If you’ll allow me to sound like a sentimental wuss for a second, let me tell y’all the difference blogging has made in my life.
A few years ago, I met another personal finance blogger on the Twitter, making her one of three people who actually thought my shtick was funny. After finally meeting her for reals and having the courage to admit my feelings, we started to date. We’re now married.
Yeah, that happened.
Despite my continual efforts to piss off the rest of the PF community (i.e. a like-minded echo chamber who, largely, cannot deal with criticism), I can still count on dozens of other bloggers as people who will at least answer my emails. Some of them are even friends, at least when the cheque doesn’t bounce.
Because of my body of work here at Financial Uproar and at other sites, I’m not only lucky enough to be able to make a living writing, but I get to write about investing, one of my true loves. People regularly email me and say they bought stocks based on my analysis. That simultaneously fills me with pride and TERRORIZING FEAR. Do your own research, people.
The real beauty of starting a blog is the potential. I leveraged my blog into writing jobs. Others use their blogs to push affiliate products or create their own courses or books. Others sell a dream, like early retirement or travel the world blogs. Some are even getting into things like blog and life coaching. I might make fun of some of these things, but hey, if the market demands it, who am I to say something isn’t worth the price?
But over and over again I see the same mistake being made by new bloggers. They start out full of energy, eager to make a difference. Most burn out soon because they don’t get immediate results, while others make it a year or two in and start getting bitter.
The problem is there’s no plan in place to make money. Everybody just thinks about starting a blog; nobody thinks about how to start a profitable blog. They just think they’ll put some words down, throw up some ads, and they’ll be a millionaire in just a few years.
Okay, maybe not. Still, many people struggle. Here’s my guide on how to start a profitable blog.
The first thing you’re going to need is a domain name and hosting. You can host your site somewhere free like WordPress.com or Blogger.com, but then you’ll end up with a blog address something like NelsonAbSexyTime.wordpress.com, which screams amateur hour. It doesn’t take much to actually buy a domain name, so just go ahead and do that.
You’ll want to put a little thought into your domain, and even then, chances are the one you really want will already be taken. You can either settle for a less desirable domain name or try to buy one somebody is sitting on. Once you start looking, you’ll be amazed at how many domains are just sitting there. It turns out the internet is just like your useless brother-in-law.
Next, you’re gonna need hosting. I’m a fan of hosting from Bluehost, which starts at just $3.49 per month. They’ll even throw in a domain name for free when you sign up for the first time. The $3.49 plan is only good for one website and is shared hosting (which just means they put several sites on the same host), which is fine for somebody just starting out. If you get wildly successful you can upgrade to dedicated hosting later.
Or for $5.95 per month, you can host an unlimited amount of websites on Bluehost. For those of us who have multiple sites, it’s a great deal.
Make a business plan
It’s been almost six years since I first started the ol’ FU machine (here’s the first post if you want a giggle), so I’m not sure I can entirely remember my thought process when I started this thing, but I’m pretty sure it was this.
“There’s a lot of crap out there, some of which is actually popular. The hell? I can do better.”
Or, to put it another way, this was my business plan:
- Write stuff
Needless to say, that is not the type of business plan that you’d have if you’re looking to have a profitable blog. It’s a business plan from East Germany in the 1960s.
You might be thinking that it’s fine, because hey, you’re just looking for something to do. Nelson of 2010 was like that, and it seemed to work out well for him.
The issue becomes when you inevitably grow tired of it. You might not grow tired of the writing; hell, that’s what usually keeps people in this business sane. But I’m willing to bet you will get tired of the bullshit that goes on behind the scenes, whether it’s from cliques formed by your peers (the favorite activity of bloggers when they get together is to bash the hell out of other bloggers), or from constant attempts to get beaten down by advertisers. Or you just might not get any readers.
If you focus your energy on starting a profitable blog day one, you’ll still go months without selling anything, especially at first. But after a few months of working hard, sales will inevitably start to happen. Even small successes can be incredibly motivating when you’re ready to burn out.
How to figure out what you’re going to sell
Now that we’ve established that you need to think of making money day one, let’s talk about the second part of starting a profitable blog. You’ve got to figure out what to sell.
Some ideas include:
- A book, ebook, or some other such product
- A recurring subscription-based product, like a newsletter
- A physical product
- Writing for other websites
- Consulting services
- Your body
Okay, maybe not number 6.
I won’t get too much into the pros and cons for each, I’ll let your imagination go wild on this. Just remember this — you want to focus more on stuff you can leverage into bigger and better things. It takes just as much work to write a newsletter that’s read by 15 subscribers as 15000. One of the biggest advantages to starting a blog is the ability to scale it.
One of my writing clients is a great example of this, Motley Fool. At the end of each article is a call to action, trying to get people to sign up for a newsletter by offering a freebie. They’ll send you a free report on a stock if you give them your email address.
Something like only 2% of people who read an article will take the freebie offer. And out of those 2%, a further 1-3% will actually pay out of pocket for something.
