Twenty Years of Blogging

Twenty years ago today, I started blogging.

I didn’t know I had started blogging, of course. Back then, “blog” wasn’t even a word. The other folks who were writing for the web — and there were plenty — called what they did “web journaling”. So did I.

At first, my web journal was solely about my weight-loss journey. I documented my daily exercise routine and wrote about what I was eating. I didn’t really have an audience in mind other than myself. And that was fine. Though it might be hard for younger folks to believe, in the olden days there weren’t that many people reading the web!

Although I didn’t start my first blog (or web journal) until 16 August 1997, I’d actually been creating websites for several years before that. My first page went up sometime in 1994. I was constantly posting new stuff but none of it would be what we would now consider a blog.

After tracking my fitness for a little more than a year, I decided to start a proper web journal, which I called Great Expectations. That lasted for about a month before I gave up. You see, writing and publishing entries to my web journal was just too tedious. I had to code everything by hand. This wasn’t difficult but it was time consuming. I didn’t like it. So, I let Great Expectations lapse.

Time passed.


Sometime in the spring of 2001, I discovered a service called Blogger. This cool tool — although very buggy — automated a lot of the process behind creating and maintaining a web journal. (The downside? If you composed in the Blogger software itself, you were liable to lose your work because it’d crash. I soon started writing my material in a text editor, after which I’d cut and paste to Blogger. That remains my method to this day!)

I launched my first official Blogger blog in June 2001. Foldedspace was a place for me to write about cats, computers, and comic books — and anything else that crossed my mind. Again, my audience was mostly myself. I was okay with that.

Something strage happened though. In time, more and more of my family and friends began reading Foldedspace. We had some great discussions in the comments section, debating things like politics and religion and how awful the new Star Wars movies were.

Then, on 26 April 2005, something very very important happened. I published a post about personal finance. The article summarized several money books I’d recently read and it came to this conclusion: There’s no reliable way to get rich quickly; however, there’s a proven method to get rich slowly.

For whatever reason, my article about the basics of smart money management garnered a lot of attention around the web. It went viral — or what passed for viral twelve years ago. “Neat,” I thought — and I moved on.

Starting Over

On 11 October 2005, another important event occurred.

I had long ago moved from the clumsy Blogger software to a program called Movable Type, which I loved. But unbeknownst to me, Movable Type had a fatal flaw: it was buggy. So buggy, in fact, that after years of use it decided to corrupt the database that contained my entire blog. Without any warning, hundreds of articles suddenly became inaccessible.

To be fair, the articles didn’t become completely inaccessible. While I could no longer log into my Movable Type account to manage Foldedspace, my old articles were still there. Unlike modern WordPress, which creates pages dynamically, Movable Type created static pages. Once you published an article, it was there on the web. All of my old articles are still there, twelve years after losing them. But I just can’t access them via an automated method.

One of my long-term plans (and I’ve had these plans for a decade) is to write a script that converts these static pages to a format that can be imported to WordPress. Then I can republish all of my old posts!

Meanwhile, I was starting to turn my financial life around. I was on a quest to conquer my debt. As part of that, I wanted to make more money. I was already doing some computer consulting on the side, but I wanted to make even more money. To that end, I decided to start a blog with advertising. (I was steadfastly against advertising at Foldedspace.)

At first, I tried to write a blog about comic books. It seemed like a natural fit. I liked comics, and there were folks willing to advertise on comic blogs. The problem? I didn’t like modern comics, and nobody wanted to read about the old stuff.

On a whim, I decided to start a blog about personal finance. “People really liked my article about getting rich slowly,” I thought. “Maybe I could start a blog about money.” And so I did. On 15 April 2006, I launched Get Rich Slowly. I had no clue what I’d unleashed…

Get Rich Slowly

Get Rich Slowly grew quickly. Within days, I had a thousand regular readers. Within six months, I had over 10,000 subscribers. By the end of its first year, Get Rich Slowly was receiving over 250,000 visitors each month. It was crazy!

As the site grew, so did its revenue. Get Rich Slowly only made $8.29 in April 2006. But in May, it earned $85.03. In June, it earned $473.22. In October, it earned over $1000. By July of 2007, I was earning more from Get Rich Slowly than I was from my day job! Thanks in part to this new stream of income, I was able to pay off the last of my debt in December 2007.

In March 2008, I quit my job at the family box factory in order to blog full time.

A funny thing happened about this time: Whereas blogging had been a fun hobby, once it became my job, that job seemed onerous. It was just the same as any other job. Plus, as the site’s revenue grew, so did the pressure. I didn’t increase my spending, so there wasn’t any added stress there; nonetheless, I felt a drive to boost readership and revenue from month to month.

Before long, I wanted out.

At the start of 2009, a company approached me about buying Get Rich Slowly. I thought they were joking at first. After they submitted a formal offer, I realized this wasn’t a laughing matter. I recruited an investment bank to shop the site around and got an even better offer. On 01 April 2009, I sold Get Rich Slowly — but I didn’t leave the site.

For the next three years, I stuck around as the site’s editor-in-chief and primary writer. Eventually, in the spring of 2012, I decided I’d had enough. I retired. Sort of.

