Hi this is Morty Lefkoe with another edition of the weekly podcast “Conversations With Top Developmental Bloggers”. Every week we have a conversation with a blogger with a slightly different take on personal development. There’s so much valuable material being offered by personal development bloggers. This is the best place to find out which ones might provide you with just what you’re looking for.
What’s unique about each blogger? Why did they start writing their blog? How their personal experiences informed their writing and why you ought to be reading their blog, and more.
Today I have the pleasure to speak to David Cain who writes a really interesting blog called Raptitude. R-A-P-T-I-T-U-D-E. Raptitude.com. And his theme is “Getting Better About Being Human”.
Morty: Welcome, David. Thanks for joining the conversation.
David: I’m glad to be here, Morty.
Morty: That’s great. Let’s start at the beginning. What was the impetus for you to start writing your blog? Where did that come from?
David: It started a long time ago. I was twenty years old and I was in college. My life had been pretty good up to that point and then it just took a left turn and suddenly it wasn’t very good at all.
There was nothing that happened, there was no one thing that precipitated this dark period but it just happened. I not only wanted to make it better but I wanted to learn what makes people happy and unhappy. Because I couldn’t really explain what was happening to me.
So I ended up learning as much as I could. I read a ton of self-help books and websites and I read religious material and spiritual material and I learned a lot about what does make happiness. What does improve your life and what doesn’t.
I actually started writing about it on online message boards. When people would post problems I would say “This is what worked for me.” And a lot of people said, “That really helped me! What you said.”
Eventually in 2009 I formalized that into a blog. It fits into the personal development niche but I kind of center around what you can to do in your end, like how you can interact with your life in your own mind. How you can keep things organized and keep sane that way. So the blog found an audience very quickly and it’s been a central part of my life ever since.
Morty: Wonderful! So you have been writing this since 2009?
David: Yes. Five years this past March.
Morty: So your background in personal development then is all the stuff you’ve done yourself? Did you take any courses in addition to reading? Could you be a little bit more specific about what that background is?
David: Mostly books. Mostly reading. I just spent a lot of time at the library. I’ve always been a big reader. The first book was called “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson. It’s very simple. I don’t know if you’ve read it but it’s a very small book and it’s a hundred, maybe five hundred-word strategies for dealing with life.
It sounds simple to me now but at the time it was revolutionary. That so much of your quality of life is determined by how you respond to your circumstances, and not so much your circumstances. A lot of personal development material is based on achieving goals and improving your income and improving skills and kind of changing the things around you. But this was something different. You could learn how to deal with disappointment better. You could have a different experience from the same events that happen in your life. So that kind of started it, that book. And then I went on.
I read a lot about Buddhism, I experimented with yoga, read about philosophy. But it was mainly books.
Morty: Okay. That by the way is my focus also. Not so much on what you achieve but how you hold it. The meaning you give to what actually happens. So that resonates with me.
What is your typical audience? Do you have any idea what your demographics are?
David: It’s all over the place. There are a lot of people who are the same age that I was when I got into personal development. College students. They’re all at a phase where they are trying to decide what to do with their lives. So they’re asking the big questions and thinking about those things. You know, like I was looking for someone who maybe knows more about it than I do.
I have seventy, eighty year-old readers. I have middle-aged readers, men and women. It’s really everybody and I’m kind of proud of that, because I feel like I’ve hit on something that applies broadly to everybody. So I don’t know if there’s a typical reader. It seems to apply to every demographic.
Morty: So it’s not a particular age group or male or female. It’s all over the place.
David: No. As far as I can tell, the male/female split is right down the center. A lot of different age groups. I guess what they all have in common is that they’re all interested in improving their experience in one way or another.
Morty: The quality of their life in some way. Okay. What would you say is the essence of your message? Is there an essence?
David: I guess. I talk about whatever that comes to mind but it tends to fall into certain philosophical groups. The main essence I guess is just recognizing how much leverage we have over the quality of our experience. Outside of changing of our circumstances and just in our attitude towards what happens. So I address that in a lot of different ways.