Or to put it another way, you can anticipate selling something to every 2,500th reader who stumbles upon your offerings. And that’s assuming you’re any good at selling, which you probably won’t be at first.
Other ways to make money blogging
If you’re looking to start a profitable blog, you might not have the patience to wait until you start selling something. Here are some easy ways you can start making money today even with just a few visitors. Keep in mind that, generally, few visitors = little (if any) profit. Unless your mom is clicking ads all day long, it’s going to take a long-ass time to make anything more than beer money.
There are three types of ads you can do. You can either sell links, sell PPC or CPM ads, or work with brands directly, either by them buying ad space on your blog or using affiliate links to get paid whenever somebody clicks through to buy something.
Let’s start with selling links, something that many bloggers will recommend you never do because it can hurt your own blog’s ranking if you’re caught.
Here’s what happens. An individual will generally approach a blogger under the guise of providing a “free, quality guest post.” They’ll say nice, oddly non-specific things about your blog.
These guys aren’t around to help you. They’re just looking for a free link so they can look better in the eyes of Google. It’s all about raising their rank when people type in a certain phrase into their address bar.
If you respond to these emails with “nah, but you can pay me to appear on my blog,” you’ll get a few that are interested and even fewer that’ll pay. For blogs starting out, you’ll only get $25 or $50, but you can charge more when you’re more established. Getting link money is also really inconsistent, and is far less prevalent than it used to be.
PPC ads are just ads that pay you a little bit of money each time somebody clicks on one. Google Adsense is what just about everyone uses. There are also a few competitors, like Yahoo. As you’d expect, the Yahoo offering is worse than Google’s in just about every way.
CPM ads are ads that pay per impression. I have some of these on my blog, and they really don’t do well unless you have the traffic. They pay a fraction of a cent per page view. When you’re first starting out you probably won’t be able to qualify for CPM ads anyway.
Work with brands
There are two ways you can work with brands. You can either use affiliates or approach brands directly.
Affiliates are easy. You get approved for the program (which takes nothing but a pulse and a blog that isn’t about porn or shooting stuff), insert links, and hope people click on them. The best affiliate marketing is done naturally; if you do it right, people won’t even realize the ads are there.
The other way to do it is to reach out directly. If you’re first starting out, there’s no chance McDonalds, Wal-Mart, or even K-Mart is going to return your emails. But Bob’s discount emporium might be interested.
I’ve gotten free books before by just reaching out to the publisher and promising to write a review. Travel bloggers regularly get free nights in hotels or free meals in restaurants for plugging the place. Video game bloggers can get free copies of games. And so on.
When you’re first trying to start a profitable blog, aim low. You’re not worth much at first. Realize this when reaching out to brands.
Finally, you’re going to need eyeballs on your blog. You can’t make money if nobody visits.
There’s no tried and true way to get people to come consistently, but here are a few things I’ve done over the years that have worked out pretty well.
- Focus on writing good content. You want to be equal parts entertaining and educational.
- Post consistently. Think of your new content as a store. If you tell people your store opens at 9am but you don’t show up sometimes until 11, you can’t expect people to be happy about it.
- Have a Twitter and Facebook presence. Twitter is best if you actually use it to talk with people. Nobody is going to follow you if you only tweet every 3 days.
- Link to other blogs you read. The big guys probably won’t notice, but the medium to small guys will. If you riff on their stuff (even if you disagree), they’ll often link to it and let their followers know.
- Be controversial. Don’t be a dick about it, but people like reading contrary opinions. And if they don’t, you’ll even get some hate readers who stick around.
Let’s wrap it up
It’s not enough to just start a blog. You need to start a profitable blog, or at least a blog that’s on its way to making money. Because what’s the point of doing all this if you can’t at least make a little bit of money?
“NO GIRLS ALLOWED IN THE COOL BOOK FORT.”
Let me start off this post with a bit of a scandalous statement. I know, WHAT A SURPRISE, huh?
Most personal finance books are trash.
Okay, they’re not trash. It’s just that if you’re an intermediate or advanced student of the subject, most will be filled with stuff you already know. Authors cater to the lowest common denominator, because that’s where the dollars are, yo.
For people just starting out, this isn’t a bad thing. If you know nothing, everything is going to be enlightening. But for people who already know the basics, you’re going to have to wade through a bunch of the same stuff over and over again. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
Since I’ve read approximately 5929582950285296205025 (that’s a lot of fives) personal finance books in my day, I figure I can help you guys out. Let me sort through the trash for you, leaving you with a list of stuff that’s actually good. We’ll cover everything from the basics to advanced investing stuff, meaning just about anyone can find something in this list that appeals to them. If not, you’re not really trying.
Let’s do this thang.
1. The Wealthy Barber
Fun fact. I discovered The Wealthy Barber in my sister’s bathroom when I was in grade nine. Yes, my love affair with money literally began because I wanted reading material while emptying my bowels.