Money Boss

After leaving Get Rich Slowly, I continued to contribute the occasional article. Meanwhile, I wrote a monthly column for Entrepreneur magazine. I wrote articles for Time magazine’s money blog. Most importantly (to me), I started writing again here at this site.

In March 2015, my girlfriend began a 15-month RV trip across the United States. We documented our adventures at a blog called Far Away Places.

On that trip, while stuck for ten days in rural South Dakota, I realized I wasn’t done writing about money. I missed blogging. I missed interacting with an audience. Plus, I’d spent the intervening years developing a clear financial philosophy (as opposed to the piecemeal ideas I’d shared at Get Rich Slowly). In October 2015, I launched Money Boss. Today, that’s my primary focus.

What’s Next?

You might think that after twenty years of blogging, I’d be burned out on it. Truthfully, I do get burned out from time to time. My most loyal readers (and there are a few hundred that seem to follow me no matter where I go) have noticed that I go on hiatus from time to time. (Heck, I haven’t published an article here in nearly a year!) But make no mistake: I love to write — and I love blogging.

Even when things are quiet on my various websites, I’m often working behind the scenes in preparation for bigger, better things to come in the future.

Writing is in my blood. I can’t stop. It’s how I express myself. Plus, I love the spontaneous nature of blogging. I sat down at my computer an hour ago to write about my twenty years as a blogger; in a few minutes I’ll press “publish” and share this article with a couple thousand people. That’s amazing! Better yet are the discussions that arise in the comments section of this blog (and others). While many bloggers are killing their comments, I doubt I ever will.

So, what’s next for me?

I’m reluctant to commit publicly to anything because as you all know by now, my plans are subject to change. That said, I’ve been working this summer on developing a WordPress theme that mimics some of what Jason Kottke does at his site. You can see this new theme in operation at Animal Intelligence, one of my older blogs that I’m in the process of reviving.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll gradually roll out this template to a few of my blogs over the next twelve months. I want to be careful, though, not to take on too much at once. I have a tendency to way overcommit, then not follow through on anything. I want to take this slow and steady.

Meanwhile, after a slow summer at Money Boss, I’m ready to dive into that site full-time. And, believe it or not, I want to publish more often around here. (That should be easy. It’s not tough to publish more often than once a year!)

If all goes well, I hope to still be blogging twenty years from now. Who knows? Maybe on 16 August 2037, I’ll publish an article here entitled “Forty Year of Blogging”! A fellow can dream, can’t he?

How Blogging Has Changed from 2006 to 2016

Last week, I attended the sixth annual Fincon in San Diego. It was awesome. I love the financial blogging community. The people aren’t just colleagues, they’re friends. It makes me happy to see how sharing and supportive the community is, how we’re willing to help each other succeed.

That’s not always the case at blogging conferences. Many have a collective “scarcity mentality”. Not Fincon. At Fincon, there’s an “abundance mentality”, and that manifests itself in everyone being willing to help everyone else.

Note: I’m please to report that Money Boss, my latest project, won the Plutus Award for best new financial blog. Makes me grin from ear to ear, actually.

Because I’ve been dubbed the “grandfather of personal-finance blogging”, a lot of people ask me for advice. I’m always happy to help when I can. (My skills are dated, though. I haven’t run a site regularly since 2009, so I’m not current on things like SEO and social media and monetization.)

One question I get all the time is: “How has blogging changed in the decade between starting Get Rich Slowly and starting Money Boss?” To me, the biggest change is that people are more parsimonious with links.

SEO Killed Blogging

In the olden days, everybody linked to everybody else. (It’s that abundance mindset thing again, right?)

  • If my buddy wrote a good article, I linked to it.
  • If I found a piece about debt reduction that was better than mine, I linked to it.
  • If I thought something would be of use to my readers, I linked to it.
  • If I discovered an amazing new blog, I linked to it.

The rise of SEO seems to have destroyed this sort of sharing economy. Nowadays, bloggers are too worried about diluting the value of their links. Links, after all, are the currency of the web. A link to a post is like gold — especially when it comes from a high-value site. The game is to get as many links as possible to as many profitable pages as possible. And if you link out to other people, you make your own links worth less.

Or something like that.

Today in 2016, bloggers are far less likely to link out than they were in 2006. I’m talking an order of magnitude less. Maybe more.

That sucks.

In order for the web to be useful to readers, we have to help them find useful information. If we know where useful information is and we don’t share it, we’re doing a disservice to people who trust us. Where’s the good in that? I suppose it makes sense in some short-sighted way, but it’s not a good long-term plan.

This same problem manifests itself in reverse.

Money Before People

This morning, I posted in the private Fincon group asking for people to share one article they’d like me to link to. I’m setting up some automated social media stuff — because I suck at social media and need to make it automatic or I’ll never do it — and I wanted to spread the love. (Because I still operate like it’s 2006, not 2016.) I wanted to populate my social media queue with one article from each of my friends.

The responses I got disappointed me. Sure, some people pointed me to their best work. But many (most?) pointed me to profitable pages that they wanted to pimp more. Or SEO-laden articles that they wanted to give more “juice”. Instead of trying to make the web a better place by providing readers with quality content, a lot of people just saw an opportunity to get a quick link to make more money.

I hate that.

