This week’s episode is about something that is incredibly near and dear to our hearts: personal blogging and what it means to write on the internet.
To help us tell this story, we’ve invited two of our favorite writers who both have a long and rich experience in the blogging space.
Taylor Pearson has been a frequent guest and contributor on this podcast. He is the author of The End of Jobs, and he runs an excellent blog on his website that has been required reading for us for quite some time.
Amanda Cook is an author, a podcaster, herbalist, and the founder of a business called Wellpreneur. Over the years, she has published online about a wide variety of projects, but the one consistent thing is that she’s always had an excellent blog, which you can find at AmandaCook.me.
Join us for this round table discussion about the past and future of blogging on the internet, tips for those starting out with a personal blog, some of our favorite blogs to read today, and so much more.
See the full transcript below
Listen to this week’s show and learn:
- How Taylor and Amanda both started blogging. (4:27)
- Several different types of successful blog posts. (18:48)
- Some of the biggest mistakes that Taylor and Amanda have made over the years. (28:42)
- Why you might not always know who your audience is. (42:20)
- Advice for people who are considering starting a blog today. (1:03:17)
Mentioned in the episode:
Before the Exit – Our New Book
Partner With Us
The Dynamite Circle
Tropical MBA on YouTube
Post a Remote Job
Slate Star Codex
Antifragile Book Notes and Applications
Antifragile by Nassim Taleb
1,000 True Fans
Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim
Chocolate and Zucchini
Mark’s Daily Apple
Enjoyed this podcast? Check out these:
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Dan & Ian
Taylor: So my initial blog was frontier livin.com. No G, because of course that domain was not available.
Amanda: If you’ve never blogged before, you’re probably not going to be great at it the first blog post you publish, but the only way to get better at it is to do it, and publish and publish and publish and publish. And after a while, you’ll start to be great at it, hopefully.
Dan: It’s Thursday morning. It’s the TMBA pod. We’re gonna do this thing. The subject of today’s show is something exceedingly close to my heart. No, it’s not golf. But although fair warning, I have to give you a warning, it will at least be mentioned once. Today’s podcast is all about blogs, and the blogosphere. Regular listeners will know that my RSS feed and a cup of coffee is my favourite way to start the day. For over a decade, I’ve been an avid blog reader. And now and again, a blog writer. I really believe that from anyone just starting out to folks who have had a successful business career. writing a blog is one of the best arguments against the old cliche that it takes money to make money. No. blogs are not only entertaining and intellectually stimulating and all this stuff, but they can be very profitable. And we’re going to talk a little bit about that today. Blogs have changed a tonne since I first started getting involved in the blogosphere nearly two decades ago. And a recent discussion in our online forum, ‘The Dynamite Circle’, that’s our private membership community. Of course, you can read about that, at Tropicalmba dot com slash DC.
This discussion really caught my eye because it was titled, ‘Personal Blogging, a waste of time?’ And it received some fantastic responses. So we thought today, we’d bring some of that to the show. I know a lot of you out there involved in the blogosphere as well. And I think it’s fair to say that for a lot of us, we sort of have ideas for blog posts in the top drawer, so to speak. Today’s guests have a really long and rich experience in this area. And the discussion was really, really fun. So today we’re going to discuss how the blogosphere has changed and why, the different genres of blogs, tips for those just getting started out or making a pivot with their company or personal blogs, potential pitfalls and strategies for success. Now, just a heads up, this was kind of a macro discussion, we’re not going to get into the, ‘How to increase your readership in five easy steps’ and marketing and that kind of thing. Instead, you’ll hear about why coming at blogging from that particular direction may lead to a world of pain. So let’s keep it fun. And let’s get it going. I was joined in the virtual TMBA studio by a wonderful first time guest Amana. She brings some amazing value to the table. Her name is Amanda Cook. She’s an author, podcaster, herbalist and founder of a business called ‘Wellpreneur’. Over the years, she’s published online about various different business ventures and projects. But the one consistent thing is she’s always had a blog, which you can check out at Amanda Cook.me. And the second guest, well, he’s a regular, I’ll let him introduce himself.
Taylor: My name is Taylor Pearson, I’m a principal at ‘The Mutiny Fund’, and also like to write about things periodically.
Dan: And where is your personal blog located?
Dan: I believe I just received an email from you called ‘The Interesting Times’.
Taylor: That’s right. Yes, we can talk about that. I’ve been doing a newsletter, newsletters are hot now. We’ve reinvented blogs, 10 years ago, we had blogs and once a week, he posted a blog post. And now we had this new innovation where every week instead of reading blog posts on RSS, you send people a newsletter on email. So the world is changing.
Dan: Amanda, do you remember the first personal blog you put up?
Amanda: So I had my first blog back in 2005, and I want to talk about that with you guys, because it was such a different world then, the blogosphere, you know. And so back in 2005, I started a blog on manners and etiquette, like modern manners with a friend. We were in our 20s and we thought it would be really funny to basically write humorous things. So that kind of started it. And since then, I’ve had a blog solidly since but it just keeps evolving. So the topics tend to change with what I’m interested in. So it went from modern etiquette to look when I moved to France, then it was, ‘I’m an American in Paris’, and I blogged about that for a while. I moved to England, and I started learning about herbal medicine. So I started an herbal medicine blog. And this is one of the things I did wrong is I just kept changing. Every time I changed, I just kept starting a new blog, which is terrible, versus the personal brand approach. So that’s kind of how I started but it’s had a lot of iterations over the years until I finally figured out I should just put it on a personal brand.
Dan: I think all three of us grew up during the heyday of the personal blog revolution. Taylor, What do you remember about that time that might be a little bit different from nowadays.
Taylor: During the global financial crisis, mid to late 2000s, I remember a few bloggers, I was following that were basically, live blogging the largest economic collapse, you know, they were working at Morgan Stanley and they would come home and write about what happened at the trade floor on Morgan Stanley that day. I thought that was so cool. It had a kind of a casual fun tone. Right? It wasn’t like the ‘Wall Street Journal’ or ‘New York Times’ where it has to be all ‘we’re of paper record’. It was just, ‘I’m just a dude. And I talk to these two other dudes or chicks and now we’re writing about stuff’, you know. I like that approach. Right? It wasn’t super pretentious.
Dan: What’s your take on Amanda’s start and stop with different topics and blog concepts?
Taylor: I did the opposite actually. And I think I think maybe perhaps you gave me advice on this at some point. So my initial blog was frontier livin.com. No G, because of course that domain was not available.
Dan: Certainly would go for a pretty penny nowadays.
