The Experimenter’s Dilemma & The Most Powerful (& misused) Online Tool for Developing & Monetizing A Passion

Written by Scott April 24, 2013

The experimenters manifesto

“Life is nothing more than a series of experiments. Test and share you ideas. Give them a chance to have an impact, and an impact you’ll have.”

Important Note & Warning: This is a special post — a manifesto and guide on experimentation & learning. It’s in-depth and it’s important. The whole thing will take you about 15 minutes to read and another 15 minutes to implement. I believe it will dramatically transform your career potential. That’s exactly what it did for me.

If you must, you can scan over the first part. But the next 9 steps are vital. I spent a lot of time making this as directly useful as possible. Please do something with it.

I meant to write it a year ago. It’s about time …

Stacking the Deck in Your Favor & The Power of Feedback Loops

Just under seven years ago, I discovered a tool that completely transformed my career and ability to impact the world. It became the vehicle that allowed me to have the impact, lifestyle and experiences that I only used to encounter in the occasional book, movie or dream.

And it took me four years to realize I’d found it.

Without it, Live Your Legend wouldn’t have a chance at existing.

As it turns out, doing work you love is simple. 

Now before you spit and scream “Blasphemy!” all over your screen, realize that I said “simple” — I did not say “easy.” There is a very big difference. Please don’t confuse the two. Most of the important things in life are simple. They are not easy.

The simple process goes something like this:

  1. Know yourself. Wake up to your talents, your strengths, the things you love and hate.
  2. Use it to help others in a meaningful way.
  3. Offer a fair price in exchange for your help (or work with a person or company already having the impact you want to have).

I see life as a never-ending experiment: Test, learn, help, refine, repeat.

The more we can understand who we are, what excites us and how we can use that knowledge to offer our talents to the world, the faster we can see how people respond to what we have to offer.

Without this feedback loop, it’s nearly impossible to build a career around our passions, interests, talents and strengths.

And I have good news — there exists a tool today that is likely more powerful at creating this testing environment than anything in history.

And it happens to be free — or less than the cost of a few cups of coffee, depending on which option you choose.

Ready for the best passion discovery & monetization tool on the web?

Here it goes … a blog.

I know, of course I’m biased, but hear me out.

If you already have a blog, good work, but you are still going to want to hear this material (especially if you’re not giving your blog much attention) and certainly have a look at this post: The 4 Pillars to Starting a Blog that Actually Matters (& grow it by 160x in 2 years)

Important: I am NOT talking about building a business around a blog. That may or may not be your thing, and that takes a whole business model and strategy and a ridiculous amount of work (just like building any other business).  Let’s save that for another discussion.

No, I’m talking about a blog as the easiest and most powerful tool for exploring what excites you and learning how you can uniquely help people.

Whether you decide to make your blog into a business or leverage it to get hired, find clients or simply connect with other passionate people is up to you. It will help you do all of that — and plenty more.

While we’re at it, let’s get something else clear. In its simplest form, a blog is nothing more than a website that can be easily updated and doesn’t require code to set up or manage. That’s the only reason why I started my old site, Reading For Your Success, back in 2006. I read a very useful (yet poorly named) book, Internet Riches, that claimed even my technically-challenged self could start publishing things online.

That was enough to get me started. Without that experiment, that directionless start years ago, the LYL movement would not exist.

Personal Branding 101: When someone googles your name, what do they find?

define your personal brand

What’s the first thing you do when you want to learn about someone new — be it a potential date, employee, boss, whoever?

You go to Google.

Are you proud of what comes up? More importantly, are you doing your best to control what comes up?

Will people see some random Facebook pictures of your new cat or you crushing beers back in college, or will they see the image and brand that you want your name to represent? Will they get to learn about your talents and how you want to impact and help the world?

It’s time to be intentional about what you’re letting the world see.

If you’re at all serious about Living Your Legend (and you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t), you must have a way to express yourself, explore your ideas, bounce them off others and hold yourself accountable to continued learning and discovery.

And a blog just so happens to be the easiest, fastest, cheapest, most powerful and scalable way of doing this. I’m sure it will be something else in ten years from now, and I look forward to learning about it, but for now this is the all-powerful tool.

Blogs are nothing more than tools — a medium for self-expression. And they are much more powerful than most realize.

They’re a simple way to explore and share the thoughts and beliefs you’re excited about and for people to immediately see and provide feedback. They also happen to be a really fun way to learn the ins and outs of the web — an essential skill if you want to leverage what’s possible when it comes to passion and work.

