Back in 2016 and 2017, I published over 100 articles on this blog and answered over 400 questions on Quora.
The work helped grow my small email list of 16 subscribers to over 4,000 readers—and made me a Quora Top Writer. It also opened up opportunities to work with amazing people like Noah Kagan and Chris Guillebeau. I went on to join the Sumo and AppSumo team.
Then, everything changed.
I stopped writing on Quora. In the next four years, I published fewer articles—combined—than the two years before them.
While success brings opportunities, it also opens us up to distractions and constraints if we're not careful.
When I first started writing, I had zero audiences. I didn't care about what others thought about my work because, after all, not many people will read them anyway. However, as my work got more exposure, a sense of insecurity grew in me. I started comparing my works with other great writers and feeling that I was not good enough.
To know that I'm good enough, I seek all kinds of metrics to prove myself—followings, subscriber counts, article length, etc. I was so obsessed with those metrics that I couldn't focus on the very task that I should be doing: writing.
The past work that brought me readers also became a constraint limiting my future work. I wanted to write about topics that interested me as I learned more. But I was too afraid to give them a try because I want to keep a consistent brand to whoever subscribed to my newsletter before.
And because I accomplished the small success through writing consistently, I feel guilty for no longer doing it.
While doubling down onto what works sounds like a good strategy, what gets you where you are today might not get you where you want to be next.
In hindsight, my identity and environment changed. From working at a coffee shop to leading a content team at Sumo and AppSumo, from being single to being happily married, and from living with my parents to living in a decent house (moving three times in the process). Heck, I’ve even gone through a pandemic. Yet, I expect things to stay the same.
It's interesting to see how our brains don't like change and want things to stay the same. Even when we know change is inevitable and should be welcome, we hold ourselves back without us knowing it.
I struggled with that for a long time. But it's time to move forward and level up—letting both the old and new identity empower me instead of holding me back.
Writing will still be the foundation of my work. More than sharing my thoughts, writing helps shape my thinking. It's also one of the best ways to become a citizen of the internet.
But rather than limiting my work with specific niches, I want to be more open in sharing things that interest me and that I'm working on at the time. Take this post as an example—it doesn't fall into any niche or category—it's simply what is in my mind now.
While writing is important to me, it won't be my only work. As passionate as I am, it's a tool—a means to an end—that helps me get something done. Be it building an audience, growing a business, or thinking. That said, I need to put it in the right place that aligns with other parts of my work and life.
Ultimately, the only thing that doesn't change is the change itself. Our identity and environment changed and it's okay. It means that we need to do things differently. The best way to navigate it is to have a clear vision but flexible plans.
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Dean is a strong voice in the self-mastery space. His newsletter consistently delivers insightful ideas on how to become a better version of yourself and is the only newsletter that I always read.
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