Taylor: Yeah, I still own it if anyone’s interested, just contact me. But then I just found that, you know, I kind of wasn’t quite sure I played around with an e commerce marketing blog, which is like an eightish, seven or eight years ago, I was, ‘Oh, that’s the thing’. And I think actually you, Dan, we were talking about it, and you said just do a personal thing. And so I just registered Taylor Pearson dot me. And I think that’s been a good decision. I think I can kind of look back, there’s almost eras, or epochs of the blog. And I think I’m kind of in the third epoch. If I was going ot start a new blog, I’d really be on the third one, but I’ve kind of just moved on to the next thing. And, you know, some of the readers have come along, you know, more than I would have expected, really. The downside of the personal thing is, it’s just less specific, right? When you hear epic gardening dot com, everyone gets what it’s about, right? Whereas, you know, Joan Johansen, or whatever is not, you know, totally clear what the topic is.
Amanda: It’s interesting that you said that a lot of your readers came along with you. And that surprised you, because I found something similar. Once I shifted to a personal blog, and then changed the topic a lot of people stuck around and you have that fear, Oh, my God, I’m gonna, everyone’s gonna leave. And it’s interesting, because it’s your personal evolution. So the people that are reading your blog are probably interested in the same stuff you are. So if you start to evolve into different topics, there’s a good chance they will be too. And so that’s so smart to keep it on your own site, rather than just say, ‘Oh, no one’s gonna want to read this and start a new thing from scratch’. One thing I wanted to ask you guys about, as I was thinking about this topic, is blog comments. Because if I think back to 2005, to 2010 say, everything was happening in the comments, there were these great discussions going on. And I feel like I’ve turned I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve turned the comments off several years ago, because it just, it felt like the whole conversation had moved to social media, really. But do you remember that?
Taylor: Two or three blogs, I still follow that started around that time, and they still have pretty good common sections. Tyler Cowen’s blog, Marginal Revolution, and Slate Star Codex are the two that came to mind. You’ll get some, whatever economists from Harvard, who jump in and say, ‘Well, this study was blah, blah, blah, because, you know, they didn’t look at this’ sort of thing. I also turned off comments; it just didn’t seem to go anywhere. A lot of that, for me, I think moved to Twitter, both me interacting with readers, and myself interacting with other people whose blogs I read, you know, I would post their article on Twitter and be, ‘Hey, I really liked this. This was interesting. What about such and such’.
Dan: We’re gonna get to Twitter, because I got a major beef about Twitter. But before we get on to our first topic, Amanda, do you remember the first time you posted something on a blog that meant something bigger than just you expressing yourself on the web, that sort of moved your career forward in a way?
Amanda: It’s interesting, because I’ve posted a lot of blog posts that I felt were world changing, you know, before you push to publish, ‘Oh, my God, what’s gonna happen?’
Dan: People better get ready for this.
Amanda: Yeah, or will all my readers leave, you feel like it’s such a big deal, because it’s something personal for you, or some paradigm shift you’ve had. And it usually doesn’t have that type of impact. I’ll get nice responses back. But generally, I haven’t had the reaction that I was worried about. But I’d say the good thing that’s happened is I’ve had a lot of opportunities come in. So I’ve had consulting opportunities and speaking opportunities and opportunities to get workshops and stuff that have all come in just because of my blog. So that’s been really cool.
Dan: How about you, Taylor? Do you remember a post that you put on the web that sort of markedly changed your career?
Taylor: Yeah, the first one, I wrote my book notes for ‘Antifragile’ by Nassim Taleb, this would have been 2013-2014. I’d read the book. And I was, This is amazing. And I spent 20 hours and I wrote these very detailed book notes and sort of broke it down and explained it by categories. And he retweeted it. And he had a bunch of Twitter followers. And then it went to the front page of Hacker News. And I don’t know, 5000 people came to my website, which was an insane number of people. I think a lot of it was just confidence. It was, ‘Oh, this, this could work, this is a good use of my time’. I think in the early days, for me, especially was just putting a lot of effort into this and it’s not clear that I’m getting much back out of it. It was two years in at that point. And that was a big moment, ‘Oh, okay, this could go somewhere interesting’.
Dan: Is it the same thing like Amanda was saying, just people hitting you up for consulting and stuff like that, or I mean, what’s the point of having 5000 people come to your website?
Taylor: A lot of it for me too even still is very qualitative, people I know, personally, or through Twitter, or semi professional contacts will mention that they like something. People tend to get focused on things like traffic and stuff. But there’s 200 people sort of in my orbit that I care about, and are interesting and I could potentially work with them at some point. And just having those 200 people read one in every three posts, the value is pretty substantial. In the long term, it turns into consulting clients, or business partners, or new projects, or new products. I think that was my initial thing as well. I just write this for 150 people. It’s just, you know, a weekly update, or what I’m thinking, and half those people read it, this is a pretty good use of my time.
Dan: So part of the reason we’re here, guys is that there was a discussion in DC about this, and a lot of members weighed in with thoughts about why one might start a blog, and I wanted to start there. Amanda, what for you would be the top reasons if people are considering whether or not they should pull out the quill, fire up the WordPress?
Amanda: For me, it’s all about having a platform, a platform that’s mine, and it’s about Amanda and it can evolve with me. And so I think it gives you so much flexibility in your career and your businesses and your interests going forward. You know, you have all that backlog of content, even if it’s about different topics. I just feel it gives you a lot of authority to reach out for opportunities, like speaking opportunities, or to make connections with people, to share thoughts, to step up and be a thought leader. To me it feels like having a network in a way, a network of people, trusted contacts, it’s your platform.
The other thing that I really feel is that it’s your home on the web. So many of us do multiple projects. And this is the one place that can pull it all together. If you like to write, I guess that’s the other caveat. If you hate writing, it’s probably too much. It’s too much effort, and it won’t show you in your best light. But if you enjoy writing, and that’s how you process thoughts. I just think it’s such a good use of time.
Taylor: I think part of it for me, I really enjoyed, when I first started doing it, the process of writing and improving as a writer, and articulating and all that kind of stuff. It was just kind of rewarding in and of itself. Because I think before I saw any financial return on my blog, it was definitely at least two years and it might have been three or four, it was a substantial amount of time, right? You wouldn’t keep working on a business that made zero revenue for two years.
Dan: Some of us, some of us might.
Taylor: Some of us would. But at least for me, that was a big thing. I think Seth Godin said in one of his blog posts that I had read at that point, when you have some sort of publishing deadline, whatever, you have the blog post you’re putting out every week or the newsletter or the the Instagram post YouTube video, it sort of affects the way you see and think, right? It’s in the back of my head, I was, ‘I gotta come up with some semi novel, interesting thing to say in the next six days’, right? I think that sort of provides a filter. I’m not quite sure, you know, where this is going to lead. But I think one interesting example, Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator, Y Combinator, basically started as a blog post, he published something like 2005, it’s something like, ‘The six things wrong with early seed startup fundraising’, and it was 123456, and a bunch of people said, ‘Oh, this is awesome’. He’s, ‘Well, okay, if you move out to ..’ I think he was in Boston at the time, ‘Boston for the summer, I’ll mentor you and give you 10 grand, and, you know, help you kind of start your company’. And, you know, that turned into Y Combinator. The amount of time he could have spent on that blog for that one post to make everything worth it was tremendous, right? There’s that there’s that sort of optionality upside to it. And I think I’ve always thought about it in those terms, right? There’s maybe, you know, I’ve written 200 blog posts, and maybe three of them account for 70% of the value of writing the blog, but it’s, you know, just impossible to know a priori, for me at least what those are gonna be. I’m always like, ‘My god is going to be amazing, I’m sure everyone will love it’, and just totally falls flat. ‘Oh, my God, this one kind of sucks’. And everyone is, ‘Oh, that was great’. ‘Oh my god, okay’.
