My recent post, Consistency – Monthly Update – July 2016, received a fair amount of feedback, both from comments on the site as well as private emails.
As an aside, I have a group of followers that are regularly on the site, but aren’t comfortable posting comments. Instead, they prefer to email me directly. Which by the way, I am fine with as well. It’s another great benefit to this site as I’ve been able to connect with new people, with varied backgrounds, from around the world.
And before getting further into today’s post, I would like to start off with a great big thank you to all of you – readers, commentors, and emailers. It’s great to get feedback and I so appreciate the community and their willingness to speak up with their opinions. I really value this insight and find it incredibly helpful.
Feedback Can Be Unexpected
I always find the feedback from the articles I write interesting. And I’ve learned that I usually don’t have any idea how the articles will be received. I’ve had articles that I spent many hours writing, covering a topic that I thought would be interesting to the community only to have it mostly ignored.
And then I’ve had the opposite experience. I’ve posted an article without thinking much about it, often writing from the hip. And as I hit publish, I hear a little voice in my head telling me I should have rewritten this paragraph or that paragraph. But then I start getting feedback from folks as I have somehow tapped into a feeling that others had as well.
The feedback on this most recent article is another one of those situations that I didn’t expect.
The overwhelming sentiment on this most recent article is that I am being too hard on myself.
To be honest, this feedback surprised me. And it got me thinking. Maybe I am being too hard on myself without even realizing it.
When I wrote the article, I didn’t have a negative feeling about the prior month. In fact, I was actually quite pleased with the month. Not intentionally, I had changed up my activities for the month because as I indicated, all the other things in my life took a front seat and kept me from spending as much time on the site. But despite the reduced activity level, page views were up significantly over the prior month. Go figure.
Using Feedback to Move Forward
And I guess I could have stopped there and everything would have been fine, but that’s not my personality. I tear things apart (literally and figuratively). I like to know not just what is happening, but why it’s happening as well.
But like everything, there is a fine line between construction self-criticism and unrealistic expectations. And based on the feedback, I may have crossed that line going from the positive focus of making things better and into the negative of beating myself up.
So as I said, the feedback got me thinking and I decided to share a little more about my mindset and why I think and act like I do.
Over the Years, I’ve Adopted a Philosophy
I don’t know if it’s just in my nature or if it’s from years of being a financial analyst, but I tend to focus more on the negatives than on the positives. I prefer to say that I’m a realist, but others have called me doom and gloom. It’s probably why I have stayed away from sales and focused on the numbers. I’ve developed a pretty good BS radar when it comes to businesses and this has been helpful throughout my career.
As a result of this trait, I have adopted two philosophies in business (and sometimes they can be applied in regular life as well):
Focus on the things you can control
Focusing on things outside your control is a trap. It’s a distraction. And it will drive you to frustration. Instead, focus on the things you can control. With this site, I can’t control page views. I can’t control whether people leave comments or not. So while I may track those things, I don’t want to spend much time on them.
I can control how often I post new articles. I can control my responding to comments. And I can control my activity on other sites. These are the things I want to focus on. And if I don’t see the correlation between these things I can control and my desired outcomes (increased page views for example), I may need to change something.
I have used a similar analogy with my kids’ swimming. When you swim a race, you can’t control your time. You can control your start, your stroke, your turn, and your effort. And if you do all those things really well, then the time will take care of itself. But focusing on the time is out of your control. It’s an outcome not an input.
Don’t get too excited about the good stuff and too down about the bad stuff
And this leads to the other aspect of my philosophy. While I may tend not to let myself enjoy success, it’s probably because I’ve been in situations where I put in tons of work and didn’t see anything good come out of it. There was a period where I celebrated every victory and beat myself up over every setback. This was just too up and down. And it kept me from focusing on the tasks at hand.
I don’t want you to think that I operate like Mr. Spock from Star Trek – all logic and no emotion. Far from it. I’m actually a pretty emotional person. Which may be another reason I’ve adopted this philosophy. I’ve learned to (sometimes) separate emotions from behaviors. Just because I’m excited, doesn’t mean I need to jump up and down celebrating. And just because I’m angry, doesn’t mean I need to yell and scream.
Keeping things balanced allows me to focus on the tasks that need to get done.
Why Did I Start This Site?
The feedback from my monthly update article got me thinking about why I started the site. Previously, I’ve shared that I started the site late last year. After getting laid off last summer, I had some free time so I started writing. There wasn’t an immediate need to generate income, so I had time to contemplate my next move.
My initial intention was to write fiction, but I often found my mind (and writing) wandering back to the business world I had left. This was one of the only times I can remember being involuntarily out of work, so I just kept thinking about what I wanted to do next. I spent many hours brainstorming different ideas and writing them down.
