How to Blog Yourself to a New Life

I’m going to start this post with a big helping of gratitude. I’m so grateful to the 1000’s of readers that helped me get into the field of Data Science and Machine Learning. I was a part-time blogger that turned my passion into a full-time gig in the AI Startup world. This post is my way of paying it forward to you. Read below if you want to learn how to make money blogging.

My Journey

I started a blog back in 2006 writing about trading stocks and foreign exchange (Forex). I used my blog like the modern-day twitter/microblog than like a real blog these days. It was that, a weblog of what was going on in my life. I used it like Twitter, writing short updates as blog posts, and ended up amassing 100’s of useless posts. I don’t regret that because that’s what the Internet was like back then.

The sad reality is that work can sometimes paralyze you.

My blog came into being because my work was boring. I was working at a transportation firm as a Civil Engineer and my work life wasn’t very exciting. Don’t get me wrong, Civil Engineering is a great career but over time it turned out that it wasn’t for me.  

I had a hard time getting out of bed every morning and my mood was always sour by the end of the day.  It was starting to affect my family life and that was like a major warning bell for me. I needed to make a change but what?  I felt trapped at work, who would hire this 44-year-old man? I doubted myself and along with it, my confidence fell apart. 

The sad reality is that work can sometimes paralyze you. You end up doubting yourself and your abilities. It’s damn right scary when this happens and I knew I needed to make a change back in 2007. 

I needed to find something that matched my short attention span and was challenging. But what? The ‘what’ was starting a new blog in 2007. What I didn’t know was that this blog would change my life over the next seven years.

I started Neural Market Trends right after my old blog crashed and I lost all my posts. I needed to create a new one and I got bored writing about general stock market stuff. I decided to apply Data Mining (aka Machine Learning) to the stock market and see if I could make market predictions and post about them. If I got them right the majority of the time, I could amass a following like Seeking Alpha or other blogs.

I had found my passion, my true calling.

Of course, I wanted to start trading these models and make a lot of money. I had dreamed of trading my way to freedom where I could start a new career as a stay-at-home day trader. These were all dreams I had while I worked in a constrictive corporate office. I was being smothered and I needed freedom to move around. I like to think, take naps (for creative purposes) and blur my work and personal life. 

I’m not an ordinary guy that can do a 9 to 5! I am not a standard interchangeable ‘labor unit’ and I knew that I was worth more than what I was being paid.  

All these feelings and thoughts help me push ahead with my new blog. I started writing about trading models built with a powerful machine learning suite. I poured countless hours into this software, learning, building, and ultimately teaching. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was learning Data Science. I spent countless hours, days, and weeks writing and sharing with my readers. Then suddenly, my readership exploded! I was being backlinked, cross-posted in other blogs, and ultimately invited to speak at the first RapiMiner conference. 

Everything started to align 3 years after I started my blog.  I knew right then and there that I wanted to get into this field. I had found my passion, my true calling.  Yes, it took 3 years of working and writing to finally uncover my passion. I don’t mind that it took that long because some things need time to ‘gel’ in your mind. Sometimes you have to keep working to push through the obstacles.s

How do find the thing that makes you want to get out of bed every day?

Fast forward another 4 years and I switched my career into Sales Engineering at a Startup. I was offered a position at the Startup because of my blogging and communication skills, so in 2014 I said goodbye to a career that was stable and boring for one that was unstable and exciting. I found something that got me out of bed every morning, excited for the day ahead, and made me feel good when I went to bed at night. My mood changed, I rebuilt my confidence, and I became a better father and husband. I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming but life has been pretty awesome since then.

Ok, enough about me. Let’s do you.

Find your Passion and Work at It

It took me 3 years to find my passion and another 4 years to execute on it. You could make the argument that once I found my passion I should’ve found a new job right away! Well, the job I had paralyzed me and I had serious doubts. These were the thoughts running through my head:

“I’m not good enough” or “No one will hire me, I’m too old” and even “What if I fail?”  

I will not deny that those thoughts are real and YOU will face them but in the end, they are nothing to worry about. I’ll write about these thoughts later, for now, let’s talk about YOUR passion.

