The original working title of this post was If You’re Rich You Don’t Quit. I loved the title, but it didn’t encompass the entire theme I wanted to present. Life isn’t just about money! (Sounds crazy coming from a wealthy accountant, right?) Money is important when in need of life necessities like food, clothing, shelter and medical care. After the basics are covered money is either a game, and for some even an annoyance, since it distracts them from what they are really interested in.
Motivation is a powerful tool. Life is a never-ending series of groin kicks. People want to knock you down. Sometimes it’s life. Sometimes it’s a malicious act. Regardless, the only way you can get from where you are to where you want to be is find the motivation deep inside your soul.
“Winning isn’t everything; it’s how you play the game.” True. “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Another true adage. These short catchphrases can be used by your own mind as a way to stop striving for your goals. Self-talk will drive you forward or into the ground. Best to be cognizant of your thoughts!
Winning is important to me. (Surprise, surprise!) My interests are catholic (little c). This requires I find the most important interests so I can focus on the ones that matter most. The other interests may live as hobbies or may go unsatisfied. The mark of a true winner is focus on the single goal (or few complimentary goals).
Failure is for Winners
We all know the story of Edison and the light bulb. He tried 1,000 times and failed. He kept pulling himself up by the bootstraps and eventually produced a working incandescent light bulb on try 1,001 (or something like that).
Closer to home we have an unnamed accountant who likes to write. I wrote my first complete novel my senior year (or was I a junior) of high school. It was never published, but it gave me experience telling a story, building a world, creating characters.
After I graduated I bought a Tandy computer at Radio Shack. That bugger set me back $4,000 and it didn’t even have a hard drive! You had to insert a 5 ¼ inch floppy disk and twist a lever down to lock the disk in place before turning on the computer for it to boot. Yeah, that was one awesome OS! I think it was DOS 1.0. (Really!)
I still have 5 ¼ inch floppy disks floating around someplace with short stories on them. My second novel and two (or possibly three) nonfiction books also exist in a format I have no way of accessing anymore.
My writing sales were dismal. I sent out a lot of stories, and—being an optimist—never kept the stack of rejects. A few still float around the office, but most rejects had no value to me. I always focused on learning from each experience and moving on to the next level. What I’m saying is that I didn’t exit the womb with pen and paper ready.
In the late 1980s, shortly after I went full-time in taxes, I started a financial audio newsletter called The Wealth Builder’s Guide. Six times a year you would receive a wonderful (it’s my story so I’ll tell it the way I want) cassette tape with 90 minutes of financial advice from me along with a printed newsletter with information on which banks had the best investment rates nationally and other important financial articles.
I wrote, edited and produced the whole kit and caboodle. It was a lot of work. After three years it was time to hang up my cleats. My tax practice had grown too large to do both.
If you are lucky enough to still have an original copy of my audio newsletter I hear they go for a pretty penny on eBay. (Yes, that is a joke. If you find one of those suckers on eBay I would like to buy it so I have my own copy.) My basement was filled with audio equipment, tapes and booklets. After enough years went by I dumped the remaining stuff in one of my intermittent personal belongings purges.
It doesn’t sound like much, but I had around 100 subscribers at the peak. If memory serves, I charged $199 per year. I wasn’t getting rich, but it covered costs and once again, I was learning.
Up to this point you might consider my writing efforts a success. Let me help you gain perspective. My total writing sold to traditional press earned me less than $1,000 over ten to fifteen years. The newsletter, while somewhat successful, wasn’t putting food on the table. All the money brought in went to recording and dubbing machines.
I still wasn’t ready to quit, dammit!
By the mid 1990s my tax practice hit full stride. I was taking market share and I was able to find time to write. A competitor jealous of my success almost destroyed my business. It hurts (and still hurts). But I never quit. Wouldn’t think of it.
