Monthly Archives: March 2012
I need you to read this article. It’s nothing out of the ordinary really, just Phil Collins’ nephew arrested off the coast of Peru with $3 million worth (in street value) of uncut South American cocaine. But that wasn’t what really caught my eye. Pay attention to this section:
Nothing strange about two school buddies taking a gap year round-the-world trip on a yacht, right? Nothing at all. Except that Phillip Austin Collins is actually thirty-freakin’-seven (37) and his friend, Gareth Young, is a very young 39 years old. Not ironically, the name of their yacht is The Audaciter. Yup, I’d say anyone taking a gap year at 37 and 39 and consequently deciding to smuggle Bolivian marching powder into the UK in the midst of that trip has some serious audacity!
Passive Income to Retire started the Beginning Blogger Challenge. Here’s the original challenge. Why did he start this challenge and why are so many people jumping in with the abandon of the Italian captain leaving the sinking Costa Concordia? ‘Cause it’s fun! Stuff like this brings great ideas together and I’ve already learned a lot from other bloggers’ advice. But first, my answers to the questions of the Challenge:
- How long have you been blogging? Since June 2011
- Why did you start blogging? To get the f*** out of debt!
- How long did it take you to earn $100 (if you have already earned $100) Seven months!
- What is (at least) one thing you wish someone had told you before you started blogging? Every time you reach a new milestone in blogging whether it is pageviews, mentions or anything else, you just set the bar higher for yourself since there is always room to grow. Blogs are a HUGE part of the online and technology industry and you will be surprised at what can happen as you continue to blog.
Blogging History X: Like That Movie with Edward Norton Except Not at All Similar
(See that little bit of ridiculous I injected in that title? The snarkiness of blogging has become an expected part of a blog’s repertoire. Except some people do it much better and with way more ingenuity than I ever could, which is what makes some blogs SO addictive). Blogging is a mode of communication. It’s just one more way for people to express themselves and I think this is all weird and new and exciting…and so do 15 million other bloggers. My perspective on blogging changed after I read Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters. If you love getting the backstory, want to sound like you know what you’re talking about or call yourself a blogging expert, you need to read this book. I met some of the big names in blogging and tech that I never knew of and learned things every person who loves the internet and technology should know: like The Cluetrain Manifesto, the beauty of bOING bOING, the thoroughness of TalkingPointsMemo’s Josh Marshall, the dangers of thinking you can say whatever you want about others without consequences a la Heather Armstrong in her blog, dooce (the original mommyblogger), Michael Arrington and TechCrunch, and so many other blogging pioneers (including Matt Drudge, Gawker Media and too many others to list). Some of the same ideas, frustrations and roadblocks you experience in blogging are the same concepts all the big bloggers went through, with the exception of the ones who launched as businesses, like Gawker. They wonder whether they exist in an echo chamber, they get competitive about traffic and rankings and every now and again, they proclaim a blogging bubble.
But do it anyway. Write your blog anyway. You might make it big or you might toil away on posts written for ten true fans. I’ve got a few tips for you below. I know you already know the fancy stuff and you’re all hopped up on the Adsense and SEO and Problogger and Smart Passive Income like a college kid abusing Adderall, so I want to go beyond that. These are a few ideas I’ve been keeping in mind from the start.