Don’t worry about whether you’ll make money from it or who will read it. That’s not the point, unless you want it to be. The point is to constantly fuel something that interests you.

Case Study: From Cooking Dinner to Being The Chef

For years, my wife Chelsea has loved to cook vegetarian meals.

A year or so ago, she decided to start a simple recipe blog called Food-Life Balance, and the most fascinating thing started to happen. Her cooking changed from something she simply did, to something she eagerly shared and talked to others about. She also started cooking about five times more new delicious recipes than she used to. As her taste-tester, I had no complaints …

She suddenly had an audience for something she cared about.

Her standards began to change and suddenly she started to become The Expert.

She pursued new recipes and classes (such as the one we took in Chiang Mai last month). People started to thank her and cook her recipes at their own home. This upped her game even more. When she publishes something, it literally effects what people will be putting into their mouths that day or that week. How cool is that?!

Last Friday, “we” even cooked Thai food for seven of us in our miniature kitchen (it ended up being a feast fit for 14, including green curry, sweet potato curry, Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, veggie spring rolls and tofu satay). A few blog posts suddenly became a feast with friends.

And whether she realizes it or not, her blog also happens to be reinforcing and complimenting her personal brand and expertise as a fitness teacher/manager and health fanatic. Maybe she’ll do something more with it in the future. Maybe this will lead to private cooking classes or a cookbook. Then again, maybe she’ll just let it continue to develop on its own. Either way is fine – people are happy, and Chelsea is a much more talented cook as a result (and she was damn good to start!).

But none of this would have come if she hadn’t taken her interest to the next level. Be sure to try a few of her dishes!

Chelsea’s recipe lab didn’t have to be a blog. That just happens to be one of the easiest ways of doing it these days. 

Everyone needs a way of developing their ideas and exploring what their “thing” might be.

explore and develop your ideas

That almost always starts with throwing random thoughts and ideas on the wall.

The problem is that most people never get any of it out of their head, so it never has a chance to flourish and develop into something meaningful.

Interesting opportunities start to show up when the world knows your passions and talents.

It opens people up to your world and proves you care about something (even if it changes over time, as it surely will).

This creates connections, and connections lead to serendipity — a force more powerful than most.

Then one day you’ll get an email or a friend will pull you aside and say, “Thank you. What you wrote last week finally helped me confront my toxic relationship (or put me over the edge to lose that 25 pounds, or kept me from taking my own life).” All of these are notes I’ve received from readers.

And one day you’ll get the same — if you decide to build that environment. When you do, you will be changed — forever.

You’ll realize that you are relevant.

Even if to just one person, knowing their life is better because you decided to share your talents with the world is the most powerful motivator and creator of possibility on the planet.

So today I’d like you to make the decision to have that impact — first for yourself, then for those around you.

Here’s how …

*Note: The instructions below are intentionally very, very simple to get you up and running with a totally basic WordPress blog so you can start publishing ideas ASAP.

There are about a million other decisions you could (and eventually probably will) make regarding your blog or site. Please do not worry about that today. All that matters is getting something published. Don’t worry about how it looks. Today is about creating your sandbox and starting to play a little. Landscaping (and other excuses for deferring getting a little dirty) can be addressed later.

And for the more advanced folks (who already have a blog), this is your next step: The 4 Pillars to Starting a Blog that Actually Matters (& grow it by 160x in 2 years). But if you don’t have a blog yet, just follow the below. It will be much quicker and simpler. 

How to Start a Blog in Less than 20 Minutes: 

1. Sign up for the most basic website hosting account at Blue Host.

I fully endorse Blue Host, am a proud affiliate partner of theirs, and it’s where all our domains live. I’ve tried a lot of hosts in the past and this is by far the best discount option available based on personal experience and the people I respect online (They’ve also been a top recommended web host by WordPress since 2005). All you need it is the most basic option, which comes with a free domain (website address) of your choosing. The only add-on you might want is Domain WHOIS Privacy ($9.95/yr), which keeps your personal information for being made public on your site.

You do not need any of the other add-ons or up-sells, such as Site Lock or Site Backup. All of that can be sorted out later. We want to keep this as simple as possible!

One reason we love Blue Host is because their customer support is awesome. If you’re unsure of what to do, just start up a chat session with their support team and they’ll get your issues sorted out.

Here’s the link to set up your site on Blue Host.