The new millennium had me punching the keyboard more than ever. Another novel ended up unpublished and several false starts kept the number of unpublished novels at a reasonable level. This was actually good news. I was starting to realize good writing from bad. Bad stories that just didn’t have a chance were ended. To prove the point, some material was selling to online sites, though the pay was a pittance.
To further hone my skills I wrote for content farms like HubPages for a few years. Most articles there were bad, but it was a place to write things I needed to get out and to build my skills.
Not all of my work was bad. Stuff was selling. Even my fiction got some notice. A few hubs on HubPages were picked up by industry journals. Traffic was growing. I was learning to write and market online.
There was one area which drove me crazy: flash fiction. I had periodic moments of brilliance in all areas I wrote with the exception of flash fiction. The money in flash fiction would never feed a parakeet so I wasn’t too upset until a chance opportunity accidentally fell in my lap.
A flash fiction blog ran across my screen. I quickly noticed the traffic was massive—millions of pageviews per year. I researched similar blogs and realized many get modest to good traffic. None monetized! The accountant in me couldn’t help himself.
I started writing flash fiction for my new blog in said genre. A small amount of research showed me how the other guys were getting their traffic. My traffic never rose as high as the best in the category, but still was respectable. I started a second similar blog once the first got going. Both those blogs had many millions of pageviews.
I quickly reached a ceiling in the genre. The reason these bloggers didn’t monetize is because you could only make so much unless you also wrote and sold genre specific novels to compliment your site. I wasn’t willing to spend that much time on the topic involved since I wasn’t really interested in the topic. (For the curious, it involved transgender issues; something dear to my heart since my youngest daughter was born intersex.)
I earned reasonable money on the flash fiction blogs, but I didn’t want to spend a lifetime repeating the same genre drivel. I was burning out the flash fiction bug.
The good news is that it allowed me to hone my skills even more. I was learning brevity. Storytelling is an important part of writing. When it works the reader steps into your world for a short while and enjoys the experience. They also tend to return like a good friend.
Failing All the Way to the Top
Decades of writing prepared me for the big event I wasn’t even planning on attending. Mr. Money Mustache asked to be my client and he was going to publish on his uber-blog how I helped him. The words weren’t even out of MMM’s mouth when people started asking about my blog. Ahhhhhh.
Yeah, you get what I mean.
This blog was an idea I hadn’t moved on. The URL was purchased to preserve the link. I played a bit with Bluehost (too much work). I hired a local firm to whip my blog into shape. They dropped the ball. The big push came while my blog was still a mess.
A year and nine months later this blog won the Plutus Award for Best New Personal Finance Blog of the Year. Now I know what you’re thinking. It seems so easy for me. I write for a bit more than a year on this blog and get a massive reward. True, but did anyone consider the 10 million words I wrestled to the page over three and a half decades?
I threw my hat in the ring this year for Blog of the Year. You can vote/nominate here. (That reminds me; I still need to vote!)
The amount of time I put into writing is obscene. It was something I loved (well thought out communication), but it never came naturally to me. I had to work on it.
Traffic still bugs me as more is always better in my book. Maybe the blog isn’t failing, but growing is very important to me. (I have a secret I think I’ll publish in a flash post this Saturday.)
After peer acknowledgement and traffic, money is a powerful guide to gauge success. I haven’t published much in the way of blog financial progress reports. Let me give a taste of the trailing twelve months here:
Ad Revenue: $11,000
Credit Cards affiliate: $4,000
Miscellaneous affiliates: $2,000
Specialty affiliate 1: $9,200
Specialty affiliate 2: $6,000
Specialty affiliate 3: $4,800
Tax clients from blog: I don’t know? Maybe half my practice already.
The numbers are estimated as I’m writing at home late at night while my data is at the office behind a very secure firewall.
The specialty affiliate listings are unique situations I created. When I saw a few powerful products I helped create an affiliate program for me only. There is no competition meaning the revenue is encouraging.
Bloggers underestimate the power of consulting with readers. Consulting may reach as high as $40,000 this calendar year with the new tax laws in place. I handle consulting sessions Tuesday and Thursday only, except for tax season and wide spaces around holidays.
