This is my yearly The Slight Edge report. I post such a report every year on the anniversary of reading this awesome book.
On the finance front, income has reduced and expenses have gone up. The progress was visible, however unsatisfied.
Last year I bragged how much I managed to save. Sadly, we spent almost everything on house renovation. Right now, we have only $2,500 in our savings account and most of it is reserved for recurrent payments, like buying coal, paying for curbside collection once per quarter, car repairs and so on.
I also saved $3,500 from royalties for my peace of mind fund.
We spent over $5,000 on house renovation and we had some additional, unexpected expenses. We replaced a microwave; I had to buy a new laptop; both our cars needed some repairs and maintenance; my wife broke a glass plate on the induction cooker and we had to buy a new one. Thus, our general-purpose funds stayed practically at the same level as a year ago.
My book sales dwindled to mere few copies a day. My royalties dropped to a few hundred dollars a month. That level barely pays for my fixed business expanses (hosting, Aweber subscription, subscription to The Community etc.). I purchased an expansive coaching package and in the last two months I had to reach into my salary to pay for that.
In the last year I sold about 6,000 digital copies of my books.
I quit the Kindle Select program and published my books in other stores using Draft2Digital. I earned a few hundred dollars from that source.
I produced my first audiobook and earned a whopping $15 from its sales.
The only bright point is that my paperback sales took off a little. In the last couple of months paperback royalties raised up to 25% of my Kindle sales. In the last year I sold 228 paperback copies of my books.
Buuut, I have a new job. I started it a week after publishing the last Slight Edge report. My basic salary is only $15 lower than the salary with bonuses in my previous job.
So, when overtime and on-call bonuses started to roll my financial situation improved overall, despite new business expanses.
For the sake of this post I went to my Excel sheet and made some calculations. My salary since last August increased 21.5% over my old salary. My personal income (salary+ business revenues) increased by 12.34%. Our household income increased by 14% (my wife received a salary raise as well).
Of course, when I was stuck in a rut, juggling bills and dipping into our savings to replace broken devices, I didn’t notice this improvement. It takes some mindful reflection to appreciate your progress.
The second book in the series is about self-knowledge. It sold over 1,000 copies, earning back its cost of publication.
The third book—Bulletproof Health and Fitness sold just above 1,000 copies and barely repaid the cost of production.
I published the fourth book in the series —Making Business Connections That Count—in May and it still didn’t repay for its production cost. Judging by the current level of sales I’m afraid it never will.
I’m in the middle of the publishing process for 5th book in the series. It’s about finding and pursuing your purpose in life and I plan to launch it at the beginning of September.
I’m a double millionaire
However, the currency I’m counting is neither dollars nor Polish Zlotys.
The first million I earned on Quora. It’s a questions/ answers platform curated by an online community. My answers have already received over a million views. (1,200,000 as of writing this post.)
The milestone itself doesn’t mean much, but a million is such a nice round number. I think views on Quora, like on almost any online platform, are inflated. The counting systems score “a view” even if someone stopped by your post for only a few seconds. Nonetheless, I guesstimate I reached about 100,000 new readers on Quora.
But numbers are not my biggest reward from posting on Quora. I’ve got to know my audience better. Thanks to the Quora format, I notice recurring themes in questions about life purpose, procrastination, health, fitness and habits. It opened my eyes to how desperately people need help in all of these areas.
Well, it’s over a million views! 100,000 readers! I throw those numbers so casually now.
But 4 years ago when I read The Slight Edge I didn’t even know I want to be a writer.
Three years ago I had only two books published and I had sold less than 100 copies of them. I didn’t even have this blog back then.
Two years ago, ExpandBeyondYourself was still a ghost town. I remember how excited I was when after James Arthur discovered and recommended my blog post and I got 1,400 visits in one day.
Often during your journey you don’t see forest for the trees.
The second ‘million’ is words written since I started tracking my word count in September 2013. I reached this million in June and it was an occasion to celebrate.