Get ready to work hard for a year without any guaranteed results
I’m glad that I started out reading some great blogs (ABDPBT, GeniusTypes, 20s Money) who all basically repeated the idea that if I was reading and I wanted to blog, I could definitely do it. But I was not to expect any results (traffic, income, tons of comments) until I had been blogging consistently for at least a year. I really took that idea to heart and just committed to writing about the stuff I had been wanting to figure out and worrying about the other stuff second. My blog is now almost 10 months old, and I have definitely seen results. I’m glad that my first few months of blogging was really just for my friends and family. Even they didn’t read all of my first posts. I needed to get into the habit of writing. Are there bloggers who make more money off their site in a shorter time? Uh, definitely. But that’s OK. I’m not worried about that. I want the site to have readers and thoughtful commenters (check) who continue to come back (check, hopefully!). I don’t want to lose them with a ton of regurgitated posts on different financial products. Products are important and can be a huge part of your financial strategy. But this blog will always be about ideas. What makes us tick? What makes us spend? Is there a way out of poverty for the lowest income Americans? Why was I so irresponsible for so long? I just think about what I Google to stumble across new blogs. Someone wants to see a great quote from Breaking Bad and discuss those uncomfortable topics like where we think we’re going in life? My blog is the one, people. But if you want really good, nitty-gritty financial advice? Check the Big Boys for that.
Your first year of blogging will be about figuring your blog out
We all want to differentiate ourselves but I sometimes have to laugh at how similar some of the first posts of different blogs look (my own included). When blogging is brand new, it’s so fun and so unknown. You jump in with enthusiasm and hope you will figure it out as you go along. I love to dissect ideas, phrases or other little aspects of life that have lots of room to be explored in depth. And that’s what so exciting about blogs: the ability to bring a true amateur’s passion to a subject in the best sense of the word: bring the love you have about your chosen topic and share it with the world! Get into the details. Explore the little things. Question the conventions on whatever you’re writing about. If you’re questioning convention, you can bet other people are too.
Make sure your posts have a point
I think I am guilty of this A LOT. I’m almost afraid to go back and read them, because I fear they read like me musing in the most narcissist of tones on “important” and “worthy” ideas. I’ll never stop being an idealist but as a blogger I’m trying to ramble less and get to the point on my posts. So write what you want to write, give us your ideas and stories, but make sure you give us something to go home with.
Don’t be a hater!
In case you didn’t know, I’m a reformed hater. I used to love to find fault in other people’s attitudes and actions without ever considering the value of my own actions. It’s easy to be funny when you are being ultra-critical and spiteful, isn’t it? Except for the person on the receiving end, of course. Unless you are a political blog (in which case you and your readers probably live for long, drawn-out debates on minutiae), just take it easy on the combative comments or posts. I know it’s easy to make fun of someone’s looks, inane ideas and whatever else. But that’s called a cheap shot, and the bigger man/woman doesn’t resort to that. It doesn’t have to be all unicorns and puppies (although that sounds nice!) on every comment you leave or post you craft, but remember that other bloggers have feelings and no one will ever agree with you 100% on every topic (that’s a straight-up life lesson, son. It took me a long time to learn that). Just take the differences of opinion for what they are and move on to the next thing.
I hope you have fun making a blog and finding your audience. I love learning new tricks and tools. I love sharing random ideas on Twitter and getting responses. I feel very, very lucky to know so many cool bloggers and readers. I’m just at the very start of my journey but I hope to be around for a while (at least as long as it takes to be debt free) and even after that. I hope I get to see your blog soon!
We all have funny mental blocks in our lives. Even though I KNOW I’m paying a few hundred in interest every month for my debt (I hate it, but whattaya gonna do besides methodically pay down debt and not spend any money on extras), I like to put my foot down somewhere when it comes to silly spending. I’ve always had mental blocks about spending money on certain things (clothes, shoes and travel never among them) and will simply refuse to spend the money even if it is relatively small or trivial. There are things we want to spend money on but know we shouldn’t, like pedicures and Brazilian blowouts, but then there are things that are either completely ridiculous, not worth the money or just too expensive for the intended benefit and we hate spending our hard-earned money on them. Here are a few examples of mental spending blocks that are probably good for my wallet in the long run.
Things I Don’t Like to Spend Money On:
- $9.95 Shipping on Ideeli or anywhere else
- $3.50 Sprinkles Cupcakes: It’s a freakin’ cupcake!
- Coffee Drinks: Or as Larry David says, “some vanilla bullshit latte cappa thing”. I make an exception every few months for the Hazelnut Ice Blended at Coffee Bean (and even in the midst of its deliciousness I still feel a little ripped off).
