The Brexit event reminded me how we constantly self-sabotage our own progress due to emotion. Fear and greed tend to triumph over logical reasoning in the short run. In the long run, we find pangs of regret asking ourselves, “What were we thinking?” Here's some reflection of my own self-sabotage as it pertains to this site.
One of the main reasons everybody should start their own site is because you want to own your name and traffic online. Why should Facebook, LinkedIn, and a bunch of other social networking sites pop up first when someone Googles your brand or name? These sites are worth billions each because they own you! Not only do they own you, they're able to get you to write content for them for free. Brilliant!
I've always had a somewhat defiant attitude. When someone says it can't be done, I enjoy trying to prove them wrong. I fail all the time because what the heck. It's not like I'll get trapped in a burning car and die if I fail. So when I first contemplated starting Financial Samurai in the mid-2000s, I told myself why couldn't I just create my own Yahoo? WordPress made it easy to launch a site. Hosting was cheap and has only gotten cheaper since.
From 2009 to 2015, everything went pretty well. Financial Samurai was growing in the triple digits every year with little traffic help from the larger social networking sites. I didn't spend a penny on advertising either. People found FS organically through search engines or word of mouth.
I wanted the conversation about my posts to be on FinancialSamurai.com not on Facebook. After all, it can sometimes take 10 hours to write one article. It also takes effort to maintain a site and the last thing I wanted to do during my growth stage was spread my time between multiple sites, especially ones that don't pay me for my time or don't let me own my own content.
But now, my hyper growth phase has passed. Financial Samurai has turned into an established dividend paying stock with strong operating profit margins and lower volatility. No longer is it a swashbuckling, money losing startup that broke new internal records every month.
I'm glad I've been able to survive this long without much help from other platforms. But what I've come to realize is that hugely successful companies have learned to leverage existing platforms rather than shun them. Here are two examples:
- Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed is a media site that came out of nowhere in the past seven years to dominant the attention spans of the Millennial generation with its click-bait titles and social sharing surveys on Facebook. When Buzzfeed first came out, I thought there was no way this site could be hugely profitable due to the topics it was writing about. But who cares about profits when you can attract mega funding from Venture Capitalists and be valued at $1B? Only people like me who want to run lifestyle businesses care about profits.
- Zynga. Zynga created all of its games it copied from others for Facebook because that's where hundreds of millions of people already were. Zynga was able to go public at around a $7B valuation back in 2011. Even though its been sucking wind for the past couple of years, it is still worth ~$2.3B almost all thanks to Facebook!
There are countless other examples of companies which have leveraged Facebook and built valuable businesses. And here I was not giving a damn because I'd told myself I was just too busy to throw up a page. I'm not a regular Facebook user because I have no desire to post selfies, post vacation pictures, and get sucked into a rabbit hole when I could be producing.
In retrospect, if back in 2009 I had spent the hour required to create the Financial Samurai Facebook page, today it might have over 100,000 followers and be an additional engine for growth and revenue. Perhaps thanks to Facebook, I could be making at least $100,000 more a year! I self-sabotaged due to laziness and stubbornness.
RECOGNIZING MY FAULTS
In order to grow, I think it's important for us to recognize our faults. Here are mine.
* Dumb ass know it all. I have a tendency to think I know more than I do when I first start things out. I also have a very skeptical eye because I've been burned plenty of times before. It's important to tackle an endeavor with a very open mind and listen to those who've been there before you.
* Overconfident. Because I believe there is a strong correlation between effort and reward, I believe I will never fail because effort requires no skill. Everything is rational. If I want to succeed, I should do everything possible to succeed. If I want to be skinny, I should stop eating cookies. If I want to have a winning record in tennis, I should train three hours a day. But sometimes, there are just forces that are beyond your control e.g. old age slowing you down.
* Too much pride. It's always been a problem for me to ask someone for help or even to accept a birthday present. I hate bothering people, so I seldom ask. I've also been taught to always try to help others first.
* Too stubborn. Stubbornness is the inability to change despite the obvious. It is obvious Facebook is becoming a monopoly in the media space. To not leverage its platform as a media company is stupid. Sure, Facebook won't pay me anything to use my content, but I should be able to gain exposure to a new set of readers. This in turn should help Financial Samurai grow.
* Irreverently defiant. It must be genetic, but I don't find it comforting walking amongst the herd. It feels dumb. When I learned Facebook doesn't show all the people who like your page new posts on their feed, I felt that was wrong. What's the point of trying to build your following on their platform then? Then I soon realized why: to encourage you to pay FB to show your new posts to people who already like you! Wow, no wonder why they're doing so well. FB smartly changed the rules after individual companies spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars building their FB following. Given their time and effort are sunk costs, these companies might as well pay FB for exposure.
Consulting with marketing departments for several startups taught me a lot. Despite the questionable business practice, FB has the highest return on investment for marketing dollars spent. Google is next. Twitter is terrible for advertising and LinkedIn is way too expensive.
Financial Samurai Facebook Page
So here it is folks! After seven years, I've finally launched the Financial Samurai Facebook page. I'll spend some time interacting with readers who enjoy the FB platform. Over time, I'll open up with more videos and photos as well. I might even do some live group chats and stuff. Who knows what the thousands of well-compensated FB employees working on new features will bring.
Hopefully, my FB page will tap a new audience and bring new ideas and insights to the Financial Samurai community. I’ve always gained inspiration to write new posts from reader comments and feedback. If nothing else, the page took less than an hour to set up.
Everybody should do some soul-searching and ask, “What are some faults that may be holding me back?” If we want to get ahead, it’s important we maximize our self-awareness. Otherwise, we'll be stuck spinning our wheels wondering what the hell is going on, when it's so obvious to others.
And for those who are hooked on Facebook and other social media platforms, please consider transferring some of that time over to building your own platform. Everybody working at Facebook is already rich thanks to other people making them so. Start making yourself richer already!
Interested in starting your own website? Check out my step-by-step tutorial guide on how you can launch a site like mine in under 30 minutes for just $2.95/month. A website legitimizes your business and becomes your online portal. Not a day goes by where I'm not thankful for starting Financial Samurai in 2009. In just 2.5 years, I was able to quit my job and be free. Everyone should leverage the internet to build a brand, build a business, and become untethered from an office to live a life of purpose!
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