Some famous authors claims that the first million words is like an apprenticeship in writing. Since I started tracking my writing I wrote 14 books (3 are not yet published), over 100,000 words in Quora answers, about 100,000 words for a novel I write on Sundays, and over 120 blog posts. I think the guest post and articles easily make another 50,000 words.
That’s a lot of writing. A million words seems overwhelming, but if you break it down into hundreds and hundreds of smaller projects (like a few hundred-word Quora answers) you get the real feeling how much it really is.
Several unexpected things happened in the past year.
A book I wrote was reviewed on Forbes.
I contributed a chapter to a friend’s book about being an author these days, which is quite different than it was in the pre-Internet era.
One of my Quora answers was featured in a Business Insider article. For months I had been chasing editors of big publications to no avail, wasting my time and energy. And here the editor not only mentioned my name, but also linked to my profile on Amazon. This article got over 400,000 views!
An editor of an Indian personal development magazine found me via Quora and they asked me to write an editorial article for the issue about shyness. Which I gladly did.
A millionaire wrote a foreword to one of my books 😀
Your network is your net worth
Most of the above “unexpected” results came from networking. The review on Forbes was published by an author I know from a FB authors group. Invitation to contribute to the book came from the same source.
The millionaire who wrote a foreword to Making Business Connections That Count is Aaron Walker, my mentor. I’m a member of The Community of men he established. It’s been over a year since I joined his group and frankly, up to quite recently, I didn’t see much difference because of that (other than less sleep on Thursdays, because a weekly webinar takes place at midnight my time).
This foreword is a nice bonus, but I really appreciated The Community when I had a crisis in my marriage a few weeks ago. Those guys went over and beyond to support me. It was awesome. Now I can tell I’m hooked for life.
Apart from fireworks, I did also some groundwork. I published about a dozen articles on GoodMenProject, I landed two big guest posts: on AuthorJourneyto100k.com and SideHustleNation.com. I was interviewed on several podcasts including a few quite established: Authority Self-Publishing, AC Fuller’s Writer 2.0 and Stop Riding the Pine.
Apart from the Community, I contribute to a couple other online communities on daily basis like Jeff Goin’s “My 500 Words”. I contribute less consistently to Coach.me, Pat’s First Kindle Book, Authority Self-Publishing, Authority Pub Academy moderated by Steve Scott and Jason van Orden’s Impact.
I even started (and flopped) my own FB group. I don’t know what it lacked, most probably enough engaged members and a common topic of interest.
No wonder that some new opportunities came my way. “Show up consistently” is the first step of The Slight Edge program and it applies to relationships as well. I really feel that consistent networking is an activity neglected by most of people who consider building their own brand. And it’s really simple, as Woody Allen said,
“Showing up is 80% of success”
That’s why I published Making Business Connections That Count this year—to share what really works in online networking.
Wow, it’s hard to count all of my failed attempts in the past year.
I think Quora was the only new venture that worked for me really well.
I tried FB advertising and lost some money on it.
As I mentioned, my Facebook group died out despite my efforts.
I tried to expand my coaching practice, with very little effects. I got a few free clients among my friends and received their testimonials.
I tried affiliate marketing. I earned some bucks, but always mysteriously I managed to diminish my job in this area.
I tried FB live to boost my EBY FB page to little avail. I think I did everything I could to increase the reach of that page on Facebook, with very limited successes.
However, each of those “failed” attempts taught me something.
FB live allowed me to train my video and presentation skills.
An experiment with FB ads taught me a bit about advertising. Maybe I will utilize that knowledge on another platform (Amazon introduced Kindle books ads in their store in the last year).
Some business metrics
My Quora presence, and some changes I made to my site as a result of Kimanzi Constable’s course, caused traffic to this blog to double. Considering the Internet’s enormity, it’s still a tiny trickle, about 1,000 visits a month, but doubling my traffic is improvement nonetheless.
I actually started to get subscribers via opt-ins on my blog. In the past years any such subscription was a big celebration, I don’t believe I got more than one a month.
The number of overall subscribers increased very slowly, 175 net subscribers over the whole year.
