Can I be painfully honest with you for a moment?
Not thank-God-he-told-me honesty, where somebody points out you have spinach on your teeth. No, I’m talking about the sucker-punch-straight-to-the-face brand of honesty.
It’s brutal. It’s ugly. It’s unexpected.
And I can almost guarantee you will NOT enjoy it.
In fact, I’ve been holding off telling you for years now, hoping somebody would do the dirty work for me. But no one has. So, out of respect to you, I want to tell you the truth.
So here it is.
You know how you’ve been struggling to get traffic? Tried everything, and it’s just not working right?
Well, it’s not because you haven’t found the right traffic strategy. It’s not because you need to change your domain name. It’s not because the Google gods have turned against you and cursed you to wallow in anonymity forever.
It’s because you’re dumb.
And if you ever want a chance in hell of anyone listening to you, you’d better smarten up.
Did I really just call you “dumb?”
Yes, I did. Sorry.
Granted, you might be part of the minority who’s getting a lot of traffic and making a ton of money and is really and truly brilliant. If that’s the case, consider yourself excused from this “Come to Jesus” meeting.
The rest of you though?
This is not a ruse where DUMB turns out to be a clever acronym for something far less offensive. The truth is, I’m calling you out, and I’m doing it out of love.
Because you see, everyone has been lying to you. Including me.
We teach you traffic strategies. We dole out writing tips. We give you a pep talk and make you believe maybe you can really become the next blogging superstar.
There’s one really big thing we’ve been leaving out. Here it is:
Popular bloggers are smarter than you are
And no, I’m not talking about IQ.
What I’m referring to is having a conversation with somebody and walking away thinking, “Holy crap, they’re amazing!” Maybe not a super genius, no, but captivating nonetheless.
Every popular blogger I’ve ever talked to for more than 15 minutes has had that effect on me. I always come away from the conversation with a perspective I didn’t have before.
You might say, “Well, they’re not necessarily smart. They’re just articulate,” but I don’t think that’s all it is. I think it’s a piece of a much larger set of characteristics.
Just a few examples:
- They know damn near everything about their topic. And if they don’t know it, it’s in their reading pile.
- They can take enormously complex ideas and compress them into simple language anyone can understand.
- At least some of what they say is truly original. You’ve never heard it anywhere before. Ever.
- Even if you have no interest whatsoever in their topic, they find a way to captivate you and make you interested. It’s spooky.
- You find yourself thinking about something they wrote or said weeks or even years into the future.
Yes, they are publishing great content, building relationships with the right people, and employing the right traffic strategies, but at the bottom of it all, you have a wicked smart person who deserves all the attention they’re getting. They are truly special people.
On the flipside, there’s everyone else who is some combination of ignorant, obtuse, unoriginal, boring, or forgettable. You read their work, and you come away thinking they’re kind of dumb.
So, it’s time to ask yourself the question…
Which group do you belong to?
Or even more importantly, which group do you want to belong to?
The truth about building a popular blog
Once you start a blog, it’s not only about what you publish. It’s also about who you are.
If you’re smart, it’s relatively easy. You publish an idea that’s both brilliant and useful, it blows people’s minds, everyone starts talking about it, and a bazillion people link to your blog. Influencers also line up to become your friend and help you out because… well… you’re cool.
But if you’re not smart?
It’s nearly impossible. You can do everything all the blogging authorities tell you to do, and you can do it absolutely correctly, and you’ll still fail. I guarantee it.
So, does that mean you’re doomed?
Not necessarily. Here’s why:
This isn’t about genetics. This isn’t about inborn talent. This isn’t about fate.
It’s about deciding who you want to be and then making yourself into that person.
How to make yourself smarter
I was not what you would call a “bright” kid.
I goofed off in class. I failed tests. I skated through with mediocre grades.
But sometime around the age of 13 or so, I got fed up with myself and decided to change things. There wasn’t any pivotal moment that I recall. I just started caring less about what my friends thought and started thinking about who I wanted to become.
And that person was smart.
So instead of spending 30 minutes on homework, I spent five hours. If the teacher assigned a 500 word essay, I wrote a 1,000 word essay. On the weekends, I stopped going to the arcade and hung out at the library, reading books totally of my own choosing for 8-10 hours straight.
Nobody told me to do it. I just did it. Because that’s who I wanted to be.
Within a year, I was getting straight A’s. By the time I was 16, I graduated high school with college credit, a full two years early. In college, professors regularly called me a prodigy.
But you know the funny thing?
I failed every intelligence test the schools gave me. Every single one. I don’t remember for sure what they said my IQ was, but it was something like 106.
Could they have been wrong? Maybe, but I prefer to think something different:
Each and every one of us decides who we are. No, you may not be ready to be a popular blogger now, but you can become ready.
You just have to decide you want it, and then take the necessary steps. For example:
1) Replace your friends
I told you this would be painful, right?
Well, here’s some more brutal honesty:
If you want to grow, you almost always have to replace your friends. No, you don’t have to insult them or drive them away, but simply stop spending as much time with them as you used to.
As Jim Rohn famously said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” There’s no scientific evidence I know of to support him, but pretty much any successful person will tell you it’s true.
When I first heard that as a teenager, I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to think I could help my friends and take them with me.
But I couldn’t. Not because I had to “take care of myself” or anything narcissistic like that, but because they simply didn’t want to come. They were happy with who they were, and they didn’t have any desire to grow.
