10th July, 2016
10th July, 2016
I recently received an email from TU Delft (Delft University of Technology, Netherlands) celebrating 1 million enrollments in their MOOCs program — an effort to open education and allow learners from all around the world to gain access to TU Delft professors’ knowledge and expertise.
One million enrollments is impressive, even by MOOCs standards. Equally impressive, at least to me, is the diversity of learners enrolling in the various courses offered, with learners from 229 countries and ages 8-94. Here’s an infographic with a lot more data.
The keyword here is enrollment. One data point I wish to know, but which was curiously absent from the slew of data presented in their infographic, is course completion rate. That is, out of the 1 million course enrollments, how many followed through to the end of the course… submitting all assignments and writing all exams (wither they attained the minimum pass mark or not)?
Curious George yearns to know.
After I published my diatribe on why 2015 was such a stale year for me financially, I found my inner critique yelling at me for passing the buck — blaming external factors for my failures — when I knew deep down that there are other, perhaps bigger, internal issues responsible for my abysmal financial performance in 2015.
And with 36 years of experience, I’ve come to realize whenever Inner Joe speaks, I better listen. So I’ll fess up right here and now.
Yes, I couldn’t be as productive as I could have been in 2015 due to the electricity problems I so laboriously and eloquently articulated. Yes, the depreciation of the Cedi ate further into my already razor-thin margins. Yes, all these and more external influences teamed up to mess up my year. But that’s only one-half of the story.
The other, and perhaps the bigger, reason for my inability to make any meaningful progress in 2015 is my own ongoing internal struggle for clarity and focus.
I’ve no doubt that clarity and focus are important qualities for success. For, how can you march forward with gazelle intensity if you’re uncertain of your destination? How do you even know which way to turn?
I have first-hand experience with the amazing power of clarity and focus. In my professional life, I’ve been able to move mountains, cross oceans, conquer giants and solve really big problems when I have absolute clarity of purpose and I’m totally devoted to the cause.
But when it comes to my own life, where clarity and focus matter the most, I’ve struggled with clarity for as long as I’ve known the concept. And without clarity, it’s been impossible for me to focus on any particular endeavor, and thereby make any meaningful push forward.
In the latter part of the last year, I spent a whole month away from home and family and encamped myself in a tiny hotel room with one just goal: to finally chart a new career path for 2016. During this time I read books and articles, I listened to podcasts, I watched videos, I attended teleseminars — all on the subject of clarity. I really dug deep and wide in-between several cups of coffee and a whole lot of tears.
And the result of all that laboring? I can sum up the result of my month-long exercise, in terms of real progress, in just one word: None. Zero. Ziltch. Nada.
Sometimes it’s tough to set a clear goal because you don’t know what you’re getting into. This is doubly so when it comes to big decisions like what pursuit to devote your life to. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying.
I’m still on a wild hunt for clarity on this life’s — my life’s — purpose that’s so far eluded me. I’m still studying. I’m still digging inside. I’ve even joined two group coaching programs run by two of very successful businessmen I respect so dearly (but haven’t met before). And most important of all, going forward, I’ve decided to take imperfect action.
Rather than set goals around a clear life purpose (something which has eluded me so far), my immediate goal now is the pursuit of clarity itself. It’s as much about the journey as the destination. The one gift I’m absolutely clear on is having the heart of a teacher, and rather than wait till all the lights turn green, I’m taking imperfect action by exploring and experimenting in order to gain clarity within this space.
Doing what you’re already doing won’t give you more clarity. Thinking about what to do next and writing down some goals can certainly help, but that isn’t always enough. Sometimes you have to get moving first before clarity can be achieved. You’ll enjoy more clarity when you’re in motion than when you’re standing still. A pilot has better visibility from the air than from the ground. Why not take imperfect action today?
These are the imperfect actions I’m taking this week:
What imperfect actions are you taking this week to move forward with your life, career, or business dreams? Kindly share them in the comments section below.
I wrote this on Christmas eve, 2015, but never had the courage to put it online. Until now.
It’s Christmas day tomorrow.
I packed my backpack some two weeks, bid goodbye to house and family, and checked myself into a little room in a not-so-little hotel off the Aburi Road in Accra, Ghana. I came here to reflect and take stock of my life through the past 11 months of the year, close the lid on some still lingering projects, and finalize my goals for the coming year — along with a plan of action to accomplish those goals.
Taking Stock Of The Past Year
Throughout the year I’d aways known that things were not going well for me financially, at least not as well and as fast as I’d hoped, for considering how much effort I put in and the great cost to other areas of my life.
But I didn’t realize the full extent of this slowdown until I started crunching the numbers and consciously reflecting upon the year we’re about to leave behind.
