They say that it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. But you can completely change your life in just five. I know. I’ve been there.
Half a decade ago I was lost. I had a good job and some decent skills, but I hadn’t found my “thing” yet. And more often than not I found myself asking, “What am I going to do with my life?”
The question seems simple enough, but it’s one that most people throughout history never had to ask themselves. After all, why would they? Until the last few centuries, society had already determined most peoples’ lives for them. If you were a woman you took care of the home/children and if you were a man you worked or farmed. That was it.
But that’s not true today. Today we have the freedom to be whatever we want. But that same freedom also comes with a side of existential dread. After all it’s on you to figure out what you want out of life. And if you don’t figure it out, it’s nobody’s fault but your own.
You may have felt this pressure before, but five years ago it was all I could think about. It consumed most of my waking thoughts. So I decided to try something out. I made a New Years Resolution to write once a week about a topic of my choosing in economics or finance. I was going to start a blog.
What would I name it? I didn’t know yet. I was originally going to call it “MoneyMining” or “MiningMoney” as a play on data mining, but these names didn’t sound right. I continued to struggle with the name for hours, but nothing clicked. Was my new project doomed from the start?
Nearly defeated I glanced over and saw Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck sitting on my bookshelf. Of Money and Mining? No. Stupid. Then it hit me. Of Dollars And Data. Yes. Yes. That was it. But picking a name was just the beginning of my problems. Now I had to actually write the darn thing. And, as I quickly learned, this was easier said than done.
The next 11 months were the toughest time of my entire life. Every week I felt like I was writing into the void. Imagine spending 10 hours to write something, publishing it, then getting little to no reaction. This was my reality.
But this new reality taught me something—when people don’t like your work, they don’t provide negative commentary. No, when people don’t like your work, they don’t say anything at all. For a blogger, rejection isn’t hate, it’s silence.
So I became a rejection connoisseur, a master of silence. A silence only broken by brief moments of euphoria when one of my posts did well. It was those occasional likes or retweets that kept me going. But the silence eventually ended.
It happened after I attended the Evidence-Based Investing (EBI) conference in NYC in late 2017. At the conference I got to meet some of my favorite financial bloggers and realized that I was gonna make it. The doubt I had for the first 11 months melted away.
Shortly thereafter I accepted a job with RWM as a data scientist and moved to NYC. I kept blogging, improved my writing, and started learning more about the financial industry. All the while my audience slowly grew. Eventually I got promoted to COO of RWM and wrote a book on personal finance and investing that will be published next April.
It’s been five years since this all started and I honestly can’t believe how well things have gone. I am fortunate that I make more money, know more people, and love what I do so much more than I did half a decade ago. But, as I mentioned above, it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
In addition to the struggles of starting the blog, I had to take a significant pay cut to switch industries, and I made basically no money from my writing during my first three years. That’s over 1,500 hours of labor where my hourly rate was $0. But, today it’s paying off in spades. This is why I am happy to report that Of Dollars And Data is now a full-fledged business (mostly from ads and partnerships).
And here’s the best part—all this occurred despite me doing so many things incorrectly. I’ve made just about every mistake that you can make as a blogger. For example, I didn’t have an email list until 18 months after I started the blog, I didn’t promote my work outside of Twitter (until recently), and I didn’t do any SEO for my first three years.
I tell you all these details because you will make mistakes in the process of changing your life. You will experience bumps along the way. You will doubt yourself. You will experience pain. That pain may be at the beginning of your journey (like I experienced) or near the end. I don’t know.
But I do know that, if you want to change your life, it’s going to take time and it’s going to take discipline. This explains why the typical self-made millionaire takes over 30 years to build their wealth. They had to work, save, and invest for decades to see results. They did it through bull markets and bear markets, through windfalls and tragedies.
You will have to do the same thing too. You will have to keep going even when you don’t want to, even when things seem hopeless. Why? Because even in those dark moments, you are still making progress.
It reminds me of the Stonecutter’s Credo by Jacob Riis:
When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.
If you really want to change your life, this is your wakeup call. Five years ago I had mine. What will you do with yours?
Happy New Year, happy investing, and thank you for reading!
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This is post 274. Any code I have related to this post can be found here with the same numbering: https://github.com/nmaggiulli/of-dollars-and-data