Turning despair into success – A blogging story

The year 2006 was not a great year for me or my family. This will sound strange, but I’m so glad it happened. What? Let me explain…

November, 16 2006 – I lost my job and one of my son’s, at the age of 6, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. These events literally occurred on the same day only hours apart.

Once the shock subsided, panic set-in. My wife and I were living paycheck to paycheck, and just barely doing that. We had over $50,000 in debt, excluding our mortgage, and about $20,000 of that was credit cards. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Stupid times a thousand doesn’t even cover it.

Picking myself up and brushing off my knees

When my first son was born (I have 6 kids) and started walking, he would often fall, as little toddlers do. He would start to cry, even though he wasn’t really hurt. I started something with him – when he would fall, I would say “You’re all right, come on, get back up, brush your knees off and let’s go“. I would take my hands and brush of my knees, and he would get up and do the same. I didn’t realize how important this little saying would become, not only to him, but to me.

When all of this happened, and I began to fear about the days to come, I panicked. Ever get so scared you could barely breath? That happened too me often in the first few days. As I thought about my son, my job (or lack thereof) and then began to think of how I would put food on the table, keep the bills current and payoff the quickly growing medical expenses my son was incurring, I literally couldn’t breath. Faith is important to me, and a significant part of who I am. I believe to this day that God carried me through these moments – because I barely remember them. My faith got me through, but my oldest son got my attention and snapped me back into reality.

I came home one day, depressed and upset. He was 11. He asked me what was wrong. I told him some of the things I was concerned about, and why I was upset. He looked at me, and said:

Dad, get up and brush your knees off. That’s what you always told me to do“. He even brushed at his knees with his hands.

Quote: "Get back up and brush your knees off"I stood there, in awe of what he just said. Then I started to cry and as I type this, I’m crying. Pride filled my heart in huge rush and still does to this day. I hugged him harder than I probably ever have in my life then.

In that moment, I realized that unless I did something, unless I got control, things wouldn’t change. My families future was in jeopardy, and I would NOT let them down.

Getting control

Far too often, bad things happen to people and those bad things define them. I was not going to let that happen to me or my family. Sure, I messed up, messed up big time, but there was a way out. Armed with my faith and determination, I set out to make things better, one small step at a time.

I realized three very critical things: 1) I needed income and quick, 2) I had to get our finances turned around and 3) I didn’t want to put my income in the hands of one company every again.

I started looking around and interviewing for jobs right away. Fortunately being towards the end of the year, the job market wasn’t great. Yes, I said: Fortunately – keep reading…

I used the spare time I had to read everything I could find about personal finance. This included websites, which I would later learn were called blogs. These blogs talked about being in debt, how common it was, and shared tips and strategies for getting out of debt. Being a person of faith, I also consulted my Bible and found a tremendous amount of wealth and wisdom to help me. I realized that there wasn’t really a blog that discussed personal finances coupled with Christian faith. Hmmm…

My first blog

I decided to start a blog myself. Not for others to read, but for me. I thought that by writing down what I was learning it would help me in my journey. That night, I was reading Proverbs and came across Proverbs 13:11 – “He who gathers money little by little, makes it grow“. That was me. That was what I needed to do, and Gather Little by Little would be the name.

I worked late into the evening to get the blog set-up. Fortunately I’m a software developer, so figuring it out wasn’t too hard. The next day, I wrote blog articles most of the day – My first 10 or so articles were steps for getting your finances under control. Steps I was not only sharing, but steps I was going to follow.

And for the third item I realized: never wanting to put my income in the hands of others – Well, it solved itself..

Gather Little by Little grows.. and grows

I continued to write on Gather Little by Little, knowing that probably only my Dad and wife were reading. Since I didn’t think anybody else would read it, I shared a lot of personal stories and detail. Ironically enough, this was one of the key things that made people read my blog. I really put myself out there, which allowed people to relate to me. They realized I was a real person, just like them.

I was not only writing, but was reading as well. I was reading tons of articles everyday from other personal finance blogs and absorbing every bit of information I could. I started commenting on some of the bogs, letting the blogger know I appreciated their article and how it was helping me. Then, a few days later, I got a few comments on my blog! I cannot even tell you how thrilled I was that someone read my article and commented on my blog! Then, I got scared – wait- people are actually reading this stuff?

I kept at it, and didn’t change my writing style. I kept it very personal. A few weeks later, another new personal finance writer named Pinyo sent me an email and asked me to be part of a blogging network he was forming. I agreed.

I joined a network called the M-Network. We had our own forum, where we talked about our blogs and shared our successes and failures. I learned from them how to increase traffic to my blog and also learned that I could make money from it as well. Turns out, making money from Gather Little by Little was the answer to not having all of my income in hands of one company.