Some people have summarized Ikigai into four questions, which is pretty helpful.

I found my passion by scouring the Internet for Machine Learning papers, reading some early blogs on the subject, and devoured anything I could find. I learned about Regular Expressions, taught myself Python, and followed every crazy whim I had. 

What if you’re not as lucky as I was? What if you’re paralyzed in a crappy job or an oppressive career? How do find the thing that makes you want to get out of bed every day?

I’ve given this a LONG HARD Thought over the years and it comes down to a simple Japanese principle called Ikigai. 

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. You can read more about in the link but the gist of it is, what gets you out of bed in the morning? It’s your reason for being alive, your meaning of life, and that is what makes your life worth living. 

There are 100’s of bloggers that post Venn diagrams of Ikigai and their methods of how to make it all work. You should search for it but you’ll find that it’s become too commoditized. They miss the point of the entire meaning in my humble opinion.

Some people have summarized Ikigai into four questions, which is pretty helpful.  The four general questions you should ask yourself are:

1. What are you good at

2. What you love to do

3. What the world needs

4. What you can be paid for

You’ll realize that these 4 questions are part of a greater whole. That whole is your being for existence, your Magnum Opus, your life’s work. When you answer these questions, honestly, and when all work together in harmony, you’ll be the happiest person in the world. There’s nothing that can describe the feeling when all four of those questions align for you, you will just know it.

Still, you have to figure it out. So how do even start?

Getting Started

Getting started is the first step and it’s the hardest step. Getting started means thinking about what you want and then making a plan to achieve it. The sad thing is that this is the biggest hurdle you have to overcome and the probability of failing is very high.

How do you NOT fail?

I found out a long time again that people fall into three main groups for learning. These groups are visual, auditory, and kinetic.

Mind map drawings are the perfect way for you to ‘download’ all the stuff that’s been floating around in your head.  

Visual learners learn best through pictures, drawings, and slides. The majority of us are visual learners. Auditory learners learn best by reading or listening. The last group is Kinetic learners who learn by doing. They work at it in a physical sense. 

My proposition to you is to either write your new life down (auditory), draw it out (visual), or go for a walk (kinetic). This will make sense below. 

Write it down (auditory)

I’m starting with auditory learners because it’s my second method of learning. If it wasn’t then I wouldn’t be writing blog posts! The key thing to note is that Auditory learners love story-telling and reading. It’s their main way of learning. So let’s get started. 

First, get a blank piece of paper and a pencil. You’ll write down some questions that you’ll ask yourself. These questions will be very personal and may take some time to think about. 

If you don’t have any idea about what kind of questions to ask yourself, the following are a good start. Write them down and answer them.

“In my free time, I like to do”

“My hobbies are”

“If I had a chance, I would like to do this for a living”

“If I had more time to dedicate to this, I could be great at it”

“What will people remember me for?”

“If I could change the world, what would I do?”

Then I read them aloud and listen to them. I’ll even put the paper down and think about what I heard myself speak. Then I’ll read them aloud again. 

If something doesn’t feel right, I’ll change my answer or ask a different question. 

After a while, you’ll hear some interesting patterns in your answers. You’ll hear what your passion is. When you do, write it down and circle it. Put stars around it. Paste it to the wall and look at it every day. 

Mind Map Drawings (visual)

The next method is a visual way. This is my primary learning method and although I’m a terrible artist, I like to make mind map drawings. 

Mind map drawings are the perfect way for you to ‘download’ all the stuff that’s been floating around in your head. 

Here’s one I did a few years ago.

To get started with a mind map, get a piece of paper and a pencil. Then put a stick figure of yourself in the middle of the paper and draw circles around you. I usually do about 5 and then start filling up the bubbles.

What do you fill the bubbles with? 

The Big Rock items.

Fill them with what’s important to you. Things like family, your life, relationships, and work. Fill them with what you like to do and want to do. Think about what you love to do, what the world needs. 

Starting writing down anything that comes into your mind, it’s ok to edit and restart. Mind maps capture very fluid thoughts and subtle patterns. Some of these patterns are weak and others will be strong. 

