You can’t deny how someone feels. They just do and you’ve got to accept it. Maybe the color blue looks different between two people. We’ll never know because we can only know ourselves.
I started this site as a way to deal with the agony of the financial meltdown in 2008-2009. I needed to find a way to let the pain escape in a healthy way. Drugs and booze were not an option although tempting they were.
This site has always been about introspection. To understand why we think the way we think. To understand our inconsistencies. To talk about issues that are on so many people’s minds but cannot be publicly discussed due to fear of persecution.
Since my very first post over four years ago I’ve been able to reconcile the stupidity of my multitude of financial mistakes. I’ve met many friends online who are also on uncertain paths to financial independence. We’ve shared victories and defeats, but I thought there would be more people like me who fear being alone, going broke, or being a failure to our family. Lately, I feel like I’m the only loser around.
THE PERFECT WORLD FULL OF PERFECT PEOPLE
It’s never easy to open up about mistakes and insecurities. Yet, that’s exactly what I’ve done in posts such as, “Real Estate Mistakes To Avoid,” “Dealing With The Fear Of Being Alone Forever,” and “How Amazing Is Your Fabulous Life?“. I thought I’d feel a little better about exposing some failures full on and I slightly do. But as I read and responded to the comments, I realized I was basically the only one who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate, who fears dying alone, and who has a case of FOMO.
Nobody commented in a particularly negative manner. Instead, it was more, “Thank goodness I didn’t buy a second property!” or “I’m so happy to come home to a loving wife,” or “FOMO? Really? That’s pretty ridiculous if you ask me.” Each comment reaffirmed that I was the only sucker to experience such things.
One of my goals for writing about my mistakes and worries is to let readers know there’s a real person behind the writing, not some financial wizard who never steps into a hole and twists his ankle. Personal finance is such an unpredictable journey that if you travel long enough, bad things will happen. I thought if I could share my bends and turns, you’d not only feel better about yourself but also become more encouraged with never giving up. Maybe it’s not working or maybe it’s working a little too well.
Failure to properly convey a message online is frustrating. I enjoy crafting stories around a topic so that maybe readers can better imagine a scenario that will promote dynamic discussion. My goal is to always try and put myself in someone else’s shoes so we can better understand their situation. To be told my ideals are “different,” with the insinuation they are inferior is disappointing. I need to constantly remind myself not everybody is as open minded or has seen the world or speaks another language.
I FEEL STUPID FOR CARING SO MUCH
Those who care the most are probably the weakest link. If I didn’t care so much about my company, I wouldn’t have stayed for 11 consecutive years. I would have hit one of many multiple bids from competing firms looking to hire me for more money instead. I also felt it a duty to train up my junior hire so that he could be self-sufficient in running the business before I left. The decision cost me around $300,000-$500,000 in lost income over two years. Lesson learned: Loyalty is overrated. Do what’s best for you.
In the blogging world, I’m probably the only blogger my size who actively comments on other sites because I remember the loneliness of first starting out and the joy of having someone leave a note. The positive comments are what kept me going in the very beginning. Now I’m thinking it’s probably best to conserve my energy to prevent burnout as things are getting unwieldy. I still have a habit of responding to the vast majority of comments on Financial Samurai, but I should probably learn to be more indifferent. Lesson learned: Write more boring, neutral posts which produce less commentary.
What a fool I am for spending hours writing posts on touchy topics that are specifically requested by readers who are too shy to ask friends or family for help. I do all the work and get all the flack while the inquirer gets to sit back and take in all the helpful information. No more. If you’ve got a particular problem that’s not mainstream, I want you to sit down in front of a computer, spend at least three hours crafting a structurally sound 1,500 word article and send me a copy. I’ll give you some editorial pointers and will publish your post. But you’ve got to do most of the work so you know how it feels. Lesson learned: Encourage readers to do the work if they want to hear answers to their concerns. This way, more readers will realize how difficult it is to write a post and receive criticism from people who don’t share their own story.
I write about relationships all the time because I want to be a better boyfriend, husband, son and father. By trying to write from different viewpoints I hope to better understand when conflict inevitably arises. I’m well aware about how hard it is to maintain a long-term harmonious relationship given the difficulties I see with close family and friends. Everybody knows someone who seemed to have the perfect marriage but decided to split. I’m optimistic that relationships can be improved through hard work, no matter how much flack I get from my writing. Lesson learned: Putting yourself out there hurts. I’ve got to better weigh the rewards of understanding others with the pain of getting stomped on.