- Any kind of monthly fee for checking or savings accounts
- $16 California Roll (someone on Yelp said it best: The only reason a California roll should ever be $16 is if it’s rolled in a $10 bill)
- Costume jewelry: Even though I love costume jewelry, most of the time I’m not willing to buy it. But Jewelmint and all the “ –mint” (Stylemint, Shoemint) sites are blowin’ up in terms of growth. I really need to jump on that trend. What –mint can I do? GOT IT > Cheetosmint: I hand pick the ultimate in exclusive Cheetos products based on your personal tastes and style for just $9.99/month. You know I could do it if I just got a celebrity on board…(see next bullet)
- Aspirational Celebrity Wares: God-awful, overpriced celebrity-branded merchandise is one of the top five nemeses of the American Debt Project.
- Trip Insurance/Extra Car Rental Insurance/Credit Card Debt Unemployment Insurance
- Socks: I don’t wear socks unless I’m exercising. Socks are lame!
- Hats: I can’t bring myself to spend $20 on a hat.
- Umbrellas and rain gear: Is it really necessary? I just run or walk faster to my destination.
- Belts: Let’s just say I don’t like buying accessories and call it a day!
- Printer Cartridges: It’s been about a year since our printer had ink. By the time you get all the different color cartridges, it’s equivalent to one month’s car payment!
- Hair Products: I’m blessed to have a thick head of hair, but making it look good is a full-time job that I don’t have time or (let’s face it) self-discipline for. I buy products and tools that I end up never using.
- Differentiated Workout Gear: Those new tennis outfits are super cute. But I still hate buying different exercise gear for different sports. I run in the same shorts that I play tennis, bike or go hiking in. I know Jane Doe will disagree with me to the death, but I don’t need “hiking shorts”! A pair of shorts is a pair of shorts. Same for shirts. I prefer t-shirt collections that tell stories of past concerts, countries visited, or 10Ks run/attempted. Also, I refuse to shop at REI. $65 for capri running pants? Get outta here!
That was all I could think of this time around although I’m sure I could do round two. What do you guys absolutely loathe buying or spending money on, whether it’s $0.99 or $999? I want to know!
I have started about five different blog posts in the past three days and scrapped every single one. Too whiny. Too personal. Too boring! They say in blogging you are “famous for fifteen people” and before this blog I never had even that many people come across my writing (exception: my food column in my high school newspaper was an instant hit). It’s nice to know people are up for reading what I write but I don’t know what to write about when I’m just chugging along: at work, with my debt and my goals. I’m doing a little bit of work on everything and not really sure if it’s making progress. It’s a plateau, and I’ve just hit one everywhere. Everywhere? Everywhere.
Thankfully, The Art of Manliness already blogged about exactly what I’m feeling in Plateau Breaking: How to Take Your Life to the Next Level. It’s an excellent article and worth a read whenever you’re feeling the stuck, everyday-feels-like-a-Tuesday doldrums. They explain why we plateau in different activities in our life. It happens when we become comfortable in a task, have learned a reasonable amount about it and are ready to perform it on autopilot, which makes sense for brushing your teeth or driving, but not neccesarily in areas where you want to continue to grow.
The other two points I want to review from the article are:
Embrace the Suck
You can’t get better at surfing without a few nasty washing-machine style wipeouts (those are the one where the people from the shore see you tumbling out of a wave…and then see you get spit out again, board to follow). If you don’t take a chance and embrace the opportunity to suck on that first wave, every wave will always be difficult, scary, huge and seemingly insurmountable. I know because I am still a beginner surfer. I have taken the plunge and gone for waves and had the best rides as a result, but I mostly hang back, afraid of another wipeout and another time being held under the waves.
