A Blog is a Platform
A “platform” — is something that you build an invest in, which will later give you an (almost) infinite ROI and opportunity. A trust fund is a platform. A brand is a platform. A good college education is a platform.
So is blogging.
I Quit College After 7 Months
I couldn’t stand the idea of being stuck in a place that had no ROI for me, making my father pay stupid amount of money (for $72k you can buy a new Porsche every year!) and pretending that I liked it.
They promised us that if we finish school, we’ll become entrepreneurs. I took a look at the stats: 95% of alumni worked full-time for somebody. I took a peak at the staff: 0% of professors were entrepreneurs (not including one legendary billionaire who was famously fired for being too “wild”). To me, the idea of finishing school to become an entrepreneur sounded as ridiculous as that in order to learn to swim, you’ve got to read all textbooks on swimming.
Just not true.
So I quit and entered the 2 years of my life that I would later call “discovery years” (although from the outside they looked more like “being a total pretentious asshole years”). You can’t really blame a 19-year-old who was granted complete freedom.
But at some point, I sobered up and started to wonder, “Maybe I made the wrong decision to leave school?”. I knew that I probably wouldn’t need a diploma, but everyone around me had a college degree (and some even had an MBA), which made me feel left out somehow. So I did what I always do when I don’t know where to go next: I asked for advice.
My father is (used to be) a big shot entrepreneur in Russia. He had all of those rich and famous friends, who would build the “Ubers of Russia”, “Airbnb’s of Russia”, “Amazons of Russia” and other “X’s of Russia” (it’s great being a Russian entrepreneur!). To me they seemed successful and looked like they had it all figured out. So I went around and asked them whether I should go back to school.
I asked about 50 people. To my surprise, I received 25 “yeses” and 25 “no’s”. That’s weird, I thought. What should I do now?
The obvious answer was, of course, not to listen to others’ advice. You should never-ever-ever-ever listen to what grownups tell you to do because they are either:
a) your parents — and by definition are irrationally fearful for your life, no matter what you do;
b) other people — and by definition don’t give a fuck about you, and have absolutely no “skin in the game” when giving you (usually unsolicited) advice.
You should always listen to yourself, even if what your 19-year-old-testosterone-fueled brain tells you is wrong. You’ll correct mistakes later on, and at least you’ll be living your own life.
Gladly, that’s what I did. After a few failed attempts to re-apply to college to Italy and England, I yelled “screw it!” and did what I always did best.
I created content.
I First Started to Blog When I Was 16
The world already had Medium (yup, I am that young), but I didn’t know about it. A few people did, actually. But people knew about Wordpress — so that’s where I created my first page.
I wrote about stuff that I was thinking about. If you know me, you know that it’s usually the big stuff — how life works, how the world works, etc., all of which seem funny when coming from a 16-year old. (Actually, I just looked at those posts and they still look quite insightful to me).
Two years later, I started a Telegram channel blog. Not many people use Telegram in the U.S., but in Russia we don’t have LinkedIn, nor does anybody use Snapchat, Twitter is used rarely, so Telegram is the best we’ve got. “Channels” or message feeds from a channel owner became a popular way to express your ideas, and some people even managed to become Telegram-millionaires through ad sponsorships.
My Telegram blog was called “My American Voice” (great name by the way!) and I launched it 2 months before I moved to the States for college. It was a great blogging experience. I broadcasted my insights from business classes, talked about Trump vs Hillary (it was 2016), and said whatever came to mind (sometimes too openly).
There was only one problem. After 6 months of doing the channel, I only had 70 subscribers.
I told myself that the “follower count” is not something I should pay attention to, but deep inside I wanted more exposure. 4 years later, I still write in that channel and it wasn’t until 3 months ago that my followers started to grow (from 200 to 2000 as of today). Talk about patience.
I also launched a second channel, dedicated solely to content marketing this year. I called it simply “About Content” and the idea was to learn more about content and write there what I’ve learned. Today it helps me secure clients for my video production business and makes everyone think I’m an expert. Good for me.
A couple of months ago I decided to take a stab at Medium and start writing in English. I told myself that I would be writing daily on this platform for 6 months, and then make conclusions about whether it’s worth pursuing after all — something I call the “6 months rule”. So far so good.
As you can see, my blogging career is a long one (6 years to date). And the more I work on it, the more I realize how valuable it actually is.
I may have found the answer to the college question after all.
The System is Broken
Say, you want to get a job. You want to get hired. You start sending off those resumes into the void, hoping you’ll get an answer.
What you might know is that most of the resumes you send are checked by recruitment companies, not the employer. What you probably don’t know is that these resumes are checked by machines, not people. That’s right, whatever you said there — doesn’t matter. What matters is whether you’ve typed in the right “skills” in your PDF.