David Chilton’s tale of a small-town barber teaching the basics of finance while cutting hair is a classic because it’s presented in an easy to read manner with an actual entertaining story attached. It outlines the basics of everything from investing to insurance to saving, with plenty of other stuff.
I’ve also been known to give this book as a gift at weddings. It’s about as popular as you’d think.
2. The Wealthy Barber Returns
Read my review here, including when David Chilton actually shows up and says nice things.
Some 20 years after the original, David Chilton is back, updating his classic book. The Wealthy Barber Returns is a little different than the first, sort of written like a blog. Chilton covers everything from emergency funds to index investing, all in small bite-sized chunks for today’s busy Canadian. This, somewhat ironically, makes it the perfect book to have in the bathroom.
3. The Richest Man in Babylon
Yeah, it’s basic, but the message is easy and timeless. The Richest Man in Babylon is a series of fables set in Babylon, which teach the reader the basics of finance and building wealth. It’s basically a bunch of fairy tales.
4. Think and Grow Rich
As much as I think attitude is one of the more overrated parts of finance, I may be biased because I’ve never really had a problem with getting excited about being rich. So after reading Think and Grow Rich!, I was a little disappointed. I thought it was a little light on nuts and bolts, and a little heavy on inspirational stuff. But with so many people loving it, maybe there’s more to this inspirational stuff than I think.
5. Rich Dad Poor Dad
Look, I know Robert Kiyosaki is nothing but a relentless shill. His Rich Dad seminars are filled with high-pressure sales tactics and other questionable business practices. Hell, there’s even evidence that his “rich dad” didn’t actually exist. But the overall message of Rich Dad Poor Dad is sound, and will question some of your beliefs on things like whether your home is an asset, and how debt is bad.
6. The Millionaire Next Door
The Millionaire Next Door is a flawed book rife with confirmation bias (it’s obvious that a certain kind of millionaire would best respond to the authors’ incentives), but you should still read it, even for the inspiration factor alone. Too many people think you need a flashy title or job to become a millionaire. The Millionaire Next Door busts that myth.
7. The Millionaire Teacher
Read my review of it here.
Andrew Hallam, the author of Millionaire Teacher might be the nicest guy on the whole internet. He also built a million dollar portfolio on only a teacher’s salary by successfully value investing, before switching to ETFs. Oh, and he runs marathons and has beaten cancer. These days, he travels around the world teaching expats about investing. Pretty sweet gig if you ask me.
8. How To Win Friends and Influence People
I know, I know. How to Win Friends and Influence People is cheesy as all hell. It was originally published in the 1930s, and I’m pretty sure it was cheesy back then. But getting people to like you is important, and so is communicating in ways where you get people to want to do things for you. It seems like salesmanship when you’re reading, but it works, dammit.
Oh, and once you’re done reading it, you can totally tell who has also read it. I had a boss who LURVED the criticism sandwich (a complement, followed by the criticism, followed by another compliment). I started doing it back just to troll him. I’m not sure it worked, but I had fun with it.
9. The Uncommon Investor III
Although my version of value investing is pretty unique, if I were to compare it to one person, I’d probably say Benj Gallander of Contra The Heard. The Uncommon Investor III is the layman’s introduction to Gallander’s investment philosophy, told in a similar fashion to The Wealthy Barber. Plus, it includes a same-sex couple, because GASP WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN.
10. The Intelligent Investor
If you’ve spent longer than a minute reading about investing, you already know what The Intelligent Investor is all about. This timeless text by Benjamin Graham should be required reading before you get to pick individual stocks. It’s a little dry, but there’s a reason why it might be the most universally loved book on value investing. If you’re too lazy to read the whole book, Warren Buffett says his favorite chapters are 8 and 20.
11. Security Analysis
The Intelligent Investor is for the layman, which you might not think after reading it. If you’re a serious student of value investing, then it’s time to take the next step, reading Security Analysis. Yeah, it reads like a textbook, and it’s more than 700 pages, but I guarantee you will be a better investor if you wade your way through it.
12. You Too Can Be A Stock Market Genius
Joel Greenblatt is sort of like Walter Schloss. As in, he might be the smartest investor you’ve never heard of.
Greenblatt’s penultimate work is You Can Be a Stock Market Genius, which is a simple look at not only value investing, but things like bankruptcies, mergers, spinoffs, and other sorts of special situations. You’ll find they have a lot in common with value ideas, which make them a simple add-on for any value portfolio.
13. The Value of Simple
Written by friend of the blog John Robertson, The Value of Simple is the book for anyone who is still a rookie at the investing stuff. It’s an easy to read guide (including plenty of pictures, graphs, and so on) on everything from TFSAs to RESPs, mostly focusing on avoiding fees while building a portfolio that tracks the index. It’s basic, but that’s all it’s supposed to be.