For example one of the earliest posts I wrote was called “How to Keep a Bad Mood from Taking Over Your Day”. Basically, it was something I’ve learned from Richard Carlson that a mood is just something that comes and goes without your really having to do anything. You can choose to be graceful during those moods or you can really react to them, as if your whole life has gone wrong. And there’s such a difference in the experience that you have between those two approaches to the same thing.
So the essence is really to work with what happens on your end, in your own mind.
Morty: Have you developed any techniques of your own? Processes or procedures or something to help people do that? So somebody says, “Yeah you’re right, I agree with you. So can you help me do it?” Do you just refer them to other people like Carlson or have you developed some techniques that you’ve actually been able to help people with?
David: Yeah I developed techniques. Often it will take the form of just a reflection on what I do when this particular thing happens. I have posts about how to avoid getting lost in a train of thought. I say “This is what I do when that happens to me.”
That’s all I can really say. What I do. Because I don’t know what I don’t know, right? So I’ll offer my own way of dealing with things and often people would tell me that “I tried that and it really works for me.”
Morty: How often do you post?
David: I post every Monday, now. Occasionally on this one and occasionally I’ll post a second time in a week. When I first started I took a course on blogging and the standard doctrine was to post everyday if you can.
The way my mind works, I ended up writing one thousand or two thousand-word posts and it was just too hard to post everyday. So I went to three days a week and then two days a week and eventually settled on one day a week. And that seems to work the best. But it takes a long time. I know a lot of bloggers would write a post in an hour and to need that. I’ve never done that, I take usually six or eight hours or more. So once a week.
Morty: I’m also the same. I’m once a week but it’s also more in-depth. I average eleven to twelve hundred words. Very often I do fourteen, sixteen, eighteen hundred words. You don’t knock those out in an hour at all. They take a lot of time. The writing, the editing, the thinking et cetera.
David: I’ve found that the blog posts that helped me the most were often long ones like that. I’m a big fan of Steve Pavlina’s “Padrino”.
Morty: Steve and I, we’re good friends you know.
David: He’ll write three thousand, four thousand, seven thousand-word posts sometimes. That’s how I like to engage with things. To really immerse myself in them. It could be the whole day that I’m thinking about what I wrote. So I gravitated towards longer posts, that means not being able to post as often.
Morty: I get you there. What would you say, are you familiar with any of the other so-called personal bloggers and could you say in some way what would be unique about your blog? If someone where to say, “There’s so many of them, can’t look at them all.”
Why would I look at yours as opposed to somebody else’s? I’m not asking why you’re better or to compare yourself in that way. What’s unique? What would somebody get from you that is sort of your unique approach, your unique style?
David: I guess a big part of it is just my own personality that happens to leak into the post. I write a lot about my own life. I’ve read a lot of blogs that will address a problem from kind of a critical sort of standpoint. Like, “This is what one should do when this happens.” I talk about it in the context of my own life.
If I had to pick a niche that I’m in, that’s the personal development niche. But that is very broad sort of topic. So there’s a personal development niche on one side and then there’s the spirituality niche on the other side. And I borrow from both. There are things that I think I do differently than both. In personal development–as I said–they often talk about changing the externals, like achieving goals and changing the situation. And in spiritual usually they talk about looking into your own mind and meditation and mindfulness.
I think a lot of mainstream people are kind of suspicious of both. They don’t want to be the self-help person and they don’t want to be the flaky spiritual person. So I try to present everything in plain language, without using a lot of the tropes that you see in both those fields. And a lot of people have said that is what attracts them to my site.
Morty: Wonderful, thank you so much. It’s very clear. Do you have a long-term goal for your blog? Is there something you would like to achieve specifically?
David: My very long-term goal is to extend beyond my blog. I love writing about this topic. I love writing about being human and making use of all the tools and abilities of a human being. So the blog was really the first I really delved into that.
I’ll probably always write the blog but I would like to write books on the topic. I’d like to do videos. It’s kind of endless now but I feel like I’ve found what I wanted. The topic that I want my life to be about under which I want to be my contribution to the world.
So in the immediate term, my goal is to make a living in this field. To do what I’m doing. I quit my job in the fall, after having saved up a bunch of money. I’m living a bit off savings and a bit off my blog. After not too long I’ll be living fully off my blog and my business. Then beyond that, I’ll have more options on where to go with this topic.
