I recently surpassed 100 direct followers and I wanted to thank everyone who has commented, liked, and hit that follow button here.
If you see my about page, you’ll see that across all my platforms I am over 8,000 followers…but I’ll let you in on a little secret. I hit a hot streak over on Tumblr a few years back and most of my “followers” are from over there (where I still cross post). That was back when I was climbing and photo focused.
Tumblr’s state of affairs is a whole separate topic, but please know that I consider my followers here much more “present” as I see a lot of interactions via likes and comments from you all.
I remember posting over there once that I was shutting down an old website of mine. Of the over then 7,000 followers I had I got one email.
However, that one email was from someone who told me that my posts had inspired him to start his own climbing inspired website. He even sent me a climbing chalk bag that I have to this day.
I had posted over there as the “caffeinated climber” from my now defunct climbercafe site. A site that I enjoyed creating and building but ran out of time to keep up…but I inspired one person to action.
And that one made it all worth it.
If you take anything away from this today, remember…write for the internet you want…you may just inspire that next one to action.
I know that Father’s Day isn’t until the 21st, but since I’ll be out camping with my family that day…Happy Father’s Day!!
Funny enough I was talking to my mom recently and asked her about the first time I went camping as a kid…thinking we had started when I was about 7 or 8. She laughed and said that my younger brother was still in diapers when we first camped (we are 20 months apart).
My mother told me that she just stripped us both naked and we played in a creek for a whole day in the Sequoia National Forrest. And she got to read a book for the first time in 5 years.
Hearing that just made me smile and realize even more how much a part of being in the outdoors is a part of me.
Being with my mom and dad camping are some of my fondest memories of my childhood, so I am incredibly excited to start forming those same memories with my own kids.
If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you know that my handle is @patagoniadad (or a slight variation)…and I’m proud to have that dad part of me out there.
To all the fathers out there that are trying make sure they keep their kids alive, fed, happy, and socially well-adjusted…thank you.
You ever try to hold your breath underwater for as long as you can?
Social distancing, school cancelations, and teleworking have created this cloud that workers can’t seem to escape.
Here’s how to change that.
The State of Affairs
At first working from home was novel. Working in your sweatshirt, using your home computer for high tech Zoom calls, grabbing a snack whenever you want…this is great right?!
But it got old…fast.
With connectivity and system access that is not the same, kids demanding attention for home schooling needs, an ever present “funk” seemed to hang over all of these workplace and social restrictions.
I’ve had my staff on a half-on/half-off rotation for the past couple months to minimize people in the building. While this seems to be beneficial in allowing folks to social distance as well as to help at home more, it seems to be chipping away the family environment that I have worked hard to create.
As a leader, good communication, workplace rhythm, and co-worker socialization is important to me. A unit is most cohesive when one department can anticipate the needs of another…and this “togetherness” is essentially halted when telework is predominant.
Communications are not the same via chat or email, rhythm is lost, and socialization…is (of course) distant.
How are you feeling about all this?
As a leader, it can be difficult to pull this kind of thing out of your people. At least for me it is.
Now that I am the person that signs evaluations, makes decisions on big ticket items, and is overall responsible for the health and well-being of everyone…it feels awkward walking up to an individual and asking him/her “How are you feeling about all this COIVD19 stuff and all the social restrictions right now?”.
Or maybe it’s easy and that just an issue specific to me.
For a while I thought that might be the case… a me issue. But my staff lead and I were talking about day to day operations when we ventured to this “funk” we had been sensing. I am fortunate to have someone I can be so open with…and after just a minute or two of talking about this dark cloud hanging over our staff…we began brainstorming.
The Next Steps
Over my years as a leader in the military, I can say that one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that humility and honesty go a VERY long way with those you lead.
I was fortunate to learn this lesson early and to this day it is both surprising and satisfying to hear junior folks tell me how refreshing it is to have someone so open and honest in charge. Not to say that I don’t have things to keep learning, but I feel like I worked those attributes in to my leadership style and it has seem to work well.
