Best of Life, Prioritized 2012: What the Numbers Mean for 2013

Image by Christian Ferrari

Image by Christian Ferrari

As the year is closing, the time is ripe to review your stats from 2012. For me, it’s an interesting mix between posts I really enjoyed writing and ones that were really popular. Not all the popular posts were tedious to write, in fact all of these were enjoyable and I was proud to ship over 100 posts this year. I’ve written about this effect before, but sometimes posts you feel awesome about fall flat, and one you felt was average will receive a bunch of traffic.

Here are my top 5 posts for the year, and then 5 other posts I really felt great about writing, whether they performed well or not. Page views are in parentheses.

5 Most Popular Posts

My 5 “Other” Favorite Posts

What Did I Learn?

  1. List posts work - 6 of 7 top posts were lists.
  2. Images work – The Hobbit post was #2 for the YEAR, despite only being live for 3 weeks!
  3. Guest posting works – The sources of most email signups and dedicated followers have come from guest posts for Michael Hyatt, Goins Writer, TentBlogger, and Buffer.
  4. Money works – StumbleUpon and Facebook offer fairly inexpensive ads, just be careful how long you allow them to run.
  5. Social media works – My biggest referral source was Twitter, followed by Facebook. Pinterest made a strong push late, and I’ve seen good results from it. The Hobbit post was strongly tied to traffic generated by pins (74 post pins). See the board here.
  6. Name-dropping works – My biggest post (11 Priority Secrets) was one I put a lot of effort in to with contacting bigger bloggers. They were incredibly kind about offering me a little blurb, and in turn shared on their site or on social media. It also helps even if you profile them in a positive light, as in the Generosity Model post from last week. Simply send them a quick email and let them know you wrote a bit about them, ask them to check it out, and if they like it if they would share with their followers.
  7. Consistency works – I’ve seen the best traffic and engagement when I’ve been able to focus on keeping my schedule consistent. Even if you begin by committing to 1 post a week, you’ll end up better than just posting on whim.

Looking at 2013

I really enjoy analyzing stats and trends, not just in blogging, but I was a nut about it when I was a lacrosse coach. But in writing, this analysis offers a unique challenge. You must write to drive traffic, but also to provide value, and write about what you care about. I’m not going to beat out the big sites in terms of pure clickable content every day, but I (and you) can offer such personal, in-depth information and researched content that blows them out of the water.

I plan on focusing more on a framework of post topics which will force me to be creative within the constraints of a topic. I can use this information to know what works for traffic and engagement, but also leave room for making sure I write about topics I really care about, even if they don’t convert as well.

What are your blogging thoughts for the upcoming year? What did you learn from your stats and engagement in 2012? Please share in the comments!

Find your stats 1 of 2 ways (via Michael Hyatt)

  1. Google Analytics:
    • Log into your Google Analytics account.
    • Select the appropriate website (if you have more than one).
    • Select Content | Site Content | All Pages.
    • Set the “Primary Dimension” to Page Title.
  2. WordPress (self-hosted):
    • Make sure you have JetPack installed. (It’s free.)
    • Log into your WordPress Administration page.
    • Under the Dashboard, select “Site Stats.”
    • Now select “Top Posts & Pages.”
    • Select Summarize “Year.” (Be patient, this can take a while to tabulate, depending on the number of posts you have on your blog.)

Disclaimer: Though I was planning on a post like this regardless, I did borrow some formatting and structure ideas from Michael Hyatt’s similar post

Want to Create? Then Prepare for Pain – A Guest Post for Goins, Writer

Great news everyone!

Jeff Goins, author of the book Wrecked, and the brains behind the top writing blog, Goins, Writer, has kindly approved my guest post! Jeff’s writing has been instrumental in my own journey in to creativity, blogging, and the craft of writing.

You can access the article in the link below. I would greatly appreciate you reading it, sharing with a friend, or leaving a comment.

Want to Create? Then Prepare for Pain

While you’re on Jeff’s site, I highly recommend you checking out a few other articles. Here’s what I recommend:

You should also consider signing up for his email list, which in addition to updates, nets you his awesome little ebook, The Writer’s Manifesto.

If you found my blog from Jeff’s…

Welcome, I’m So Glad You’re Here!

The best thing to do is Start, but you can also check out the info below. Thanks for coming by!

Important Posts

If you enjoy my writing, sign up for email updates so you won’t miss any. I normally post 2 times per week. I will also send you my new workbook, Choose What You Love.

Click here to learn more about me and my journey as a writer.

Follow @mattragland on Twitter

Thanks again for reading, and let’s decide what really matters, then pursue it!

Black Friday for Bloggers: The Best Sales

Start A Beautiful, Professional Blog for less than $100

I hope you all had an incredible Thanksgiving, filled with the 3 F’s: Family, Food, and Football. At least that’s what mine consisted of, with a little 4 mile Turkey Trot to get the day started. Good times.

