Don’t Blindly Follow Advice From Successful People

My friend Mike from the Financial Blogger recently wrote a post where he said his blog progress is too slow.  He compared himself to JD Roth, formerly of Get Rich Slowly, but I think Mike is being too hard on himself.

JD has a great talent for writing and storytelling and I don’t think any other blogger comes close to him in those areas.  That talent plus his work ethic made him very successful.  His willingness to talk about his own life also helped.

Pat Flynn is another example of a high profile, successful blogger who has a lot of talent in a number of areas and is also not afraid to put his entire personal life on his blog (ie wedding dance video).

That said, it’s not fair for most bloggers to compare to those two.  It’s like an average NHL player wondering why they aren’t putting up Gretzky numbers.

Most bloggers don’t have JD’s writing talent or Pat’s willingness to put up personal info.

As much as I like watching successful bloggers like JD & Pat give speeches about what made them successful, I believe it can be counter-productive for most of us to try to be too much like them.

I can’t write as well as JD, I can’t tell stories like JD, I can’t be as public and as likeable as Pat.  I can try to be like them for 20 years and it just won’t happen.

Bloggers have to figure out how we can run successful businesses using the talents and passions that we have.  Most hockey players don’t make a living by scoring lots of goals, they have other roles.

I know a number of very successful bloggers who have a relatively low profile, but have a great business because they focused on money-making activities that they are good at.  Like most bloggers, they might have started with the idea of emulating a well known blogger that they admire (like JD or Pat), but eventually they figured out their own way.

What are these “other” money making activities?

Some bloggers put less focus on building a community and loyal readership and will focus more on creating content which generates revenue.  Other bloggers use their site as a platform to get work such as contract writing jobs, technical jobs or speaking gigs.  Using a blog to help promote their books is another possibility.  Some bloggers have gotten into ad sales for other blogs.  Many self-employed people will blog to get more clients for their main business.  I even know one fine fellow who puts on personal finance blog conferences.  I’m sure there are many other methods as well.


There is nothing wrong with trying to implement advice from successful people, but you have to be prepared for the idea that it might not work as well for you and it might not work at all.

I believe that most bloggers have the ability to build a reasonably successful business, but they have to figure out something they are good at and that also makes money.

What do you think?  Are you the next JD Roth or have found a different path for your business?

 Read my 2011 FINCON wrapup

15 Responses to “Don’t Blindly Follow Advice From Successful People”

  1. Great post Mike 🙂

    I don’t think I can be like JD or Pat. To continue with your hockey analogy, I think that both Gretzky and Lemieux were 2 awesome players. But succeeded in a different way. Add Patrick Roy to that mix and you have 3 different successful players. You can’t really tell if one is better than the other as they play different roles. Nonetheless, they are part of a very small elite group.

    What hit me at the conference is that I had the same time as JD to be part of that elite group. But I’ve made mistakes and this is why I’m not there yet. I can’t try to become JD as my style is too far from it. I agree with you that trying to become the next JD or Pat is definitely a waste of time. You have to find your own way to become successful.

  2. Martin says:

    Thanks for the unique perspective.

    One thing we all forget to mention is that Pat and JD don’t necessarily make (or made) their money from what they preach. JD promoted credit cards and sold his site. Pat makes a killing off Bluehost affiliates.

    Also, there’s more than one way to make money. There was too much SEO bashing at this conference. I know many low-key folks who make huge money from sites that look like crap.

  3. Mike Holman says:

    @Mike – I should add that if Gretzky ever wants to give me some hockey tips, I would accept. 🙂

    @Martin – Great point. I guess you could say that JD & Pat build up their large audiences with story telling, openness etc, but at the end of the day, they use the same money making channels as the rest of us.

    I agree about the SEO bashing. I think there is a perception by people who don’t do any or know any SEO that SEO means writing posts in some kind of robot language which is ridiculous.