With that, I decided that if I feel awkward asking my folks directly how they feel, that I will have a forum of openness…and I will kick it off with my own struggles.
What followed was more emotionally charged than I had expected.
I dove straight in.
I kicked our weekly meeting off with the reality of what we had been sensing,
“I feel like there is some sort of cloud hanging over us” I stated, “and I do not know how everyone is dealing with this or feeling about it…so I’m going to go around the room and if you want to talk you can. You don’t have to…but I want you to know that we’re here for you and potentially hear what others are feeling too.”
It was pretty quiet and I saw questioning looks…not surprised…but unsure.
Without giving them too much to overthink it, I led off with the slightly depressive feeling that I had been sensing. I talked about how hard it has been for me not to see them everyday at work, and how difficult it is for me to work at home while also helping homeschool my kids.
I often consider myself an extrovert with some strong introverted tendencies (I need time alone to recharge, etc)…but this has been different.
As we went around our conference room table, some folks I didn’t have much to initially say so I tried asking some open ended questions to challenge them a bit…push folks a bit out of their comfort zone.
Some of my staff are “geo-bachelors”…live away from their families.
– “How do you feel about not being able to see your family?” – “How is your family doing?” – “How do you feel about all this?”
At a couple points folks got choked up. As we opened up you could really feel the emotional toll this social isolation was taking on some of us.
“This has been hard” “It’s been tough for my kids…they don’t understand” “I’m hanging in there”
The Other Side
You ever try to hold your breath underwater for as long as you can?
Then you have experienced that feeling of intense pressure that is lifted when you surface and take a deep breath.
That is almost what it felt like at the end of our meeting. All of the pressure wasn’t gone, we are all still treading water in these uncertain times…but it felt like some pressure had been lifted.
It’s one thing to know that “we’re in this together”, it’s another thing to hear it from other people in the same room as you (albeit socially distant by 6 feet).
Opening up in this time of staying in is more liberating than you may realize…if you have the chance, ask someone that question:
“How are you feeling?”
Both of you will appreciate it more than you know.
What is the 10,000 hour rule? How long is 10,000 hours? Have you blogged for 10,000 hours? How?
This is a “rule” that Malcom Gladwell popularized stating that approximately 10,000 hours of practice are needed to master a skill (in the simplest terms). For now I will ignore the many arguments against this rule. Instead I will focus on the fact that it basically shows that a lot of volume is needed to work towards mastery of anything.
Many circles apply this rule to athletes, pointing to the amount of hours of practice that they need to get to the elite levels of competition or expertise. Volume is not the ONLY factor that contributes towards mastery, but 10,000 hours is widely recognized as a bar that many reach for.
How Long Does That Take?
Some basic math (assuming 2 weeks vacation) showed me that if you put in 40 hours a week, you would reach this mark in 5 years.
10,000 hours / 40 hrs/week = 250 weeks
250 weeks / 50wks/year = 5 years
Is this realistic? Nope.
As a gymnast, growing up, I practiced for 3 hours a day 5-6 days a week (on average). That would put me at about 12-15 years to get to that mark of 10,000 hours.
This lines up well with high school athletes looking to compete in college. If they start young, like I did, they hit that mark just before, or during, college. I won’t go in to the various opinions on whether or not athletes should be multi-disciplinary in their younger years to round out their athletic foundation…I am focused on the raw volume for now.
Applying The Rule to Blogging
Does this mean you should blog full-time?
Why do you think the full-time bloggers are so good?
This was quite a realization for me. Largely because I’m not even close to 10,000 hours of blogging.
However, if you look at blogging as writing, then you can give yourself more credit towards that 10,000 hours. High school was hopefully a time to lay the first building blocks of your writing skills; with college giving you a serious boost towards the reps and volume you can’t avoid when honing a skill.
