Before I begin my last post of 2011, I just want to start by thanking everyone who reads this blog for their continued support, appreciation, and Facebook likes (lol). In these first 3 months, it has surpassed every expectation that I had going into this project. Writing it has been an awesome growing experience for me, and seeing other people resonate with the ideas I present has been so inspirational. For this last post of the year, I want to, for the first time, look forward to where I will be taking the blog in the future. I’ll consider ways to structure your publishing, as well as how blogs can become independent sources of income. If you’ve thought about starting a blog yourself in 2012, this post is for you!
In personal relationships, the balance between listening and speaking is a delicate one. With blogs, the balance between reading and writing is equally delicate
- All writing and no continued learning makes for a blog that stagnates quickly. Articles soon become repetitive and uninspired. In layman’s terms, you run of shit to talk about.
- By a similar token, all study and minimal composition is hardly a blog at all. When you spend all your time reading, the world misses out on your insight, and you miss out on the energy and momentum created by engaging with readers.
Thus, both reading and writing are integral to the continued success of a blog. The question then becomes: what does this balance look like?
To Schedule or Not to Schedule…
This issue is not well agreed upon, and there are certainly bloggers who have built large readerships using both approaches.
Schedulers create a framework for themselves, and commit to publishing posts in predetermined intervals, such as once a week or even once a day. Some examples of blogs that follow this format are Mark Sisson’s Health blog, Mark’s Daily Apple, and my old friend, Scott Panitz’ blog, 365 Dailies.
As a Non-Scheduler, I take a different approach. I don’t believe that either my writing or my learning presupposes the other. I study when I find something of interest, and I write when I am struck with inspiration. But I don’t force the issue. If a book doesn’t really interest me, I don’t read it. And if I don’t have something engaging to say, I don’t want to waste anybody’s time (especially my own).
I love writing this blog, but the last thing I want is for it to turn into a “make-work” activity that I become tethered to. Above all else, I want to ensure that it always remains an energy source, not an energy-suck. I’m guided by the following quote:
“Don’t just do something, stand there.”
Blogs like Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Blog and Leo Babuata’s Zen Habits have proven abundantly successful following this approach, each receiving upwards of 150,000 unique visitors per month on no set schedule!
So far, I’ve only explored the article-writing aspect of blogging, but there is way more out there. Here are some of the other creative things people are doing with their blogs that I’m interested in exploring in the future:
- Audio or Video Podcasting: Sean Croxton hosts an awesome one at Underground Wellness, talking with experts in tons of different fields, and expanding the information on his site way beyond the reaches of any mere blogging mortal. The best part? setting up an account through BlogTalkRadio is free!
- Ebook Writing: Chris Guillebeau has made this his main source of income through his Unconventional Guides business. It’s a great way to make your work uber-widely available, and like podcasting, the overhead is practically zero. All you have to do is compose the document in Microsoft Word, click Save As, and select Save as PDF. It may not be long until conventional publications become a thing of the past…
- Online Courses: you no longer need a Ph.D to be a professor. The world is starting to realize that everyone has something to learn, and everyone has something to teach. As a result, many bloggers like Leo Babuata (mentioned above) are creating their own rogue academies, and offering very specific courses (A-List Blogging Bootcamp, anyone?) that conventional universities do not offer, at prices with which they cannot compete.
- Consultations: by the power vested in Skype, you can now connect with people all over the globe, for free. Some bloggers like Kelly Baggett at Higher-Faster-Sports, or the crew at Collective-Evolution offer Skype consultations with a mandatory or suggested donation.
- Ads: Google AdSense makes a widget that can be added to most major blogging platforms. It automatically provides you with advertisers who pay you every time someone clicks through to their site. The application literally takes about 25 seconds to set up with Blogger.
- Sponsors: If you’re like me and don’t love the idea of random advertisers appearing on your site, you can pick them yourself. Sell ad space only to those organizations that you want to endorse. Several Crossfit Affiliates such as MobilityWod, and UnScared sponsor each other to create more traffic from like-minded audiences. This can also be done on podcasts by spending about 30 seconds making an endorsement at the start of each episode. (Note: it is difficult to acquire sponsorship until you develop a large following. For this reason, it’s a luxury that is generally reserved for better developed blogs.)