    In my opinion, once you have an established site, SEO primarily consists of creating content which is useful to the HUMANS who use search engines. We often talking of helping people – if you have an article that is useful and gets 2,000 visits per month from search engine visitors, you are helping a lot of people and hopefully over a long time.

  4. Echo says:

    Over time, I think you find out what you’re good at and then carve your own path. As you said, there are many ways to make money and be successful online.

    Plus, it’s tough to compare a new blog to some of the bigger sites that started 5 or even 10 years ago when there was much less competition.

    One thing I remember from JD is when he talked about building GRS and started writing for some major media site, he said he would have written there for free because he was getting links back to his blog. He said, links are the currency of the web.

    That’s sort of where I’m at with writing for Moneyville, which has helped my blog grow – but don’t tell them I’d write for free 😉

  5. Funny thing is Mike is already a very (with emphasis on very) successful blogger! It’s just his brand and business are different. Instead of having one kick ass blog (which he’s capable of) he’s got a dozen or more money making niche blogs.

    More importantly he does it by still working full time (4 days) and manages his whole blogging empire on a part time basis.

    I can’t think of a better definition of success.

  6. I’ve had to give this a lot of thought as I’ve come across so many great but dead blogs, what would make a person decide to quit blogging after a year?

    So I decided to change my definition of success from making money to influencing people. This means I can spend more time on stuff I like, researching and writing great content and less on the SEO and audience building side stuff I really hate and wastes huge amounts of time.

  7. Mike Holman says:

    @Echo – I already sent the link to Adam. 😐

    I guess you have to decide what benefits your site. If you are looking to grow your readership and get links, I don’t see anything wrong with doing guest posts on other sites, which is obviously an example of free work.

    I think the problem is when companies approach you do do work for free that won’t benefit your site (ie product giveaway).

    @Dividend Trader – Yes, I agree that Mike has been quite successful. However, I think he is a competitive guy and wants to be the most successful blogger around. 🙂

    As for your blog direction, nothing wrong with trying different things but you have to make money –

    Why don’t you connect with someone like Tom Drake – he runs a service where he’ll look after the tech/ads/seo stuff and split the money. That way you can focus on the things you like to do?

  8. but you have to make money – agree loads of dead blogs out there, a lot of them good too!

    Tom Drake do you have a link for him? That’s been in the back of my mind for a while now!!

  9. Mike Holman says:

    @Divident Trader:

    Here is Tom’s contact page:

  10. The takeaway lesson from successful bloggers is that they’re authentic. JD, Pat Flynn, Darren Rowse, Corbett Barr, Baker … they’re all genuine people who “are themselves” online. That’s been the key to their success. Readers can sniff phonies from a mile away.

    No one has to be as good of a writer as X or as engaging of a personality as Y. I know it’s cliche, but you just have to be yourself.

  11. Mike Holman says:

    Hi Paula – great to meet you in Denver.

    I certainly agree that those bloggers are very authentic and that has contributed to their success.

    My point is that you can run a very successful business without being a high profile superstar.

  12. The Dividend Trader says:

    Thanks rob

  13. Tom Drake says:

    Martin, I had a chat with one of those big names after FINCON and converted him to SEO… at least the user experience stuff like helpful title tags, serp descriptions, and properly mentioning what you’re talking about in the first paragraph. These things help real readers as well as search results.

    Mike, thanks for the recommendation. FINCON has lead to a few of them this year as it’s starting to be a real niche for me.

    Dividend Trader, feel free to contact me and we can discuss if a partnership would work!

  14. There was a thread on Overcoming Bias about this, that we’re often more likely to follow the advice of high-profile people because they are higher status, but it’s actually the advice of “average”-profile people that might make more sense in our given situation.

    FWIW I think Mike’s been doing a pretty good job in the blogging world. I agree with the other commentators above that he’s been pretty successful at it!

  15. For me personally, I’ve found something else at which I’m more successful and it has nothing to do with blogging. Took me a good 2 years to realize that, but blogging itself was a very important step on that journey.