My Story: Battling Self Doubt to Blogging Success.
My name is Adam and this is my blog.
Throughout my life, I always tried to start online businesses, but perfectionism and self-doubt made me quit every time.
Here’s how it went:
I start something and meticulously plan every detail behind my computer. I spend countless hours on branding, web design, logo creation, forms, social media profiles – probably even creating LLCs and opening bank accounts.
Everything had to be perfect before launch. Months of planning and making things perfect so that I had enough confidence to share it with friends – my ways to keep things safe while avoiding rejection and failure.
And when I finally did launch, I’d tell friends and family so they could look at my amazing new, (soon-to-be-unsuccessful) online business.
While sharing your new online business ideas with friends and family may seem like a way to hold you accountable, it backfires almost every time.
It’s pure psychology: when you share your new entrepreneurial identity, you start to believe people think that’s who you are. This newfound status achieves part of your new identity goal, you feel good about yourself before even getting started, and you’re less likely to succeed.
Next, when it finally came time to market myself in the real world, self-doubt took over.
I wouldn’t see immediate results, get discouraged, stay behind my computer, and quit – every time. I never gave it my all. I stayed in a safe, predictable bubble, trying to distance my personality from my business.
If I didn’t put my face to it, it wouldn’t matter when I quit, I thought.
This blog is the first time it worked. Here are my theories why:
- I learned enough about myself (and in my digital marketing career) to make it work.
- I launched without worrying about things being perfect.
- This blog is under my name, putting my personal brand at the forefront.
- I didn’t tell any friends or family about it until I was making over $20,000/month.
Most people who write “About Me” pages focus on how awesome they are and list all of their professional accomplishments.
Don’t get me wrong – I like a success story.
But even more than a success story, I like the story of the person who fucks their life up and then gets it back together.
So here’s my story – I hope it gives you an idea of who I really am.
1987 – From the Void of Nothingness to a Real Live Human Baby
I was born on September 11, 1987, at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Michigan.
Eager to hit the ground running in the 80s, I decided it was time to be born three weeks before my due date.
Well, that and the fact my umbilical cord tried to kill me/emergency C-section. My mom was 22 at the time – her 24 hours of labor is something I’ll spend my life trying to repay.
I was the firstborn son to my amazing parents Marc and Kelly, and we lived in a small house in Livonia, Michigan, about 20 miles outside of Detroit.
My very first memory came at 3. I was sitting Indian style (like a boss) in preschool trying to impress a girl by humming the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song. I don’t think it was very effective.
In January of 1992, when I was 4, my little brother Alex was born.
Whereas I tried to be considerate weighing under 7 pounds at birth, Alex was an 8 pound 10-ounce unit of a baby.
I take credit for this as it must have been all of the American Gladiators and Ultimate Warrior I was watching that he must have heard in the womb.
Alex was the coolest brother a kid could ask ever want. He was great at watching me play Super Mario 3, Duck Hunt, and Excitebike on the NES while holding an unconnected controller.
At this time, Alex stayed home, I was in Kindergarten, and remember a few memories I’m sure we all realistically had in the early 90s:
- Founding a ghost hunting society but getting kicked out for not having a calculator to add up their spirits.
- Walking home from school to a locked front door and peeing my pants because I forgot, as a male, I can do that anywhere.
- Walking in front of my friend Eric on a swing set and nearly getting my teeth kicked out, then fighting him and ripping his shirt until our moms stopped being friends.
Ultimately for Alex and me, this phase of our lives pretty much peaked in the mid-90s when we got a Nintendo 64 for Christmas.
Life was getting real. Almost too real.
1995 – The Stress of Girls and Social Darwinism
In the fall of 1995, three important things happened:
My family moved to a new town, I started 2nd grade, and my secret love of females began.
And although I tried to hide this secret like Iran-Contra, word got out to my parents after an overly-aggressive, under-desk footsie session.
Overall, my experience at the new school was positive at first, and I made a lot of friends in 2nd grade.
However, I made a classic mistake.