This exercise will take a long time and you might have to start over a few times but stick with it. You can even use the writing prompts from the Write it Down section. If you get stuck, I recommend you do that. 

Go for a Walk (kinetic)

Going for a walk is a rather strange way to find your passion but it touches on the concept of ‘no-mind.’ 

No mind is a state of being where your body does something without thinking about it. It’s like the martial artist that practices the same moves every day, over and over again. On the day of the fight, he/she executes the moves without thinking. 

Your mind becomes calm and all the daily chatter goes quiet. Going for a walk helps clear your mind and allows you to be open to receiving your passion. It will happen in a flash. It will seem magical but it’s not, it’s been inside you the entire time. 

Once your walk is over, take a piece of a blank piece of paper and write down any flashes of inspiration you had. If there was no inspiration today, then go for a walk tomorrow or try a more vigorous form of exercise. Keep repeating this method until inspiration hits.  If it doesn’t, then try adding the writing prompts or mind mapping exercises above. 

Summary

By the time you’ve run through this section, you should be able to find something that excites you. A ‘seed’ of passion at the very least. If you don’t, then keep working at these exercises till you do. This step is the hardest and fraught with a high failure rate, don’t stop. 

I touched on the concept of Ikigai, a great starting point to help you frame your existing and future life. Remember those four questions from above?

1. What are you good at

2. What you love to do

3. What the world needs

4. What you can be paid for

Want to know what my answers were? After mind mapping, lots of walks, and writing every down I came up with these answers and key points.

What am I good at? Public speaking, writing and communicating.

What do I love to do? Solve problems and communicate.

What does the world need? AI Transformation, automating processes.

What can I be paid for? Being a Sales Engineer.

What are my hobbies: Blogging, photography, reading.

What are my Big Rocks: Family, writing, personal growth.

You Found Your Passion! Now What?

I’m so happy you found your passion, what do you do now? You will waste all your effort now if you don’t make a plan and execute it.

I didn’t have a plan in the beginning and that’s why it took me 7 years to change careers! I’m not sure if I could’ve done it sooner but in hindsight, I shouldn’t have let this slip. 

Take the time to think about a great domain name, register it, and then host it with  Bluehost or Dreamhost.

A plan is a set of measurable smaller goals that keep moving in the right direction. Your passion is what will drive you on.

The weird thing is that as you make your plan execute it, your passion might change. That’s ok, you might evolve and what got you excited in the beginning might not be the thing that you end up with!

The reality is that can’t go cold turkey overnight. I’m a big fan of easing yourself out of your old life into your new one. 

It all starts with a blog and we’ll focus on that. 

Start at the beginning – Set up a blog

Now, let’s get to the blogging part of this post. You’re going to need a blog if you want to “blog your way to a new life.” The good news is that setting up a blog has never been easier. There are so many ways to do it, you can sign up for a Blogger or Tumblr account or you have to host it yourself.

The best way is to host the blog yourself. If you use a 3rd party blog provider like Tumblr or Blogger, you can be removed at any time for the smallest thing! This has happened when malicious readers decide to ‘mess with you’ and it can cause weeks of headaches. YOU should be the Master of Your Domain!

Take the time to think about a great domain name, register it, and then host it with  Bluehost or Dreamhost.

DreamHost

Once your blog is ready, you’ll have to start writing about your passion. Now comes another problem, understanding the difference between writing and making content.

Anyone can write content but making great content is hard. If my passion was to make a sourdough bread baking blog, I could write about a recipe and post a few photos. That would be writing content and if I did that, I wouldn’t get very far with my blog.

There are 1000’s or even 100,000’s of bloggers that do that. They write some words, sprinkle some images, and call it done. Then they wonder why they have a very mediocre site in the end.

Making Content

Making content is HARD and it will consume a lot of your time. Do not skimp on this. If you ever think “Let me skip this step so I can post faster,” stop what you’re doing and take a step back. Don’t skip because the difference to your readers is in the details. 

