Exactly a year ago today I wrote my first post on this website, and geez, it was a terrible post. I’m too embarrassed to link to it.
I had no clue what I was doing when I started this site. I didn’t know HTML coding. I didn’t know how to read site metrics. I didn’t know the first thing about how search engines operate, or how to negotiate with advertisers, or how to layout a page, or what a plugin is.
Most importantly, I didn’t know how to engage with my readers. My training as a journalist taught me to stay detached and impersonal. (“Most Americans say they’re worried about retirement, a new Gallup poll finds.”) This is a fine technique when you’re discussing city council decisions for the local newspaper, but online it doesn’t fly. Readers want a human voice, and I didn’t know how to have one.
In this site’s early days, Afford Anything looked so horrible that one kind reader – in an effort to be constructive – told me that it came across as spammy. Looking back, I agree. (Fortunately, that same reader offered much-needed tips on how to improve.)
In the early days (geez, it’s only been a year – how do I already have “early days?”), when I had no readers and was blogging into an empty abyss, I looked for “small wins” to provide encouragement.
I vividly remember the first time someone re-tweeted something I said. I remember the exact spot where I stood while I read the re-tweet. I remember doing a little victory dance, the type that a football player might do after a touchdown. I remember telling my friends about it (and wondering why they looked so amused).
It seems silly now, but back then – twelve months ago – it felt like a triumph. Something I said was important enough to re-tweet! Victory dance!
I had no idea the blogging world is so complex. I had no clue that hundreds – or probably thousands — of people earn a full-time living as bloggers. I didn’t know I’d meet people through Afford Anything would become my closest friends. And I’m flabbergasted by the fact that some of the writers I admired from a distance are now my mentors.
Although I had high hopes for this site, I had no idea that Afford Anything would reach its one-year anniversary with 15,000 readers per month and growing.
So much happens in a year.
There’s a famous quote by Bill Gates that says: “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
While there’s truth to that, I’d add a caveat: the world is changing more quickly than we’ve ever experienced. Four years ago, in early 2008, I didn’t know anyone with a smartphone or a Twitter account. Now I know very few people without one.
Seven years ago, when I started working as an entry-level reporter, spending your career in newspapers seemed like a viable option. Now it sounds quaint.
With the world changing as quickly as it does, perhaps some of us underestimate what we can achieve in a year. Or in six months. Or even in six weeks.
So aim high. Overestimate what you can do. Dive in headfirst, even if you have no clue how to begin. You’ll learn along the way, and who knows? You might be shocked at how much you can do in a short time.
Thanks to Exfordy for today’s photo.