As a thank you for being great email readers and part of the Life, Prioritized community, I wanted to give you a heads up on some incredible Black Friday Deals that are happening with some very talented people and great software options. There is something here for you regardless of where you are in your blogging life. Here we go…

StudioPress: Biggest Sale of the Year – 25% OFF

This is the place I go for my design, layout, and theme options. The main framework is called Genesis, and then you can choose from a vast array of beautiful themes to build your site on. If you’ve never used StudioPress (a division of CopyBlogger), remember you do need to purchase both Genesis and a theme. I personally own and use the Eleven40 and Minimum themes. Their Premise product is on sale as well, which is great for bigger bloggers and businesses focused on lead generation and sales. Click here for the sale.

Start a Blog That Matters – 40% OFF

Corbett Barr, the mind behind successful blogs like ThinkTraffic & ExpertEnough, has built an amazing 13 week course that will take you from start to finish in your blog, or help you regardless of your expertise. In addition to 13 weekly lessons and action plans, you can watch over 8 hours of video and interviews with some of the top bloggers, including Leo Babauta, Danielle Laporte, and Scott Dinsmore. It’s one of the most important and helpful steps I took to building a great blog. During this weekend, it’s on sale for only $60 (normally $100, what I paid and it was worth every penny). Start a Blog That Matters this weekend.

HostGator Web Hosting & Domains – 50% OFF

HostGator is the service I use, and I have been very pleased. They are responsive to help, have a great FAQ section, and offer eveything I need on a hosting site. Their domains are pretty affordable too. The most important part for a blog = 99.9% uptime! For TODAY ONLY (Nov. 23), they are offering 50% off webhosting and domain packages. So you can start this year with only $2.50/month web hosting. That’s an insane deal! I am on the Baby Gator Plan, which is the next level up and allows me unlimited domain hosting, but the Hatchling plan (one domain) is great for starting out. If you want to transfer, HG will handle the process and migration for free. They also offer a 45 day money back guarantee. Check out HostGator.

Those are the 3 most important delas going on today, and even if you’re just starting out, thinking about that great idea, today is the day to take action. If all you want to do is get started, the StudioPress and HostGator deals mean you can have a beautiful, professional blog up and running for less than $100. Start a Blog That Matters is the best e-course I’ve found, but it’s definitely an add-on and not something you need to to get started TODAY.

If you end up taking the plunge (and I hope you do), I’ll be able to walk you through the process as a way of saying thank you for going through my site. I always want to be transparent, and these are affiliate links, meaning only that I earn a small commission when you buy through my links (this is at no additional cost to you). If this doesn’t apply to you, then no problem, I just want to give you a heads up on some great deals. I use all of these products and can give advice on how to setup and use them, just as a thank you!

If you are all set on your blog design and hosting, here are just a couple other great deals I’ve found today.

Pretty Link Pro – 50% OFF

The best link-cloaking plugin for WordPress. If you don’t like sharing links that have long, annoying urls, Pretty Link will custom cloak them for your domain, e.g. http://prettylinkpro.com/amember/go.php?r=4191&i=l1 – is now – http://mattragland.com/products/prettylinkpro. Pretty great huh? There is also a free option if you want to start there, but either way you should check it out.

All-In-One-SEO Pro – 50% OFF

One of the top selling premimum plugins, this product embeds incredible SEO and MetaData forms in to your post page. It’s very simple to custom-create the Headline and Keyword data that search engines are looking through your post for. Easy to use and absolutely essential. Also a free option to start with, but this is one of the essential wordpress plugins.

Alright friends, that’s it for me. Black Friday is actually beautiful here in Jacksonville, FL (where my family is), and I’m going out to ride my bike, instead of sitting in traffic and standing in lines. I’ll also be posting this on my blog, but that email won’t go out until tomorrow, and I wanted to give you the heads-up!

I hope you’re able to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle and create something of lasting value this holiday seaosn. It may be a blog, but more than that I hope you are able to connect with those you care about, and do work you love.

Happy Holidays!

The Power of Story – A Guest Post for Michael Hyatt

Hey Everyone, I have a guest post being published today on Michael Hyatt’s blog! He has kindly approved my post, and I would greatly appreciate you reading it, sharing with your friends, and leaving a comment.

The 5 Elements of Powerful Stories

You can also see the slide deck I’ve used to give talks on the power of story in our work and daily lives. Enjoy!

Michael is one of my favorite writers and speakers, with a wealth of personal and professional experience in leadership, publishing, and life planning. He is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, and the author of the best-selling book Platform (read my review of Platform). Learn more about Michael here.

Here are a few articles I recommend:

I also encourage you to check out Michael’s excellent podcast, it’s a regular on my rotation.

If you found my blog from Michael’s…

Welcome, I’m So Glad You’re Here!

The best thing to do is Start, but you can also check out the info below. Thanks for coming by!

Important Posts

If you enjoy my writing, sign up for email updates so you won’t miss any. I normally post 2 times per week. I will also send you my new workbook, Choose What You Love.