In 3rd grade, I joined the dreaded “Magnet Program” – a class for the apparently gifted children – AKA the smart kids, weirdos and outcasts.
I learned that it’s not the best idea to be different at that age.
Quickly cast aside by my friends from previous years, bullies saw me as a target in 4th and 5th grade. My only defense was avoiding conflict and trying to fit in at any cost.
I recall dreading any time that classes would mix. During lunch, when we were forced to sit sequentially at long tables based on a single file line, I strategically placed myself in the best position to avoid any bullies.
It was social Darwinism at age 8.
However, things improved.
Over the next two years, I avoided conflict, played sports to fit in, got my first girlfriend (hand-holding at its finest), and prepared for middle school.
Life was now 100% real. And it was about to get even more so.
The 2000s – My Teenage Years
In 6th grade, I joined the middle school basketball team, and the bullying became a thing of the past.
I didn’t have too long of an awkward phase. But in 7th grade, I transitioned from a nerdy haircut, glasses and braces to contact lenses, spiked hair (with occasional frosted tips because, 1999), and no braces.
Besides staying busy with school and sports, I remember watching a lot of MTV after school (back when they actually played music). It was classic episodes of TRL with a constant stream of Eminem, Jay Z, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Blink 182, The Thong Song – you know the good stuff.
In 2003 when I was 15, my youngest brother Michael was born.
It was a surprise to Alex and me, but one of the best experiences of my life.
Although 15 years is a vast age difference, it was amazing being able to watch him grow up (and stroller him around the mall to pick up chicks).
I did well in high school – I didn’t have to try too hard to get A’s and B’s.
However, the old demons of wanting to fit in from childhood led me to develop a newfound relationship with alcohol at 16. I found it was the perfect social lubricant – it made me fit in, feel good, and with everyone else doing it, I didn’t see the harm.
I swear I must have given my mom a full head of grey hair (which is fashionable now) from the age of 16 to 18.
I stayed out late, partied with my friends (and a few Detroit Lions/NFL players who happened to be renting a house nearby to my best friend), and got in my fair share of dumb situations.
However, I finished high school with strong grades and was accepted to Michigan State University in 2006.
2006 – The College Years: A Downward Spiral in Slow Motion
This t-shirt, which started as an inside joke, pretty much summed up my attitude at the time. I vividly remember that sweet moment after I moved into my dorm – my mom cried, my parents drove away, and I felt the pure freedom of true independence wash over me.
Founded in 1855, Michigan State University is a public university in East Lansing, Michigan. With over 50,000 students, M.S.U. is both a great academic institution (and a world-class party school).
It’s also cold and dark – literally. With classes running from September to early May, Michigan’s climate allows for about 6-8 weeks of decent weather during the school year – and a solid six months of almost-unbearable cold.
These conditions weren’t the best situation for a spiraling party kid like myself. Looking back now, I probably wasn’t quite ready to handle this new freedom (and could have saved a lot of money by going to community college).
But I stayed responsible, for a while.
During my freshman year, I met a lot of new friends from all over the country.
I maintained good grades but could never quite shake my bad habits.
While consistent substance abuse brought its fair share of problems, it also brought its share of thrilling rewards, such as beer pong championships, the attention of women, and you can’t forget meeting people with sexy Halloween costumes.
Adam looking more and more like Randy Marsh.
Sophomore year, I moved out of my dorm and into an apartment with two friends. I changed majors, had no idea what I wanted to do with my life but didn’t care, still drank too much – and my grades started slipping.
My friends were great people – I remember a party for my 20th birthday where we managed to pack 50+ people into our small apartment on a random Tuesday – ahh 2008.
Plus, I got active in politics, starting a Libertarian student group that snowballed into a big thing (Ron Paul was my jam back in 2008).
My junior year was when all of my bad habits caught up with me.
First, I started truly failing classes and gained a newfound inability to show up.
In previous years, I mastered tiptoeing that fine line between pass/fail – only showing up for the required 2-3 exams, and skipping everything else.
However, with this attitude comes a dangerous precedent. Once you get away with it a few times, your line in the sand keeps shifting, and once you miss one of those important classes, there’s no going back.