There are a bunch of books out there that I’m going to bunch into the other category. These books are anything from biographies of masters to specific books on specific topics only loosely related to personal finance. Yeah, it sort of strays from the personal finance books for Canadians theme, but they’re still all worth your time.
14. The Snowball
Author Alice Schroeder was given full access to Warren Buffett for years, interviewing his friends and family, as well as unrestricted access to his business records. And apparently after reading The Snowball, Buffett was so pissed off that he hasn’t talked to Schroeder since. That’s the kind of book I can get excited about.
The Snowball is admittedly light on investing tips, but it does have all sorts of timeless lessons on compound interest, doing what you love, and how doing things the right way is incredibly important.
At first glance, a book on baseball seems like pretty much the opposite of something that will help you with your finances. But what’s important about Moneyball is what it teaches you about thinking outside of the box. If you translate the lessons used by the Oakland A’s to your own life, I guarantee you can make things better.
John D. Rockefeller was a business pioneer. Things like we take for granted as sound business practices today — like controlling your own supply, consolidating competition, and using technology to increase production — were practically invented by Rockefeller. Sure, he stumbled upon the oil business at a pretty opportune time, but I’m convinced he would have ended up rich no matter what he did. Not only was Rockefeller the richest man of his time, but he ended up as perhaps the richest of all time once you adjust for inflation. Anyway, just read Titan already.
17. The Dip
Knowing when to quit something is one of the most difficult things any of us deal with. The Dip will help you through the decision, teaching you to separate the difference between the dip (when a new job reaches its low point) and when it’s time to quit. It also busts the myth that winners never quit. Winners do quit. All the time.
18. Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping
If you have trouble with picking up impulse items at the grocery store, Why We Buy: The Science Of Shopping is going to be endlessly fascinating. It outlines all the tricks stores use to get people to put things in their carts. You’ll learn the secrets of why disorganized displays sell better than pyramids of cans, and why the placement of products on the shelf matters. The world of convincing you to buy stuff is surprisingly complicated.
19. Atlas Shrugged
More than a decade after reading it for the first time, I still have to say Atlas Shrugged is my favorite book — even though Ayn Rand isn’t the greatest writer and the book is about 200 pages too long. She doesn’t so much as suggest her philosophy onto you, but does her best to beat you into submission with it.
But there’s a whole bunch of good with Atlas Shrugged too, including a great story, and a way of looking at the world which will either change your life or make you want to strangle a puppy (or, depending on how seriously you take it, sometimes both!). If it doesn’t inspire you to build your own future, then I’m pretty sure you’re a robot.
20. Too Big to Fail
Andrew Ross Sorkin (who looks like he’s 25), pens Too Big to Fail, an incredibly detailed look at the financial crisis, with all sorts of insider stories that will leave your mouth agape for about half of the book.
21. Confessions of a Street Addict
Have you ever wondered what actually goes on behind the scenes of a hedge fund? Before he was making goofy sounds and saying BOOYA! on CNBC, Jim Cramer ran a successful hedge fund. Confessions of a Street Addict is his fascinating inside look at the industry, including some stories about throwing telephones across the room. It’s the only Cramer book reading.
22. Cold Hard Truth: On Business, Money, & Life
If you’re like me and find Kevin O’Leary hilarious, you’ll enjoy Cold Hard Truth. In it, O’Leary takes stories from his own life and weaves them into lessons that can benefit most everyone. Plus, you’ll giggle a few times.
Did I forget any?
That’s about it. Feel free to any of your favorites to the comment section. All complaints can be sent to GoToHell@IDon’tCare.com.
As I’ve mentioned approximately 6,395 times before (author’s estimate, but I’m pretty sure it’s right), you need to read a ton if you’re going to be a successful investor.
Personally, I read at least a couple hours a day, and maybe even more. I have a book that I’m working on (currently The Snowball, Warren Buffett’s biography, for the third time), I read Seeking Alpha and of course Motley Fool almost every day, and I cruise the interwebs for all sorts of interesting stuff. I also stumble upon interesting stuff on Reddit, along with a lot of crap. Finally, I spend $20 a month on a Globe and Mail Unlimited membership, which I think is worth my time. Plus I like that I can write it off.
I recently ordered another information source, one that potentially has a lot more content than some of the others, that only costs $15 per month. It’s Texture by Next Issue (Subscribe to Texture by Next Issue now!), the Rogers owned “Netflix for magazines,” which give you access to over 130 different magazines. This is my Texture by Next Issue review.
What do you get?
There are two different price levels. For $10 a month, you get access to a bunch of monthly magazines. Prominent titles include:
- Money Sense
- Canadian Business
- Cosmo (and Cosmo for Latinas, which is apparently a thing)
- Family Circle
- Golf Digest
- Rolling Stone
And so on. The list is pretty massive, and includes quite a few business magazines. What it doesn’t include is one of the bigger ones, Forbes.