Traffic peaked at slightly over 130,000 pageviews per month last year leading up to the Plutus Awards. To my disappointment, traffic is now a hair below 70,000. (This is my own fault. I expected with a Plutus Award I could focus on writing instead to promoting. Didn’t work any better than it does in my tax practice.)
There are plenty of failures along the way as I reached for my writing goals. Each failure was a corpse I could pile higher so I could climb to my goal. I turned the corner on traffic as I’m now focusing on my ego blog as a business.
More failures will bump along as I strive for new heights. It is never easy! Each failure is really just a lesson on the road to success. Remembering this makes it a whole lot easier.
One More Goal
When I entered the demographic as a blogger I received some harassment. Early retirement (ER) is MMM’s shtick; not mine. Many people found this blog through Mr. Money Mustache. My readers only mesh slightly with the ER movement. The ER folks are still good people and welcome to drop in.
People started to remind me I had “one more year-itis”. Well, I do. And I have a feeling it will not end until they plant me six feet below sea level. I enjoy what I do even when I complain. Remember that.
Taking on too much work leads to burnout. Elon Musk is a business hero of mine who has recently concerned me. A recent investor conference call was handled in what I considered a very unprofessional manner (investors have a right to know how they’re investment is being managed). We see some Twitter issues and Musk doesn’t have Teflon skin like President Trump. Part of Musk’s issue, I think, is his heavy workload. Tesla is a huge time demand. Musk is building cutting edge products nobody else is either thinking of or feels is impossible. Then Musk does it. He also admits to fatigue. Reports say he has slept on the factory floor to achieve numbers; no time for driving to work or other distractions when in crisis mode.
At a fraction of the workload Musk carries, my back shows a serious strain. I look like a mule carrying a heavy weight in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Tax season is the worst. I cut back from publishing three times a week to two. I think it helps with quality. Quantity should be a secondary consideration only.
Tax season stress doesn’t end instantly and clients sometimes think I have nothing to do all day April 16th so tax season really stretches into June before things really slow. I was so stressed I threatened a countdown clock and wrote (published) about it. I also published a countdown clock on the Where Am I page. When the number on the bottom of the page hits zero I will have published 500 posts here. (I checked statistics last week and can proudly proclaim this blog has 713,000 words already.) Then I walk away.
Except, I probably won’t.
By publishing a countdown clock, I reminded myself of the Warren Buffett 20 slot rule. You only get so many chances to tell a story so you better tell it right the first time. (I’m batting around .500 which is awesome in baseball; not so awesome when writing.) The countdown clock reminds me a day will come when the typewriter stops clicking. It focused my attention and got me thinking about life without writing. It wasn’t a pretty fantasy.
The Plutus Awards published an interview with me earlier this spring. I let the Plutus Awards know about the countdown clock and that I probably wasn’t headed for the sunset.
I tell the story of my writing life for a reason. There were plenty of painful moments when I didn’t know what to do. I was lost and spent hours thinking about how I would learn to communicate effectively in the written form. Even when I met success I felt pain. As soon as I reached a goal I made another bigger goal. I get nominated for a Plutus; I want to win a Plutus. I get 130,000 month of pageviews; I want 200,000 pageviews. This 70,000 pageview stuff ticks me off.
Success is defined in different ways. My marriage has different goals with less stressful demands. Career is what causes me to push. I want it all when “all” isn’t possible.
Retirement goals and financial independence are important issues. If you’re rich you don’t quit because the “rich” mindset never quits. Before you amass your first dollar, you are already rich if your mindset is right. Your body just has to wait for the money to catch up.
That is why I changed the title of this post. Winning the game of life is the most important part of life. Money plays a modest role. The quality of your life, your dreams, career, goals, family, health and joy, are what count. “Rich” means you’re always looking for the next challenge when a task is complete because you know that it is what brings meaning to life. Rich people never settle for mediocre.