A few clarifying points:

  • This Blue Host setup will run you about the cost of one or two lattes a month. It’s a very small price for finally getting traction on what makes you come alive. But there are also some totally free options through sites like Blogger or Tumblr, although to be honest, I really don’t recommend those since you have much less control and won’t actually own the website. So if you go that route and decide to take your blog and site more seriously in the future, they can be a total pain in the ass to switch to something like the Blue Host option in the future. You will also have a ton more resources and options available through the slightly less than free option we suggest.
  • Also since we’re an affiliate of Blue Host (as well as the other tools mentioned in the post), we will get a small commission if you decide to use them, and as you should know by now, we only recommend things that genuinely help you. I don’t care where you set up your blog as long as you get something live.
  • Due to the increased traffic and complexity of Live Your Legend, we host it on a more robust platform via WP Engine (which I LOVE), but at $99+ per month, that is definitely not the option you need to start out.

2. Pick your blog name (called a URL or Domain Name).

This is part of the sign-up process through Blue Host in step #1.  When you sign up for basic hosting, you get a website name for free.

Keep it simple. Don’t hold off just because you can’t come up with the wittiest web 7.0 name. Using your first and last name (or a similar rendition) is fine and might even be better since this will be a general blog covering your interests, given that you might not know the specific niche you want to focus on. Using your name can also allow the site to serve as a simple online resume if nothing else, and it helps with your name’s Google rankings.

3. Set up WordPress on your new site (or better yet, have Blue Host do it for you).

Once you’ve purchased your hosting/domain, you are ready to install WordPress, which will allow you to edit and update your site without needing to do anything technical. Most every blog on the planet from LYL to ZenHabits to 4-Hour Work Week are all run on WordPress.

Installing/setting up the very basic version of WordPress on a new Blue Host account is a pretty straightforward process. But I’m always a fan of having customer support do it for me. They should be happy to set it up. Just tell them something like, “Hey, I’m super excited to get started with my blog and a big reason I chose Blue Host is because I’m not technical and I heard you guys could get WordPress installed for me super fast. Could you please install WordPress on my new site so I can get started publishing content? Thanks so much!”

If you stall out on any of these steps you can always search Google or YouTube for a video tutorial on setting this stuff up, but again, that’s what customer support is there for. They love helping new clients.

4. Play around/get familiar with WordPress & pick your theme (not mandatory).

A theme is kind of like a template. It’s an out-of-the-box design for your blog to make it look sharp without needing a designer. There are literally thousands upon thousands to choose from. Again, don’t stall out on this one. Pick one fast, or better yet, just keep the standard theme for now. The good news is you can trade out themes at the click of a button later on.

5. Publish something.

The goal is to start getting your ideas out to the world as soon as possible. Keep it short to start so you actually do it. Maybe even just a few paragraphs for the first post — perhaps covering your reasons for starting the blog. Or just throw up something fun. Your call. This is your world. Anything goes. If you’re scared to put yourself out there (as I certainly was), remember not that many people are reading it, at least yet!

6. Write consistently.

Do it daily or weekly. Ideally first thing in the morning. Start with one sentence. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, but any time you get an idea that excites you or notice something on your mind, open up your computer and get it out there. Treat this as your online journal of sorts. Write about what fires you up or catches your interest. Developing your writing is a priceless skill, and the refinement of ideas that will result is magical.

If a passion or idea doesn’t have room to breathe, it will die.

7. Tell a few people.

Send out an email to those close to you, or maybe announce it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, wherever. Explain your plan to keep your ideas online and welcome your buddies to keep up and follow your progress. Maybe even ask them to check in here and there to keep you accountable. Nothing beats the expectations of others when it comes to taking action.

8. Set up a way for people to sign up to get your posts via email (also optional, but very useful). 

You want to make it easy for people to pay attention to what you’re doing. Collecting their email is the best and most focused way to do this. There are different free options available, but given the importance of creating a community, I’d recommend a more robust and user-friendly option. For this I love AWeber email management. They do an amazing job of making it easy to get started without having to be technical or knowing how to code.

You can try their service out for a dollar a month. And they have a really cool visual editor for intuitively creating nice- looking email forms to put on your blog. Go here to get set up on AWeber.

9. See what happens.

My favorite part!

ripples create revolutions

None of this would be here without a blog.

Seven years ago, I built my first blog without even knowing it. It started as an experiment to see if a guy who didn’t know a thing about technology could start a website.

