Brene Brown once said that we are all wired for connection. And the only way for us to connect to others is to let ourselves to be seen.
As a blogger, I take this advice seriously.
When I write and hit that publish button, I don’t just blog about the places and adventures I’ve been to. More than anything else, I dwell on the stories of lessons, realizations along the way that proves my mantra, my belief in life, is true – we all have a purpose here on earth, our goal is to figure it out and get about the business of doing it.
And when I say, I allow myself to be seen while blogging means I share my stories, my feelings, struggles and aspirations.
Yes, this is mainly a travel blog. But based on the messages and emails I get from my readers, this platform has in a way affected some of you in a deeper level, so I also felt obliged to share my own story. What’s been happening in my life, stories that I knew would also be beneficial to you as you take on your own journey.
Last month, an opportunity to speak about blogging to students of Cavite State University came, and I was terrified at first. I didn’t expect that coming! When I started this blog, all I ever wanted was to follow my purpose – to write, to write with all my heart.
But after a lot of thinking, I knew that the opportunity came at the right place, at the right time because I was ready for it. Years before even starting this blog, I’ve already been studying, and breathing blogging, that enough gave me the confidence to say yes.
One thing everyone needs to understand is public speaking is tough. It was not the usual speech, when you see a politician go up on stage, on a podium, then read a script, read something that was written for them by somebody else.
The format was like a TED Talk (hope you are aware of TED talk), where you stand in front of people and talk, give your insights– no reading of script. Just you, your voice and the audience.
So in that case, you need a hell lot of preparation.
My topic is about Tips to Blogging Success. In a way I already have an idea of the things that I’m going to cover, but the organization of thoughts, the flow of the talk, and the focus not to experience what they call “mental block” is something you need to prepare.
It was crazy, every night after office, I would go for a walk outside the house. I would go for a quick run then head straight to our place’s “clubhouse.” And there I would speak, and practice my talk. It was not about memorizing what I need to say, but more on getting the flow. What I need to say after this, then after that.
It came to a point when I can practice my talk literally everywhere (in my mind), like while riding the public transport most of the time. I never stopped practicing.
So up until now, even though it was done, I already gave my talk few days ago, it was still in me. LOL!
If I’m going to write my talk in a blog post, this is what it’s going to be. This is not the verbatim speech, but the flow is exactly what it is. I knew that when you get on stage, sometimes what you’ve prepared is not exactly what is going to be. There will be some spontaneous additions, and it is not assured that all are covered.
But this is the one that I practiced literally every day, and I guess this is also about 90% of my actual talk. It was delivered in English and Tagalog (but this post will be in English) I would want to use more of Tagalog, because I wanted to better relate to students. But it was tough for me, I think my brain is wired differently. I speak Filipino most of the time, the usual conversations with people. But whenever I need to stress a point or to share my ideas and all, it’s always coming out in English. LOL!
TIPS TO BLOGGING SUCCESS
I am Jonathan Espina. You can call me Jon, or if you are in a pa-sweet mode you can call me “kuya Jon.” I am a blogger, particularly a travel blogger and I am here to talk about tips to blogging success.
First, I want you all to know that I really wanted to make this talk not too technical. I am aware that you already have an idea of what a blog is. And I just want to focus on the most important things, if you feel you want to write and have something to share to the world.
I have a question for you. Don’t worry, this is not a Math problem. But this is big.
“What do you want to do with your life?”
What is your dream? What is your goal? What is that thing that excites you the most?
I know most of you would tell me, “Kuya Jon, I thought you’re going to talk about blogging, but why are you asking us about these?” – goals, passion?
I am telling you this, because if there is just one thing, one most important thing that I need to tell you if you feel you are destined to write and you wanted to start a blog… is to simply blog what you love.
1 | BLOG ABOUT WHAT YOU LOVE, WHAT YOU BELIEVE
Writing is tough. If this is easy, everybody should be doing this.
Only few have the guts and courage to write, and share it for the world to see. If you feel that you’re one of the few, and wanted to start a blog, just write what you believe, what you are passionate about.
Because when your blogging journey gets tough, this is the one that will keep you going. You need a “why” a reason for your writing, a reason bigger than anything else to keep you motivated all the time.
I know at your very young age, knowing what you wanted to do with your life is not your priority. You’re all young and you just want to enjoy life. But I just want to present an idea, that someday, there is something you need to figure out in your life.
I am also aware that knowing what you’re supposed to do, writing about what you love is not easy. Sometimes, it would take years for you to realize that.
Just like me, just like my story.
When I was your age, I wanted to be a reporter, a media practitioner, a broadcast journalist. They say dream big, and I definitely dreamed BIG. I wanted to be like Noli De Castro, Ted Failon or even Mike Enriquez. (LOL!) I took up Broadcast Communication from PUP, and eventually graduated Cum Laude.