But for an extra $5 a month, you get access to 11 weekly magazines. They include:
- The New Yorker
- Sports Illustrated
- Bloomberg Businessweek
That’s a nice list as well, but keep in mind that my favorite magazine isn’t included, The Economist.
How do you use it?
The best way to use it is on your iPad or Android Tablet, using the free to download app. You can also view it on your smartphone or Windows 8 laptop (no MacBooks, suckers). I found the experience on my iPhone to be lacking. The screen just isn’t big enough.
On my iPad, Texture by Next Issue looks terrific. The pictures look amazing, and many of the magazines have digital editions that are very intuitive. They have extra content exclusive for the digital editions, extra pictures, all that jazz. Some of the magazines (Rolling Stone is one) are just the magazine’s page on the iPad, except with the ability to zoom in. It’s a little disappointing when you run into one of those, but most are optimized to look like at least a thousand bucks.
Is it valuable?
That’s pretty much why you’re reading this Texture by Next Issue review, aren’t you? You want to know whether it’s worth your time.
When I first got Texture by Next Issue, it was because I was looking for something to read that would give me ideas for my freelance writing. For the most part blogs are great, but they tend to recycle the same old boring ideas. Yes, I’m aware credit card hacking is a thing, and so are you. No, I can’t be bothered.
Kind of like this blog, actually, with jokes.
From that perspective, the investment has been a resounding success. I get at least 3-4 ideas a month from reading it, easily worth my $15. I’m also much more aware of what’s going on in the world. Additionally, I find I read more for enjoyment too, spending time reading the sports, tech, and music magazines.
Vanessa has also “borrowed” my subscription, using it to keep up with what the UK royals are doing. Spoiler alert: not much.
Depending on the magazine, up to a year’s worth of back issues are available. For the weekly mags, that’s a lot of reading. Kinda like when you first join Netflix, you’ll probably binge when you first sign up.
Texture by Next Issue also is capable of downloading stuff and holding it on your iPad’s memory, meaning you can download a bunch of magazines and read them without having an internet connection.
So is it worth it?
Next Issue is worth it from two different perspectives.
If you like to read, there’s enough material there to keep you busy for the entire month, easily. Sure, there are ways to download magazines to your tablet from your library, but I couldn’t get that to work consistently. If you have a long commute on the subway or just eat lunch by yourself a lot, you’ll get enough use to make Next Issue worth your time.
Or if you’re like me, you’re constantly looking for the next investment idea. This is where I think the product really shines. The 6-8 money related magazines will give you a constant source of ideas, and the news magazines will give you a decent overall picture of what’s going on in the world. I think $15 a month is worth it to get exposure to all these ideas.
From time to time, Next Issue gives out a bonus to new readers, usually in the form of a 30-day free trial. Right now they’re offering a 60-day free trial. All you need to do is click the link below, and use BONUS30 as the promo code when you go to check out. It’s that simple.
Subscribe to Next Issue now!
Thanks for reading the Next Issue review. Have an experience with the service? Share it in the comments.
I turned 31 a couple of weeks ago, meaning I’ve officially completed 30 trips around the sun. I’d like to say those 30 trips were glorious and filled with more life lessons than a decade of manning the patent office with Einstein, but they weren’t. Hell, I probably squandered a whole half dozen of those trips on stupid crap like video games, golf, and learning how to juggle. It took far more hours that I’d care to admit to learn how to throw 3 balls at the same time. Most of my prior experience came with two balls.
NOT WHAT I MEANT, PREVERTS.
Considering how I’m in the 30s now, apparently I have life experience. As my dad is fond of saying, I’ve been there, done that. I don’t have any grey hair yet (at least, I think, but I’m pretty blonde so it wouldn’t show up even if I did), and I’m pretty sure that under my unkept beard there’s still a baby face. I still feel young, but I’ve also done a few things. And, of course, I’ve learned a few life lessons along the way.
So let’s go ahead and condense my 30 years of life experience into little bite-sized quotes you can print out and put on your refrigerator. Because that’s what we do in the internet.
1. Take risks
Do you know what I regret? Although there really isn’t much, the things I do regret usually involve me being too much of a wuss to take advantage of something. If all it takes is asking, then ask. Having someone say no is much easier to deal with than wondering for the rest of your life what the answer would have been. It’s one of my most important life lessons.
2. Make mistakes
10 years ago, I didn’t know squat about investing in the stock market. I was 21, had taken the Canadian Securities Course and thought I knew everything. I made some terrible investments over those first few years, often with very little research. Luckily for my capital’s sake, I also made some good investments in those years. Which brings me to the third item on the list.
3. Get lucky
NO NOT LIKE THAT BUT MAYBE.
Two of the very first investments I made were buying shares in Nortel and General Motors, following my “blindly buy whatever stock is beaten up” rule. Both those companies ended up going bankrupt, as you probably already know. And yet, I made money on both of them. Hell, I doubled my money on General Motors, getting out within a dollar of its peak share price back in 2007. A lot of that was luck, admittedly, but it’s hard to get lucky like that when all your money is earning 1% sitting in
ING’s Tangerine’s pockets.
