Chances are you have a dream you’d love to see realized.
And chances are you’re skittish about it. One moment you’re ready to conquer the world…the next you’re in full retreat in a corner thinking you’ll be a colossal failure.
Been there. So I’m writing this in the hopes it will encourage you.
You should go for it.
12 Months Ago
A year ago I was getting ready to launch my book, Leading Change Without Losing It.
Naturally, like any writer, I had hoped somebody would read my book. I was praying and hoping it would help church leaders both find the courage and develop the skill set they need to usher in significant change in the church.
I also knew publishing was changing. I had read Michael Hyatt’s super helpful book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Among the recommendations Michael makes is that authors should blog to build an audience and platform for their work. Otherwise, your book can easily get lost in the digital landscape.
Michael’s book made me really wrestle down blogging. I had a blog, but it was faltering.
My On Again-Off Again Relationship With Blogging
The truth is I started this blog almost six years ago.
I had begun blogging with enthusiasm, but for years I had an on again-off again relationship with it. I would stop, and then start.
I couldn’t find my voice. One day I’d write a meaningful leadership post. Then I’d write that I went biking and saw a cow (well, not quite, but you get the idea). Then I’d stop all together.
At times it would be months between posts. I considered deleting the blog altogether several times, including as recently as last summer.
Take a Deep Breath
But having read Platform, I decided to take my blog seriously again.
One year ago this month, I
Committed to blogging 3 times a week every week.
Decided to get up even earlier each morning (by 5:30 a.m. at the latest) so the blogging wouldn’t interfere with my full time calling as the senior pastor of Connexus Church or with my family.
Set a ridiculous goal of 100,000 page views in 2013 to keep me motivated. That was more than five times the traffic I had been seeing on the blog.
It felt impossible.
I was nervous I wouldn’t have enough content.
I was worried I wouldn’t have the time.
In the back of my mind I thought it was futile.
But I started anyway.
Didn’t See This Coming
What happened in the next 12 months, well, just shocked me.
When I started writing regularly, people actually started reading.
The first month my blog traffic doubled.
Then it doubled again.
This month (12 months after my decision and 10 months into this year), my monthly traffic surpassed my annual target of 100,000 page views.
Never saw this coming.
I really hesitated to post these numbers because I didn’t want to sound boastful. Hope that’s not the case. I share it in the hopes that it will inspire you to take action. You can accomplish more than you realize. You just need to go for it.
Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned in the last 12 months of blogging.
1. Goals matter. At least they do for me. Had I not set a goal, I might not have stuck with it. I’m thinking about setting aggressive goals across the board in 2014 in all areas of my life and leadership. Maybe your next step is to set a goal. Just make it big enough that it scares you.
2. Discipline beats creativity. The sheer discipline of having to write three posts a week is far superior to waiting for ‘the inspiration’ to arrive. It’s amazing what deadlines can do to drive you closer to God and closer to wherever that creative well lies. Preachers take note.
3. Generating content doesn’t deplete the well, it replenishes it. I was so scared of not having enough content to keep 3 posts a week going. I keep a notebook with blog ideas just so I make sure I don’t run out. But after a year of content, I discovered that generating regular content doesn’t deplete the well, it replenishes it. Strangely, the more I write, the more ideas I have. And not just for blogging: for preaching, for staff and volunteer development and so much more.
4. The weirdest things go viral. My biggest posts are posts I struggled to write or wrote at the last minute because I had nothing else to say. Not making this up. This post as well as this one I wrote in less than an hour because I just ‘had to get it done’. I literally had my wife spell check them as I drove to the office because I barely got them out. They are two of the three most shared posts I’ve ever written. One is even now going to become a book. Weird. Just weird.
5. What you think is awesome sometimes falls flat. There have been a few times I thought I wrote masterpieces (well, you know…not really, but I thought they were decent.) They got pretty much zero traffic. Moral of the story: just keep writing and don’t cry too much when nobody likes your work.
6. Helpful wins. I love helping other leaders lead. Just love it. I’ve learned that the best posts help other leaders lead. Just help people. It will connect. Preachers and bosses, take note.
7. You’ll be tempted to quit moments before a critical breakthrough. I almost quit blogging (again) two other three times in the last 12 months. If my traffic declined for a month or I hit a bunch of posts that didn’t generate much response, I’d get discouraged. But then, almost like clockwork, the next post would generate tons of feedback.
8. A broader audience attracts disagreement. Just be prepared to attract critics. That’s all. And don’t take it too personally.
9. You need a few good friends. On the days when critics are having a field day, I’ll pull in a few close friends just to critically assess the feeedback, smile a little, and keep going. Therapeutic.
10. Experimentation is inexpensive and essential. I’ve tried different formats, different titling strategies, different social media strategies and so on just to see what connects with leaders and helps people most. Guess what? Failing is free. And you never know what connects till you try.
11. Knowing what’s next isn’t as critical as you think. I really don’t know where the blog is going next, but that really doesn’t matter. I had no idea where it would go last year or that I would be able to connect with so many amazing readers. So just keep going.
If you’re one of the tribe who reads this blog shares it, comments and given feedback…thank you.
Thank you for helping me—and many others—lead better now. Seriously, I grow as I interact with you. I’m so grateful for you, and look forward to so much more together. Thanks for making this a fantastic year.
So…that’s my story.
How about you? What are some lessons you’ve learned by simply deciding to do something you were afraid to commit to?