Morty: Well Steve Pavlina you know recently starting last year doing more and more workshops. He’s doing much more speaking, keynoting all over the world actually. This year I think he’s planning on nine or something workshops. So he’s branching out into that area a lot nowadays.
David: Yeah and I watched that transition happen. I was reading his blog pretty much since it began and I’ve seen his career change. His model change in the way he approaches his blog. I would like to do speaking eventually too. I joined Toastmasters much on his recommendation. I’m going to be doing a presentation at a wellness retreat in South America this year. That came about from my blog too. So there’s a lot of opportunities out there and it’s starting to happen.
Morty: Great, that’s exciting. Do you accept comments on your blog?
David: Yes I do. It’s a major part of the experience for me and a lot of my readers. I post things that encourage discussion and I get a lot of comments on my blog. A typical blog post will be fifty comments. The last one had over hundred. I’ve had some with hundreds of comments. And I really enjoy that. I mean, my readers are interested in what I’m interested in obviously. So I always like to talk about that with them and also via email. People email me and I check all the time.
Morty: Do you respond? Do you respond to all of them or some of them? How do you respond per se?
David: I no longer insist on responding to all of them because it just takes so much time especially if you want to take their comment seriously and not just say “Oh great comment, thank you for stopping by.”
So when you have a lot of comments I can’t respond to all of them or I’d be doing it all the time. But some of the posts that I do, I try to respond to them all if I can. I just don’t want to say anything disingenuous. I don’t want to give a token response. I want to really engage with them if I can. And I do it as much as I can.
Morty: Got it. You started mentioning this a moment ago, I would like to hear a little bit more about it. At this point, do you have a mission in life? What’s your mission in life? How does writing your blog help you contribute to it? Seems like some things are developing over time for you.
David: I have a non-verbal vision of what I want my life to be like and it’s hard to articulate it. It certainly centers around learning to use my human mind and my body and my capacities to their extent and teaching other people what I’ve learned about how to do that.
I can’t really articulate it though because I don’t want to limit what that vision could be. It certainly has to do with helping people learn to improve their own quality of life. That’s what it’s all about.
Morty: And writing your blog, that’s now the main thing you’re doing and at some point you want that to continue but branch out and find other ways to do the same thing. Books, speaking, courses, et cetera.
David: Yeah. That’s right.
Morty: Any particular plans on what might be coming next?
David: I’m working on my first digital product. I haven’t announced it yet so I can’t say too much about it but obviously it’s about the same things that I write about. And that will be my first direct sales approach. I’ve always wanted the blog to be free but there are people that want to engage with certain topics on a level much deeper than you can get into in a blog post. So I had to make longer products available for that. I’m working on that right now.
Morty: This is great. I got a very good sense, I appreciate your detailed comments here. But is there anything else you’d like your audience to know about you or your blog that’s not been covered? The purpose of this is for the people who are interested in the general field of personal development spirituality, they’d say “Could this blog be useful to me?”
So apart from everything you’ve said so far, is there anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your blog that might get somebody to say “Yes, this is the guy for me.”
David: Well just that in the years that I’ve been running this blog and writing about it and discussing this topic with people…those have been the greatest years of growth in my life by far. Just engaging in a dialogue about these topics really helps me and I hope my readers. To articulate their thoughts about these things. Understand where they stand when it comes to experiments with spirituality and mindfulness and meditation.
A comment I get all the time is that people say “You know I’ve been thinking about this for years but you’ve been able to put words to it. And now I can talk about it.” That is a particular benefit that people say that they’ve had through coming to my blog.
Morty: Well thank you so much for your time. How can people find you? What is the blog’s exact URL?
David: Raptitude.com. So “Aptitude” with an “R”.
Morty: “Aptitude” with an “R”. Raptitude.com for David Cain. Thank you so much for your time this morning and giving my audience and many other audiences an opportunity to find out a little bit more about you. I’ve looked at your site and it looks fascinating, I would like to go back and read a few specific articles. But it’s something that people definitely ought to check out. It might very well resonate with you and be one of the posts you should be reading on a weekly basis. It comes out every Monday or almost every Monday and it’s something certainly worth looking into.
Thanks so much David, I appreciate your time.
David: Thanks Morty. This was fun.