I don’t know the source of this switch. I don’t know why in 2016 we’re reluctant to link to others, and when we get a chance to have a link, we link to money not to content.

Honestly, the origin of the problem doesn’t matter. What matters is fixing it. That’s not something I can do alone, obviously. All I can do is call attention to it — and make sure I’m not perpetuating it. There’s no way I can convince other bloggers that they should link to other people more often and that they shouldn’t focus on money. All I can do is try to set an example.

Grandpa Remembers

Some people will say, “Yeah, but you made bank with Get Rich Slowly. Aren’t you being hypocritical?” No, I’m not.

  • At Get Rich Slowly, I threw links around like they were nothing. Readers loved it. Sure, they left my site. But they also came back because they knew I’d point them to good shit. (At Money Boss, I still throw links around like they’re nothing. I even have a blogroll in my sidebar. How quaint is that?)
  • At Get Rich Slowly, I didn’t write articles purely to pimp affiliate links. If I wrote about something and there was an affiliate program, I might join the program and make some money. Or I might not. But I certainly never altered the content to emphasize the money-making opportunity. (At Money Boss, I’m only just beginning to monetize — but selectively. Only if doing so helps my readers.)
  • At Get Rich Slowly, when somebody requested a link for a blog carnival (remember those?) or a roundup or anything else, I didn’t just give them a sales page. I gave them whatever I thought their readers would find most interesting and/or useful. Then it’s a win-win-win, right? A win for me, a win for the other blogger, and a win for the readers. (If I were to give a link to a sales page, it’s only a win for me.)

I didn’t get rich quick at GRS with a scarcity mindset. Jim didn’t get rich at Bargaineering with a scarcity mindset. Harlan didn’t get rich at Consumerism Commentary with a scarcity mindset. It wasn’t intentional, but we each operated with abundance mindsets and it helped all of us.

Long-Term Beats Short-Term

Look, I don’t mean to sound harsh. As I said at the beginning, I love my Fincon family. These people are awesome.

But I hate the trend in modern blogging to focus only on the short term. (And trust me, SEO is all about the short term. It’s sneetches in action.) I want bloggers to provide long-term value. A lot of times, that means making choices that aren’t optimized for the short term. And that’s okay.

When you write a blog, there’s always a balance between what’s best for you and what’s best for the readers. Finding that balance is key. It’s different for each person and for each blog. (But some things are fundamentally always reader-hostile. Pop-ups, for instance — I hate SumoMe.) Your job, as a blogger, is to be as reader-friendly as possible while still meeting your goals.

Back in Savannah, I had a sign above my desk: “Is this in the best interest of the reader?” It was meant to remind me to write high-quality content and not just fluff, but I think it applies to all aspects of creating for the web. Answering it honestly leads in the direction of an abundance mentality. Tha means thinking long term, not short.

Some Unintended Consequences — and How We Dealt with Them

Everything in life is a trade-off. If you choose to do one thing, you’re implicitly choosing not to do other things. If you choose to have children, for instance, you’ve made a tacit choice to forego many of the things you valued before. Or, if you choose not to have children, you’re making an indirect choice to never experience all that parenthood has to offer.

Sometimes these trade-offs are obvious. We all know that when we choose to buy a new car, that’s money that can no longer be used for, say, buying a boat. Or a house.

Most of the time, though, trade-offs aren’t so obvious. It’s tough to take into account all repercussions of every decision because usually we don’t even know what all of the consequences will be.

What do I mean?

Trying to See the Future

Let’s take our year-long RV trip, for example. When Kim and I set out on our quest to drive across the United States, we did our best to plan for what lie ahead. We talked with other trailerites. We read books and websites. We considered our own personalities and preferences. For the most part, we did a fine job prepping and packing for life on the road.

We knew that our trip would require certain trade-offs, and we were ready for these. We trimmed our wardrobes to just the essentials. We filtered through all of the Stuff in our apartment to choose only the things we truly valued. (Or, if you prefer, those items that spark joy.) We negotiated living space. We planned an itinerary. We talked about how we were going to eat right and exercise while constantly on the move.

For the most part, our planning paid off. For those trade-offs we could foresee, we did a great job of coping with compromise. Obviously, however, I wouldn’t be writing this post if we’d planned everything perfectly.

There’s No Write Time

There were certain trade-offs we failed to foresee before setting out on this trip. We didn’t anticipate just how exhausted we’d get (mentally and physically) from the constant migration. We should have known — but didn’t — that by drinking beer and wine every night, we’d not only consume way too many calories but also thwart our motivation to work out in the morning. (And we didn’t count on just how frustrating road workouts could be.)

But for me, the primary problem has been a lack of time to write. “I’ll just squeeze my writing time between the cracks,” I thought before we left. But when you fail to make time for your big rocks, they don’t fit between the cracks!

Once on the road, I realized that regular writing would be almost impossible. Kim and I were constantly on the move, either traveling across the country or exploring the places where we parked. Even when I did have time to write — usually early in the morning — it was tough to do so without disturbing Kim in our tiny motorhome.

So, I haven’t written nearly as much as I’d wanted, neither here nor anywhere else. (Only our travel blog has received regular updates, and those haven’t been frequent.)