So I left them behind. I’d be lying to you if I said it was easy, but I’ve never regretted it. If you want to grow, you have to become someone new, changing the way you think, how you talk, and yes, the people you hang out with.
Want to become a better writer?
Well, find a few writers a little better than you are, online, in real life, wherever, and become friends with them. Exchange work, give each other feedback, and also find ways to hang out and do absolutely nothing related to writing.
If you know them in real life, go to a movie, bowling, a coffee shop, whatever. Talk to them. If they’re online, IM them every day or two, share a YouTube video, rant about stupid politicians, or just ask about their day.
At first, talking to them might be painful. You’ll feel like an idiot. Eventually though, you’ll get smarter, just by hanging around with them. You won’t be able to help it.
That’s what good friends do: they help us grow.
2) Become a know-it-all
Ever seen the movie The Edge?
Anthony Hopkins plays a billionaire who seems to know… well… everything. No one can ask him a question he doesn’t know the answer to.
Well, popular bloggers are kind of like that.
No, they don’t know everything, but a quick conversation could easily go from the latest trends in social media to political intrigue in medieval England to how to replace the carburetor in your car. All in a few minutes.
And they’re not bullshitting. They really know a lot about all of those subjects (and many more).
They’re learning. Constantly.
To use myself as an example…
- I listen to an interview with a brilliant person every morning during breakfast
- During lunch, I read part of a nonfiction book
- I watch 42 minutes of the smartest TV I can find during dinner (often on Netflix)
- After dinner, I read the day’s news and interesting blog posts
- Before going to bed, I read fiction for at least an hour
- While I’m in the car, I listen to books on tape, even if I’m going to the local pharmacy
- I spend a portion of every weekend watching recordings of conferences I couldn’t attend
And the crazy thing?
Amongst popular bloggers, I’m not abnormal. Yes, everyone has different routines, but each and every popular blogger I know spends at least three or four hours a day consuming new information.
It’s not just an idiosyncrasy. It’s required.
In today’s world, going to school, learning a few things, and then coasting through your life without reading another book is a death wish. You’ll be obsolete in a few years. Hell, if you’re a blogger, you’ll be obsolete in a few weeks.
The opposite is also true. If you spend more time learning than anyone else, before you know it, everyone thinks you’re a genius. Not only can you recite the work of other important people, but you connect the dots between totally unrelated subjects, creating new ideas nobody has even considered before.
It’s not because you were born with a high IQ. It’s because you know so damn much.
Spend at least three hours a day learning something new. I don’t care how or when you do it. Just make sure you do.
3) Do less
Here’s another powerful question:
How many hours per day do you spend thinking?
And no, I don’t necessarily mean sitting in a chair, lost in thought. You can include time when your body is on autopilot too, like when you’re driving to work, doing the dishes, taking a shower, etc.
For most people, it’s maybe two or three hours per day. Now, here’s the follow-up question that really brings things into perspective:
Of those hours, how many are spent thinking about your writing?
Uh oh. Now you’re in trouble, right?
Most people think about their family, their job, their upcoming vacation, but they don’t think about what they’re going to write until they open the word processor. Big mistake.
For every hour you spend working, you need to spend 10 hours thinking. Or put more simply, 10x thinking, 1x doing.
And it applies to more than just building a product.
If I add up all the time I spend writing blog posts, it’s probably a similar ratio. If I spend five hours writing a post, which I often do, I wouldn’t be surprised if I spent 50 hours thinking about it before I start writing and in between drafts.
When readers see the finished product, they think, “Oh my God, you’re a genius,” but the truth is, the vast majority of the stuff I think is either worthless or downright stupid. You never hear any of that. All you hear is the 10% I decide to share with you.
Whether they realize it or not, most popular bloggers do the same thing with their best content. They might think about a post for months or even years before they feel ready to write it. Usually, those are also the posts that go viral and make them famous.
Now, you might be thinking, “Well, I’m not doing this full time. I have a job, kids, a social life. I’m just too busy.” And you’re right. You are too busy. That’s the problem.
If you want to become a popular blogger, you need time to think. Not just for a few minutes here and there, but for hours and hours on end.
That means doing less. As painful as it may be, you’re going to have to cut some things out of your life to give yourself time to do this right.
Maybe it’s reducing your time in front of the television. Maybe it’s scaling back your hours at work. Maybe it’s spending less time with your friends.
Regardless, you have to cut something. Otherwise, you’ll never have time to think, and you’ll be just another fool regurgitating what everyone else says.
The bottom line
Blogging isn’t only about SEO or social networking or the quality of your subheads.
It’s also about you.
More than likely, the person you are right now is not capable of being a popular blogger. Your environment, your habits, and your schedule are sucking all the promise right out of you.
If you want to succeed, you have to change. Surround yourself with smart people, bury yourself in books, and cut all the crap out of your life that’s distracting you.
You may not feel it happen, but it will change you. Drastically. You’ll still be you, but you’ll be a better version of you.
And you’ll see the results.
Where your posts used to get a halfhearted response from readers, you’ll start getting dozens of adoring comments. Where popular bloggers used to ignore you, you’ll find them linking to your posts without even asking. Where you used to only see small, incremental traffic gains, your traffic will explode, going from 100 visitors a day to 500 to 1,000, all within a matter of months.
Not because you’re using some new traffic technique. Not because you got to know some powerful influencer. Not because you got lucky.
It’ll happen because you’re worthy. Slowly and painfully, you’ll have transformed into someone worth listening to.
Are you ready to be that person?
Or are you going to be just another dumbass with a blog?
The choice is yours.