Young People Changing The World: Tom Morkes of Insurgent Publishing

Young People Changing The World is a weekly series featuring the world's changemakers. Every Monday, I publish an interview with a young entrepreneur with questions regarding their journey. They tell us their definition of success, their desired impact on the world and share their single most important lesson. 

My goal with this series is to inspire young leaders to take action. Be bold. Go after your dreams. Make a positive change in the world. 

Tom Morkes.jpg

Tom Morkes used to jump out of helicopters as a living. 

Nowadays, he applies what he's learnt leading troops in combat to the world of entrepreneurship, writing and art. As the founder of independent publishing platform, Insurgent Publishing, he helps creators start, finish and ship their projects. 

I first heard of Tom over the summer when he presented his book, 2 Days With Seth Godin, as a case study at Think Traffic. What made Tom and his book unique was his use of the 'Pay What You Want' business model. In his guest post, "Generosity Pays: Results From Launching a 'Pay What You Want' eBook", Tom details his beginnings as a writer who gave away everything for free. 

He wrote books, guides, started a podcast, and never charged a penny.  

In early 2013, he spent a weekend with marketing thinker, Seth Godin. With pages and pages of notes, he knew he had to somehow spread the knowledge. After months of work, he offered his book as a 'Pay What You Want' model. Simply put, you can download his book for free, or you can treat him to a coffee. No pressure, the choice is all yours! 

You can read more about 2 Days With Seth Godin on Tom's website, and read the results of his application of the 'Pay What You Want' model over at Think Traffic

I'm fascinated by the concept of paying what you want. It's true that there have been others who have applied this method before Tom. However, no one else has championed the business model as well as Tom has. 

As a marketer and writer, I was curious to learn how I could apply this model to my business.

As someone who loves stories and learning new ideas, I was curious to learn more about Tom.

I'm happy to share this week's interview with a wise person who is a great example of a young person who refuses to let anything stop him from achieving his mission.

Meet Tom.

What is your name and company? 

Tom Morkes, Insurgent Publishing, LLC.

What are you up to these days?  

Wow, that's a big question, but I'll get right to it.  :)

I'm currently the President of Insurgent Publishing, a boutique, creative publishing platform that publishes unconventional nonfiction for artists and entrepreneurs.  I'm working with several excellent authors at the moment and hope to have several books released first quarter of 2014.

We're also working on a massive semi-annual journal project.  It's like a literary journal but focuses on business + art in the 21st century.  We've got some incredible people contributing, from best selling authors, to internationally known artists, to world class entrepreneurs. The first edition is scheduled to ship 1 January 2014 and our goal is to raise $1 million for charity using a 'donate what you want' model for the digital edition.

I also write for my blog at - this is where I apply what I've learned leading troops in combat to the world of art, entrepreneurship and writing.  Through this platform I've written two books (The Art of Instigating and 2 Days with Seth Godin), several guides, and I'm gearing up to release an in-depth course on how to use generosity as a business model.  If any of this sounds interesting, check out my website: everything is 'Pay What You Want' so there is no barrier to entry.  Grab my stuff for free or treat me to coffee - it's your choice. :)

I'm also involved in a number of other projects, including project manager for a Veterans website, and lead sales and design for a new commercial real estate software business.

Where did the idea of your company come from?  

Tom Morkes and Seth Godin

Tom Morkes and Seth Godin

I started publishing my work on my website, After receiving some positive comments from people, I decided to write a book, The Art of Instigating.  People seemed to love it and word spread about my writing.

As I grew my audience of readers, I found that many of them were talented writers and artists themselves. I thought, "Heck, if I can do it, so can they... they just need a push and some direction." 

That's the goal of Insurgent Publishing - to bring the ideas of incredible artists to life.

So where did the idea come from?  My desire to help others do what I had done at a small scale and be the person who pushes and prods and gets people to take action and create life changing art.

How do you define success?  

The progressive realization of a worthy goal.

*credit goes to Earl Nightingale for that awesome definition of success

How do you want to make an impact on the world?  

I want to help motivated, talented people actualize their dreams.

I think there's a big misconception out there that you have to be born into the right family, have the right network, or act a certain way to find success in life.

That's bull#*$t.  Now, more than ever before in history, we have an opportunity to create what we desire and live the lives we want.  Technology is cheap (and getting cheaper) and people are more connected than ever.

The question isn't 'how do I make something worthwhile?'...

The question is: What do you want to do with your life?  What do you want to create?  What do you want to build?

And the answer is to go and do it, whatever it is.  No, it's not easy, but it's certainly not impossible.

I want to make an impact by helping people to realize this fundamental truth.

How do you come up with ideas?  

I draw from art, movies, books, and life.

I'm a fan of Austin Kleon (Author of Steal Like an Artistwho says art is a remix.  There's no such thing as originality - just the mixing and matching of old ideas into something new.

I live this philosophy in my writing and work.  I'm not trying to do something new or unique - I'm merely trying to show you what you already know is true.

How do you keep yourself aligned to your goals?  

Daily reflection, dogged determination and discipline.

List one person you admire, and why?  

This probably changes depending on what I'm reading at the time...but right now, I'd say:

  1. Nassim Taleb (Author of The Black Swan) - I love his courage to challenge the arrogance of modern economists...and to prove his point with actual data.
  2. G.K. Chesterton (Writer) - really enjoying his writing right now... a person who certainly challenged the status quo of his time.  More applicable today than ever before.
  3. Ron Paul (Author and former politician) - I've never seen someone so principled, consistent and determined.  He is the epitome of 'never compromise on your values.'

Name on strength and one weakness.  

Strength: I don't know what's impossible

Weakness: I am my own worst critic and every day is a fight to just shut up and create

As a young leader, what is the single activity or habit you do, that you recommend everyone else does?

Read old books.

Yeah, there's a lot of good new stuff, but Aristotle, Plato, Chesterton, Lewis, Aurelius, Machievelli - that stuff never goes out of style.

What is the last book you read?  

I just finished two basically at the same time: The Science of Success by Charles G. Koch and Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail by William Ophuls

Read them both.

Which tools, apps or resources do you live by?  

Dropbox, Evernote, Lastpass

Love these tools, but the truth is, you don't need great tools to do great work.  Don't get hung up on tools, tricks or hacks... sit down and do good work every day instead.

What is the most interesting thing about you?  

There are probably a hundred things.  We're all strange, aren't we?

What is the single most important lesson you can share with our readers?  

Start before you're ready.

How can people get in touch with you?  

Email:  (seriously, email me and say hi - I always respond)

The Young People Changing The World series asks young entrepreneurs to share their definitions of success, desired impact on the world and share their single most important lesson. 

My goal with this series is to inspire young leaders and entrepreneurs to take action. Be bold. Go after your dreams. Make a positive change in the world. 

Every Monday, I'll feature a new guest and their story. Have someone you'd love to see featured or have suggestions on questions I should ask? Send me an email.