Click here to learn more about me and my journey as a writer

Follow @mattragland on Twitter

Thanks again for reading, and let’s decide what really matters, then pursue it!

ps – Check out my guest post last week on TentBlogger, it’s an mammoth research study on how 10 different elements impact our productivity. You can find it here.

How Many Is Enough?

“Matt, I really enjoy reading your blog, I look forward to your posts each time”

“I’m so glad you’re writing about this topic, I wish I had realized it when I was younger”

“Your writing inspires me to take a chance in my life”

In the pursuit of large subscriber counts, high traffic, and monetization, I can lose sight of the reasons I wanted to start writing in the first place.

I Want to Write

I Want to Help Others

I Believe I Can

Right now, I have about 70 subscribers to my site, which is fine number. I do hope to grow it, and reach more people with my writing, but I need to step back and consider the implications. There are 70 people who have given me their permission to send them an essay 1-2 times per week, and care enough to read it. This is awesome, and humbling.

Recently I was feeling down, that I put so much effort in to my writing, and only see the numbers tick up, one by one. I wanted more, to break 100 subscribers, 1000, 5000! A small army of readers to engage on important issues and build a community around. Each of the quotes above have been spoken to me in the last month. I also have seen LP on my cousin’s top sites, printed out by my grandparents, and picked up by larger blogs. It’s cool to watch.

1000 is the median number of true fans a person/business/brand needs to survive. With a thousand true fans, buying everything you put out, you can make a living. Your number might be higher or lower, based on your services and pricing models. But a thousand is a good place to start. Read Kevin Kelley’s groundbreaking post on 1000 True Fans.

The danger is that no number will ever be enough, and you’ll constantly hunger after more fans, more readers, and more traffic. However, this is not the answer. Writing for the sake of readers and eyeballs isn’t the way. Write the truth, what needs to be told, and attract the people who need what you’re writing (click to tweet that).

If you would have asked me last year if helping a small group of people is enough, I would have said yes. 70 people seemed far away then, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. Whatever the number grows to, I need to keep being honest, keep shipping, and give-give-give.

Drip, drip, drip – it adds up

Thanks for reading this post, if you liked it, please share with your network or comment below. Have a great day!

[Check out my guest post on TentBlogger, John was very kind to use my mammoth study on productivity and how it works. Be warned, it's not easy]

photo via mzacha

You Are Enough – My Guest Post on TentBlogger

Exciting News!

I have a guest post being published today on TentBlogger! John Saddington has kindly approved my post, and you can read it here: You Are Enough – Do You Believe It?

TentBlogger has become one of my favorite resources for learning great strategies for content development, growing an audience, and monetizing your blog. I highly recommend it! John writes in a friendly, down-to-earth way, and has complied an impressive resource of FREE content to help you. Learn more about John here.

Here are a few articles I recommend:

If you found my blog from TentBlogger…

Welcome, I’m So Glad You’re Here!

The best thing to do is Start, but you can also check out the info below. Thanks for coming by!

Important Posts

You can also receive each post via Email or by RSS

Click here to learn more about me and my journey as a writer

Follow @mattragland on Twitter

Follow Matt Ragland on G+

Thanks again for reading, and let’s go after what really matters!

7 Lessons from My Adventure in Self-Hosted Blogging

When I first started blogging intentionally in December 2011, I did what many people do and signed up for a free account at wordpress.com. It was safe, risk-free, and a good way to see if I was really committed to this blogging and writing thing. Turns out I am. In the 4.5 months since, I’ve cranked out 92 posts, and know this is something I want to keep doing for a long time.

So, I made the next logical step, which was to switch to a self-hosted wordpress site. I read early on this transfer would be pretty seamless, but if you had a lot of content it would still be a pain to get everything “just right”. That’s where I fall in, and man, they were right.

I officially made the launch to self-hosted on May 7. I was very excited, and ready to get to work on the bevy of customized options you can activate when you own the site. In the 16 days since, I have been swallowed up by all the options, themes, plugins, and haven’t done much actual writing. Bummer, right?

I want to help you avoid this pitfall, so here are 7 big lessons I’ve learned very quickly:

1.  If you have been through 60 days of blogging, or 30 posts, SWITCH

I don’t regret starting with a free wordpress account. I do regret not switching earlier. Because right now I’m trying to organize 140 posts, a decent daily traffic hit which may not follow me to the new site, and more importantly, 50 blog subscribers. I’ve spent nearly 5 months building up a site which is now going to be a placeholder. The email subscribers are the most worrisome part, because there’s no easy way to make sure they re-sign up for the new feed. If you’re on a roll, then just do it.

Of course, it’s great if you simply start your blog from scratch as a self-hosted site. The investment is fairly low, and you’ll be able to have more control and grow faster with your own site.

