Why I Started My Blog

The why behind what you do is often more important than what you actually do. Here’s my why.

A little over 4 years ago, I started a list.

I was an out-of-work college grad, 9 months out of school who couldn’t get a job for the life of him. I had started a couple blogs while trying to figure out this “internet” thing, but kept accidentally overwriting the databases on my Bluehost box. Doh!

I applied for jobs everywhere I could and everyone told me no.

Every major company I applied to said no.

Everyone I reached out to couldn’t help.

“2009 was a bad year,” they said. “It’s tough out there,” they said. “You should change your goals,” they said.

“You won’t get your dream job. You’re not even guaranteed a good job. You should just get any job.”

So I did…or at least I tried to.

I started a new round of applications:

  • Shifts at Target
  • Barista rounds at Caribou Coffee
  • Maybe even Starbucks (they’ve got good benefits, right?)

No. No. No.

(Well actually Starbucks never even called me back – I would have rather had a no).

I had a quick reprieve from despair when I finally got a job at UPS for 6 weeks during the winter. Temp seasonal work that involved getting chased by dogs and trying not to break a leg by slipping on ice during the brutal Chicago winters.

After 6 weeks (it was actually 3 weeks due to the economy being so bad that they didn’t need us for half the time), all the temp workers were unceremoniously let go post-rush.

So there I was in my parents basement again. Unemployed, incapable and feeling absolutely helpless.

After 23 years of following other people’s scripts – something important began to dawn on me. I realized that that I was waiting for people to give me permission – to give me the “okay” to go do what I wanted. I was waiting until it was “safe”, “approved” and “guaranteed.”

And I realized something else very important.

As much as I wanted to believe I could just latch myself onto a prescribed life plan and be “okay”, that’s not how it works.

Nothing is safe.

Nothing is approved.

That no one has guarantees.

I realized that it was all made up.

That everything around you that you call life was made up by people no smarter than you.

And it was scary.

Because it meant that I didn’t have any more guarantees. But it also meant that I didn’t have to wait anymore.

I could just *do* the things I wanted to do. I didn’t need anyone’s permission. I didn’t need approval.

I just needed to act.

That’s all that was required.

So I made a list and I started with the most ambitious thing I could think of: an indoor triathlon (seriously).

My confidence was so minimal, that I felt like there was nothing that I’d actually be able to do.

But I could do *something.*

I might not be able to travel the world or start my business right now, but I figured I could at least go outside the house and run around the block. I could grab my old ridiculous mountain bike and bike around the block.

I could do *something.*

I created the site as a reminder for me to act. A personal accountability tool to push my limits. I was so, so, so tired of telling myself that everything was impossible – that I had to wait around until someone told me that I could do something. I wanted to find out for myself even if I failed miserably – I wanted to be able to give it a shot instead of disqualifying myself before I started.

As the site grew, I realized it could help others as well and I started to realize how much of an impact I could have, but it was first and foremost a challenge to myself to push my limits and do something that was worth doing.

They say that you often write the things you need to hear yourself. That’s true with this site.

Since it’s started, I’ve run triathlons, marathons, ultra marathons. Jumped out of planes, thrown myself off bridges, strapped myself into slingshots and Iron Man contraptions.

Meanwhile the blog has grown beyond just my goals. It’s become the basis for my business, a community of 25,000+ readers and read by millions of people a year. Numbers that still make me shake my head. Instead of being stuck in my parents basement, my lifestyle is now one where I can live from anywhere. I’m minimally attached to physical objects and aim for experiences over possessions. Along the way, some of my personal challenges have inspired people to change their health & their lives. As a community, we’ve lent over $27,700 to entrepreneurs on Kiva.org and last year we raised $26,000+ to build a school and create possibilities for a generation of kids in Boca Costa, Guatemala.

I’ve said yes to situations that I’m terrified of and become stronger through it.

I’m working on building myself to be a person who doesn’t have self-imposed limits. Who becomes intimately familiar with fear, but doesn’t let that or themselves get in the way of being able to take on challenges, adventures and stories that are worth living.

An unspoken goal of this site & life is to be a living case study that if Joel (a confidence shattered, out-of-work-delivery boy) can do it, maybe you can do too…

I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

Next week brings a new chapter. It’s something I’ve been working on for a long, long time and it’s going to be the most ambitious things I’ve ever taken on. It’s one of the first things in a long, long time that I’ve felt is impossible.

But that’s exactly why it’s worth doing.

Stay tuned…

Comments

  1. says

    Hey Joel – – –

    It’s been fun following your growth since the beginning. You’re determined in every which way. I’m lightyears behind your success, but reading your story again just proves that what happened yesterday does not mean today must repeat those failures or short-comings.

    Thanks for always motivating me sir!

    David

  2. Sully says

    Joel,

    I’m a 50 yo Man And You Motivate The He’ll Out Of Me! I can attack things I once thought impossible or improbable without fear of failure thanks to your example. Still working towards living life like you but a wife and 4 kids need to be considered too. Words of advice for us older guys would be appreciated!

  3. says

    Hy Joel,

    I’d say you where kind of lucky since some of us took waaaaaaaaaaay more time to understand that most of our limits are self imposed fear crap.

    What can I say? keep it up!

  4. says

    Great points Joel. The “why” is obviously important to you, but it’s also important to people like us who read this stuff because we can better relate to your beginnings because there are probably similarities to ours . Thanks for sharing.

