If you follow the personal finance blog-o-sphere (what an annoying word, btw…) you’ve no doubt stumbled onto the weird phenomenon that sprouts up every fall.
For one week every September-ish, you’ll notice your favorite personal finance blogs get eerily quiet. Then, they re-emerge, but they’re not talking about money anymore. Instead, they’re blasting your news feed about something called FinCon.
Contrary to the name, FinCon is not a scam from Finland. The term stands for Financial Conference, and basically, every year hordes of money bloggers descend upon an unsuspecting city and get to nerding out en masse.
They all seem to have a lot of fun, and last year I found myself peer pressured into making my first trek.
I even wrote a post about it. And to my surprise, I had an absolute blast!!!
BUT… I’m not going this year.
Which might sound peculiar, so allow me to explain. (And if you’re not a money blogger, fear not. This post isn’t actually about blogging. It’s really a cleverly disguised life lesson that anyone working towards a goal needs to hear.)
I’ve included a table of contents with this post, in case you want to skip to the part that applies to you:
What makes FinCon so cool (and who it’s best for)
Now is the part of the post where the person boycotting something popular goes on their rant about their terrible experience. They’ll stand on a moral high ground and tell you why you should never use that thingy-ma-bobber ever again.
But that’s not where we’re going with this.
In fact, for what it is, FinCon is amazing. It started as a handful of money bloggers meeting to hang out, and it’s grown into a convention of 2,000+ attendees, complete with big keynote speakers, huge stages, amazing sponsors, and even organized catering.
When I say FinCon is top notch, I mean it. For my real job (nope, blogging doesn’t count) I’ve been to multi-thousand-dollar trainings hosted by Ivy League Universities. And yet, FinCon is better organized.
In a perfect world with unlimited funds and unlimited vacation time, I’d be there every year. Because for the right person, FinCon is amazing.
1) The Blogger Whose Never Been Before – FinCon is a fantastic experience and everyone should go at least once.
2) The Brand New Blogger – If you’re not even sure where to start with this blogging thing, FinCon is packed with presentations and resources that will arm you with a tried and true roadmap straight from the most successful blogs. You’ll get to meet bloggers to bounce ideas off, and you’ll even meet other newbies just as confused as you are. You’ll no doubt leave motivated and ready to rock.
3) The Already Huge Blogger – If you’re already a Rockstar blogger, you’re good to go too! You’ll be able to meet other bloggers just as big as you are. You’ll find valuable partners to start projects with, connect with sponsors, and you can even start recruiting employees for your growing media empire, if you’re into that sort of thing.
4) The Social Butterfly – And if you’re a social butterfly, you can ignore all the blogging stuff and just spend every night getting wasted with your favorite online personas.
But, I’m Still Not Going.
When I went to my first FinCon last year, I fell somewhere in the middle. At the time, I’d been blogging away in my own little bubble for barely over a year. Sure, my blog had grown way faster than I imagined, but I still felt pretty clueless.
Like any passion, I’d done my research on blogging, but I figured there were definitely some insider secrets I didn’t know yet.
So, I took $700 of the site’s earnings (ouch!) and bought my $400 ticket and $300 airfare to FinCon.
I was excited to connect with experts and figure out all the things I was doing wrong. And I was looking forward to finding that secret to running the perfect blog, once and for all.
But I quickly realized something I never expected…
My “fast growth” was more like “rocket ship” growth. And I knew waaaay more about blogging than I gave myself credit for. In fact, people started asking me for advice, which I felt completely unqualified to give.
The price of FinCon’s admission was definitely worth reassuring myself that (to my huge surprise) I was on the right track. But it also taught me an even bigger lesson.
The Life Lesson that Applies to Anyone: There is no “secret” formula
Not to blogging, and not to any other goal in life.
I’m current addicted to NPR’s podcast “How I Built This.” (You might recognize the name from my post on Mark Cuban’s episode of the podcast)
The show interviews the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, and at some point, the host always asks each guest a similar question – “What’s your secret to success?” asked in one way or another.
And in one way or another, each entrepreneur’s answer is the always same:
- Hard work.
I’ve listened to over 20 episodes by now, and you’d expect one or two outliers just from basic statistics. And like clockwork, the answer never changes.
Either these entrepreneurs are clones, or we’re staring at an uncomfortable truth.
There is no “secret” to success. The framework is already in place, and chances are, you already know it.
And yet, that’s not what we want to hear.
We want to discover a magical distraction that unlocks the key to success. We want to dive head first into shiny new object syndrome – chasing that next project or strategy, only to quickly lose interest and start chasing the next thing.
“The answer is out there,” we think. “We just have to keep looking until we find it.”
So, we keep looking. And we keep searching. And we download podcast after podcast, read book after book, and yes, even visit blog after blog, hoping to find the magic bullet.
Less Distraction. More Action.
If you’ve done your baseline level of research on an idea, the diminishing marginal returns are huge.
- You can search the internet high and low for your final answer, but it will never come.
- You can read book after book, but they won’t have the answer.
- You can seek out speeches and mentors, but they’ll just repeat what you already know.
You can keep looking for that magic product or service, but you’ll be wasting your time.
Because you already have the answer.
I didn’t want to believe it, but I’ve known the secret to blogging since before I started a blog:
- Focus on how you can help people.
- Work hard creating content so amazing those people help promote it for you.
FinCon can rewrap that message in as many shiny packages as possible, but hearing that again probably won’t help me.
Sure, I’d certainly pick up a few new promotional and monetization strategies for the blog. But lord knows, the internet has enough blogs way too focused on monetization and not focused nearly enough on quality.
And of course, I’d love to spend a week seeing my awesome blogging friends again. (But if it’s fun I’m looking for, I could also throw a raging party for $700 and 3 days off work.)
But is any of that really going to move the needle on my goal of spreading the message of financial freedom? Or do I just need to stay focused and keep working hard?
Turn your goals into reality
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re not a blogger contemplating FinCon. But, you do have your own goals.
Think about those goals. Are you being distracted by shiny new object syndrome? Do you already know more than you give yourself credit for? Are you searching for answers when your time would be better spent taking action on all the incredible knowledge you already have?
This happens in investment all the time. New investors are (understandably) terrified of losing money. So even when someone has explained why index fund investing is the best, why Vanguard has the best index funds, and even how to choose a Vanguard index fund, they continue searching high and low for the perfect investment.
At some point, you have to take a leap of faith.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re hoping to invest in your first index fund, max out one or more of your retirement accounts, start a business, or just save more money. You probably already know the path you need to take. And chances are, it doesn’t start with another book, course, or conference.
Chances are, it starts with taking action today.
What goal are you overthinking?
PS – Despite this post’s title, I am 100% jealous of everyone who’s going to FinCon this year. If hanging out with money nerds for a week sounds like your idea of a good time, you can still buy your 2018 FinCon tickets here.