Another thing I never understood is LinkedIn. I know that it’s a professional network, and so on. But what value is there in it, if you can actually make it anything? I’ve seen people take their profile and put whatever they thought would make them hired. Nobody even noticed. These people actually got hired.
There are so many loopholes in the system because it’s broken. You go to college you don’t like, pay stupid amount of money you don’t have, only to secure a job you don’t want, saying stuff you don’t believe in and doing the work you don’t think is valuable.
You are a cog in the machine. Nobody really sees you for who you are, people just want numbers (e.g., years of experience, salary expectations, revenue goals achieved, etc.).
That’s no way to live (or work), if you ask me.
A Good Blog is Your New Resume
Nobody likes resumes. People who make resumes don’t like making them (I almost fell asleep when I tried making one). People who read resumes don’t like reading them (so they outsource this tedious task to a machine that rejects you more than you would have wanted).
But there are (great) companies that hire people, not cogs. In the words of Seth Godin, they are looking for “linchpins” — indispensable people who are artists and don’t need to be told what to do on an hourly basis. An example of a company like this is Basecamp (ex-37Signals). They hire only the best, they don’t hold meetings (except for virtual ones every week) and they don’t have an office. It’s a no-bullshit company. I love them.
How do these “linchpins” get noticed, you ask me? And better yet: How do you become one?
Work can be:
- Your portfolio as a designer on Behance
- Your project(s) that got featured by Inc. Magazine, making it so that everyone wants to work with you
- Your super-insightful blog that the HR lady can’t help but sign up for
The last one is the best. People’s brains work in a funny way: they think that if you blog about something, you must be an expert.
Even if you know nothing (!) about what you want to become great at, you can simply start learning and documenting your journey online.
Learn, blog, repeat.
If what you’re telling people is valuable, they’ll read you. And the fact that it’s you who’s giving them this information will make them unconsciously think that you’re an expert in this field.
It’s your work, your track record, your digital imprint that gets you hired in the types of jobs you really want (the ones where you’re valued). Otherwise, you’re just a cog in the machine.
Through Out Your College Diploma
I can’t believe that we are still putting so much emphasis on the value of the college diploma. The world has changed. Dramatically. Everyone is online, everything is transparent, and whoever is looking to hire you is there too.
I became somewhat of an expert at college applications. I’ve done it 4 times, in 3 different countries and I got accepted to some of the best universities in the world. If there is one thing I’ve learned applying to Ivy League schools, it’s this: having good grades is not a differentiator. Everyone is a valedictorian. Everyone volunteers. What do you have that’s extra?
In the real world, it’s no different. You’ve got competition getting hired. Everyone has a great college diploma. Everyone created a student organization. Everyone saved the cat from the top of the building. What else?
I’ll tell you more. If you don’t have a college diploma, but have “something extra” (like a great blog with many followers in your field, or a project that speaks for itself, or a track record that can’t be ignored, or a book published) — that’s better than having two diplomas from Harvard and Stanford, and having nothing else.
People are lied to. They think that getting 0.5 mln dollars in debt and getting 3 diplomas is a good idea. In the world where everything is transparent and people value brave artists who get things done (not theoretical knowledge that’s outdated anyway), it’s the worst idea.
My aunt (25) got hired by KMPG. When they asked whether she has a college education, she lied. Nobody cared. She was good at what she does.
I have 3 blogs, media coverage, a book published and I was the CEO of my own company for 2 years. Do you think anybody will care about the fact that I dropped out after 7 months?
Get rid of your college diploma. Nobody cares about it anyway.
Invest In Platforms, Not Tactics
When you’re young and have nothing, the best possible strategy is to stop rushing. You don’t need to get anywhere by the time you’re 30. You still have your 40-ies, 50-ies and 60-ies to enjoy.
What you should do, is invest in you future. Build platforms. Plant the seeds of the tree that will blossom later on.
A platform — is, essentially, an asset. A tactic (like getting a job that sucks, but pays well after college) is a liability long-term.
A few platforms you could be building right now:
- The money platform — saving money and building better habits around money now so that you could sleep better at night later in your life
- The career platform — investing in building an insightful blog, writing an inspiring book (self-published on Kindle) or making a project on spec that will become the foundation of your career
- The mental health platform — figuring out your mommy and daddy issues while you’re still young (and not leaving it until your 30-ies and 40-ies), so that your mind is focused on positive growth, not self-limiting beliefs.
Platforms are a long-term strategy. There is no rush. It’s something you have to do day in, day out, for a long time. Platforms have exponential growth.
Tactics are a short-term strategy. There is a lot of knee-jerk movement and reaction. It’s something you do randomly, without any plan, because you’re scared and insecure. Tactics have diminishing returns over time.
Choose your path.
But I would highly recommend starting with blogging.