToGetAGrip


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:22 AM  
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