by Josh Hanagarne
Things were going pretty well until I bit into my hamburger.
Something was really wrong.
“Are you okay?” asked my date.
My eyes started watering. I was so confused, but I nodded.
I bit down harder and suddenly the hamburger flew out of my hands. I’ve never been so bewildered in my life. Only when I held my hand up did the sorry truth stare us in the face.
Somehow, my left ring finger had slipped inside the bun of that burger. I bit down on it. And when it hurt, the cause wasn’t immediately obvious, so I bit down harder . . . so hard I forced myself to drop the hamburger.
When I realized what had happened, I laughed really hard. She didn’t.
“Aren’t you embarrassed?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said, nodding, “but this is kind of how it is. And this stuff can’t be taught.” Then I finished the hamburger in dainty bites, making sure that no other errant appendages strayed between the bread.
“It must be kind of liberating to know that,” she said.
In a non-glorious footnote, the rest of that date went exactly nowhere.
But authentically idiotic is still authentic, which brings us to the point today:
There are things that bloggers can and can’t be taught
As my traffic climbed from modest to less-modest, other bloggers began asking me if I could help them build their own blog traffic. At first, I wasn’t sure I could, even if I wanted to. But I decided I’d try.
Before I was willing to work with someone, I asked one question:
Why do you think I can help you?
Their answers told me a lot. Not just about their expectations and thought processes, but about a lot of what’s wrong with the blogging mindset in general.
A few answers I’ve gotten
- You love what you do and can help me love what I do
- You know where you’re going and I want to go to the same place
- You’re passionate and I think that might rub off on me
What I didn’t hear from them was:
- I love what I do and think you could help me do it better
- Here’s where I want to go and I’m not sure how to get there
- I’m passionate about this idea and I want to bounce some ideas off another passionate person
Maybe that’s silly of me, but those are questions I could have approached more easily.
By the way, I’ve decided I’m not a very good coach and I doubt I’ll do this again. In fact, I think I suck. Don’t hire me.
(OK — I’m actually really good at some things. But I’m writing this post as a snapshot of this experience, not a sales pitch.)
Let’s take a look at those answers I received.
“You love what you do”
I do, but you cannot pay someone else to help you love something in the way they love it.
I love blogging, but I write my blog, not anyone else’s. And I don’t play for stakes, I play for fun. I would not love another project as much.
How do I know? Because I didn’t pick another project.
If you are seeking help with your blog, there is nothing wrong with trying to take the steps of someone who has achieved what you want. Why else would you be reading Copyblogger today?
But do not assume that their goals resemble your goals, even if they have numbers you would like to have.
“You know where you’re going”
No I don’t, other than up.
I know that I will publish a post every day and I will try to do lots of guest posts. I will be nice and helpful to everyone I can, lift a bunch of heavy stuff, and try to laugh a lot.
That’s what I know, that’s what I’ve done, that’s what I’ll do until it’s not fun anymore.
Whenever someone has had some success, many of us — me included — assume that the success is the result of a plan. That’s not always true. Dumb luck can play its role in anyone’s good fortune. Just keep an open mind. There are a lot of variables that go into whatever we decide “success” is.
Once I took a mambo class taught by a guy whose passion nearly melted us all. He was like a combination of Beto from the Zumba commercials and Pepe Le Pew. He was amorous, passionate, and all swiveling hips. I love dancing, but I didn’t leave the class with that guy’s passion for mambo. But he tried!
The secret ingredient to a great blog
We like to give authority and credibility to other people. We want other people to have the answers.
Sometimes this creates brilliant coaches who are worth every penny. I have no doubt that if I hired Naomi Dunford and I had a plan, she could help me execute it.
But sometimes our need for answers spawns “gurus” who are freaking travesties of ethics and exploitation.
So what should you do to make your blog better?
Now that I’m done writing this post, here’s how I’m feeling:
First: If a consultant out there says “I can help you love writing,” or “I can help you write like me,” or “I can teach you passion,” the quickest way to escape their clutches is with a perfectly timed throat-strike.
(Don’t bother aiming for the groin — cowards and exploiters have no feelings down there).
It’s great to get help and advice if you need it. But don’t expect anyone to do all the thinking for you. And don’t trust anyone who tells you he can or will.
Second: However much advice you may get along the way, there is one secret ingredient to the great blog recipe. And that secret ingredient is you.
Finally: There’s only one test that really matters, and that can be solved over lunch:
Can your consultant eat a hamburger without harming himself?
About the Author: Josh Hanagarne is the twitchy giant behind World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog about living with Tourette’s Syndrome, kettlebells, book recommendations, buying pants when you’re 6’8”, old-time strongman training, and much more.