At the recent ProBlogger training day in Melbourne, surprise guest Tim Ferris said something that resonated with many attendees (if the number of tweets it got was anything to go by). His message was simple: define what success means to you.
Many bloggers that I meet start out with a goal of having a successful blog, but have little idea what that actually means.
They want “opportunities to open up,” they desire “influence,” they want “lots of readers,” they want to be seen as “authorities”…
None of this is bad—but it’s also quite vague and I wonder if it could be a contributing factor to wishy-washy results.
Good things do sometimes just happen to people, but more often than not, the people who achieve most with their blogs have in mind some goals that they’re looking to achieve.
My story of defining success
When I started blogging in 2002, I didn’t have any idea that blogging would last beyond a few weeks (I had a history of not sticking at things) and as a result, I had few goals. However, over the coming couple of years I began to see the potential of blogging to be more than just a hobby, and to even become a way of earning an income.
The problem was that my dreams remained very vague. While I hoped one day my income would grow, I never got specific with what I was aiming for and as a result, I never really gave it the effort that I should have.
It was only when I sat down with V (my wife) one day and we set a specific goal that things began to really take off. The goal was to be working full-time as a blogger within six months (note that I’d already been blogging for some time—the full story is here).
For the first time, I had a definition of what success was for me. I wanted to be a full-time blogger. I also had a timeframe in mind—six months to achieve my goal.
- Suddenly I started to take my blog more seriously, treating it as a business and doing the things I always knew I needed to do (but had always put off).
- Suddenly I had a concrete target to aim for—and motivation like I’d not had before.
- Suddenly I had consequences to face if I didn’t meet my target (I decided I’d have to go get a “real job” if I didn’t succeed).
- Suddenly I had something with which to filter the opportunities that came my way. when invited to do something, I was able to ask, “Will this take me closer to my goal, or is it a distraction?”
Defining what success meant for me drove me to action and sped up my blog’s growth. A few months later I needed to come up with a new definition of “success,” as I’d already achieved the full-time goal.
Define success… and then…
Recently I came across an old Moleskine notebook from the period after I’d defined success for the first time (2004). In it, I’d dedicated a number of pages to goal-setting and planning how I’d act on those goals.
5-year plan: The way I did it at the time was to set a five-year plan. I had a full page of notes of things that I had wanted to achieve by 2009.
In it, I had some pretty lofty goals. i wanted to have written a book, I wanted to have started another photography blog, I wanted to be doing public speaking regularly, and more. Much of what I wrote back then I’ve actually achieved (some of it was way off track), but at the time I couldn’t have been further away from much of what I was dreaming of.
1-year plan: With that five-year plan or dream in place, I then created a 1-year plan. At the top of that page I’d written “what do I need to do this year to take me closer to my goals for 2009?”
That page then contained my goals for 2005. They were smaller goals, and each of them was a stepping stone to the big dream.
1-month plan: The next pages broke down my 2005 plan into monthly action items—things I’d need to do to achieve my one-year plan.
The key was to start with the goal (a definition of success) and then break it down into achievable steps.
This may all sound highly organized, but these plans were all hand-written and took up a total of five pages in a small notebook. I’d probably put it together in a few hours, yet these decisions gave me a powerful plan to move towards my definition of success.
What is your definition of success?
Your definition of success is likely to be a little different from mine. We all blog with different motivations and goals, and that’s totally fine. The key is to have something to aim for.
So what does success look like for you?