Since leaving the full-time workforce and beginning to explore the world, I feel life a lot more vividly. And over time, the negatives feel less alarming, as they’re enshrouded by positivity.
Back when I worked in an office, my range of emotions about work and business was narrow. I’d be bored from being in a lull period, stressed because of an upcoming project, or satisfied that it was finished. Then bored again.
But working for myself (or rather, for ourselves), and exploring not just the world but all the ways I can live in it, has brought many highs and lows.
Positivity and optimism are values that can be transformative in how we appreciate the world. One of my favourite things about Americans is how optimistic they are — there’s a general sense that things will turn out for the best. (Here’s my list of things I like about America, including optimism.)
Well, I’ve tried to capture that (often unearned) optimism and use it to my advantage. Here’s why, and how.
Experiencing Positivity in Downturns
The lows of entrepreneurship are the usual ones. Revenue drops. Business partners ditch entire streams of income, like when Airbnb ditched its affiliate service (the “Associates” program). Technical faults arise, like the time I brought down my own site’s traffic.
But they’re enshrouded by a context that’s super interesting. Lows feel less like doom, and more like the potential for a turnaround. It’s not just from tangible things like business opportunities or things taking off. Sometimes there’s a palpable thickness to the air, when I feel like things are coalescing… when I can feel that it’s all coming together, and we’re on the verge of something truly great.
I’m experiencing one of those moments of positivity right now, which is why I’m writing this. But I’ve had others, and what I want to do is to plan to have them again, and expect them.
Even though I feel a potency in the air, it’s not like everything is even going swimmingly, by the way. External signs are bad, and once upon a time, I’d have panicked.
Traffic to all of our sites is down. Development on our new app is slow. Revenue is back at 2021 levels — it should be double that amount.
At the same time, though, there are just so many indications that things are going well.
Searching for Silver Linings
Here are a few “silver linings” that give me that feeling of positivity.
Firstly, our app is in progress. It’s still under wraps, but it’s a language learning app that’s going to turn the model on its head. It’s way simpler than everything else out there, and yet will be much more “effective”. I can’t wait to release it.
But in the meantime, developing the app is costing us over $20K to develop and we have to write basically a whole textbook of content for it. Yikes!
Secondly, even though traffic to our sites is down, we keep getting indicators that people really like them.
For my motorcycle blog, I’ve got my first press motorcycles coming up, starting with Harley-Davidson. I plan on adding a few others to my portfolio — I’ll try to stick to the premium brands.
Recognition and praise take a long time to accumulate. People need to get comfortable that you’re going to stick around.
And finally, more intangibly, even though traffic is dropping (partly a seasonal effect), I’ve noticed that the Motofomo brand is getting more and more recognition. There are social shares and engagement that I don’t even spur. People write to me and tell me they love it, and they specifically mention what’s different about it, highlighting what I also think are its key differentiators.
I’ve had a few meetings with people in the motorcycle world where I’ve just introduced myself as “Hi, I’m Dana and I write Motofomo,” and that’s all I’ve needed to say. It’s pretty amazing, as five years ago I not only was unknown in the motorcycling world, I didn’t even know much about motorcycles. Now I know a little, but not even enough to know how little I know.
Anyway, it’s all difficult to describe. I’m not normally a person brimming with unbridled positivity. But lately, something is giving it to me.
I do wonder where the positivity comes from and how to keep it. Some of it is from external sources. But some of it is what I seek.
So, hard times come with a shroud of positivity. The question is: How can I get more positivity? Here’s where it came from, and how I will seek more of it.
Partly, positivity comes from experience. Which usually means time and tenacity.
We’ve now been running our website/app online business for five years (oops, should have celebrated an anniversary). In five years we’ve had quite a few highs and lows. But I’ve had enough lows to know that not every downturn is a death knell for our business.
Secondly, positivity comes from integrity, by which I mean belief in what one does.
One of the things I most believe in is constantly believing in what I’m doing. This means that every article has to be honest and a best effort; there are no “nearly finished” publications. I never churn out press releases or pander to evanescing fads. I think of every article as being potentially the only one a reader has found on my site — it has to speak for my whole brand.
The same goes for our apps, for new sites we start, and so on. If it’s not worthy of putting our name on it and showing it to our friends, it shouldn’t exist.
“Integrity” means that it’s easy to keep going when traffic drops. I can tell myself “Our thing’s good. The public and Google will figure it out later.”
Finally, positivity comes from not overextending ourselves.
Years after starting our business, we still live relatively frugally. Yes, we live largely in Airbnbs or short-term rentals, and that gets expensive. But we maximise time living in affordable countries, and we stretch our dollar in the expensive ones.
So for example, we can live as a couple comfortably under US$2,500 a month in places like Turkey, Argentina, and Mexico (the latter of which we haven’t done yet), including all expenses. All those places have a reasonably high quality of life, are safe, and stable enough — though Turkey and Argentina are experiencing hyperinflation (mid-double to low triple digits) in 2023.
When we live comfortably below our means, we never panic when things go awry. And then when things go well, it’s a bonus. Meanwhile, life stays good.
The best part is that unlike a regular job, when we’re doing our own thing there’s unlimited upside. And it always seems like it’s around the corner.