Readers can discern a half-assed post over a quality post in the first few minutes of reading the post. They’ll bounce on your videos in seconds if it’s too kitschy or passes over your link in the search results.

Your blog will become your online resume and your brand. You need to protect and cultivate this from the very first day you launch your blog.

Let’s take the Sourdough Bread Baking Blog idea from above. 

Making content would look like this to me:

1. Well lit photos of different parts in the sourdough making process

2. A video or two of you kneading the dough and a timelapse of the bread rising as you’re baking it

3. A short video for Instagram on you cutting through the bread so people can hear the crunch and see the crumb

4. An infographic of your recipe

5. A detailed post of the recipe with a link to another post on how you made your sourdough starter

6. Sharing the infographic on Pinterest

That’s a lot of work and it will slow the frequency of your posting down, but it will be worth it in the end. 

Go To Market Strategy

I touched on this in my Sourdough Bread Baking Blog idea but it’s worth expanding on. When you’re making content you need to think about how it will be consumed. 

This ties into how people learn (auditory, visual, kinetic) and what channels you’ll use.

At the beginning of this post, I wrote about Finding Your Passion and how people learn in different ways. The same is true for those types of people when they consume information. If you want to reach a lot of auditory learning people, consider adding a podcast version of your post. If you want to reach visual learners, consider making an infographic. If you want to reach kinetic learners, consider making a video of you doing whatever it is you do. 

This extra content is what I call companion content and is important in your Go To Market strategy. This is about finding the right group of people to consume your content and build your brand. You need to always think about what the easiest way your readers will consume your content.

The last thing you should do is add a companion video for your blog post. This way can highlight key things in your blog post and the video for people to pay attention too. 

By creating a video you’re also increasing your consumption channels. Your blog post will only show up in one consumption channel, search! If you make a companion video with your blog post, your post will show up in search AND YouTube. You’ve doubled the chance that someone will see your content!

The same goes for other social media channels like Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Not every channel will be best for your niche but you should consider each on its merit. 

Time is all you need

I wrote that it took me seven years to turn my passion into my new life and I suspect it will take some time for you as well. I don’t know how long it will take but you need to stick with it. There will be highs and there will be lows. It’s NOT easy. 

Many bloggers will say “stick to a posting schedule” and that has some merit if you’re only writing content. When making content you should always focus on details and great content. It will take all the time it needs but in the end, it will make a deeper impact. 

Don’t worry about posting frequency and instead focus on quality. 

Over time you’ll notice that your blog will start gaining traction on the search results. People may start sharing your posts on Twitter or Facebook. You’ll get comments on your posts or likes on Instagram. Once that happens, KEEP GOING!

This will be hard to but keep making content. It will feel like a second job and it will drain your energy but that means your life is starting to change. You’ll start to be known as the “Bread Gal” or “Mr. Fix It Dad.”

Monetization Strategy

Let’s face it, if your passion project, your blog, starts to feel like a second job, you should start earning income. I turned my passion into a full-time job offer with a big raise to my salary at the time. It was a no-brainer for me to take the offer and the rest is history for me. 

Your experiences will be different. You might get offers to join startups or something else. Consider those offers if they make sense to you. If not, then consider monetizing your blog.

There are several ways to monetize your blog and I’ll touch on the big ones here.

1. Google Ads

2. YouTube

3. Affiliate Links

Google was once a sure-fire way to make a lot of money if you had the traffic. Then there were the ‘me too’ clones that promised more CPC and revenue than Google Ad competitors. This was all fine and dandy until one day the ad killers came. The Ad killers were either browser addons or built into the browser itself that strip the ads out of your posts. The reason why was that ads clutter up your content and people like reading clean content. 

You can still make money from Google Ads but I wouldn’t rely on it as the main source of your income. People will use browser add-ons to cancel out your ads. 

YouTube

YouTube has a way to monetize your videos if you have enough subscribers and view time over a year. This is not an instant money maker but if you grow your subscriber base and have high view time, you can make a lot of money.

YouTube is great for people who make things. Bakers, Cooks, Travelers, and many more can make great video content and post it. In time you’ll notice which topics in your given passion are popular and you can tailor your content to it. 