2.  Pick a web host with auto-installation of WordPress

This is a big part, and I’m so glad I used a host which allowed for auto-install, what a time-saver! I went with Host Gator for a few reasons:

  • Responsive customer service
  • Affordable hosting prices
  • Easy auto-install of wordpress, & web storage of the files
Many other great blog sites rely on Host Gator for their needs, for example, Corbett Barr uses them for all of his sites. There are so many hosting options, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The points I mentioned above are deal-makers for me, and I can’t emphasize enough how important the installation process was. HostGator also makes it easy to transfer an existing wordpress.com blog to your self-hosted site (which is what I did).
If you want to have someone do everything for you, I recommend you try OutstandingSetup.com.  In fact, I was very close to going with OS, but at the time I launched they were not accepting new clients. But they are now, so great for you! If the thought of domain registration, web hosting, coded framework, theme selection, and backup is overwhelming, or issues you simply don’t want to worry yourself with, this is the service to use. OutstandingSetup will take care of every aspect of your website, including all those time-consuming tasks I just mentioned. They also provide world-class support. OS is more expensive than other providers, but they provide so much more. Single-site clients pay $19/month (with no contracts) to leave it up to the pros and just focus on your writing. Check out OS here.

3.  Pick a theme you trust, and is well-supported

I spent a lot of time going through many different themes & frameworks. I also looked at what was being used on the sites I read and trusted. Time and time again, I kept seeing the Genesis Framework by Studiopress mentioned as one of the best, if not the best, back-end framework for a WordPress site. Now, you do not have to purchase a framework and premium theme to get started with a self-hosted site, but I strongly believe it is worth the initial investment. Here’s why…

  • SEO Optimization: Do you understand SEO? Me neither. This fact alone is reason enough for me to use a framework. StudioPress programmers write killer code in to Genesis which allows it to be fully ready for SEO without doing a thing.
  • Great Looking Design: Set yourself apart with one of Genesis’ turn-key ready themes. They are ready t0 plug ‘n play, without doing any designing or coding. They’re also ready for any of the widgets the WordPress community can throw at it. Personally, I chose the Eleven40 theme, and have gotten a lot of compliments on the look.
  • Unlimited Everything: This was huge for me as well. After you purchase Genesis (and included theme), you are in for life. No up-charging for future updates, redesigns, or support questions. Once you’re in, you’re in. For example, I tried to use a free-mium theme at first, but there were bugs being worked out, and it was tough to get in touch with the designer about how I could fix it. No such issues with StudioPress. Anything I need, I can find an answer in the forums, or a quick message to support, plus all the updates to Genesis and my theme are included forever.

Now, if you don’t want to make the jump to a premium themes and framework, I highly recommend simply using the included WordPress Twenty Eleven theme. This is because it is a WordPress designed theme, so finding support and answers will be much easier than tracking down freelance designers.

4.  Install Essential plugins

I was quickly sucked in to the black hole which is wordpress plugins. So many, so interesting, so few you actually need to get started. I use all of these and consider them essential. They’re also free, or exist on donations. The easiest way to find and install them is to search from the plugin menu of your WordPress dashboard. Here are the 7 I use, and actually needed for getting started.

  • Pretty Link: URL customizer & tracking.
  • Askimet: Comment spam blocker.
  • All-in-One SEO Pack: Allows you to customize your site’s SEO terms, which are fed to search engines.
  • Disqus: The best commenting system out there. Allows you to track your comments across multiple sites.
  • Feedburner: RSS feed generator and management system
  • Social Maven and/or Social Media Widget: Allows you to place good ‘ol social media buttons in your posts
  • Editorial Calendar: Keeps you on track with your post schedule
You can add plugins to fit your needs as you figure out what those needs are, but keep it down at the beginning, so you can focus on the essential. *Note: These plugins only work on self-hosted blogs

5.  Test test test (especially links & files)

After I had everything installed and set up, it was rewarding to be able to look at my new blog and see the finished product. Kind of. For another reason why you should switch to self-hosted sooner rather than later, I had to spend an entire work chunk going through all of my old posts to double-check links, pictures, and files. It was a gigantic pain. Some didn’t exist anymore, had their url moved, or were hosted on my old site. Ugh.

But, it is worth the time to be sure all of your links, pictures, and files work like they’re supposed to. I know when I go to a site and there is a broken link or blank placeholder, my opinion of the site plummets. So test, test, and test again. Friends & family can also help with this when you…

6.  Hold a Soft Open

The term soft open comes from the retail and restaurant industries. It’s where a business will open up without fanfare for just a couple of nights, to trusted customers and professionals. They get to hear their feedback, see what needs to be improved, and how the equipment works before the grand opening. I wanted to do the same.

I contacted my 3 F’s (family, friends, and fans), and let them know I was launching my new site in a week, and would like for them to test it out! I asked them to read posts, click on links, subscribe to the feed, comment, share on social media, everything. They saw issues I did not, because I was looking at so much. Plus, I had been cursed with too much knowledge about my site, and I didn’t see it with the beginner’s mind. It was so helpful to hear their opinions about what worked and didn’t work, and the grammatical errors which had popped up during my 6:00 am writing sessions.

