In the year:
1888: Roundhay Garden Scene was filmed by the Frenchman Louis Le Prince. The 12-frame, 2.11-second film showing four people in a garden is the oldest surviving motion picture in existence.
1878: Thomas Edison records two people, a man and a woman, reciting Mary Had A Little Lamb on his phonograph at a demonstration of his patented device at a museum in St. Louis. The recording, scratched on tin foil, is the oldest audio recording of an American in existence.
1860: Eighteen years before Edison, another Frenchman, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, recorded a very creepy 10-second voice on his phonautograph singing Au Claire de la Lune. It is the oldest audio recording of any kind in existence.
1826: Frenchman (a theme here?) Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, took the photo View from the Window at Le Gras (pictured above). It is the first photograph ever taken.
Now, we go back another 5,000 years or so…
3500 BC: The Kish Tablet, named for the ancient Sumerian city of Kish (located in modern day Iraq), is written. It represents the transcendence between proto-writing (writing with pictures only) and syllabic writing. It marks the beginning of recorded history and is the oldest surviving linguistic writing in existence.
Words Stand The Test of Time
A little over a year ago, Retire29 was born. This site is a labor of love for that “something” I feel I have to offer this world, and this is the medium I’ve chosen for delivery. Some people choose to make movies, others take photographs, others author books, others sing songs, I choose to blog about reaching financial independence and retiring in your 30s.
Blogging is a very personal thing. It is almost unavoidable for it not to be. Financial blogging, is especially personal given how intimately tied finances are to most every aspect of life. However, even if you’re blogging about beer, blogging about basements, or blogging about blogging, coming up with several thousand words every week that are compelling to anonymous readers becomes very difficult to do without making it a personal thing. You, if you are reading this and have frequented Retire29 before, probably know more about me than you do about half of your Facebook friends.
I mentioned all those dates at the top of this post to portray a very real fact: words last for…forever. Benjamin Roth wrote a diary of his accounts of the great depression in 1931. Understanding the importance of the events of the day, this diary is now a bestseller. Then there are some famous diaries like Anne Frank’s recount of her ordeal through the holocaust, or Sergeant Henry Tisdale’s firsthand account of the Civil War. Even small things like Ben Franklin’s daily routine or Robert Walsh’s firsthand account of a slave ship may have seemed inconsequential at the time, but are still treasured today. Words, in long-form content, stand the test of time and often grow in value.
You Need A Blog
The enduring nature of the written word is why everyone needs a blog. I wrote above about the personal nature of blogging, and with that segue I want to ask a morbid question: If you were to pass away today, what would be your lasting impact on the world? Have you captured your advice, your unique perspective, your worldview, and your values in such a way that others may learn from your life and experience? If your grandchildren, or your own children (if they’re very young), or one of your relatives, neighbors, or coworkers asked, “Gee, I never really got to know (your name); I wonder what he/she was like?” Would they have any way of finding out? Would they have to cite your Facebook profile, and glean your existence from snippets of information and updates about what you were eating for dinner or pictures of you at amusement parks? Maybe they’d have to read your Twitter feed, and try to understand your value system via bits of jargon in 140 characters or less.
For so many people, this painful thought becomes reality. And this is primarily the reason why I want to get as much information on the interwebs as possible. If something were to happen to me, I want my daughter to know how daddy would guide her after her high school graduation. Or give her advice about acing her job interview. Or teaching her how a business gets started. Or teaching her about seizing the moment, or avoiding a life of routine. On top of all this will be the countless articles of advice about consumerism and investing.
The Top 6 Reasons For Starting a Blog
A Blog is a Record of Your Life
You and me are probably not going to be the next Steve Jobs. We won’t have a biographical tome of our life. We won’t have several movies made about our lives. We have to take charge of capturing the advice we can give to others. Blogging is very personal, and you will learn about yourself through the process. Blogging takes far more critical thought than just writing short bits on social media. This is really a means of writing your memoirs piece by piece, short story by short story, until it becomes a transparent and complete view of who you are and what your legacy will be on the world.
Blogging Makes You Accountable
Nothing encourages somebody to do better than to have to be accountable to somebody else. I’ve written about how powerful living an examined life can be. Knowing that I will undoubtedly be honest about my life to readers, I try to practice what I preach in my everyday life, and to have my actions follow my words, as I will have to answer to ever-present reader. In some cases, like this post, my plan and my ideas are placed under great scrutiny by a slew of commenters, and I’m guided in a better direction. I never take it personally, ever. No trolls here, just a lot of great people. I find that blog readers tend to be a very sane and conscientious bunch. Probably because they are often bloggers themselves, so they understand the difficulty and vulnerability inherent in creating something original.