Flash forward to my senior year – At this point, I was failing enough classes to get kicked out of college. I remember my mom coming to visit me one spring afternoon, and I could tell she knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t get myself to speak up or ask for help.
Although I was struggling inside, I always tried to hide it from the surface.
Kicked Out of College.
Long story short, I got kicked out of college, put on academic probation, and moved back home with my parents.
This six-month sentence was the kick in the ass I needed at the time.
While I studied video and audio production at M.S.U., I started learning about digital marketing in this new distraction-free time of my life.
There weren’t any digital marketing courses in college, but I started teaching myself this new skill because it was both creative and analytical like video production, and had more career opportunities.
So I began escaping some of my problems by sitting behind a computer and helping others with digital marketing – SEO, PPC, email marketing, social media, web development – anything I could get my hands on.
I got back into school and easily passed all of my remaining classes. While still unable to shake most of my bad habits, I graduated from college, and continued teaching myself digital marketing and helping clients.
Then some magic happened that turned everything around.
2012-2015: Turning It Around
Three years later, at 25 years old, I was making some money as a digital marketing consultant and living with my brother Alex in Ann Arbor, MI:
However, I was still struggling to find a full-time, salaried job in marketing.
Then my life became forever altered in the form of a 3-day personal development seminar.
Sixty other people and I were stuck together in a room for three grueling days. It was intense, think Tony Robbins on steroids – I’m talking staring into someone else’s eyes for 10 minutes straight, discussing the most personal details about your life, and breaking down how our human minds operate in the modern world.
After the three days wrapped up, I finally began to understand myself at the deepest level:
- I learned that getting bullied as a child was still affecting my self worth as an adult.
- My fear of rejection was holding me back from taking risks.
- I learned that the meaning we put behind others’ actions is inherently a human-made concept and unique to every person – it doesn’t physically exist in reality.
- I better grasped that the past and future don’t exist – now is all that matters.
- Ultimately, the seminar expressed that the human mind has infinite untapped potential, and the only thing in my way was myself.
It’s hard to describe the exact process of this realization. All I know is that after that long weekend, I was on fire.
2015: The Start of Something New.
On Monday after work, I turned on my Nike running app and ran a full marathon.
I originally planned to sign up for an official race (which was about six months out) to give myself enough time to train for it safely. My longest run at the time was 6-7 miles.
But I didn’t want to wait, so I set off around 6:30 pm in Ann Arbor, MI with no route planned – just a robot voice in my ear telling me how far I’ve gone.
The first 10 miles were relatively easy, as it was a perfect 76 degrees (according to Nike), and I was still high on the adrenaline of actually doing this.
By mile 13, I realized this was twice as far as I’d ever run before. Unfortunately, I also realized I had 13.2 more miles to go. And at this point, I was almost out of water, my legs were severely cramping up, and I was four miles from home (running past the smells of McDonald’s wasn’t helping matters either).
I ran the full four miles back to my apartment, passing mile 17, and quickly filled up my water in the kitchen sink so I could finish this bastard. My brother Alex was home and asked me how far I was running.
I told him, “I’ll let you know when I’m done.”
By mile 25, my legs were shutting down.
The last mile covered a thickly wooded area, and it was so dark that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. With every step, I dodged trees, tripped over branches, and fell in the mud over and over again.
But I finished, collapsed on a grassy hill, and just laid there, staring up at the clear night sky. I’m not sure how long I stayed there, but a slow realization washed over me that this was the start of a new life.
Within a few weeks, I started volunteering at a children’s hospital, landed my first job at a digital marketing agency, and took up skydiving.
I realized that my whole life, fear was holding me back. I was afraid to start a business, to talk to that cute girl, or to take risks because of a deep-rooted fear of rejection and failure – one that stemmed from my childhood and stuck with me for over 17 years.
I learned that by taking action and doing something every day that scared the shit out of me, I was slowly becoming the person I wanted to be.
Somehow, I was no longer holding myself back.
Note: Many of my thoughts about life came out in my blog posts about human nature.
