The Quest for $1500

I’ve long since wanted to diversify my income and earn some side money. I’ve even set it as an annual goal several times; the most I ever earned was around $52 a few years ago, writing product descriptions for an outdoor furniture company. I found the job on Elance, which is now Upwork. Usually my goal is around $10k in a year, but I make laughably small progress towards that. Most years, I don’t even leave the barn.

Lately, it seems at least one article a day in my Medium daily newsletter is about someone who makes money via a blog. Here’s one. The dollar amounts vary – $50,000, $150,000, etc. – but the basic story is the same. Generate content, get people to view your content, make money either via ads or affiliate marketing. Seems so simple, no?

Of course, if it is so simple, everyone would do it. Who wouldn’t want to earn $50,000 more a year through a blog? I sure would! But is it really as easy as the articles make it seem? Let’s find out.

I’m going to set a goal for myself. Yeah, I’ve done this before. Here’s one from 2019. But those were relatively ill-defined in terms of the ‘how,’ and had bold goals (usually $10k). Let’s start easier. How about $1500 in profit by the end of the year. I need to do some more research on ad revenue vs. affiliate marketing, but that shouldn’t stop me from kicking this project off.

Why $1500 and not some other amount? I need a new laptop (this is a 2014 MacBook Pro, and that’s the price of the one I want. I figure if I can make that amount, a new laptop is a pretty nice reward. I say profit, because I imagine there will be expenses: domain name registration, hosting, maybe a logo from Fiverr, stuff like that. I’m going to come up with a budget and see what I can do.

More to come soon…

Masterclass Review: Bob Iger on Business Strategy and Leadership

A couple of months ago, I was gifted a subscription to the online learning platform Masterclass. This platform brings experts in various fields into your home via a series of video lessons on a variety of topics. Learn cooking techniques from Gordon Ramsey, or how to tell a great story with David Sedaris. Anna Wintour will teach you style, or you can learn about tennis from Serena Williams. Tony Hawk’s course on skateboarding just came out. In all, there’s over 80 courses to take.

The first course I completed was “Bob Iger teaches Business Strategy and Leadership.” I had wanted to take this course ever since I first started seeing advertisements for it; I had also recently finished his autobiography, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company . I was interested to see how he would blend his book into a video course.

Syllabus
The course encompasses eleven total lessons, including several case studies:

  • Time Management
  • Focus, Strategies and Priorities
  • Taking Giant Swings: Pixar Case Study
  • The Art of Negotiation
  • Creating Brand Value
  • Expanding Your Brand: Marvel Case Study
  • Anticipating What Consumers Want
  • The Importance of Taking Risks
  • Navigating Complex Deals: 21st Century Fox Case Study
  • Managing Industry Disruption: Disney+ Case Study
  • Tenets For Success

All of the case studies center around a particular acquisition. Notably missing was the Lucasfilm acquisition, which he goes into with great detail in the book.

The Lesson
Most of the core advice and learnings in the lesson are straight from the book version, which isn’t a huge surprise. Lessons range from four to 20 minutes, while the book is 272 pages; he can obviously go into much more detail with that length vs. the lesson. Still, it was good to hear a more direct take-away from an experience vs. the full story. In the book, it’s more of a play-by-play of his life, his business career, and the milestone events that serve as markers. In the lesson, by contrast, the focus is more on the outcome and what we can take from that.

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Most leadership and business advice tends to boil down to similar messages, and this course is no different. What is different is that just about everyone in the world knows about the Walt Disney Company and its brands, and Bob Iger is one of the most visible, well-known CEOs. The milestone events that serve as the case studies, and the drivers of the advice in each lesson, are all things most people know about. Whether it’s acquiring Pixar or Marvel or Lucasfilm, or building a new theme park, or launching a streaming service, these are all things that have happened relatively recently, and very publicly. Most drivers of business courses tend to be a bit lesser known, or happened long ago (i.e. the Williams-Sonoma bread machine case study, or the Tylenol recall). These lessons are all relevant, which helps you to see the point more quickly than with something else.

I think that’s the key. His advice may not be revolutionary, but how his advice is communicated, and the context surrounding it, makes it easier to digest and accept. Relevant real-world examples are important in achieving that stickiness, and these lessons showcase that well.

Overall Impressions
While the book goes into more detail and offers advice and lessons outside the scope of this course, Bob Iger’s Masterclass is still something I would recommend. I found it engaging and will likely refer to my notes often. It also makes me interested in taking more classes from Masterclass.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

This blog is a bit over six years old. I started it in February of 2014, and I can’t even remember why. I actually had to go back and look up what my first post was: My first post was about signing up for a sprint triathlon, something I had always wanted to do. I didn’t post again until June, where I managed five posts about a random assortment of topics: me finishing the triathlon, getting in via the lottery to the NYC Marathon, a post about recovering from training runs, and a post about corporate America and why it can suck.

To date, that post about corporate reviews is my most viewed post ever, with a whopping 279 views.

Over the years, things have ebbed and flowed. 2014 was definitely my most productive year of blogging (productive meaning volume of posts). I was pretty consistent in providing updates about my training for the NYC Marathon, and I even grabbed some consistent followers who would provide interactions in the comments. I haven’t received a comment since 2017. Before that: 2015. I don’t blame them. I became very inconsistent on providing any sort of content to anyone. In 2014 I made 55 posts. In 2015, it was 31. 2016: One. One single post (about financial goals I most certainly did not accomplish) in January, and then not another until January 2017 (a year I managed a minor resurgence, pushing out 21 posts).