4. Don’t get greedy
Every time I buy a stock, I set a sell price. Why? Because at the end of the day, a profit isn’t a profit unless you’ve got the money in your pocket. Mr. Market can turn against you very quickly. This isn’t to say you should immediately punt something if it hits the sell target, but at least entertain the thought of taking money off the table.
5. Wealth is awesome
If the stock market cooperated, my year abroad could be accomplished while actually increasing my net worth without having to work a day. I don’t believe I’m at the stage where I can give everyone the finger and not work again, but I can say without a doubt that I sure am glad I exchanged all those hours in the early stage of my life for financial stability now.
6. People… meh
The people I hang out with at 31 are completely different than who I hung with at 21, and I assume I’ll have a new group of friends at 41. At the end of the day, people will come in and out of your life, and it’ll be okay. Just have fun now and have fond memories in the future. You never know who’s gonna stay and who won’t. Besides, you’ll outgrow some of your friends anyway. Don’t be sad, it just happens.
7. Remember your biases
Psychology will hinder you, unless you have a basic understanding of it. Remember two things:
a) We seek information that confirms what we already know
b) We value things more highly because we own them/they happened to us
Remember those two things, and you’ll be better at manipulating yourself than 90% of the population.
8. Say it loud and proud
That sounds a lot like the slogan for some sort of gay pride event, but let’s go with it anyway.
Do you know how much value somebody who just agrees with the consensus contributes? It’s pretty close to zero. It doesn’t matter the platform, well thought out contrarian opinions are worth far more than someone who acts like the Borg, just waiting to be assimilated. It’s not always easy to go against the crowd, but, again, the important things never are.
9. What I just said
The important things are never easy. Just about every overnight success has toiled for years in relative obscurity.
10. Learn patience
Remember how I said things weren’t easy? We’ve been conditioned to think they are. Which leads to a whole generation of university grads a year or two out of school wondering where their perfect life is. It’ll come, but not after a couple decades of really hard work. Or, from my experience, a decade of working hard and saving my ass off.
11. Balance comes at a price
How many times have you read advice about investing or paying off debt that says you’ve got to be balanced? Be balanced all you want, but remember — it comes at a price. For every beer you drink while out with your friends, that’s a few more dollars that have to be earned to be financially free. A lot of us spend too much on the comforts of today, get in debt, have an awakening, and then preach balance when paying it off. Not the ideal solution, in my view. Let balance be for the person who didn’t screw up in the first place.
12. Try things
10 years ago I was just a guy working at a store. A few years later, I was a terrible mortgage broker and equally bad real estate agent (one of the reasons why this blog was initially anonymous). Sometimes the new things you try will work out, and sometimes they won’t. But you never know unless you try it.
13. Invest early and often
Investing doesn’t have to be with money. You can work at mastering a skill, or go to school, providing the subject matter is marketable. You can even go work for free somewhere, although that rarely works out. We waste so much time that could be put to better use.
14. Alcohol is a waste
And topping the waste of time list? Partying. You’re living a delusional life if you think that any experience that needs alcohol as a lubricant is somehow more interesting or fun than time spent sober. Most people figure this one out on their own by the time they hit 30, but we all have that pathetic friend that still hasn’t grown up. Don’t be that friend.
15. Embrace your faults
For some reason, it’s a taboo to admit you’re anything less than a perfectly rounded person. It’s okay to have faults. If you’re the best musician in the world, do you really think anyone gives a crap that you aren’t very good at doing your taxes? (Well, besides the government?) If you make your strengths truly shine, the weaknesses will be forgiven.
16. Learn humility
In the 3+ years as a chip guy, I had countless conversations with front line retail employees about various work problems they were experiencing. Without exception, each problem was someone else’s fault. As we know, the truth isn’t quite so black and white. Once in a while, your biggest problem will end up being you. Entertain the thought of that once in a while.
17. The comment section sucks
I constantly get sucked into this. Do you know how much time I’ve spent reading the dumbest crap on Reddit? Too much. 15 minutes is too much. For every gem in a comment section, there’s a whole lot of crap. There’s an argument that life is all about wading through crap to find a gem, but the internet isn’t the place to do it.
18. Internet activism
Which brings me to the other form of wasting time on the internet — activism. Your #yesallwomen or #freeourgirls tweets? They’re pretty much useless. So is filling up comment sections with your thoughts on guns, or pro-choice rights, or the cause du jour, LBGT rights. But we feel good when we support the latest social issue. That’s fine, but realize that comments on a website are literally the least you could do. Aim higher if you’re really passionate about something.
19. Learn from everyone
Even the crazy guy that nobody likes has wisdom about something. Sam Walton, the guy who founded Walmart and grew it into the behemoth that it is today, was famous for going into other stores and stealing their ideas. You don’t have a monopoly of good ideas, so steal away. Hell, I’m the 1,380,839th guy to do this exact same format of blog post.