This lack of writing time was fine at first. It was like a break. I’ve spent the past decade of my life writing constantly, so it was relaxing to not have to think about putting pen to paper.

In time, though, the break became a burden. I’m a writer. It’s not only my vocation but also my avocation. I do it for work and play. Writing is a release for me, a way for me to unburden my mind. When I take a week or two off from writing, it’s a vacation. But when I take a month or two off from writing? I get cranky. And five months — or six? Prolonged torture!

Money Boss

Things came to a head at the end of July. While we were stranded in South Dakota, I wrote an article here about the cost of living. That one article lit a spark inside me that has grown into a raging fire.

“I want to write about personal finance again,” I told Kim on the day I published that piece. “I want to start a new money blog.” I shared my vision with her: A site that built upon the work I did developing the “Be Your Own CFO” guide I wrote a couple of years ago.

“That message seems to resonate with people,” I said. “They get it. When I say you should manage your personal finances as if you were managing a business, it seems to make sense.”

That conversation gave birth to Money Boss, my new blog about money. I’ve spent the past two months talking with friends and colleagues about the site, planning its future, trying to find time to write for it. Things may have been quiet here, but they’ve been busy behind the scenes.

And here’s another unexpected consequence: For the past few weeks, I haven’t been able to focus on our trip. All I want to do is work on Money Boss. I haven’t appreciated anything we’ve seen or done since northern Indiana (except for Niagara Falls, which was awesome). Kim too has been struggling to enjoy our adventures.

Solving the Problem

Instead of slogging through six more months on the road, we decided to take action. We need to rest. We need to eat right and exercise. We need to work. To that end:

  • We’ve rented a condo in Savannah, Georgia for six months. We’ll be here until the end of March.
  • Our number-one goal while we’re here is to get back in shape. We’ve already begun eating right and exercising. We both know what we need to do, and we’re doing it.
  • While we’re here, I’m going to write. (Hallelujah!) My primary goal is to launch Money Boss. But be warned that I also plan to post lots around here.
  • Kim too is going to work. She hopes to find a temporary position as a dental hygienist in town (she’s getting certified in Georgia). Plus she wants to launch an online store.

We moved into our new place last Thursday. Boy, does it feel good. We love our motorhome, but living in 250 square feet is confining. This condo is four times as large, so we have space to spread out. We’re close to a Whole Foods, so it’s easy to find and stock healthier food. There are also lots of ways for us to exercise here. (There’s an HOA fitness center thirty seconds outside our front door, so no excuses!)

Best of all? You guessed it: Time and space to write. This morning, I was able to do the same routine I do at home in Portland. I woke up, grabbed some coffee, and sat down in front of my computer. I wrote an article for Far Away Places. I wrote this article. In a moment, I’ll write an article for Money Boss.

It feels amazing to have time to write once more.

I’m happy happy happy.

A Trip Through the Wayback Machine

I’ve been blogging since before “blog” was even a word.

I posted my first web site over twenty years ago, in the spring of 1994. Back then, all that was available was rudimentary HTML (no cascading style sheets!) and browsers like Mosaic and Lynx. We nerds were early adopters, of course, and we made stuff up as we went along.

The earliest versions of my site no longer exist, not even in the Wayback Machine. The oldest iteration available is this version from 24 January 2000. As you can see, at first my personal website contained random stuff about fantasy football, comic books, our book group, and the books and movies I consumed.

You can see in some of these pages — especially my reading list — early stabs at blog-like structure. (If you follow the links to various books, you’ll see my reviews plus links to other resources around the web.)

But my first actual web journal (I used to hate the term “blog”) was my fitness diary from 1997. Midway through losing forty pounds, I decided to chronicle the experience on the web for my friends and family to follow. I followed that up again in 1998 after I gained back ten of those pounds.

Then, on 22 September 1998, I started my first real-life weblog, which I called Great Expectations. In my first post, I wrote:

When I was young I was a writer. I don’t mean that I aspired to be a writer “when I grew up”, I mean that I wrote. I wrote poetry, I wrote stories, I wrote letters. I wrote for myself and I wrote for others. Writing was what I did.

Sometime during college I discovered I was no longer a writer. Sure, I wrote for classes, but that’s not the same thing. Although I wrote some poetry and fiction throughout college, by the end of my Senior year my writing activities had ceased.

For seven years I haven’t written, but now the bug is back.


Over the course of the past few years I’ve discovered the curious phenomena known as “web journals”. Having read thoroughly those belonging to Karawynn Long and Michael Rawdon, I’m intrigued by the medium and believe it would be a fantastic tool to practice my own writing.

And so it began.

Note: Life is funny. Since writing that more than fifteen years ago, I’ve met both Karawynn and Michael. I like them both. They’re both still writing for the web, and I still read their blogs all the time. Michael writes at Fascination Place and Karawynn writes at both a personal site and a personal finance site!

That first blog lasted only a month. Then life happened. Part of the problem was there wasn’t an automated way to publish the things I wrote. I had to do it by hand. It wasn’t difficult, but it was time consuming.

