Once upon a time, there was a young man who thought he could change the world. He wasn’t sure how, but he knew he could do it if he gave it his all.
Life, though, has a funny way of separating people from their dreams. The young man went off to college, made some friends, got a job—settled down a bit. That was fine for a while, but it wasn’t what he’d always planned. Instead, he thought of the day he’d stand up and make a difference. More than that, he thought of all the times he’d had the chance but decided not to instead.
He’d gotten comfortable.
Then, one day, frustrated more than usual with the way life was going, he had an idea. “Why don’t I start a blog?” he thought to himself.
“It would only take a second, and it wouldn’t cost any money,” he rationalized to himself. “Then the world could hear all about my great ideas. This will be my big break.”
He was sold. Excited, he couldn’t sleep that night, so instead he stayed up creating the website. At 3:15 AM, he hit publish on his very first post.
“Now, I’ll just do this a few more times and pretty soon people will come to read,” he strategized. “Before long, the whole world will be waiting to hear what I have to say.”
So that’s what he did. He stuck to the plan, put his nose down, and went to work…for a little while. But he became a little disheartened when the realization hit that he wasn’t going to be an overnight success. The people didn’t come. Well, some did, but mostly it was just his family.
“Keep it up, son!”
For a year, he kept at it. He had a bulletproof plan from the beginning: write some stuff, get lots of praise and attention. The people weren’t coming, but never mind that; the plan was solid!
After a while, he got desperate. “Maybe if I write more, then they’ll come,” he thought. So he wrote more. More of the same, that is. But still, no one came.
He’d gotten comfortable.
Not realizing his goal was driven more by ego than anything else, he concluded that the world just wasn’t ready to hear what he had to say.
“Everyone’s too busy looking at pictures of cats to read anything important,” he told himself as he published the last post, vowing never to return. “I guess I’ll have to actually do my job now instead of write blog posts while no one’s looking. “It’s tedious work, but at least it’s comfortable.”
So that’s what he did, until he got fired.
“I guess I got too comfortable. What do I do now?” he shrugged.
At first, he sat around awhile. There was money in the bank, so why not? Each morning, he’d sleep in. Then he’d wake up and read the news for a bit, maybe play some guitar—he used to be good at it. If there were any time left at the end of such a busy and stressful day, he’d sit down and ask himself, “what next?” Eventually, the idea came.
“I know! I’ll start a blog!”
A one track mind you might think to yourself. You’d think correctly.
“Only this time it’ll be different! I really have something important to say now, and I know people want to hear it. They’ve told me so!” he reassured himself.
So the young man set to work creating the best damn blog he knew how to. He crafted the strongest message he could. He built all the connections he could manage. He honed his writing for months before posting anything to get it just right. He put together the greatest launch he knew how. And then he crossed his fingers, eyelids pressed together so tight he could see stars, and hit “publish.”
And when he opened his eyes and uncrossed his fingers, there were people there. Lots of them, in fact.
“It worked! It really worked,” he thought to himself. “So… now what do I do?”
The only answer he could come up with was to keep it going—to make it even better. So that’s what he did. He read every article he could about writing and self-promotion. He carefully constructed every article, being sure to hit on important points that people would care about and throw in some laughs here and there for good measure. He noticed that helped. He studied his headlines to make them clever and interesting, and he dissected his audience with precision to make sure he was always creating something they’d enjoy.
And it kept going and going. The numbers kept rising, and things just kept getting better. Life was good.
And then the ego came back.
Somewhere along the line, the young man realized, “Hey, I’ve got the formula for success. I’ll just keep doing this forever and things will be great.”
After having such an epiphany, he figured he didn’t need to work to improve anymore. The writing was good enough. No need to pay attention to headlines anymore. And why worry about asking his audience what they wanted? He had his finger on the pulse; what could go wrong?
He’d gotten comfortable.
The growth started to slow down, but who cares? Things were still going up. Until they weren’t.
“No worries,” he thought to himself. “It’s just a temporary thing.”
But then a few more months passed and things were still the same: headed down. He checked his traffic statistics and noticed that the numbers across the board were looking grim.
If the sword had fallen all at once, certainly it would have jolted him awake. But no, it never really happens that way. Instead, the young man was going the way all things that don’t realize they’re going seem to go. He was dying the death of a thousand little cuts.
So he changed a few things. Nothing big—a little tweak here, a shift there. He’d learned a long time ago that little changes could make big differences. Maybe there was something small he could do that would turn the ship around.
But despite all his fumbling, things stayed the same—bad. Now he was getting desperate. Was it all a fluke? A dream in his imagination? Had the success he remembered not actually happened at all? Was he going crazy!?
The questions raced through his head and each answer only lead to another, harder question. Then, in a moment of clarity, the young man saw the pattern his life had followed, and it all made sense:
He’d gotten comfortable.
Every time things went right, he was on his toes, fighting for his life. Every time they went wrong, he was resting on his laurels. That’s when he knew something big had to change. That’s when he knew he had to do something that would jolt him awake.
Not a Work of Fiction
As much as I wish it were, the story you just read is not a work of fiction. Instead, it’s my own story—the tale of the last two years of my life. I’ve had some incredible highs and some devastating lows. I’m grateful for all of them, but to tell the truth, I want more highs. And not just for me, for you as well.
That’s why—effective immediately—Riskology.co is changing. I have a number of big changes to announce over the next several months, but for now this is the only one that matters:
Riskology.co will publish once a week starting now.
This is the aim, but it’s not the rule. The truth is that there is no publishing schedule now. Since Day One, I’ve written an article here every Monday and Thursday and never once missed a deadline. This has been great for building the habit of writing, but over time, it’s also made me lazy. Today that changes, and no article will appear here until it’s a 10 out of 10, damn the schedule.
If it sounds like I’ll be writing less, understand this isn’t the case. In fact, I’ll be writing a lot more.
Pinned to the wall above my desk, I have a set of guidelines for each article that I follow when I write, and one of the rules that I have—I kid you not—is, “No article is published unless it’s an 8 out of 10.
8 out of 10? What kind of standard is that? Anyone can write 8 out of 10, and everyone does. This is where the problem lies. Writing has absolutely no barrier to entry, especially if you’re a blogger. There are millions of people just like me trying to make a go of it, and they’re all writing articles at 80% of their ability. How do you stand out and create something valuable that people will care about at 80% of your ability? You don’t.
Everyone is looking for a magic formula, for their push-button success. Well, if my story is any indication, then the only magic formula is constant change and avoidance of comfort.
Nothing works forever, and no one that’s ever built something remarkable did it on auto-pilot. They did it by giving the best they had, and changing when it stopped being enough. No one has ever built something and then wiped their hands to say, “Okay, I’m done,” and stood the test of time.
A few weeks ago, I published this article about memory, and something happened that I hadn’t seen happen around here in a while. People started talking to each other. In the comments, there was real debate going. The article was being tweeted and shared and stumbled and everything else. The community felt truly alive.
And something else happened that I hadn’t noticed in a while. I felt proud of what I’d created. What we’d created. I saw everything that I wanted Riskology.co to be, and everything that it could be.
Now I have to pursue it with fury. From here on out, expect to see more articles like that.
That was a hell of a long way to tell you I’m changing the publishing schedule (and other things to come), but I hope you took away something much more than just that.
The only thing constant in this world is change. Life, left to its own devices, devolves to chaos. The only way through is to fight for order, to change what is no longer working before entropy gets the best of you. If you’ve been stuck in a rut for a while, I challenge you to ask yourself:
When was the last time you came alive and changed something big?
Never accept comfort.
Image by: Mike Licht