August 4, 2009

Have your own goals

This post isn't about politics, it's about personal responsibility. It's from a personal perspective about the growth of my blog and my focus and the lessons that can be taken from my mistakes and used for anyone's personal journeys. For that matter it can be applied to politics and to the recovery of the American economy and the recovery of conservatism as well.

I started blogging on Nonsensible Shoes back in November 2008, after spending much of the primary season in 2008 updating and educating friends on the American electoral process. The blog had been set up for months but I never used it until I started thinking about codifying my beliefs. Of course when I started doing it, it wasn't even for my friends, it was just a place for me to write down my thoughts and link to the sites I frequently visit - Right Wing News, National Review, Hot Air etc. I didn't really have any goals associated with it other than to use it as a sort of personal home page.

But two of my friends whom I was keeping updated during the election cycle, independently suggested I should teach politics or write about it. It got me thinking about rather than writing for myself I should write for a slightly broader audience. I still didn't have any goals for this blog.

Of course I started playing with widgets and layouts after I realized other people might be looking at my blog. Few were, but within a week I had 62 unique visits in one day. I'm no artist, and my blog is still fairly ugly today, but at least I had a goal - get it prettier.

The I discovered Google AdSense. I figured if I had visitors, it wouldn't hurt to make a few bucks while I blogged. And visitorship was growing, so it might turn out well. But I hadn't established a real goal yet, and by default the goal became about getting revenue. Revenue is a good thing. But it's not the reason to blog. I wanted to make a difference - explain political workings to those who were curious, and perhaps capture some hearts and minds for the conservative cause along the way. Revenue as a goal is at best a distraction.

I've always been interested in American politics and history. As far back as I remember I've been a conservative. I've been interested in economics since high school. My real goal was to add insight into the debate around America's politics, it's economy, it's role in the world, it's history and it's future. Hopefully it would contribute to an overall dialogue about these topics and not end up being a monologue.

But as my site visits slowly grew, and I discovered Twitter and #tcot my goals changed and started to develop. I read about SEO (search engine optimization) and articles and books on how to grow your blog. Many of them indicated that you should state your goals up front. Of course it's pretty easy to state a goal about spreading conservatism, but if it's merely a platitude then it's a meaningless goal.

Of course with the lost focus my blog readership started to slide a bit. It is now half of what it was in April. Some of that may be due in part to reports that overall blog readership has fallen 40% since the November election. But I view that as an excuse. I preach taking ownership of your own situation. It's a core value of conservatism and of liberty. So I can't blame others and wait for a fix from someone else.

The Lesson

Therein lies the twofold lesson for me - clear, specific objectives are crucially important and personal responsibility is the biggest key to achieving them. You need to understand where you want to go, and you need to stay focused on getting there or you won't get there. Everyone probably knows this to be true in a theoretical sense, but it really does apply to achieving something. It's true whether it's a personal blog or as big as achieving victory in Afghanistan and versus Al Qaida.

I've established a new goal. It's pretty aggressive. According to my web counter I now have had over 13,800 visitors in 9 months. It's far more than what I'd have expected 8 months ago, but far less than what I could have achieved if I'd been focused on writing quality instead of where to put the gadgets and how to squeeze my ad revenues as best I could. For the record, 13,800 visits has translated to not $30 in revenue so far.

So what's my new goal? Well it's specific, and measurable. I want that counter over 20,000 visits by the end of my first full year of blogging. That's 6,200 visits over 88 days. It's about 70 visits per day, which is roughly double where it's been for the last couple of months. The obvious question is why have I taken a goal like that instead of creating conservative value?

Because the latter goal is too ethereal. You can't quantify that so you can't claim to have achieved it at any point. Ever. Most blog advice has as it's number one rule, CREATE QUALITY CONTENT. In order to get to 20,000 visits, I have to create conservative value anyways.

And instead of being discouraged by a slow day next week, it will cause me to double my efforts the following day. Blogging isn't my day job, it's a hobby. For now. I do have a longer term goal to make it my day job, but that requires the small steps and the focus to be there every single day. That focus has to be on articulating conservatism in well written posts every day.

Getting distracted over the past couple of months was pretty easy. Admitting that was a little tougher. But I never considered blaming overall Internet traffic levels for it. I just took a while to realize that I had to soldier on, but in a smarter way.

The GOP has faced numerous distractions (think Rush's 'I want him to fail' quote). The GOP has been busy focusing on the moderate RINOs versus conservative wing of the party. Libertarians versus social conservatives.

These are distractions, the GOP needs to be soldiering on too. They need to remember their original goals as espoused by Goldwater and Reagan for example. It needs to be prepared for daily setbacks, but it needs to remember to be relentless just like the Alinsky-inspired leftists who never give up and are willing to win the battle inch by inch, year by year with slow, dripping, liberal attrition of the center. If they can do it, so can the right. Perhaps in a far less sinister fashion, but with equal fervor.

The final point - if you don't have your own goals, they will be defined for you by someone else or by circumstances. If that were a ship you'd be considered adrift. And if your goals are vague you are pretty much adrift anyway, which is no better.

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