This is part of my end-of-year series while I’m away on vacation. Future posts will cover business lessons learned, a travel roundup, a list of every post from 2009, and the shape of things to come. Happy December!
2009 has been a truly amazing year for me personally and for AONC. It’s no exaggeration to say that my entire life has shifted dramatically from the place where it was a year ago.
Of course, the past is history. Once in a while it’s good to look back, which is what I do during this time… but then you need to move on to avoid getting stuck in Glory Days. We’ll be moving on shortly, but first, here are a few things I’m proud of from this year:
- Published 279 Days to Overnight Succes manifesto
- Never missed a scheduled post (120 so far in 2009)
- Sold the book proposal and wrote the book
- Began the shift to a real, sustainable business (four product launches, new Unconventional Guides site, merchant account, etc.)
- Established a new home base in Portland, Oregon
- Starting writing for other outlets (newspaper column, CNN, Business Week, etc.)
- Traveled to 20+ countries (I’ll list them all in the upcoming travel roundup)
- Ran two half-marathons
- Hosted AONC Meetups in 7 Cities
Here are a few themes that emerge as I look back on 2009.
Writing a book is hard but good. I’ve been an active reader for most of my life, and I’ve noticed that some authors like to whine about how hard it is to write a book. You know you’re encountering a whiny author when you run across an acknowledgments section that reads something like:
“Writing this book was the hardest thing I’ve ever done… thanks to my family for leaving me alone for [long period of time] so I could undergo this heroic task. I’m glad it’s finally done.”
I understand that the effort may be herculean if you’re writing War and Peace in longhand, but otherwise, writing a book is like any other kind of hard work that needs to be completed over time. As such, I didn’t whine (OK, not too much) about the writing process. It was hard but good. Next year I’ll be working on the proposal for the second one, so if you’re out there and have also been thinking about writing your own book, I won’t be the one to dissuade you. Go for it!
To sustain a long-term commitment to creative work, you have to be excited about the work itself. It has to become sacred to you. This year I grew to see my main occupational identity as a writer, and I learned to structure my workday around everything that process involves. These days there are all kinds of distractions to keep me from writing. Sometimes I successfully resist them and sometimes I give in; the important thing is getting up the next day and going back to it.
Also, the more you do something, the better it gets. When I read through the early AONC archives, some things I like and some things I don’t. I keep everything there as a monument to the reality that the creative process rewards discipline. I believe in the 10,000 hours theory – keep working, keep improving, don’t be afraid to take risks, and so on.
Empowerment of others is always the best choice. Generally speaking, if you wake up one day and aren’t sure what to do with your time, do something small that helps someone else. As a nice side benefit, you’ll probably feel better as well. It’s hard to explain this in a short summary paragraph, but I’ve tried – and will keep trying – to decentralize any celebrity aspect of my work. I want to correct false impressions about unconventional living (Fearless? Not me), help others to see the possibility for growth in their own lives, share everything I know about self-employment, travel hacking, challenging authority, and so on.
Stay tuned for more and more of this focus in 2010, and thanks for sticking with me thus far.
“Ubiquity is the new exclusivity.” This advice came from Gretchen Rubin, originally in the context of writing for Huffington Post and other outlets. I immediately identified with the idea and latched on to implementing it. I do 15-20 blog or journalist interviews a month. I’ll syndicate my work for free with any reputable outlet. I follow the Google Alerts for my name and leave comments responding to the posts whenever possible. I post on Twitter 10-15 times a day. For the right kind of major media profile, I’ll fly across the country at my own expense.
Gretchen’s insightful comment, and my perspective as well, reflects the idea that it used to be a big deal to become a highly-specialized expert, but now it’s a bigger deal to be everywhere all at once. It works well for me, and I have no plans of slowing down. (I wrote about a few related concepts over here.)
Say yes more often. Speaking of ubiquity, I say yes to all kinds of things. Why not? I used to think of this as a personal weakness – because that’s often what we’re expected to think. But in general, the more I do, the happier I am.
Granted, I say no a lot too – in fact, sometimes my default response to engagements is no because there are so many opportunities. The difference is that I try to say no to anything I wouldn’t enjoy, be a good challenge for me, or otherwise help someone else. I try to say yes to opportunities for personal growth, collaboration with like-minded people, and anything especially interesting. When Air New Zealand asked me to go to the Cook Islands on less than a week’s notice, for example, I had plenty of other things I was working on at the time. But I said yes, moved the other things around, and had a lot of fun.
“Wealth is in our friendships.” Jen Lemen gave me this advice when I asked about how to manage relationships as a sphere of influence grows. I know it doesn’t always come across this way online, but I’m a fairly introverted person. This year my circle of friends has expanded from a small, mostly local group to a broad range of 1,000+ people all over the world.
This is in addition to everyone else I talk with on an occasional basis. I think I have personally interacted with more than half the AONC readership (currently about 20,000 as a core group, and a larger number of people who drop in once in a while) at some point or another.
Some people say this practice is not scaleable and that eventually I’ll become an asshole like anyone else who becomes Internet famous. It’s hard to know for sure, but my model for scalability and awesomeness continues to be Seth Godin. Seth writes the number one business blog in the world, and yet if I write to him about something, he’ll write me back the same day. Whenever I log in and download 200 new messages after a day of traveling somewhere, I always think, “What would Seth do?” and then it’s no problem to answer them all, even if it takes a while or I get behind.
Also, I don’t make a distinction between online and offline friends, and I don’t view relationships with readers as passive or impersonal. In 2009 I met several hundred readers in real life, and almost without exception, we pick up right where we left off in the online world. As Liz Strauss says, “You’re only a stranger once.”
So thank you, friends, for caring enough to read AONC. (And I’ll have more to say about this shortly, in another year-end post.)
Since wealth is in our friendships, I always enjoy learning from everyone who reads or participates on the blog. Now it’s your turn: what have you learned in 2009? Feel free to share a couple of your own lessons with the rest of our group.
As with Monday’s post, however, don’t just keep it here – consider sharing your 2009 lessons with your own circle of influence. We could all learn from what you have to offer.
Image by Subcess