Three reasons why I had to make mistakes

THURSDAY, 7 JULY 2011

The last time I was in South Africa, my mother told me that my father was afraid that I was making the same mistakes as he did. I found it very interesting. Naturally I agreed with my mother, although my understanding of the issue was quite different.

If writing is the path I should take, the way of life that I have to follow, then it can be said that I had lost my way during the last five years (and a few months). It can then be said that I have indeed made the same mistake as my father, by doing what I thought was “right” according to the standards of other people – or maybe my own standards were somewhat compromised, but that’s a story for another piece.

Does that mean that the pursuit of profit over the past half-decade in more ways than I care to count has been a waste of time? I think not. Here are the reasons:

Reason one. I have learned how to publish my own writing. This includes everything from domain name registration to HTML and setting up WordPress sites, to preparing manuscripts for print-on-demand services like CreateSpace, CafePress and Lulu. There have also been lessons in marketing, and experience with social media that give you the opportunity to introduce yourself and exhibit your work to an audience anywhere in the world.

In short, I learned a lot about things I knew next to nothing about before I started learning about them as part of the process of making money on the internet.

Reason two. A few years ago I wrote about how out of place I felt in the so-called World of Money. I looked at people who had money, and I envied them for the apparent ease with which they moved around in this mysterious world. It was clear that they had mastered the right vocabulary, they knew the right actions to take to make money, and they obviously knew enough other people who possessed similar talents.

In this World of Money, I felt like the flustered, overwhelmed small town child who visits his cousins in the Big City.

Now, more than five years after starting my pursuit of profit and financial well-being, after reading (or at least downloading and sorting) hundreds of e-books on marketing and ways to make money, watching dozens of video tutorials, even serious investigations into the possibilities of online poker and Forex trading, I can say with a substantial degree of confidence that I no longer feel uncomfortable in the World of Money. More than that, I now see that what many of the people who had previously so impressed me with their supposed knowledge and money-making skills actually do every day is to just shut their eyes, throw the dice, and hope for the best.

Reason three. By the end of 2005, my inspiration for producing new material had begun to dry up. There was not much more I could or wanted to say about the many issues I had touched upon in my Personal Agenda project, and in the six months of writing that had followed its completion. Of course there were other topics I could have written about, but there was none that inspired me sufficiently, or about which I had enough confidence to write about.

Looking back, the many failures of the past five years, and the few – but significant – successes, as well as the wide range of subjects on which I have educated myself, and even people whom I have met through online forums and about whom I read, were exactly what I needed as a producer of literature.

Should I therefore have looked the other way in January 2006 when I caught a glimpse of that first of many ads that had wanted to sell me some instant wealth product? I sometimes wish I did. I sometimes wish I didn’t waste so much time on so much research and on so many projects that ultimately rendered absolutely no dividend – except for a cryptic side note that simply said, “This doesn’t work – or I can’t make it work.”

Before January 2006, I used to be confident about my choices. I regretted very few things that I had done or did not do. It is now clear that the last five years were a good education: By making mistakes similar to mistakes my father had made thirty or forty years ago, I’ve learned a few valuable lessons.

I’m even tempted to say I’m a better person because of it.

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