The End of Fake Productivity: Review of The Dojo by Jonathan Mead and Charlie Gilkey

The Dojo GuideWhen Japanese martial artists want to deepen their knowledge, learn new techniques, and advance their skills, they gather in a training center, the dojo. Both avid martial artists themselves, Jonathan Mead from Illuminated Mind and Charlie Gilkey from Productive Flourishing, joined forces to transfer this image of the dojo into the world of productivity.

The Dojo Guide (affliate link) is basically an ebook of 38 pages in PDF format, accompanied by seven audio sessions of a length between 8 and 13 minutes. For people who prefer the written word, a transcript of the audio files is provided.

For an info product, the Dojo is not cheap, selling currently at a price of $67. If you have the choice between buying it or better going for 67 scoops of ice cream, you may start to think about it. (At least I did, but I’m a sucker for desserts.)

Honestly, though, 67 scoops would probably be a bit too much even for the trained stomach. The Dojo, on the other hand, is a great tool for productivity nerds and newbies alike. Compared to a personal coaching session with just one of the authors, the price gets put into perspective, too. What’s more, early buyers were surprised by a scheduled group call with both Charlie and Jonathan, allowing everybody to ask questions and discuss the content. A little bird told me that there will be another call in June, so that might be a good opportunity for you to get directly in touch with the guys.

What’s it all about, then?

In short words, the Dojo is about escaping the fake productivity we all find us in from time to time. Instead of doing the important stuff, we’re busy getting our email inbox down to zero and responding to secondary tasks other people throw at us. Thankfully, the Dojo does not want to impose a new system on us. Rather, the guide is about building your own approach to productivity, nurturing it from the personal energy and power you already have. In the end, this is about doing things at your own rules, and at your own pace. You can imagine that this chimes with my approach to life. Jonathan and Charlie challenge the usual productivity industry by putting an emphasize not on doing more and more stuff, but on doing what matters – a fine but important distinction, especially if you are a person who likes to preserve some free time while building your business or doing whatever work you have got at hand.

If you are looking for worksheets and lists, the Dojo is not for you. If you are a number cruncher and like to track down statistical data of every aspect of your life, the guide is not for you, either. If, on the other hand, you are wondering why you don’t fit into the usual productivity schemes or miss a deeper meaning and a place for the “important few” when working with them, the guide might be your thing.

The Dojo is short and precise, directly to the point. There is no drivel and no comfortable, yet superfluous fluff. If you grab the guide, there’s no need to get into a comfortable reading position on your couch, waiting for inspiration. Much the contrary, the Dojo is about creating a specific and personal mindset that leads towards not only more, but higher-quality output.

The ebook and the audio sessions do reinforce each other neatly. For each chapter of the book, the authors recorded their personal takes on the content. While the text is denser, the audio helps you to really integrate the information into your life, as do the questions at the end of each chapter that provide you with lots of food for thought.

The design of the ebook is beautiful. Contrary to many info products out there, this is a great example of how design can complement the content. Unfortunately, the quality of the audio files could be better. While it does the job, the sessions sound like recordings from a telephone call (and, probably, they are), and thus have a little echo that might disturb you. It’s still good enough to understand everything, and there are no lacks or recording errors. As I personally enjoy reading this kind of information a lot more than only hearing it, I was happy to see the audio transcripts released a few days after the product launch. Since then, I would listen, read, and take notes of the content at the same time.


Name: The Dojo – A Guide to Doing What Matters
Content: 38 pages ebook in PDF format, 7 accompanying MP3 audio files of 8-13 minutes each
Price: $67
Where to get it: Feel free to get it here or through any of the affiliate links on this page, helping me with a sales-based commission. The price for you remains the same.

Whom it’s not for:

  • Number crunchers
  • People looking for pure entertainment and long reads
  • People looking for a new GTD system to buy into with lists, weekly reviews, etc.
  • Hi-fi experts

Whom it’s for:

  • People who want to do more of what matters
  • People who want to tap the energies they already have inside
  • Especially creative people of all colors: Writers, artists, starting entrepreneurs
  • Open-minded people: The Dojo will probably lead you to question your beliefs


When a fighter enters a dojo, he is ready to learn something. But he’s also ready to take action and begin to fight. The Dojo Guide, much in line with this tradition, is not inviting you to remain seated for hours and hours, listening to the wisdom of a master. It invites you to join the teachers, hear their instructions, and then let them step back as you unleash the powers you always had inside but did not know how to tap into. This is at the same time the most uncomfortable and the best thing about this guide: It comes with no excuses to delay your personal fight to creating your own way of productivity.

Go check out The Dojo Guide here.


