Sitting in a darkened room at 2 a.m. searching for words to type seems like an adventure for Don Quixote. Will anyone read the post? Will it matter? All questions, and doubts, every blogger faces daily.
Of course we can take solace in our traffic statistics. Numbers keep stair-stepping higher, salving our fragile egos. But each step higher is followed by a slight reduction in traffic before finding a floor, waiting for the next exposure sending traffic another notch higher creating more doubts.
Then we have revenue streams. Young blogs building traffic to acceptable levels see modest income. The heart flutters with delight when a batch of good news arrives. People are “buying” into my ideas. Readers become fans and start their Amazon shopping from the blog and consider affiliates listed or shared as part of a post. A surprise upswing causes the heart to sink when the follow-through is weak.
The comments offer consolation. Each comment reminds me a reader is engaged. Of all the things a reader can do to remind the blogger he is not alone in the darkened room at 2 a.m. is to comment. The message at least got through far enough to encourage an intelligent response.
Many more readers contact than comment. The contacts come to me via email. I read them all. Answering each is impossible. I send many to my office manager for further review. She then decides which ones to contact for possible consultation and which to consider offering our tax services.
I see everything from the contacts. Some are almost impossible to understand as the commenter is venting recent events. Some want to thank me for my efforts and to encourage my work. Many ask for advice or to be a client. Then a voice comes from the wilderness and I stop in my tracks. Someone, close to home, has had their life changed for the better because I was alive today.
The Blessed Voice
Like most bloggers I watch my traffic intensively. There are clusters of readers around the country and the world. The cluster surrounding my office is one of the smaller ones. Part of the reason is the smaller population of the area. Another reason is many people viewing this blog on mobile devices show up as traffic from a distant location. The local cluster is probably much larger than Google Analytics indicates.
Every so often I get an offer for lunch, coffee or a beer. I am open to this. Unless the request contains scary verbiage I am happy to meet readers and talk shop to just talk about life. (For the record very few people have ever contacted me with scary verbiage.) I enjoy meeting readers and sharing stories. Some things I share in real life I would never share on a public blog so there are some advantages to meeting me in the real world.
Last week I received an email from a young man who asked I keep his name private. I also made a slight change to the email to conceal his identity. Here is the email I received:
I've been reading your blog for some time now and finally felt compelled to reach out. While we've never met, you have had a great impact on my family's path to financial independence. I am a CPA and after leaving a large public accounting firm (I was on the audit side but looking back I wish I chose tax!) two years ago, I started working in the finance department at an *redacted* in the Valley. Since that time I've driven by your business each day during my 15 minute commute. I think we even use the same library!
If memory serves me correctly, you once had “Mr Money Mustache” on your sign. I drove by each day wondering what the heck that meant. My first thought was some kind of a payday loan store, but boy was I way off. I gave in and Googled it and was instantly hooked. I devoured the archives and my wife and I officially began our path to FI. Discovering the early retirement community has truly changed my life philosophy. I've spent the last two years reading as many blogs and books (from the library) and listening to as many podcasts that I can fit into the day. Even though we didn't know about FI, my wife and I are naturally debt averse and paid off $60k of her student loans and our car purchases the first few years after graduation. Two years into our financial independence journey the only debt we hold now is for our home, and we have a net worth north of $300k at ages 29 and 28.
Despite being immersed in this community for two years I have stayed behind the scenes. I like to learn, but feel that I don't really have anything unique to contribute. Between you, Pete, the Mad Fientist and JL Collins, all necessary topics are covered in greater detail and more eloquently than I could ever aspire to. However, I'd like to pay you back in some small way for helping me fall down this rabbit hole that has changed my life. That could be buying you a beer or coffee someday and talking about personal finance, proofreading your posts before they come out (I read them all anyway!), or just sending you this email to express my gratitude and you don't have time to respond.
Let me clarify a few items. My office is in Menasha, which is part of the Fox Cities, which is also sometimes called the Fox River Valley, or just the Valley. We are located about 40 minutes south of Green Bay.
What my friend has done is nothing short of incredible! He and his wife destroyed debt and have a $300,000 net worth before age 30. Folks, you do realize most Americans never reach this level. Ever! At any age!
Before I started this blog, Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) became a client and promoted my services. I can never repay Pete for what he has done for me so I put his blog on my sign at the office until I started this blog. Now I pay it forward as Pete would want me to do.
Our good friend mentions he has nothing to add Pete, the Mad Fientist, Jim Collins or I have not already shared. This is the one area where we disagree. When I started this blog everything that needed saying was also already said. What counts, what matters is the stories. We all have stories to share. You never know when your story might resonate, might make a difference, might make a connection.
Stories give our lives meaning and help us connect. If I gave dry facts on tax strategies only the readerships here would drop to near zero. Instead I share personal stories. I share successes and ideas to improve the financial lives of my readers. I also share failures. The failures resonate. People need to see how others deal with those setbacks and disappointments. It hurts and it is comforting to know we are not alone. We also learn far more from failures than successes. Success tricks us into thinking we are always right; failure forces us to evolve to something bigger, something better.
The email I shared above is not completely unique. I receive this kind of email every month or so. What hit hard this time was how close to home it was. The difference I made wasn’t out there in some far away land where I can’t fully absorb what my work has done; it happened here, in my back yard.
At 2 a.m. it does not seem real. The glow from my laptop is like a portal to a different world. I spill my thoughts onto the page and edit the following morning. Sometimes I communicate well, other times I know I missed what I wanted to accomplish. It’s a risk of the trade.
Then the surreal world of sleep deprived communication bursts into my real world and I am delighted.
I don’t know if you kind readers understand how thrilled I am to meet you. When I peck away at 2 a.m. it is a one-way discussion. You know me, but I have no idea who you are.
As this blog works through its redesign (the process is being held up by your favorite accountant not making up his mind on design issues) a “Where Am I” tab will be added so readers can stalk me easier. By providing an easy to use guide of where I am makes it easier for you and me to meet. I attend several personal finance conferences a year and a few tax seminars, too. Soon you will know where in the world the Wealthy Accountant is.
It is probably not a good idea to just pop into my office. Odds are high I am on a conference call, meeting with clients, or preparing for a meeting. If not engaged in a project I am at home or on the road. However, never let a good notion change your mind. I would love to chat with you, break bread, have a beer or a cup of coffee. Call, email, use the contact button. My staff can set a time for us to meet over a meal or cold one.
It makes the empty solitude of 2 a.m. worthwhile.