There Is No Competition If You Build Something That Matters

Interesting observation.

A few weeks back at Chris Guillebeau’s Ann Arbor book tour stop (BTW, I’ll be at the Dallas stop on Oct 22 with some friends from Austin; see you there?) a group of us were talking about how great the blogging community is.

Spending time at BlogWorld this past weekend has only reinforced these thoughts. (I have lots of written/video ideas as a result of the past few days. Video will have to come later since I can’t edit on a netbook.)

Blogging is the only business I’ve ever been involved in where your “competition” wants you to go out and kick ass. It’s the only business I’ve been involved in where I genuinely feel like people actually care about me. And, to be honest, it’s the only business I’ve been involved in where I genuinely care about my fellow “competition.” (OK, enough with the quotes!)

I don’t know if it’s possible to find another business where this is the norm. (If you’re involved on one, please let me know!)

But there’s a key to get that support. See, there are millions of blogs and hundreds of thousands of bloggers. The majority are not doing anything worth a damn. And that’s OK, because a majority are probably also personal blogs that aren’t meant to be used as anything more than a journal.

If you want to parlay blogging into any sort of business, whether part time or full time, what you need to do can be best summed up by Darren Rowse:

“Build something real. Build something that matters.”

If you build something real and build something that matters, it will be impossible not to find support. The whole reason I do my Sweet Shit Saturday posts is because I like to give back and support others who are building something that matters. Sometimes that’s a newer blogger, sometimes it’s an established blogger. It doesn’t matter where you’re at at this moment, if you take Darren’s advice things will progress positively.

So the next logical question is …

How Do You Build Something That Matters?

It’s simple and it’s not so simple.

It boils down to this: solve problems.

If you solve problems you’ll create something people care about. Every single thing you do doesn’t have to solve a problem, but the collective whole should.

I’ve come up with 3 simple ideas that will help if you’re stuck solving problems.

1) Solve your own problems.

If you have problems, other people probably have that problem as well. If you chronicle solving your problems, others will learn from you because you’ve created something of value to them, something that matters to them.

You’ll see this from every single person you probably pay attention. Some way, somehow, they are solving one (or more) of your problems.

Quite a few of my articles, especially my early articles, were based on my own problems I solved. Like dandruff or excruciating stomach pain. From the beginning most of my thinking revolved around how I can solve problems. Even how to stop having problems.

2) Ask your readers what their problems are.

This is easily accomplished using a free online survey.

If you have a very small audience you can still use this. Even if only 1 person fills out your survey, at least you know exactly what one person would like you to help them with. Fantastic! As your audience grows they’ll give you more and more ideas.

A variation of this is to pay attention to your comments and e-mails. These days I get more than half of my blog ideas from comments or e-mails. Not only does this make writing what you want easier, it means I’m writing exactly what you want.

3) Add your own commentary to problems that others have solved.

Let’s say that you’ve taken another person’s advice and solved a problem using their ideas. Write about your experiences and be sure to give that person lots of credit. (Remember the beginning of this article, support each other!)

Follow these 3 strategies and you will building something that matters.

So take some time right now and ask yourself: “What problem can I solve today?”


  1. There is at least one other industry where the competition supports each other – hot air ballooning. My fiancée and I were amazed at how the pilots from different companies worked together to ensure that everyone took a safe route and landed safely – and they all respect each other. I know that doesn’t completely cover their business model, but it was a cool thing to see.

    Haha – so for any of you that don’t feel like blogging, you can rush out and buy a balloon!

  2. Karol, This post reminds me of the book “The Purple Cow” build something unique and amazing and you will not have to worry about competition, building something that’s matters is the key
    Good Stuff,


  3. Drop a note where you will be in Dallas! It would be cool to say hey face to face. If you don’t know where to meet, I can suggest a place.

  4. Tremendous article Karol! You highlighted (and echoed) one of my favorite take-aways from Blog World. It was truly unreal and surreal (yet very real) how genuine everyone was about meeting new friends and “competition”.

    I’ve never been prouder to be a writer/blogger!

    To infinity and beyond!


  5. I do enjoy getting advice from the “competition” and how the “competition” really isn’t my “competition” when they’re actually helping me out ;)

    I seriously love what you do here…!

  6. Surely if you build something that matters there is bound to be competition. By building something that matters, you are fulfilling a need and if the need is real, others will try to fulfil that need too.

    This is not a negative thing, it is competition that drives innovation, creativity and increased quality.

  7. It was totally amazing, feeling loved and supported by complete strangers. Symbiotic synergy, for sure!

    I’m hooked on conferences, especially blogger conferences. :) Weird, nonconformist folks are my bag, to paraphrase Austin Powers.

    I’m eternally grateful to you, you know. My life/brain is TOTALLY different than when I first found you.

  8. After having some life experiences offline recently with competition and their unwillingness to help each other succeed, it’s really made me appreciate the blogging community that much more. It aligns with my personal values and I’m so stoked to become a part of it by getting help and helping others.

  9. Karol, The phrase “sustainable competition” emerged as I read your post. Competition can make you stronger and better if it is framed in terms of making yourself and your competitors better. The negative connotation of the word comes from some of the unethical and unsightly practices associated with some institutions and businesses. In my city, two aircraft manufacturing firms were acquired and basically liquidated by others in the past few years. Less competition to be sure, but also less choice, fewer jobs, and maybe fewer options for different ways of doing things. As for blogging, you bring forth a voice that is different from anyone else and you attract those that are interested in listening to you.

  10. Hey Karol,

    I love the bit about solving problems. I did that on a blog of mine about how to fix a sprained ankle and even though my blog isn’t about anything medical, (it’s about free running & gymnastics) it has become the most visited post on my site. Often getting thousands of hits more than anything else I post on there! So you are spot on with that analysis! And because of this, I plan on creating more posts of ‘value’ and solving problems for my audience.

    cheers – Mark

  11. Hi Karol
    I spend every day congratulating myself on the problems I solve for myself and as a novice in the world of blogging, you’ve inspired to start sharing ‘solutions’ with others. Thanks.

  12. I think one of the reasons bloggers help each other is – for lack of a better word – a sense of evangelical enthusiasm for how working exclusively online can completely transform your life. Never in thousands of years of human struggle has the average person been able to work from anywhere on the planet and make the same amount of income. Once bloggers experience that they want to whole world to know about it and other bloggers are allies, not competitors.

  13. Hey Karol, haven’t been commenting here much lately but did keep up with your blog, just saw you would stop by dallas so wondering how to meet up?

  14. Hi Karol. Are you in Ann Arbor??? I was born in Ann Arbor, raised in Brighton, MI! Currently living in Costa Rica, but will be back in SE MI in December. It’s very cool to see this post. I just finished an email in which I wrote “no-one is competing with you to be you”. Very similar idea. Just wanted to say hi – and make the connection. HI!

  15. great article about blogging. i recently started the cool vegetarian blog and i have instantly been warmed and impressed by how supportive the community is. I have just come from a dog eat dog industry for the last 12 years and it is so refreshing to experience this. i have found that video blogs are engaging and informative.

  16. nice!
    thats something I needed to read (& I didnt know); I guess thats what pro-blogging is about!
    so I’ll just follow ur advice & ..leave you a comment!
    (& oh, sure, i’ll create a survey for my readers)

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