Having mentors is an important life lessons, but realizing that your mentors have faults is far more important. Success is like history — it doesn’t quite repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Don’t just blindly follow your mentor and make the same mistakes they did. Copy the good parts, and discard the bad. And realize that if you don’t outgrow your mentor, you’re not doing things right.
21. Experiences vs. stuff
The internet in general spends a lot of time favoring experiences over stuff, with very little emphasis on something really important. At the end of the day, if money is exchanged for trips or if it’s exchanged for things, it’s still gone. If you’re going to spend it, do it responsibly on what makes you happy.
22. School is a poor predictor of success
There were certain times as a 19 or 20-year old where I felt pretty inadequate. All my friends were off in university earning degrees, and I was stuck working night shift at a grocery store. These days? Some are doing well, others…not so much. I came to realize that simply going to university was a pretty poor predictor of success. It’s the other attributes that matter, not the amount of time you spend in a classroom. It is very possible to get a valuable education without stepping foot on a campus, and no, I’m not talking about taking courses online.
23. Be ambitious towards accomplishments, not things
Too often we gauge success on where someone lives, or the clothes they wear, or what they drive. After a while, I came to realize that these were pretty pointless things to be jealous about. Instead, focus on what someone has accomplished, and use it for motivation. When that other salesman in the office is so successful that he drives a luxury car, don’t be envious of the car. Motivate yourself to beat his sales record.
24. Don’t be afraid to quit
I was a poor mortgage broker for 3 years before I hung up my proverbial skates. I should have realized it after a year. I just didn’t have what it took, no matter how much I tried to will myself into it. I used to procrastinate doing simple tasks for hours because I hated asking people for their business. Either become effective at your profession or don’t do it.
25. Opportunities are everywhere
Once, while golfing, I was faced with a difficult chip shot. My friend came over and told me as much. I looked at it, and decided it wasn’t that tough. I swung, and put the ball within two feet of the cup. I’m fully convinced my confidence allowed me to make that shot.
You have the choice to look at the world in two ways — you can believe everything is stacked against you, or you can choose to believe that there are opportunities everywhere. If you choose the latter option, there will come a point where you’ll have to turn down opportunities because you don’t have the time to pursue them all.
26. You’ll bounce back
After finally quitting my real estate agent/mortgage broker career, I was the weekend chip guy for Frito-Lay. I was working with someone who I grew to hate. I was making less than $30k a year. I spent every weekend lugging chips when I would have been much happier hanging out with my friends.
18 months later, I was running one of the biggest routes in the province, making six figures a year, and impressing management to the point where promotions were discussed. A certain plagiarizing blogger once made fun of my profession, which made me laugh because I was 100% sure I made more money than he did and 1000% sure I had a higher net worth.
If you work hard and are patient, success will come. Sometimes though, you have to take a step back to take two steps forward.
27. On being busy
I’ve touched on this before, so I’ll be brief. Being busy is great, providing you’re doing something of value. Often, the things we think are important are anything but. Leave some leisure time for yourself.
28. Realize you’ll always have bosses
I think if you have the desire to do so, you should start a business. It teaches you all sorts of lessons about things that are important. But most importantly, it’ll teach you whether you’re any good at running a business. Because a lot of you won’t be.
The wrong reason for wanting to start a business is because you don’t want a boss anymore. You’ll always have a boss. If you’re a freelancer or even if you cut grass for a living, your customers will be your boss. And spoiler alert: sometimes they’ll be unreasonable too.
29. Realize the other party’s motivation
Whenever you enter into a transaction for anything, look at the other party’s motivation for doing it. If something seems too good to be true, then maybe it is. And once you figure out how to identify when the other party of a transaction is desperate to sell something, you’ll end up profiting. Don’t ever buy something when the seller is just testing out the market.
30. Don’t stress it
Before I dropped off Vanessa at the airport to go to Korea, we stopped in for dinner. I ordered a nice hamburger, which according to the menu, came with toppings I like. It showed up and there was mayo slapped on BOTH BUNS. It was a travesty.
I immediately got upset. I tend to internalize things when I get mad, so my mind started racing. I was at this nice meal with my girlfriend and I was expected to eat a burger with g.d. mayo on it? I’m gonna get charged $14 for this? Why doesn’t the menu list the stuff on the burger? You’d think people would be interested in that stuff.
And then I shrugged, and realized it wasn’t a big deal. I asked the waitress for a new bun, and transferred my burger over to it. It wasn’t the best burger I’ve ever had, but I actively made the decision to not be mad about it. Remember that when you get mad about something that doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things.
That was more words than I expected.
I’ll end with this. There are things I’m better at as a 31-year old than a 20-year old. I’m an infinitely better investor. I’m more patient, mature (really!), and tolerant. 20-year old Nelson had just read Atlas Shrugged and had a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He was a relatively smart guy, who worked hard and was well on his way to building a nice financial foundation.
