Learn The Boring

Years ago I did a lot of pay per click affiliate sales using Google Adwords.

For reference, the most I ever spent in one day on ads was nearly $10,000 (something like $9,800; Jan/Feb 2008 Adwords screenshot for just 2 campaigns during this time) and I always had a daily positive return on investment. If you weren’t profitable day-to-day then you weren’t doing it right.

I wasn’t the best – most of the game was simply testing a lot of offers and related ad, keyword, and landing page combinations – but I was pretty good.

Getting to that level (“pretty good”) was straightforward. It was all based on a few years I spent learning boring stuff. How to edit an image in Photoshop. How to create a landing page. How to make a website do this or that. How to do keyword research. How to do market research. How to write a good autoresponder e-mail sequence.

In those days I got lots of e-mails from people asking how to do what I did.

  • “Can you teach me?”
  • “What do I do?”
  • “If you had to start from scratch, where would you start?”

I was always happy to answer these e-mails, because the beginning was to learn the fundamentals, learn the boring, and I was well-versed in that. This was the stuff most people wouldn’t learn because they expected to jump right into huge ad spends and profits like it was some kind of magic.

The way to learn the boring for this particular business was to go through Google’s own free Adwords training. It was long and thorough and it gave newbies a perfect framework to build off of if they were willing to take the time to learn.

This was the great filter. (I love filters. This whole website is a filter.) I could legitimately help everybody who asked (“Learn this and e-mail me for Step 2 when you’re done.”) while simultaneously not waste my time helping people who didn’t want to help themselves. The magic bullet golden ticket types.

This Adwords training – which could quite literally change a person’s whole economic future – could be completed in a focused weekend, with a little time left over for watching cartoons and slacking off on facebook.

I recommended this training to dozens of people. I can’t even imagine how many because I didn’t keep track. I knew I’d never hear from most of them again.

Do you want to guess how many people went through and learned the boring?

It took me a good hard think to come up with just two people. Maybe there were more, but I remember two who e-mailed me. One of whom went on to generate $XXX,XXX/year using Adwords. (The other did well, but not quite in 6 figures.)

If you want to excel at anything one of your first steps is to learn the boring.

I’m all for the whole “do what you love find your passion travel the world sip margaritas” idea. But the truth is it’s never quite like how others sell it to you. Anybody who you respect is working their ass off. What you don’t see is what goes into it. You only see what they want to show you. You don’t see them working nights. Working weekends. Hustling. That’s the the stuff that makes them successful.

It’s tempting to skip this stage. It’s even very easy. Especially if you have some disposable income to spend on Elance. For many people that’s not a great option. Which means your options are either getting nothing done or doing it yourself. And we both know getting nothing done is for losers.

More than anything, learning the boring is about not being helpless. If there’s anything that proves you’re an adult it’s being self-reliant and learning the boring is about becoming self-reliant. There’s an unparalleled sense of pride that comes from cooking a nice dinner from scratch for the first time, or building a website, or even from writing your very first “Hello World!” script. These are all signs of self-reliance and all come from learning the boring.

Interestingly, happily, when you begin learning the boring you might not find it boring at all.

20 Responses to Learn The Boring

  1. Really good read Karol, nice to see I can add ‘ Internet PPC ninja’ to your list fof accolades. This post links directly to a great book I’m reading atm, ‘the slight edge’ the overall message gets repetitive but the crux is still gold. Finding the power in the mundane, ‘Do th thing, gain the power’ , the power of compound interest… Might learn me some pay per clck I think… :)

  2. I guess this is what I am doing now, I’m learning all aspects of building niche sites. Hopefully it will lead me to bigger and better things, given time, for now I am enjoying most of the process.


  3. Well said Karol.

    People often see someone who has learned the boring as being talented. I hear people say “Oh your such a talented XXXX”. The truth is, talent really only accounts for 10%. Everything else comes from thousands of hours of hard work and practise!

  4. Oh yes!

    When I moved onto a boat, I didn’t want to learn the systems, I wanted to hire it out. However, learning electrical and plumbing (along with my sailing skills) means that I am now able to sail wherever I wish, because I have the “boring” skills I first resisted. And, I can hire it out, with knowledge, if I wish.

    I am now learning the same with my site. Although I find some moments of code tedious, I love fully “owning” the process. Thank you for the timely reminder!

    • Great point Joy. Once you learn the boring and you want to hire it out you’re on the same level as whoever you’re hiring. It puts you in a position of power. Thanks for adding that.

  5. I find that what you call the ‘boring’ is more like what I would call the basic introduction into a new skill set. And you can learn that new skill set if you put your mind to it. You can EASILY learn it if you are also interested in it. If you have no interest and are not driven by an end goal, then just putting the time in will never net you the same results, in my opinion.

    If there is no motivator that is strong enough, then you end up with the golden ticket people.

    • Obviously I’m not talking about learning random stuff for the sake of learning random stuff. That’s fine too, of course, but it’s not what I’m referring to here. So yes, learning the boring is learning the basics (and beyond) of a new skill set.

  6. Theme of the last 18 months of my life. Based on my experience in that time, I have to second the “unparalleled sense of pride” that comes with being able to help yourself.

  7. Love this post Karol – Your “filter” really resonates. I’ve started experiencing BITS of success as an entrepreneur and now everyone I meet that has an idea asks for varying levels of help. I tell all of them to go read Lean Startup and then email me and we’ll meet/discuss in the framework of their idea.

    I think 1.5 people have emailed me (someone read half the book and stopped) out of 20 or so…

    I hope the other 18.5 read it and are on their way without using me as sounding board… but I’m not betting on it.

    • Thanks Blake. Filters become increasingly necessary as more people want bits of your time. The trick is to come up with useful filters like you’ve done.

  8. Karol – just wanted to say thank you for running this website. For me you’re in the same league as Derek Sivers and others who cut through noise so freaking well.

    Since I’m impressed by so many of you ideas, I’d be eager to learn how your approach squares with having a family you have to support. This complicates the outlook and can take a lot of lifestyle bravery off the table if you know what I mean. Curious how you’d incorporate that into the bigger picture. Of course, this is not directly in response to your post, which was great BTW.

    • I don’t have a family (if you mean wife and kids) so I’m not the right person to answer that.

      Glad you enjoyed the post.

  9. perfect timing for this! Today I finally bought the domain for my first website (that I’ve been talking about making since April). Im ready to push through the fears, do thats hard, learn the boring, and HUSTLE. :)

  10. Dear Karol Gajda, I have been following your blog channel since ridiculously extraordinary.com. I greatly appreciate your advice on all of the financial stuff you have mentioned up above. I was very surprised to see you have addressed an email in my name. Well, I have emailed you once before and quite possibly be an entirely another person than whose name you have in mind, however you seem to know my kind of Boring and it’s been read by me. :)

  11. The thing which stuck was “the boring” being an efficient filter, and we quite often see it all around. It is just like natural selection, the ones who are not serious enough are automatically eliminated out of the real game.