    One thing that dawned on me as I read this is that for the most part, we all really do wait for permission to do something. We all have our list of “impossible” things, but in a lot of ways we never get to them because we’re waiting for permission. Most of the time, we’re waiting for permission from ourselves. I’ve been wrestling with this for awhile now with a project I’ve been kicking around for about a year now – all I really need to do is get out of my own way – or give myself permission.

    Thanks again Joel. Good luck on what you’re taking on next week!

  5. says

    Hi Joel

    I can completely relate to seeking permission before doing things. I am struggling with this now and would love to hear more about it. I guess on my part I need to make the final decision and stick with it. Take that leap of faith towards the career and person I want to me.

    Thanks

  6. says

    Hey, Joel! What a coincidence that you should post this – just yesterday as I was driving to work I was thinking about how, not so very long ago, you were living in your parents’ basement with no income and no job prospects, and yet here in the past couple of months you’ve run adventure races in South Africa and Switzerland! And yes, seriously, I really was thinking about that while driving to work. I know, I need to have more going on in my life or something. ;-)

    Anyway, thanks for the quick recap of the past four years. Has it really been that long? That… leaves me feeling like I’ve wasted a lot of time, considering I’ve been following your site since almost the beginning. It only took me… well, almost four years to finally start a web site of my own, but three weeks ago I finally installed the Genesis framework and the InSpyr Media stuff I purchased thirteen months ago and followed your tutorial – well, the first half of it, anyway – to set up a basic WordPress blog. I have yet to deck it out with all the bells and whistles (the second half of your tutorial), but at least I have a “presence” or a “platform.”

    Uhm… by the way, the “famous five-minute WordPress install” takes more than five minutes. Okay, technically the actual upload of the parts probably takes less than five minutes, but setting up a database, or even figuring out what a database is, and all that sort of stuff takes longer. Then you install a theme and, guess what? The page does not look all awesome and kewl like it does on the themes promo page. There’s a pretty steep learning curve to getting a site, if not going, then to get it looking good and being anything more than a basic text page on which to spout off.

    As you can tell, “spouting off” is kind of my thing, so I’m okay with a basic text page right now.

    I appreciate Sully‘s comment above, about being an older reader but finding your adventures inspiring nonetheless. I don’t know if you remember, but I’ve been periodically suggesting from time to time that you include stories about people who are “not twenty-somethings” and “not as rich as Richard Branson” who make dramatic changes in their lives at more advanced ages. And you’ve actually done so a few times, which I’ve appreciated.

    I still don’t quite understand how you went from “parents’ basement” to “globe-trekking adventure athlete” in four short years. The “business” stuff you mention that arose from this site – I doubt you’re supporting yourself off t-shirt sales (altho’ the shirts are awesome – and no, this is not an “affiliate” plug – and I think I own six of them now, original blue and second generation grey) – still seems a bit hazy when I try to wrap my head around it. Yeah, you had a college degree, but, how does “out of work, confidence-shattered delivery boy” turn “running around the block” into, y’know, running a marathon across the mountaintops in Switzerland and living a location-independent lifestyle? Did you need to acquire entirely new technical skill sets? And if I recall correctly, you actually landed a fairly decent job shortly after starting the blog, then you quit and got an even better job, and then you quit to focus on your own stuff. What was the big change that moved you from “virtually unemployable” to “quitting a good job to take a better one” status? What did you add to your resume or how did you re-tailor your job search to finally find a decent gig, generate some working capital, and move out of the basement?

    And was the soundtrack to The Sound of Music playing in your head to accompany your final 5k hit list during that Swiss marathon? So long! Farewell! Auf wiedersehn! Adieu! To you, and you, and you and you and you!

    Anyway, thanks for sharing the journey thus far. Looking forward to finding out about this mysterious new “impossible” challenge you’re setting for yourself.

    (Meanwhile, I gotta re-learn to write, find an online “voice,” and use my new online platform as a springboard for some lifestyle improvements. My blog, three weeks in, totally sucks. But I’m embracing the suck, and it’ll get better.)

    Oh, and I’m glad you’re podcasting again!

  7. Angeline says

    Thanks for teh words of inspiration. 2009 was a difficult year for all of us. I have slackened in the list but I now feel motivated again. I am still afraid to go out there and do it on my own, afraid of failure but i guess you pick yourself up and try again.

  8. says

    I too had a UPS seasonal temp job. Though the climate was a little better than yours. I liked that I was continually active. Repetitive but at least I moved around.

    My blog was started so I could have a place to send people wanting to know about my Pacific Crest Trail hike. But now I’m trying to turn it into so much more than that. And you know, create value for people, make connections and maybe a little money. I don’t want to half ass it anymore.

  9. says

    Joel,

    I am not sure exactly how I came across your blog the first time.

    But “Impossible – The Manifesto” opened by eyes to ideas I never thought possible.

    Thanks to you I now have my own successful and growing blog and view the world in a completely different way.

    Thanks again for the awakening.

    Nicolas Hale

    ArtofAdventure.Net

  10. Neha Mehra says

    I guess we share the same story.When things don’t work out our way the feeling is really pathetic and you cannot do anything to change that feeling. Wrong
    You can when you start doing something for yourself and boy you did it so congratulations for your success.It is the best feeling ever and i hope you keep on working hard and motivate others as well.

  11. says

    really inspirational blog. It makes me happy reading it. so you are right ! You are doing this for a greater reason than just an income, or a drive for yourself. You truely make a difference. Internet is one incredible thing :)

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