Eight years ago today I started my blog. It actually started as a livejournal blog which I used to chronicle my third (and successful) attempt to get onto a polyphasic sleep schedule. I had no readers and had no intention of attracting any. I had just remembered how hilarious my attempts to get on the schedule were in the past, how hard it was to remember the memories created in varies states of sleep deprivation, and thought that recording the experience might be a good idea.
At that point in time, polyphasic sleep was a hot topic. The internet was dotted with anonymous reports of success and attributed reports of failure, but until Steve Pavlina did it, no public blogger had ever gotten on the schedule and written about it. Steve has a large audience, so all of a sudden lots of people were interested in polyphasic sleep, and many of them found my site.
Before I knew it, I had a hundred or so people reading my blog every day. I saw an opportunity, and without really thinking about the ramifications of attracting an audience, I started sharing some of my crazy stories. The Ghetto Indoor Pool story hit number one spot on Digg (I think it was one of the top 10 stories that year), and I got a ton of readers from that. Before I knew it, I had five hundred, and then a thousand daily readers.
Eventually I moved to my own domain, 'betterthanyourboyfriend.com', which I had bought because I had a half-cocked plain to put up "lost dog" style flyers all over the city trying to find girls I would want to date. Eventually I bought tynan.net and moved the blog there because a survey showed that no one wanted to link to a site called "Better than your Boyfriend". Finally a year ago, with the sleuthing help of Todd, I bought tynan.com, where this blog will probably live for the rest of its years.
Sometimes fueled by the pure excitement of having people read what I wrote, but other times coerced by a feeling of obligation, I kept writing. Now it's been eight years, and I've written 770 posts, plus another 80 or so that haven't yet been posted.
A defining trait of my life so far has been inconsistency. I spent years living a life of material excess as a professional gambler. Then I moved to LA for a year and became a pickup artist. I became vegan, then carnivore again. I've spent years focusing on nothing but writing, and then a couple years focusing on nothing but programming. I've traveled and I've stayed still. I gave up most of my stuff and moved into an RV. But the one consistent element in my life for these past eight years has been my blog. I haven't always been great about writing on a schedule, but I've also never gone more than two weeks without posting.
I couldn't tell you if it's because there's something special about blogging, if it's because there's something special about consistency, or if it's some combination of the two, but keeping this blog has been one of the best things I've ever done. It's hard to enumerate all of the ways it's been great to me, but I'll share a few of the highlights:
A historical record
It's crazy how poor the human memory is. Or at least my human memory. There are times when I think that I've had some amazing new idea, only to realize that I actually wrote a nearly identical post three years ago. Other times I'll write something like, "I used to think that ______, but now I've changed my mind", and then I'll search my blog and realize that I always thought the new thing. Other times I'll write a post that directly contradicts something that I wrote years ago.
Having an accurate and indisputable record of your growth over time is a precious thing. I can flip back a few years in the archive and get a snapshot of where my brain was at the time. Sometimes the path to different beliefs is clear and direct, but other times I find myself wondering, "How did I ever believe that?".
I also think that this record is great for other people in my life. If they're inclined, they can search and get my opinion on pretty much anything. They can see where I've come from and the path I'm on. Imagine how cool it will be for my children to read my blog in the future and have an account of their father's life, updated with an average granularity of four days! I know I'd be fascinated to read that of my parents.
A Body of Work
Keeping a blog has allowed a fairly scattered person like myself to create a body of work out of little more than living and experiencing life. I supposed I'm biased because I have one, but I really believe that having a body of work is an extremely important thing, especially in this day and age.
My approach to blogging used to be more of a one-hit-wonder approach. I wanted to write that big blog post that would make it to the aggregators. As I approached a hundred or two hundred posts published, though, I started to take a different tack. Now I write each post with the intention of it being a nice solid brick in this giant body of work that I'm building. My goal is to help change people's habits, and the best way to do that is repeat exposure, not one blog post.
Having a large body of work also builds credibility. While I only have 12k regular readers or so, a ton of people have been exposed to my work. So very often when I meet someone, they've at least heard of my blog and maybe seen an article on reddit or hacker news or something like that.
Having a blog has allowed me to have an impact on hundreds of thousands of people, ranging from a few minutes of entertainment to influencing major life decisions. This gives me a sort of comfort, knowing that even if I died tomorrow, I would leave the world a very slightly better place than when I got here. I have goals that are bigger than that, of course, but it's a nice baseline.
I've also made some really great friends through my blog and have met some of my best girlfriends through it as well. If someone makes it through hundreds of my posts and doesn't hate me, then chances are we'll get along pretty well. This is one of the reasons that I'm not really stressed about finding the future mother of my babies-- I think that as I slowly build my blog and the accompanying body of work, it's pretty likely that a really good match of a girl will come across it. When you're as weird and particular as me, this is actually a reasonable strategy.
Clarity of Thought and Communication
Writing a blog has trained my brain to really think things through, to anticipate objections, and address them. It forces me to look at a lesson or situation and try to distill the essence of what makes it important or interesting. I still have a long way to go on this, but my archives demonstrate progress, and reading better bloggers than me shows what's possible.
My writing from even a few years ago is so bad that I'm constantly tempted to delete or rewrite the posts. If it weren't for an underlying concern that doing so would be intellectually dishonest, they'd probably be gone. On the other hand, keeping them up allows me to track my progress as a writer. I'd say that I'm a 7/10 now, and was somewhere around a 4 or 5 out of ten when I started. More usefully, I can see specific mistakes I used to make and focus on correcting them. In particular, I think I used to sometimes adopt an inauthentically cocky tone, and often times make leaps in logic that left the reader confused. I'm sure I still make a ton of mistakes, but at least those have been fixed a bit.
Even my verbal communication has improved as a result of the writing process. Most of my opinions have been written out and considered from different angles by now, which allows me some agility in conversation
I don't always consciously think about it, but at my core I feel a great sense of humility and gratitude for having so many people who care abut what I have to say. It really truly is a great honor to write for you and the other people who read my stuff. Over the years I've met a bunch of you, and have been consistently impressed with the quality of people who read my writing. Having influence over people is a nice thing, but to have the opportunity to influence independent people who are out there living interesting lives and doing cool things is almost beyond my comprehension.
Having such a great community was one of the key factors that pushed me towards creating SETT. I felt like there was this amazing community behind my blog, and I wanted to give it a voice. Really-- thank you for reading, and thank you for contributing to the site.
With eight years under my belt now, it's tough to imagine a scenario under which I would stop blogging. Short of prison or death, I can't really think of anything. And even then, I've got a growing buffer of 80 posts now to sustain us through something like that. I like to think about how all of the unknowns in my life will eventually be committed to a post on this blog, and that the unpredictable path I'm on now will eventually be bounded and explained here. I have big goals and strive for greatness, and if I manage to reach those goals, I really like that there will be an unpolished history of how I got there (to contrast against the inevitably simplified and cleaned up book I write about it).
Again, thanks for being a part of my blog. It means a lot to me, and I look forward to seeing where this community goes in the future.
I'm in China now, which partially explains why this post is posted in the afternoon. I actually planned on queuing it yesterday while I was on a stopover in Vancouver, but the customs agent there didn't like that I didn't have specific plans in China and didn't want to tell her how much money was in my bank account, and as a result concluded that I was a drug smuggler. I spent my 2.5+ hour stopover there being interrogated. Full story soon...
Picture is taken by Brian... it's me working on this blog post in the SETT World Headquarters.