- Products and Services such as ebooks, consultations, and online courses can be sold through a page on your blog. Bloggers who are successful at selling products (like Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend) are often able to support themselves comfortably and get rid of advertising altogether! Payment can be either mandatory or suggested. I’ll talk more about that in a future post. Unlike with sponsorship, you can successfully sell a product or service without a large following simply by taking out an Ad through Google or Facebook. To learn more about this, I highly recommend Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Workweek.
P.P.S. I’m trying out Google AdSense at the moment. This is a temporary trial, and it is unlikely that I will continue it for very long. I’m merely exploring the concept of “pay per click” advertising.
Option 1: The Daily Grind
For most of my life, I believed that accomplishing things was about grinding, about willing yourself to muscle through your work each day, whether you felt like it or not.
To an extent, I still believe that this approach works. With enough mental discipline you can get through just about anything- earn an undergraduate or professional degree, a well-paying job, a promotion…
But where does that road lead? In most cases, it’s a steep and rugged path up the ranks of an organization that never really resonated with you very strongly to begin with. American poet, Robert Frost put it this way:
It is no secret that the diagnoses of ADD (or ADHD as it is now technically called) have been rising steadily for quite some time. Many of our most capable minds are derailed from school by their own lack of motivation and focus. Diagnosed and prescribed the amphetamine drug, Aderall at age 17, I was one of those kids. In this article, I will draw from my own experience and research to explore the question of why kids like me are, so often, incompatible with the environment in which they are supposedly best suited to thrive.
A Quick Timeline of a Student with ADD
1) Life before school: despite what most people think, students with ADD are not, necessarily, hyperactive little monsters from birth. Most are totally normal kids.
2) Life as a student: another common myth about ADD is that students who have it, have it from the beginning. Many are stand-out students prior to the development of this “disorder.”
3) Focus or motivation fades: at some point between kindergarten and the completion of their post-secondary degree, the student begins to struggle with either their ability to motivate themselves to start their work, or to stay on task, once they have begun it. An interesting caveat however, is that this phenomena does not manifest itself in all areas of their life. With areas of interest (e.g. sports, video games, certain classes), these students remain perfectly motivated and focussed. The ADD is only observable in areas that do not excite the student.
4) Diagnosis: concerned about their child, a parent arranges for their son or daughter to meet with a clinical psychiatrist or other mental health professional. After asking a few simple questions such as “do you have a hard time paying attention?” the psychiatrist makes a formal diagnosis of ADHD and prescribes the student between 10 and 40 milligrams of Adderall per day.
5) Return to normalcy? Once they begin taking Adderall, just about every student experiences a significant increase in their classroom engagement. This lasts only so long as the student continues to consume Adderall on a daily basis, however. Therefore, it is a drug that must be continued indefinitely, or the student will once again be unable to perform up to par in their school or work environment. Problem solved, right?
Not so much. What, exactly, are we presuming is wrong with the thousands of people taking these drugs that they allegedly can’t function without?
Are we to assume that there is a genetic defect in their ability to focus? Do they need drugs because they engage in behaviors that are uniquely detrimental to their brain health?
A specific answer is rarely given, even to the one being prescribed the drug.
To investigate an answer to these questions, I’m going to explore a hypothetical scenario.
The Worst Job in the World
Imagine your job is to count blades of grass on a football field.
You are employed to spend 8 hours per day counting every blade of grass on an entire football field. Don’t worry, you can take as many days as you need.
Now, how strong would you expect your motivation for this task to be? How well would you be able to focus on grass-counting whenever someone jogs by or a more interesting thought occurs to you?
For most people, I would assume that staying focussed on a task like this would be pretty difficult. So you visit a psychiatrist, tell them you can’t focus at work, and they prescribe you a nice big dose of Adderall.
Let me tell you something from personal experience: if you take enough of that shit, you can literally count blades of grass.
But consider for moment whether that original lack of focus is really an indicator of poor mental health, or whether that is simply a normal lack of interest in grass-counting. In fact, if someone really could count grass for 8 hours without ever looking up, wouldn’t that be the better indicator that something wasn’t working quite right upstairs?
Bringing it Back Around
For many students, school is about as exciting as counting blades of grass. They are simply not interested in practicing trigonometry or reading a dry, out-dated history textbooks. And who could blame them? Let’s be honest, education today involves a lot of jumping through hoops and memorizing facts that don’t really inspire you to see the world very differently. It’s not all worthless. Some experiences in school are exciting and intellectually expansive. But not the majority. Here are a few other reasons students commonly stop buying into school:
- It is predicated on the idea that the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing. Very rarely are students allowed to explore their ideas fully in classroom discussion.
