"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." – Maya Angelou

15 Lessons I Have Learned Since Discovering Blogging

Reflections on meeting new tribes in a virtual world

I fell in love with reading the day I mastered the ABC. A little over five decades later, while researching publishing options, I stumbled upon the bloggers’ world. This happened at the end of May of 2015. It was a through-the-wardrobe-into-the-land-of-Narnia moment. Before then, I’ve never thought of myself as ignorant. I discovered a virtual world of writers and entrepreneurs, I had heard of, but had never seen.

And I thought my life had been moderately eventful. I grew up close to the Congo border, in Zambia. Watching the hyenas frisk in the moonlight from the bedroom window was not uncommon. Exposed to multitudes of African cultures and languages, I grew up bilingual, with German as a third language at school.

After completing Medicine in South Africa, Anesthesia training followed, plus 900 days of compulsory military service thrown in between. Postings in Namibia and Angola taught me how to dig my own tight-fitting foxhole, listening to the occasional 500 pounder explode.

Since immigrating to Canada during the late 1990s, I learned to cross country ski at minus 38 Celsius (and enjoy it!) and to Adventure motorcycle. A trip through the Mohave desert followed, and the next year I attended the Sturgis rally as a rider in a ballistic nylon suit. (I could just as well have worn pink leather.)

Discovering the possibilities of blogging, made me feel like Lucy when she stepped through the wardrobe and met Mr. Tumnus. Initially only intrigued, I soon became fascinated and started learning, researching and following everything blogging. Jeff Goins arranged a Tribe Conference in Nashville, August 29 & 30, 2015. I made sure I attended. That was the turning point.

I was introduced to tribes of bloggers and writers. I had attended a writers’ conference in New York, but this was different. Christine Niles challenged the attendees to commit to a 90-day goal. Mine was to take down my existing website and launch a new blogging website. It was closer to 125 days, when I officially went live with: “Yes, you can!”

15 Lessons I have learned the past eight months from blogging and bloggers:

    1. Never decline an opportunity to learn a new skill. (Mastery will follow if you persevere.) It’s often scary. Every third day I ask myself, “what possessed you?” Don’t shy back. If you fail, stand back up. Make a new plan. I find solace in Carol S. Dweck’s words.
    2. Be willing to learn from the most unlikely people. Remain receptive. You don’t need a PhD to be an “expert,” in your field or niche. Many of the online entrepreneurs are in their early twenties! Forget about age. (Your own as well.)
    3. Be selective. You need filters. There are more than 110 million blogs on the internet. It is easy to get sidetracked. It can suck you in like an astronomical black hole. Pick a number of blogs, study them, follow them and become part of the conversation and communities, adding value.
    4. Blogging gives you a voice. You no longer need to be silent and hide. The challenge is to be authentic: as a blogger and as a writer. Be honest. Be yourself. You have a unique voice. Learn to hone it and develop it. (Remember, every person on earth has a “voice.”)
    5. You don’t need permission. (Ties in with #4) It gives you freedom—but with great freedom comes great responsibility. Do your research. Verify your facts. Be truthful. Be genuine. Be relentlessly helpful and add value to your readers’ (followers’/tribe’s) lives. Think before you click: publish.
    6. There are pretty amazing and brave people out there. Ordinary people, like you and me. People with “beautiful souls.” They chose not to give up, but to try harder. Some I have met in person, others online:
    7. We all belong to tribes. A Tribe is a collection of people, connected to each other, to a leader and an idea. Tribes are about faith—in an idea and in a community. You can be a leader. You can be remarkable. Choose to step away from the status quo. Seth Godin, author of Tribes (and 16 others), is one of the most prolific bloggers in the world.
    8. Blogging can be a fulltime occupation. It can be very lucrative. You can exchange the 9- to-5 grind. You only need access to the internet, enabling you to travel and blog from anywhere in the world. Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour-Work-Week, and a serial entrepreneur, is living proof of how it’s possible to support yourself blogging, escaping the traditional confines of an office, and, in the process, impact other people and add value to their lives.
    9. Beware of the snake oil salesmen. There are bloggers who are only interested in your money, and will sell you a program, a course or a book of mediocre standard and questionable value. They are only interested in your email address. (Fortunately they are a minority.)
    10. Anyone can become a blogger. To become a successful blogger will be harder. It will require great effort. It is a skill you can learn. There are online sites through which you can launch a website for free. You’ll need a domain name and a hosting service. WordPress also has a free option. Bluehost has a very reasonable monthly hosting service. ($3.99 – $ 5.99 per month.)
      • But, do your homework. Do your research. Learn to build a platform, how to harness social media to connect with your audience. Learn from Michael Hyatt how to build your online platform.
    11. Get to know your audience. How can you deliver value to your readers and be instrumental in solving their problems, if you don’t have a clue about their demographics, pain, joys or passions?
    12. Content is king. You can’t write tripe. Do your best writing. Spend time with preparation. Do your research. Be honest, authentic and put your soul in it. Quality trumps quantity.
    13. Learn to become helpful. A phrase that is popular in the blogger community is, “be relentlessly helpful.” As Adam Grant from ‘Give and Take,’ calls it: “other-ish giving.” It is not only about yourself. Promote others.
    14. Read more. Read wider. Aim for a book a week (or more.) My whole life has been one of a great love for reading, but it had narrowed down to Anesthesia and the world of fiction. The past eight months, the fields of psychology, and business psychology and neuroscience has opened up like new worlds. You can have a look at the books I’ve read most recently, and recommend.
    15. Don’t sell or lose your soul with blogging (or writing.) You need time off—away from your computer or iPad and the internet. It’s disastrous to neglect yourself, your health, your family and your friends. You need time away from your screen to gather material to write about. Go live. Go into the real world and interact with people in the flesh, in person! To do this you need discipline and focus.

I have come across hundreds of blogging sites. Several of those I am still reading and following. Many are brilliant and of great value. But the reality is: time is finite. Be picky. Chose your niches.

Here are some sites and bloggers I recommend, from different niches:

Visit them and become inspired. Become involved. Give your opinion. Comment. Learn.

And, perhaps start your own blog?

Blogs on personal development, productivity and leadership:

Blogs on how to blog and monetize your site: 

On Blogging and writing better:

Online marketing:

Medical blogs worth following:

Boomer and Positive Aging blogs to follow:

Fitness and health blogs to follow:

Blog on publishing, marketing and launching your book:

Tim Grahl: He will show you how to build author platforms and launch bestsellers. Under his clients count: Daniel H. Pink, Hugh Howey, Pamela Slim and Charles Duhigg.

I have just signed on to his training course: Launch a bestseller.


Now what?

Perhaps it is time to sit down and write that book. All of us have cropped up stories inside that need to get out.

Perhaps your 9-to-5 job has lost its joy. There is no challenge left. Learn to blog and work from a virtual office. Find a niche. Challenge yourself. Find yourself again. You can support yourself and a family blogging, and more. Forget about your age—it is irrelevant.

Or, follow some blogs and become a faithful reader and commentor.

Get your voice into the world. Impact people. Make a difference.

Your opinion matters.

You matter.

© 2016 All rights reserved.

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