A couple of years ago, I had a crazy idea: I was gonna become a dating coach.
I was going to be like them. Use all the extensive knowledge and experience I had, pair it with my sincere desire to help people — and change the world: Now everyone can find love!
My first step would be to start a blog. From there, I would eventually become famous enough to run seminars and do face-to-face coaching — then end up a multimillionaire.
So I did: I registered a free account at blogspot, and proceeded to share my brilliant wisdom with the world via a couple of opinionated blog posts.
And no one stopped by to read it. Except for a few close friends.
No, You’re Not Qualified
Today, it’s painfully obvious to me there was little chance of my dating coach idea succeeding. Aside from the fact that Malaysia / Southeast Asia is extremely challenging due to its mixed demographics, I had absolutely no credibility. Why would someone trust a 26-year-old unmarried Malaysian Chinese guy (who had never been in a relationship for more than two years) rambling about relationships?
(You could make the argument that there are lots of credible-less personalities making big money, but they’re the exception. And I’m not that shameless.)
But interestingly — I really, genuinely believed I was doing the right thing. I sincerely believed that I could influence and teach people about relationships.
You know that look old timers give young people when they share their grandiose visions? Well the me today would have given 2010 Aaron that same look. “Go ahead and give it a try, but I hope you learn something when you fail.”
I had a dream and the foolishness of youth — so I started something. But life has a way of teaching you humility.
You Never Become a Master
The blog you’re reading right now just celebrated its third anniversary. Three years in and about 100 articles later, it’s obviously a lot more successful than my poorly-planned relationship blog.
(Though you can still see the influence of my Dating Guru aspirations — there’s still lots of relationship-themed articles here.)
More than 10,000 people read my articles every month, and I’m starting to get invited to events and product launches. You don’t see paid reviews here, but I receive those offers frequently now too. And I get to go on Radio and TV every once in a while, plus even spoke at a TEDx Salon event recently.
Sounds like the ideal life of a blogger eh?
But in the bigger scheme of things — those are really shitty accomplishments if I compare myself to some of my writing heroes. And how much money have I really made from this blog? It’s loss making. As I’ve written before — if this was purely about making money — I would have made more flipping burgers at McDonald’s.
Despite making lots of “progress” that I could have never imagined — sometimes I feel I’m further from my goals than ever before. Maybe because with every day, I learn more and more.
I learn to question my goals. And I learn how difficult it is to make your dreams come true.
Statistics from My Third Year
Every week, I spend the below (estimated) time on mr-stingy:
- Writing and editing: 8 hours / week
- Reading and research: 12 hours / week
- Social media, promotion and engagement: 6 hours / week
- Total: ~26 hours / week.
Of course, I enjoy doing all the above (believe it or not, I actually love reading a lot more than writing). But sometimes I just feel like lying in bed and watching Despacito covers — instead of waking up early to work on my blog. It’s not easy, but has all that effort been worth it?
Traffic’s still been growing organically, though it’s not phenomenal:
And as I mentioned earlier, mr-stingy LLP is still a loss-making business. If you wanna know how I ended up losing RM 4,876.21 last year on my blog, check out the full financial results here.
Will my audience ever reach 30,000 readers a month? Will I ever make a profit from my blog? I don’t know, but I’ve started to worry about a more important question: why would people want to read my blog anyway?
You’re Actually Not THAT Interesting
Last year, I wrote a grand story about my accomplishments in my second year, how to be a writer, and how I wanted to change your life.
(Guess I’ll always be a slightly-delusional dreamer.)
But I’ve started to realize I don’t have that many interesting things to write about. Or even if I could write about them, I don’t have deep personal experience.
I don’t have a million bucks in the bank and I don’t own 20 properties. I’m not the most confident person, but I’ve also never been depressed. I don’t have any kids, but I haven’t kissed a hundred girls either. I’m not a successful entrepreneur, but also not exactly killing it at my day job. I wasn’t an early investor in Bitcoin.
To me, beautiful writing is all about authenticity. When I look at my writing heroes (whom I so desperately want to be like), they’re brilliant at stringing words together in wonderful ways. But they’re also interesting people who’ve done amazing things with their lives. And here I am — jack of a few trades, master of none. Nothing dramatic, just moderation.
But apart from the authenticity, I’ve also started to realize how shallow my knowledge is. Maybe not Trump-Reality-TV shallow, but most of my knowledge comes from reading online articles. Sometimes from not very good sources. I know I need to read more. Books. Deeply.
And from my limited sessions drinking from the pool of knowledge so far, I’ve learned this to be true: The more you learn about something, the more you realize you don’t know.
Seven years ago, when I started writing my failed relationship blog, I knew I had all the answers. Three years ago, when I started this blog, I thought I could one day be as good as my writing heroes. Today, I realize this is going to be a never-ending road of difficult learning, where I’ll never become as smart as I want.
I can only say thank you — for still being here and reading my stuff even though I’m no expert.
What’s Next for a Weary Blogger?
I started with a delusional dream, and over the past three years of mr-stingy — I’ve learned some important lessons. I’ve learned humility too. No, I don’t think I can change the world anymore, nor do I deserve to. Maybe if I can help just one person, that would be enough.
A couple of weeks ago, I received some criticism when I shared my investment portfolio in an online interview. And it was interesting for me, because I never said anyone should invest like I do. But I guess some people still like telling other people what they should do.
You may have noticed it in some of my recent work, but I don’t really like to dispense advice anymore. Because really, who am I to give advice? (I totally understand now, why it’s sometimes so frustrating to talk to wise people. Because they really want you to figure things out for yourself — not just give directions.)
I’d rather share experiences and thoughts, saying “this is what works for me — you could try it to see if it works for you?”
– – –
I wish I could say my writing lights up the world and makes me come alive. But every morning when I force myself to wake up early and spill my guts on paper — I look at that pile of shitty words and hate myself.
“Is this the type of writing from someone who goes on Radio and TV?” A little part of me dies.
If you care, it will hurt. You will hurt.
And then I edit and rewrite. Try to find the balance between writing something worthwhile, and being too self-judgmental to start.
Sometimes, a rough gem emerges from the dirt. And sometimes people like it when I hit “Publish.” But at the end, the only way I can keep myself going is by telling myself I did everything in my power to write well. That I practiced my craft to the absolute best of my abilities.
Then even if my life is spent polishing dirty rocks; only to discover most of the hundreds I produce are actually dull stones, and only have one or two sparkling gems — that would be okay.
I know I can’t be the sun anymore. Maybe not even a star. But I know I can polish things until they could possibly reflect a little bit of sunlight.
Today, I will practice my craft again. I will try to live a worthy life. I will polish. And maybe this blog will live on for another year.
– – –
p.s. Thank you for supporting me by being here. It means the world to me.