New Post on MattRagland.com


I just posted a new article on my new site, I encourage you to go check it out.

7 Lessons from My Adventure in Self-Hosted Blogging

If you haven’t switched over to my new site, you can easily update your subscription on the new site. The button looks like this…

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Have a great day!

Trail Runner Magazine Publishes My Article


Great news everyone, my guest article has been published by Trail Runner magazine! I really appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the leading trail running publication, and would be honored if you would go check it out! If you like it, please share on Facebook, Twitter, or leave a comment.

Read the post here

Visiting my site from TrailRunner?

First of all, thank you for clicking through! I appreciate your visit. Please look around and check out some of my earlier posts. My writing covers a lot of great topics, including outdoor adventure, simplicity, running, spirituality, and business productivity.

If you are interested mainly in running, here are a couple posts I’m really proud of. 

Running in the Rain

Running an Ultra Marathon: Technical Aspects of Training, Gear, and Nutrition

At the very least, here’s an awesome video of Ultra Superman Kilian Jornet!

Thanks again for reading, let me know if I can help you with any of your running questions!

You Are A Writer – A Look at Jeff Goins Newest Ebook


Did Jeff write me a personal letter on becoming a writer? The voice he writes in rings with the experience of someone who has been through the fire, and come out with pages of knowledge he wants to share! For all the aspiring writers, bloggers, creatives in the building, let me tell you this is worth the price of admission. A short book, granted, but packed full of useful steps towards being a writer.

The most important message Jeff wants to convey is YOU ARE A WRITER (hence the title). I know have done this before, hesitated in describing myself as a writer and going public. Once you have made a commitment, everything simply comes one step at a time, and Jeff does a great job of laying those steps out.

What I appreciate most about Jeff’s writing is his honesty. I see many of my struggles in his writing, and he’s not afraid to tell the ugly parts of his story, of the self-doubt, distractions, and pain involved in being a writer. But he doesn’t stay there, laying out the steps to being successful. He admits the hard work, long hours, and a chance you may never reach the mountain top you have sighted for yourself.

The trick is though, if you love writing, if you can’t do anything else, each piece, each connection, each opportunity to share with others is your mountain top. Pursuing your passion, treating people with respect, and simply writing is what you were made to do.

Oh you want to know details? Of course, how silly of me…

5 Vitally Important Lessons from You Are A Writer

  1. The Process of Turning Pro
  2. The Secrets of Successful Writing
  3. The 3 Tools Every Writer Needs
  4. The 3 Important Relationships of a Writer
  5. Preparing & Pitching Your Writing (w/ bonus form letters!)

In keeping with his honesty, Jeff wraps up by sharing the pitfalls of success, and to remember your love for the craft. It’s all that will keep you true.

So what are you waiting for? If you are a writer, it’s money well spent.

Buy the book here and start shipping!

Get the Kindle edition

Finding Your Focus


If you’re finding my blog via my guest post on the Buffer blog, welcome and thank you for clicking through! You will notice pretty quickly (and I’m telling you anyway) that my blog has a few recurring themes, but lots of variety. Like many of us, I’m still finding my writing voice, and my focus online. 

If you are reading because you have been with me for the past few weeks or months, thank you for continuing to return and read. This post is for everyone, but I thought it would be nice to give a little context to my blog.

I have been writing steadily for just over 3 months, and in my desire to get off my butt and do the work, I curate a general blog. I write about topics that interest me, and I have a passion for. I’ll write about spirituality, writing, sports, outdoors, business, productivity, personal matters, education, creativity, and more.

When you want to write, the 1st step is to begin writing. 

In the past, I would get bogged down in over-thinking writing, making the process of starting more difficult than it had to be. Simply starting, and hitting publish over and over, is a key part of narrowing your focus. Write about lots of topics, and see what resonates with you, where your passion can meet the needs of others. Just start.

Now, very smart people have written very good pieces on what to do after that, and I encourage you to check them out. CopyBlogger, ProBlogger, Jeff Goins, Chris Guillebeau, and several more are available to you. Just do some digging and don’t be afraid to ask!