Amanda: That’s like when you look at web traffic, isn’t it? You write these posts you think you’re gonna be amazing and then you get, yeah, 80% of your web traffic from three random posts. You never know in advance.
Dan: For me it’s, ‘How to play guitar in 10 hours or less’. I’ve had millions of views and actually could be a business in its own right. And that’s I think, one of the interesting things you brought up Taylor is this idea of optionality, can you explain what that means?
Taylor: This is mentioned in Nassim Taleb’s book ‘Antifragile’. This is one of his ideas, he was an options trader. So in finance, an option is the right but not the obligation to buy or sell a security. So if you buy, you know, recently, people are buying calls on Tesla, which means if the price of Tesla goes up a lot, you’re gonna make a lot of money, because you know, anything above 10% increase in the price, you’re entitled to that, that benefit kind of thing. It’s a framing of taking that and applying that to other things. In the case of, you know, Paul Graham’s blog post that was a little option I had, it had relatively low cost, it was whatever it took him to write, and there’s potentially kind of a very high uncapped upside if it led to some interesting connection or, you know, whatever it would be. That’s how I’ve always kind of thought about, you know, blogging, podcasts and YouTube things. It’s that 80/20 kind of thing, there’s a few podcast episodes, or a few blog posts, or whatever, that account for most of the upside and you kind of don’t know what they are going into it. So you just kind of put a bunch of them out there and see what sticks.
Amanda: Are you posting every single week? So you definitely post something once a week?
Taylor: I do, for me, the schedule, it drives my thinking. I guess what I’ve done this year is I do a newsletter every week, which usually is an hour to two hours tops to put together. Because I used to do a long form post every two weeks. And sometimes, those would take up to 20 hours. That was a bunch of time invested. With the newsletter it’s an hour and then I try to publish the long form stuff, just kind of randomly.
Amanda: It’s interesting, because so if I’m starting a business, if I want to build an audience, I definitely have a schedule and, you know, crank out content on that schedule and stick to it. But I think for people listening, if they’re thinking about starting a personal blog, I wouldn’t say you’d have to do it that way. I’m curious about your thoughts about this actually. I just say, ‘Let it be fun, and write when you have something to say’, because otherwise it can start to feel like work.
Taylor: Totally. And I think as I’m thinking about maybe getting a little bit less frequent. Yeah, as I’ve had other projects that, you know, take more and more of my time and energy, I’m like, ‘Oh, well, is it really, this two hours a week that I’m spending on this? It would be nice to have those two hours back to do whatever’. So yeah, that that seems a very valid approach to me. Maybe it’s just that I’m worried. I’ve always had a publishing schedule for six or seven years now. And so you don’t want to get off the train kind of thing. I would like to think that if I stopped people would notice. I’m not sure they would.
Dan: As you guys were speaking, different genres of blog posts popped into my head and the different kinds of effects that can have. So there’s the ‘query the universe’; post, which I think of as some of the most impactful posts I’ve ever written were similar to the Paul Graham story. The Dynamite Circle started as a query of the universe post, for example, DCBKK, which is our biggest event, started as a query in the universe post. I once posted a post about opening up an incorporation in Hong Kong and, you know, I did this bank thing and that could have been a business unit in and of itself, that one blog post. I once wrote a blog post about why I wasn’t going to start an incubator for lifestyle businesses, and I laid out my financial rationale and stuff and that could have ironically, been a lifestyle business incubator. And then I think about, ‘Here’s the details of my journey’, kind of blog posts. Like Taylor, you wrote a brilliant case study once about working for the portable bar company and the amazing marketing schemes you implemented there. And by laying out what you had accomplished, it made it so clear to readers how they could participate with you in a similar kind of a journey, Nat Eliason as a good example of that kind of case study of my life. Maybe you guys think in blog posts. I have a blog post right now that needs to exist, which is my golf improvement, I went from a bogey golfer to a five handicap for the last two years. And I’m just not happy with what’s out there on the web, you know, and it’s … I have the whole thing laid out, the different epochs and stuff. So that’s another genre.
And then finally, this is the most the one that’s most like work, Amanda, and the one maybe with the most kind of diverse outcomes for me is the essay. And the essay is the post where you try to figure out what you think. And if you can nail this, it has an enormous personal upside. If you’ve ever met a famous writer, you sometimes notice they speak like their books, because they’ve sort of nailed these concepts that they have spent a lot of time formulating. And it took writing them to figure out what they think because this stuff is complex. And an example recently that came across my desk was, you know, Kevin Kelley, who wrote ‘1000 True Fans’, one of the biggest impact blog posts of the past decade, was kind of just trying that idea on at cocktail parties for a couple years. You kind of have this sketch idea, and you can put it on the Facebook thing, but to really flesh it out, and to really have an impact such that you can speak about it deeply, and others can participate in it. Sometimes that takes sitting down and writing an essay, and truly formulating the thought. Amanda, does any of that resonate with you?
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely, I think that the essay style as you described it, that’s what I love about blogging. I love to write and it helps me to work through my thoughts. And so, so I’ve really enjoyed that type of blog post, but I’ll just say where I’ve gone wrong, in retrospect, is that I’ll do a post or two like that about a topic and there will be interest, I’ll start getting emails from people and social media, you know, all these comments and stuff. And then I’ll say, ‘Oh, there’s interest in that’. And then I’ll just start cranking out a whole bunch of stuff on that topic, ‘how to’ posts and explanation, but I’ll just start writing about it. And then it turns into, ‘Well, then I should look up the SEO keywords’ Well, then maybe I should think about making a product about it’. I mean, it just, I end up going down this rabbit hole of trying to turn a topic into a business. And I’ve done that a few different times. And you very well could turn a topic that into business. But for me, I found that sometimes it’s just something I’m interested in, and I want to write about. I don’t want to make money from it. As you were saying that I love those types of posts, but I think you got to be careful not to just find something that resonated and then try to spin it off into a whole other thing on its own. Unless it needs to be a business.
Dan: When we get to our mistakes, we’ll talk about it. But, a good essay has a kind of a genuine searching quality to it, you know, a lot of my essays, they didn’t start until I was 1700 words in, and I realised that those first 1700 words didn’t add up, that I couldn’t possibly think such a thing. And that’s part of the beauty of that kind of genuine search for a kind of knowledge, you know, and that’s a hard thing to do, because there’s a little bit of soul in the game there.