But a year or two later, I discovered Blogger, a new tool that helped to automate the process of producing web journals — or “blogs”, as they’d come to be known. I resumed writing for the web at my new personal domain, Apparently my first post with Blogger was on 27 May 2001, but it doesn’t exist in the Wayback Machine. The earliest post I can find is this one from 05 June 2001 in which I discuss some early work for Computer Resources Northwest (the computer consulting firm that would eventually own Get Rich Slowly!).

Since those early days, I’ve written a lot of material for the web. I’ve started dozens of websites, most of which have fizzled out after only a few days. But on some sites, I’ve produced thousands of words. Or hundreds of thousands. And at Get Rich Slowly, I’ve written over a million words.

It occurred to me last night that I miss some of the things I wrote. Every now and then I’ll stumble upon an old article of mine while googling for something else. These old articles make me misty in a way, and I wish they were gathered together in one place. So, that’s what I’m going to do. Slowly but surely, I’m going to re-read all of the old stuff I wrote. Some of it will remain in dusty corners of the internet. But when I find an important or interesting piece, I’m going to copy it over here to and re-publish it on its old date.

I worry that doing this will cause you all to receive email and RSS updates of this old material. I’m not meaning to bombard everyone with a bunch of outdated articles. I just want to collect some of my favorite memories in one place. If it gets to be too much, please let me know and I’ll find a way to prevent you all from receiving these updates. Sound good? Meanwhile, I’ll be sure to share if I find anything especially fun.

Now, though, it’s time for me to go do some publicity for Get Rich Slowly: The Guide. A blogger’s work is never done…

Note: Ooohh… I just found this version of This is what I consider “classic foldedspace” — it’s from the Golden Age of my pre-GRS blogging days. I would love to replicate that look here…

All You Need to Know About Blogging

Note: Recently, I’ve been coaching Kim as she prepares to launch her own website. Doing so reminds of a lesson I try to preach to all new bloggers: Content is king. Here’s an article I wrote on the subject for a now-defunct blog about blogging back in March 2007.

I have a friend who’s starting a niche personal finance blog. He’s very interested in the subject, and knowledgeable, and I think he could make it an interesting site.

When the idea first came to him a few months ago, he approached me. “How do I make this a successful blog?” he asked.

“Post lots of good content,” I told him.

“Yeah,” he said. “But what else?”

“There is no ‘what else’,” I said. Actually, I ranted and raved about how too many people focus on things that aren’t important and don’t bother to spend time on the content, but essentially it all amounted to “there is no ‘what else’”.

My friend went away for a few weeks to work on his site. When I talked to him again he told me, “I’ve switched from WordPress to Drupal. Do you think that’ll make a difference?”

“It’ll make no difference at all,” I said. “Readers don’t care what weblog tool you use. All they care about is the content.”

“Yeah, but Drupal offers so many more features,” he said. I just shook my head.

About a month ago, he launched his site. He posted an introductory article. “Looks good,” I said.

“Can you point people to the site?” he asked.

“Not yet,” I said. “You don’t have any content.”

Meanwhile he put up some Google ads and some Amazon ads. He posted a single link to another article at a big news site. I talked to him a couple of weeks later. “Nobody’s coming to my site,” he told me. “Not a single person has clicked on an ad.”

“That’s because there’s nothing there,” I told him.

“What do you mean?” he said. “I spent a lot of time creating the layout and putting up the ads.”

“You need to focus on content,” I told him.

So he wrote another article. It was moderately interesting, but it was all in one h-u-g-e paragraph. There’s been nothing new posted to the site since then. The site layout has changed a half-dozen times, though, as my friend tries to make it as pretty as possible.

He IMed me last night. “Nobody’s coming to the site,” he said.

“It needs content,” I told him.

“I don’t have time,” he said. “I’m so busy.” I pointed out that he wasn’t too busy to party with friends. He wasn’t too busy to play soccer. He wasn’t too busy to tinker with the layout. These are all fine things, but none of them have anything to do with getting readers. “Can’t you point people to my site?” he asked.

“Maybe in a couple of months,” I said. “Maybe once you have some content.”

This concept has been beat into the ground a thousand times before, but it’s the single most important factor in creating a successful weblog: To gain readers, you must publish quality content on a regular basis. Sure, readers like a pretty site. Sure, it would be nice if there were ads for them to click on. But all of this is secondary. All that really matters is the content.

That, my friends, is all that you ever need to know about blogging.

Note: In the six years since I wrote this article, a new distraction has reared its ugly head: Search Engine Optimization. New bloggers will spend dozens of hours focused on SEO instead of doing the one thing that matters most: creating content. When people ask me what I do for SEO, I tell the truth: Nothing. My motto is: “The best SEO is an article that people want to link to.” It’s the truth.

Meet Me in Ecuador in September

It’s no secret that I’ve made a lot of changes to my life over the past few years. I’ve made so many changes, in fact, that sometimes I feel like I’m somebody completely different. That’s not a bad thing. The challenge now is to s-l-o-w down, to enjoy the life I’ve worked so hard to create.

Often when I talk to people, they ask how I managed to make so many changes in such a short period of time. There are two key elements to this:

  • First, I decided to be completely honest and true to myself — and to others. Instead of doing what I thought others wanted me to do, I did what I wanted.
  • Second, I faced my fears and acted in spite of them. This is tied directly to the first point. In order to be true to yourself, you’ve got to confront the things that frighten you most.