I like Affiliate Links because they’re unobtrusive and they’re reader-friendly. Amazon has affiliate links, Dreamhost and Bluehost do as well. These links cost nothing for the readers. When the reader buys a product or service from the Affiliate, the blogger gets a cut of the ‘commissions.’

This is a win-win situation but abusing affiliate links is very common. Many ‘Sploggers’ will write some crazy content so they can rank on Google and then try to get you to click on the link. This isn’t very cool, period. 

Affiliate links only work well if you become a trusted blogger and content creator. You use the products you recommend or have used in the past. For example, I’ve used Dreamhost in the past and still use it for managing my Domains. It’s a great hosting platform for starting new blogs. If people click on my affiliate link and start a hosting plan, I earn revenue. 

Putting it all together

In the end, blogging yourself into a new life is hard work. Nothing worthwhile will ever be easy BUT it’s so rewarding. Imagine waking up every morning and doing the thing you love and making money at it? You’ll never be unhappy again!

I hope that this post stirs you to action because I’m living proof that it can happen. I never thought that my passion would’ve led me to a new life. It’s been the best ride of my life and I know you can do it too.

Helpful Infographic

Please feel free to share this infographic if it’s helpful to you!


Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase a product or service using one of my affiliate links, the company compensates me, which helps me run this blog and keep my content free of charge to you.

The Big Rocks

I’m was in Silicon Valley in 2019 for a few days to attend our yearly Sales Engineering (SE) training. It’s a great way for the growing SE team to get together and talk shop. I find these yearly meetings very useful but they’re hectic. Fun but hectic.

I love being in California. It’s such a wonderful place for the outdoors and ‘chilling’ in cities like San Francisco. I’m a big fan of the SoCal desert areas and Joshua Tree is one of my favorite destinations. Ever since I lived in Albuquerque, I’ve had a pull toward the mountains and deserts. Yet it seems that I won’t get away this time for much-needed fun out in those mountains.

There’s always time for work, but never enough time for yourself or loved ones.

I pondered this as I was flying 36,000 feet over the United States and it reminded me of Franklin Covey. I’ve learned that YOU have to take the time for yourself. You have to make it point to go work out, hike, and have fun. It’s those “Big Rocks” that Franklin Covey once wrote about. The Big Rocks are those important things in your life. Family, love, personal care/growth, etc/ Put those in a jar and you’ll see that space is still there. Then you add sand, and the sand fills everything up. The sand is your work life. There’s always time for work, but never enough time for yourself or loved ones. 

…noise robs you of your precious time.

It’s easy to lose track of this habit and I’ve been guilty of this for sure. Still, it’s not a bad thing to lose your way from time to time, the real bad thing is not to course correct. 

To achieve this I plan on digging out my old 7 Habits for Highly Effective People and giving it another read-through. I’m going to focus on all the habits but I’ll spend time revamping my Google Tasks to accommodate something called “quadrants.”Covey broke down tasks into four subcategories and when you do that you identify the tasks that are noise.  This is important because noise robs you of your precious time. Spend more time on important tasks and don’t do the unimportant ones.

What legacy am I leaving behind?

Once you do that you can free up your time to focus on those Big Rocks, and that becomes your legacy, and I ask myself what legacy am I leaving behind?

What legacy are YOU leaving behind?


Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase a product or service using one of my affiliate links, the company compensates me, which helps me run this blog and keep my content free of charge to you.

How Blogging Led to My Personal Growth

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been blogging now for over 15 years. I’ve written 100’s of posts, some short and some long. I’ve had my shares of ups and downs here but in the end, I’m glad I stuck with it. It’s made me realize that blogging has led to my personal growth. Blogging has become a career!

What’s happened is that I’ve been reposting and repopulating old posts from my archive. I took these posts down a few years ago thinking they were of no use, but now I realize I was wrong. Sure there was some cringe-worthy type of posts back then, but I look at them now and smile. I’m so far removed from them now and I realize I am so different now.

