Ant's Eye View At Squaw Valley

A lack of a meritocratic environment is the number one reason why so many people are dissatisfied with their jobs based on research conducted for my book. There’s nothing more maddening than when someone less deserving is promoted over you due to politics instead of performance.

One of the main reasons why I left finance was because there was no correlation between performance and compensation anymore. In the past, if you made the firm X, you would be compensated X times a certain percentage. Given all the new rules by various governments as well as the need for profitable divisions to subsidize less profitable divisions, we all got paid roughly the same no matter how well we delivered. Working in a Socialistic style environment is fine if you’re not very motivated or are an underperformer. However, at the age of 34, I still had plenty of fight left, so I left.

Entrepreneurship is about as close as it gets to a meritocracy as it gets. All your wins and loses are due to your own efforts. If you don’t work, you don’t eat. It’s as simple as that. However, even with entrepreneurship, not everything is as meritocratic as it seems. If you so happen to have Ron Conway, the billionaire father of Angel Investing on speed dial, and Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo as your wife, chances are higher you will succeed.

Even though I wrote about how to buy your way to online success, I’m pretty much against buying myself into anything. I only wrote the post to highlight the other side of the story. It feels empty when you don’t build something on your own. Some would liken  it to cheating.

Given entrepreneurship has some flaws in the pure meritocracy argument, I’d like to drill down even further and talk about becoming a successful online publisher. I’ll share my views as well as several other views from Yakezie Members.

THE CASE FOR THE INTERNET AS A MERITOCRACY

If you’ve been around long enough and have had any semblance of success, you will inevitably find people who crap on you. I cannot tell you how many fellow bloggers  have attributed my performance due to luck, instead of hard work. When I ask them to do things like join the Yakezie 5,000+ Words A Week Challenge in order to bring more traffic and revenue to their sites, they don’t respond, I don’t know why. The forum has over 1,500 views. Gold star if you can answer why less than eight people signed up and even fewer made it through the entire duration.

Here are various roadblocks to building an audience online and what I did. Afterward, I’d love to hear your examples.

1) The internet is so complicated. Only tech savvy people can create a site. I don’t know where to start. 

Action: I was as dumb as they came when I first started in 2009. I went to the Craigslist’s Services section and paid someone a couple hundred bucks to launch a now defunct website for me. He came to my house and gave me a three hour tutorial. I then spent a week reading every article and watching every video I could about online publishing. If you don’t have $200 to spend, just go to blogger.com or wordpress.com and launch your website for free in a matter of minutes.

2) Nobody will give me any attention. Therefore, my site will not grow.

Action: When you’re at the bottom of the barrel, it’s up to you to reach out and connect with other publishers. It’s up to you to retweet their work, comment on their sites, link to their work, and volunteer for anything that make their lives easier. For the first year my site was up, I probably commented on at least 20 different sites a day. Over time, I slowly built relationships with many established publishers when they realized I was here to stay. If I quit within six months, I would never have launched.

3) I’ve been rejected from guest post inquiries, staff writing positions, and carnival submissions.

Action: Welcome to the land of logical rejection. If you’re asking to become a staff writer or write a guest post without being around for more than six months, chances are you will be rejected because the publisher doesn’t know who you are and whether you will be around for the long haul. Everybody dislikes unsolicited inquiries from strangers. Build your relationship way beyond when you finally need to ask for a favor. I was rejected from everything: guest posts, staff writing, and carnivals. As a result, I decided to build my own Network.

4) I have nothing interesting to say nor do I have something informative to share.

Action: Unless you are the most boring person in the world, there is always something interesting to say! Unless you’ve never participated in an extracurricular activity, you most certainly have some talent above average you can highlight. I’m pretty horrible at a lot of things, but I am good at sports and investing. As a result, I tie in my tennis stories to help motivate my readers to keep on fighting. I also share with my readers my years of experience in finance and what I learned in business school to help readers gain financial freedom.

5) I’m always so busy at work that I don’t have time to write and connect with my peers.

Action: Figure out how you are spending your 24 hours a day and optimize. Is there TV time you can cut? Are you sleeping more than you know you should? For the first 2.5 years of publishing, I had to catch the 7:20amish bus to go to work. As a result, I woke up by 6am every weekday to write before work. I then spent another one to two hours late at night to catch up on everything I missed. By spending an extra 20-30 hours a week online for 120 straight weeks, I was able to build a presence.

6) I’m a poor writer.

Action: Beyond basic grammar and punctuation, readers of blogs do not come so much for our beautiful prose. Readers come to hear our opinions and learn something new. When so much of mass media is mass produced, it’s refreshing to hear a personal story from someone with little to no financial incentive. You can borrow a copy of Strunk & White from the library to tighten up your basic writing skills. You can read a book a month to find new styles of writing to emulate. You can go on YouTube and watch countless videos about better writing. Most of all, you can just write, edit, and get better.

7) English is not my first language. I am at a distinct disadvantage.

