Exactly three years ago I read Jeff Olson’s book, “ The Slight Edge.” It transformed my life. Last year I summarized progress I made in the first two years.
It’s time to tell the story of the last year.
It was the area I had the least hopes that it would ever improve. I have never in my life witnessed anyone making a fortune or financial independence. My dad worked very hard his whole life and was constantly on the verge of bankruptcy.
I worked 8 years to pay off a student loan, buy a small apartment (100% financed via mortgage), an old car (12 years), and collect about 4 my salaries in savings. I had no idea about entrepreneurship and my results clearly showed I had very little idea about finances as well.
When I wrote the last SE report we were broke again. We’d just bought the house and we spent every single dime. We also had a new mortgage, which was about 19% of our income at that time. And we took out some consumer loans to buy furniture.
In January we sold our old apartment, which was draining our finances. We didn’t earn money on that transaction. The surplus went to paying off the furniture loans and the rest was about as much as we spent on maintaining the apartment for half a year.
Now we have almost $8,000 stacked away. 98% of that money is not savings—those are funds dedicated for specific purposes: tax fund, house renovation fund, various future expenditures funds (textbooks, car insurance, coal for winter etc.) In my ‘peace of mind’ fund I have only $200.
But it’s the miracle nonetheless. A year ago we had nothing. Now we have $8,000 and that’s despite the fact that we invested a few thousand dollars in our house, we bought some ‘luxury’ items we couldn’t afford in the past (like my wife’s car, a trampoline for kids and a Kindle Paperwhite), and we spent $1,000 on plane tickets to Ireland. I definitely learned how to save. Thanks David Bach!
The only debt we have now is our mortgage. Monthly payments are a bit above 10% of our income. I paid off $1,500 in extra payments this year. According to my bank’s plan that would have been possible no earlier than in 2019.
During last year I sold over 8,000 and gave away over 15,800 copies of my books (and sold 160 paperbacks, and got 2,000 KU borrows). My mailing list is approaching 600 people. I have over 360 followers on Twitter. Since the last Slight Edge report I wrote 383,000 words and published 4 more books.
Our income is 40% higher than it was before living The Slight Edge. My wife got a job and it pays better and is less stressful. My books are selling relatively well. I broke the income ceiling hindering most of indies. My 2015 royalties more than doubled since 2014. At the end of July I officially crossed 5-figures [gross] income from my books (read: it’s 71 dollars over $10k 😉 ). It’s still a waaay too low to quit my job, but gosh! I earned that money doing my own thing, which I love. In 2012 I had no side income and what was much worse, I couldn’t believe I was able to generate any.
Ha! We have been consistently earning five figures a month (in Polish Zloty) since September 2014! How cool is that?
I saved the biggest income news for the end: I start a new job next week. In the new company my basic salary is 36% higher. Well, I lost the various bonuses I had in the previous company, so my new monthly salary will be actually $40 smaller. But I count on bonuses in the new job too. It’s enough that I work three hours overtime and I’ll be on the plus side.
One significant thing happened at the end of 2014. I split with my publisher. They had no capacity to manage tax withholdings for foreign authors. It was less costly for them to let me go and not earn 30% of my royalties, than to micromanage my sales figures. I was devastated, but (as usual) in the end it was to my advantage. My income is higher, because my costs are lower. Being on my own I invest about 20% of my royalties back in books production, instead of 30%.
Money is fine. But my mind is blown away by the change in my mindset (pun intended). Do you know what’s best in this new job of mine? I’ll be a team leader and project manager! I totally didn’t expect that. I was working on specialist positions my whole career. But when they proposed this job to me I didn’t hesitate a moment. I need some experience in management. Plus, the client is from the UK. I’ll be visiting London from time to time and I hope to network with fellow entrepreneurs there. I’ll get the chance to meet my accountability partner in person!
However, my new job is a small potato compared to my business growth.
I’m an entrepreneur
I hire people. Well, sort of. Freelancers on Fiverr or Virtual Assistants via Fancy Hands.
I collaborate with others. I organized a couple of online book events and participated in another. My latest book was co-authored and honestly, Jeannie did most of the work. I no longer am bound with an agreement with Archangel Ink, but I still cooperate with them and they do at least 50% of heavy lifting— proofreading, covers design and so on.
I market. Not very skillful or very efficiently, but at least I do something in this area.
I invest in my business. When I published my first book, I spent just $5, because I was so avaricious. I was a lifelong employee. I didn’t understand the concept of investing into your own business. I understood lottery wins.
I invested in myself. I joined Aaron Walker’s Community (it’s paid) and I plan to stick with those guys for the long haul.
I lost. I won. I embraced the entrepreneurial roller coaster. Some of my books sell just a few copies a month. Others sell hundreds or (when I’m lucky) thousands. I’m pushing forward. I’m expanding beyond myself.
I even did some coaching on Coach.me at the beginning of this year. I didn’t plan or hope for that. It just happened, because I have been consistently showing up. A couple hundred people joined my plans there.