Taylor: Going back to your types of blog posts. In my mind, there’s at least two kinds of blog, you know, personal blogs. There’s one that I think of almost like the portfolio. Almost a better version of LinkedIn. ‘I’m thinking about working with Amanda in some capacity. And I’m going to go Google her and read two or three blog posts’. And then there’s the blogging as a business thing, where it’s, ‘I got to post every week because this is generating leads for either product or services I have’. I might get just as much or more from the portfolio site, I’m gonna publish two or three things a year even. And you have a just a basic, decent looking WordPress thing with your ‘About’ page The ROI on that relative to the effort that goes into it is fairly high. And it’s not a tonne of upkeep cost. I’m curious to know Amanda if you feel that way about your site or how you’ve approached it?
Amanda: I think what you’re indicating there is – the important thing is setting your expectations up front, what do you want from this site? And so I think you’re right, that you could just have the ‘About’ page and publish a couple really well done articles a year, and it serves the purpose of giving you opportunities and being that calling card and your home on the web. I think it’s easy to get distracted too, at least for me, and for other people that I know, when you start getting good feedback from people. It can be, ‘Oh, people want more of that’. And then it’s just so easy to snap into my marketing mind and be, ‘Well, let me create an email optin, let me build a list. Let me look for …’ and I just start, you know, I kind of get away from myself. And then I realise, wait, that’s not the point. That’s not what we’re doing here. And so I think, yeah, for people thinking of starting one, it’s just get clear on, what do you want from it? Do you want it to generate revenue? What we’re talking about is not a revenue generating site, right? We’re talking about a personal brand and a personal platform. So if that’s what you want, you can take the pressure off, I think, you don’t have to do the publishing schedule, I still would build an email list. I think that’s still really valuable. But I think you could take the pressure off about SEO and sharing every single thing you did.
Taylor: You can start it as one and move to the other and then move back. I think the portfolio site is usually what I suggest when people ask me. You should probably do that because it’s not going to take that much time. And you’ll have something out there. And you can point people to it and put in your email signature, or whatever. And then if you really love it, and life circumstances allow it such that you can spend much time on it, and if you want to do that, you can always choose to do that at some point in the future.
Amanda: Well, when I started my first blog, I had a corporate job. And so people listening will probably be in that situation, a lot of people might, you know, they still have a day job. And I think what I found was, it felt like such freedom to have a space that was mine, that I could talk about whatever I wanted. And it’s a way to really test out you as a person, not as you as the employee. Who are you? What do you stand for? What are the topics that you talk about? And I think that’s, that has huge value from a self confidence perspective, and just starting to see yourself as somebody that’s separate from your job, or what you do. I guess, even for an entrepreneur, if you’re really tied up in your identity, as the business owner, to step out of that and say, ‘Well, who am I?’ I think there’s a lot of power in that.
Dan: I didn’t think of that, I even changed my name in order to step into a new personality because I didn’t want to be the person I was at work. I wanted to be an entrepreneur, something different.
Taylor: There’s a couple blogs I follow now that have the same situation. They have a full time job and usually what happens now is somehow someone will reply to something on Twitter, and I’ll get in a conversation with them, then I’m in shock, click through and start reading that blog. And there’s a number of people I’ve met in the last year, I think, in that same situation. They have another full time job or whatever but they’re doing this thing on the side. They’re flushing it out, and people are getting traction. And it’s interesting to watch.
Dan: I want to move on to the mistakes guys that you see people making or that you’ve made. Something that was just brought up, I wanted to mention is y’all were talking about not having expectations or rigidity around, that this is a search. It’s an experiment, it’s tinkering. And I think the biggest mistake I actually see with blogging is when people take it the opposite. They kind of set a hardcore grind schedule in terms of publishing, they have sort of mediocre to high expectations about what it might mean for their lives. They go through the motions in other words of what being a successful blogger ought to be about. And I think this can be a big trap and I always harp on it, but I see it a lot in the travel blogging space where travel blogging is often presented as an opportunity to change your life, to make money online. And people just go on this kind of multi year journey of grinding out the next, ‘Where can I grab spaghetti in Italy’ post. Ine of the things you can really do with blogging is start with a good conception. And if that is simply I want to have a portfolio for my thinking, and for my career, that’s a high upside, low downside proposition. But, ‘I’m going to go travel around the world and eat spaghetti in every city and spend a bunch of money on it and try to convince other people to eat spaghetti and hopefully get advertisers someday’. This is where the conception under which you’re spending so much time can be flawed, and is a trap that many people fall into.
Amanda: As you were saying that it just made me think, a lot of the clients that I work with are just just starting their businesses. So they’re just publishing their first website, their first blog post, right? And the amount of stress that goes into that first blog post, they have these expectations for themselves that their first blog post needs to be amazing. So written so well, beautiful imagery, just so perfect, and they’ve set a super high bar. And they’re terrified of publishing it, it feels super scary. But the reality is, nobody’s reading your first blog post, right? Nobody’s reading, even your first 10, probably nobody’s reading. And so I think that mistake that you’re talking about for me is putting way too much pressure on yourself and not letting yourself be a beginner. If you’ve never blogged before, you’re probably not going to be great at it the first blog post you publish, but the only way to get better at it is to do it, and publish and publish and publish and publish. And after a while, you’ll start to be great at it, hopefully. Or you’ll decide it’s not for you, and you’ll switch. But I think, yeah, when people, you know, they’ll see a big popular website and be, ‘Well, they publish four times a week, and they write on all these things so I should too’.
Dan: You just nailed it Amanda. That’s the going through the motions I was talking about. Whereas I think for a new blogger, it might make sense to say, travel blogging isn’t the only space, there’s lots of spaces like this, like personal development is another good example where bloggers will write blogs that for their for their vision to be achieved, it would depend on a lot of people reading it, you know? If you’re going to write about, ‘How to have a positive attitude at work’, or whatever, it’s like man, ‘I can’t make a real difference in my life, or anybody else’s lives unless thousands of people read this site and so I’ve got to model what big publishers are doing’. And I think a decent way to approach it might be: what if only just one or two people were to read your blog post? And what if they were the right people? How would that change your approach to writing and I think that you’re going to get a lot better results, you can change your entire career with one blog post and one person reading it.
Whereas I think a lot of people in the, for eg, the travel blogging niche is a good example to visualise this, it’s like, ‘Well, I’m gonna write this post about my trip to Italy. And if only two people read it, it will be an utter disaster, because I can’t sell ads against that, I can’t get affiliate clicks against that, I really need this to rank number one, for travelling to Italy, I need 2500 people to read it a day’, etc, etc. I feel like that’s a formula for disaster unless you’re pretty experienced and have a strong sense for how publishing works.