Now I’m a little further down the road, and there is an important distinction I need to make to go the next level.

I need to find my focus, my mission, and answer the question of “Why?”

There is certainly flexibility around your mission, but your mission needs to frame your blog and why it exists. People who are arrived from Buffer are probably thinking “This guy wrote  about productivity and organization, but most of what I see here is about spirituality, writing, and running.”

I first thought, “I know people who write general, personal blogs. There’s Leo from Zen Habits, the Minimalists, Tim Ferriss, or Joel Runyon. This is true, but when I thought about it more, I realized that each of these writers has a focus and mission to their sites.

  • Leo – Simplicity and Peace
  • Minimalists – Um, Minimalism
  • Tim Ferriss – Lifestyle Design
  • Joel Runyon – Doing impossible things, telling a story

The other direction to take is to have a very specific focus to your blog, like Fitness Reloaded, The Art of Manliness, No Meat Athlete, or Smart Football. These authors craft their sites around specific content and topics, leaving the generalities to others. They are about the details! Yes, there is flexibility within their topic, but everything points back to their focus.

How did I start to narrow down the topics? Thanks to Jeff Goins’ Intentional Blogging course (free, register here), I was able to visually get down what interested me. There was a lot, as you can see. To read my entire post about the visual & generation process, click here.

As you can see, the focus of my blog and yours is important. If we want to “turn pro” in our minds, as Steven Pressfield talks about, we need to decide what the focus and mission of our work is. It’s fine to have a general blog that shares about your life, and communicates with friends and family.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about doing the work, creating value and connections for others, and being a professional. 

Once you’ve found your focus, get to it. You may need to buy a new domain name, and the process of generating content begins again. Make sure you pick a mission that resonates with you, because without that internal drive, the grinding days will feel that much worse, and your great days will not feel that great.

Do what you love, even if it makes you less money. Passion, flexibility, and simplicity are better. 

Have a great day.

So Here’s My Plan


via Smithsonian Collection

Good day everyone, it’s beautiful here in Asheville, I hope you are enjoying early Spring as well! I wanted to share with you where I’m going the next few months with my writing and work.

The Blog

I’m going to cut back to 2 posts per week, and work really hard to make them fantastically valuable for you guys and gals. I’ve been posting 3-4 times a week, and honestly I’m not always pleased with the content. My goal has been to establish a practice of writing and posting, and not getting tied up with thoughts of the posts not being good enough. I can assure you the self-loathing will continue, and I’m not cutting back because of laziness.

I’m cutting back for pace, schedule, and future content. Reading lists will only be published 1-2 times per month, I’ll post more short content on Twitter or Google+. I have several ideas I need to flesh out, and am concentrating on making them great for you.

The Writing

Another reason I’m cutting back on the blog is because I will be working hard to complete my first e-book. The target audiences are recent high school and college graduates. This year is the 10th anniversary of when I graduated high school and enrolled at the University of Florida. A lot has happened in my life since then, and it’s arguably the most chaotic 10 year stretch for most people. College, grad school, first job(s), marriage, debt, bills, oh the joys. I’ll keep you all updated on the progress!

I have also been asked to write for a running website, so 1-2 times per month I’ll be posting there. I’ll be covering gear, training, race reports, and form. When the site re-launches I’ll post all the excitement!

I will also be doing a weekly post for work, covering the topic of summer camp. I’ll write about how to prepare, what parents should talk about with their children, and general benefits of a camp experience.

Finally, I’ve been working on a few guest posts, and will continue throughout the summer. I’m being considered for a couple sites right now, if they are accepted I’ll re-post here. Rest assured you’ll get to read the wonderful content :)

Life & Work

The biggest reason I’m reducing my weekly post load is because life is going to become very busy for the next 4 months, and I want to prepare for the chaos. I work at a Camp Rockmont, and April-July is our busy season. In fact, today there are 400 people on the property for an event, and I’m on call. Work will only accelerate though, and rather than post 4 times a week and then going off the grid for 10 weeks, I’m spacing out the meaningful essays.