I also have 4 new coaching clients, although they are all old friends 😀
For a few last months of 2015 I hustled like I’ve never hustled before in my life. My publishing business took a back seat, but it didn’t stop me from writing 1,000 words a day, managing proofreaders and editors, giving interviews, looking for guest posts opportunities, sharing my experiences with other authors, publishing on my blog, publishing at least 1 Quora answer a day and all that stuff.
Plus I worked intensively in my day job. I got involved as a key person in a couple of projects and there was just not enough of me. The situation was like that till the end of February.
My day job was draining my energy and my time. There was not a single month without overtime.
However it was not all evil. The people in new office are great, one of the best (if not the best) teams I’ve ever worked with. They are very professional and very positive and ordinarily polite at the same time.
They hired me for a leadership position, but that project didn’t work out. Now I’m doing technical work wherever needed and it’s close to my line of experience and it’s my preferable mode of work. I don’t like being stuck in the same project, or on the same type of tasks for months or years.
The atmosphere is great. The startup that employed me merged with one of the big four consulting corporations at the beginning of March. Now there is more paperwork, but we are still very flexible, like a proper startup. I enjoy working from home almost every week.
The work itself is also interesting. In the middle of July I finished a project for a very large, prestigious client. We tuned a central database linking all their systems, and managed to improve performance by 50%. When we started in October, they were bordering on operational disability, because their processes took so much time.
No, success in this work isn’t as satisfying as getting a thank-you email from one of my readers, but it is always rewarding nonetheless.
As you can see, there were some positives that lured me away from my passion – writing.
Investing in myself and my business
I hired a business coach. An expansive one (considering my means). So far we’ve done a lot of groundwork, with exactly zero return on investment. I paid over 15 hundred dollars and did a load of homework, outlining my vision, mission and business processes, but it didn’t translate into even a single buck going back to my pocket. On the other hand I haven’t yet started anything tangible as a result of this coaching, so no wonder I haven’t yet earned a dime.
I produced my first audiobook. In the first three months it earned $15. *sigh*
I produced a couple of paperback versions of my books. I’d been meaning to get this done for a long time.
I hired and laid off a part-time VA. When my sales were still decent I decided to outsource some workload, but when my sales diminished I couldn’t afford services of my VA anymore. She did a lot of great editing for me and I miss her help. But I had to decide what expanses to cut off and I bet my stakes on the business coaching.
When Facebook live started, my business coach encouraged me to try it. I made several videos. They didn’t make a big splash, but about 100 people saw each of them. (I wasn’t watched ‘live’, as I’m not online when most Americans are, but once a recording is posted, it can be watched anytime).
Paired with the podcast interviews I had, this experience boosted my self-confidence in using spoken English. Now I’m thinking about hosting webinars and I purchased software from AppSumo for that. I’m comfortable with my English, with an audience and with a camera.
The bad and the ugly
You cannot overdo your attention to one area of your life and expect that other areas will be unaffected. The crazy workload I kept up created problems. I had plenty of self-doubts, frustration and discouragements.
I caught myself self-sabotaging several times. I wasted my time on YouTube, TV or fiction reading. I didn’t follow up my goals, so naturally, I wasn’t getting any closer to them, which only increased my frustration.
My constant hustle negatively affected my family life. I simply had too little time for my wife and kids. We drifted apart. Guess what, your mindset isn’t helped when you’re not connected emotionally to those you love.
All that hustle finally climaxed in a breakdown that lasted about a week. You wouldn’t have guessed I was lost for a few days as my output continued, but that week I felt barely alive.
However, there is dawn after every night. This dark time steeled my determination to work on my business, my mindset and create more time for my family. My new resolve feels much better than the quiet frustration and helplessness I experienced prior to my breakdown.
The worst thing is… that I cannot see the way out of this situation other than by quitting my day job and to quit it I need to generate income, which in turn means hustling, which means less time for my family…
For now, I’ve taken a step back from my side hustle activities and I’ve cut corners whenever I can. And I’m mindful of how little time I spend with my wife and kids.
The Slight Edge is great to build momentum, but this philosophy also works well for keeping momentum going. The best example of that is my health.