After a couple of years, I became a producer/writer of GMA News and Public Affairs. It was the best training ground. I even had a stint of becoming a radio reporter of GMA radio (DZBB) for a while. So I knew I was going there.
But being a producer, someone who works behind the camera, has a slight problem for me. No, a big problem.
“Patayan ang trabaho.” (Workload is literally killing you)
And when I say patayan, patayan talaga! It was a time in my life when I continuously experienced to stay awake for days – 3 days to 5 days straight for a story. My life was all work. I had no time for friends, family, my relationship was suffering.
Then I finally asked myself, if all of it was worth it, considering there were also some labor issues with media people.
I realized, that was not the life that I wanted. Life is short. Life is meant to savor and enjoy. Work should just be a small part of your life, and not its entirely. You got to have some balance. After a lot of things happened in my work, I’ve finally decided to quit.
It wasn’t for me. Or maybe I was destined to be an actor or host or something. Joke LOL!
Then I transferred to a corporate job. You know the usual 9 to 5 thing. It was amazing. I’ve finally had the time to enjoy life and find the balance that I needed.
But there was still another a problem…
I felt there was something missing, like a sinking hole in my stomach. That feeling or question has become so intense, I’ve become so unhappy, just one tiny step to becoming depressed.
Then I realized,I wasn’t really paying attention to all the signs in my life. I’ve been a school paper writer when I was in high school. I enjoyed writing through college. I was a writer when I was working in GMA. But when I transferred to a job that didn’t require me to write, I stopped. So nabaliw ako. LOL!
I need to write. That was it! That was the meaning I’ve been looking for, for years.
How about you? Do you want to write?
Your generation right now is so lucky. Because years ago, If somebody wants to be a writer. The usual path was to study writing in college. Apply to be a writer for a newspaper or magazine. Or work their luck to be picked by publishing companies to publish their works. Now it’s different.
You don’t need to wait to be picked.
If you want to be a writer, just write. Start a blog. Share what you’ve got. That’s simple.
Also, gone are the days when people who could only create websites or blogsites were the geeky programmers. Now you. Yes, you can start a blog now. Believe me, I’m one of the dumbest people when it comes to technology, but I was able to set up my blog, my space in the internet world where I can write and share what’s in me. Just start and learn along the way.
I still had one question at that time. What am I going to write about? The thing is sometimes we have a lot of interests that it is hard to pick one. I told you while ago to blog what you love, and for me it took me another few months to finally find that.
I started some blogs. I used to have a blog that shares things about my life, but then I deleted it after a few months. I remember even starting a health blog, but I didn’t pursue it. I felt I was just fooling myself. LOL! Then last year, I had a chance to travel to Thailand. And when I came back, I was literally a different person. I know you read a lot about the phrase, “bitten by the travel bug.” It’s true, because it happened to me. LOL!
But more than realizing I wanted to write about travel, it was also something bigger for me . It wanted to show to people that life is meant to be enjoyed. Life is an adventure, and we need focus on the work that matters by pursuing our passion in life. In Thailand, you get to see and meet people who are traveling solo, doing what they love, and pursuing something they believe they are called for. It was so inspiring, that I created my blog, jontotheworld.com.
And that was it. It was like a bomb has exploded in my mind. My blog has given me the meaning I looked for , for years. I never get tired of it, no matter how tough writing is. That’s what you call, passion.
This is something I challenge you to search in your own life.
I know you still have doubts. How can a blog that started by a student like you can have the leverage or impact in the years to come. Well, I am telling you this, it is possible. It can happen. It already happened so many times.
The Story of a then student blogger
There was this student from UK, and I consider him lucky.
He was lucky because at a very young age, he already knew what he wanted to do in his life, that is to write, write about internet and technology.
When the time came for school vacation, he felt this urge to share what he thinks, or share what’s in him. So he started this blog about his interests, which is internet/technology.
Then after a few months of working on his blog, his parents were surprised when a man knocked on their door looking for him. He was a journalist from London and he wanted to interview him.
There he was a student who was just doing and writing what he loved, and he didn’t have any idea that his blog was already creating a buzz. Then the rest is history.
From a student who blogged in his room using an old computer, he built a media empire, and has become one of the most influential person in the internet world.
From UK, he moved to the US and built his media company, employing hundreds of writers, producers and creatives. Got curious who he is? Well, he is non-other than Pete Cashmore, the founder and CEO of Mashable.com.
You know why Pete has become successful? Because during the early days of his blog, he worked so damn hard.
And this is the second tip to blogging success.
2 | A LOT OF HARDWORK
When Pete was starting out, he was working 15 hours a day on his blog. 15 hours!