For the readers new to this blog, I’m an independent IT consultant presently live in Accra, Ghana. For the past 3 years, the entire nation has been experiencing an acute power shortage that has been dubbed DUM-SOR (literally, OFF-ON). In the best of times, I experience 24 hours of total blackout followed by 12 hours with stable power. I say “best of times” because often the scheduled 12 hours of power ends up being less than 8 hours because the power will come on an hour or two later than scheduled, go off an hour or two earlier than scheduled, and fluctuate several times in-between.
How does one bootstrap a business to success in such an environment?
As you can imagine, this has had a crippling effect on the whole economy, but more so for small businesses like my little IT consulting operation that relies 100% on power and the Internet to deliver value to clients before I can make a single cent.
In addition to not being able to deliver enough value to my clients so I can be paid accordingly, these clients themselves have been hit equally badly. Before DUM-SOR I had 11 local managed services clients. Of these 3 have failed and folded completely, and 5 are in SURVIVAL MODE now — having downsized and cut off all but the most critical stuff, including my services to them, just to keep the ship afloat until Godot arrives.
The continued rapid depreciation of the Cedi, our national currency, has also punched its own holes into my already punctured pockets. I rent servers and pay for various online services in US$, but I have to bill most clients in the local currency. This alone has drained my profits to a razor-thin line, as I’ve been unable to raise fees month after month for clients whose tabs are already hovering on the CANCEL button.
The Government, on the other hand, showed no remorse in hiking utilities 3x during the past year in spite of the many structural issues facing businesses — the afore-mentioned power problem, rapid depreciation of the currency, over 30% interest rate on borrowing, 17% inflation rate, etc — but that’s how far I’ll go with political rants on this blog.
So, in a nutshell, it’s been a tough year for everyone in Ghana, but more so for small services businesses and independent knowledge workers, including yours truly — and I’m ending the year with nothing to show for all the sleepless nights and hours of daily commute “chasing” electrical power just so I can get some work done.
Charting A New Path To Freedom
2015 has been a tough one financially. And as you likely realize, wherever financial stress goes, there you’ll also find all kinds of issues. So it should come as no surprise to know that I also experienced a great deal of turmoil in practically every other area of my life.
Albert Einstein is widely quoted to have said that insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. If I’m going to thrive in the new year and make major strides toward my long term goals, something’s got to change: me, my environment or both.
2016 is an election year in Ghana, and two things are likely to happen on the political front: a) the government is going to find a stop-gap, short-term and very costly solution to the power issue, and b) the government is going to print a whole lot of money to fund their campaigns.
Both of these actions are likely to have the effect of exacerbating whatever problems we have, now post-election, no matter who emerges the victor.
Of the government, what it does, and the consequences of its actions, I’ve no control over — at least that’s not a battle I want to fight in this lifetime. That leaves me as the only factor I can control to make the desired outcomes in my life happen.
And that’s why I’m here, at the last stretch of the year, alone in a tiny hotel room, to chart a new path and design processes to deliver amazing value to the world in exchange for a commensurate reward — my preferred path towards financial freedom.
Statutes fill niches in walls.
Animals fill niches in ecosystems.
Products fill niches in markets.
– Eben Pagan (Niche Intelligence Report)
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
After yesterday’s post one of the three or so regular readers to this blog (not counting Google Bot 🙂 ) as how far I’ve going with the WordPress course. So I decided to publish my response here for the benefit of the other two.
My original plan was to release the course by year’s end. But there’s been so many turns and twists along the journey that my new release date is far towards the end of Q1 2016.
The main only reason for the delay is my own extreme naivety: my lack of experience in this business made me grossly underestimate both the sheer amount of work involved and the number of different hats that one must wear in order to ensure success with an information product.
In just a few more days we’ll close the lid on 2015 and usher in a new year. Are you on track to achieving your most significant goals for 2015? And have you started or even completed your goals for 2016 and a plan of action to achieve those goals?
I’m writing this post from Meaglent Hotel in Accra, Ghana. I came here some three weeks ago for what has become my end of year ritual: to formulate a plan of action for the coming year, and complete the still lingering projects that I don’t want to carry along into the new year.
This ritual also includes a whole lot of closures: of personal pet projects, of once-glittering-but-now-dull business opportunities, and of relationships — in both the personal and professional arenas. I even drop gurus to make way for new ones. I try my best to keep my plate as clean and shiny as possible, so I can have full energy and clarity to enter the new year.
So what’s on the table for 2016? Unlike previous years when I made a long list of goals, this time around I’ve picked just one area to focus all my energies with gazelle intensity. I’m spending 2016 to nurture, develop and make to shine what I consider (and have been reminded by close friends in a recent survey I did) to be my number one natural gift: TEACHING.
Like Jonah in the Bible, after years of running away from my calling and endlessly chasing my own tail, I’m finally settling down to being whom I was meant to be, doing what I was meant to do, and living the life I was meant to live — the life, on my death bed, I’d regret not living.
