you suck

The other day I was digging deep into my blog to do some research. I know that is a weird concept — researching yourself, but after more than 1,000 posts, {grow} has become quite a repository for my ideas!

Looking back into the past is difficult because it forces me to face the fact that my blog sucked. Sucked. Sucked. Sucked.

You know, the embarrassing memories of high school might fade, your early attempts at dating are forgotten, but blog posts, for better or worse, last forever like that red wine stain on the carpeting.

So I decided to finally embrace my pain and turn it over to you as a lesson. WHY did I suck and what can you learn from it?

I humbly present to you the embarrassing-yet-instructive reasons why my blog sucked.

1) I was too self-important

By the time I launched my blog I had worked in high level sales and marketing jobs for more than 20 years. I had two master degrees and I was teaching at a college level. In my early posts, I did not write, I would pontificate by bestowing wisdom on the uninitiated.

The key to successful blogging is not necessarily giving the right answers. It’s asking the right questions.  About 50 percent of my blog posts now start with a question and I rarely have the answer … that’s what comes in the comment section.

Eventually I realized that I really don’t know shit. There are plenty of people out there smarter than me and the trick to blogging is to get those smart people to show up, comment and make the whole thing great for everybody.

2) I was writing for imaginary people

A lot of people have discussed the benefits of writing for certain business “personas” — a profile of a target audience. So for example, you might be targeting your content at women procurement professionals who are 35-55, live in Berlin and enjoy spelunking.

I’m not a fan of this trend but I had to learn the hard way. I think it is difficult to write the same way, in the same voice, to people who might be very different from you. At the end of the day, can’t you only be YOU?

Whether you are writing for yourself or for your company, I think the only real option we have is to be ourselves and let our own light shine through. When I relaxed and just wrote about what interested me instead of what I THOUGHT would interest others, things began to click.

3) I was scared.

Oh. My. God.

I’m PUBLISHING something the whole world can see. What if they hate me?

Has that gone through your mind? The fear of criticism paralyzed me.

And along the way, I have certainly had my share of critics. Some have even been mean. But I am really OK with it because I came to realize that if I was the most perfect human being in the world, there would still be people who would criticize me,

In my recent interview with Julien Smith, he says he follows a 10-10-10 rule. He imagines somebody criticizing his work and then asks himself, how will he feel about it 10 minutes after it happens? 10 days after it happens? 10 years after it happens.

In the big picture, criticism is insignificant. Bring it.

4) I was boring

I spent far too much time analyzing reports and the work of others in my blog. That’s OK now and then, but if people make the effort to come to your blog, they want to hear from you, not necessarily you talking about somebody else.

How did I un-borify myself?

I think the key was connecting my personal stories to business lessons. This has become an effective way for me to explain and teach in a fun and accessible way.

And did you know that when you talk about yourself it releases dopamine in your brain like a little self-reward? It’s true. I bet you didn’t know that blogging makes you drunk. No need to thank me.

And in conclusion (drumroll please)

I think I had to go through this, and you probably do too. I’m not sure I could have punched my way out of suckery by reading more blog posts or talking to more people. I mean that should not discourage you from continuous learning. Especially if it means buying one of my books. Learn, learn learn. Buy buy buy. It’s good for the economy and I do appreciate that 50 cent commission.

But I don’t think there really is any shortcut. Did you know that 95% of all bloggers quit after the first month? I just made that up but it’s something like that.

Chances are the post you write today will suck less than the post you wrote yesterday. Just keep on keepin’ on.

I am fully expecting to read this post two years from now and think “Schaefer you sucked.” Let’s hope so.

Illustration courtesy of Toothpaste for dinner

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