December 2018

By: 
Tom Qiao
 | 
Updated: 
December 31, 2018

Happy new year!

Wherever you are, I hope you're spending this special time with family, friends, and loved ones.

Time, above all else, is our most treasured gift.

2018 was a transformational year for me.

I celebrated a quarter-century of existence (and intend to live a full century).

I ended my longest-standing relationship and my longest-standing job.

I started a passive income business and made several pivots along the way.

And I read 3 books that significantly influenced my perspective on life:

I've divided this review into two sections. First, I discuss how my philosophy on life has changed this year. Second, I provide a business update for the last 6 months.

My Philosophy on Life

Closeup of Plant

“I believe that having more flexibility, meaning control over my time and how I spend it, is the ultimate key to unlocking freedom.”

If you asked me a year ago what I wanted in life, I'd have given you responses like:

"I want to have X dollars in the bank."

"I'd like to have a successful career."

"I want to have good work-life balance."

Last year, I started questioning these kinds of statements.

Are these truly the important things in my life?

After much reflection, I realized that my definitions of success didn't align with my core values.

What do I mean by this?

For starters, I no longer view wealth as the limiting factor to living an exceptional life.

We all know that money is important and necessary.

But frankly, without any time, you can't really enjoy the money.

Instead, I believe that having more flexibility, meaning control over my time and how I spend it, is the ultimate key to unlocking freedom.

I also discovered that a traditional career is not the only option to finance my life.

Other opportunities may provide greater flexibility while still paying the bills.

Freelance and remote jobs are both rising in popularity compared to traditional 9-5 careers. These work arrangements may offer mutual benefits for both employees and employers.

There's also no shortage of entrepreneurial opportunities in today's global market, including affiliate marketing, dropshipping, and web development and design.

Work-life balance remains an important issue for workers in the 21st century.

The line between work and personal life continues to fade away in almost every industry.

Advances in telecommunications (smartphones, VPNs) and rising employee expectations (working late, staying weekends, "available" on vacations) both contribute to the dilemma.

Instead of playing the work/life balancing game, I'd rather spend my productive years building profitable businesses and acquiring valuable skills for the future.

Activity is NOT productivity (thanks, Tim Ferriss).

I believe that productivity and personal time should not be mutually exclusive.

You DO NOT need to work 80 hours a week to create value!

My Vision

Vision in a Forest

I've also changed my approach to setting long-term goals (the "Vision").

Vision represents where you would like to be.

It's an ideal state that you strive to realize through meticulate planning.

I've simplified my vision statement to the following:

  • To live in accordance with my values
  • To take definite steps towards my dreams

I like this framework as it's practical and easy to apply.

In the past, I've often set lofty goals that, while motivating, were vague and difficult to implement.

Some Proverbs

Here are some of the questions and proverbs that I've pondered this year:

Success & Failure

  • “How do YOU define success and failure?”
  • "Measure your life in accordance with your values."
  • "Define your fears and you will conquer them."
  • "Most people would rather be unhappy than uncertain."

Work & Life

  • "There’s more to life than just being great at my job."
  • "Do I live to work or work to live?"
  • "When I die, will I regret not working enough?"

Money & Life

  • "Wealth is not the limiting factor to living well."
  • "Money can be replaced, time cannot."
  • "Am I trading my time for money?" (Traditional Career)
  • "Can I make money without actively trading my time?" (Passive Income)

Productivity & Life

  • “Activity is NOT productivity (work for work's sake).” 
  • “Who benefits from my increased productivity?”
  • "Productivity keeps a man honest, healthy, and happy."

Health & Life

  • "Good health is priceless. Once it is gone, it cannot be bought back."
  • "Money and success are useless without good health."
  • "Prevention is better than treatment. Better to have a healthy diet and regular exercise than a generous health insurance plan."

Business Update (6-Month Review)

It's been 6 months since I quit my job to start a passive income business.

My progress has definitely been slower than I anticipated. I made a few pivots along the way and learned a lot more about affiliate marketing.

I'm very excited for the new developments in 2019!

1-Year Goals Update

Here's my progress against the 1-year goals that I set in June 2018:

Write 50+ pieces of content

  • Completed 20 blog posts (5 are being converted from my old site)

Generate 750+ visits per month

  • No traffic yet as the current blog was started in Nov 2018
  • I expect to generate traffic upon completing link building campaigns

Build 50+ links (new goal)

  • I've completed my first informational article (see here)
  • Begin link building in Jan 2019

Business Pivots

During this journey, I've made several pivots as I learned more about SEO, affiliate marketing, and my topic (acne scars / skincare).

When I first started, I wanted to sell an ebook on acne scars. I was inspired by Pat Flynn's first business where he sold study guides on the LEED exam.

In September, however, I came across AuthorityHacker.

I was thoroughly impressed with their approach to online marketing (see my previous post).

They break down an online business into three stages:

  1. Stage 1: Affiliate Marketing & SEO
  2. Stage 2: Ad Income & Social Media
  3. Stage 3: Sell Own Products & Paid Ads

I decided to follow their template and focus on creating a stage 1 site.

I completed the SEO research using Ahrefs and wrote a few articles on my site.

In late October, following a major update to the course (TASS 2.0), I realized that acne scars was perhaps too narrow of a topic.

Competitors in narrow niches tend to have a high concentration of traffic on 1-2 pages. This makes their business very vulnerable to major SEO ranking changes.

In November, I decided to expand my focus to skincare disorders.

The new website is called The Derm Detective and I've written 20 articles so far.

This includes a comprehensive science-based guide on acne scars.

Next 6 Months

My focus for the next 6 months include:

  • Building more links to my site
  • Continuing to write commercial content

I'll be watching for improvements in traffic and affiliate revenue to measure my results.

Ahrefs has a great rank tracker feature that monitors how well my content ranks on Google.

This helps me track website performance before there's any noticeable traffic.

The Bottom-Line

In many ways, I feel like I've awakened from a long dream this year.

For most of my life, I've accepted conventional wisdom without any reservations.

Only recently have I begun to think critically about how I should live my life.

But I must not forget that I am fortunate to have this opportunity.

To be able to take risks and design my desired lifestyle.

Let's make the most of 2019! 

To Flexibility and Freedom,

Tom

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