Quest for Billions turns 7 tomorrow. 7 months that is, not 7 years. I know 7 months is not that exciting (and frankly, quite random), but there are a few things I have learned since inception that I think are worth sharing:
1. Cognitive dissonance is a thing
I remember first learning about the term in a Social Psychology course in my second year of university. Cognitive dissonance is when our beliefs do not match up with our behaviors. Humans strive for consistency, and exhibiting behavior that is inconsistent with our beliefs makes us feel uncomfortable.
A common form of dissonance is from our New Year’s resolutions. Year after year, we keep telling ourselves that we are going to change something this year. It’s the common “lose weight”, “eat healthier”, “save more money” kind of resolutions. After a year goes by and nothing happens, we feel uncomfortable that we didn’t actually do what we said we were going to do (we feel even worse if we have told a few friends or family members about our failed intentions).
Since I started blogging, I now succumb to the “written in stone for the world to see dissonance.” This adds a whole new dimension to following through with what you said you are going to do. Once I publish on my blog, my posts are public. Anyone can read what I wrote. When I act in ways inconsistent with what I write about, like spending too much on a night out, I feel worse about it than I would if I didn’t write about it at all. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful motivator to stay on track.
2. Books are the ultimate cure for writer’s block
I was not much of a reader growing up. I do not know exactly why. But sometime in 2015, everything changed. Since then, I have read at least a couple of books per month. I love learning about new things. I have been focusing almost exclusively on non-fiction to this point, but I do enjoy a variety of topics, including business, entrepreneurship, psychology, and history.
I would say that for the ideas for the majority of topics that I discuss originate from books. Some of my favorite books that I have read in 2016 so far are Thinking Fast and Slow, Antifragile, and The Black Swan.
3. We love story-telling
Humans are intrigued by stories – the convincing salesperson, the captivating public speaker, or the hard-to-put-down book. Stories are emotional. Stories are memorable. Stories trigger our imagination.
How do you differentiate yourself from the millions of other blogs on the Internet? Having an intriguing story definitely helps. Maybe you reached financial independence at age 28. Maybe you paid off your mortgage in 2 years. Maybe you are a New York Times best-selling author. Time is valuable, and having a compelling story is key in trying to convince people why they should spend some their time listening to you instead of going elsewhere.
I do not have a convincing story. Well, not yet at least. I am an ordinary 22 year old from Ontario, Canada. I started my blog before having a story to help keep myself motivated to improve.
4. A very useful tool
I don’t have much to say about this point, but by far the most useful tool I use for my blog is Evernote. It’s amazing! It’s free! I write down an idea or post at any time and on any device, and then access what I wrote at a later time from any device. I initially used Microsoft Word, but became frustrated when I could not add to something if I was not on the device where the file was saved. I now write all of my posts using Evernote.
5. Reaching out
Since starting Quest for Billions, my main focus has been on the writing. And although producing content that people want to read is necessary, nobody (or very few people) will find your blog just because of your content in the beginning. You need some way to draw people to your site so there is an opportunity for them to get a chance to read your content.
Leveraging the help of other people is a great way to make a name for yourself. Being active in the comments in similar blogs (which I have done very little of so far) and writing guest posts are a couple methods of generating traffic to your site. I actually have my first guest post lined up for early July, 2016!
6. Consistently following a community motivates improvement
I have a handful of podcasts that I listen to on my commute to and from work everyday. One of the podcasts, “The Tim Ferriss Show” consists of interviews with world-class performers with a variety of backgrounds, including doctors, entrepreneurs, investors, actors, athletes, etc. Tim focuses on the commonalities that emerge from the hundreds of people he has had on the show. For example, I believe it was around 80% of the people that Tim has interviewed have had some kind of daily meditation practice.
In addition to listening to podcasts, I also read the three articles that are posted on Rockstar Finance every weekday. I’ve been doing this now since late August of 2015, even before I started my blog. After reading through hundreds of posts and following many other personal finance bloggers, you start to see trends and commonalities that many, if not most, are doing. One of the main trends that I consistently read about is people tracking their net worth. Starting on January 1, 2016, I started to track ever dollar that I spend and earn. When I make a purchase, I write it down in the notes section of my phone, then after every month I transfer the information from my phone to an Excel spreadsheet on my computer. Nothing fancy. I track my expenses, income, and the value of my investments on a monthly basis. I’ve been doing this for six months now, and it is great way of seeing areas I can improve and also seeing progress.
I spent one week in Greece in April of 2015. The beaches were incredible and the food was even more delicious than I possibly could have imagined – Greek yogurt tastes so much better in Greece than it does in Canada. In Greece, they have a popular saying, “siga-siga”, which means “slowly-slowly.”
The “siga-siga” mindset is quite different to our “faster-FASTER” mindset in North America. We view success as something that happens or should happen quickly. When I first started the blog, I think I was putting too much focus on achieving overnight stardom. I came across a great quote in a recent book I was reading…”if I want to be a great musician, I must first play a lot of bad music.” I can’t expect to know everything in the beginning. I know I’ve made mistakes already, and I know I will make a lot more. But hopefully I will learn from my failures, and improve, slowly-slowly.