2018: Float Tank Decisions and The Peak of My Digital Marketing Career.
One frigid, blustery winter day in Michigan, I was feeling a little bored and decided to go to a float spa. If you’re not familiar with float spas, they’re places you go to use sensory deprivation tanks to relax and meditate. You lay in a pitch-black coffin-like pod filled with saltwater that matches your body temperature – you can’t see, hear, or feel anything.
I stripped down, entered the tank, and closed the pod door. Soothing music started playing and slowly faded away, along with the lights.
Here’s what I remember:
For the first 15 minutes, mild claustrophobia set in as I tried to get acclimated to the tank. After 30 minutes, I relaxed and all five of my senses started slipping away. 45 minutes in, I felt completely disconnected from my body – unable to know up from down – a brain floating through space.
After an hour, I started seeing and hearing things that weren’t there – faint footsteps on the top of the tank, whispers, strange color patterns in the dark. Then a little over an hour in, I had one of the deepest meditative experiences of my life.
Murky thoughts deep in the recesses of my mind became crystal clear. And thoughts I had every day were put under a new light.
I came to a few realizations:
I only had one life and I wasn’t taking as many chances as I could be. I wasn’t really happy with my job.
I thought to myself, “Why do I still live in Michigan when I’ve complained about the winter for 30 years?”
I realized that I was ready for a big change. And somehow it was the float tank brought this out of me.
When I got back home, I started applying for dozens of jobs all over the country in places I might want to live – Austin, Los Angeles, New York, Denver – any big city (with better weather) where I could meet new people and experience something new.
After going through rounds of interviews and assignments, I accepted a job offer in Austin, TX. I put in my two weeks notice, packed my truck, and made the 21-hour trek from Michigan to Texas.
I moved into my new apartment and started my first day of work just two days later. My new job was the Affiliate Manager for BigCommerce – the SaaS ecommerce platform. My responsibility was managing the BigCommerce affiliate program – aggressively working to recruit, activate, and engage bloggers and influencers to promote BigCommerce.
I began to see BigCommerce affiliates making big money from their blog content and it piqued my curiosity.
After growing the BigCommerce affiliate program and churning out MRR, I was quickly promoted and became the Head of Digital Marketing, managing a full team and a $10MM+ digital advertising budget.
While the company (and the people I worked with) were awesome, the stress of the job started getting to me.
The company was in a major pre-IPO growth phase and the stakes were high. Every marketing decision I made was analyzed in weekly business reviews with the C-Suite. As I managed the largest budget of anyone in the company, that came with the territory.
While business metrics and revenue were improving in a big way, I realized that this career path might not be for me. I saw that the higher you get in digital marketing, the more scrutiny you come under. And that would never end.
So I started working on my exit plan.
Where I Am Today
By late 2018, I had a good depth of digital marketing knowledge – I led an agency team, managed e-commerce marketing for six national brands, and now had SaaS experience. I was ready to take this knowledge and put it to use so I could work for myself.
One thing I learned along the way is that humans are really good at getting used to things.
At different times in my life, I’ve been depressed and broke, or happy and thriving. Either way, my mind creates new normals, and I get used to however good or bad the situation is.
For example, at a previous time in 2018, I was making more money than I thought possible just a few years prior, yet I felt exactly the same.
Then it hit me.
Whether I live in a prison of my creation or enjoy a life of abundance, it’s a daily choice only I can make.
Not my employer. Not society. Not my past. Not my parents. Only me.
Everything I learned (and everything I struggled with along the way) was the only path to get me where I am today.
It was enough to realize that I could start a blog and make it work.
And since I had already used almost every piece of SaaS software in existence during my career, I was in a good position to review these tools and earn affiliate commissions. Not just ecommerce tools like the affiliates I managed, but I could cover all of marketing.
And this time around, I didn’t spend months planning or trying to perfect every little detail. In November 2018, I put up some blog posts on a Squarespace site so I could start writing.
I quickly realized Squarespace’s limitations, so I moved my site to WordPress and officially launched this blog in January 2019.