As you can see, there is still plenty of writing to come from me, I’m just being smart about when and where the essays are posted. Anything I write for other sites will also be linked here, so don’t think you have to go searching around. I’ve written before about the importance of regular posting (recommended by many great writers), instead of a barrage of posts in a short amount of time. If you’re in the same boat, be patient, writing is an endurance activity. 

If you would like to help me out, send your suggestions for posts and topics, and I’ll add them to my list. I really appreciate everyone has been reading my ramblings over the past few months, it has been a great journey so far! Your feedback and comments help fuel my desire to keep writing. You’re the awesome-sauce to my creative stew.

What to Look for this Week, and a Reading List


Good morning everyone, I’ve been in Chicago the past few days, enjoying deep dish pizza, dueling piano bars, and the Field Museum. Pictures to come! Ok, 1 picture now.

Cloud Gate aka "The Bean"

Here are the books, sites, and articles that have been speaking to me this week, hope you find something here that speaks to you as well. I’ll be back to regular posting on Wednesday, working on the topic of Jesus and simple living.

For today, here is what I’m reading:

The Thank You Economy: I’ve just started, but am really diving in. How we communicate with our clients and treat them as people is the most important aspect in business today. Even in a down economy, people will pay more for the same product/service if the customer care is better. I know I do. Will keep you updated.

7 Remarkably Simple Ways to Become a Stronger Runner (and maybe even enjoy it)!: I’ve been reading a lot of Matt’s work lately, during my own foray in to vegetarian and quasi-vegan eating habits. I always thought as an athlete, I need large amounts of meat to perform my best. Now, being 90% meat free for a month now, I don’t really miss it. When I do eat meat, I feel pretty bad (though it is delicious). This post isn’t about nutrition, but a good primer in kick-starting your running.

What You Need to Know Before Starting a WordPress Blog: I came across this post because I’ve been researching the transition to a self-hosted WordPress blog. This post is one of the best for quickly covering the basics of your launch.

50 Centuries of Work = 5 Important Lessons: This is really a short book review, but Dan offers us enough meat to tell 1 important fact - “Choose a career for intrinisic rewards, not the financial rewards”. This looks like a book I may be reading in the future.

Is Liberal and Conservative In Our Hard-Wiring?: Richard Rohr is always thought-provoking, and in an election year he serves up this basic question of political nature vs. nurture. A good read that takes a couple minutes.

Failure is an Option: Great advice from Vern, who speaks about failure in the context of athletics, but is applicable across many disciplines. A great quote in the article is “failure sucks but instructs.” If you are an athlete I highly recommend adding Vern to your permanent reading list.

Dating Advice from 1944 – How to Pick Your Right Girl:

Good ol’ Art of Manliness, digging through the archives and coming up with this gem. If you are a guy navigating the world of dating, give this a read, and give a lot of thought to what truly matters to you in the long run.

I’ve already found my right girl, and she’s under Marilyn Monroe’s dress…

Well that’s a good list for the week, what have you guys and gals been reading? I hope that your week is full of blessings and challenges. We need them both to stay sharp!

If They Can Do It, I Can Do It, and So Can You


I have read on several blogs that a great way to generate more traffic was to be active and comment on the sites and blogs of others. At first, I dismissed this, because I wanted to be known for my writing on it’s own merit. I also didn’t really believe it would help, and I was being greedy and only wanted to do take actions on tasks that would benefit me. Lately though, I have come to realize that the underlying reason behind this was that in essence, I didn’t particularly care to comment, and I was selfish. I was too busy with my own writing and life to spend time on other sites.

I now realize that is a load of crap, both my own reasoning behind it, and my greediness. What was a real kick in the teeth for me was my last week’s post, 22 People Who are Better Than Me (in a good way!). I listed 22 writers, adventurers, community leaders, and creative folks who inspire me with their work. What floored me was getting a response.