That’s a mouthful and a very deep statement, but that’s exactly what I’m doing in 2016 and beyond. In fact, I’ve been tooling up for a while now. The WordPress course I announced recently is a piece of the puzzle — though a very tiny piece of the whole.
So that’s what I’ve been up to. What about you? Are you ready for the new year, 2016?
I couldn’t wait for someone to discover me and write about what I’m doing, so here I am letting the cat out myself: I’m building my very first digital product — an informational product targeted at the awesome WordPress® community; specifically, the folks I like to call Accidental Webmasters.
I’m not entirely new to making money on the Internet. It’s nearly ten years since I purchased georgeappiah.com, and I’m very certain I built a site or two before purchasing my namesake domain name. Back then AdSense was this monetization model made in Heaven, and I made the best I could of it with the dozen or so websites that I built (and sold or abandoned). This, in spite of my peculiar crime of being resident in sub-Saharan Africa.
But it’s 2015 now, and while advertising still powers a large portion of the Internet, it’s extremely difficult now for the little guy in pyjamas to make any meaningful income by simply slapping Google AdSense or advertising banners on a little website.
So after identifying my WHAT and considering several options, I’ve decided to devote the rest of this year and the whole of next year to a brand new pursuit: developing my very own info product line and building an awesome tribe around everyone’s favorite content management system, WordPress®.
Here are the 10 reasons (in no particular order) I came up with that finally got me convinced that building my own informational product line is the right career move:
While I don’t expect to become an expert in all these, I hope to know enough to know what I don’t know, and how to get help with these known unknowns or conscious competencies.
But by packaging my knowledge and skills into products, when people come to me for help I can simply refer them to these products (free or not), with 100% assurance that the product indeed will help them solve their specific problem. This way, I can help more people and more causes without being there in person.
Sure, you don’t have to create your own products or start a business to make such connections. But these are certainly credibility boosters and can serve as the key that opens the door to some close-knit guru networks.
My goal here is to
make a dent in the universe make valuable connections within the WordPress and Internet Marketing communities.
That’s why, for my next year’s activities, I’ve cut back 90% of all engagements. Sorry if you received that mail from me, but this ship was headed for the rocks and I had to do something. By cutting back on these fruitless engagements, I can now devote more time to develop my own products: something specific with a clearly defined beginning and end, and with most of the key steps under my own control.
The sense of accomplishment that comes with succeeding at this task will help me exhale, breathe deeply, relax and sleep soundly. My mind will then be free to focus on other pursuits, and I have no doubt instead of feeling like a cog in a wheel, I’ll go to bed with a high sense of accomplishment and wake up feeling re-charged, in balance and ready to face another day.
All that is changed now. While I still offer tremendous value to people and organizations for free, I am now being very strategic in this (cutting down whopping 90% of my engagements) in a bid to leverage the goodwill I’ve built over the years and reinvent myself into a profitable teaching practice.
I’ve also always been a teacher at heart (no, not the chalk and talk type). And with the Internet being my playground, I’m now focused on leveraging my God-given talent as a teacher, acquired knowledge and skills, and my favorite medium of the Internet to reinvent my life once more, to deliver valuable life-altering lessons to hard-working people all over the world, and build a new career in the process. The current project at hand is only the beginning of this journey.
So the die is cast and the hard work of developing a new product has just begun. Subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed or my join my mailing list and ride along with me as I develop a new info product from idea to launch and cha-ching!
It’s nearly three months since my last post on this website. Despite my desire to write more often, Life keeps getting in the way. And it appears that the harder I try, the bigger, badder and meaner becomes the roadblocks that Life erects in my way.
I spent most of the past three months frantically battling an incidence of foreign body stuck in my throat. This was brought on by my own stupidity, that I know. But due to unnecessary delays caused by healthcare providers who simply can’t be made to care, the little strand of wire migrated into soft tissues of my neck. And, tell you what, it’s not been fun at all.
And when just when I thought I’d gotten my own situation under control and could go philandering, the little one also got stricken with a terrible bout of common cold.
I hear you… common cold is common enough and nothing to worry about. Except when the patient is an eight
year month old baby who is yet to learn basic survival skills in life, like talking or breathing through the mouth.
And once again, Ghana’s healthcare system  let us down completely.
Oddly enough, the knowledge that I cannot depend on even the nation’s highest-rated healthcare providers has become a most powerful driving force in my life, constantly urging me towards making positive lifestyle changes. Gone is my short-lived addiction to Lucozade Original, no more sugars in bed, and hello mindfulness. I’m even looking into various financial instruments and talking to
used car salesmen life insurance companies.
Turns out, that which does not kill us makes us stronger; and facing our own mortality can help us make conscious choices to live more fully.
 use “healthcare system” rather than naming individual hospitals because I’m convinced the problem is a systemic one and is endemic everywhere. In both cases cited above, we dealt with multiple hospitals and clinics,