  1. Looks like an interesting book… but it is priced almost at 2$ per page… Just to put it into comparison in another high value per page setting, my very recently published paper in a mathematics journal has around 30 pages and is priced as an online download for 19€ (23$ as of now) (btw, money I will never see, I only can get it published, there are no royalties in math research journals). Not convinced, but if you say it is good, I guess it is… let us know if it gets a cut in its price some day ;)


    1. Hey, that published paper sounds like a step forward on the way to the PhD, eh? Congrats for that! I think it’s useful to have these articles royalty-free, but at the same time the publishers are exploiting both writers and readers, and that’s quite a problem, in my mind.

      And you are right, the price for the Dojo is high and I don’t encourage anybody to buy it if money is an issue. You can get stuff done without it, that’s for sure. I think the pricing will have to do with it being released in a small niche. It’s not as if the authors could sell thousands of copies.
      Also, it’s the whole affiliate business circus. While I am starting to enter it, I am thinking about better ways to do this, but I haven’t reached a conclusion yet.
      I personally got it for 50% of the price during launch period – if there is a special offer some day, I’ll let you know! At the same time, the calls are a great extra, and they relativize the price a lot, in my opinion.

    2. Thanks for the feedback regarding the price.

      I’d like to share some perspective that’s especially important for academics, as my path to entrepreneurship came by way of finishing my Ph.D. in philosophy. While I agree with Fabian that there’s a great deal of writer exploitation going on, it’s also true that creating content is part of the job requirements, and thus, pay for academics. Publish or perish also means “you get paid to share content.”

      What this means is that there is an economic structure – the academic institution itself – that’s set up so that its members are paid to write. This structure also severely alters the price points of content you pay for; I can likely download your article for free due to my standing as a graduate student at my University. Surely I can read it for free by requesting it from the library.

      So, at the same time that academic authors are being paid to write, they usually have access to the writing of other writers for free, too. It’s actually not free, but is covered by the economic distribution structure of the academic institution. The value of the article itself is quite distinct from what you get paid to write it – or don’t – and what I pay to access it – or don’t.

      Writers outside of the structures that pay them to write have a different task ahead of them. If you don’t sell your goods, you don’t eat, and you don’t have a larger institution footing your bill, even if the amount they’re footing could be much higher. And it’s not as easy to sell a cheaper ebook as you’d think. Combine market prices, the fact that two authors need to live from it, and a price point that allows us to offer calls and other bonuses without worrying about making rent, and you get a higher price point.

      I never thought about how the economic structures supported our activities in a variety of ways when I was an academic; I mostly saw what I was I was and wasn’t getting paid. I’m now more observant about such things. Maybe you’re much more aware about this stuff than I was; I am, after all, a philosopher, and we’re known to be aloof. ;p

      1. Just to chime in here: I think the academic system is pretty much okay like it is, BUT I don’t get it why the publishers are the ones cashing. At least that’s what I am observing. They don’t pay the authors. They don’t pay the peer reviewers. They don’t finance the library system. Yet they can sell the articles at a price that they like. Sure, while you’re at an institution, you don’t have to pay for it – but the insitution has to! And that’s why I see these journals exploiting both sides.

        As for ebooks in the private sector, I hear you. All the things you describe went through my head as well, so in the end, cost is relative. That said, the affiliate business nowadays inflates prices artifically in my opinion, and – worst of all – it allows even the bad stuff to sell like “pan caliente”. The problem is if only the good players lower their commissions (and the price for the public), they won’t be able to compete anymore… this is a complicated situation, in my opinion.

  2. I really loved this review, Fabian.

    The best part about it is that you get it. That’s clear when you say this:

    This is at the same time the most uncomfortable and the best thing about this guide: It comes with no excuses to delay your personal fight to creating your own way of productivity.

    Some people want more information, not because they actually need it, but because they have expectations about what page numbers mean. We could have written this to be three times as long, but it’d be worse for us doing so – we both checked each other about why we wanted to write more when we did. If it didn’t pass the “more is needed to help people practice this” test, then it didn’t make the cut.

    It’s surprising, really, how much can be cut when you apply a modified version of Occam’s Razor to it.

    Thanks for the comment about the audio, too. We recently updated the Dojo to remove the annoying echo and sent out an update – let me know if you didn’t get it and we’ll get it back in your hands shortly.

  3. Hey there! I found you via the awesome discussion going on at Productive Flourishing about launches.

    So, let me confirm. You are an affiliate? If I misunderstood, disregard! But IF I understand correct, if I buy this product, you make money?

    We are back to square one. I’ve no doubt it is a great product but how can I trust a review where the author makes money from the sale of the product???

    1. Yes: I am an affiliate and I disclose it openly (“Feel free to get it here or through any of the affiliate links on this page, helping me with a sales-based commission. The price for you remains the same.”). And: You cannot trust my review unless you know me well enough to know that I wouldn’t recommend it only to make money. That said, I am fine making money if it’s a great product and the right person buys it, based on my review – not because I convinced her, but because she saw a fit.
      We are indeed “back to square one”, and this is what I was discussing over at PF, as also over here. The only alternative coming to my mind would be to create a product review site that doesn’t take any commissions. But how would it survive? Maybe as a volunteer’s effort, because if you accept ads, you are entering the same system. This is what’s happening with media around the world. Any other ideas?

