Monday, November 28, 2016

A Rewarding Visit with Influential Writer/Entrepreneur Charles Chu, Including 4 Tips for Bloggers

I discovered the blog of Charles Chu by coming across an article he wrote about mental resilience and the techniques Navy SEALs use to develop it. The article struck me as not only useful, but engaging enough to make me want to explore more about the author. Its home was a blog with the intriguing title Market Meditations.

EN: Where did you grow up and how has your family influenced who you are?

Charles Chu: I was born in the United States to Chinese immigrant parents. My parents were extremely poor and came to the US in search of a better life. It's the classic immigrant story. I grew up with a Chinese cultural environment at home but a very American one everywhere else. There was always a sense of not belonging and not fitting in. That made me ask a lot of questions about human nature, how the world works, etc.

EN: How long have you been writing your Market Meditations blog? What was its original purpose and how has it evolved?

CC: Funny story. The original blog was meant to be about finance, particularly global macro trading. That's why the word "Market" is in the title. That was one of the dozens of failed experiments I've had.

The real blog (as you know it) has only been around for two months. I was answering questions on Quora, and I was surprised to find that over one million people read my answers in a single month! That was the proof I needed that people like the way I think. I take a different approach to challenges (both philosophically and technically), and that reflects in the success the blog is seeing.

EN: Where did your belief that "success can be engineered" originate?

CC: Few people know this, but I come from a mathematical background. I used to do math competitions in grade school. I've also dabbled in poker and equity trading. If you look at successful performers in this field (or any field), they share common philosophies and attributes. And when you study the failures, they tend to lack these same qualities.

Success in investing or gambling is typically attributed to "luck", but the best know that it is engineered. You can create conditions to maximize the probability of profit (or success, in our case). Afterwards, all that is left is to survive long enough for results to start coming in.

EN: Who are some of the great thinkers whose ideas you deconstruct and share?

CC: Anyone who inspires me. The blog hasn't been around that long, but I've looked at statesmen (like Ben Franklin), writers (like Isaac Asimov), marketers (like Seth Godin), and even Hedge Fund managers (like Stanley Druckenmiller).

EN: What was your method for generating blog traffic?

CC: I can't cover this in detail without several dozen pages, but let me outline the general concepts.

• I borrow traffic. I write 90%+ of my stuff off the blog. Why? Because posting things on a blog shows it to nobody (except for your existing readership). You have to find places where people gather, show your work to them and give them a way to come to your site.

• I don't use SEO. For new bloggers, SEO is like picking pennies in front of a steamroller. You can do hours and hours of research to target keywords that bring 100-200 readers a month. I could spend that time engineering a hit on Reddit, Quora or another social sharing site and bring in 10-20 thousand readers instead.

• I find the right audience for my work. If I write something about minimalism or frugality, I'm not going to promote it to an advertising channel. It's not my right audience. I write about what interests me. This tends to fall into several core categories. The rest is just about finding where those people gather and showing them your work.

• I don't network. One of my posts was recently featured on the NY Observer. The editor emailed ME to ask to republish it. All I have to do is focus on putting my work out in public and making it top 1% in quality. Why spend hours pitching editors and other bloggers with mediocre writing when I can put that time into making amazing writing that other people beg me to share?

EN: Excellent advice. What are your favorite topics to write about?

CC: I scratch my own itch. I have a long laundry list of exciting ideas, but here are some—entrepreneurship, human nature, cognitive science, philosophy, biohacking, movement, productivity, world travel, risk-taking, guerrilla marketing, learning languages... I could go on forever.

My advice to other writers: if you want interest, you need to be interesting. And if you want to be interesting, be interested first. There are millions of other wannabe writers out there. What makes you the best in the world at what you do?

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Want more? Join 5000+ readers of the The Open Circle, a free weekly newsletter where Charles deconstructs great minds and shares actionable insights from his own crazy experiments. Join here.

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A lot of good suggestions here. Don't just read it. Ingest it and make it your own.


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