And then he grew up, mellowed out a lot, and realized the world was a lot more complex than what Ayn Rand said. I made money on good investments and lost it on terrible ideas, like that time I thought I was going to rent out space at the farmer’s market to sell things you could only buy online to old people without the internet. Or that other time I thought I’d lend money to co-workers and charge slightly less than payday loan rates.
But the important thing is I continued to learn. I picked up a few life lessons along the way. Almost every day I crack open my laptop and dish out advice on all sorts of things, focusing on finance. The more I give out advice, the more I realize it’s important to continue learning and expanding my knowledge. The most important life lesson I know? That’s simple. I can sum it up in a math equation.
Hard work + intelligence + time = success
I know smart people who cruise through life, who do okay. I know people who are dumb who work hard who do okay too. But when you combine both? You’ll almost always end up being successful. If you’re not, either you aren’t as smart or hard working as you think, or you just need to learn patience. The more time you spend on something, the easier it gets. Once you embrace all three variables, success will inevitably happen. And when you’re missing all of them? Yikes. We all know those people.
But the best part? It’s not very crowded at the top. I’ll meet you guys there.
These days, it’s probably the best time in history to be born without a penis. Women are free to choose any path they’d like, a privilege really only granted over the last generation. Women can have all the casual relations they’d like, with minimal consequences. Women are buying houses and making all sorts of other large decisions without having a partner. A woman is more likely to have a university education. And so on. And yet, we still have a gender pay gap.
Only 5% of the 500 largest companies in America have women in charge. Women are still punished for taking time off to have children. And, as has been famously stated, they have to put up with an injustice that would piss off any of their male counterparts, making 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same job.
So naturally, the ladies are pissed. They’ve taken their fight to the Facebook and the Twitter and wherever else the gals hang out. Maybe Pinterest? I dunno. But is the statistic even true? Do women really make 77% of men for doing the same job?
Related: that time I gave the ladies career advice.
In my experience, the answer is a firm no. In fact, I’ve never encountered a boss say such a thing, even privately. (And I heard those same bosses say some offensive things) I’ve never met a woman who could legitimately say she was paid less than a man without a good reason. I’ve met many women who think they’re better qualified than more experienced male coworkers, but I’ve met many men who think the same thing.
So I took a little closer look into this infamous 77 cents on the dollar statistic. And the weakness leaps out immediately. It comes from 2010 U.S. census information which simply divided the total income earned by women divided by the number. The census did the same thing for men, compared the results, and declared a huge gender pay gap.
But anyone with functioning grey matter can see the problem with that. Many women self select jobs that are part time, or lower paying, or offer more flexibility because they want the choice to stay at home and raise children. Women also tend to self select into jobs that focus on humanities and other such skills, jobs which tend to be high on security and low on advancement opportunities. More than three quarters of teachers are women. More than 91% of nurses are women. More than 70% of human resources professionals are women, even though HR people are the worst. Sorry ladies.
Meanwhile, men dominate construction (91%), oil and gas (96% in the field, not counting office employees), transportation (77%), and manufacturing (72%). These jobs are tougher, physical jobs, and they tend to pay pretty well, at least in my neck of the woods. They’re also industries with higher highs and lower lows, which would explain why men’s unemployment tends to be higher.
So if that’s the case, what’s the actual wage gap, controlling for some of these factors? There are differing opinions, but let’s take a look at four.
Factcheck.org took a look at the numbers, and found that there were all sorts of professions that paid women largely the same as their male counterparts. They also found that men tend to work longer workweeks than women, which would also skew the results. They wouldn’t throw out an actual number, but were pretty clear the 23% gap is bunk.
Consad research did some work on this for the U.S. department of Labor. Consad’s findings that once you controlled for all the different variables, the pay gap was more like 5-8%.
The St. Louis Federal Reserve did a similar study, and concluded that the gross gender pay gap was just 16.5%, and once you accounted for all the factors, the real gap was just 3.6%.
And finally, one more. The American Association of University Women concluded the real gap between wages for male and female university grads was just 6%, not the 18% gross number.
Now that we’ve put the 77 cents on every dollar myth to rest, allow me to present a theory on why the remaining gap remains. It’s simple. Women are crummy at negotiating.
It’s partially a society thing, since we label men who push for more money as assertive and women who do the same as bitchy. That needs to end, but it’ll only end as women become more comfortable with it. Hiring managers who have the company’s bottom line in mind are going to lowball potential hires. That’s the way business works.
The statistic is popular because it’s an easy explanation as to why a woman’s career isn’t taking off in the way she’d like. She’s not struggling because work is hard, she’s struggling because men are plotting to keep the whole gender down. It’s an easy and important lesson for anyone reading, regardless of their genitals. Chances are, you’re just mediocre at your job. It takes hard work to be good. Most people don’t want to do it. Just find a way to exceed expectations, and you’ll get promoted. No matter what your gender.