But rich people also know mediocre days are the price you pay to get to the top.
More Wealth Building Resources
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Friday 25th of January 2019
[…] I find myself thinking more and more about how much I don’t have to do now that I’m mort… I need $2,000 a month to live without a mortgage payment (a bit more during the winter heating […]
Thursday 19th of July 2018
I have two thoughts.
You wrote "After the basics are covered money is either a game, and for some even an annoyance, since it distracts them from what they are really interested in." I'm not sure what you meant by the 2nd half of this sentence. If people are spending significant amount of time in the pursuit of money, isn't that proof that that is what they are interested in? Being a little more philosophical, can you name an endeavor where having more money is detrimental? In other words, whatever your goal in life, you will likely benefit from having more money than not.
Second, it was Dorothy Parker who said “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” Hemingway felt the same way. The only way to become a great writer is to write. Too many writers sit at a computer screen and wait for inspiration but Parker & Hemingway were saying that you need to write something to keep "the writing muscles" fit. Newspapers and other deadline driven writing assignments are beneficial in this regard. In the old days, every major city newspaper had a columnist who wrote a column 5 days a week on their respective cities - those columns (maybe 1,000 words) were like watching the man on the tightrope.
Thursday 19th of July 2018
Dan, money is of higher focus when the need is acute. You find yourself thinking about other things more when money is no longer an issue (unless you consider greed and those who are greedy). Having more money too fast is detrimental to anyone in any job if they win the lottery. Have you seen some of those hard-luck stories of lottery winners losing their life or family. That said, there is nothing wrong with having more money. Money allows you to do charitable things you couldn't with less money. But remember my lesson: it's easier to get it than to keep it. I can prove it. Most Americans make a couple million over a lifetime. How many die millionaires?
My point with the sentence you quote is that money becomes a game after a while. The wealthier people get the more it becomes a fun game. Instead of thinking of money, you think of investments that will generate more money. Wall Street is a perfect example. Lots of money and watch all the boys play. It's not money; it's the power game.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule.
As to your final paragraph: Writer's write. Every literary conference I ever attended said it. There are oodles of people who want to be writers , but never spank a word to the page. That's not writing; that's fantasy. Finally, I miss the good ol' days when the paper arrived every day. I loved the work those columnists cranked out day after day.
Thursday 19th of July 2018
I've always wondered why MOST EXCELLENTLY WRITTEN BLOGS such as yours can boast of 50 thousand or more pageviews per month, yet I see like only a dozen or two comments.
Thursday 19th of July 2018
Brian, Comments come and go. Many comments each day now are on older posts. Some posts foster comments and some you can hear crickets. But you are right, the comment count is low. (My ego speaking: Maybe I answered all their questions.)
Note to all readers: Brian wants more comments here. (Me too!)
Thursday 19th of July 2018
Such a great message here. It's easy to see people as an overnight success, but so many have failed over and over. The reason they achieved success was growing from each experience and not giving up. Favorite line: "Failure is for winners!" That's going to stick with me. I often find myself completing a project, celebrating the accomplishment, and then immediately starting something new. Nice to hear I'm not the only one who can't stop looking for any way to progress. Every loss is one step closer to a win!
Thursday 19th of July 2018
Nice read about the long years of writing. My life paralleled that much the same way, except it was coding/programming. I had about 20-25 years of large projects/opportunities that fell through (stuff I would code for 2-3 years, try to sell, and it didn't work for various reasons). While it was not always happy in the middle of the failures, the years-upon-years of coding non-stop made me a much better programmer, and out of that, I finally achieved success (and nothing beats 25 years of knowledge to handle business issues, large customers, and money).
"Never give up; never surrender" - GalaxyQuest (haha)
Thursday 19th of July 2018
Writing is my story (pun intended), JD. Everyone has a similar story, the only difference is most people quit on the road to their destination. My goal today was to add some motivation. (Go Galaxy Quest!)