Today is the four year anniversary of the day I started unofficially blogging. (I didn’t launch until April 2009, but I started my own Blogpost blog half a year earlier. I think I had three readers – all of them family!)

As I reflect back over four years of blogging, I have to smile. When my literary agent (who I lovingly call Monkey Barbara because she said she’d get in a monkey knife fight to represent my book) told me I had to start blogging after dozens of publishers had rejected my book, I dug my heels in. Wasn’t it enough that I was a doctor/ artist/ writer/ mother? Did I really have to add “blogger” to that? I was admittedly ticked off.

I also didn’t have a clue what it meant to be a blogger. What was I supposed to write about? Why would anybody care what I wrote about? How was it different from keeping a journal?

I barely even checked email, much less read other people’s blogs. And I’m the most un-tech-savvy human on the planet. Literally, things like iPhones scare me.  The whole concept left me more than a little befuddled.

Yet here I am, four years later, after blogging radically transformed my life. Looking back at the woman I was when I wrote my first blog post (it’s no longer online but it was called “Getting Unblogged), I find myself smiling like a mother who gazes at her sleeping child.  Beginning to blog was one of the first brave things I did after living a fearful, guarded life. My first blog was a baby step towards a life I couldn’t have even dreamed of back then. I’ll be forever grateful to Monkey Barbara for ordering me to blog. I’m also grateful to all those publishers who thumbed their noses at my first book because I didn’t have a “platform.” Had any one of them said yes, I never would have started blogging, and my life might have been radically different.

During this process, I’ve learned some life lessons I might never have learned, had I not started telling my story on the internet. To mark the four year anniversary of my first blog, I want to share them with you here.

Lesson #1 To teach effectively, you must be a perpetual student.

Nobody expects you to have it all figured out. You don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to be an “expert.” Teaching as the student can be the most effective way to help other people transform their lives. If you teach from a pedestal, talking down to the people you hope will listen, you’ll lose them. Nobody wants to be talked down to, and people don’t trust you to teach them anything unless you reveal to them how you learned what you’re teaching. Be honest with people about where you are in your process, and even if you’re only one step ahead of them, you can help them take that one step.

Lesson #2 Nothing is personal.

The good stuff people say when they love what you do – it’s not personal. The mean stuff they spew – it’s not personal either. What people respond to is what they see of themselves in the mirror you hold up. If you make them feel good about themselves – you make them feel inspired or brave or loving or loved – they gush about you. If you make them feel bad about themselves – they feel jealous or inferior or judgmental or mean – they’ll post nasty comments all over the internet about you or badmouth you at the water cooler. Either way, it’s not about you.

You don’t get to claim any of it – which is good. Because if you believe the good stuff, you’ll get all high-and-mighty diva on the world, eating only green M&Ms. If you believe the bad stuff, you’ll let one piece of criticism crush you. Instead, you have to seek approval, acceptance, and worthiness from within. You also have to strive to self-improve, not in a beat-yourself-up sort of way, but in a gentle “I’m a work in process” fashion. Go ahead and seek counsel from a few select people whose opinions you value, those who have done enough of their personal work to give you feedback free of projection. Don’t pay much attention to everybody else.

Lesson #3 Vulnerability is the glue of connection.

When I started blogging, I had no idea whether they would come if I built it. Pressing “Publish” on my first blog felt like inviting people to a birthday party, when I was pretty sure nobody would show up. What I discovered is that, if you’re willing to push the edge of your comfort zone, let go of perfectionism, and reveal the truth about your struggles, your triumphs, your insecurities, your imperfections, and the raw edges of your cracked-wide-open heart, people feel close to you – and they feel closer to themselves. As Brené Brown teaches in her beautiful new book Daring Greatly, such vulnerability breeds intimacy, belonging, and connection. 

Lesson #4 There’s no such thing as too much love.

From the beginning, I started responding to people in the comments of my blog using terms of endearment like “sweetie,” “love,” and “darling.” My assistant started doing the same. Then one day, she asked me to preview an email she was about to send out. “Is this too much love? Have I gone too far?” I said no, that there would be no such thing as going too far in how much love we flowed out into the world. So she sent it. People are starving for love, and most of us withhold it, even when we want nothing more than to love and be loving.  So hold someone’s hand. Give free hugs. Say “I love you.” Call someone “honey.” The only ones who won’t appreciate it are the ones who struggle with their own worthiness and feel they don’t deserve such free-flowing affection. For everyone else, you’ll make their day.