- Even when writing essays, the emphasis is usually on synthesizing information- rarely on formulating their own ideas.
- The determination of what is “passing” and what is “failing” is determined in a completely arbitrary and often subjective manner.
- The teacher decides which books are worth reading- the students do not get to explore for themselves.
- Learning is pursued for the sake of a degree, not for the enjoyment of learning itself.
These reasons combine to produce a lot of students that don’t feel compelled to engage with their schoolwork. We often times label these kids with a disorder, but to be honest, it’s the students who can read for hours on end without a second thought that I really worry about.
Allow me to, once again, propose something radical:
There is No Such Thing as ADD
To see what I mean, let’s begin by breaking down the Phrase itself: ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder
At any given moment, on any given day, we are liable to recieve notifications from an astonishing number of unimportant sources. Here are a few notifications that, in our era of androids and iphones, are likely to produce a distracting buzz or chime from your pocket or computer:
If you grew up in the western hemisphere at any point in the last 50 years, you have invariably been asked the question, “have you ever considered getting a tattoo?”
For the last 5 or so years, my response to this question has been the same. I do not oppose tattoos. I don’t think they’re bad or ugly. Some are certainly cool. But I don’t want to be one of those guys who gets a tattoo just so that he can… well… have a tattoo.
Before I would consider permanently marking my skin, the artwork world have to resonate with me on a very deep and equally permanent level.
At the present moment I have no plans to get any tattoos, but I thought it would make for an interesting blog post to consider which words have impacted my life enough that I would consider getting them tattoo’d. I came up with five:
Real Change Comes from Within- this quote came to me while reading A New Earth. It is my answer to personal suffering. Most the time we look to relieve our suffering by changing our external reality. We attempt to earn more money, make more friends, do cooler stuff, etc…
Ultimately though, there is no external situation that will leave us permanently happy. In other words, it is resistance to the world within that is the ultimate source of suffering, not the world without. I therefore remind myself regularly that the way to create real, lasting joy is not through changing any external circumstances, but by accepting every experience as it exists inside me.
Grass Roots- this is my motto for addressing dysfunction in our world. When we address suffering from within, we create a consciousness that spreads outwardly. Just as the only real change on a personal level originates from inside us, the only real change in our world, starts at the ground level. Many people advocate for more regulation, stricter punishments, and heavier security. These efforts are merely patchwork on top of a larger dysfunction. We will only see real change when it begins at the bottom and grows organically upward.
Be the Change You Wish to See in the World- Gandhi’s words are famous. And with good reason. When it comes to putting the two above phrases into practice, it’s hard to find truer words than his. It is not enough simply to memorize and advocate for your beliefs. By living them, you take a hand in making them a reality and inspire others to do the same.
Love over Fear- I discovered this phrase recently through Tomi Astikainen and Matthew Christodoulou respectively. It stems from the understanding that Love and Hate are not the two polar forces in our world, as most people assume. As Eric Bana puts it in Funny People, “underneath anger, is hurt. And underneath hurt, is love.” The true polarizing motivations in our world are Love and Fear. In understanding this, we recognize that Love is conscious and peaceful, while Fear is unconscious and turbulent. I choose Love over Fear, and let it be the guiding force in my life.
I had a conversation with my friend David a couple summers ago, and expressed my interest in one day visiting Jamaica. David reminded me that Jamaica is a dangerous place to visit, and I acknowledged the risk. After a few moments of silence, however, David qualified his statement and said, “But fuck it. Fear is no reason not to do something.” I agree.
A New Earth- This is the title of Eckhart Tolle’s book, which has affected my life more than any other formal work I have read. The phrase serves as an open-ended reminder to me that nothing is predetermined. The future of our world is nothing but potentiality, and we all have a creative hand in determining what that “New Earth” will look like. It’s easy to get discouraged and cynical. But it’s not wise. It’s not enlightened. As the late Steve Jobs once said, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
Got some phrases that mean a lot to YOU? If you have some that you’ve tattoo’d, thought about tattooing, or just mean a lot to you, I’d love to hear them. See you in the comments section.