It might seem strange to be writing a post about the topic of this blog ~5 years after starting it. But when I started writing the blog, I didn’t know where it would go.
What I did realize—and this has turned out to be true—was that a space for my thoughts online would be a good investment.
My blog and newsletter is about living a better life.
This post is about how I came to that realization.
The Benefits of Writing Online
I view writing online as a no-lose habit.
At worst, you spend some money each month on hosting services (though there are ways around this too).
At best, the upside is almost unlimited.
By setting up a blog, you’ve already earned some new skills. Some basic design maybe, familiarity with some sort of blogging software, and the milestone of publishing your first work online.
In my experience, even if the blog doesn’t get read by many people, there are significant benefits.
When they start blogs, most people learn about SEO, because they’re interested, and they revisit some basic writing principles in an effort to make their writing better.
Writing is a form of thinking, and of remembering, and that’s what led me to start this blog.
Starting This Blog
The next year, when I went to work for Techstars Boston, I used it as a platform to publish what I was learning as an associate in the program. I thought it might be useful for companies considering the program in the future, but I also thought it would help me remember what I was learning.
Over the years, I published articles occasionally, switched platforms from Wordpress to Squarespace to Webflow, sold photo prints online, started publishing notes on the books I read, and published a podcast.
Having a blog helped me stay on top of SEO practices, learn new tools, and write.
Defining a Niche
One thing I struggled with over the years was defining a niche for the blog.
That said, both were known for specific aspects of their work—Nat for SEO and Tim for many things, but his books about “life-hacking”—and so it seemed like defining a niche might be helpful.
In addition, niche blogs often do well. They have a much better pitch for monetization because they work in a specific vertical, and their content is better suited for optimization towards specific topics.
But quite frankly, that sounded boring to me, and I knew that if I cornered myself in a specific niche, I wouldn’t be happy long-term, which would kill my motivation.
So I continued to read and write about anything that interested me, and when I started the weekly newsletter, it was just a collection of things I found interesting—again without a theme.
Building a Personal Monopoly
One of the content-creator maxims popular today is that you should build a “personal monopoly”—defining and building a category that you can dominate (David Perell is most known for this concept). Something that combines your unique skills and knowledge.
That sounds great—who wouldn’t want to dominate a topic online?
But I find it an extremely challenging goal, and I don’t think it’s necessary.
I gave the example of Tim Ferriss above, one of the most well-known creators of the last 10 years, and known for how passionate his audience is.
But when you think of Tim, what comes to mind as his “personal monopoly?”
I’ve consumed almost everything he’s produced, and I couldn’t tell you.
I could tell you many of the topics he’s passionate about—passive income, psychedelics, learning effectively, fitness and diet—but I couldn’t tell you his personal monopoly.
I do, however, respect him enough that I would read and listen to whatever he had to say, and carefully consider his opinion.
Some bloggers may be known as “the ____ guy”, but I think in the long-term we’re defined more by what we are interested in than our “personal monopoly.”
Why Bother With a Theme?
So if the above is true—that we are defined by what we’re interested in and what we publish, rather than our “personal monopoly”—why would I bother trying to say what this blog is about?
Well, there are a number of important benefits, and highest among them is simplifying communication.
When I try to tell people about what I write about, or what my newsletter is about, I just say something like “oh, it’s all kinds of stuff—tech, psychology, learning, fitness.”
Understandably, that doesn’t convey much about what it’s actually about.
The current description of my website as I write this is: “I write about things like whether you should buy solar panels, decision-making, and the lessons I learn on my journey in becoming an entrepreneur.”
What’s the common thread here?
And therein lies the issue.
We have a limited amount of time to catch the interest of potential readers online, and that description, while allowing people to read between the lines, is vague.
The second major benefit is having a North Star.
This isn’t a “niche” per se, but rather a guiding principle that can inform my writing and newsletter.
This is valuable for a number of reasons, the first being the selection of what I choose to write about.
I write down blog post ideas all the time, and I write probably 1/100 of them. I simply don’t have the time.
But better selection of which ideas I do write about can be informed by the central idea, or my “North Star.”
The other benefit of this guiding principle is making sure I deliver on what I told the reader my blog and newsletter was about.
If they signed up because they identify with the idea I’ve conveyed, and then get something completely different in the newsletter, it won’t be a good experience.
It’s important to note here that I believe you should write online about what interests you, not what you think will interest others. I think it’s the only way to stay motivated long-term.
But being able to communicate what you’re interested in is important, and being a little more focused helps.
What This Blog Is About
This blog is about living a better life.
After years of writing both on this blog and in my newsletter, this is what I realized was the common thread.
On the surface, eating habits and exercise don’t seem to fit well with personal finance, psychology, and mental models.
But they’re closely related. They all contribute to living a better life.
If you’re reading this, thanks for joining me on the journey. I hope you find something useful, and if you do, please reach out and let me know.