LEARN BY DOING: Thoughts on the 90-Day Challenge

The 90-day challenge

I’ve just completed my 90-day challenge.  It’s been fantastic.  First, the guillotine commitment of having to pay $1000 to the charity of Miles Beckler’s choice worked wonders in terms of motivation.

There were a few days where my postings were minimalistic, but I enjoy the Zen style of very short posts.  See my scorecard results here.

Lessons Learned From the 90-day Challenge (in no particular order):

  • I don’t like crafting posts with an eye towards the Google search engine.  Yes, I kept a weather eye on this a bit, but I just don’t like writing long titles based on common keyword searches when a more poetic title more closely captures what I’m trying to convey.
  • Despite this aversion, one of the first things I plan to do now that the 90-day challenge is complete is go back and rework what I’ve written to try to make the headlines more interesting.  I recognize my writing and especially the headlines could be more compelling; keyword research will be a part of this process.  I expect to make my peace with the Googlebots soon.  After all, I don’t want to be a modern version of that Japanese koan, “If a blogger posts into cyberspace and no one reads it, does he really exist?”
  • I enjoy the creativity of writing and blogging.  It’s just fun to come up with something each and every day.  This is the most important takeaway from the 90-day exercise, and it’s a good sign.  I’m more ambivalent about making videos, but plan to continue this on an ad hoc basis just to develop content creation skills further.
  • Design is a skill unto itself apart from writing.  It’s super important for any online venture.  (I know this is obvious, but until you are actually creating websites you don’t really feel this deeply.)  I’m not great at design.  Not sure if I ever will be, which is ok as this can be outsourced.
  • During the 90-day period, I think it is best to do everything yourself if possible.  Even if you plan to outsource at some point, it is super handy to have basic skills in most of the areas of online content creation.
  • I found I learn more with greater stability by producing a certain amount of work each and every day rather than doing marathon sessions of like 12 hours.  Somehow the drip, drip, drip of steady work seems to solidify and allow learning to happen spontaneously rather than trying to force things through urgently.
  • I don’t want to spread myself too thin working on multiple online platforms.  For now, I will focus on my website, YouTube, and possibly Medium.  I may link through to my website on other platforms though such as Facebook; haven’t decided yet.
  • Actually jumping in and getting my feet wet has driven home that it could take a long time (years) to build anything online around content creation that generates significant income. That’s the reality, and I will trim my sails accordingly.
  • This can be a very solo way of life producing content online if you don’t have a business partner or partners.  I find it way too isolating.  I miss working on teams, having colleagues, working towards common goals, meeting new people within the context of doing work that people care about.  I haven’t decided how to address this yet.
  • I did not market my websites at all during this period.  This was a learning phase.  I was not sure what niche I wanted to occupy and was still finding my voice.  I really have almost no traffic to speak of.  I’m ok with that at this point.
  • I look at the material I produced as a start, but I need to improve the quality.  I plan to rework some posts, delete others, etc.
  • I’ve decided to keep going with this 90-day challenge.  I’m shooting for 121 days.  However, the guillotine aspect is gone.  I’m not on the hook to pay anyone any money if I don’t produce every day.  Frankly, the key focus for me at this point is the joy and satisfaction of creating and putting it out there–regardless of other results.
  • That last point is crucial.  You have to actually like what you do in the area of content creation or you will likely not go the distance.
  • As noted above, during this 90-day challenge (partially because of it), I’ve realized that I miss the social aspect of work.  So I’m considering taking my own advice and shooting to join a fantastic institution.  We shall see.
  • One key win from the 90-day challenge is just overcoming the basic fear of exposing yourself to the world.  Those first few posts online are sort of bracing even though in reality you will have no traffic at first and so there is much less exposure than you expect.

​We Learn By Doing, Not By Thinking About Doing!

Overall, the 90-day challenge has been a great experience.  It’s been awesome just hanging it out there and being willing to put your perspective out into the world.  Also, even if you have no intention of becoming an online expert in any niche, if you have any interest in any kind of entrepreneurship, I would encourage you to launch a 90-day challenge.  All commerce has a web component now.  So if you plan to have any kind of business of your own, having the basic skills of designing a website, working with YouTube, etc., is just basic knowledge now.  And this has what has been most satisfying to me.  I feel much more clued into the modern world of commerce and how it all hangs together.

I hope you take the 90-day challenge.  Don’t wait until you have the perfect idea.  You don’t need to spend much money at all.  If you have absolutely no idea what you want to create content about, start by just doing book reviews, or talking about hiking trails in your area, or your hobby, or what you think about the subjects you are studying at school.  The true takeaway from all this is that YOU LEARN BY DOING.  You learn in this process what you like.  You learn what you are good at.  You learn what niche you don’t get bored with.  You learn if you prefer institutions to being out there solo.  You start to learn how Google really works, how to build websites, how easy it is to upload videos to YouTube.

So take the plunge.  You have nothing to lose.

(But remember: never post something online that you would regret showing up on the cover of The New York Times.  There is no privacy online and anything you ever throw out there, even if you delete it, will be there for all time.  This is tricky and something to always keep in mind.)

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