Amanda: But also, I think that goes back to what we were saying earlier about expectations. So what you’re describing with a travel blog like that, that’s supposed to be a business, they’re starting out with the expectation that I’m gonna get comped all this great spaghetti in Italy and you know, it will let me quit my job. Whereas the other type of blog we’re talking about is much more a personal blog, where you’re creating a personal platform, and it’s not necessarily ….it will generate. I mean, I believe it’ll generate revenue opportunities in the future. But you’re not putting that pressure on it to start. It’s a different approach.
Dan: You’re describing this idea that I wrote down here with, ‘Don’t get stuck in the middle’. And I love that, yeah, if you’re going to start a travel blog as a business, then go get it as a business and know how your unique personality and take is going to contribute to the bottom line. Whereas I see a lot of people, they want to have the expressive quality of the blog, the freedom quality of the blog, yet they’re stuck in the middle somewhere, they’re not quite thinking of it as a business. They don’t want to hold themselves to that standard. And then on the other hand, they’re spending a crap tonne of time on it because it does need some kind of critical mass. And so it’s the middle, like a lot of things in life, that is the problem I think with blogging.
Taylor: I think there is a transition though, I think you can start at one of those ends and go to the other and go back and forth, start is one and transition to the other. But at any point in time you need to pick one of them. I was thinking as y’all were talking, Mark Manson had a great reply to a Quora post, I don’t know, five or six years ago or something, it was, ‘How do I become a great blogger?’ And his answer was, ‘Publish a million words on the internet and call me back’. By the time you get to a million words on the internet, you’ll be good. There’s a lot of truth in that, quantity has a quality all of its own kind of thing. Just, you know, get the first half a million words published, and all these questions will answer themselves over that time period kind of thing. So I think that’s, that, for me, was always kind of a big thing, kind of gotta stay on the train. And, and keep going. And I think, again, for me, if I say, I enjoyed the process. Your question was relevant, if only, 50 people that I like and respect kind of thing, read this blog, that’s cool. That’s a perfectly successful outcome for me.
Dan: Yeah, the million words thing is interesting, because it’s sort of the answer to everything in life but there is a kind of a caveat in there, which is – you know, having a blog that does get traction and does make a big impact in your life and can become a business and all these things, it’s not out there for everybody. It’s not just a matter of doing it, you have to have a sense of why what you’re doing is unique and/or better. It makes me think about songwriting a little bit. It’s very possible just to pump out mediocre songs that no one but you’re roped in friends that you’ve forced to come to your show want to listen to. At a certain point, you have to have an eye towards a kind of an excellence. And I think that’s what Mark’s achieved. And that’s why people do read his writing. And so there is a risk there with blogging that you spend a great deal of time on it and you don’t get past that envelope of quality, where people actually do care about what you’re saying.
Amanda: It’s interesting how that part of the blogging world has really changed. I think in the past, we’ll have you know, since in the past 10 years or so. It used to be when there was so much less competition, you could just put up a blog on anything and you’d find readers, as long as you were publishing regularly. I remember, oh, man, when I had my first or second blog, which is kind of about making natural beauty products, and lots of food recipes. I remember people used to write in and say, I was such a great photographer, which is hilarious if you look at my photos, because they’re absolutely horrible. But back then the bar was really low, there wasn’t that much competition, there wasn’t Instagram. So now, if you’re starting from scratch, so you have no audience, you’re starting your first blog. Just because you put your posts up, nobody’s gonna read them. So you do have to get good quality. But the Catch-22 is the only way to do that is to publish a lot so that you find your voice and find your perspective and become a good writer. And so I think you really have to enjoy the process. Because you’ve got to go through those 10,000 hours or whatever of writing so that you can even get good enough that then you could start to get an audience. You just have to have your expectations straight, and do it for the enjoyment and the journey and the benefit of having that personal platform, rather than expecting it to deliver results right away, especially if you’re starting from scratch.
Dan: So then let’s talk about the downsides of personal blogging because we just made a strong argument. Obviously, we’re passionate about this, I’m gonna ask you to sit on the other side of the aisle, and argue against this. And I’ll start us off with something you just said Amanda, sparked a thought in me, which is the first downside I thought of is time. Depending on where you’re at in your career, when I was starting, there were a lot of, ‘Follow me on my entrepreneurial journey blogs’. And I would think, ‘Yeah, your time would be better spent on the journey rather than the ‘follow me on the journey part’. And then maybe write about that later.
But the other thing that jumped into my head is sometimes doing things in public, you can get attention for the wrong reasons. For example, writing a certain kind of blog post that you know will get more shared on Twitter or more readers won’t necessarily be the most useful blog to write given your desired outcomes. And so sometimes doing things in public you have to be careful why people are commenting, why they’re watching. Maybe an extreme example would be Schadenfreude. Sometimes people want to watch train wrecks. It doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be a meaningful interaction for you. But I’ve seen it happen over the years where people, they don’t have that kind of attention elsewhere in their lives. And so it motivates them. And then they start spending a bunch of time going after this attention. Maybe I’m getting a little bit too esoteric here. But I do feel getting attention for the wrong reasons, especially if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re tasked with being effective, and driving outcomes. I’ve seen it go wrong for people. There’s been a lot of Instagram articles lately that are, you know, ‘I posted myself doing all this stuff. And a lot of people followed me. And then I tried to monetize it two years later, and I didn’t get any money’. And it’s really easy to see on Instagram. But that happens in the blogosphere, too.
Taylor: I think what Amanda said is true. What are your expectations, right? It’s like, if you want to start an Instagram about great mac and cheese, and you don’t ever want to make any money off, you just like going out to eat mac and cheese and it’s cool to have people comment about your mac and cheese recipes, like cool. I got hobbies too. If you think your mac and cheese thing is going to be the next media empire, it’s probably not going to happen. And likewise with the blog.
Dan: Amanda, we’re talking about the downsides. And some of the ones that were brought up in the forum, is that you could expose yourself to abuse or not only abuse, but maybe there could be downsides for your business, if you say things that are unprofessional or unbecoming of your business.
Amanda: I mean, that’s really valid that you need to think about the fact that you’re putting something out there publicly. And yes, you can delete it, but there could still be copies floating around, there’s a Wayback Machine, once you publish something, you kind of lose control over that thing and where it goes. It could be a personal blog on your personal platform but that doesn’t mean that you need to share, you know, you don’t need to share what you ate for breakfast, although some people like to do that. But you don’t need to share where you live or about intimate details about your family or, I read this somewhere but somebody was saying, you know, if you have all this personal turmoil, so you want to write it about a really difficult situation that that you’ve been through, you don’t write about it when you’re in the middle of the mess. You wait till you’re through the mess, you have some perspective on it. And then you write something thoughtful reflecting back on it. There’s always that line – this is your personal brand in a way that you’re putting out there. But I think it depends on what your personal brand is. I tend to be much more reserved. So I don’t write about super personal stuff. But some people do that, and it works for them. So I think it depends on your personal comfort level too.