Lesson #5 If you have the discipline to do something every day, you get really freakin’ good at it.

I was a creative writing major in college, but I didn’t do a whole lot of actual writing. I wrote when the muse showed up, which wasn’t very often. But once I started blogging, I had a schedule, and I had to figure out how to write, even when I didn’t feel inspired. After four years of writing almost every day, I’ve put in my 10,000 hours and mastered my craft. You can do the same. Just find what you love, get your ass in the chair, and practice, practice, practice.

Lesson #6 There’s a life lesson in everything.

When I became a professional artist, I started looking at the visual world with fresh eyes. A lemon-lime patch of new growth in a green redwood forest becomes inspiration for a painting. The pattern a wet palm frond leaves on the pool deck becomes a sculpture. You see the world with new eyes when you’re on the look out for inspiration. The same is true for blogging.

When you know you have to write something others will care about several times per week, you’re always on the lookout for inspiration. Suddenly, a kayaking trip becomes a lesson in going with the flow of the current, rather than struggling upstream. A swim in shark-infested waters became an opportunity to overcome fear. A watsu massage becomes a spiritual awakening. The lessons are everywhere, not just for me, but for you. Open your fresh eyes. See your life metaphorically. Then lie back and watch the magic unfold.

Are You A Blogger? Or A Blog Reader?

What life lessons have you learned from blogging or reading blogs? Share your wisdom in the comments below.

Still learning,

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  1. Joy

    Your message continues to inspire and encourage me..thank you! And congratulations on the four-year mark!

    My entire life changed because of my decision to blog. I began with a blog about the adventures I had while living aboard a sailboat with my children. Which evolved into a blog into the magnificence of unfolding…which evolved to my current site sharing the power of presence. Each blog was symbolic of my personal evolution, and my online connections became my offline relationships and friendships that enrich and enliven to this day.

    My entire world expanded, into that which I couldn’t imagine, magical, and leaving me vulnerable times a gazillion. Love…I have fallen in love, with world, with myself, with the process of *being*. With a heart full of gratitude, I read sites (such as yours) that inspire me to keep creating and connecting..

  2. Anna

    Aloha from Oahu.
    A lesson I am learning…..again and still, is…
    Today is all I have, only today.
    I spend SO much time grieving and being angry about the past….
    SO much time worrying, worrying, wondering, planning for my future,
    and the “what if’s”……
    wonderful today,
    so much to be grateful for,
    so much to appreciate,
    its all good.
    thank you….

  3. Niki

    Lissa Congratulations on four years of blogging!

    I found your insights most helpful and encouraging. I have had similar feelings about blogging as you discuss from your early days. I appreciate your willingness to share your insights. I think you so “hit” on it, the notion you just continue “doing” writing day after day and hour after hour… leading to mastery. Tis easy to procrastinate that which one doesn’t feel comfortable doing (simply because it’s a new skill).

    Next up, write another blog post.

  4. Allyson

    I launched my blog in early February of this year, and the decision to blog and put my life out there literally saved me. I was diagnosed with lupus in 1998. I also have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. One year ago I found myself at a crossroads. I had been an insurance agent for nearly ten years, a career that never fulfilled me. I was horribly sick and nearly hospitalized. Despite my reticent exterior I was absolutely screaming inside. Something had to give. I made the decision to stop everything that was eating away at my soul, starting with my job. I spent several months getting healthy, resting, getting to know love again in my life, and mastering the art of just “being.”

    I always wanted to be a writer, but given my health and its demands, I chose to start small and start blogging. The beasts that are lupus, FM and CFS have had a way of isolating me. But a funny thing happened. I was suddenly a participant in the world again. I didn’t feel afraid anymore. I got the courage to publish my first ebook, and did so in August. I am eagerly working on my second and planning my third.

    I am still new to all of this. My blog does not command a lot of traffic or attention. I sometimes struggle to find the energy to promote myself. I realize these things come in time, and some of my progress rests entirely on my health and how I am feeling from one day to the next. But I have faith; my message will get out there as it is meant to. The important thing is this: for the first time in a very long time I feel I have a purpose. I am on my way to the life I am meant to have. And to think it all started with a simple little blog.