Let’s assume, for arguments sake, that by the time you have finished college you are at about 4,000 hours. (2 hours/day, 5days/week, for 8 years) While that is very optimistic, you still have 6,000 hours to reach the aforementioned Gladwell benchmark. Seeing as how most successful bloggers start off with a “regular” job and write on the side…let’s say you write for 4 hours per day. (That’s still a ton and probably not realistic for most)
6,000hrs / 20hrs/week = 300 weeks
300wks / 50wks/year = 6 years
6 years post college to become a “good” writer (blogger)!!!
That seems like a lot.
But it’s not. I would bet money that most successful bloggers didn’t find their success for at least that long…if not longer. I wrote about Jason Kottke not long ago and how he was running his website for 7 years before deciding to give blogging full-time a try. He has now been blogging full-time for 15 years and his blog is 22 years old.
Seth Godin…has been doing what he does for almost 30 years. He wrote his first book in 1999…his blog coming later. Talk about volume.
How to Get There
A couple years ago, I was traveling from Memphis to Portland with a connecting flight through Dallas Forth Worth. A cashier in DFW mentioned to me that I appeared to be in good shape and asked if I had any advice for him when it came to putting on muscle.
While the comment and question caught me off guard (because I was in a candy shop of all places), I assumed he was emboldened to ask because of the Crossfit shirt I was wearing.
In an instant, I thought of the thousands of hours of practice and working out I had accumulated for over 30 years. I asked myself, What one thing can I tell this random guy about my lifetime of fitness?
“Consistency man…go to the gym even when you don’t feel like it.”
I said as he handed me my receipt.
I couldn’t tell if the look he gave me said “true, true” or “that was lame” Nevertheless, it was the best piece of ‘gym advice’ I could think of as, ironically, I was walking out with a bag full of gummy bears.
I learned a lot about consistency and self-discipline from my years of gymnastics. Yet, I find I still need these reminders as I work on becoming a better writer:
Becoming a better writer will take time…a few years by my calculations, probably more.
There are no shortcuts…no matter how many Medium articles I read that promise me ‘5 Tips to Becoming a Better Writer’.
Consistency is key…I have to write even when I don’t feel like it.
Now you’ve read this article and learned in 5 minutes what it took me decades to discover.
Knowing these 3 insights alone won’t guarantee your success…but they sure as hell will help.
When you catch the wave, ride it as long as you can.
I’m not sure about you, but inspiration is very rarely a constant for me.
There are crazy bursts of energy that come with being inspired. Over the years I have come to realize I have to use those bursts to propel me forward. For example, if I am inspired to write longer form articles, I will do so at a maniac pace (for me). Much more than a brain dump, I ride these waves of ‘needing to act’ as long as I possibly can.
That probably explains how, a few months back, I wrote a bunch of articles on Medium and each one got noticed by an editor or picked up by a publication. Alas, these hyper productive bouts do not last forever.
After these shorter periods of increased inspiration, I often feel like I am a sprinter that just competed in a few different track events in one day – needing to rest and tone it down for a couple weeks afterwards.
There are more steady states of inspiration. Like running my blog, my year of vlogging, a lifetime of staying in shape, and more. Yet these are more of a “long distance run” type of energy level. These kinds of projects are more akin to restoring an old car or remodeling part of your house. It takes patience, time, and the slow and steady burn of focused determination.
I find that my “distance” projects often start off with the sprint. It takes a lot of energy to get something started, and a lightning strike of inspiration is often just what is needed.
Everyone has a different goal. Perhaps a finish line that you set in your mind when you were a kid, in college, or even just today. Some goals are hard and fast:
Make money with my blog
Start a Family
Lose 20 pounds
Yet some are more aspirational in nature:
Become a better writer
Inspire those who read my blog
Change the world through my work
Love my family and raise my kids right
Stay healthy in to my old age
Where Am I?
Are you sprinting right now or settled in for the long haul?