Taylor: It seems like that mainly kicks in at high levels, right? Instagram is probably more because it’s more visual, you see the person kind of thing. But even think about very successful bloggers, would you recognise them if you sat next to them in a coffee shop? Probably not.
Amanda: I’ve been recognised. Have you not?
Taylor: I’ve never been recognised.
Dan: Oh my gosh, tell us a story.
Amanda: It was years ago now. We were out at a bar in the evening, my husband and I, and this waitress came over and she goes, ‘Are you Amanda Cook, like of the blah, blah, blah, blof, whatever I was reading at the time’, and I was ‘Yeah’, and my husband was just, ‘What is happening?’ He was kind of, ‘Oh, Amanda has a blog, whatever’. But when that happened, it was, Oh, people read it’ and even I was like … you know, because sometimes you feel with blogging or podcasting you’re a bit removed because you’re just in your office. I’m in my room alone, you know, writing or podcasting and then suddenly you realise there’s these real people out there. And they’ve seen my photo and they know my stories and they recognise me. It can happen.
Taylor: That’s amazing. I haven’t had it happen to me.
Dan: Well, that actually reminds me of something relative to this attention thing, which is, I’ve had the unique experience as a blogger of meeting thousands of my readers. And that’s been interesting, because I realised that the indications I get from speaking with them about their interactions with the blog versus what I would know if I hadn’t met them. And I’m always shocked and try to communicate to bloggers, you really have no idea who your audience is from your blog comments, from your Twitter mentions, from the shares. That is such a small portion of the readership. It might depend on your space. One of the things I’ve noticed, just as an example, a niche of high net wealth individuals, they don’t like to leave traces on the web, they don’t like to comment, they don’t like to tweet, they don’t like to let people know what they’re reading. And that doesn’t mean they’re not reading your shit. So I always try to encourage bloggers to remember, and it’s tough, but the vast, vast majority of people who are affected by your ideas, if you’re a blogger, you’re not going to quite know about it in a clear one to one way. And so what is the implication of the concept that I’m laying out here that you don’t really know who your audience is? What is the implication of that? I’m going to get to that strategy for that in just a bit. But first, I just want to talk about blog alternatives.
There is this moment in time that I remember so much, like the blog comments, the Technorati rankings, the if you didn’t blog, it, it didn’t happen kind of moment on the internet, where I sort of felt that I was going around the world trying to find things to blog. I wanted to share my experience. And it’s obvious that that fundamental motivation has been replaced resoundingly by services like Instagram, and Facebook, and Twitter. And I think that there’s a part of me that comes from that old school that thinks it’s a little bit of a shame. Because I think the value of long form on the web, in terms of how it can change your career remains the same. But sort of people aren’t drawn to it as the primary way to express themselves anymore, given the new services. What’s your take on how things have changed Amanda?
Amanda: Yeah, when I think back to that time, I remember I had a feed reader. Yeah, I think I forget what it was, Feedly, or something. And every day, I had all these blogs I followed. And I was in there all the time keeping up with bloggers commenting. That was my Instagram feed, basically and I’d go through my RSS feed, and comment on stuff and engage. And I guess they probably still exist, but I feel like that whole culture has really moved. I mean, for the people that I’m hanging out with, it’s all on Instagram now. That’s how people interact. And I think that is a shame because on Instagram, first of all, I think people you’re just scrolling through, it’s not as much time as you’d spend on somebody’s blog. And also you don’t own it, right? It’s that situation of Instagram or Facebook owns it. Whereas with your own website, with your own blog, it’s your place, it’s your space, it’s never going to go away, and you can curate it the way that you want. And I think that’s really powerful. And I do think it’s a bit of a shame that it’s moved to Instagram but it’s so much easier and the barrier to entry on Instagram is just so easy. Whereas the blogs, I still think, if you’ve never had one, I think it could feel a little bit intimidating trying to figure out how it would work.
Dan: Taylor, I want to ask you, specifically, a lot of your creative energy has gone to Twitter recently. Why did you make that decision? It’s obviously a big move that the more heady bloggers are heading off to Twitter to put long form content on Twitter instead of their blogs. Why are they doing that?
Taylor: A big function of it is just that it’s where the readers are, for the most part, right? I think we’ve gone from the mid 2000s of blogging getting started. Remember when you found blogs people had blog roles, right? Or they had links to other blogs, that was the discovery mechanism, right? You’d be reading someone you’d like and you’d think, ‘’m going to check out their blog roll and see who else they’re reading’.
Dan: It was like their crew, if you read the TropicalMBA, you better go read Taylor Pearson and Amanda Cook kind of thing. This is my crew.
Taylor: Right. I haven’t seen a blog roll in, you know, eight years or something, it’s been a long time. And I think a lot of the evolution of the internet is, you know, it’s moved on to these platforms, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc. And I think just as a function of bandwidth is getting better. It’s gotten more visual, right? Blogging was a big thing in the early 2000s. You couldn’t stream video very well in 2004. Most people didn’t have fast enough internet connection. It wasn’t really a working thing. So I think part of it is – I can’t even set a top of my head, but most content consumption is TV, right? So people, it’s kind of video at the top, followed by audio followed by text, newspapers are only, you know, five or 10% or something. It’s mostly TV and radio.
So I think that we’re just starting to see that sort of assert itself on the internet, sort of my read on it, right, just as the bandwidth has gotten there, and now you can stream YouTube videos from your cellular wifi connection, most people are gonna watch YouTube videos. I think a lot of you are moving to those content formats because that’s where the growth is. That’s where sort of the readership is growing. For me and Twitter, I don’t like video kinda, you know, just said, part of the way I consume, I don’t watch YouTube videos, maybe watch or an hour of YouTube a month or something. It’s just not how I sort of consume information. And written content is. So I think for written content, as you said, Twitter, for me, blog comments are now basically Twitter, right? All the discussions that you shared in blog comments now happened on Twitter both to my readers or bloggers and following. A lot of people find me through Twitter now. That’s probably the most common channel that people find my personal site,
Amanda: I think you bring up a really interesting point about the fact that, you know, TV and radio are kind of the most popular things. And those are now trickling down onto the web, where everyone wants to watch video or is starting to listen to more podcasts, which is great. That’s been growing a lot over the past few years. That raises a really good point, because you don’t have to blog also. If somebody wants to have these benefits that we’re talking about of having a personal platform online, I think you need to think of: okay, content creation is a marathon. What do I like to do best? Do I like to be on camera and do video? Do I like to talk and do audio, or am I a writer, and you can just pick one, you don’t need to do them all.