As I repopulate these posts I can’t help but remember where I was in my personal and professional life. I also notice how busy I was. My posting frequency is proportional to how crazy my work and personal life are. Yet still, I wrote at least a few posts a year. 

Year 2007 to 2009

Back in the early 2007-2009 era, I spent a lot of time blogging about Forex, Stocks, and using AI to trade the markets. It was during this time that I first wrote my RapidMiner tutorials. They brought me a lot of traffic and I adored the attention. I market timed and moved money in and out of my accounts, thinking I can beat the market. Lo and behold I was wrong. 

I made a sharp career change. I couldn’t believe how fast things could change, but they did for the better.

I also held onto some crazy ideas back then about Objectivism and Libertarianism. As I grow older I realize that this selfish way of living is a folly. Life does not have to be a zero-sum game. Yes, invest in your future but also invest in deep relationships, love, health, and Nature. Cultivate those and you’ll find balance and true wealth. 

Year 2010-2014

In the 2010 to 2014 era I saw some big changes to this blog. I ramped up my blog posts around Machine Learning and what was to become Data Science. I created a lot of YouTube videos on how to use RapidMiner and it generated even more traffic for me. I was still working full time as a Civil Engineer but I began to dream of moving into the Machine Learning space. As luck would have it, RapidMiner moved to Boston and got VC funding. 

In 2014, RapidMiner offered me a job as a Sales Engineer and I accepted. I made a sharp career change. I couldn’t believe how fast things could change, but they did for the better. 

I learned that passion, learning, and dedication can change your life. If you want something bad enough, you must chase it. You must work hard and learn, face the obstacles and work through or around them. After some time, you’ll see how far you’ve grown and how successful you can be. 

Year 2015-2017

From 2015 to 2017 I cut my teeth as a Data Scientist. I learned so much about Data Science, Marketing, and especially Sales. I’ve come to realize that I LOVE working in Sales. No matter how crazy and stressful it can be sometimes, it matches my personality. It’s who I am. The stars have aligned!

I’ve always loved public speaking and presenting and now I was presenting to CTO’s and CIO’s all over the USA. Yes, the travel burned me out but I learned how to compensate for that (now). I did make A LOT of bad decisions for my health. I ate too much, drank too much, and sat in my chair. While at RapidMiner I gained about 40 lbs, something I’m working off now. 

It’s been a wild and rewarding ride ever since!

I left RapidMiner in 2017 to start my own Data Science and Engineering consultancy. I built up a client base in both fields but left after a serendipitous phone call in July of next year, more on this next.

In the end, those years were tough working years. I loved every minute of it. The startup life was and IS for me. I looked back and kicked myself for not making the leap sooner. I learned that you can’t hide who you are, you must BE who you are. The longer you hide from that, the more miserable you will become. I know it’s scary and I’ll admit that I was scared, but there comes a time when it’s now or never. I chose now. 

Year 2018 – present

I worked in my own consultancy for over a year before I got a phone call from my now colleague J. We had met back in 2014 when she was a new hire at H2O.ai. She reached out to me because she had an extra ticket for H2O World in New York and offered it to me. I declined because I had some client meetings but I did tell her that I left RapidMiner last year. 

That call set up a chain reaction where two weeks later, I had an offer to join the Sales team at H2O.ai. I made preparations to close down my consultancy in September 2018 and joined the team. It’s been a wild and rewarding ride ever since!

I owe it all to Blogging

I owe everything to Blogging. I do. I took my passion for AI and turned it into a career. Along the way, I’ve met so many awesome people and now I’m surrounded by so many awesome people. I’m part of the Maker culture where you “make stuff” happen and I’m humbled to be there. It’s crazy, wild, stressful, adventurous, hard, enlightening, and plain awesome. 

I would’ve never been here if I resigned myself to my fate back in 2007. Do what scares you, do what you love. Make your world sing.

Do it!

If you’ve ever wondered if you could blog yourself to a new life, you can. I share some tips on how to do it in my How to Blog Yourself to a New Life post.

The Psychology of Writing

I found this interesting article on Pocket about writing. The gist of it is that successful writing is about rituals. Every writer is different and the rituals are different, it’s all about finding out what works best for you.