And since he was from UK, and most of the technology companies are from the US, and even most of his audience are from the US, he worked during late night to match with the time zone of the US. Imagine that!
We all have an idea or concept of hardwork. When we were younger we were always constantly reminded by our parents to study hard for us to graduate and eventually have a better life. So we all know what hardwork is.
But the hardwork that I’m telling you when it comes to blogging is different. And I will do my best to further explain that to you.
I will share this in a form of another story. I stumble upon this amazing story on youtube by a speaker. There was this student like you. He really wanted to be successful and make a lot of money, so he went to this guru, an old man and a successful businessman. He told him, “sir I wanna be successful like you” The businessman replied, “If you want to be successful, meet me tomorrow at the beach.”
The boy was wondering, of all possible places, why the beach? He thought maybe he was about to do a seminar by the beach. (sosyal!)
So the next morning, the student went to the beach wearing a tie and a suit. Then the businessman arrived wearing shorts. The businessman told him that they will both go take a dip into the water. When the water was already like waist-deep, that was the time he finally had the courage to speak up. “Sir I told you I wanted to be successful, I didn’t ask you to teach me how to swim or to be a lifeguard.”
He was starting to think that the old man was crazy. He was making money and successful but he was crazy!
By the time when the water level was on his neck area, the businessman asked him again, “How bad do you want to be successful?” He said, “really bad!”
Then the old man held the back of his head and dropped his head into the water. He raised his head up and dropped his head again. By the time, when the student was about to pass out, he raised him up. The boy was desperately catching his breath.
He old man shouted at him, “if you want to succeed as bad as you wanna breathe, then you will be successful!”
If you want to succeed as bad as you wanna breathe, then you will be successful. What is the meaning of that? If you’ve seen someone who experienced to have some asthma attack, you know how difficult it is, especially the shortness of breath. Notice that for those people, the only thing that they care about is to get some air. They don’t care what’s on TV, they don’t care what’s happening outside, if there’s a party. The only thing that they care about is to get some air. That’s it! And when you get to the point, when you want to be successful as bad as you wanna breathe, you will be successful!
That’s the kind of hardwork that I am talking about if you wanna succeed in blogging. How am I going to relate that to myself as a blogger?
I have a day job. I work in the morning, and I understand that I need to be fair with my employer. So when I am at the office, I work hard to get things done.
But as soon as I get home and I switched to blogging mode. Oh man, I am unstoppable!
I will write, connect to other bloggers and my readers. That’s where I have my entire focus. I don’t care if there’s a party. I don’t care what’s on TV. I don’t care what’s even happening on PBB, or even in Marimar. I just don’t care! And when you get to a point when you work on something you believe so much, you realize that most of the things on TV are crap. Like 90%!
When you work hard enough on your blog, there will come a time when you will receive an email from your reader, or a message from them, thanking you and even encouraging you to continue.
I’m telling you this, that’s one of the best things about being a blogger!
3 | Listen and Connect to your readers
The funny thing about being a new blogger is this. When you’ve worked so hard about writing your post and then when you hit that publish button. Then, *crickets *crickets…
That’s tough. It’s a reality that you have to endure and the best thing to do is just continue writing. By the time, I learned about Google Analytics, it’s a free google product that you can install in your blog to check how many people are visiting your blog, I had glimpse on how many people read my blog at that time.
I saw 3 hits that day. LOL! There are 3 people reading my blog. Then I became sad, because I realized that it was just my mother, my girlfriend and myself. LOL!
It is a tough stage that you need to overcome. My blog is getting quite a number of traffic now, but I will never forget those moments. And when the time comes when you received a feedback or message from your readers. Treasure it, value it, and the best thing is…listen, pay attention, care.
As a travel blogger, I have this kind of idea that the stories that would probably become a hit are posts about some of the best tourist destinations in the country like Boracay, Cebu, Palawan etc. So a few months ago my friends, my girlfriend and I traveled to Antipolo.
I had a great time but I never really considered writing about it on my blog at first. It was just in Antipolo, just an hour or two hours from Manila, that would not create any interest nor impact. I told myself that.
Then one day, I received a message from a reader asking me what are the best spots in Antipolo. Of course, I answered it in detail because I’ve been there. It was the first sign.
Another sign came, when my friends, and even my girlfried, were asking me to write about our trip to Antipolo. They said they have friends who are from Antipolo but are unaware of the places we’ve explored there. So finally, I’ve decided to write about it. Nothing to lose. Right?
And then that was it! The Antipolo story has become a hit! Bringing the largest number of visitors / traffic to my blog ever! Now, it already has more than 13,000 shares on Facebook. It was crazy! I’ve gained a lot of new readers, and it all happened because I listened.
