Welcome to the latest in a series of spotlight posts, aimed at introducing you to some of my favourite bloggers. People whose words I read on a regular basis and who provide a source of inspiration to me.
Today’s post is all about Benjamin Spall. Ben writes on a range of topics including entrepreneurship, travel, language hacking and location independence. I stumbled across Ben’s blog through Twitter some time ago and on realising that he lived in London, I promptly arranged a meet up so that I could pick his brains about blogging and I wasn’t disappointed. Not only was Ben both helpful and inspiring but he is also a genuinely lovely guy. I’m a big fan of Ben’s work and I wanted to share some of my favourite bits with you.
A good place to start
I strongly recommend heading over to Ben’s blog to get acquainted for yourself and below are links to some of my favourite posts. These posts all resonate with me a great deal and were really helpful to me at the time of first reading them.
I’d also recommend downloading and reading Ben’s guide ‘How to Start’, which provides you with practical steps to break the cycle and uncover your ultimate goals.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m Benjamin, 23, currently living and working part-time in London. Outside of work I write over at liferapture.com and run a small business site, which I’ve been slowly building up for several months.
Can you explain the premise behind your blog?
The blog has gone through several different phases in its two-year life span. In the last couple of months I believe I have finally ‘found my voice’ so to speak. I began to get compliments on my writing from younger work colleagues who I wouldn’t have thought knew what a blog was, let alone read mine on a regular basis. More and more people started reading (and complimenting) on a weekly basis and subscriber numbers tripled in the space of a couple of months.
Now, I focus on telling stories through experience. I believe it is called creative non-fiction.
How and why did you first get involved in blogging?
I first started blogging way back in late 2002-2003, using both Livejournal and my own hosted blogging software that I can’t even remember the name of now. I moved onto Cute PHP about a year later, which was basically an extremely stripped-down version of WordPress.
I’ve looked my old blogs up on archive.org over the years, and needless to say I cringe every time I read them. It’s like stumbling upon an old diary. I started blogging again in November 2009 whilst working at a large department store in central London. For the first year and a half the only people reading the blog were friends on Facebook (aka. People I knew in real life) and a tiny number of Twitter followers. It wasn’t until February this year (2011) that I actively got involved in the blogging community and, slowly but surely, began to grow.
Who or what has been influential to you in your life and why?
I hate to sound like a broken record or a cliché, but honestly, opening The 4-Hour Work Week for the first time was a total life-changing moment for me. It utterly and truly changed the path I was on in life, and the person I would have likely become, for the better. I can’t thank Tim Ferris enough for that.
Scottish band Belle & Sebastian have influenced me for a large part of my life. I genuinely believe listening to their records over the years has made me a better writer (and person).
Online influences include (takes a deep breath) Kevin Rose, Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, Chris Guillebeau, Ev Bogue, Marie Forleo, Jack Dorsey, Niall Doherty, Amber Rae, and Derek Sivers. They’re not a bad bunch.
You write on a range of topics from minimalism to language hacking, but if you had to choose your biggest passion, what would it be and why?
Consistently bettering yourself in everything you do. Everything I write about comes down to this.
This form of ongoing personal development isn’t for everyone. Some of my best friends have even said to me in the past “If you’re constantly trying to better yourself surely that means you will never be happy with the way you are”. I disagree. I believe striving for more, and more importantly putting in the work to achieve more, is an incredibly desirable quality any human being can hold. Happiness is not a point you eventually reach, but rather an ongoing motion that is, quite simply, your life.
What advice would you give to people who want to make personal improvements in their lives but find it hard to motivate themselves or get going?
Think on paper. Get yourself a notepad and pen (or a pencil and scrap of paper), and write everything down. Once you start to do the things you’ve written down, tick them off.
It sounds so simple, but as humans we get a huge buzz out of completion. That simple act of ticking off something, signaling the movement from ‘to do’ to ‘done’ is all we need to push ourselves forward.
If you’re looking at the bigger picture, I’d suggest having a quick read through my free guide, which provides you with practical steps to break the cycle and uncover your ultimate goals.
The main exercise inside the guide is something I completed myself about nine months ago, and I keep coming back to my answers to see how far along I am getting.
You have some ambitions plans in place. How do you keep yourself motivated?
It’s tough. “Do as I say not as I do”, and in truth; one of the reasons I write about motivation is because I find it so hard myself.
I wrote a post not too long ago about how nothing can motivate you above a great idea, and I truly believe that. When I’m “in the zone” it’s because I’m really into what I’m doing in that moment. Nothing else matters.
Which of your achievements which are you most proud of?
I’m incredibly proud of teaching myself conversational Spanish in three months.
It was a long ride with heavy workloads, but I kept myself going at it, even with up to 24 hours of pure Spanish personal-revision a week.
The payoff of visiting Barcelona and being able to converse, albeit it slowly, with the locals made all those hours of hard work worthwhile.
I get so much out of your blog but if there was one piece of advice you could give to my readers what would it be? Your mantra lets say, if you have one.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else”. Judy Garland says it better than I ever could.
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