Either way, take advantage of your pace. If you are in ‘distance mode’, then use that time to store up some of that “sprint” energy. If you are sprinting, then haul ass and get to it!
I went out on my daily excursion to sit on the front step of my building for ten minutes holding my breath when people walked by. Normally, I spend the time diddling around my phone, but I forgot to bring my phone this morning, so I just looked around.
As I was taking in the emptiness of the street, a little glint caught my eye in a patch of dirt on the sidewalk. I bent over to look closer, and there was the glint again. It wasn’t a normal glint like from a shiny rock or a piece of metal—it was a little pinprick of flashing light.
Intrigued, I was now on all fours looking closer. And I saw the most surreal thing.
Like tiny houses. Each about a millimeter high, like ornately carved grains of sand.
I was either dreaming or looking at the coolest, cutest little art project ever.
As I examined the microscopic village, I noticed what looked like a scrawl of teeny letters on the dirt next to the houses. It said:
Blogging full-time is a goal for many…he made it happen before it was a thing.
Not sure if you have ever heard of Kottke.org, but it’s one of the internet’s oldest and well-known blogs. Somehow I stumbled across a 15-year-old post over there, when Jason Kottke wrote about going “full-time blogging”.
After thinking about it for a few weeks, I had a bit of an epiphany. The real problem was the tension between my web design career and my self-publishing efforts; that friction was unbalancing everything else. One of them had to go, and so I decided to switch careers and pursue the editing/writing of this site as a full-time job.
I would imagine that was as terrifying then as it is now…probably more so. He had been working full-time and keeping up his blog as it picked up steam for about 7 years.
Think about that.
7 years keeping his blog up and running before he jumped in to it full time.
Ok, but why else are you doing this?
Blogging — or personal publishing in general (not that they’re synonymous) — as a pursuit has been somewhat marginalized as a hobby or something one does to support other more worthy and/or lucrative pursuits. People leverage their blogs in order to write books, write for magazines or newspapers, pursue art or photography, go work for Gawker, Mediabistro, or Weblogs Inc., get jobs at startups, do freelance design (as I used to), start a software company, or as a vehicle to sell advertising. All worthy pursuits, but I’m interested in editing kottke.org as my primary interest; blogging for blogging’s sake, I guess.
I have always seen blogging as a way to share my interests…and I think most folks see it the same way. Many might see blogging full-time as a dream job, but I bet it’s a lot of work too. What’s the saying?…
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life
We have the benefit of hindsight and reading this post from 2005 is pretty cool to see. Jason’s write up still holds up all these years later.
Note: I saved that post to read later and write about here and little did I know that just a couple days later (March 14th to be exact), Kottke.org turned 22.
Hello all. I know there’s a pandemic going on out there, but I wanted to take a moment to celebrate kottke.org turning 22 years old today. If you’ve been reading along the entire time or for only a few days, it’s been an honor for me to inform, provoke, entertain, and possibly even infuriate you all for a few minutes every day. Thanks for reading — and an extra-special thanks to those who support the site with a membership. As I said a few weeks ago, all this really means a lot to me.
You ever wonder about who Albert Einstein hung out with?
Albert Einstein’s mind was the first to grasp the theory of relativity. William Shakespeare penned the timeless drama of Romeo and Juliet. Pablo Picasso’s brilliance brought cubism to the masses. Royal Robbins’ adventurous spirit drove him to the first ascent of the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome.
These geniuses of their time are all credited with amazing accomplishments. But did they accomplish these things solely because of their own brilliance or were there others that deserve some of the shine credited to these stars? An article in the New York Times dove into the myth of the ‘lone genius’.
We’ve all seen it.
At one point in time we have all probably revered those figures from the past who discovered a law of physics, wrote a timeless song, created a masterpiece of art, or (in my old circles) established a classic climb. Often times these creations and discoveries are attributed to someone of genius who was probably known for their solitude and is still widely pictured in that same light. Yet the Times article brings to light the partners, confidants, and even rivals that helped these men push their generations into the future.
