Writing is mostly staring out the window. Spend enough time sitting there, staring at a blank page, and you get bored enough to start pecking away at the keyboard.
And the most gratifying aspect of stringing words together is the potential to change someone’s life. Think about that. You can probably rattle off some books that caused some profound change in the way you look at life.
That’s why my inbox is the lottery. I never know if an unread email is a winning ticket. Here, let me find one.
“I always like seeing your emails in my inbox. It keeps me active in thinking about how to be smart about my money. I have to say that finding you in the last couple years has been a big help in introducing myself to the world of smart money management. Thanks for putting what you do out there!”
These success stories are proof you’re doing meaningful work, helping people. Your purpose in life isn’t pushing papers around some corporate office.
When I started this site back in 2012 it had no readers. It was just a way to keep a record of what I was learning about money and investing. If someone found it useful, great.
What I’ve realized over the past year is the massive benefit to all this writing: it makes you a sharper, better thinker.
Those moments you realize you don’t know why you think what you think. Sometimes you don’t even know what you think. And so you sit there writing, and rewriting. This process forces what you think, and more importantly, why you think what you think.
Anyone can do this with a personal journal, but you’ll get more benefit if you write publicly. You might think: “Why would anyone read what I write?”
Here’s the thing. If you have interesting things to say, then other people want to hear them. It’s extremely valuable.
The downside? When you’re putting your work out there, creating things in public, you’re going to have nasty comments directed at you. I know this because people have said I’m a complete idiot or bad with money.
At first, like anyone who’s been insulted, it’s tempting to write back as quickly as possible, trying to prove them wrong and win them over.
It took me many years to see reality: they’re not talking about me.
Haters and critics are just attacking this public image of me, so I can’t take it personally when they call me an idiot. They don’t know me. Just like when they say I’m bad with money. They’ve never seen me manage money.
Here’s one example. I spent hundreds of hours creating a video course that teaches people what they need to know to invest, to have their money work for them. One person got upset I charged for it.
“You are essentially charging to provide information about how to invest. It’s not enough to have hedge funds, wealth managers, trading costs, and expense ratios prying money out of most investors and their returns.”
They went on to say it’s selfish or something like that. I’ll admit to creating the course for a selfish reason.
I’ve always been ambitious. At eight I planted acorns in the sandbox in our backyard, eventually selling the two-foot saplings at yard sales. In my teens I printed flyers on our dot-matrix printer, stuffing them in mailboxes to start my lawn-mowing business. In college I created websites for local businesses.
I like business, and if you like business you’re more likely to like investing. And if you like the process of learning and doing you’re more likely to like creating. It was only natural to make a course about investing, learning how to take an idea to market.
And what I’m finding is the people who take it love it. They’re happy to pay. For the vast majority who don’t join they can use hundreds of articles. That’s fine too.
The lesson here is that no one cares if you spent 10,000 hours or $100,000 creating a product or service. People want solutions to their problems. They don’t buy a drill, they buy a hole.
What I’m trying to say is this. It’s okay to charge for what you do, because people who give you money is proof you’re providing something valuable.
Jeff Bezos once said, “When you’re criticized, first look in a mirror and decide, are your critics right? If they’re right, change.” Take insults as feedback, to change the things that need to be changed. Sometimes you need to.
But don’t take them personally, because that’s not the real you. And as I’m writing this I’m thinking the opposite also has to be true: don’t take compliments from people personally, because that’s not the real you either.