Action: You might be right, but learning a language is not insurmountable. Look at our friends in Western Europe. Practically everyone is bi-lingual or multi-lingual. Roger Federer can speak English, Swiss, German, and French and he’s a professional tennis player not a linguist. English is not my first language either, but by taking English courses in high school and college and communications classes in business school and practicing every day, I’ve managed to master the language. Worst case, you can write your posts in your native tongue and edit the post in English after using a translator! Just make sure you edit your work again.

8) I have better things to do with my time.

Action: Then go do something else! The worst is complaining why you can’t get ahead while not doing everything you can to get ahead. The second worst is then hating on others who are getting ahead, making unproductive misery for you both. There is a popular article on Financial Samurai entitled, “Are There Really People Who Work 40 Hours A Week Or Less And Complain They Can’t Get Ahead?” The article will bring you into bizarro land (my bus ride home).

GOOD THINGS JUST DON’T MAGICALLY HAPPEN

Unless you are missing some fingers and have a severe disability, the formula for online publishing success is simple: 1) Write good, lengthy content, 2) build backlinks organically, 3) develop relationships with others, 4) stay consistent, and 5) put in the effort. I know everybody knows the feeling of being proud of their latest work. Consistently replicate that feeling of pride and I’m sure we will all get to our defined levels of success in due time.

THOUGHTS FROM YAKEZIE MEMBERS

Sydney at Untemplater:

I know all too well how frustrating it is to get passed up for a promotion to someone else due to politics and other lame reasons. I thought I was going to have to go anger management on a few occasions last month to calm myself down. But I’ve managed to keep my cool by focusing on my end game, and I’m more determined than ever to break out of the mainstream corporate world in a few years to work online full time.

The Internet certainly is a humbling space to work in though. You can’t coast while your colleagues do all the work. There is no guaranteed paycheck every two weeks. And if you want to be able to enjoy things like a nice benefits package and a flexible schedule, you have to put in your own blood, sweat, and tears to be able to get them.

The barriers to entry in the online world continue to drop, and the amount of competition can be overwhelming. However, it is extremely motivating and rewarding to be able to publish content, interact with readers, and watch things grow over time. This is why I’m addicted and I’m happy pouring the majority of my extra hours into blogging. Anyone can become a blogger, but not everyone has enough interest, dedication, and perseverance to keep going long term where the rewards are waiting.

Maria from Money Principles

I do believe that the internet is an example of meritocracy because it is open to all and with relatively small initial outlay one can build a thriving side-hustle or a full time business. It doesn’t ‘see’ colour, background, appearance and formal qualifications – all one needs to have is talent, understanding of how the internet works and the determination to put the effort
in. Oh, and the more you put in the more you get out of it!

Some bloggers go for the ‘quick and dirty’ option of just putting something on to ‘irritate’ the search engines. When I started 2 years ago, that was the received wisdom – a blog post shouldn’t be longer than 500-600 words. This took quite a bit of doing for me; the 5000+ words Yakezie challenge I found liberating – now my posts are no less than 1000 words (including the guest posts) and they are proper articles.

Creating your own product is not for everyone; some can others can’t. Yet others blog only part time and they cannot afford the time. There is also the additional matter of what products - most bloggers sell themselves (they are the product); others sell information but a lot of it is not original; blogs can have translational value when complex notions are translated for the general public.

I think I am succeeding; my traffic has doubled since November and growing. But…I will always try to become better and to make The Money Principle better.

Robert from The College Investor

I believe that the internet is a meritocracy, but that you do need to maintain some basic promotional skills sets.  The trouble with theinternet is that it is so vast, and there are so many users.  So, while the “most popular” blog is probably the one with the best content, will all of your potential supporters ever find you?  You have to get your own name out there, get some key supporters to help you, so that you can build a base that lets your website compete on the meritocracy level.

Edward from Edward Antrobus

I think there are a few limiting factors from keeping the internet from being a true meritocracy. Like so much in life, those factors are time and money.

By time, I’m specifically referring to when a site is started. The saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is 50 years ago. If you look at the biggest, most successful blogs, they are all at least 4 years old, dating back to the early pioneer days of blogging. They had less competition so they had an easier time rising to the top. Now that the space is more crowded, it is dominated by players that made a name for themselves years ago. A PF blog is always going to be competing against Get Rich Slowly. And by the time someone gets to that size, GRS will be double it.

Compared to other businesses, the internet may have a low cost of entry, but there is still money to be put down. If there is one thing I learned in my first year of Yakezie, it is that free hosting and free sub-domains limit your growth. But hosting and domain names can easily set you back a hundred dollars to get in the game. That’s not a lot of money for most people, but for the poor around the world dreaming for a piece of the dream, that is an insurmountable barrier. And that’s not even counting the cost of internet access; blogging from public library terminals is not easy!

Discussion Questions

Do you think the internet, and more specifically online publishing is a true meritocracy?

If people want more traffic, why not just post more often?

If people want to earn more money, why not put in the 5-20 hours on each post to make it as high quality and informative as possible?

There are countless examples of online publishers who make $5,000, $10,000, $25,000+ a month. Isn’t that income better than working at a job which doesn’t have as good a meritocratic environment?

Is it easier to hate on others than do the legwork yourself?

What is stopping you?

Photo: Ant’s Eye View At Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe.

Regards,

Sam