It worked.

The site was hideous, but I was damn proud of it — I loved it. The focus of Reading for Your Success initially was writing book summaries and recommendations on all the personal development books I was reading. I had no intention of turning it into a business, let alone its own movement. I didn’t even know that was a possibility.

Most importantly, it was an outlet for me to explore my ideas and what actually mattered to me. At first my writing absolutely sucked (the posts are still in this site’s archives if you really wanted to see them, but I’d rather you didn’t.)  ;)

Over time, I learned what topics made my heart race and what seemed to connect with others. Knowing people were watching (even if only my parents and girlfriend at first) motivated me to continue to learn and grow.

An audience naturally makes us want to get better.

Before long, more and more people were asking for help on different fun things, especially related to quitting a keyboard-pounding job and doing work that mattered. One thing led to the next (i.e. I worked my ass off), the community grew along with my passion, and then Reading For Your Success eventually became Live Your Legend. Those three initial members of the community turned into tens of thousands.

The site and topics started to become my personal brand. A brand I was proud of. One I believed in.

That brand turned into a career.

People had a reason to come to me, and a specific way they wanted help. And I absolutely loved helping them.

The confidence and conviction that came with it were priceless.

But building a business and movement is not why I started. If it was, I would have given up long ago.

I started because I was pursuing something that I thought might interest me. That continued for four years of exploring and refining, without any publicly visible progress. I kept at it because I’d found an outlet for focusing and honing the impact I wanted to have. And it was published in a place the whole world could see, if they decided to look.

Momentum is a powerful thing.

Once a snowball starts rolling, it become difficult to stop.

Give your ideas a place to grow and transform, and you might be surprised where it takes you.

Actually, I know you will — and that’s the most exciting part of all!

It’s about time you get those ideas out of your head and share them with the world.

Serendipity is waiting,

-Scott

Now it’s time to take some action. I want to see how many blogs we can start or revive in the next week!  

  1. Start your blog. Visit Blue Host, click the orange button and take 15 minutes and do it right now.
  2. Write your first post. Anything goes, no matter how short or simple.
  3. Tell a few people and follow the above. Start by posting a link to your site in the comments below. We want to see your work!

Need more advanced help in starting a blog that matters? Try this (+ here’s a free copy of Live Off Your Passion ‘Lite’)…

I know a lot of you are serious about building a business and community around a blog, and I can’t blame you, assuming you’re willing to do the work. For you, these instructions are probably too basic. For the advanced stuff, I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I might know someone who does.

Corbett Barr’s course, How to Start a Blog that Matters, is definitely worth checking out. It’s the exact process I used grow LYL by 160 times in two years and turn it into a multiple-six figure business (LYL is one of the main case studies). I’m confident this will be the only course you’ll need.

Corbett is a good friend, mentor and genius when it comes to this stuff and I fully trust and support his work — LYL wouldn’t exist without it.

And to make it even more useful, when you purchase Corbett’s course through my affiliate link (which I do earn a commission from – this bonus is me saying thanks!I’ll give you a copy of the the ‘Lite’ version of my Live Off Your Passion eCourse, which includes a nearly 100-page written guide and associated workbooks full of exercises, activities and experiments for identifying your passion and building a career around it (The full LOYP course is $197). The two go hand in hand.

In order to get your free copy of Live Off Your Passion you must:

  1. Purchase the course through my affiliate link.
  2. Forward a copy of your receipt to [email protected] along with your name and best email address so I can send you the course download link.

Click Here to Purchase How to Start a Blog that Matters by Corbett Barr.

And for some advanced reading and more about how Corbett’s strategies helped turn Live Your Legend into what it is, don’t forget to check out one of my favorite LYL articles of the past year: The 4 Pillars to Starting a Blog that Actually Matters (& grow it by 160x in 2 years).

Remember, action is all that really matters to me. I don’t care what tools you use or courses you learn from, as long as you are making progress in doing what matters. I will only ever recommend the things I know work, but you always have the option to do this stuff totally on your own.

It’s your world.

I’m here to help any way I can!

—–

image credit 1, 2, 3, 4

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“It was 18 months ago when I came across Live Your Legend and it just completely blew my mind. I was living this life thinking I have to kind of just do this. Then it was like a kid on Christmas Day with my wife thinking ‘we don’t have to do this anymore.’ It was literally a life change. It opened so many doors. Thanks for everything you’re doing.”

- Simon P., Singapore