So, I’m launching a brand new thing – and I want to talk about why new bloggers launching things is really important, and why I’d love to see much more of it.
But first – the thing.
In 2012, one of my friends complained on Twitter that he was “utterly bored” – and a fuse blew in my brain.
I imagined him sat at home on the couch, his feet up, a sour expression on his face. I imagined him angrily stabbing app after app on his phone, seeking a cure for his apathy. I imagined him saying “meh” a lot.
And in a fit of self-righteous pique, I decided to write back, in the form of a blog post, listing a colossal bunch of things he could do online.
That post went on to become the most popular thing I’ve ever written on my blog – currently clocking in at hundreds of comments, thousands of shares and just under a million visitors to date. (Whew.)
OK, but – why?
At first I thought it was the sarcasm. The internet loves a bit of pointed snark.
Then I concluded that lots of people need to be reminded that boredom is self-indulgent nonsense. This is actually both patronising and wrong, since boredom feeds creative restlessness, and that’s definitely a good thing. Poor effort, Mike.
And then I looked at what I was doing every day on Facebook.
The internet is designed to reinforce habits. We all get stuck doing the things we always do, our behaviour reinforced by other people doing the same thing, and believing what we believe.
In one sense this is smart, because it’s how expertise happens.
But in the other sense, it stunts your ability to be a hero.
This is Odysseus. You may have heard of him. The ancient Greeks regarded him as perhaps the most excellent man that ever lived (it was almost always men the ancient Greeks revered, sadly).
But he wasn’t excellent because he was the best at anything.
Hercules was stronger than him. Achilles was the finest warrior that ever lived. Orpheus, now better known for his shenanigans in the underworld, was a vastly better musician. And so on.
All were heroes. But Odysseus was the truest embodiment of arete – a state of overall effectiveness or virtue as a human being.
Odysseus was a great fighter – not the best, but really great. He was a fine sailor. He was crafty and cunning. He was strong and tough. He was a thinker, schemer, sympathetic ruler, scrappy survivor, fierce warrior, and all sorts of other qualities that made him a supreme jack-of-all-trades.
He could do a hell of a lot of different things really well – and that made him a pure embodiment of arete.
These days, the world’s running a bit low on arete. We stick to our intellectual neighbourhoods and rarely stray outside them. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why so many of us feel frustrated, confused and lost. Maybe our lives need shaking up with something entirely new, just a little bit, here and there.
Leo Babauta puts it nicely, over at Lifehacker: “How to find your life’s purpose? Escape your bubble.”
I think that’s why my post did so well and keeps getting hundreds of visitors a day – and now I’m going to take the next logical step with it.
Tomorrow (Monday), I’m launching a new, paid email newsletter.
Except, not really. It’s more like a 12-week school for trying random new things and injecting a bit of arete into your life.
I’m calling it “You’re So Not Bored” – and I’ve never done anything like it before.
Here’s how it’ll work.
STEP 1: An e-mail lands in your Inbox at the beginning of the week, listing around 15 entirely different things you could be doing with your spare time – and you choose one of them.
Each item in the e-mail shows you how to get started, outlining some of the benefits of doing it, and giving you a gentle push in a direction you’d never, ever thought of going in with your free time, until some weirdo suggested it in his weird new newsletter.
STEP 2: You have a go at your chosen thing within 7 days from receiving the e-mail.
It could just be a toe in the water, to see how it feels. It could be the start of a lifelong passion for something new. You could try it and hate it, in which case, now you know!
But the main thing is you try it. That’s the challenge here.
STEP 3: [OPTIONAL] You e-mail me and tell me what you did, and maybe how you felt when you did it, if you’re up for that. Or you can share it in the closed Facebook Group I’ll be creating for this programme.
STEP 4: A week later, the next e-mail arrives. Return to STEP 1.
Twelve chances to get out your bubble, shake up your weekly routine and try something a bit different, just to see how you react to it.
In a few days, You’re So Not Bored will be $10 (USD) for the whole weird & wonderful 12-week run.
But if you want to grab a place in the queue right now – or if you’re a longtime reader interested in supporting my creative experiments (because this definitely is an experiment, I really have no idea how this will pan out – more on that in a minute) – it’s just $5 to you, via the PayPal link below:
Thanks. This should be fun.
Edit: to the more than 50 of you that have already signed up, thank you. Really appreciate your support.
Now – let’s talk about launching things, generally.
Four years ago, I sat in the above cafe in Birmingham, and wrote this post about blogging on a napkin.
It’s important, I think, this paid-by-your-readers thing. I’ve spent a lot of the last four years watching really smart people (mostly outside of travel blogging, a few within it) find ways to make money directly from their target audience, without relying on sponsors or advertisers.
It’s not that having sponsors or advertisers is bad. It’s usually a lot more profitable in the short term – and I’d be hypocritical to hide the fact that I’ve run a sponsored post on this blog a while back (for a brand of whisky I like), and six years ago, I had a few paid links to advertisers. Also, if you really love working with brands and doing campaign work, it would be crazy to do something else. Follow your heart, always.
But if you want to build a steady stream of income, it’s smart (and probably quicker) to put systems in place, things that pay you more than once. If you want proof, look at Pat Flynn – he’s been building system after system for the last 9 years, and he’s now making $2 million a year from his blog.
Yes, he’s an outlier. Hardly anyone else is turning over that kind of revenue.
But a quite shocking number of bloggers (some of them relatively new bloggers) are doing really well – some with a mixture of systems and sponsorship, others using nothing but their own products and their well-maintained connection with their increasingly massive audience.
My own weird experiments (including my story course) have been modest in scale, but they’ve mostly proven profitable in the long run, as I can get paid again and again for them. I’m enormously grateful to everyone who has bought my stuff – and I work hard to make sure it’s as good as I can make it.
That’s as far as I’ll go towards using myself as a successful case study.
There are many other folk who are doing well out of unusual systems they’ve put in place – like Jodi’s gluten free restaurant cards, or Wait But Why‘s Patreon subscription (Patreon is proving great for creative folk right now, as Sarah von Bargen outlines here).
Here are some other bloggers building interesting things.
I love to see every single one of them get the attention they deserve, because it’s not just about the money. It’s about the freedom they’re creating for themselves.
For that reason, they’re really good example for new bloggers to follow.
So if you’re new to blogging, or you’ve been around a while and have a readership but have no idea how to get paid for any of your work because blogs are free and you need a huge social media following to attract paying sponsors and why would readers pay new bloggers to etc etc etc.
Well – why not ask your readers for $1, just a single dollar, and give them something valuable in return?
(And if you’re struggling to define “valuable”, maybe it’s that thing your blog has and your writing has and your brain can do, which is why you have a readership – right?)
Experiment. Try stuff out. Watch some of it fail, completely, and learn from that experience. But pay attention to what doesn’t fail. Refine it, double down on it, become better at it – maybe even the best at it.
But it all starts with asking.
So why not ask?
Images: Sherman Geronimo-Tan, Pixabay