So you’re at home, sitting on your ass. You’re probably doing something stupid, and you’re doing it a lot. Welcome to my early 20’s, and probably yours as well. You might feel like you’re wasting a lot of time doing nothing, and kicking yourself for it. That’s how I felt. I felt that instinctively. I thought that what I was doing was wrong for myself, but I enjoyed my stupid hobby enough that I wanted to keep doing it.
Has this mental tug of war happened to you?
There’s some good news – opportunity can arise from nothing.
Think about whatever it is you’re doing. What brought you to it? It obviously didn’t arise from a vacuum. If you have an interest in it, others likely will as well, right? If you search for it in Google, no matter how seemingly obscure, you’ll get a good number of results, won’t you?
This touches on a key point that I learned from Craig Proctor, and will serve as the lynchpin of this post – all you need is some.
And really, you only need some of those some.
Go back to your “useless” hobby of choice. How many people have an interest in it? Depending on what it is, quite a lot, otherwise you wouldn’t be there. That’s where opportunity can arise, if only you will see it.
I’ll give you an example, the one that prompted this post.
In late 2010, after lurking for a few months due to an interest, I joined a forum called the Outskirts Battledome.
At first glance, this place is dedicated to something very stupid, probably dumber than whatever it is you’re lamenting about doing but do anyway. The Outskirts Battledome, or OBD, is dedicated to analyzing fictional series and deciding who would win in a fight between character or series X vs character or series Y. How stupid can you get? How can opportunity for self-betterment arise from this?
But where some see only stupidity, I see opportunity, or at least came to see opportunity. Luck partly made that exact opportunity arise, but all opportunity has luck as an ancestor.
As I said before, the website associated with the Outskirts Battledome, the Outskirts Battledome Wiki, a vast database on the powers and abilities of fictions and fictional characters (and often the only place for reliable information on certain obscure series), gets a lot of traffic – over 20,000 unique visitors a month, and those numbers are increasing. In our heyday, we got 6,000 unique visitors per day, until our host cancelled us because we weren’t politically correct. We’ll get to that in a bit, but the lesson here is that no matter how stupid it, whatever that “it” is, may seem, people are looking for it, otherwise you wouldn’t have found it, and that’s where the opportunity can arise.
Like you do when you join any new community, I paid my dues. It took me a year of solid contributions and making friends to be truly recognized as a “regular” (a term for the most respected, senior members in the OBD), but I was eventually let in to the OBD Wiki and became well-respected in the community. I’m now a very senior regular, though I don’t post as much as I used to, obviously.
The important thing during this period was that I wanted to add value to the community, not take from it, and this is what will always matter most. In your efforts to make opportunity arise from nothing, you’re always going to provide value first and foremost. Provide ten times more than you take. Remember what you learned from The 48 Laws of Power? The game of power is a social one. And beyond just power, you should enjoy what you’re doing and the people you talk to, and I presume you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be engaging in such a “stupid” hobby to start with.
At any rate, because I was providing value and won the trust of the community, the first major opportunity arose. A moderator position had opened up on the OBD Wiki. I was nominated by some, in part because I had a relevant skill – operating a similar database on the same platform, and ultimately chosen. This put me to a degree in control of a website viewed by 6,000 people daily.
Things largely stayed that way, with a few bumps in the road, for a couple of more years. Then, early 2014 fated that another major, decisive opportunity would arise.
The Outskirts Battledome is known for not being politically correct. You could say we’re a bunch of meanies. It’s a community with great people, but it does not accept any stupidity, and it will not coddle those that are being stupid. If you’re being stupid in the OBD, you’re going to get attacked vigorously, without regard to your feelings. I like that attitude. I like being involved with people like that. It holds me accountable to not being an idiot. It gives me good associates.
If you were a repeat offender in the OBD, you’d often get an insulting wiki profile so that posterity would know that you were an idiot (until you improved). Just fun little things to do in the spare time, right?
Well, some people, a lot of people really, had their feeeeelings hurt by the big mean OBD. Some people took issue with that and threatened to shut us down. We managed to save the site for a while by deleting the offending pages, but even that wasn’t good enough and eventually we were shut down entirely.
But not really, because that catastrophe was actually the thing that made a tremendous opportunity arise, not just for me, but for the entire community. This is a key point that you need to be aware of to make opportunity arise from nothing – recognize that seemingly bad breaks can often be huge boons if you look past the surface and know how to take advantage of them.
By that point, I was the senior active moderator at the OBD Wiki, in the sense that I was its chief caretaker. I quickly stabilized the confusion, had all the files backed up, and bought our own plan for our own domain (we previously were what you would call a “digital sharecropper”). Now we could do what we wanted, and make money to boot.
Arise from the dead and become stronger, OBD Wiki!
I was now in possession of a brand name in its niche that tens of thousands of people recognized as authoritative and looked for. Plenty of people would pay handsomely for such an opportunity, but it came to me for free, by essentially doing something that appeared to be “nothing.”
Of course, I had no real idea about how to make money online at that point, but I was in a huge starting position. Now, as more and more of the old traffic returns, and my knowledge continues to increase, the money is starting to increase as well, and it can only go up from here. I have a preset audience, an audience all interested in something that can be targeted, and I am in a prime position to move on that audience, as are all the other members of the project.
In this way, opportunity really can arise from nothing.
How you too, can make opportunity arise from nothing:
- Join a community of people centered around a hobby you have, no matter how stupid (though you might want to check something like Google Trends to see if it’s a good long-term investment of your time).
- Pay your dues and get recognition by the community. You must always provide a lot more value than you take. Gaining bona fide respect and status can take a while, but as long as you’re not wasting too much time, it is absolutely necessary.
- Learn a skill that relates to some of the things your hobby’s community is doing or needs online. Your opportunities will arise far quicker that way.
- Be on the lookout for opportunities to expand on your hobby online. Are you on a forum and does the topic that forum is dedicated to need a database (like the OBD Wiki)? Does your hobby in general lack a comprehensive database that can help people? What are people searching for and complaining about in relation to your hobby (where there’s a complaint, there’s a potential fix)? Is there a way to make the intricacies of the hobby easier and more accessible? Finally, you can start a YouTube channel about the hobby and make yourself an authority in the field, with a companion blog. The more obscure the topic, the better (because there will probably be a bigger vacuum to fill).
- When you are in a position of trust with other influencers in the community, that is the prime time to create something from nothing, especially should a sudden vacuum arise. They will help you spread your work. Give them an opportunity to profit too, if you can.
The bottom line is, if something as dumb as debating fictions can attract a lot of interest (and where there’s interest, there’s money), so too, can whatever it is that you’re doing. Be smart, let the situation develop, and make your opportunity arise from nothing.