Location and physical environment also play a role in maintaining a sustained and productive workflow. Bob Dylan, for instance, extolled the virtues of being able to “put yourself in an environment where you can completely accept all the unconscious stuff that comes to you from your inner workings of your mind.” Reviewing the research, Kellogg echoes Faulkner’s memorable assertion that “the only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost” and notes that writers’ dedicated workspaces tend to involve solitude and quiet, although “during the apprenticeship phase of a writer’s career, almost any environment is workable” — most likely a hybrid function of youth’s high tolerance for distraction and the necessity of sharing space earlier in life when the luxury of privacy is unaffordable. via Pocket

This is true. I had a massive lapse in my writing routine over the past few years on this blog because of a mixture of excuses. Now I make it a point to write something at least once or twice a week. Still, writing can be hard. There are so many distractions but sometimes you just got to do it.

I’m a big believer in getting your butt in a chair and just start writing BUT if your environment is distracting (whatever that may be for you), then you’re not going to get any productive work done.

The article is well worth a read, especially the Hemingway quote:

When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until morning when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that.

Figure out what works well for you. Try to figure out what time, location, and whatever allowable distractions will get your butt in a chair and start writing.

Also, don’t let technology impede you as it did me in the past!

The Great Content Reorganization

I’ve made some major moves (again) with both of my blogs. Part of the reason for the changes is how I write content and how I was impeding myself.

While I absolutely love Hugo, it was not as WYSWIG friendly and it impeded my writing flow. I got close to streamlining my writing life when I started hosting my own Ghost instance and I love Ghost but it’s not as mature as WordPress, and frankly, I didn’t have the energy to always be hacking my site for uptime.

So I took a hard look at myself and started experimenting with WordPress again. I started moving my thomasott.io Hugo-based blog to WordPress as a test a few weeks ago and realized that I like it a lot.

Why? WordPress works really well with my preferred writing tool, iAWriter. I find iAWriter with its simple interface, markdown forward, and ease of integration with 3rd party services a dream.

I hate to say it but I got tired of writing content with iAWriter, copying and pasting the content into a markdown file, adding the YAML headers, then spell checking and running it through Grammarly, committing the updates in my GitHub repo, then merging pull requests, and keeping it all running on AWS Amplify.

Now I just write, click publish, select what blog I want to publish to and it handles all the image uploads, the titles, and puts things in DRAFT. Sure I have to do a bit of tweaking but doing this workflow saves me a ton of time!

So I went to WordPress.com, reactivated my thomasott.io and neuralmarkettrends.com sites, and paid for hosting. Yes, I put my money where my mouth was with respect to supporting open-source and great products.

I paid for iAWriter and I now pay for WordPress. The best part of sitting on WordPress.com now is that I can build premium content and build a paid newsletter.

Now onto the hard part. I need to stop myself from sabotaging myself in the future. My Neural Market Trends blog is littered with all the back and forth switches between Blot, WordPress, Expression Engine, TextPattern, Hugo, and Ghost.

My goal now is to build this site and rebuild Neural Market Trends. I enjoy writing and I want to do just that. I want to share my thoughts and ideas with the world and keep building my brand – whatever that is – with you all.

What’s going to happen? Not a whole lot on the surface but there will be some content reorganization happening between my two blogs.

I will probably move my finance and passive income-related posts over to thomasott.io and keep Neural Market Trends purely focused on Startups, Machine Learning, and Data Science (all left-brain stuff) like it was before.

My site here, Thomas Ott dot IO will be everything else. It will be my hyperactive hamster in a spinning wheel. Topics all over the place from money, sex, relationships (the biggies) to my photography work (all right brain stuff).

I just have to remember to not sabotage myself, again.

The Art of the Journal

Journals. A book with blank pages that conjures up creative ideas and resolutions to write in them. Too bad the majority of people fail at using them! It takes time and dedication for you to actually leverage the power of a journal, so why write about it here?

Simple, you should record what you do, how you do it, and even who you do it with for brewing, tasting, and even traveling!