For a while now, I’ve been prepping to start writing my second book. It’ll be a book about personal finance, but I hope to take a different approach than most money books. But there’s a nagging doubt at the back of my mind; part of me wonders if I shouldn’t write some sort of self-help/motivational book first.

To test the waters, I’ve begun thinking and writing more about psychology. And — to challenge one of my biggest fears — I’ve been speaking on the subject, too.

At last summer’s World Domination Summit, I spoke for 40 minutes on the art of personal transformation.

My talk about personal transformation from World Domination Summit 2012

At this summer’s World Domination Summit, I’ll be joining my friend Leo Babauta from Zen Habits to present a workshop on how to build confidence and destroy fear.

But I think the talk that excites me most is the one I’ll give later this year in Ecuador. Just after Labor Day, I’ll be joining three other folks to host a retreat outside Quito, Ecuador. We’ll welcome 25 people for a week of learning and laughter.


We’re billing this as a one-week chautauqua on freedom, wealth, and happiness. Here’s how the official website describes the event:

Please join J.D. Roth, Mr. Money Mustache, Jim Collins, and Cheryl Reed, each of whom have succeeded in designing their own lives of personal freedom. Through presentations, one-on-one sessions, and group discussions, they will share their knowledge and tools for how you can do the same.

Join us in Ecuador, one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. You will stay at the award winning Arasha Rainforest Resort and Spa, considered a hot spot because of its virgin forest and biodiversity. It is here, on the equator, where you will design your plan to live a passionate life and take the steps to financial freedom.

My presentation will touch on personal finance, but it’ll really be an extension of the topic I’m talking about WDS. All of us have grand dreams and big ideas, but all too often we lack the courage to see them through. Plus, there’s Real Life. With family and friends and work and other obligations, who has the time to make dreams come true?

As we get older, we find we’re trapped by the desires and expectations of others. We feel locked into a life we no longer love. I plan to help participants explore how to build confidence and destroy fear. We’ll talk about how find freedom in an unfree world, about how to choose the road less traveled.

Most of all, we’ll explore the idea that it’s not only acceptable but absolutely
vital to put yourself and your interests first in life.

Plus, like each of the other presenters, I’ll be meeting one-on-one with attendees during the week.

I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical about our ability to fill this retreat. I needn’t have been. We opened registration ten days ago, and already nineteen people have paid. Only six spots remain.

I’d love it if some of you were able to attend. If you’re free from the 7th to 14th of September and would like to spend a week learning about life while lounging in subtropical Ecuador, register now to join us. (And if you’ve got extra time and want to join me on a trip to the Galapagos, let me know. I’m doing this by myself after the end of the retreat, but I’d be happy to share the tour info with you so that you can join me.)

Am I scared about being one of the presenters at this chautauqua? Hell yes. But that’s the point. And past experience has taught me that by facing and overcoming my fears, I’ll be a better man.

A Weekend in Houston

One of the best parts about blogging is meeting readers and colleagues. I go out of my way to have coffee, lunch, or dinner with anyone who asks. As a result, I’ve formed some great friendships.

Eighteen months ago at Savvy Blogging Summit 2011, I met Amy Gross from VineSleuth, a wine blog. She and I hit it off instantly. We spent the entire weekend talking about travel, writing, and wine. When she came to Portland for a wineblogging conference last August, we spent an afternoon touring the town, drinking Chilean wine. And in October, we reconnected at Savvy Blogging Summit 2012.

Wine Bloggers Conference
Drinking wine with Amy at the blog conference in August

In early December, I called Amy to ask for advice regarding a possible Real Job (about which I may speak more of in the future). During the call, she asked if I’d be willing to fly to Houston for a weekend in order to share blogging advice with her and her husband. “Of course,” I said.

On Thursday, I flew out of Portland to join Amy’s sister-in-law (Toni from The Happy Housewife, a popular blog about frugal homemaking) for a marathon brainstorming session.

Work and Play

I’d only been to Houston once before. In July 1985, I was part of Oregon’s delegation to the national Future Business Leaders of America convention. I competed in the business math event (in which I placed eighth), but mostly I flirted with the girls. What I remember most about the city is the humidity — and the fact that a bunch of us went out to see St. Elmo’s Fire in the theater.

This time, I didn’t do any flirting. This time, I worked. (And played…a little.)

On Thursday night, we sat by the fire on the back patio, drinking wine and talking about the direction of VineSleuth. I tried to keep pace with Gary, Amy’s husband, drinking whatever wine he was drinking. That was a mistake. Gary is bigger than I am, and a far more experienced drinker. By the time I went to bed at two, I was a mess.

I woke at seven on Friday, and by nine we were working again. We sat around Amy’s kitchen table, talking about the ins and outs of blogging. We discussed content and marketing and networking and SEO and affiliate programs and post titles and workflow and everything else we could think of. Amy never stopped taking notes. I wish we’d recorded the session.

In the evening, Gary took us out on the town to celebrate Toni’s 40th birthday.