7.  Get back to writing

Saying this may seem extraneous, simple, and common-sense. But I really had to be disciplined about getting back to actual writing! I underestimated the real time is was going to take for setting up, and then was distracted by good, but time-consuming tasks which go along with a new blog. I already talked about the plugins, but I also researched affiliate programs, education programs, monetization strategies, and so much more. All of those things were a moot point if I didn’t have great content, and I was neglecting my writing.

I needed to be disciplined with my time, because time was scarce. When I got back to the craft, I set aside 20-30 minutes a day to write. Nothing else. No marketing, social media, email, or networking. Just writing. I recommend you do the same.

Well, I know many other lessons will come up in my blogging adventure, and I’ll be sure to let you in on my experience. In fact, last night I was talking to my cousin, who is much brighter with computers than I, and he was asking about this exact topic! WordPress is such a powerful system, and it’s changing the way the internet, web design, programming, and content management works. Yes, I spent several hours over the course of several days to make sure the site was what I wanted. But, knowing the process now I believe I could get everything up and running in a day. I hope a little tutorial like this could help you make the jump to self-hosting if you ‘re considering it. If you do have any questions, please let me know in the comments, or email me directly.

Have a great day!

Finding Your Focus

If you’re finding my blog via my guest post on the Buffer blog, welcome and thank you for clicking through! You will notice pretty quickly (and I’m telling you anyway) that my blog has a few recurring themes, but lots of variety. Like many of us, I’m still finding my writing voice, and my focus online. 

If you are reading because you have been with me for the past few weeks or months, thank you for continuing to return and read. This post is for everyone, but I thought it would be nice to give a little context to my blog.

I have been writing steadily for just over 3 months, and in my desire to get off my butt and do the work, I curate a general blog. I write about topics that interest me, and I have a passion for. I’ll write about spirituality, writing, sports, outdoors, business, productivity, personal matters, education, creativity, and more.

When you want to write, the 1st step is to begin writing. 

In the past, I would get bogged down in over-thinking writing, making the process of starting more difficult than it had to be. Simply starting, and hitting publish over and over, is a key part of narrowing your focus. Write about lots of topics, and see what resonates with you, where your passion can meet the needs of others. Just start.

Now, very smart people have written very good pieces on what to do after that, and I encourage you to check them out. CopyBlogger, ProBlogger, Jeff Goins, Chris Guillebeau, and several more are available to you. Just do some digging and don’t be afraid to ask!

Now I’m a little further down the road, and there is an important distinction I need to make to go the next level.

I need to find my focus, my mission, and answer the question of “Why?”

There is certainly flexibility around your mission, but your mission needs to frame your blog and why it exists. People who are arrived from Buffer are probably thinking “This guy wrote  about productivity and organization, but most of what I see here is about spirituality, writing, and running.”

I first thought, “I know people who write general, personal blogs. There’s Leo from Zen Habits, the Minimalists, Tim Ferriss, or Joel Runyon. This is true, but when I thought about it more, I realized that each of these writers has a focus and mission to their sites.

  • Leo – Simplicity and Peace
  • Minimalists – Um, Minimalism
  • Tim Ferriss – Lifestyle Design
  • Joel Runyon – Doing impossible things, telling a story

The other direction to take is to have a very specific focus to your blog, like Fitness Reloaded, The Art of Manliness, No Meat Athlete, or Smart Football. These authors craft their sites around specific content and topics, leaving the generalities to others. They are about the details! Yes, there is flexibility within their topic, but everything points back to their focus.

How did I start to narrow down the topics? Thanks to Jeff Goins’ Intentional Blogging course (free, register here), I was able to visually get down what interested me. There was a lot, as you can see. To read my entire post about the visual & generation process, click here.

As you can see, the focus of my blog and yours is important. If we want to “turn pro” in our minds, as Steven Pressfield talks about, we need to decide what the focus and mission of our work is. It’s fine to have a general blog that shares about your life, and communicates with friends and family.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about doing the work, creating value and connections for others, and being a professional. 

Once you’ve found your focus, get to it. You may need to buy a new domain name, and the process of generating content begins again. Make sure you pick a mission that resonates with you, because without that internal drive, the grinding days will feel that much worse, and your great days will not feel that great.

Do what you love, even if it makes you less money. Passion, flexibility, and simplicity are better. 

Have a great day.

Trail Runner Magazine Publishes My Article

Great news everyone, my guest article has been published by Trail Runner magazine! I really appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the leading trail running publication, and would be honored if you would go check it out! If you like it, please share on Facebook, Twitter, or leave a comment.

Read the post here

Visiting my site from TrailRunner?

First of all, thank you for clicking through! I appreciate your visit. Please look around and check out some of my earlier posts. My writing covers a lot of great topics, including outdoor adventure, simplicity, running, spirituality, and business productivity.