Needless to say, consistency has not been my strongest characteristic with this thing.

I’ve covered a lot of topics. The majority of the content has been around running: my training journals, random topics, race recaps, etc. Next up is probably personal finance and business/corporate stuff. The rest is a mixture of posts about how long it’s been since I’ve written a post, my goals for the year, or other random thoughts – politics, COVID-19, etc. There’s not really a focus area you could point out, other than maybe running. It’s all just whatever I was thinking about whenever I managed to write something down.

Why am I talking about this stuff? Am I shutting down the blog? Absolutely not. I got a renewal notice on my domain name and realized I had had it for a long time, and so I was curious. I knew I went long periods without posting anything, but some of the gaps were truly mind opening. It’s hard to have a blog if you don’t, you know, blog. What’s funny is that even when I wasn’t writing, people still found the content. My two most productive years, 2014 and 2015, saw 973 and 1,034 views, respectively. Obviously small potatoes compared to other blogs, but still. In 2016, I wrote one post, and I still have close to 500 visitors. Even with very little new content, people would still (somehow) find my blog. That’s fascinating to me.

I know people start blogs for a variety of reasons. Some to document a topic of interest to them. Others to document their day-to-day lives. Some even have a plan to monetize it right away. Me, I just wanted to talk about my different journeys, from running marathons to paying off debt, with some random observations in the middle.

That’s still the plan moving forward. I’ve got some ideas on other stuff I can write about to keep me engaged (and by extension, you). I like having this space to communicate into the void and I don’t intend to stop.

Nothingness

This time has been tough.

It started off scary in those first few days, as the NBA and NHL shut down their seasons, Walt Disney World and other theme parks shut their gates, and businesses closed shop. There was a palpable sense of paranoia going around like a (don’t say virus….don’t say virus….don’t say virus…) storm, whipping people into a frenzy of cleaning, distancing and panicking.

Then, sometime in those first few weeks, it turned into something novel. People found so much time on their hands, to better think about things, accomplish things, etc. Social media was flooded with photos and videos and stories of people painting rooms, building furniture, planting gardens, doing all manner of stuff. Cooking! I’ve never seen so many people begin baking their own bread as in those first few weeks. I imagine the overall percentage of people baking bread increased at the greatest rate in human history since the first person to bake bread taught the second.

Then, after a month or so, it settled into a version of normalcy. You worked, you maybe got some exercise, you maybe did a Zoom call with friends, you binge watched Netflix, you ordered delivery of just about everything. As the weeks dragged into months, you started to wonder when things would go back to what they were before. You started dreaming of where you’d go, what you’d eat, have visions of what your life used to be like and how you’d jump at the chance to do it again.

Then, reopening began. Slowly at first, restaurants at 25% capacity, stores at 25% capacity, people being allowed to return to their offices. Then more; 50% capacity, gyms reopening, hair and nail salons and barbershops. More people returning to the office. But does it actually feel normal?

To me, it feels like nothingness. I used to love going to the grocery store, getting inspiration for that night’s dinner by what I found (and cursing myself when I’d get home missing a key ingredient). One of my favorite things is to sit at the bar with friends and family, have a cocktail or a beer, solve all the problems in the world. But with things reopening, I feel a sense of nothing about those. Almost a fear. Would I get sick going to get my hair cut? Would that beer cost me my life, or the life of a loved one or a stranger? Would it ever feel normal again?

The truth is, these are unprecedented times. I wonder if people in 1918 were wondering the same thing; would they feel normal going to the haberdashery to pick up a hat, or get some filets at the butcher? Maybe meet the boys for a sasparilla? No one knows what’s right, what’ll happen next, where we should be in our thoughts. We’re all kind of swimming through this, together, but also apart.

Running In The Time of Quarantine

At the beginning of all of this, before the world went to shit, my running was actually improving. While February wasn’t a great month, I did much better in March, both in terms of distance and consistency. I started working from home on March 12th, and I managed to keep at it the rest of the month. I was pretty proud of myself. Of course, that was early in the pandemic, things didn’t seem so serious, and I had no idea how crazy things would get.

April wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. As the weeks in isolation continued, motivation started to wane. Even when I would make it out, it was hard to enjoy it. First, every cough or difficult run made you start to worry that you have the ‘rona. You think well shit, this is it, this is the end of me. I’ll surely develop a fever and have difficulty breathing soon, go to the ER, end up on a ventilator and die alone in some room in a hospital.

Second, the problem is the other people. Everyone is a bit on edge, which is a given. But every time you come across someone else walking or running, you feel paranoid. You try to give a very wide birth, at least six feet. Sometimes that’s not possible, and you have to get closer. You imagine a wake of deadly particles behind you as you run, or that you’re running through a fog of virus when you pass someone. It gets to the point where you just want to be home.

The world has turned to at-home workouts, given gyms and studios are closed. Thankfully, we have an old exercise bike, a balance ball, and a mat. Unfortunately, you can’t find any other equipment as everyone has bought up all the inventory. Very limited selections of dumbells to be found. Other equipment is on backorder for weeks; the soonest delivery window for a Peloton bike is in mid to late June.

So, we’ve been trying to do our best. A few rides, a few runs, some classes on apps to get you moving. That’s about all we can do right now. And once the world opens back up again, I won’t be rushing to go back to my gym. I’ll just let me one year membership expire and cancel, and just shift to at-home stuff on a more permanent basis. It is what it is, but it’s what I’m comfortable with. Just the thought of sharing a bench with someone else’s sweat and nastiness…no thanks.