Toni snaps a photo of her 40th birthday dessert
Toni snaps a photo of her 40th birthday dessert

We dined at The Four Seasons, then took a taxi to Max’s Wine Dive. Having learned my lesson the night before, I put a brake on my alcohol consumption and let Gary blaze ahead. Good thing, too. Next, we headed to Rebels Honky Tonk to practice our line dancing and bull riding. I wasn’t good at either, but I had fun trying.

photo (8)
Riding the mechanical bull

Saturday was much more sedate. We spent all day working around the kitchen table again. And again, Amy filled page after page with notes about the business of blogging. We broke for Mexican food at one point, but otherwise we stayed on task. In the evening, we did try some wine (and beer), but otherwise things were mellow.

And on Sunday, we spent our last few hours together making sure Amy had a solid plan for VineSleuth.

Blog Consultant

For years, folks have been encouraging me to become a blog consultant. I’ve always thought that was kind of crazy. Who would pay for that kind of thing? Turns out, there’s more of a market than I thought. Plus, I know more than I give myself credit. It’s actually a viable idea for a business.

So, this is something I plan to pursue in the months (and years) to come. I’ll have to find my way at first, making things up as I go along. But that’s what I did when I started blogging, too. And that’s what we’ve done while putting together the World Domination Summit. You make things up, you do your best, and if you’re fortunate, things work out.

My Blog Reading List

I’m surprised how often people ask me to list the blogs I read. To me, a blog reading list is as individual as a fingerprint. Everyone has different tastes. Sharing my favorites doesn’t seem useful.

But last week, after yet another person asked for my list of “best blogs”, I decided to sit down and share the sites I check daily. Here they are:

  • Afford Anything — I met Paula Pant at Fincon 2012 in early September. In early October, she picked me up at the Atlanta airport and gave me a ride to my hotel for Savvy Blogging Summit. In those two brief encounters, I was impressed by Paula’s brain and by her entrepreneurial spirit. I subscribed to her blog, Afford Anything. In the past month, I’ve come to realize that she and I share similar philosophies, not just about money, but about life in general. Plus, she’s a damn good writer. That makes her blog one of my current favorites.
  • The Art of Manliness — Brett McKay started as a personal finance blogger, about the same time I was starting Get Rich Slowly. Somewhere along the way, he and his wife started another blog, a blog about modern gentlemen. It didn’t take long before this new blog became a full-time business for him. It’s easy to see why. The Art of Manliness covers classic manners and style for young men — and for middle-aged men like me. As I’ve dabbled in the dating world over the past year, this has been an invaluable read.
  • The Art of Non-Conformity — Over the past few years, Chris Guillebeau has become one of my closest friends. I’m proud to be a part of his team that organizes the annual World Domination Summit. Kim and I plan to join him in Oslo next April as he completes his quest to visit every country in the world by his 35th birthday. And two or three times a week, I enjoy reading his thoughts at The Art of Non-Conformity, where he writes about entrepreneurship, travel, and personal development. It’d be one of my favorite blogs even if I wasn’t his personal catsitter.
  • BBC Mundo — My Spanish lessons may be on hold, but my Spanish learning isn’t. I get my daily dose of news from BBC Mundo, the Spanish-language BBC site. It’s pitched perfectly at my reading level, and I enjoy the wide range of topics covered at the site.
  • Get Rich Slowly — No surprise, but the personal finance blog I founded six-and-a-half years ago is also a daily read for me. I don’t comment there much anymore, but I do read the articles so that I can keep up date with what’s going on over there.
  • Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools — Kevin Kelly is the former executive editor of Wired magazine, and he hosts several blogs at his site. Cool Tools is my favorite. It features an ongoing list of books, gadgets, and other things that make life easier. (I was shocked and honored when he featured my own book — Your Money: The Missing Manual — as one of his cool tools, writing, “This is the best user-guide to personal finance I’ve found, and I’ve probably read them all.”) Cool Tools is a great site, but also dangerous. It tempts me to buy things I do not need!
  • — Jason Kottke’s blog was one of the first I ever read. And here I am, over a decade later, still reading it. His site is simply a collection of interesting links he finds around the web, but that’s okay. I trust his ability to curate content. It saves me time and keeps my mind stimulated.
  • Legal Nomads — Like Paula at Afford Anything, Jodi Ettenberg has an amazing brain. Over the past eighteen months, she and I have had some great chats by phone and in person. But when I’m not able to tap directly into her head, I get my fill of Jodiness through her blog at Legal Nomads, where she writes about food, travel, and related topics. (Speaking of which, Jodi just published her first book: The Food Traveler’s Handbook. I downloaded it for the Kindle the other day, and now need to find time to read it.)
  • Mimi Smartypants — I don’t remember how I found Mimi Smartypants, but I know why I stick around. This personal blog features some of the funniest, smartest writing on the web. The Chicago-based author works in the publishing industry and writes with candor (and humor) about sex, adoption, public transportation, music, food, sports, and more. She doesn’t post often, but when she does, it’s a treat.
  • Mr. Money Mustache — Before I retired from Get Rich Slowly, my readers had been singing the praises of Mr. Money Mustache, whose brash personal finance advice resonated with many folks. I met the author at Fincon in Denver, and was impressed. His view of blogging and mine are very similar, and I admire his personal philosophy. Mr. Money Mustache is now on my reading list, and I recommend it to folks looking for solid money advice.
  • Zen Habits — I’ve been reading Zen Habits since day one. I’ve enjoyed following Leo Babauta’s development, his quest to lose weight, quit smoking, make money, and raise a family. What I like most is that Leo’s blog is a true reflection of his own quest to become a better person. He’s flawed, just like me. And it’s because of his flaws that he’s constantly striving for improvement. It was a joy to meet Leo in person last year, and I look forward to spending more time with him next summer.