And so if you’re not a writer, but you love to be on video, you’d love to do public speaking, just start a YouTube channel. I would still create a website and an email list and embed though and try to create your platform on the web. Same with a podcast, you know, you start your podcast, and then you still have your website with your show notes. So you’ve got a home, but you don’t have to blog. It seems like Google now is also starting to transcribe and index and search audio. And I’d imagine that’s only going to get better. For those of us that like to write, it’s awesome having a blog, and it’s personally beneficial as well, because it helps you work through issues. But if writing feels hard, there’s other ways to get a similar benefit, I think
Dan: 100%. And maybe the 80/20 of this strategy, and I want to get to strategies, guys, your number one strategies, it sounds like something we’ve all advocated for. Right now, I have a company that helps people express their career online through ‘Dynamite Jobs’. It’s like a LinkedIn profile. And part of the reason we need to do that is because people aren’t taking the time to create their own personal portfolio on the web. It sounds like we would all agree that if it’s taking you a week to put up a clean WordPress instal, with a clear value proposition to get on your mailing list, and with one or two good pieces, and a biography, that is going to go to work for you over the years in a very, very big way.
And that’s basically my thesis of Dynamite Jobs, which is – you should go do this, you should go get Amanda Cook.me and create something that if I have a spark of interest in what you do, that I can go sit with you for 15 minutes and get to understand your perspective, who you are, and find ways that I might be able to connect with you that would be mutually valuable, even if what you want to do is create tweets as your primary creative outlet.
Amanda: I feel like a broken record. But I feel like there’s still so much value in having your own site. So I don’t think I would make Twitter my main content outlet. I don’t know. I just feel like even if you want to do Instagram and Twitter, you still need to have that home.
Taylor: Yeah, I agree. Email runs on an open protocol of SMTP. The SMTP people are never gonna ban your email account. Right? That’s the major difference between email and all these other platforms. I agree that I think, you know, having an email list with some sort of value proposition, which could be you know, ‘Once a month, I’ll send you three articles that I read’, whatever, something super simple, it’s low friction, it makes sense. But then a lot of the discovery does happen, I agree with what you said Dan, just that two blog posts and email OPT It goes to a free MailChimp account with an ‘About page’ you could get up in 20 hours or something is really valuable on a one to three year, certainly 5-10 year timeframe. You don’t really need to do much more than put up a case study once a year of the project you were proud of, stuff that went the best. And you know, what you learned kind of thing. It’s almost inconceivable why you wouldn’t do that, right? I think committing to it, and making it a permanent thing. Now there’s big opportunity costs, you could be spending much time somewhere else. But that amount of effort is very low effort, I think potentially.
Dan: Not doing that is like having a leaky bucket, if what you’re going to do is create Instagram content, YouTube, or Twitter. It’s like collecting the water at the bottom of the well. And one of the things, I’m a little bit of a blog elitist, I’m just going to say it. I think really smart people like to read blogs, you guys both mentioned that you click around, you read the blogs. Taylor, you said how many people you met in the past year, smart people do this. I click around, I read what everybody’s writing, I take note, I remember deeply in a way that I don’t remember Instagram and Twitter, I remember what people write. And I remember who they are. And I file that one away. And you know how many times I’ve read people’s pieces and then written them an email right away or commented – a lot. But it’s only like 2% of the time. So now back to this point of: what is the implication that 98 times out of 100, when I am impacted by someone’s writing, I don’t tell them about it right away, it changes my life. I remember them, I think of them in a different esteem. I integrate their thoughts with mine, but I’m not giving them that indication. I’m not giving them that attention that ‘like’, and that’s a different kind of value. And this brings me back to a strategy I’d like people to consider if they’re going to do this, I call it the ‘chops index’ in the past. And it’s this idea that your credibility as a content creator, really, really matters. It really matters what you’ve done, where you’re coming from, how it affects people. And I always challenged people when they’re going to create a blog – who are you writing for? How will it affect their lives? What sort of decisions will they make differently if they read what you’re writing? And really good people, they care about where your ideas came from, and how much credibility you have. And even if you’re just getting started out, you know, presenting a case study about how your SEO strategy made a few extra thousand or hundred dollars for a company that could be enormously valuable to someone who’s been running a big company for a long time. And they’re looking for the new hottest strategy and someone who’s proven themselves as an implementer of that strategy. Whereas, think about that same person reading a piece, it’s like, ‘More general strategies from someone who pedals ideas about SEO’ and stuff. Really good people are just gonna be, ‘That’s bullshit’. But if you read the blogosphere, you see these kinds of popular posts, you might think that that’s the way to go about doing things. And so my encouragement to the listenership today is just to consider this thing I’d like to call the ‘chops index’, or with my team, I call it the ‘coffee table test’, which is: forget about the abstraction of reality, imagine yourself actually sitting across the table from the reader. If they ask you a tough question, are you going to be able to answer it? Are you bullshitting right now? Good people know, good people can figure out what’s going on. And if you write with that in mind, that real sense of, ‘Don’t bullshit people’, the best people don’t want to be bullshitted, they want to understand exactly where you’re at. That’s the beauty of long form is that smart people with power and resources can understand exactly where you’re at. If you give them that opportunity, maybe they can figure out a way to interact with you. You’ll be surprised, you put up a post about financial stuff, SEO stuff, there could be people that run powerful companies that are taking a look at what you’re reading. Whereas they might not do it if it’s a more of a puffy piece, or that’s a long way of saying I can’t say it short, you know, or else I’d be on Twitter
Taylor: The idea maze is the way I always think about it. If you really understand something, it’s like you can almost guide someone and say, ‘Well if you take a left here, it looks like it goes out but what you don’t see is it does this right hook and it ends at the dead end and there’s a you know, octopus monster at the end or you know, whatever the haunted maze kind of thing’, very specific. There’s a phrase, ‘Reality has a surprising detail’, right? All these things look weird. It’s like ‘Oh, in SEO you update your title tags and da da da’. But if you talk to someone who is really good SEO, they’re gonna tell you about, ‘Well, the internal linking structure of the site, your ratio of internal to external links is, you know, 4% sub optimal’, but I’d say they just know, they can tell you change this one thing, and it’s gonna affect all these other things, because they should have walked through that, idea maze. You can display that really well through blogging or contacting trade, that really detailed case study where it’s not just general sort of platitudes, but that super specific stuff. I feel like, that’s the highest level, that’s been some of the highest value stuff for me for sure.
Amanda: But that’s like using your blog and your platform to establish yourself as an expert or a thought leader, you’re sharing your expertise, versus the approach of, ‘Well, let me Google and see what keywords there are. And let me do a little SEO research and write a keyword rich post about this topic’. They’re both writing, but they’re on such opposite ends of the spectrum. And so I think, you know, again, expectations, but if you really want to build your own authority, then those types of posts where you’re really yeah, starting to establish yourself as a thought leader. That’s the stuff and people your right, people recognise that.
Dan: It’s so different from ‘a like’, or you know, ‘a friend’.
