“I have 30 days of oxygen.”
That was what I told myself at the end of January. I had enough money to live for another 30 days and that was it. I was broke.
When I started Willpowered in October, I knew that this day was coming. I had a big circle on my calendar for March. March was when I was going to run out of the money I had saved to take the leap and fully commit to Performance Psychology.
It was sink or swim time.
I had to either admit that once again I had failed as an entrepreneur and go back to being a marketing consultant, or I had to figure out how to pay the bills for next month from Willpowered.
A BLEAK SITUATION
Willpowered had been steadily growing up until that point. In fact, it had been growing about twice as fast as a “normal blog” would. However, most of this traffic came at the beginning of January when everyone was setting resolutions for the New Year.
Since this time, though, my traffic was slowly declining from about 2,000 visitors per day down to below 1000 by the end of the month. On the day that I realized it was time to sink or swim, I was down to 700.
There were few reasons to believe that I would be able to live beyond the 30 days. My traffic was declining, New Year’s Resolutions were over and I was even getting a lower subscriber sign up rate. But somehow I knew that I would be able to find a way to make this work – and become a better person through the process.
Now, here I sit on April 6th. Not only was I able to figure out a way to pay my bills, but I also increased my traffic from 700/day to over 10,000/day, I increased my signup rate from 2.35% to 4.16% and, most important, I am receiving countless emails from subscribers telling me how learning the science of willpower is changing their lives and helping them achieve their goals.
I have never felt so proud in my life and I want to thank everyone who reads this blog for helping me turn my dream into a reality. Because now I can officially do this for a living.
Here are 5 powerful things I learned fighting to turn this blog into a living:
1. OVERNIGHT SUCCESS COMES FROM THE WORK YOU DID WHEN NO ONE CARED
There was one article that turned everything around for Willpowered. If you are reading this, it may have been the one that drove you to this site in the first place.
The article is 10 Daily Habits That Will Give You Incredible Willpower
It literally caused the site to go from 700/day to 3000/day in less than a week. This article alone now generates more traffic in a week than the entire site did in my first 4 months total!
Plus it has a higher subscription rate than any other page on the site. So not only does it bring in traffic, but it brings in quality traffic (like you :D)
This one article is the reason why I can sit here writing these words today.
It would be easy to write this off as luck, but this particular article took more than that. All 10 of those habits were curated from individual posts that I had previously researched and written about.
Long before I wrote the article that would be a huge success, were the hours of researching, writing, re-writing and publishing in front of a small audience to see which ideas resonated with people the most.
Had I not done all of that research, all of that writing and all of that re-writing when nobody really cared, I would not have been able to produce the article that would keep my bills paid.
When you are in the middle of the journey to your goal, your efforts can seem pointless. There is no realistic end in sight and you can become incredibly frustrated by your lack of results.
But if you stay persistent, your business will find its niche, your exercise routine will turn into a habit, and you will stop craving unhealthy food as much. Big successes are made from the efforts you put in when the results seemed hopeless.
2. THE HARDEST TASKS BRING THE BEST OUT OF YOU
When I had 30 days of cash left, I had two options: fight or flight. I could fight to keep Willpowered going or flee to the nearest marketing agency.
I chose to fight.
As soon I made that decision, I became incredibly focused. I couldn’t worry about fears of cold-calling people, I couldn’t worry about posting articles that would reveal my vulnerability and I couldn’t worry about what was happening with the Chicago Bulls. I was focused solely on paying the bills in March.
I had heard stories about how other entrepreneurs were on the brink of destruction as I was. Yet, somehow they were able to pick themselves up simply because there were no other options. They had to do it!
Until I was put in that exact same mindset, I did not truly appreciate how powerful this phenomenon was. Not only was I motivated to work harder and longer, but my creativity also improved. My brain could no longer make excuses and was devoting all energy to solving the problem. 
When you are pursuing something with all of your fiber, all of your heart, and all of your creativity, you will find that you are capable of some very special things.
3. USE YOUR WILLPOWER TO BE VULNERABLE
The second big success that led to me being able to do this for a living was when I shared How I Scientifically Created a Habit of Exercising. The image of which is my “before and after” photo.
Usually I like to keep my articles focused on the science of willpower and you, the reader. I’m not a big fan of the “spotlight”. Sharing my own willpower struggles with you was difficult – especially adding the “before and after” photo.
But after talking with my friend and fellow blogger, Ben Austin, I was convinced I needed to make myself more vulnerable. Ben mentioned that his favorite article on the site was What I Learned Going From 334th to 7th in the Spartan Race because I was open and honest about my own challenges.
Lo and behold, now both of those articles are in my Top 10 List.