There are other blogs I read less often, and others that are new to my daily routine, but these are the sites I find myself reading regularly. As I say, the list is personal. These sites have info I find useful and/or fun, and authors with compelling voices.

What do you think? Do you read any of these sites? Based on what you see in my list, can you recommend other blogs I might like? I’m always interested in finding well-written content that stimulates my brain and keeps me entertained.

Do the Work!

Do the Work! by Steven PressfieldSteven Pressfield’s The War of Art is considered a classic among creative types, including bloggers. This thin book argues that the biggest enemy to productive work is Resistance, which takes the form of self-doubt, procrastination, addiction, distraction, perfectionism, and so on. The War of Art is a call to ignore Resistance and to do the work you’ve been called to do.

In his 2011 book, aptly titled Do the Work!, Pressfield again assaults this monster called Resistance. This time, however, he offers a step-by-step method for slaying the beast.

Before I left for Turkey, I spent a Sunday afternoon reading and taking notes on Do the Work! What emerged was a sort of workflow for accomplishing creative goals:

  • Don’t prepare. Begin. Allow yourself, at most, to read three books related to your subject.
  • Stay primitive. Don’t get fancy. Don’t try to be sophisticated.
  • Swing for the seats. Aim high. Go big or go home.
  • Outline your project on a single piece of legal-size paper. Your entire novel, business idea, or whatever should fit on one page.
  • Use a three-act structure: beginning, middle, end. Start at the end. Climax first. Then beginning. Then middle.
  • Get the idea down. You can polish and rewrite later.
  • Fill in the gaps. Once you have your outline, fill in the blanks. Have 7-8 major “sequences” (equivalent to 7-8 major scenes in a film).
  • Now allow yourself to do research, but only early or late in the day, never during prime working time.
  • Get your shitty first draft done ASAP. Don’t worry about quality. Act, don’t reflect. Momentum is everything. Do not judge yourself or your work at this point.
  • There are two components to writing (or any other act of creation): Acting is putting words on paper (writing) and reflecting is evaluating what’s on paper (editing). Never act and reflect at the same time.
  • Keep working!
  • The most important question is: “What is this about?” Once you have your theme, write it down. Post it. Nothing off-theme goes into the project.
  • Ask yourself what’s missing, then fill that void.
  • The two tests of Resistance are: “How badly do you want it?” and “Why do you want it?” You must be totally committed. You must want it for fun or beauty — or because you have no choice.

Getting work done is no longer a problem for me — though it used to be. If anything, I have the opposite problem: I’ve become a sort of work-a-holic. (Actually, I work like crazy from Monday to Thursday so that I can completely relax Friday through Sunday.)

That said, I love reading books like Do the Work! They show me how other creative types get things done. More than that, they provide added motivation. After I read these sorts of books, I come away energized and ready to do Great Things.

In fact, Do the Work! is one of the reasons More Than Money is up and operational today. If I hadn’t read the book, I’d probably still be trying to come up with the perfect blog name and design. I’d probably still be agonizing over what sorts of things to write about. Instead, I’ve simply begun. I’m doing the work. I can worry about perfectionism later.

Related reading: In a way, this book reminds me of George Leonard’s Mastery, which is the best book I’ve never reviewed. When I talk to people in Real Life, I often say that Mastery is the best book about personal finance I’ve ever read, even though it’s not a book about personal finance. Maybe I’ll get off my butt and review the book for More Than Money.

Unlimited Bacon

Yesterday, during my one full day in San Francisco, I squeezed in three meetings.

First, I met with the folks from QuinStreet, the company that owns my personal finance blog. We met at the Mission Beach Cafe, where we had a fantastic breakfast. I ate pancakes with vanilla creme and bourbon syrup. I also had a side of the best bacon I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a lot of bacon in my 43 years on this planet.

Next, I dropped by Twitter HQ to meet GRS-reader Mark Christian and a few of his fellow geeks. I ate lunch in the cafeteria, where Mark showed me what has to be the best perk of all time. Twitter employees have constant access to an unlimited supply of bacon:

At Twitter HQ, employees have access to unlimited bacon.
At Twitter HQ, employees have access to unlimited bacon.

Finally, I walked over to the offices of Lending Club. Lending Club is a peer-to-peer lending platform. In plain English: It’s a company that lets regular folks like me lend money to regular folks like you, but in a way that spreads the risk. I met some of the Lending Club folks last month at Fincon 2012, and they asked me to stop in so I could learn more about their operations. I have to admit: I used to be a skeptic about peer-to-peer lending, but I’ve changed my tune. I’m going to try it out, perhaps even in a big way.

It was a good day. Along the way, lots of little things went right for me. But perhaps the best part of the day was witnessing the never-ending bacon supply at Twitter HQ. If I ever own a tech company, I’m going to offer that perk to my employees, too.

Postscript: Do you tweet? You should follow me on Twitter here.