When it comes to connection to your audience, just share your story, what you think and feel. Allow yourself to be seen, because when your writing is something your audience can relate to, they will come back and will become your avid fans.
So when you reached to a point where you have a stable audience and everything is doing great, there is only one thing to do and this is the 4th tip.
4 | Be Consistent. Continue Giving Value to your readers.
Always make sure your posts are giving value to your audience. Show some personality. Emphatize with them, make them laugh, smile and when you’re good enough, make them think, or even cry.
The last important thing is “Never forget why you started.”
Always stay grounded and keep yourself connected to your “why.” Never be overwhelmed by money nor popularity, whatever happens, at the end of the day, just continue what you do – write and give value.
Write – This is what some bloggers forget when they get a taste of popularity. Realizing there was a clamor from other writers to contribute to their blog, they were delighted. Then as the time goes by they realized that it was a hell lot easier to just get contributions and keep the site going then relax and stop writing. And when the contributions are not as many as before, they start asking, hey write for us, not realizing it was a sign that they need to go back to writing themselves.
One thing they didn’t realize is they were loved by their original readers because of their writing. And stopping means disappointing those who supported them from the very beginning. People who were actually the key why they become popular in the first place.
You are a writer, a blogger. It is your blog, so your main job is to write. That’s it! Work hard and when you get to a point when you’ve become an authority like Huffingtonpost, Rappler or Forbes.com. I think that’s the time to consider (just consider) retiring and let others share. But at this early, going for the lazy and easier route is not an option.
People aren’t stupid. They know if a writer, a creative person, would lose sight and turned into a money-focused machine than actually giving value.
So always stay true to your why.
5 | Don’t Give Up!
I know it’s hard, but you got to keep moving. If you started your blog right, that is writing something you believe and you love, there is definitely no reason to give up.
Just continue what you do. It doesn’t matter if you feel no one is paying attention at first, just keep moving forward. The important thing is you got to keep moving no matter how small step it is. Work so damn hard and the time will come you’ll get notice, you’ll get the trust and attention you deserve.
I have just one last story. This is about my greatest blogging hero ever. His name is Jonathan Morrow, or Jon Morrow. We’re both Jonathan by the way. He is one of the most successful, widely celebrated bloggers there is today. If you’re still unaware about him, google him. 🙂 But even though our name is the same, there is one big difference between us, and you could easily determine that by just looking at us.
I am Jon Espina. Here I am talking in front of you…and this is Jon Morrow.
He has a fatal disease, it’s called SMA or Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It’s a condition where your muscles from neck down are weak, you couldn’t even move. He shared his story so many times. His mother told him that when he was 1 year old, the doctor told his mom that he would die after a year, that if a normal person would grow stronger and stronger, he would grow weaker. So weak that he could not even breathe on his own, and one day he would be contracted with pneumonia and die.
But his mom didn’t give up on him. His mom fought for his life, and now he is the oldest man to ever survive SMA.
His mother’s love for him, that fire and persistence not to give up inspired him to also not to give up on his dreams. He graduated at the top of his class, and he is now one of the best bloggers out there. He is the founder and CEO of BoostBlogTraffic.
One day Jon received an email from his reader, that reader was about to commit suicide when he read post about his story and he changed his mind. Jon wrote on his blog…
“one guy actually emailed to tell me he was planning to commit suicide, and my post talked him out of it. It spoke to him exactly where he was, gave him exactly the message he needed to hear, and reached him at exactly the right time.”
Imagine what would happen if Jon gave up. Imagine what would happen to that man.
So no matter what happens, don’t you dare give up! You don’t have any idea how your writing could affect someone’s life.
You can do it. Believe in yourself. You can do this.
After my talk, there was a student named Kim who asked guidance on how she can start her own blog. I gave her all I know about starting a blog, from starting it using some free platform like blogspot and wordpress.com to having her own domain.
Honestly, It was a tough talk, because I knew it was hard to speak about meaning, writing and purpose to these kids. They’re too young, and they haven’t really experienced much in life for them to understand these fully.
But in this generation of PBB and all, when most of the kids are more concerned about having a 15 seconds of fame rather than a life of meaning, I knew I had to say that.
It doesn’t matter if they didn’t get it, for I know in time they will. It’s enough that I presented them an idea, that there is something they need to figure out in their lives. And when they realized that, they have to go for it with all their heart!
The moment before I went up that stage, I told myself, If I could only affect one student, inspire or even change his life. That’s enough.
When I finished my talk, I saw some very few students nodding, thinking. There was this student tapping his heart looking at me, whispering thank you. By the time I got off the stage, I saw a girl named Marjorie, holding her camera. She told me she will pursue her dreams of becoming a photographer, that she will share her photos in a photo blog.
I hope I got my “one student” there. I hope I succeeded.