My 10 Most Read Stories of 2020
It’s the kind of question I’d never have asked myself, but that I was ultimately grateful to be asked: “What were your top 10 articles of 2020?”
In preparation of his digital summit Story 2021, where I’ll be speaking, Sean Smith handed me this question, and I had to admit: “I have no idea, but let me look it up!” Thanks to Moneyball, a tool made by my friend Zack Shapiro, I was able to quickly compile a list of my 10 most read stories of 2020.
The list is sorted by member reading time, a great “the proof is in the pudding” kind of metric. Arguably, Medium readers found these stories the most interesting because they spent the most time actually reading them.
I’ll share a little about why I think each story did well, and what I plan to do in 2021 as a result of this fun exercise. Here are my 10 most read stories of 2020.
At over 800,000 views, this is now my most viewed article of all time. I never expected this to be the one, but who ever does?
This piece solves a common work problem that only became more prominent as work shifted to Zoom in 2020. It does so in a way that allows you to feel smart without putting the focus on yourself, all while giving you permission to judge. I think that’s why it did so well.
The Tropicana juice box rebrand is one of the most famous botched marketing initiatives of all time. I think the reason my piece did well is that I a.) summarized all the findings from past analyses and b.) added a lot of my own, new takes on the incident, none of which I’d seen mentioned elsewhere.
This was probably my most controversial piece of 2020. Audi posted an image of a young girl eating a banana while leaning against the grill of one of their sports cars. They earned a shitstorm of epic proportions for it.
I took the other side in an emotionally charged situation and told people to get their heads out of the gutter, which made it easy to either hate or love the piece.
I spent a lot of time researching this piece. I read all the other articles about emotional maturity and tried to summarize their findings in a few key points. I think this, along with a personal example of someone in my extended family who is not emotionally mature, is why this article was well-received.
Everyone wants to be smarter, but no one wants to take long to do it. All mental models must be applied and practiced over a long period of time before we can internalize them, but if you can get the gist of one in 3–4 minutes, that is a very compelling proposition — and why this worked.
In my research for the initial emotional maturity piece, I discovered more questions that seemed to lack good answers, and I ended up writing a handful more articles on the topic, including this one.
I love reimagining my favorite movie scenes in text, and this was no exception. It was mostly about a smart quote, but the context in which it was delivered also mattered. The piece was semi-popular upon release and then took off a few months later.
This is a rewrite of one of our most popular summaries on Four Minute Books, The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma. I mostly credit the title for its success. I think I just happened to pick the right idea to highlight from the book and then deliver it at a time when a lot of people felt it was relevant to them.
I don’t remember why I landed on Jaime Masters’ interview on Youtube, I just instantly knew I had a solid article on my hands. Jaime did incredible work over the years, and so reporting it in condensed form for a new audience was an easy, fun, and successful act of service.
I think this did well because typing is a skill we all need nowadays, yet most people receive no formal training in it. I was lucky to take a touch typing course when I was 12, and its payoff over the years has been astronomical.
Again, if you can break down the basics of a skill with a huge return over the course of one’s life in a short period of time, that has tremendous value.
What’s Coming in 2021?
I have 2–3 more drafts in the “emotional maturity” category that I’ve been sitting on for a while. I hope to release those and then turn the whole collection into a short ebook once I’ve fully exhausted myself on the topic.
I also have a few more “smart hacks” in me. I already had plans to turn them all into a book, and I’d like to at least finish the groundwork on that this year.
I’m already working on a book called Self-Love To Go, which is about 50% done. It’s based on my existing work, but I’m doing extensive rewrites, lots of structural work, and I really want it to be a wholesome experience.
In between bigger projects, I hope to structure some of the lessons from our 800+ book summaries on Four Minute Books for short ebooks. The first one is progressing quickly (tentatively titled The Four Minute Millionaire).
If you want to stay up to date on these developments, you can join my email newsletter. I send out my best and most popular stories as I publish them, and I usually email no more than 2–4 times a month.
Thank you for reading my work in 2020 — I can’t wait to write more in 2021!