I had a whiny, way below my age breakdown yesterday. I’ve been putting in a lot of time with BudgetSnob but I haven’t seen the results I had planned by this point. So, I was a
little lot down. I felt like I was staring at the Himalayas standing at the bottom of a dry lake bed in Death Valley.
Then I read something that profoundly changed my outlook. It was a newspaper article about a little (or maybe not so little) obscure blog called TheAwl. I knew the rest of the article would be good after reading this…
If you were going to assemble a business plan for a Web site, you would look closely at everything The Awl (theawl.com) did and then head in precisely the opposite direction.
Why? Because the three co-founders, newly laid off, started a blog they wanted to read. Meaning, they didn’t try to find an audience. There were the audience. TheAwl’s posts are mostly short, punchy, and (in many cases) complete nonsense.
I found myself wondering if reading these posts was like hearing someone’s thoughts. Thoughts make perfect sense to the thinker. Not so much for anyone else. Obviously, I was not the audience there were trying to reach.
After a few months of massive content generation, TheAwl founders sold out to Yahoo! for $30 million dollars. There’s only one problem. That’s not the truth. Not. Even. Close.
By August 2009, they had chewed through their savings..when an anonymous donor sent in a few hundred dollars at one particularly stretched-thin moment…which they used to buy food.
They started in September 2008. Then spent a year—full-time by the way—hammering out content. A lot of content. When I checked yesterday, they had 20 posts up.
So, after a year of posting, they barely had enough to live on. When a donor shows up with two hundred bucks and they buy food. Why? So they can quit while they’re ahead? And go find real jobs?
Nope. They do it because they have to keep posting. And that would require staying alive. By eating food.
The Awl is attempting to build a low-cost site that delivers a certain kind of content for a certain kind of audience. And the owners don’t have to get rich — The Awl has no investors — they just have to eat.
Mr Sicha, one of the founders and interviewee throughout the article, sums it up in a breathtakingly, honest manner.
“My friends keep talking to me about how they want to start a Web site, but they need to get some backing, and I look at them and ask them what they are waiting for,” Mr. Sicha said. “All it takes is some WordPress and a lot of typing. Sure, I went broke trying to start it, it trashed my life and I work all the time, but other than that, it wasn’t that hard to figure out.”
That was the end of my whining.
I don’t know where you are today. But I do know that you’re more than likely not satisfied with some part of your life that just hasn’t materialized like you thought. Maybe you’re thinking about quitting. And what makes it worse is that you’ve been doing the right things, maybe for months or even years.
It’s one thing to simply be lazy and make excuses when nothing happens. I think we all know deep down when we’re lazy. But it’s an entirely different matter when you’ve been busting your butt…and nothing happens.
But I challenge you (myself too) to keep moving. Because breakthrough is just around the corner. The activity you’ve been doing. Those seeds you’ve been planting. Neither will come back empty.
Some amazing things happened to me today. Subtle but very powerful. All because I made the decision to keep moving forward. I hope you make the same decision.
TheAwl founders were interviewed for an article in the NYTimes.