December 2012 Updates

This year is coming to a close, so I’d like to share some updates about what’s been going on with respect to the blog, my life, and upcoming plans for 2013.

2013 Focus – Product Development

At the end of each year, I like to pick a focus for the upcoming year. For 2013 I’ve decided to focus on product development. I’ve been blogging for more than 8 years now (about 1200 articles), and I’m feeling drawn to shift away from short-form writing to create some larger works, like I did with my book.

Blogging has been a wonderful medium for me, and I expect to continue with it for now, but I want to break the habit of using it as my primary medium for sharing ideas. For 2013 I intend to focus most of my creative energies on downloadable products, especially ebooks and audio programs.

Some false starts showed me that to do this right, I need to make some serious changes to my working rhythms. I’ve spent years working with daily habits centered around the rhythms of blogging. Those habits have been wonderfully successful for blogging, but the same patterns don’t work very well for creating larger works, at least not in the way I’d like.

While some bloggers create products largely by assembling and editing collections of previous articles, I’m not interested in doing that. To me a book is a very different artform than an article. As an ex-programmer I place a high value on elegance, unity, and coherence. I believe that the pieces of a larger work should fit together intelligently and beautifully, and that requires careful design choices. The process I use to write an article doesn’t scale up linearly to create a larger work. You don’t just stack 50 houses on top of each other to create a skyscraper.

In the past I didn’t give the scope of this challenge enough respect. I figured that since I could write, edit, and publish a 5000-word blog post in a single sitting, I could probably crank out a new book in a few weeks. I could do that of course, but it wouldn’t be a work I’d consider elegant, and I’d rather not create an inelegant larger work if I can avoid it.

I put a lot of effort into my first book, and that is a work that I’m proud of. As many readers have noticed, it’s a very original book, and it’s fair to say that it makes a unique contribution to the field of personal growth. It’s clearly not just a rehashing of previous material from my blog. Five years ago at this time I was working on that book, and I still resonate with its content today.

It took me about 2-1/2 years of careful thought and research to figure out the 7 principles for that book and to understand how they connected to each other. Putting it all down on paper was perhaps 3 more months of work. This was part-time though, and much of that time involved incubating ideas, not active work.

Now I’d like to tackle more of these larger projects. Instead of writing one-off articles or an occasional series of posts, I want to design and create more integrated works on a variety of topics.

What’s my motivation for creating these larger works? I feel called towards a greater level of self-expression, and I want to challenge myself to connect many of the dots I’ve written about in the past to clarify what the big picture looks like. Instead of sharing small ideas that can be expressed as articles or podcasts, I want to express ideas that are too big or too complex for an article or a series of articles.

I also want to tackle bigger and more challenging questions. Instead of writing about how to break off a bad relationship or initiate a new one, I’m inspired by the challenge of writing out a complete philosophy of conscious relationships, for instance.

This probably isn’t too surprising since I’ve been leaning in this direction for a long time now, and now I’m finally getting serious about it. You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged very much at all for the past 2 months. I expect this reduction in blogging to continue for the foreseeable future. I’m deliberately putting blogging on the back burner, so I can invest more time, energy, and mental focus in these larger works.

Passive Income Series

I want to congratulate those readers who’ve already launched their first passive income streams. I’ve heard from a number of people who are already getting their first trickles of income… often in the $10-100 per month range. That’s wonderful! As you’ll soon discover, the hardest part is getting from $0 to $50 per month in passive income. Going from there to $500 per month isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Increasing the flow is largely a matter of repeating what has already worked, observing your results, experimenting, and optimizing.

Getting to that first $50 per month also gives you confidence that you have an idea that works, so you can bet bigger on your ideas the next time.

One Year After Closing the Forums

It’s been about a year since the discussion forums on this website closed down, after running continuously for more than 5 years. Looking back, I’m really glad I let all of that go last year. There were some quality interactions there, and I still keep in touch with certain people from that community, but I don’t miss the drama. People tell me that many of the old members connect on Facebook now. I’m not on Facebook, so I’m not personally involved in any of those discussions. I’m happy about that since it has given me more time to focus on my in-person social life.

Occasionally I get asked if I’ll reopen the forums. I have no desire to do so. People are free to discuss personal growth as much as they want. I just don’t want to play host. Five years was plenty!

Letting Go of Social Media?

After quitting Facebook and closing the forums last year, I greatly scaled back my social media involvement. At the time I kept Twitter and Google+ since they’re much easier to manage. I stayed active on both of these services in 2012.

Lately I’ve been feeling that it might be best to stop using these services too, or at least to scale back my usage of them. I realize it’s practically heresy for a blogger to say such things, but I don’t use social media for traffic building like many other bloggers do. My blog predates my use of social media services like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ by several years. Whether I maintain a presence on social media services or not, people will continue to share my articles anyway. I haven’t been on Facebook since 2011, but they were one of my top traffic referrers in 2012.