I’m healthy. I’ve not been sick since July 2013. In the last year I can recall one case of a nasty running nose that stuck with me for almost a week and 3-4 days of a subfebrile temperature when everybody around got a cold.
I also had to take painkillers a few times, usually when my body protested after my short and insanely intensive workouts.
Speaking of which… in the past year I beat 50 fitness records. Thanks to the spirit of manly challenge in The Community I bought a pullup bar and installed it in the furnace room.
So, I’m a 37 year old who sits behind a desk for ten hours a day and spends another two hours commuting to and from work. I’m also stressed out of my mind, sleep deprived and in reality working two jobs. But I’m fit and healthy.
I remember, when I was about to publish Bulletproof Health and Fitness and announced it in an authors group, I instanced a few of my fitness records. One guy then sent me a private message:
“From the intro you have pure gold… you basically say you’re regular guy who now can do an amazing number of pull-ups and pushups etc. in 15 minutes a day. Do you know how many guys WANT to do that?!?! “
The same happened with my spiritual life. On day-to-day basis I don’t see any progress. I only diligently do my daily disciplines. I easily dedicate an hour a day to my spiritual life. But from time to time I have an unexpected insight into what the saints taught or about a passage from the Bible. And sometimes an isolated event shows me that this “maintenance mode” is truly fruitful.
Yesterday, on a parking lot near a supermarket, a woman accosted me. She asked for money. She was well above 50 and her outfit suggested she was needy indeed. One of the blessings of my side income is that I dedicate 5% of it to charities and I prefer to give that money to individuals; thus I almost always have a small amount of money to donate. I gave her a small sum, less than my hourly wage. She was very grateful. I hugged her and told her “God bless you.” It caused her to open and we spoke for a couple of minutes.
Only when I was driving back home I realized what happened. I hugged a stranger, blessed her and then had a chat with her. There wasn’t an ounce of self-consciousness in those acts. I was natural all the time. I’ve changed and I’ve changed for the better.
Another area: my IT career. Before I even realized I wanted to be a writer I decided to put some effort into my career development. For about two years, before I decided that writing would be my main occupation, I’d been studying professional documentation for ten minutes a day.
I got a couple of certificates. Two years later, because I had them, I was able to get the new job I have now..
It’s not that I’m a deadbeat in my day job. I do what most employees do—the job at hand. Still, attention to upkeeping my skills allowed me to finish this database tuning project which was a pretty impressive feat. I can instance it as my premium accomplishment during any job interview.
As usual, reflecting upon my progress over the whole year brought a realization of how big my progress really was.
For example, when I only looked at my royalties from the last couple of months, I thought that I had sold far fewer books than I really did. I thought that it was less than 3,000 when it really was over 6,000. This is how your subconscious messes with you if you don’t gather data and don’t compare your feelings to reality.
I also felt poorer, despite our family earning 14% more. The unexpected expenses and big costly projects (a coaching program and various house renovations) had left me the feeling that we were in a worse financial situation than was really the case.
I’m prone to frustration on a day-to-day basis. But when I look back in time and measure facts, my frustration disperses like a morning fog.
My biggest lesson from this report is that my feelings are my worst enemy. They dim my thinking process and are responsible for the (lack of) speed in my progress. I’ve learned that whenever I am discouraged or frustrated I should consult my numbers from the last year.
Another conclusion: I’m not where I anticipated I would be a year ago. Decreased eBook sales, improved paperback sales, more coaching, more direct interactions with readers and prospects and success with Quora… well, I didn’t anticipate those results at all. Even in my day job, which should be the most predictable area, I’m not where I thought I would be. Instead of being a team leader of a specialized department, I act as an independent senior technical specialist. My schedule is more flexible and my workload is not so overwhelming.
Goals or no goals, many things happened “on their own.” I contributed to a book about authorship. My old content appeared to be a hot stuff on Quora. My name and work was featured on Forbes and Business Insider. A millionaire wrote a foreword to my book. None of that was on my radar a year ago.
Life is an adventure and cannot be precisely planned. I’m glad I have the compass of my personal mission statement that guides me in the right direction. There are some detours and “income traffic”, but year after year I’m closer to the finish line.