As part of the M-Network, we linked to each other, wrote posts for each other, participated in group writing projects, promoted each other, and most importantly befriended each other. Being part of that little network was the most important step I took in growing Gather Little by Little (GLBL)

I started earning income from GLBL about 3 months in by selling text links (not something I recommend you do now). I think I sold my first link for $30. I was thrilled. I slowly added Adsense, affiliate offers, and private advertising. My readership continued to grow. I was in awe.

As Gather Little by Little grew, my debt went down. I put most of the earnings into paying off my debt using the Snowball approach from Dave Ramsey. We also sold our camper, my new truck and a number of other luxury items we didn’t really need. I paid cash for a high mileage used car. Funny, I loved that little car. All of that money went towards are debt too.

Oh, I almost forget – turns out I didn’t lose my job after all. The company changed their minds a few weeks later and kept me on. By that time, I was so addicted to blogging, I kept at it, but part time.

We also moved. We rented out our house in the city, and moved to a small town in the mountains. We bought a house on the side of a mountain, in a remote, but not too remote location. See, part of our financial problem was “keeping up with the Jones” syndrome. I wanted no part of that anymore. We love our new town, our mountain, and our view.

I sold Gather Little by Little in 2009 for between $25,000 and $30,000 (I cannot disclose the actual amount). The decision to sell was hard.. Really hard, but it allowed my wife and I to pay off our remaining credit card debt and to be debt free except our mortgage.

That little blog, changed my life.

Today

Fast forward to today. I still work for the same company that almost let me go, but I also continue to blog at Side Income Blogging where I teach others how they can start a money making blog. I also do a fair amount of blog design and development, helping others out with the more technical details of their blogs. I steadily earn about $1000 – $2000 per month in addition to my full-time income. I continually work to increase this.

As for my 6 year old son who was diagnosed with diabetes? He’s now 13 and a typical teenager. He’s had a few rough times and my wife and I gained a few extra gray hairs, but overall he’s doing really well. I am very proud of him, he is the strongest kid I know.

Isn’t it funny how what seems like one of the most difficult times in your life, can turn out to be the turning point for an incredibly positive change in your life? That time that seemed so dire and hopeless instead leads to success and happiness? Perhaps you think it was luck, maybe just plain hand-work, or maybe a little of both…

Me? I know it was my faith and my family. I thank God for both.

Turning despair into success - A blogging story by
  • Paula

    Awesome honesty

  • http://www.biblemoneymatters.com Money Matters

    Thanks for sharing a bit of the behind the curtain on how you started your blog. Your site was one of the first ones i started reading back when I was thinking about starting my own. In fact I count your blog as one of my blog inspirations, i remember reading on your site how you were making a bit of extra money from your blog, and talking about how you were using that as a way to help you get out of debt. It inspired me, and shortly thereafter I started my own site. Next week I’ll celebrate my 5 year bloggiversary!

    We’ve been able to weather some of our own storms, and use what we’ve learned to come out the other side better and stronger as a family. So thank you for having a small part in changing my family’s lives as well!

  • Peggy Johnston

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. Money wise we are in the same position. I am a substitute teacher and my husband is a full time teacher. We two daughters and we take care of our parents. I just started blogging and I really enjoy it. I really need to find more time to do research and work on my writing style. There are times that I just want to give up but after reading your blog, I need to just keep digging away. Thanks again and I am so happy for your success.

  • Christopher Jennings Penders

    You said:
    Faith is important to me, and a significant part of who I am. I believe to this day that God carried me through these moments

    Reminds me of one of my favorite spiritual poems:

    Footprints:
    http://cjpwisdomandlife.com/2010/08/20/footprints-in-the-sand/

    Faith is extremely important to me to, Larry. There is no doubt in my mind that God watched over us and guides us through our challenges. As I’m fond of saying:
    When in the midst of a storm it is challenging for us to see land, to see the blessing, but 90% of he time once we clear the debris, once we’re through the storm we can look back and find find the blessing. I’m convinced God outs these challenges in our way to simply clear out the stuff we no longer need. That’s what a storm does anyway, right?

    Good for you that you were able to see this as well.

    Chris

  • Larry Deane

    @biblemoneymatters:disqus Pete – I remember you starting your site and remember us talking about it. I knew you would be successful, you had that spark. I really enjoyed watching your blog grow. Frankly, you and a few others are what inspired me to start Side Income Blogging – I loved helping others get their blogs going. Seriously, don’t thank me – it was pleasure. Just a friend helping a friend.

    @google-e530a2e90936f37d9360c84d60df1623:disqus – That is my favorite as well and frankly where that came from. I believe that God carries us through circumstances far more often than we realize. Thanks for your comment.

    @google-2ef849099d3b3d0c8abf37aa0299acd9:disqus What separates the great bloggers from the ones that quit is a combination of experience, persistance and talent. Just keep at it, and you will be successful.

    @7a18db45c9405ae51d93642e54fd02be:disqus Thank you, it’s hard for me to be any other way. I feel like if we aren’t straight up with other and honest about our lives with others, we’re just living a lie.