Is it time to give up on a direction? That’s something I frequently ask myself, usually at 3 in the morning. You could be going through something similar. You’ve finally got some breathing room as kid-raising and career-building winds down. Now you’re working on creating a bold new direction and it’s not coming together.
How to know if it’s time to give up?
In my case, it was almost two years ago that the career I’d worked in since I got out of college evaporated. I was ecstatic! With the generous severance I got, I’ve been working hard creating my dream trajectory…and I’m failing at it. Should I just throw in the towel?
For 36 years, I was a dedicated and mostly happy employee who earned a good income. We bought and paid off our house. We raised, educated and entertained two kids and put aside what was left over toward retirement. Now that I’d taken care of those needs, I could just take it easy, as long as I don’t go crazy spending.
But my dream has always been meet new people, see new places, and learn new things. I’d also like to get paid to blog about these discoveries, if only to prove to myself that I’ve succeeded. I’ve made a whopping $500 in 12 months, working harder than I ever did at my career.
What are we doing wrong?
We’re all experienced enough to know what to do when you feel something is not right. Time for a brutally honest evaluation. My own mistakes didn’t take long to surface. Are you facing some of the same ones?
Doing it for the money
I started down this road because writing and learning from others was a passion. Then a friend told me about a blog she read called Making Sense of Cents. This wildly popular personal finance blog for millennials got started when a young woman found herself with a college degree and a butt-load of debt.
Blogging wasn’t meant to be her money-maker, but it happened because her problem was a challenge for others too. She started blogging to keep herself accountable in reaching specific, small goals. Things like sell some of her old clothes, rent out a room in her house, cut down on her grocery bill. People in the same situation found her blog. Now she makes $100,000+ a month. My competitive side took over and dissatisfaction set in.
Not understanding the basic structure
I didn’t recognize the essential difference between writing a blog and writing a memoir or a book. Good literary writing builds suspense over time. Blogging is more like two friends sitting in sidewalk cafe talking to each other. I’m sure every other pursuit has a unique structure not readily apparent to a newbie.
In blogging, you hook them with, “You won’t believe what happened to me when I visited New Orleans last month!!” Give them the headline news. “You know the DBA club on Frenchmen’s street? I ended up dancing on stage with the band!” Then tell the story in a short, clear and exiting way.
Makes sense once someone clues you in. You’ve got to reach out to people who have been doing it for a while. But the hard part is figuring out what you don’t know so you can even ask for help.
Lacking a focus
I was all over the place. My initial blog was called Funky Texas Traveler but I also had stories about people I admired, places other than Texas, obstacles I’d overcome. For someone who loved Texas and wanted to learn about the weirder side of it, I had plenty to tell them. But readers also found stuff that just didn’t seem to fit. I wasn’t thinking about their desires.
The same thing happened to a friend of mine who started an Italian bakery. His cannolis would be my choice for a last supper. But he found out, rather embarrassingly, that even with his authentic Italian offerings, his customers also wanted cupcakes. He hated the idea of cupcakes but if his focus was have a successful bakery, he had to include them.
Funky Texas would still have a place in my writing, but I needed to reevaluate my direction. You’re now reading the blog that my introspection spawned.
What are we doing right?
We are so used to finding fault with ourselves. It’s hard to view ourselves as a best friend would. But worth the effort because that internal best friend reminds us of what we are doing right.
Maintaining a routine
I’m keeping to a schedule. Every morning by 9 am, I am writing or rewriting, or formatting pictures, or something else to make sure I put up a weekly post. Then I email it to the 300 people kind enough to join my mailing list and dedicated enough to notice when I slack off. My email friends and their comments are the lifeblood of this passion and the reason I write, research and hold myself to this schedule. Thanks!
I invested in a comprehensive soup to nuts blogging course from Elite Blogging Academy. Being cheap, I’ve taken loads of free and inexpensive courses. However, I realized I needed something that took me step by step, from the very beginning.
I don’t know if I would have recognized EBA was the course I for me if I hadn’t wandered around so aimlessly for over a year, trying to figure things out.
I’d heard a lot about EBA. It turned out to be a good investment. I’m not making money yet and maybe I never will, but I don’t feel like I’m as clueless as I was. So there’s hope.
And finally feeling like I’m actually making some verifiable progress keeps me going.
Following the rules – for now
I’m following the EBA course curriculum compulsively. Another facet to being cheap is when you do open your wallet, you want to get every last morsel of what you paid for. A month into the course, we got flooded by Hurricane Harvey. I had to skip a few months, so I am starting over completely. Amazingly, some parts that weren’t at all clear are now coming easily to me. Every struggle yields some wisdom. Sometimes it takes time to gel and you’ve got to be patient.
Accepting quirky ways of learning
I’m accepting the fact that I learn in a way that makes anyone looking on crazy. It seems to be: “do it wrong, figure it out, do it right.” I jumped, made mistakes, had to find corrections and jumped again. I repeated these steps until I learned each thing I’ve mastered so far. This may not be efficient, but don’t you remember solutions better that you find this way?
Add it up
In terms of ROI, so far, I am way under water. Thumbs down
Because of the commitment to post every week, I’m making a deeper connection with people, going more places, seeking to understand more completely. Thumbs up
I love the writing and the researching and can’t imagine doing anything else. Thumbs up
I feel like a failure when people ask how much I’m making or how many followers I have. Thumbs down
My brain feels energized with learning the digital language and procedures of blogging. I found a page of questions I was stumped on from back in August of 2016. I now know most of the answers. Thumbs up
Three thumbs up to two thumbs down. Looks like I’ll keep at it and remember the sage advice of an old Arkansas friend:
Keep your eye on the ass of the mule in front of you and keep plowing” – Deane “Hogs” Hardy
And finally, listen to your gut
Staying on this path feel right, like I’m headed somewhere I’m meant to go. I can’t exactly explain it but every time I learn something, it makes me feel good. Blogging or something similar is what I think I’m supposed to be doing.
Since you’re reading this post, you already know the biggest course correction I’ve made. That’s starting this blog – Grow Bolder, Not Older. So, for now, it isn’t failure, it’s all feedback and I’m going to keep trying.
I just realized this may be the most compelling reason not to give up. You’re willing to fail and still continue.
What are you willing to fail at?
What are you attempting to do as you grow bolder? Is it a new career, a new persona or a passion that you hope becomes full time? Sometimes it is hard to realize that we are making any progress at all until we share how much we’ve learned. Like I just did with myself in writing this post.
Let me know how it’s going for you. I love to hear from you!