    Lissa, you truly are an inspiration.

    Many thanks to you for all you do.

    • Lila Stageberg


      Your story sounds like my story. In 2004 I got a wound on my foot that refused to heal. I was living I life I thought sounded pretty good, but inside I was screaming, counting the minutes on the clock every day until I could go home and “relax” which was to isolate, read mindless mystery novels and think about all the ways my life wasn’t good enough. I cried a lot and never thought that it might be a hint that something was seriously messed up. Living most of my life with a dysphoric baseline, it seemed like I just was doomed to keep waking up every morning.

      Soon, I couldn’t walk from the pain and tissue damage in my foot, and then my other foot developed the same type of damage. I’ll fast forward three years, countless doctor visits, and wrong diagnoses until I was finally correctly diagnosed with an extremely rare autoimmune disorder that was only treatable with high dose steroids. By that time I had lost every usual source of self-assurance, and was holed up in my house hoping to be able to come up with the mortgage money, just one more time. High dose steroids did to me what they do, and I sat marooned in my chair as 4 vertebrae collapsed, discs ruptured, my hips underwent avascular necrosis, and my thumb joints collapsed.

      It was funny, but even a terrible diagnosis at least is a stopping point, and I was able to stop for awhile. I was financially ruined, emotionally singed, exhausted past sleeping it out. It took me about a year and a half to get rested after all the surgeries and hospitalizations. I learned that to convalesce took energy too.

      I discovered a new way to work from home and a much better life. I had the support and love of my family (some of them) and my friends ( a few who were left) and the backstop of God manifested continuously and every day. Bit by bit, a more honest way of life happened for me and now, all these years later, I am so much happier (although I still cannot walk more than a few steps, and even that only with a walker) and more fulfilled (at half the salary and 1/10 of the stress.) Who knew?

  5. Suzi Banks Baum

    Dearest Lissa,

    Congratulations on four years of leading, carving the way through and to authentically presenting yourself to the world on the internet. Your words inspire me weekly and your energy reaches across the nation to stir me where I need to be stirred.
    I have been blogging for almost 4 years now too. I was so new to technology then and so new to what we now call social media. I have taken a deep dive in to this pool and it is through connecting with women like you that I have found a community here.
    One of my favorite writing instructors, Zita Christian says: “I write in solitude, I work in community.”
    I have discovered the heart of my work through my blog, through developing the marketing aspect of my non-fiction book proposal. And I hated the idea of all I have come now to enjoy.
    What I love and have learned more about while blogging is generosity.
    Linking to other writers articles, sharing events, celebrating anniversaries like this one serve to warm what I used to perceive as icy waters. This kind of warming I welcome.
    Again, all my best for this anniversary and thank you for your continued transparency and warmth!
    Love, Suzi

  6. Aradia

    I’m an avid blogger, but up until working with a creative business coach (Laura C. George for those who want to know) I really didn’t put a lot of effort into my blogging. Like you Lissa with your creative writing in college I would only write when I was inspired and I had about a 7 year stint between when I was writing in high school (personal & deeply emotional things) to when I started blogging… But now I find I’m more frequently inspired. Even if it’s just a passing thought! I keep a blog for my store, my artist rants, my healing center, a goddess workshop I have lead, some reading I was doing for self-transformation, as a personal journal, while I was preggo (both of these kept me sane and from having anger melt-downs), for reclaiming my spiritual connection, and even one for your GOOYOW (my answers & reflections so I could see them later)! I love to blog because I love to journal and putting my thoughts and feelings down often untangles them. I try to care less about who reads it than just trying to be authentic in how & what I write. But now I want to keep that and up the ante 😀

  7. Karen Palmer

    Dear Lissa,
    I LOVE your blogs it has inspired me to start blogging for The Daily Love Assignment I will be their Pet Blogger. My goal to to teach people the spiritual lessons our pets have for us please help me help the animals by sharing this blog with your community. Here is my first Blog ever please comment and let’s get a conversation going about how awesome our pets are. I will be the “Pet Blogger” for Daily Love Assignments please share and spread the love. ♥♥♥

    Blessings and Gratitude,
    Karen Riordon Palmer

  8. Colleen McCann

    Lissa, I just want to thank you for being you. You are truly inspirational and have such an open, giving heart. And you are light and funny at the same time which I love. Thank you!