I started using startup growth tactics to grow my blog. As I still had a full-time job, I needed to make the most effective use of my time. And I wanted to make real money in 3-6 months (not 3-6 years) – all in the ultra-competitive marketing niche.
To do this, I had to scale my blog like a startup. I focused less on writing and more on treating my blog like a business.
So instead of taking the typical route of writing, promoting, and sharing my content, I shifted all of my focus to scaling processes.
These processes had three primary goals:
- Obtain backlinks to build Domain Authority.
- Accelerate my organic traffic growth.
- Monetize my site within 3-6 months.
So for six months, I started hustling and working 100+ hour weeks between my blog and day job.
- I designed and launched my WordPress site, wrote five pillar blog posts, and set up my email funnel.
- Next was email outreach to find freelance writers and content companies to outsource my guest post content.
- I started aggressively pitching guest posts, outsourcing the content creation, and getting published to speed up my backlink acquisition.
- After obtaining backlinks and getting my blog posts to page 2-3 on Google, I used SEO tools to update my content and make it better than competitors.
- Once my posts got to page 1 on Google, I added affiliate links and started monetizing them.
- Rinse and repeat.
And it worked.
Three months in, I obtained over 500 backlinks and generated 7,600 organic visitors/month.
Six months in, I obtained over 3,000 backlinks, built my Domain Rating to 66, increased my organic traffic to 44,000 visitors/month, and started making more money from my blog than my full-time job.
Nine months in, this blog started making over $35k/month – read my September Income Report.
In February 2020, this blog brought in $45k/month.
Then it escalated and by May 2020 I started making over $80k/month.
I was able to quit my full-time job and start traveling through Europe, Asia, and Australia – and here’s a shameless Instagram plug.
The metrics started speaking for themselves.
And I finally lived up to my own expectations of myself and hit my ultimate goal – time freedom.
Time is my most precious commodity. By leaving the corporate rat race at 31, I’m hoping to avoid another 30-40 years of the 9-5 grind.
Looking back, it took me longer than most to grow up and figure things out. I was always so worried about looking good, fitting in, and everything working out perfectly.
Ultimately, none of that mattered. Every struggle led me to this point, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
No Matter Where You Are, I Know You Can Do It Too.
My blog’s purpose is to document my journey from day one so that we learn together.
Since most of us are building a side income while working full-time, my goal is to give you the strategies and tools to accelerate your growth.
A lot of podcasts, influencers, and popular bloggers started at least 5-10 years ago, and their tactics don’t necessarily apply in 2020. Plus, the bigger an influencer gets, the less actionable and more generic their advice gets.
Ardently consuming entrepreneurship podcasts over the last 10 years, the narrative always started years into their process.
No one ever gave me the actionable, step-by-step advice to grow from day 1. I want to change that.
Finally, I love the connections I’ve made, the websites I’ve contributed to, and the results I’ve driven for high-growth startups and bloggers alike.
I don’t plan to gain passive income to go lay on a beach somewhere.
There’s a lot more work to do. I have more content to write, more ideas to contribute, and more bloggers to help.
Because that’s my blueprint – I’m a teacher at heart.
My biggest thrills in life don’t come from making money online but when I’m lucky enough to meet someone new and teach them something that may change their life.
Starting a blog and generating side income can bring you more freedom and change your life in many ways.
It could be launching a side business to support your family or making thousands of dollars every month for your content. It could be as simple as making some passive income with affiliate marketing or telling your unique story to the world and getting paid for it.
No matter your goals, my dream is to help get you there faster. Life’s too short not to give it a shot.
I Want to Take a Moment and Thank You For Being Here.
If you made it this far, I appreciate the time you took to read this and deeply value every relationship I make from this blog.
I’m here for you as both a blogging guide and as a friend. I try to respond to every email and want to hear your story – both the good and the bad.
I want to provide a safe community where new bloggers can collaborate, provide encouragement, and work smarter. Since we’re all new bloggers, we need to band together, pick each other up, and rally together to win.
Thank you for reading.
I hope that the story of your life brings you peace, freedom, and happiness.