No social media outlet is particularly important to me as a business or traffic building tool. Quitting Facebook and closing the forums had a negligible effect on my web traffic, and I expect that scaling back my Twitter and Google+ usage would make little difference too.

I’ve mainly used social media to share inspirational messages when I can. Sometimes I share personal updates and joke around with people now and then, but for the most part I’ve used these as additional creative outlets. One reason I’m thinking about closing these channels is that doing so will help me focus better on creating larger products. The impulsive nature of social media is on the wrong side of the spectrum from where I want to be in 2013. I’d rather share thoughts that take months to figure out… as opposed to a few seconds.

If people need an occasional reminder to check in with my blog, they can easily subscribe to my newsletter, which I send about once a month. So there’s no need for me to have a Twitter or Google+ account just to remind people that there’s some new material to read.

I know that many people enjoy the direct access to me through social media. Through those services we can interact in some fashion. I agree that this is nice at times, but it has a price, which is the potential for distraction and scattered thinking. In 2013 I’d like to tone that down even more.

So if you share something with me on Twitter or Google+ and I don’t reply, it’s because I’m cutting back on using those services, so I can invest more time elsewhere. It’s not because I don’t like you. 🙂

Someone asked me if I use Instagram. No, I never created an Instagram account since I don’t have a cat.

Socially I prefer to connect with people face to face. You can’t hug a social media profile.

Perhaps the main reason I’m feeling drawn to let go of social media is that I’m bored with it. Perhaps when some new and exciting service comes along, I’ll give it a try, but for now the most popular ones have grown stale. I love the allure of new technology and new possibilities, but the current offerings in this area seem uninspiring. That’s to be expected since eventually these free services will start monetizing more heavily, and that’s likely to create a conflict of interest with their users (if it hasn’t already).

I’m not suggesting that my experiences with social media would apply to you. I’ve largely used social media as an extension of blogging. But for now I think I’ll stick with my blog when I have something worthwhile to broadcast instead of trying to extend blogging into other social media platforms.

Leaving TLC

After being a member of the Transformational Leadership Council for about 3.5 years, I decided not to renew my membership for 2013. I informed them of my decision about a month ago. It’s been wonderful attending their retreats twice a year, and I’ve made some great friends because of it, but I don’t feel like remaining tethered to this group going forward.

I can’t say anything bad about the people in TLC or the group itself. I hold them all in the highest regard and love the work they do in the world. Lately I’ve been seeing my life heading down a different path, and the vibe of TLC doesn’t quite mesh with it. I feel like I’m about a 60% match for TLC at this time, but in order to justify continuing my membership and paying the dues, I’d want to be at 80%+.

You might be noticing a pattern here of wanting to make some exits. That’s a normal part of personal growth. We only have so much time and attention to give, so in order to add something new to our lives, we often have to release something old. Usually when we let go of something that doesn’t quite resonate with us, something even more wonderful shows up soon afterwards.

Exploring Social Dynamics

One area where I’ve been making a bigger commitment is my exploration of social dynamics.

Perhaps the simplest summation of social dynamics that I can offer is that it’s the study of how to find the alignment between what makes you feel good and what makes others feel good, so you can create and enjoy a rich and rewarding social life without becoming a people pleaser, a jerk, or a hermit.

I did more speaking in this field in 2012, and I expect to more than double that in 2013. Since I’d love to see more of Europe, I may also do a European road trip after an upcoming speaking engagement in Berlin.

Becoming a teacher in this field has been a fun and rewarding development. With my Catholic upbringing and its shaming of human sexuality and outmoded gender roles, I had to spend a lot of time unearthing and releasing past limiting beliefs to reach the point where I felt ready to invite and accept a more conscious and abundant relationship life. It’s very rewarding to turn around and help others overcome similar blocks, fears, and limitations.

I understand and accept that there are plenty of traditionally minded folks who just want to get married and stick with one person for the rest of their lives. I don’t have much relationship advice for them since that path doesn’t appeal to me, and there are plenty of other teachers for those people to learn from. But for most people, the one-partner-to-rule-them-all model doesn’t work well in practice because it’s too rigid. That approach doesn’t adapt well to the changing needs and desires of growth-oriented people. Consequently, many couples fall into unhappiness or resort to cheating on the side — or both.

What I enjoy most about social dynamics is exploring it with other open-minded people. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see a surge of interest in this field. People are observing and concluding that the traditional relationship models aren’t working for them, and they’re looking for viable and intelligent alternatives. Some are sick of oscillating between shallow or fake relationships and extended periods alone. They may still consider themselves fairly mainstream people, so they don’t want to stretch into anything that feels too weird, but when they catch a glimpse of what else is possible, usually after meeting people who are on a similar path but further along, a spark of inspiration takes root. This is a great place to catch people and introduce them to some new ways of relating that actually work for real human beings.

I’m still very happy with my life these days, and I’m looking ahead with positive expectancy to another amazing year.

Happy New Year! Wishing you a very growth-filled and consciousness expanding 2013. 🙂