This process of thinking and writing led me to start regularly visiting a number of finance sites. The most influential being Financial Samurai and AVC. And as I read through the articles on these sites and others, it started becoming more clear. I had spent over 20 years working in finance and other corporate roles, but what did I have to show for it?
I had experience and knowledge. And I could share that experience and knowledge with others and at the same time, start working for myself.
I resurrected my consulting business that had been dormant for the prior 6 years. And I launched this site as well as another. I also began taking a more active role managing my money and investments. I started evaluating opportunities in real estate, specific stocks, and small business.
What Do I Want From This Site?
And now that the site has been running for a while, I ask myself what do I want from it going forward?
As I indicated, I really enjoy the interaction with readers. I also enjoy learning new things and writing about those things. And I use the site to help me think through issues and my motivations.
It’s wonderful how having this site has opened the door to many other finance sites and their authors. I love reading about those authors and what’s happening in their lives.
Additionally, I have found that I enjoy the technical aspects of running the site. It’s been great learning WordPress and basic programming to get the site to do what I want. I like making changes and tracking those changes to see what happens. My analytical side kicks in and I start looking for trends, patterns, cause, and effect.
So now that I’ve been thinking more about what I want from the site, the feedback from my readers may be on point. Maybe I do need to focus less on missing activity production targets and focus more on the fun aspects of the site and everything that I’ve accomplished getting to this point.
It’s been great building Financial Slacker and I don’t want to do anything to possibly dampen my enthusiasm and excitement that has brought me to this point.
Readers, thank you again for your feedback. It’s been very helpful having your perspective and it really got me thinking about why I run this site.
Do you have any of your own experiences with reader feedback that you can share?
Dividends Down Under says
I’m glad you see what we were trying to get at. I know we as bloggers all want our blog to be successful, to resonate with people (and make a decent amount of money?). But never forget that we blog about the things want want to talk about – that’s what should make it enjoyable 🙂 And you can tell when a writer enjoys what they’re writing about – it comes across in the words. If you (or anyone) don’t enjoy it, what’s the point? I’m sure you could make more money/have more fun doing something else.
We don’t have a contact page for those silent readers, I think we’ll put one in very soon. I do love it when a random (non-blogging) Australian comments as this is exactly who we are trying to reach out to.
Financial Slacker says
One of the reasons I don’t publish specific numbers (financial or blog activity) is because I don’t want to detract from the goals of the site – to inform, to interact, and to have fun.
Everyone’s personal financial situation, just like each blog is unique. And while seeing the numbers can be fun, it can also set unrealistic expectations.
I would much rather focus on the content.View Comment
Andrew Findlaytor says
You knocked this one out of the park! This article really resonated with me on so many levels on things that were frustrating me (that I didn’t even fully realize myself), and ways that I can improve. There is so much that we cannot control about our sites, and you are totally right to focus on what IS in our control. I am excited to see where this site goes from here for you. Your articles are alway a blast to read, and leave me with plenty to think of. Keep up the great work!View Comment
Financial Slacker says
Thanks. I’m glad you enjoy reading the articles and it’s great that you could relate so well to this one specifically.
I’ve always found it helpful to hear from others going through the same process.
I appreciate the comment.View Comment
Matt @ Distilled Dollar says
Two great philosophies – especially the first.
I’m glad you’ve taken to dive deep into what the original purpose was. I’ve seen a lot of newer bloggers focus exclusively on the numbers and I think that can be a negative path. Sure, it is great to see numbers go up, but was the original purpose of the blog to see the numbers move?
As you’ve highlighted, the best parts about creating a site have been interacting with people directly (thank you internet), developing skills and having people keep you accountable by providing feedback and insights.
Being hard on yourself can be a constructive tool, but it can also lead to a negative cycle. I think you’re finding the right balance for it to be useful in your life.View Comment
Financial Slacker says
Right on. When I first started, the volume was so low, I was happy just to have anyone visit the site.
And then it seems once you hit a high page view mark, you’re not happy unless every day is at that mark. Which isn’t realistic.
It’s helpful when you see others in the community go through the same things.View Comment
Thx for this article. Good to read you can put perspective around things.View Comment
Having a blog burn down recently, I started to think about my reasons to blog. My main reasons are accountability and interaction. Both are well on track. That should make me happy. I then wanted more in terms of page views etc… Turns out It is not my thing right now. I am happy I understand this now. Like you, putting the focus back on the fun is now the goal!
Financial Slacker says
It’s an evolving process. With kids at home over the summer, it’s more difficult to find time. I suspect as school starts back up, my activity level will ramp up as well.View Comment
So important to step back and see if your current philosophy lines up with your current actions. I’m so glad that feedback has been helpful for you.View Comment
Financial Slacker says
Thanks ZJ.View Comment