The Top 10 Lessons Learned from 2012

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The Top 10 Lessons Learned from 2012

These past few days I’ve been writing about what 2012 looked like for, what resources I couldn’t live without, and even what I wanted for Christmas.

Today’s post is more of a reflective-type personal post, but I think it’s still telling for those of you who are interested in making a career out of this writing thing. So here we go: the Top 10 Lessons Learned:

#10. There’s no “magic bullet”

When I started blogging (circa 2007/2008), I tried just about everything I could get my hands on — I joined the Warrior Forum, bought info products, read every “how to blog” blog, and signed up for every popular social network there was.

It turns out that most of these resources, while well-intentioned, tried to make the “blogging” secret more complex or difficult, probably to justify the price they were charging. I’m not against charging for great information (I actually charge for some of my own stuff…), it’s just that if you’re “promising” to give everyone the secret of making money blogging or writing, it shouldn’t be more than this:

  1. Always add value
  2. Write more

Really, that’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. There are a million ways to share what you’ve written, and a million ways to add value, and that’s what you should be asking of those info products. But if they hawk some other method for making a buck online, proceed carefully.

#9. Blogging as a business model is hard

Likewise, “blogging” isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

Scratch that. It’s probably one of the most difficult industries to get started in — there’s no school you can go to to “become” a blogger, there’s no company that will offer you a million dollars a year to do whatever you want to do and write whatever you want to write, and there’s no one looking over your shoulder to keep you on track.

It’s the most amazing model for the “self-starter” types, but it’s no small feat to start turning a profit. I jumped into blogging as a hobby and had absolutely nothing to show for it for about four years.

This year I got serious.

I started making money, but I’m not where I want to be just yet. The business model is sound, it’s possible, and it’s unbelievably rewarding. It’s just difficult.

#8. Nerdy board games are amazing

For a little fun, I threw this one in. I’m currently loading up on iPad apps (yup, Christmas surprised the heck out of me!) that are basically rebuilds of some of the nerdiest board games in history.

I like party games (Cranium, Apples to Apples, Pictionary, etc.), but I really enjoy the more strategic ones (Risk, Monopoly, etc.). Nerdy board games like Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Carcasonne, and Ticket to Ride are somewhere in-between.

#7. Minimum Effective Dosage is the way to go

Tim Ferriss wrote in The 4-Hour Body about a concept called “Minimum Effective Dosage.” He specifically used it in the context of working out and health, but it transfers into almost any industry.

Basically, the idea is that you can’t get much more result out of an activity after you reach the Minimum Effective Dosage — it’s a waste of energy. Think about boiling water — once you get to 212 degrees (F), getting the water hotter does nothing but waste energy.

The same can be said about writing as a career, in some ways. You can usually always write more and more result, but things like social media, marketing, and connecting and engaging with people online tend to have a Minimum Effective Dosage. By doing more than the MED of these, you’re just wasting time and energy, and you can better spend that working on something else.

#6. You can’t (or shouldn’t) read 100 books in one year

I started the Goodreads challenge this January to read a certain amount of books (100) in 2012. I didn’t get there, but I found that I read a lot nonetheless.

I also discovered that reading that many books didn’t make me feel more accomplished, happier, or smarter. It just made me rush to get to the end of a book, or skim it, or pass it up altogether to read something I could get through quicker.

In 2013, I’ll focus on reading for better comprehension.

#5. Confidence is sometimes more important than skill

When I applied to a part-time job at a church, I had the resume and skill set I thought would be a perfect match for their needs (graphic design, marketing, communications). I was right, but I discovered there were many other skills I’d need that weren’t in the employee handbook. I found myself setting up Business Reply Mail at the regional USPS office, building web forms for event submissions, and a host of other “random” tasks and duties.

Each time I just about freaked out, knowing I’d never done something like that and assuming I’d fail. But then I would take a breath, think about the problem, and put on a mask of confidence.

The confidence trick worked exceptionally well — I was able to overcome my fears about completing the tasks and move on to developing the actual skills I’d need to get it done.

Skill is absolutely an important thing, but without it you’re not lost if you have the confidence to overcome weaknesses.

#4. Writing books is a GREAT sustainable (and passive) income stream

I wrote my first book this year, Building A Blog for Readers, and released it to mediocre success. Sales were slow at first, but they picked up, started gaining traction, and then plateau’d at a comfortable pace.

I followed that up with another (and then 4 more) books, and the “passive” income from those hasn’t slowed down yet! The idea of writing as a passive income stream is interesting, though, because it’s clearly not a passive activity to write the books. The thing is, those books will “live” forever, as long as I’d like, on virtual bookshelves available in any corner of the world.

It’s a pretty powerful model, and I’m hooked.

#3. Relationships are FAR more important than we give them credit for

One of the main themes I spent a lot of time on this year was “always add value,” and by extension, “build relationships.” Even though I knew relationships were a cornerstone to my own business, I had no idea how important they’d really be.

My relationships with other bloggers has allowed me to publish on some of the biggest blogs in the world, and certainly in my industry. My relationships with my family has allowed me to feel comfortable leaving a full-time job to explore the possibilities of blogging and writing full-time. And my relationships with friends and church acquaintances has helped me feel like our move to Colorado Springs earlier this year was totally worth the hassle, discomfort, and fear of being alone in a new place.

#2. Money doesn’t matter nearly as much as happiness

I mentioned it before, but I left a full-time income to write and build an online business. Yes, it was the scariest thing I’d ever done, and yes, it was totally worth it.

I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and there’s no way I’m going back. The money isn’t the same, but I wasn’t pulling down any type of fortune before anyway. The best part is, we’re comfortable, happy, and there’s no ceiling on my future income!

#1. Success begets success

Finally, the most important lesson I learned in 2012 was that success leads to more success. Luck, God, hard work, and many other factors are always at play, but I think the best example of this success mantra is 2012 itself. I started with a measly, dying blog that no one visited and turned it into a Top 10 finalist in a blog competition, a steady part-time income, and set myself up for a (hopefully) full-time career in 2013.

There were definitely failures, and there will definitely be more. But now I welcome them — they are the reason I’m able to find my mistakes, work to overcome challenges, and what lie immediately before success.

My story. 

This post has been especially full of “me” stories, but this blog isn’t really about “me.” What are your experiences, trials, lessons, and takeaways from 2012?

Share in the comments!



  • Chihuahua Zero

    Point #6 makes me wonder. I’m thinking of taking the Goodreads Book Challenge, but I’m not sure to what degree.

    • Nick Thacker

      It’s a fun challenge, but definitely consider the balance between the speed at which you’ll want to get through a book and the desire to really understand it.

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