NICOLAS COLE

Writer

#ABookAWeek: Launch by Jeff Walker || "3 Years"

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Reading is a key component of learning. I do my best to read a book each week. And I'm always looking for new titles! To share your own book suggestions, use #ABookAWeek on Twitter or Instagram and tag me @NicolasCole77. If I choose your book, I'll tag you in the blog post!


As I get ready here to publish my first book, I have been reading a lot about how to execute a successful launch.  A few weeks ago, I was recommended by my buddy Leo (Founder of Mugsy Jeans) to check out Jeff Walker's Launch, and this past week I finally got around to reading it.  I've mentioned this a few times but, side note, if you struggle to read #ABookAWeek, I highly suggest getting a digital copy and reading it on your smartphone.  I read Launch every morning on the train on my phone.  Yes, I always prefer reading a physical book, but sometimes you just have to make it work—in my case, it was so cold last week in Chicago I didn't want to carry a book with me, so I just read it off my phone instead.

What makes Launch such a cool book is that the book itself does exactly what it preaches.  All throughout the book, Jeff Walker promotes his own funnels by linking to various pages on his website.  He says, "This is how a sales funnel works," and then on the next page he says, "If you'd like to know more about how I did this, download my free worksheet HERE."  In exchange for the free worksheet you provide your e-mail address, and wabam, now you're in his sales funnel.

Truthfully, I've been doing so much reading these past few weeks by guys like Noah Kagan, Bryan Harris from VideoFruit, etc., that a lot of Launch was just confirming what I had already learned.  It would have been a much better read if I had picked it up 2-3 months ago.  Still, if you are looking for more information on how to build an online business from the very beginning, this is a great place to start.  Very quick and easy read.

Want to join the #ABookAWeek club?  Submit below!  Every Sunday I give you a new book to read.

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"3 Years"

This month marks my three year anniversary at the ad agency and Think Tank I work at called Idea Booth.  Three years ago, I was a senior in college, I had long hair, I was thinking about competing in physique, I thought I was going to go to graduate school to continue studying creative writing, I was in a very serious relationship, and the only writing credential I had to my name was that at 17 years old I had a very popular World of Warcraft blog.  

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If three years ago you had told me I would be where I am today, I wouldn't have believed you. 

That first year working at Idea Booth was a whirlwind.  I started my internship in February, 2013.  I graduated college in May.  I went from intern to full-time hire in June.  I went to Costa Rica with my girlfriend end of July.  And we broke up middle of August. 

I then moved into a very tiny studio apartment early September.  This was my first time paying all my own bills, working full time, taking the leap from safe college student to living out in the real world.

Between September and January, all I did at Idea Booth was research.  I wasn't good for anything else.  I had no marketing experience, was hired on as an entry-level copywriter, and everything I wrote ended up being unusable because I had no concept of how to write for the industry.  Instead, I spent hours and hours every day reading about digital marketing and then sharing what I had learned with other employees working on bigger projects, trying to add value where I could.

Because I wasn't put on very many clients at first, the only way I could really test what I was reading and learning about was to try it on myself.  I had been reading a ton about how popular Instagram was getting (back in 2013, before Facebook bought them for a billion dollars) and so I decided to make an account for myself.  At first, I started using it to follow big names in the bodybuilding world.  But I had finally gotten to a place myself where I felt confident about my physique, so I decided to start posting my own fitness content.  I would study the people who I thought were doing it really well, and then I would try my best to emulate what they were doingwith my own unique twist.

Before the end of 2013, I had hit 10,000 followers. 

I tried everything.  Any idea I had, I gave it a go.  I posted pictures of me at the gym, explaining my workout for the day.  I posted recipes with a video of how to make the meal.  I reached out to any and every fitness page on Instagram and asked if they wanted to do a "shout for shout."  I reached out to blogs and offered to write guest posts where I could subtly promote my Instagram.  I reached out to local photographers and asked to collaborate, offering to give them credit on my page if they gave me credit on theirs.  I 'Liked' hundreds upon hundreds of photos in the #fitness category each day, hoping that someone else would see my 'Like' and then check out my page.  I hustled and I hustled hard, the majority of the work happening in the late hours of the night after a full work day.  I had learned that my Instagram audience responded best when I posted around 11:00p.m. at night, so that's when I would make my posts. 