So often we fear opening ourselves up to others about our challenges. We ask a friend how they’re doing and the answer is always “great”. But what if you were to open up to your friend and tell them about your current struggles? I guarantee that friend not only opens up back to you, but that your relationship becomes stronger because of it.
Being vulnerable is scary. We are concerned about others’ opinion of us because that opinion once meant the difference between being in a safe tribe and being left to survive on our own. So we boast, brag, and embellish the truth, when expressing our vulnerabilities may actually make us more likable in the end. 
So open yourself up to being vulnerable. Start your own blog to express your opinions, go to the gym even though you feel out of place, and share your challenges with your friends – it is proven that your best friend is often the one with the best advice for you. 
4. A GREAT PURPOSE IS THE MOST POWERFUL MOTIVATOR OF ALL
I have said it many times on this site, but it is absolutely true: a great purpose is the most powerful human motivation of all. When I was choosing whether to fight or take flight, I thought about the people that have emailed me over the last 6 months.
I thought about how effective knowing the science of willpower is. I thought about how I have the ability to communicate it to thousands of people who are struggling to achieve their goals. But I can only do that if I figure out a way to pay next month’s bills.
This purpose kept me going through it all. It not only motivated me to keep working, to keep researching, and to keep writing, but more importantly it stopped me from taking the easy way out by going back to marketing.
Do not underestimate the power of a great purpose. When we are fighting for a purpose that is bigger than ourselves, we find a power deep within us that is bigger than ourselves.
Scientifically, when are fighting for a great purpose, we activate a part of the brain that energizes and enables us known as “Want Power”. This creates a rush of energy as you begin to believe that you really can achieve your goal. 
Your purpose does not need to be grandiose in order to be effective. Something as small as training for a 5K is a great purpose for you to put on your running shoes. Being a good role model for your kids is a great purpose to quit smoking. And pursuing a dream, no matter how big or small, is a great purpose for living life.
5. WIN EVERY DAY
When I first started Willpowered, I set a daily goal of writing 1,000 words every single day. That would be my daily win – my “checkmark on the day”. That was by far the best decision that I have yet to make for Willpowered.
On good days, I wrote 1,000 words. On bad days, I wrote 1,000 words. On Christmas I wrote 1,000 words and after a Spartan Race I wrote 1,000 words. Some of these words were good; most of them were deleted through the editing process. But it didn’t matter how good they were, they just had to be written.
This helped me to become a better planner because I had to make sure I had enough time to write. This helped me to become a writer, as I got better at telling stories and connecting them to ideas. And this helped me to become a better editor, as I learned which words were worth keeping. But most importantly this helped me create a better blog.
Because I was better at planning, writing, and editing, my articles continued to improve. Then one day I was finally able to write an article that took Willpowered to the next level.
Most of us set huge goals that are months or years away: to “get 10,000 subscribers” or “get daily traffic of 5,000” by a certain date. If I had done this, I would not have known where to start. I would have been completely discouraged at the very beginning when I was only getting 2 or 3 subscribers per day.
Instead I focused on 1 daily goal. I knew that if I just write 1,000 words per day that eventually the results I wanted would come. And, unlike the goals above, I have control over my own ability to write 1,000 words. So I was able to achieve my goal and grow confidence with each passing day.
So often we set a huge goal to “lose 10lbs”, to “get a promotion” or to “learn a new language” without focusing on what we need to do today to get them done. Then when we don't see the results we want coming any time soon, we get frustrated and lose hope.
Winning every day changes this perspective. Instead of focusing on the huge goal of losing 10lbs, just focus on making it to the gym today. Instead of focusing on the huge promotion, just focus on going the extra mile at work today. Then eventually 10, 20, 30 days will go by and you will start seeing the results you want.
The past 6 months have been a huge learning opportunity for me. When I quit my job and dedicated myself to this full-time I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had no idea how I would find an audience, or if anyone would even care about the science of willpower. But I knew I had to try.
If there is one common theme to what I have learned it is to stay true to yourself. When things were at their hardest, I turned to the one thing that I knew best - willpower. It helped me rise to the challenge and get to the point where I can do this for a living.
Finally, I want to thank you. I am truly grateful to have you as a reader. And I am ecstatic that I can continue to share the simple strategies you can use to strengthen your willpower based on real, scientific information.
- Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2013). Decisive. New York: Crown Business.
- Dunbar, R.i.m. "TSB: Mind, Language, and Society in Evolutionary Perspective." Annual Review of Anthropology 32.1 (2003): 163-81.
- McGonigal, K. (2012). The willpower instinct: How self-control works, why it matters, and what you can do to get more of it. New York: Avery.