Birds of a feather flock together right?
If you steer away from the cultural icons and spend a little time learning about those around them, we can find some interesting characters that also theorized, painted, wrote, or climbed along side these pioneers.
Highly recommend reading the Times article. It brings a new perspective on the team work and community that genius can require.
Ok, as of publishing this I’ve only made about $43 and change…but looking at my Medium stats I’ll reach $50 soon. I am going to teach you the (less obvious) things I’ve learned, and 3 steps you need to start.
One of the things that I never expected when I first discovered Medium was that I would make money there.
I wrote on my own blog for a few years off and on, and thought the initial Medium experiment was just that…an experiment. The earliest posts on Medium were all about the clean design, typography, and quality content.
A couple years ago when the Medium Partner Program started up, my interest swung back around. The program matured and the metrics for payouts moved away from “claps” to time spent reading content. A much better method. A little like YouTube video watch time for creators making money there.
How Do You Get Paid?
From the FAQ page:
Partner Program writers are paid monthly based on how much time Medium members spend reading their stories. Earnings are calculated based on two components:
– How long members spend reading your story. As Medium members spend more time reading your story (“member reading time”), you’ll earn more. When we calculate your story’s earnings, we’ll also include reading time from non-members if they subscribe to Medium within 30 days of reading your story.
– How much of their monthly reading time members spend on your story. By calculating a share of member reading time, we support authors who write about unique topics and connect with loyal readers. For example, if last month a member spent 10% of their monthly reading time on your story, you will receive 10% of their share (a portion of their subscription fee).
Imagine an author writes about fly fishing. She finds an audience of fly fishing enthusiasts who subscribe to Medium primarily to read her stories, meaning she receives a strong share of reading time from each of her readers. In contrast, a generalist author might receive smaller shares from his readers, who also read a variety of other authors. The fly fisher can earn relatively more through the share calculation, even with a smaller audience.
Pay close attention to the last bit. My own earnings seem to confirm that writing towards the interests of a specific audience is important. Almost 70% of what I’ve earned came from 1 article. That story was about when I almost died rock climbing. It got picked up for Medium’s “Outdoor” section…thus getting pushed to more people with that interest.
How can you make sure your articles pop on Medium?
1. The Push and Pull
This is my term but others may call it the flow. The reason I call it the push and pull is because that is how you write something engaging. Good articles start off with the author’s position, promise, or a primary question for exploration.
To engage readers past that initial push, you pull them in with a story that almost takes their mind off of that first promise. Then you push them back to the main point. This cycle can repeat throughout your post. Done well, this makes for an engaging read…especially for long articles.
And on Medium, higher “member reading time” is how you make money.
2. The “Medium Format”
This may seem obvious to some but it wasn’t for me at first. Yet I have learned that there is a format that works well here. I came across another author that spells it out quite well.
This article is FULL of great tips, tricks, and advice. After reading this and adjusting how I format my posts on Medium, I started getting picked up by Medium editors for distribution.
I recommend reading this article. Using images and white space, linking to your own work, and having a strategy for choosing the right tags…it all matters. Trust me.
Read that article and save it. I still go back and refer to it every now and then.
3. Spend Time (but not too much) on the Title
Obvious I know but it’s important.
On YouTube they say to spend a lot more time than you think on your video thumbnail. After all, if people never click on your thumbnail, they will never watch your video. The same advice applies for titles on Medium…or anywhere. Luckily titles don’t need photoshop expertise.
But you do need a cover photo that matches the tone of your title.
Save this post for future reference – Click that bookmark or archive button. I saved the articles that inspired me and you will be happy you did too.
Start writing – You can even import old stuff you’ve written from other websites. Don’t be afraid to share your free ‘friends and family link’ with…your friends and family. Sharing is caring and helps get your article read.
I hope this has helped give you that push to start writing here. YOU CAN DO IT!!!