What is not measured, is not optimized!

Journals are great and I have two of them. One is my classic analog hardcover Moleskine that I use for work/life tasks and notes and the other is my brew log. My brew log is a digital ledger on Brewers Friend where I store my craft beer recipes and brew sessions. I make it a point to update my journals when needed. My work/life journal gets updated daily and my brew log when I brew or need to record when fermentation ends.

Then

and now

Why are these entries important? Because they are great records or clues for what you did in the past. For work/life, it’s figuring out what I did so I can bill clients. For beer brewing, it’s about how and why I deviated from a recipe and what the results were. Did I end up making a better beer because I changed the mash schedule up? Does the beer taste better because the hops alpha acids were stronger or weaker?

You will NEVER get better at something if you don’t measure it. That includes brewing!

Invest in Journaling, NOW!

Why do I say “Invest in Journaling?” Because it takes a bit of time now that will pay off later. Writing a journal entry can take anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. It all depends on what type of entry you write. For the most part, it takes only 5 to 10 minutes to write or post an entry.

The benefit of journaling occurs after you’ve done it for some time. It happens when having a stack of filled-out journals or a bunch of blog posts somewhere. The value of journaling happens when you want to look back into the past and remember the details.

We remember in general our trip to Europe or a great tasting wine but we forget the details that made them great. Photos help with the details but they often don’t capture everything. I have a great photo of my Dad drinking a Kriek beer at the Cantillion Brewery in Brussels.

What the photo misses is the great walk we had through the city to get to the brewery. It missed conversations we had with a couple from Oklahoma. It missed their story on how they wanted to start brewing when they got home from their European trip. How they wanted to maybe start a business. It missed the sites, sounds, and smells of this European city. It missed the finer details that only I can recall now by looking at my journal.

One day you will get old and your memory will no longer be as good as it was that day. You owe it to yourself to write it down and relive the past in its most splendid/sordid/breathtaking glory.

Get started Journaling!

Getting started with Journaling is easy and you don’t need to buy a fancy journal! You can use a loose-leaf ring binder or go to Staples to get a cheap bound one. If you want to go the digital route, you can use write type into a text file or start a blog. Analog or digital journaling is inexpensive these days, so pick your medium and go for it.

Once you decided on your type of journal (i.e. analog and hardcover bound), then you have to decide what you want to record. Below is a great video on how powerful journaling is when you make it a routine.

Beer Tasting Journal

If you like to go to brewpubs, craft breweries, or love new beers, a Beer Tasting journal is a must. You can design your own layout if you want but Moleskine has a great PDF template that you can use to experiment with. They also sell a pre-made journal that’s based on this template for about $18.

You’ll need to bring this journal whenever you go beer tasting, just make sure not to spill any beer on it! 🙂

Wine Tasting Journal

Another great idea is to start a wine tasting journal! This type of journal is great to put in your glove box when you drive around a wine-growing region. You can get a pre-made Wine Tasting Journal on Amazon too for under $10.

Think about hosting a wine tasting party sometime!

Travel Journal

Some people like to make a travel journal where they put their entire trip into them. That would include food, drinks, sites, sounds, etc. This makes more sense to me because you can capture one entire trip (or many) in one journal. I haven’t done this religiously yet but I think I will start once I go to China again this year. I am considering getting a Midori journal for travel because they’re made of soft leather and appear to be highly customizable. They are a bit more expensive ($32) but you can refill them over and over again.

The Everything Journal

This is where I default too. I use my journal for everything! Mostly work but for my life as well. I create a health tracker, lists, notes, etc. I slap things together, it’s messy and at times very chaotic BUT it has dates and page numbers. I started making an index so I can find things faster.

The Everything Journal is just that, you can put everything you want into it. This guy’s video shows how he breaks up his $10 journal. That works for him and your journal should work for you.

Keep your journal simple but keep it active. Just start recording your brew sessions, your beer tastings, wine parties, and your travels now. You will thank me one day.


Note: There’s a bunch of affiliate links in the above post from which I derive a little bit of income, at no additional cost to you. I thank you in advance!