Schools & Resources

Help for Mediocre Writers

David Perell helps folks improve their writing skills. His company offers an online course, YouTube author interviews, and a weekly newsletter. But his broader goal is supporting excellence.

He told me, “It’s worth doing exceptional work with whatever you do. The modern world is polluted with mediocrity.”

He and I recently spoke. We addressed writing and speaking and their impact on entrepreneurial success. The entire audio of our conversation is embedded below. The transcript is edited for length and quality.

Eric Bandholz: Tell us who you are.

David Perell: I help folks become better writers. I offer an online course called “Write of Passage.” Roughly 1,000 learners every year from all levels of expertise sign up.

My YouTube channel contains multiple playlists for authors. One is called “How I Write,” where I interview notable bloggers, journalists, and teachers.

“North Star Podcast” was my audio show. I published 90 episodes from 2017 to 2021. I started the podcast after having been laid off from a job. I didn’t have a sense of purpose or a competitive edge. I couldn’t find my North Star, so I started the podcast.

Over the next few years, I interviewed folks about who they are, what they do, and how they think. I ended up shutting the podcast down because it didn’t align with the other stuff I was working on, but it helped me figure out what to do with my life.

Bandholz: You have notable entrepreneurs on your YouTube channel.

Perell: I spend a lot of time thinking about what I have a knack for. I come alive when I’m around successful people in a way that’s hard to explain. I’ve always enjoyed being around older men. There’s a certain peace and a sturdiness amid the chaos around them. I used to love playing golf when I was younger because I could go to the course and hang out with guys in their sixties, seventies, and eighties. We’d walk 18 holes, hit balls on the driving range, and talk about life. I think that’s the best way to learn.

I recently had Marc Andreesen on the show. I sent him the trailer for my channel, which I had carefully assembled. Aesthetics instantly communicate a sense of seriousness and quality, and a trailer makes a stronger impression than a text description. I wrote Marc a note with it, saying I had just launched a YouTube playlist called “How I Write.” I included the names of prominent guests and stated that I would love to interview him. Then, I let the video do the talking.

It’s worth doing exceptional work with whatever you do. The return to being the best in the world at your chosen profession continues to increase. The modern world is polluted with mediocrity and a sense of casualness that hurts creators.

Bandholz: How do you help folks improve their writing skills?

Perell: I use a three-pillar framework that I call POP — Personal, Observational, and Playful. “Personal” is telling stories about yourself that provide credibility. For example, no one wants to read the person discussing his Harvard PhD. It’s much better to share a personal story. “Observational” conveys your insights. How is your writing helpful? What are you teaching your readers? “Playful” implies bringing personality and characteristics that make you distinct. Writing and speaking benefit from having all three.

It’s simple to improve speaking skills. I’ll listen to this entire podcast, observing my speech patterns, cadence and storytelling, anecdotes, and tempo. Did I need to speed up or slow down? For video interviews, I’ll watch myself speak.

Phenomenal CEOs are good at sloganeering and telling the same stories repeatedly. They make tweaks. They look at people’s eyes. They notice where they get a laugh and where listeners are interested in what they’re saying. They’re similar to comedians — telling the same things repeatedly. It’s an art.

Bandholz: What’s the vision behind “Write of Passage,” your course?

Perell: I’m invested in being around smart, ambitious individuals who want to write and get their ideas into the world. Intelligent people read, and successful people read the most. Therefore, writing will remain relevant among thinkers. I want to be their go-to resource.

I try to attract the most valuable audience within that niche. I’ve learned much from my friends David Senra, who runs a podcast called “Founders,” and Patrick O’Shaughnessy, with his “Invest Like the Best” show. I want with writers what David has with entrepreneurs and Patrick has with investors.

“Write of Passage” is a five-week online course. It costs $3,995. We get a few hundred signups. We have about 35 contractors who edit every piece from enrollees, with an average turnaround time of 18 hours. We have mentors who help students overcome the emotional challenges of learning to write and instructors who focus on specific aspects, such as how to find your voice and tell a story.

Bandholz: Where can people support you?

Perell: My website is You can find the “Write of Passage” course there. Check out “How I Write” on my YouTube channel. My Twitter is @david_perell.

Eric Bandholz
Eric Bandholz
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