Amanda: So different. But Dan as, you were talking about that, I just thought, you know, all of us, the next time you read something that touches you, or that you’re, ‘Wow, that person really knows their stuff’, we should tell them, because like you said, you might be touching tonnes of people and we hear from so few of our readers. And it’s really meaningful when you hear from people and you get these really nice emails sometimes about how it really touched them. Or it really helped them hear a difficult moment. Or even just saying, how, ‘Wow, you explain that. So well, thank you for sharing that’. I think. I rarely reach out to people like that, but I love it when it happens to me. So I think there’s a little homework for all of us to reach out to somebody that wrote something awesome and tell them.
Dan: Hundred percent, it just makes me think of how important it is too to go to the mat on behalf of your readers. And that’s a way you can really gain influence in the world. So Taylor, you did that on behalf of fans of ‘Antifragile’. ‘Oh, my gosh, I read this book, it blew my mind’. I need to kind of wrap my head around a little bit more. And you did that. Now you can do that with anything. I’ve heard case studies and seen case studies that happened recently where a blogger went to the mat on behalf of the user community of a piece of software. ‘Now I know you’re interested in this new software that came out, it’s got all kinds of implications and potential for us. I went to the mat, I worked in the software for a month, I became a total nerd. And here’s how you can follow along with that’. And boom, you know, who reached out to that person, the software company, right? These sorts of things they’re hard to do, but they’re not that hard to do. And I think that’s really the opportunity, why we’re all here. We’ve all changed our careers by doing stuff like that on our blogs. And I think that that’s why I want to have this conversation – ‘Yeah, you can change your life with the blog, you really can. But you gotta keep it real’. I mean, I would avoid falling into the, ‘Here’s the top five ways to be a better blogger’ sort of stuff.
Amanda: But that’s also exactly the reason I think your blog, and your especially if it’s a personal brand has to be really aligned with you. Because if you’re talking about those level of posts and you know, writing the million words and it’s a marathon, it can’t be something that you’re just marginally interested in. You have to be writing about those topics that are at your core is stuff that you as a person are interested in, because it’s you as your professional brand.
Dan: Alright guys, quick fire round up, I’ve taken a tonne of your time. I just absolutely love this. I didn’t even get to all of the philosophical ideas I wanted to lay on the table. People are probably thinking about firing up Feedly Amanda or dusting off Google reader or whatever people are using. What blogs have really inspired you or that are worth a deep dive? Have you all ever just gotten a cup of coffee and done an archive deep dive of some wonderful personal journey? Could you make some recommendations or let us know what you’d like to read Amanda?
Amanda: Oh, man. Oh, I was gonna recommend two that we’re just really life changing for me. But to be honest, I don’t read them anymore. But at the time in my life, they were just hugely valuable. I think the value was they helped me understand a different way of thinking about living, so one of them was ‘Escape from Cubicle Nation’ by Pamela Slim in the mid 2000s.
Dan: Oh yeah.
Amanda: I had my job and this was escaping Cubicle Nation. And it kind of gave me hope that there was a way, a different way of living and working, you know, so that one, I think I devoured because it was so timely for me at the time. And the other one was, actually these two blogs about Americans living in Paris, or people living in Paris, because that was a big dream of mine, too. So Chocolate and Zucchini, and David Lebovitz, they’re both food blogs. And that was back when food blogs were new. There was no Instagram, they’d share these pictures of Paris and this food. And I just remember, I could sit at my desk at lunchtime and it was a way of starting to see myself in a different kind of life.
Taylor: I have the same thing. Yeah, Mark Sisson, What was he at Primal Blueprint? I read that.
Amanda: Mark’s Daily Apple
Taylor: Yeah, that’s what it was. That was a transformative blog for me. I lost 100 pounds. Ribbonfarm was another one, I was a longtime reader and still read some. Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen is another I’ve been reading for a long time. And yeah, I can totally see the way those shaped my writing too. You kind of imitate people you’re reading and sort of blend the different things together.
Dan: I choked on my coffee just imagining myself in your shoes, Amanda, even today, I’m trying to figure out what’s happening with Coronavirus and with politics and stuff and you go to the news sites and, you know, it is what it is. And then there was this alternative world coming about where there was one person sitting in Paris at a cafe, telling you about it. And the way that that hit me changed my life time and time again. And I think I’ll never really drop it, there was so many sort of little dispatches from tropical islands, or from escapees of Cubicle Nation, or from people who were just tinkering around with their lives, sort of earnestly sharing it for us, so that we can be inspired and change our lives as well. And that’s why, you know, the final question here is, should you start a personal blog? And my answer is, ‘Hell yeah, you should start a personal blog’. And because it does have this sort of magic ability to connect ideas and places and people. And it’s certainly had an enormous impact on my life.
Amanda: One my one piece of advice, and I wish I could go back and give it to myself when I was starting, is to give yourself permission to be a beginner. I guess, like many of us, I have really high expectations for myself, I’m kind of type A, a bit controlling, maybe a perfectionist. And so if I could have gone back and just be, ‘Hey, it’s okay. You’re a beginner, just enjoy it. Just have fun with it. You know, find your voice, just try it. Have it be an experiment’. I think that’s the big thing. Let yourself be a beginner, have it be an experiment, take the pressure off, you’re going to be doing this for a long time. I wish somebody had said that to me, because I felt all this pressure to make everything great right away. It added a lot of stress and took a lot of the fun out of it in the beginning.
Taylor: I would echo that and echo the idea of just find something where you enjoy the process, right? Like something where you actually enjoy putting it together and not necessarily, you know, even if it’s not some super mega successful thing. I think that’s true of starting a business too, right? You know, how many times do you download the spreadsheet and think ‘Oh, it’s gonna be a great business’. And it turns out, it’s three times as hard as you thought and not as profitable and if you didn’t like it in the first place, and so you just quit. You know, the best businesses are always something you’re super into and it always ends up being harder and taking longer and everything else But you’re okay with that. So I think same thing here,
Dan: The best blog posts are ends in, and of, themselves, not a means necessarily to get to something else. Thanks, guys. We appreciate you weighing in on the conversation in the forum and then bringing it to the pod was an awesome pleasure.
Amanda: Thanks, Dan.
Taylor: Cool. Thanks, guys.
Dan: I could hardly hang up the phone on this one. I felt like we could have gone for another hour. Maybe we will in the future, based on your thoughts, comments, suggestions and voicemails. So many thanks again to Amanda Cook. She was wonderful to talk to, check out our writing at Amanda cook.me. And of course, Taylor Pearson, from Taylor Pearson.me and twittersphere at TaylorPearsonme. If you’re a blogger thinking about starting a blog, or just an avid reader, then of course, we would love to hear from you in the comments, which have changed over the years. Or ironically, drop us a voicemail over at our website, we’d love to hear directly from you. Of course, you can always reach me at Dan at tropicalmba dot com. I also want to give a shout out to this week’s sponsor, Service Provider Pro. If you run an agency, you got to check out their agency management white label software. Check it out over at SPP dot co and that’s it. Thanks for joining us. We’ll be back as always, next Thursday morning. See you then.