Finally, just a couple weeks ago a buddy of mine was turning the big 3-0. I promised him a week before his birthday that I’d take him out for drinks to celebrate. He enthusiastically said yes. About three days before his birthday he started getting wishy washy about celebrating. I could sense he was going to flake so I made other plans. It turns out he made plans with some other friends and didn’t even mention it until the next day. Thanks a lot for agreeing to hang when you had no plans but pushing me aside once new plans were made. Lesson learned: Be more selfish with my time. Focus on friendships where there is reciprocity and dump the rest.
TIME FOR A CHANGE AND A BREAK
In a 50 minute podcast interview I did the other week about the reasons for starting this site and the trends of online publishing, I told Spencer the host I wanted to do more of the things that made me happy (write), and less of the things that no longer made me proud (working in finance) when I was deciding on engineering my layoff. I’ve decided to do the same thing with my writing by gradually taking away some personality and candor. Being open hurts. You just get constantly hammered by an unrelenting crowd who takes pleasure in mishap.
But I must say that often times I’m overfilled with joy by the internet world. The wonderful feedback from readers on my post, “My Fear Of Being A Father” makes everything worthwhile again. I also received several private e-mails from fathers who feel the same way and we were able to talk things out. Finally, there are people out there who have admitted to suffering financial hardship like reader JayCeezy who wrote, “How To Lose A Million Dollars And Live To See Another Day.” If only I could figure out a way to consistently write more such posts to engender such terrific responses and find more readers to open up about their imperfect lives.
The biggest personal finance blogs in the world - some of which have sold for millions of dollars – are expertly neutral in their writing. They don’t delve into taboo or more controversial topics out of fear of offending anybody. The big guys deftly hire multiple writers who report the news, write plenty of products reviews and talk about subjects that belies their experience. And guess what? Readers love it otherwise how could they grow so large? Building a content business is all about plain vanilla.
All the biggest sites also focus on frugality instead of ways to make more money through investments and alternative means. The reason is because writing about making money is much harder than writing about saving. From a reader’s perspective, it’s also much easier to follow money saving instructions instead of doing research on real estate or stocks. It’s a match made in heaven which I’m being encouraged to pursue. One fellow blogger writes about a minimalist lifestyle living off less than $40,000 a year with a family while earning multiple six figures a year. The business model is brilliant.
It’s a little sad for me to change the style of my posts because it’s been so fun to read all the various responses. But I’m not stubborn. I’m a realist who is acting rationally. Vanilla is what is demanded of readers who feel slapped in the face by what I write. I also don’t want to feel bad about my writing any more so I plan to slowly remove myself out of the equation. For all of you who’ve been privately asking me difficult questions, I’m sorry but the public has spoken. We cannot talk about things such as finding a rich husband. As one commenter said, I lose credibility when I write about anything other than personal finance because I should have no other interests or concerns in life.
I’ve decided to take another 10 days off and won’t be back until the end of the month. Of course I will be putting everything on my new Barclaycard Arrival for double the points. I will think short and soft about the new direction I want to take with Financial Samurai. Maybe I’ll even cure some FOMO given there will be no wi-fi out at sea thank goodness. I will meditate on whether the vocal minority is striking and should be ignored or whether I need to drastically change directions to ensure the growth and survival of this site.
I’m looking forward to this potential new phase of Financial Samurai. Don’t worry, I’ve got at least 15 previously written posts and guest posts to go through before any significant changes take affect. Maybe by that time I’ll have regenerated my thick skin to take on the body blows once again. Or maybe new readers might change my mind. Here’s to feeling up and in again!
Readers, what are your thoughts about writing more neutral content about personal finance going forward? If the largest personal finance blogs in the world seldom ever write with opinion, shouldn’t I follow suit if I want Financial Samurai to grow? Any tips on how I can get critics to produce ideal content for me on this site if they are unhappy with my content? I’ve asked them to contribute before, but they seem to always decline as it’s much easier to consume than produce. What are some of the ways you’ve been able to develop a thick skin to keep on going?
Photo: Sad Frenchie, FS, 2013.