If you are interested mainly in running, here are a couple posts I’m really proud of. 

Running in the Rain

Running an Ultra Marathon: Technical Aspects of Training, Gear, and Nutrition

At the very least, here’s an awesome video of Ultra Superman Kilian Jornet!

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/29059143 w=500&h=281]

Thanks again for reading, let me know if I can help you with any of your running questions!

You Are A Writer – A Look at Jeff Goins Newest Ebook

Did Jeff write me a personal letter on becoming a writer? The voice he writes in rings with the experience of someone who has been through the fire, and come out with pages of knowledge he wants to share! For all the aspiring writers, bloggers, creatives in the building, let me tell you this is worth the price of admission. A short book, granted, but packed full of useful steps towards being a writer.

The most important message Jeff wants to convey is YOU ARE A WRITER (hence the title). I know have done this before, hesitated in describing myself as a writer and going public. Once you have made a commitment, everything simply comes one step at a time, and Jeff does a great job of laying those steps out.

What I appreciate most about Jeff’s writing is his honesty. I see many of my struggles in his writing, and he’s not afraid to tell the ugly parts of his story, of the self-doubt, distractions, and pain involved in being a writer. But he doesn’t stay there, laying out the steps to being successful. He admits the hard work, long hours, and a chance you may never reach the mountain top you have sighted for yourself.

The trick is though, if you love writing, if you can’t do anything else, each piece, each connection, each opportunity to share with others is your mountain top. Pursuing your passion, treating people with respect, and simply writing is what you were made to do.

Oh you want to know details? Of course, how silly of me…

5 Vitally Important Lessons from You Are A Writer

  1. The Process of Turning Pro
  2. The Secrets of Successful Writing
  3. The 3 Tools Every Writer Needs
  4. The 3 Important Relationships of a Writer
  5. Preparing & Pitching Your Writing (w/ bonus form letters!)

In keeping with his honesty, Jeff wraps up by sharing the pitfalls of success, and to remember your love for the craft. It’s all that will keep you true.

So what are you waiting for? If you are a writer, it’s money well spent.

Buy the book here and start shipping!

Get the Kindle edition

Keep Singing

I don’t normally post entertainment videos, I simply don’t run a viral video kind of site. The videos I’ve posted are ones I feel inspire, educate, and kick-start adventure. But this video from Britain’s Got Talent blew me away. Before you play the video, let’s have a quick look at the contestants, shall we? Meet Jonathan and Charlotte.

Yeahhhhh… can’t say I would react any differently than ol’ Simon at the beginning, with snarky skepticism (it’s kinda his thing). They’re both precious and all, but c’mon!

Enough screen grabs (for now), raise the volume to max allowable level, and hit play.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsNlcr4frs4]

OH.

MY.

GOD.

Of course you figured the big fella was going to be talented, but NOT LIKE THAT. I laughed, I nearly cried, and scared my dog with several exclamations of WOW!

The reactions are equally priceless, here are my favorites:

You can’t miss shocked excited guy and his nearly-sobbing lady friend, classic!

Judge David Walliams is either praying or telling Jonathan “You bring great honor to your family”. Either way, he’s sold half-way through the song.

Even Simon is coming around! The magic of the opera!

The British Seacrests are dumbfounded!

YAY FOR THE OPERA!

At the end, everybody’s loving it. Even Simon, whose expression of happiness looked so strained because he normally doesn’t show these silly emotions. Again, wow. I haven’t seen or heard anything like that since Paul Potts brought down the house.

Oh dear, I might have a musical thing for goofy-looking British amateur opera singers suffering from low self-esteem! Moving on…

There are also great lessons before and after the performance, where Charlotte talks about not judging a person on their appearance, i.e. ” you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, you have to read it and see what’s inside”. It’s obvious her encouragement has meant a lot to Jonathan, in fact he says so on stage. After they finish, Simon actually suggests Jonathan continue on without Charlotte, because she is merely good. He is incredible. But Jonathan affirms her right back, saying “We came as a duo, and we’re going to stay a duo”.

What This Means for Us

At the beginning, Simon is very sarcastic, and gives a dismissive “You think you can really win?” followed by “Ok good luck”. Jonathan has already spoken about his self-esteem and confidence issues, is standing in front of thousands of people, and the man who controls their fate is rude. And then he goes out and puts on an incredible performance!

As you continue to create your art and make your mark on the world, there will be people, like Simon, who dismiss you. Don’t listen to them, follow your passions. There will be people like Charlotte, who are beside you, encouraging you, and watching your back. Did you catch Jonathan actually starting a beat early? Charlotte simply gave him an affirming look, and he re-grouped. Just like that. You cannot underestimate the support of others when pursuing your passions. They are integral!

So keep singing, writing, painting, working, filming, cooking, and contributing. Bit by bit, you’ll build a community of people who expect your contribution in their lives. When the time comes, put on the performance you know you are capable of. The world needs Jonathan to sing. What does the world need you to do?