  4. As the affiliate model, which basically seems to be about making money on the internet by writing books about how to make money on the internet, becomes more and more popular it does indeed run the risk of people becoming cynical. That is, “reviews” will increasingly be seen as “sales pitches”. This could stifle sales. It probably won’t matter for those who got in on the ground floor, but the next generation of ebook sellers will operate in an environment of distrust. It is essentially a tragedy of the commons problem. Individuals currently benefit at the expense of the future whole. The solution is to become a trusted reviewer. Currently, the model is to either say something positive or not saying anything at all. This creates a huge conflict of interest. Reviewers can generate trust by giving bad products bad reviews. There is an increased likelihood that people will buy products through such a site. Of course then we’re back to the gatekeepers of publishing 101.

    1. One small disagreement: While there’s indeed a ridiculous scene of people making money on the web by supposedly teaching the same thing, affiliate business is a lot bigger than just that. Apart from that, I agree with you. We need bad reviews, and they can build trust. The era of forced positivity has to end.

      1. Came back to this post now, don’t know why. Oh, yeah, I checked your affiliates in the sidebar! I have a problem with book reviews (from which I always link to Amazon as an affiliate) or iPod app reviews (which I don’t link as an affiliate because Apple does not want to): I only want to review what I really, really like. I may try/play with 20 apps a month (when they come free), and a lot get deleted in minutes. Some I play and then think “duh” and remove. But the truly good ones, I review. Thus, all my reviews are “pay whatever the price for this game/app”. And this is how it is…

        It also happens with books (although I’m off schedule: I have 3 book reviews in my list of posts… and none written), I may read one book each week, when I am on the mood and the books are good. But I won’t review rubbish: I want to share good things.

        I may occasionally pick something and rip it off… But I just doesn’t feel well doing it.

        How do you tackle this problem?

        As a final note… Why don’t you have “follow replies to this comment by email” activated? (or whatever, I am no WordPress user and don’t know the insides of this) I miss it!


        1. I was mainly refering to digital products (ebooks, audio lessons, etc.) here. The problem here is more difficult, I think, because the affiliate market distorts opinions. It`s not that you or I have to force ourselves to write bad reviews (I don`t buy much of this stuff anyway), but that there is so much “marketing talk disguised as review” noise out there that it can be hard to really find a valid opinion on a product you are interested in. I am not sure yet how to solve it, but maybe there indeed is a need for a more neutral review site for this kind of products.

          As for the comments, I just never thought about it. It`s a function I personally don`t use a lot, and as an admin I get the notifications anyway. ;)
          I installed a plug-in for the matter today and it looks good. Could you let me know if it works? Thanks a lot! :)

  5. I would love to buy this product, I really would. But I’m not going to, and I’ll tell you why.

    It’s because I feel like experimenting with these ideas on my own. I get the basic premise of what they’re selling, and I’m so very glad they’re providing that information to people who need it.

    I just want to take the simple, sales summary ideas and expound on them myself. How much more meaningful they’ll be to me personally if I succeed.

    1. Tim, that’s just great! While it doesn’t make them any money, I’m sure Jonathan and Charlie would be delighted to see your approach. Too many people just download stuff and never use it… taking the opposite approach is realy interesting. So let us know how it goes! :)

  6. I’m with you Tim.
    I considered my bank account status before deciding that i’m on the right path towards my own customized development. The value of experiential learning is personalized and unique to me.
    I do not doubt that this guide would enlighten me leaps and bounds, but the lessons will stay with me because i experience them actively as opposed to passively.
    It’s a personal choice.
    Regardless, I am absolutely gobsmacked by this blog, Fabian. I stumbled across it this morning and, like a book, haven’t been able to put it down: this vein of knowledge, perspective and action is perfectly needed in the world right now.
    This is a list of the ‘places’ i learned ‘at’ today:
    Advanced Riskology by Tyler TerVooren
    The (watched numerous RSAnimate videos)
    Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guides
    Fabian’s Friendly Anarchist blog.
    For everyone who has found their way to this site and this comment, do yourself a mind expanding favour and look into all these wonderful sources of knowledge, inspiration and admirable ‘lead by example’ approaches to empowering community through trust, compassion and accountability.
    When i ‘grow up’ I want to be just these writers and speakers.

    1. Wow, Carol-Lynne, this is the most flattering comment I ever got, and also a great attitude when it comes to personally “cutomized development”.
      I am happy to have readers who prefer to use their brains over their credit cards, instead of the other way around. There are so many great resources out there, and if my articles provide even a tiny small twist into the direction of positive change, I have to admit that my goal is already reached. I am glad the blog inspired you, and I hope you’ll keep coming back from time to time, and tell us about how your personal way is developing!

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