“To overcome your aversion to risk, you have to give yourself permission to fail and be mediocre. Instead of avoiding the things that are hardest for them, the greats of the world specifically focus on those things; they purposefully concentrate on the areas in which they make the most mistakes.” -Brett & Kate McKay, The Art of Manliness blog
That makes a lot of sense now. A friend was criticizing me (or at least, I took it as a criticism) the other day saying I only talk about how I lost money and made mistakes on my blog. Well, yeah, money has been one of my biggest weaknesses in my life! It’s where I’ve made the most mistakes and repeated the same mistakes. I’m analyzing what I’ve done in the past but I don’t lose any sleep at night. I just want to get better. I’ve let money dictate my choices when I’ve adamantly proclaimed that money shouldn’t matter. But it does matter, “If you are too unhealthy, too depressed, too poor, or too ignorant, it is impossible to look after yourself, let alone be happy” (from a great read for the under-25 crowd, Racing Towards Excellence.)
We can remind ourselves that at this moment you might not be excelling in some part of your life the way you want to be, but you are willing to make mistakes and take risks in order to push yourself to get better. Embrace the suck and you will eventually NOT suck!
Think Long Term
When we think short-term, we have a tendency to feel that plateaus are permanent. But when we take the big picture view of things, we start to see plateaus as temporary way stations that we’ll eventually get past with a bit of hard work. -Brett & Kate McKay, The Art of Manliness blog
Before this past year, long-term thinking for me was the next six months or at most, to the end of the calendar year. I kid you not when I say that if I tried to think further ahead then that I started to feel morbid, as if I was planning my own funeral. My plans were always very, very vague. Get rich. Live somewhere warm. Write. Look, that sounds nice on some pretty little Pinterest pin, but it’s no life plan. You need hard numbers and facts man! One exercise I was thinking about to help me break through my income plateau was writing down the following:
- Write down how much money you made in 2011.
- If you continued exactly as you are now, write down how much you expect to make in 2012.
- Look at your answer to #2. Is it exactly where you want to be for the rest of your life?
- If you implemented one change (new job, side income source, new business), how would it affect your income in 2012?
- Would the answer to #4 make a significant impact on your life? If it does, what do you need to do make #4 really happen?
- DO IT.
I’ll explain why this exercise is totally new to me. I’ve never really set a target income goal for myself. My goal is to increase my income as an employee and make even more as a business owner, but I’ve never thought about what the monetary potential of each one could be. As usual, another one of my manic phobias is that if I say I want to make $400,000 per year (and that’s a lot of fat stacks!) then I might somehow deny myself the ability to earn more than that each year. Why exactly am I worried about that when I am not even close to that number? I don’t know, I’m just weird and crazy-optimistic all the time. I’m like “well, let’s not limit ourselves here, what’s stopping me from $500,000? $562,000?” It all starts to sound like huge numbers but if I plan for the long-term and am deliberate about figuring out how to get to $400,000 and beyond, then it’s achievable. I’m also hesitant to put a number out there because I don’t want it to be the all-important goal. I don’t want to become psychotic in my pursuit of income. Or to imply that I need that number to be successful. Not even close. Shoot, if I get out of debt by the time I’m 30, there will be so much self-congratulating going on around here that you will have to look away in embarrassment.
So I’m obviously not thinking THAT long-term yet. I will write again on how I plan to think long-term as far as employment and business goes. My current long-term goal (and the longest-term goal I’ve ever had) is just paying off all of my debt. It might take just 15 months (age 30) or it might take a little longer. But as long as I continue to plan for it and continue to focus on ways to achieve that long-term goal, then I am happy. And it’s reinforcing my newfound, long-term thinking. For too long, all I thought about was the next set of bills that were due (OK, still do), the next trip I could take and the next crazy idea I could play around with for a while before giving up. Well, I’ve been working on the same few ideas for the past year and they are more likely to be realized as a result.
If you want to get out of being stuck, make your next move or realize your next big idea, talk about them less and work on them more.
Have you been hitting a plateau lately? What did you to get out of it or what do you want to do next?