I connected with amazing people. Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur became my SEO coach. I’m always surprised when people like Nick Loper appear on my social media entries or when the likes of Derek Doepker contact me to share with me a great strategy for soliciting reviews.
My peers in authors group recognize me as someone who has his stuff figured out and they listen to what I have to say. People for whom English is not their first language approach me and seriously ask for advice. Hey, three years ago I hadn’t published a single piece of written work! When I dwell on such events I can’t believe in my own life.
I was in Prague in June and met with my friend, Hynek Palatin. He made me my first decent covers out of pity. This allowed me to step up my publishing venture. It was great to be finally able to hug him.
I’m a writer
I appeared with my guest posts and articles on so many sites, that I’m slowly losing track: Good Men Project (they have several millions visitors a month), Ultimate Discipline, Productive Superdad, March Forth…
My health is terrific. I was sick last time in July 2013. I’ve beaten dozens and dozens of fitness records: dips, various pushups, pull-ups and chin-ups. I ran 1.5 mile. First time in my life I’ve ran more than 1,000 yards. I did some incredible things with my body (like 120 hours of fasting). I still keep my weight in the range of 138-144 pounds. Needless to say my diet changed a little and I consciously seek opportunities to move more on a daily basis.
Above you see high points or data points. But I value the most who I have become.
I speak with strangers. You have no idea how much this means to me. I came out of my shell and that’s the opening for opportunities to serve or to make friendships.
I have friends all over the world. My second accountability partner is from New Zealand and lives in Greece. I know people from Bulgaria (hi, Lidiya), Canada, Australia, India…
I can afford to financially help a few people. It’s not much, but more than it was before introducing The Slight Edge into my life.
My parents are so very proud of me, that’s beyond touching. My wife grudgingly acknowledges that I did the right choice pursuing my writing career. She would have never uttered such unthinkable sentence like “You was right.” But when she thinks I don’t hear she brags about her writer husband in front of her girlfriends (I eavesdropped her phone calls a few times). She is proud of me too.
My spiritual life is better. I pray at least 4 times a day. I study the Bible every day. I still read works of saints every day. Some things clicked into place after 3 years of studying their teachings. For example a few days ago I had a small revelation about life, death and nature of suffering. Consistency works perfectly in every area of life.
It all doesn’t mean I’m some kind of Cinderella. Increasing my income by 40% is not enough to move to a palace. Well, it’s even not enough to pay off our mortgage in a reasonable time (read: several years). My spiritual life improved, but I am no saint. I just advanced from ‘hopeless’ to ‘hmm, maybe someday.’ I can do 150 pushups, but my sweet tooth still caused gaining 4 pounds in one week more than once in those three years.
But I expanded beyond myself. I’m on the progress path.
The most shocking part of it is that I didn’t do anything grand or fancy. I developed only one “serious” habit- I write 1000 words a day. But it took me 21 months to build up this habit to its present state. Anything else I did or have done was tiny. Commenting on a couple blog posts a day. Speed reading practice, Bible study, reading saints’ works—all for just 10 minutes a day. Listening to podcasts. Learning a few minutes here and there about building email list, managing the site, SEO, keyword research and so on. I also practice smiling to strangers.
But it compounded. I commented at least 998 blog posts since September 2013. I’ve read 100% more material I was able to absorb 3 years ago, because I doubled my reading speed. There wasn’t a single grand action which allowed me to sell 8,000 copies of my books or increase my income by 40%. It was a result of small consistent disciplines.
Well, I learned also one very impressive and important skill—developing good habits. I mastered this skill in the first few months of my transformation and it allowed me to introduce and maintain dozens of these tiny disciplines.
You don’t have to do something breathtaking. Learn simple daily disciplines and stick with them. I’ve discovered that they will compound into something much greater.
The twin killers of success are impatience and greed. — Jim Rohn
There were also drawbacks. When a couple of my books sold about 1,000 copies a month each at the beginning of this year my head had swelled. The third book, however, was a flop. Two months after its launch I still am deep in red with that investment. I was so frustrated and discouraged. I got used to ‘fame and wealth’ (on my humble level) and then it disappeared like a soap bubble. It still gnaws on me.
For the last year I have been immersed in online entrepreneurial world. I looked up to people like Pat Flynn, Steve Scott, Aaron Walker… and I am no near their level; despite working like a madman for the last two years. If they did it, why couldn’t I? I wanted their level of success, not my pitiful progress. I wanted to get to the top of that chart. I wanted it now! Impatience got the worst of me.
As a proper entrepreneur I used it as an opportunity and wrote a guest post about this frustration on RobCubbon.com, but it only partially alleviated the pressure. I tell you, I wasn’t myself for the last two months. At least I wasn’t my new self.
Writing this post reminded me once again how far I have come. It’s amazing.
Preparing this post I skimmed through the last year report and the lessons I included at its end. I could use them myself.
What’s easy to do is easy not to do. Show up. Stay consistent. Keep going. Time + effort = results.
That’s the path which really leads to growth and success. At least for me.
How about your path? Where are you on The Slight Edge chart?