The Minimalists (Joshua & Ryan) wrote me, saying thank you for the love. They were also adamant they were not better than me.

Corbett Barr wrote, thanking me for listing him, and encouraging me not to sell myself short.

Brendan Leonard (Semi-Rad) wrote, saying he was not better than me, but that he could probably eat more waffles than I could.

Jeff Goins has responded to nearly every email I’ve written him.

All of these men have experienced far more success than I have, and have lives just as busy as I do. But they all took the time to respond to me, and encourage my writing. What a gift! So for me to be snobby about commenting on other sites is absurd, arrogant, and lazy.

By the way, I want to thank everyone who takes the time to read what I’m putting down, and commenting on it. It’s a tremendous gift to me to receive your thoughts and feedback. I apologize it took some heavy hitters to knock me out of my slumber!

I still don’t believe I’ll go around mass-commenting on posts just to drive up my own brand, but I will certainly be trying to add value or a kind word to the posts I am reading. If we take care of others, I believe we will be taken care of ourselves. Thanks again.

22 People Who Are Better Than Me (in a good way!)


Today I got down to thinking about what I really want to write about, and more specifically, where I would want the process to take me. I would love to be able to travel, wrote about nature, the outdoors, make short films, coach football, help those in need, go on mission trips, and work with kids. That’s all (sarcastic/hopeful tone).

Then I considered what I’ve been writing about, and my content didn’t match my hope that well. Since I’m starting out as a writer, I do believe it’s best to keep writing, and focus your voice and content as you get better. At least that’s what I’m going for right now. I have been writing a lot about writing and the creative process, and honestly it’s been easy to use that as a topic because it’s a daily part of my life. I’m basically re-packaging my own struggles and sharing them with you. Hopefully though, it helps in a small way.

One of the main challenges I face is the realization that there are so many people and services out right now who are doing what I want to do, and doing it really, really well. I’m becoming less intimidated by them, because I know that I can do great work as well. The challenge is taking the chance and putting forth the years of work necessary to get to where they are now. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are social platforms or the permission to impact people in a busy world. I don’t know how to write great code, use sophisticated SEO tactics, or create beautiful designs. I tell stories.

Presently though, here are a list of people and sites that I read daily, or will read, watch, or listen to anything they release. I haven’t included any company sites or blogs, they’re in a different category than these 22 run by an individual or small team. They certainly have a voice in the work that I produce, and I hope you enjoy them as well!

Outdoors

Adventure Journal - Steve Casmiro (former editor of Cycling magazine and top-notch photographer) has built the premier site for all things outdoor. News, advocacy, links, photography, gear, food, they have it all. This is the main outdoor site I visit daily, the content is rich and worthwhile. I would visit simply to drool over the Weekend Cabin (which you should as well). It was also just named Outside Magazine’s #1 Outdoor site.

Check out these posts to get started:

Cold Splinters - Jeff Thrope has made the outdoors feel all 1970′s again, and I love it. The site in itself is beautifully designed and vintage, the photography syncs perfectly with the site with vintage filters, and he writes very well. Cold Splinters is where I can feel like an outdoors hipster. It’s a general outdoor site, but the Trail Mix posts are very enjoyable, along with any of the well-written posts about doing work with your hands.

Check out these posts to get started:

Semi-Rad - I really enjoy Brendan Leonard’s blog, because he is a regular guy trying to live the dream. Also, he shows up and delivers to his tribe, consistency is king! My favorite part of his blog is the About Me.

Check out these posts to get started:

Dirtbag Diaries - This is really more of a podcast, and maybe the best outdoor life podcast going today. The stories take center stage, tales of adventure and brokenness that mirror our own lives. The Diaries popularity is also helped by the music that Fitz puts together for each episode, then make available in the notes.

Check out these posts to get started:

The Gear Junkie - Stephen Regenold has put together one of the best outdoor gear review sites, and my personal favorite. If you’re like me and want to low-down on every piece of outdoor gear you purchase, the Gear Junkie is a great place to look. He’s also active on twitter, and has responded directly to a few of my gear inquiries.