22 People Who Are Better Than Me (in a good way!)

Today I got down to thinking about what I really want to write about, and more specifically, where I would want the process to take me. I would love to be able to travel, wrote about nature, the outdoors, make short films, coach football, help those in need, go on mission trips, and work with kids. That’s all (sarcastic/hopeful tone).

Then I considered what I’ve been writing about, and my content didn’t match my hope that well. Since I’m starting out as a writer, I do believe it’s best to keep writing, and focus your voice and content as you get better. At least that’s what I’m going for right now. I have been writing a lot about writing and the creative process, and honestly it’s been easy to use that as a topic because it’s a daily part of my life. I’m basically re-packaging my own struggles and sharing them with you. Hopefully though, it helps in a small way.

One of the main challenges I face is the realization that there are so many people and services out right now who are doing what I want to do, and doing it really, really well. I’m becoming less intimidated by them, because I know that I can do great work as well. The challenge is taking the chance and putting forth the years of work necessary to get to where they are now. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are social platforms or the permission to impact people in a busy world. I don’t know how to write great code, use sophisticated SEO tactics, or create beautiful designs. I tell stories.

Presently though, here are a list of people and sites that I read daily, or will read, watch, or listen to anything they release. I haven’t included any company sites or blogs, they’re in a different category than these 22 run by an individual or small team. They certainly have a voice in the work that I produce, and I hope you enjoy them as well!

Outdoors

Adventure Journal – Steve Casmiro (former editor of Cycling magazine and top-notch photographer) has built the premier site for all things outdoor. News, advocacy, links, photography, gear, food, they have it all. This is the main outdoor site I visit daily, the content is rich and worthwhile. I would visit simply to drool over the Weekend Cabin (which you should as well). It was also just named Outside Magazine’s #1 Outdoor site.

Check out these posts to get started:

Cold Splinters – Jeff Thrope has made the outdoors feel all 1970’s again, and I love it. The site in itself is beautifully designed and vintage, the photography syncs perfectly with the site with vintage filters, and he writes very well. Cold Splinters is where I can feel like an outdoors hipster. It’s a general outdoor site, but the Trail Mix posts are very enjoyable, along with any of the well-written posts about doing work with your hands.

Check out these posts to get started:

Semi-Rad – I really enjoy Brendan Leonard’s blog, because he is a regular guy trying to live the dream. Also, he shows up and delivers to his tribe, consistency is king! My favorite part of his blog is the About Me.

Check out these posts to get started:

Dirtbag Diaries – This is really more of a podcast, and maybe the best outdoor life podcast going today. The stories take center stage, tales of adventure and brokenness that mirror our own lives. The Diaries popularity is also helped by the music that Fitz puts together for each episode, then make available in the notes.

Check out these posts to get started:

The Gear Junkie – Stephen Regenold has put together one of the best outdoor gear review sites, and my personal favorite. If you’re like me and want to low-down on every piece of outdoor gear you purchase, the Gear Junkie is a great place to look. He’s also active on twitter, and has responded directly to a few of my gear inquiries.

Check out these posts to get started:

Sports

Smart Football – Chris Brown is a lawyer turned football analyst, and his acumen for breaking down plays, techniques, and game plans is undeniable. If I’m following twitter during a game, Smart Football is definitely on the list. I’m also convinced that a smart person with average football knowledge could turn themselves in to a decent high school football coach simply by reading Smart Football.

Check out these posts to get started:

Only Gators – I graduated from Florida, and Adam Silverstein runs the best insider blog on the interwebs right now. I’ll check in with OG on a regular basis to see what’s been happening, and daily during football season. No links to read, if you’re a Gator fan just go ahead and start following.

Dr. Saturday – This is a stretch, since Dr Saturday is the Yahoo Sports College Football blog, thus not independent. But it is the most consistent, well-written source of news and updates in college football. The previous head guy, Matt Hinton, has recently left the building, replaced by the new head lady, Graham Watson. Looking forward to the new season.

Writing, Creativity, and Business

Jeff Goins – I’ve written about Jeff a few times, mainly here. He’s actually probably getting tired of it. Jeff consistently turns out great content and advice for writers, no matter what stage of the craft you’re in. Begin reading and you won’t be disappointed.

Check out these posts to get started:

Michael Hyatt – Michael is the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, but on his blog he focuses on the topic of Intentional Leadership. He writes about other topics, but that is the main focus. I really appreciate the honesty Michael communicates with, and his willingness to share knowledge gleaned from many years in the writing business.

Check out these posts to get started:

Seth Godin – Seth is the first author I read who challenged me to think about how I worked. I am continually inspired by his work, and at the root of my amazement is his consistency! In 2009 he wrote his 3,000 daily post in a row, affirming his commitment to spreading ideas and new ways of thinking. He’s also a master at taking an idea or thought that is on the tip of your tongue, and giving it life. Check him out.

