When I started out blogging, I was taking care of everything myself. I was writing 2-3 posts a week, submitting to carnivals, writing up weekend editions, guest posts, hosting carnivals, etc…. I was working a full-time job, and I had school on the side for at least half of the time, so the bit of time I had left was split in many different ways.
There’ve been a few points when I nearly approached burnout in my short blogging career. I remember seeing the visitor count and subscriber count stay stagnant, day after day, and I remember being stuck at PR 0 for the longest time when Google wasn’t making updates! It was a little frustrating to see, and I wondered why I was spending so much time on something that didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
One of the reasons I was approaching burnout is because I simply had too many tasks on my plate. There are parts of blogging that I really enjoy, such as writing and interacting with the readers, but I’ll be honest with you: I’d rather listen to screeching nails on a blackboard than submit my posts to a bunch of carnivals, week after week after week. I simply find it a chore, and it’s when you don’t enjoy something that you are at risk of burnout.
When does DIY work?
I know some people that say “Why would I pay if I can do it myself?”, and sometimes I think that these people have a good point. There are some things that are enjoyable to do yourself, and other times, the cost of outsourcing is not worth the benefits gained. Take for example financial advisors: if you go with them, then you have to think less about investing, but the downside is that you will get eaten alive by fees and charges. Your financial advisor will be driving a Mercedes at your expense. Investing in index funds is easy and will save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees over your lifetime.
Aside from special cases like this, however, “Why should I pay if I can do it myself?” doesn’t always make sense, because this mindset doesn’t look at the biggest cost of all: our time.
Trade is positive sum
Along with the “Why would I pay?” mindset, there is an associated mindset that one man’s gain is another’s loss. If you trade with others for stuff, you are simply giving up wealth that you could have obtained for yourself, instead. But… is this always true?
I will show that it isn’t. Trade is actually positive sum. One man’s gain is another man’s gain. We are all better off through voluntary, mutually beneficial trade. If this wasn’t true, then humans wouldn’t be the social creatures that we are. We would be in a war of all against all, because every man (or woman’s) gain would be another’s loss. The only way to get ahead in such a world would be to screw over and destroy others. This would be a world full of savages, and civilization wouldn’t be possible.
Imagine that a couple of lost pirates, Jack and Gibbs, get stranded on an island. There’s not much to eat on the island; only some coconuts and wild boars. Jack is great at climbing palm trees and knocking down coconuts, but he wears a silly costume all of the time and can’t run very fast, so he has trouble catching a wild boar. Here’s what he can manage to gather in a day, if he spends his entire time either gathering coconuts or hunting wild boars:
|40 coconuts||0 wild boars|
|20 coconuts||1 wild boar|
|0 coconuts||2 wild boars|
Gibbs on the other hand, is big and strong, and can tackle down the wild boars with ease. However, he can’t climb a tree to save his life, and the only way he can knock down a coconut is by throwing rocks at it until it falls. Here’s what his possibilities look like:
|5 coconuts||0 wild boars|
|4 coconuts||1 wild boar|
|3 coconuts||2 wild boars|
|2 coconuts||3 wild boars|
|1 coconut||4 wild boars|
|0 coconuts||5 wild boars|
These pirates won’t survive on just coconuts alone, or wild boars alone. If Jack and Gibbs decide to go at it separately, they would need to gather both. So, Jack might gather 20 coconuts and hunt 1 wild boar, and Gibbs might gather 3 coconuts and hunt 2 wild boars.
|Jack||20 coconuts||1 wild boar|
|Gibbs||3 coconuts||2 wild boars|
|Island total||23 coconuts||3 wild boars|
Now I’m going to show that with a bit of trading and specialization, total wealth can be increased. If Jack and Gibbs aren’t total morons, they’ll realize that they could be better off if they worked together. Gibbs could say to Jack “Look, I can’t climb a tree to save my life, and you’re just not good at hunting boars. How about you take care of the coconuts, and I’ll take care of the boars?”. If they did this, they would be much better off:
|Jack||40 coconuts||0 wild boars|
|Gibbs||0 coconuts||5 wild boars|
|Island total||40 coconuts||5 wild boars|
So, these two lost pirates have gone from 23 coconuts and 3 wild boars to 40 coconuts and 5 wild boars, in the same amount of time!
What if one person is better than another person in every possible way. Can they still benefit from trade? Yes. Let’s say Jack learns how to set up traps so that he doesn’t have to run after the boars, and he becomes a better climber so he can knock down more coconuts. This is what he is now capable of:
|80 coconuts||0 wild boars|
|60 coconuts||2 wild boars|
|40 coconuts||4 wild boars|
|20 coconuts||6 wild boars|
|0 coconuts||8 wild boars|
He’s now better than Gibbs in every way. Whether he grabs coconuts or hunts boars, he’s better. If they go it alone, here’s what they can accomplish:
|Jack||40 coconuts||4 wild boars|
|Gibbs||3 coconuts||2 wild boars|
|Island total||43 coconuts||6 wild boars|
But, they will still be better off if they specialize and trade:
|Jack||60 coconuts||2 wild boars|
|Gibbs||0 coconuts||5 wild boars|
|Island total||60 coconuts||7 wild boars|
Time is limited, and Jack is still better off if he focuses on what he’s best at, even if he’s better than Gibbs at everything. What if Jack is super cheap? Even if he only gives Gibbs 3 coconuts for 3 wild boars, Gibbs would still not be worse off for the trade.
What this means as a blogger
I was getting burned out earlier because I was trying to focus on too much, including things I didn’t enjoy as much. I’ve since learned that it can be better to outsource some of these things, like advertising negotiation and carnival submissions. I need to give up something in return, but by outsourcing some advertising, I’ve gotten more total advertising dollars than I’ve ever gotten before. By outsourcing the carnival submissions, I am entered in more carnivals than I’ve ever been entered in before. It’s a win-win situation.
Each of us is different in our own unique way, with our own talents, abilities, and passions. By embracing trade, we celebrate these differences and make the best of them, and we are all better off as a result.
What are your thoughts about outsourcing and trade? Let me know about it in the comments!