Check out these posts to get started:

Sports

Smart Football - Chris Brown is a lawyer turned football analyst, and his acumen for breaking down plays, techniques, and game plans is undeniable. If I’m following twitter during a game, Smart Football is definitely on the list. I’m also convinced that a smart person with average football knowledge could turn themselves in to a decent high school football coach simply by reading Smart Football.

Check out these posts to get started:

Only Gators - I graduated from Florida, and Adam Silverstein runs the best insider blog on the interwebs right now. I’ll check in with OG on a regular basis to see what’s been happening, and daily during football season. No links to read, if you’re a Gator fan just go ahead and start following.

Dr. Saturday – This is a stretch, since Dr Saturday is the Yahoo Sports College Football blog, thus not independent. But it is the most consistent, well-written source of news and updates in college football. The previous head guy, Matt Hinton, has recently left the building, replaced by the new head lady, Graham Watson. Looking forward to the new season.

Writing, Creativity, and Business

Jeff Goins - I’ve written about Jeff a few times, mainly here. He’s actually probably getting tired of it. Jeff consistently turns out great content and advice for writers, no matter what stage of the craft you’re in. Begin reading and you won’t be disappointed.

Check out these posts to get started:

Michael Hyatt - Michael is the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, but on his blog he focuses on the topic of Intentional Leadership. He writes about other topics, but that is the main focus. I really appreciate the honesty Michael communicates with, and his willingness to share knowledge gleaned from many years in the writing business.

Check out these posts to get started:

Seth Godin - Seth is the first author I read who challenged me to think about how I worked. I am continually inspired by his work, and at the root of my amazement is his consistency! In 2009 he wrote his 3,000 daily post in a row, affirming his commitment to spreading ideas and new ways of thinking. He’s also a master at taking an idea or thought that is on the tip of your tongue, and giving it life. Check him out.

Check out these posts to get started:

Daniel Pink - Dan’s site is extremely interesting, and I’ve mentioned some of his work before. The Pomodoro technique came from Dan’s site, and his book A Whole New Mind was very important for me, especially just after graduating college. You can find a wealth of analytical information, presented in a fascinating manner, along with many other topics. One of my favorite running features is emotionally intelligent signage. Give him a look.

Check out these posts to get started:

Garr Reynolds - I read Garr’s book Presentation Zen 4 years ago, and it made me think differently about the way I speak in front of people, communicate information, and design everything. You wouldn’t think of the design and layout of power point presentations as art, but then you haven’t seen Garr’s slide decks. It changed everything for me in those areas. The design aspect spilled over in to other areas of life as well, to websites, my office, home, and really everything.

Check out these posts to get started:

Corbett Barr - Corbett runs ThinkTraffic.com, arguably the best site for bloggers looking to generate more traffic and income. It’s the only site of its kind that is currently in my rss reader, because it’s so detailed and extensive. Corbett has experience with several other successful blogs and websites, which you can find out more about by visiting his personal site.

Check out these posts to get started (on ThinkTraffic):

Christian Spirituality

Donald Miller - Donald is the author of several books, most notably Blue Like Jazz. Another important book in my life, it challenged me in my Christian faith and caused me to think about what my faith really meant to me. He is very human-story focused right now, his latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years covering the subject of the creative process, and being able to tell one’s story. All of this is done against the backdrop of what God has done for us and the life he’s called us to live.

Check out these posts to get started:

Richard Rohr - I almost didn’t put Fr. Rohr here, he can be so controversial. But he has also pointed me down the path of worrying about myself less (and one day not at all), helping the poor & needy, not seeking fame, and being able to embrace both my strengths and weaknesses. He’s also been significant in his writing on male development and rites of passage in the modern world, a topic that is very important in my work with young men.

Check out these posts to get started:

Ryan Taylor - Man, I really like Ryan. Never met the guy, but no worries. Ryan is the Director of Access Denver, plays basketball, and writes a solid blog. He is another leader who is challenging others to look around and see the suffering in our neighborhoods, and be the hands of God in creating change. I’ve written about him a bit more here.