When that Spring rolled around (May, 2013), I had grown so much through working at Idea Booth but also in building an audience for myself that I felt like I was ready for something new.  I won't lie, I was also still severely depressed from my last relationship ending the way that it did, and my long hair felt like I was carrying some sort of baggage that I wanted to let go.  So I cut it all off.  And not just that, but I went in a direction I had never felt comfortable to go in, and that was getting a haircut that required styling. 

Selfie 10 minutes after getting my hair cut.

Selfie 10 minutes after getting my hair cut.

There was something very symbolic in that choice, and it immediately had a drastic impact on my life.  I went from being this raggy-haired, André the Giant looking kid, to all of a sudden resembling something of a professional.

I felt like it was time to take this up a notch.  I worked really, really hard that next year.  I reached out to every photographer I knew with the hopes of making my Instagram content as good as it could possibly get.  I collaborated with other lifters in Chicago, going to the gym together, hitting a lift, and then posting pictures on each other's accounts.  I even flew down to Florida for a fitness shoot with one of the biggest names in fitness photography, Michael Anthony Downs.  It was a hectic but awesome year.

Fast forward to the middle of 2014, and I felt like I had plateaued.  My Instagram was over 15,000, but honestly, I had been moving so fast and juggling so many things at once that I felt like I hadn't picked my head up in months.  I had just been grinding and grinding away.  And when I did pick my head up, I realized I hadn't dated anyone in over a year.  I was averaging about 6 1/2 hours of sleep a night.  I was constantly exhausted and truth be told, I wasn't happy.  I felt like I was running in every direction but not getting anywhere.

One day, my good buddy, Michael Hogman, turned me on to Quora.  He said, as a writer, I would love the platform, and I spent a few months lurking and reading other people's answers.  I got hooked.  I thought it was one of the coolest things being able to get real information from someone who had actually lived the question someone else was asking.  It wasn't until the end of 2014 that I decided to post my own answer.

2 months later, and I went viral.  I wrote an answer to this question and it ended up on the front page of Reddit.  It now has over 1,000,000 views.

That weekend, my inbox flooded with people all asking the same question: "How did you go from skinny to shredded?"  I saw this as the next step, and I took it.  I spent two days working on three eBooks: my workouts, my nutrition plan, and my ab workouts, and by Sunday launched all three of them on a brand new website. 

By Monday, I had sold a few hundred copies in 10 different countries. 

As of today, I have sold copies in 50 different countries around the world.

It was that experience of seeing so many people all ask the same question that really motivated me to continue writing on Quora.  I saw that they awarded a Top Writer badge to the writers that provided the best answers, and of course the competitive part of me jumped out.  I wanted that badge.  I wrote every single day for almost six months, sometimes twice a day, three times a day, writing anything and everything I felt like I knew something about. 

Within 6 months, I had over 3,000,000 total article views.  I had answers republished in TIME, Inc Magazine, Forbes, Fortune, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and more. 

2 months after that, I received my first Top Writer badge.

A month after that, I had my answer to this question published in Quora's 2014 print anthology.  I have the book sitting on my desk right now.

And just this year (two weeks ago, actually) I launched my first online course: How To Be A Top Writer on Quora.

When I look back three years ago, I see a very different kid.  A good kid.  A kid that just wanted to write.  But also a kid that didn't quite know what that meant—he liked the "idea" of being a writer.  When I look at where I am now, and the fact that I can say I've been published in just about every top digital publication on the Internet, it's hard for me to really understand how I got here without taking the time to look at all the little choices I had to make along the way.  All the tiny habits that, at the time seemed inconsequential, but over 365 days had a huge, huge impact.  All the times I wondered if what I was doing was going to lead to anything, but doing it anyway because I enjoyed it.  All the times I shared something vulnerable on Quora or something a lot of people don't know about me, wondering who was going to read it and judge me for it.  All the random blogs I wrote for, podcasts I went on, e-mails I sent reaching out to someone to chat.  It was all practice.  Practice, practice, practice—which should never be undervalued.

Three years ago, I didn't have a writing credential to my name.  I didn't have any experience.  And I had no idea what it meant to be a writer.  I thought going to graduate school would make me a writer.

Three years later, and I realize that what turned me into a writer, a real writer, was taking a stance out in the world, and instead of waiting for someone else to hand me the title, going out and earning it for myself.

I'm excited to see where I'll be three years from now.