Check out these posts to get started:

Daniel Pink – Dan’s site is extremely interesting, and I’ve mentioned some of his work before. The Pomodoro technique came from Dan’s site, and his book A Whole New Mind was very important for me, especially just after graduating college. You can find a wealth of analytical information, presented in a fascinating manner, along with many other topics. One of my favorite running features is emotionally intelligent signage. Give him a look.

Check out these posts to get started:

Garr Reynolds – I read Garr’s book Presentation Zen 4 years ago, and it made me think differently about the way I speak in front of people, communicate information, and design everything. You wouldn’t think of the design and layout of power point presentations as art, but then you haven’t seen Garr’s slide decks. It changed everything for me in those areas. The design aspect spilled over in to other areas of life as well, to websites, my office, home, and really everything.

Check out these posts to get started:

Corbett Barr – Corbett runs ThinkTraffic.com, arguably the best site for bloggers looking to generate more traffic and income. It’s the only site of its kind that is currently in my rss reader, because it’s so detailed and extensive. Corbett has experience with several other successful blogs and websites, which you can find out more about by visiting his personal site.

Check out these posts to get started (on ThinkTraffic):

Christian Spirituality

Donald Miller – Donald is the author of several books, most notably Blue Like Jazz. Another important book in my life, it challenged me in my Christian faith and caused me to think about what my faith really meant to me. He is very human-story focused right now, his latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years covering the subject of the creative process, and being able to tell one’s story. All of this is done against the backdrop of what God has done for us and the life he’s called us to live.

Check out these posts to get started:

Richard Rohr – I almost didn’t put Fr. Rohr here, he can be so controversial. But he has also pointed me down the path of worrying about myself less (and one day not at all), helping the poor & needy, not seeking fame, and being able to embrace both my strengths and weaknesses. He’s also been significant in his writing on male development and rites of passage in the modern world, a topic that is very important in my work with young men.

Check out these posts to get started:

Ryan Taylor – Man, I really like Ryan. Never met the guy, but no worries. Ryan is the Director of Access Denver, plays basketball, and writes a solid blog. He is another leader who is challenging others to look around and see the suffering in our neighborhoods, and be the hands of God in creating change. I’ve written about him a bit more here.

Check out these posts to get started:

General Interest & Fun

The Art of Manliness – Yes, they have fun posts like How to Make a Survival ShotgunThey have informative posts like How to Carve a TurkeyThey also assemble great lists like 100 Must-Read Books: The Man’s Essential Library. But what really made me a full-fledged believer in the AoM was Brett & Sarah McKay’s research and writing about male development and being a man. Not an ultra-masculine no-nonsense man, or a soft, passive man. A Man; forged out of the experience of those before him, ready to do hard things, think of others’ before self, stand up for what’s right, and be a contributor to his community. Love it.

To get started, click on the articles above.

The Oatmeal – My interest in goofy internet comics really peaked during college, and since then I don’t go searching for such hilarity often. The Oatmeal though, really came to me. I saw the Dear Sriracha comic at Sunny Pointe Cafe, and liked it so much that I hunted down the site. Matt Inman does a wonderful job fusing humor, common sense, plain-as-day irony, and grammar checks in to his brand. Go over there and have a laugh. *FYI, not all comics are squeaky-clean, though the ones I linked are fine. 

Check out these posts to get started:

Zen Habits – Leo Babauta has curated one of the most popular blogs on the internet, and one of the most interesting. I’ve only been reading it for a couple weeks myself, but I’m blown away, definitely one that I can read for an hour and not realize it. Highly recommended.

Instead of linking a few articles, Leo has made it easy for us by creating a Start Here page.

The Minimalists – My friend Bryce told me about this site, as I was telling him about my feelings towards having fewer possessions. “You need to read what these guys are writing” he told me. So I did, and stayed up most of the night reading through their entire 21 Day Journey in to Minimalism page. It lit a fire under me, gave some substance to the conversations my wife and I had been having. Within a week, I had given away boxes of clothes, packed up extra household and kitchen products, and put the TV in the attic. I haven’t missed any of those things, because I am more than my possessions.

Check out these posts to get started:

Tim Ferriss – I have a love/hate relationship with Tim Ferriss’ writing and self-promotion. Mainly, I think he comes off as self-promoting and arrogant. I also think he is quite interesting and has many good things to say about creative ways to live and work. I can respect that. I mainly respect the effort and practice that he puts in to his craft of writing, and his personal blog. The blog is a smorgasbord of topics, enjoy picking through them.

Check out these posts to get started:

Wow, that took much longer than I had planned. When I said “today” at the beginning of the post, it was Monday. I’m publishing on Friday. I went through many temptations to cut the list, not include Get Started links, and leave out the descriptions. In other words, obey the path of least resistance. I’m glad I didn’t, and hope you agree.

Finally, this is simply my list, and it won’t be the last. People are doing incredible, creative work, and I would love to hear about the writers, bloggers, and creatives that inspire you. Leave your suggestions in the comments!