Check out these posts to get started:

General Interest & Fun

The Art of Manliness - Yes, they have fun posts like How to Make a Survival ShotgunThey have informative posts like How to Carve a TurkeyThey also assemble great lists like 100 Must-Read Books: The Man’s Essential Library. But what really made me a full-fledged believer in the AoM was Brett & Sarah McKay’s research and writing about male development and being a man. Not an ultra-masculine no-nonsense man, or a soft, passive man. A Man; forged out of the experience of those before him, ready to do hard things, think of others’ before self, stand up for what’s right, and be a contributor to his community. Love it.

To get started, click on the articles above.

The Oatmeal - My interest in goofy internet comics really peaked during college, and since then I don’t go searching for such hilarity often. The Oatmeal though, really came to me. I saw the Dear Sriracha comic at Sunny Pointe Cafe, and liked it so much that I hunted down the site. Matt Inman does a wonderful job fusing humor, common sense, plain-as-day irony, and grammar checks in to his brand. Go over there and have a laugh. *FYI, not all comics are squeaky-clean, though the ones I linked are fine. 

Check out these posts to get started:

Zen Habits - Leo Babauta has curated one of the most popular blogs on the internet, and one of the most interesting. I’ve only been reading it for a couple weeks myself, but I’m blown away, definitely one that I can read for an hour and not realize it. Highly recommended.

Instead of linking a few articles, Leo has made it easy for us by creating a Start Here page.

The Minimalists - My friend Bryce told me about this site, as I was telling him about my feelings towards having fewer possessions. “You need to read what these guys are writing” he told me. So I did, and stayed up most of the night reading through their entire 21 Day Journey in to Minimalism page. It lit a fire under me, gave some substance to the conversations my wife and I had been having. Within a week, I had given away boxes of clothes, packed up extra household and kitchen products, and put the TV in the attic. I haven’t missed any of those things, because I am more than my possessions.

Check out these posts to get started:

Tim Ferriss - I have a love/hate relationship with Tim Ferriss’ writing and self-promotion. Mainly, I think he comes off as self-promoting and arrogant. I also think he is quite interesting and has many good things to say about creative ways to live and work. I can respect that. I mainly respect the effort and practice that he puts in to his craft of writing, and his personal blog. The blog is a smorgasbord of topics, enjoy picking through them.

Check out these posts to get started:

Wow, that took much longer than I had planned. When I said “today” at the beginning of the post, it was Monday. I’m publishing on Friday. I went through many temptations to cut the list, not include Get Started links, and leave out the descriptions. In other words, obey the path of least resistance. I’m glad I didn’t, and hope you agree.

Finally, this is simply my list, and it won’t be the last. People are doing incredible, creative work, and I would love to hear about the writers, bloggers, and creatives that inspire you. Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Finding Your Voice


Here is another worksheet of mine from Jeff Goins’ Intentional Blogging course. Jeff is doing a fantastic job with this course, and if you ask nicely, you can still get in. I’ve posted a similar sheet before, on generating topics for your blog. This sheet is geared towards finding your voice in writing. Other writers discussed include: CS Lewis, Wendell Berry, Christopher McDougall, and Anne Lamott. All of these writers have an impact on the way I write, even on how I live. As before, if you want to follow along, make space for roughly 30 minutes of work, and listen. Enjoy.

Visual Example of Generating Blog Topics


Before you is a visual example of a 30 minute process on generating subjects, themes, topics, and intentions for your blog. A big thanks to Jeff Goins for putting these lessons together (if you didn’t get on his Intentional Blogging program, bummer).

What matters to you and why are you sharing it through an online presence? There are many things for me, as you see in the subject field. This process helped me narrow the subject down to actionable steps and topics, generating a flurry of ideas for posts. I hope that seeing how I went about it helps you guys do the same. If you would like the original photo file, just let me know in the comments, but you should just be able to right click and ‘save as’. Enjoy!

Blogging Lesson #1 - Focus