Somewhere along the lines of this post I will reach an important milestone: one million words written on this blog. One million. Written. Words.
I confess I feel kind of awkward, and, at the same time, exhilarated. It’s an achievement, yes. And I feel proud of it. But it’s also in the past. At the end of the day, it’s just something I did, like my first tango lesson, or my first mountain half marathon. It’s just another part of my personal history, of the trail that I leave on this world.
Big numbers can be deceiving, you know… And our perception can play tricks on our minds. Just because we think one million is something very big, our brain tends to attach a lot of value to it. It’s the same with money: one million dollars can be really hypnotizing. I know. I’ve been there.
One million words can be so heavy, that they may even create some sort of gravity and constantly pull you towards them, extracting you form the genuine, second by second, joy of life.
I started all this on December 13th 2006, almost 8 years ago. It was more of an experiment on how to maintain a blog while I was still having my own business (which, at that time, was quite demanding, especially in terms of time). I didn’t have any plans for it. It didn’t count much in my life, in the beginning.
Then, 2 years later, after I sold my company, in 2008, it became the central point of my activity. When I did that exit, I had a non-compete clause in my contract, that basically stated I can’t do the same thing I was doing before, in a certain number of countries, for at least 2 years. It kind of makes sense, if you think about it. You wouldn’t want to buy a website from a guy and expect that guy to replicate the same website again, next week. It’s also a common practice in these types of transactions.
So, because I couldn’t do any more work on the Romanian market, (and, to be honest, I didn’t want that, too) I decided to start something in English. I think the only English course I had was in college, but I didn’t attend more than once. Basically, I have no formal English education. All my vocabulary and grammar where just “picked up” by watching movies and reading programming documentation. And it showed up. The first 50 articles were almost terrible, in terms of grammar.
I remember I had my own “grammar nazis” at that time. Readers who were quick to show me my faults. Unpleasant, of course. But also true. One of the consequences of being ridiculed for my English was this post: How To Be Ridiculous, which got a solid 3000 unique views (and it still shows up in Google results in the first page, form more than 69.000.000 results).
In the beginning I was drifting, I confess. Didn’t know much about what I was doing. A lot of it was inspired from other bloggers.
It took me about half a year and, perhaps, 50 or 60 articles, to find “my voice”. Yes, as a blogger, you will discover at some point that you have your own voice, your own way of writing. Of course, that will happen after you will read a ton of articles telling you how many words exactly your posts should have, and so on and so forth. Truth is, there’s no rule. Do whatever works for you. For instance, Seth Godin has seldom something over 600 words. While Steve Pavlina does 3-4000 words on a regular basis.
I was soon to find out that my “voice” was made of around 1000 words, on average, per post.
As I was telling, I was drifting. I used this blog as a sort of a witness to my experiments. Having a lot of time after selling my business, I could involve in all sort of crazy experiments. In 2009 I became raw vegan for 9 months. In 2010 I traveled around the world twice. In 2011 I started to learn (and then, two years later, I started to teach) Argentine tango. In 2012 I ran my first marathon. A few months ago, I started a new business in Bucharest, called Connect Hub, based on a weekly event, Open Connect, which I started in 2012. All these experiments have been documented, somehow, on this blog.
But there was a very specific moment when this blog took off. In 2009 I wrote a post called 100 Ways To Live A Better Life. Which, obviously, contained 100 ways to live a better life, as I was seeing them. That post became an instan success. Shared across all major social media outlets, reblogged, translated, it became my most popular blog posts ever. More than 540.000 page views until today.
What surprised me in the beginning was the fact that this post didn’t bring anything fundamentally new, in terms of life philosophy. It was a collection of some of my other articles, distilled in the form of a list. For a while, I attributed his tremendous success to the list format. It must have been something about the list format, I said to myself.
So I tried to replicate it. I wrote a sequel called 100 Ways To Screw Up Your Life. It was still successful, but at half of the traffic. It still goes strong, but always half of the traffic. So, I said to myself, this wasn’t a very good list. Let’s try another one. I did a few other huge lists posts (as I call them), like 33 Ways To Start Your Day or 33 Ways To Get And Keep Yourself Motivated, but none of them equalled the success of the first one.
Years passed by and I did other things and wrote about other stuff.
At some point I decided I will write a book. It took me about two months and it was a moderate success. The title is 30 Sentences For A Millionaire Mindset and it’s based on my experience as an entrepreneur. I did a decent number of sales, but I didn’t reach one million. Not even close.
And then I decided I will write some other ebooks, this time based on the most successful posts on the blog. The huge list posts came in very handy, as you may imagine. I worked on the two initial 100 items posts and in one month I wrote 2 ebooks based on them. These did much better. And, if I remember well, I wrote not 2, but 4 ebooks on that month. And that’s because of a challenge I got from another fellow blogger. Who’s gonna write more ebooks in one month, you know. I won that month, with 4 ebooks. And then he won the next month, with 2. We kinda had fun, I admit it.
And these two ebooks were way more successful. They got translated in Korean, sold as ebooks and then printed and sold in book stores. I sold more than 3000 copies. Without even going to Korea. Then, they got translated in Farsi (Persan). I don’t know how they’re doing in Farsi, because I don’t sell them, directly, somebody else is doing it. And the English versions, they are still downloadable for free on my blog and they are getting a solid few hundreds downloads every month. If you want to get them, go ahead: free books.
And now, that I mentioned that book challenge, I see there’s one little thing I didn’t tell you about that very first successful post. Namely, how it started, what triggered it. The root cause of that post was a challenge. Another blogger, from Brasil, wrote a list of 100 ways to solve a problem, and challenged me to do another list, of 100 items, of my choice. That’s how it started.
And that was the only difference between that post and all the other posts. The way it started, as a response to someone else’s need. The same trigger was with the challenge for writing ebooks based on those blog posts. They were written as a response to someone else’s need.
The Only Thing I Learned
So, if there’s one thing I learned after one million written words is that it’s always about the others. It’s not about you. But it gets a little bit more… not complicated, because the end result is simple, it gets more complex.
In a very subtle way, you are the result of what you do onto others. What you do for others, will be recreated in your own life. It’s not like you don’t matter at all and you have to sacrifice yourself on the “altar” of the others. That’s stupid. It’s also against your fundamental commitment, which is to protect life. All life, including your own life.
But it’s about how you are of service to others. How you create abundance for others. Even if you don’t have it yet. That’s the trick. That’s how it starts. By doing something for others.
When I answered that blog challenge I didn’t do it for me. I did it because someone else challenged me and I did my best to offer value for that process, not for me. It worked beautifully and instantly. Traffic jumped in a few hours and I could watch the process live. But when I focused only on what I thought I was, on my own self, it didn’t work as well. I watched the charts for hours an nothing happened. The traffic was growing, but not with the same speed and consistency.
I may have had the writing skills and, at the technical level, all was good. Some posts became, and still are popular. But at the very core of it, at the “energy” level, something was stuck. They never reached the same level of success like the first one.
Well, it took me a few years to understand it completely (and it may take a while until I master the entire process, because there’s one thing to understand something, at the mental level, and there’s another one to make it happen). But in the end I got it.
Focus on the other’s needs and do your best to make their dreams come true. Everything else will follow.
Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner
The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”
And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.
Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.
If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.