Blogging Makes You Smarter
Every post that I write makes me significantly smarter. Remember all those dates and events I cited at the top of this post? Amazingly, I didn’t just make that stuff up. Even more amazingly, I didn’t just have that info off the top of my head. Everything I write takes some research to come up with facts and figures, to cite it, to defend it, and to make it readable and entertaining. Somehow, this does not at all feel like “work.” This is because, for the first time in my life, the learning is entirely voluntary and rewarding. When I go into a post, I know I have something to say, but if I just say it flat out, then that’s no better than something I’d toss on Facebook or Twitter. Here, I want to say it, but I want to say it in a way that will make a reader say, “hmmm?”
Plus, blogging strengthens your tech skills. Everybody who’s at this for more than a couple months will get a hang for a little bit of CSS coding and HTML.
Blogging Makes You a Better Writer
One of the things I’m most proud of about Retire29 is that those who do read what I write seem to like it. My bounce rate (those who click away after reading one page) is an astoundingly low 26%. The average reader here visits about four pages every session. The average Alexa reader (those with an Alexa toolbar) will check out 5.5 pages. Thanks to SumoMe’s analytics (a great Plugin), I can see that the average reader of a blog post here will scroll 97% of the way through.
Throughout college (and I’m still in college, after over 300 credits…), I was always kind of bewildered at the prospect of writing papers. I hated it. It wasn’t so much the writing itself, though. I could typically put together enough baffling bullshit to knock out most papers in a couple hours. What bothered me was that I would pour myself into writing something good, spending hours on it, and only one person in the world would ever read it. How futile is that?! Now, my average post is read by about 1,000 people…and growing. That is super exciting to me, and it causes me to really try to write great stuff.
Blogging Connects You With Other People
I don’t call other members of my family too often (I really should), but by having the blog, they all pretty much know everything I’m doing and most of what I’m thinking. That’s still no substitute for talking to them regularly, but it’s at least something. But, more than that, blogging can connect you with so many other people. I’m now wrapped into a great community of financial bloggers who have all helped me tremendously—even if they don’t know it. We have become friends, in some cases. Or pen pals, in many others.
Sometimes, I feel a significant connection with people. Like this post where I discovered I had the same recurring nightmare as a commenter. Or this post where a reader said I may have just changed his life. That’s super powerful stuff, and it makes the world feel just a little bit smaller.
Blogging is a Platform for Earning Potential
Blogging is also a means of earning a bit of money. I won’t talk much about this, as I’m still very small time around here. Last month I made $26 through ads. This month I’m on pace for about $40. Next month…who knows. However, I get excited to think about the potential for what this blog might become in several years. I do very little in the way of monetization: a couple banner ads here and there is all. However, blogging can be serious business (Alexander at CashFlowDiaries keeps a nice list of blogger incomes). If you can nail an Alexa ranking under 200,000 or so, or an email list above 5,000 readers, then you’re talking about income potential that is enough to live on.
Ads are the only form of income so far on Retire29. However, as you scale, the opportunity to sell private ads, get into affiliate marketing (Amazon and hosting services are popular ones), selling products or services, or cross-marketing (driving traffic toward other income sources), go up significantly. Here is a great read about how 23 of the web’s top bloggers make serious dough.
Behind all of that money, though, is always good content and getting a reader base that trusts you. Blogging has to be something you do initially for the first five reasons above. If you go into blogging just for the money, any readers you do get will be onto you very early, and you will be sorely disappointed.
I really wish there were more blogs out there. If any of my friends from high school decided to throw a blog up, I’d be the first subscriber—it is a fantastic way to connect with other people on a level that actually deserves connection.
I do also wish that every blog owner was conscientious enough to only publish content when there was a something worth publishing. I suppose after a year of this, that is my only complaint of other bloggers—publishing something new simply to maintain a regular schedule. This causes about 10% of blog posts to be actually worth reading. I would hope that, over time, we get less “10 Ways To _____” kind of posts and more deep-thought kind of stuff.
If I’ve convinced you to start a blog, awesome! Please let me know about it in the comments, I’d love to add you to my blogroll. If you want to get started, look no further than BlueHost, which I where I host Retire29. It’s really a one-stop shop: hosting, domain registration, one-click wordpress integration, the works.
I appreciated you reading my blog, Retire29, and in the comments below, I’d love to hear about why you may have started blogging, or maybe something you hate about blogging.
And, if it strikes your fancy, you could always subscribe to Retire29 right here
Thank you as always for reading!