  9. Julie Golden

    Thank you, Lissa, for this compassionate post. You clearly understand the value and many of the trials of blogging. Of course your life-lessons also translate to time off of the screen.

    My blog is meant to support my novel, Vagilantes. Because the topic of child sexual abuse is so heavy, I resist writing new posts. I resist stepping again and again into this ugly part of life. Reality doesn’t rest, and children are abused every day – I’ve got it easy compared to them.

    Your viewpoints and encouragement are so helpful. Thanks for the push!

  10. MIssy Isely-Poltrock

    This is my favorite blog ever. Also one of my favorite current artists, Matthew Kirk. I am a collector. 🙂 How about that? Anyway I want to start my own blog soon, so thanks for reminding me. Thanks for inspiring me. For art and poetry of mine to share. For thoughts and hopes and gripes and therapy and things. Art and poetry is all wrapped up in that anyway, so I’m being redundant. Thank you for being honest and hopeful and sharing that with people. It matters. Missy

  11. Michelle Medina

    I’ve learned ALOT from you Lissa!! Thank you. I’ve also been inspired by others, truth be told though, I rarely read blogs religiously, so don’t even remember most names of people I’ve been inspired by, just what I was supposed to take from their blogs.

  12. Susan Hopkins


    Spider Solitaire- a placid, solitary pastime. I have logged over six thousand games. I figure each game averages three minutes. That multiplies to 18,000 minutes or 3,000 hours or 125 days or 4.16 months. That of course doesn’t mean that I sat at the computer for four months. Much of the time was after-hours, middle-of-the-night – I can’t sleep time.
    Why Spider Solitaire? There are thousands of games to play, on and off the web, but I needed to look no further. I started with the easy version- 8 decks, one suit, all black, and was a whiz- winning 95% of the games, so I skipped medium and went to difficult- eight decks, four suits- I can handle that! No wins. After 10 games or so I clicked back to easy, just to regain my confidence, but quickly re- assessed myself, clicked medium, and that’s where the games accumulated.

    What I learned- I am not a simpleton, but I am not a genius. For most of my life I thought I was a genius waiting to be discovered. Not a science genius, but someone who would come up with something profound that would make all the difference to all of the people in the world- that one defining thought that would make sense to everyone and all of the wars would stop, the polluters would quit manufacturing and dumping and the rapists would gently ask the women if they would like to. Understanding would rule the world and I could sit back and fold my hands behind my head and finally feel good.
    Spider Solitaire brought me back to reality. I am an average woman with average capabilities and know less and maybe no more about how to fix everything- Oh by the way, my win rate is 28%.
    What I learned- There is a move-helper at the bottom of the screen. Sometimes I click it and it flashes me one, two or three moves I have missed. Sometimes the moves are smack in front of my eyes, but when I am playing, I am often on bleary-eyed on auto-pilot, so I take the advice. Sometimes the helper snaps me back into the game and I make my own move decisions. It is the same in life.
    Sometimes there is a move I missed when the available move is up in a corner of the screen. I realize I am looking only straight ahead. A life lesson.
    Sometimes I play a game-within–a game. If I see the fireworks (YOU WON!!!) everything is going to be ALLRIGHT!!! So I log off and I believe. They I sneak back to the game and play again- a gambler by nature- and maybe I Win! Again- now I’m sure everything is going to be all right. I may take a third try and get stuck with no 7s to complete a run. I am devastated. A life lesson- I should leave well enough alone.

    My friend once confessed to me she too is a “Spider”. I asked her to tell me her win rate. She refused, saying it didn’t matter- that some games just can’t be won. Another lesson.
    I ran into a man, Anthony. We laughed together to know he too was a “Spider”. I asked him his win rate. He played medium, like me. He claimed his win rate was 78%. I was horrified. I asked him his secret (could he be that much smarter than me?). He said that when he was at an impasse, he hit “undo, undo, undo, undo” and re-worked his strategy. If only we could do that. Another lesson. In real life, there is no undo.

    Then there is the Spider Time when I just can’t work on a project any more, or I can’t get a two-month-late payment from Half and the entire bar at the bottom is filled with open applications- reminders, research, friends.
    . I open Spider and start to play. The cards come out slow and jerky and the mouse arrow won’t track. I try to play at my speed (fast) but the game won’t cooperate. I realize my computer is just damn overworked, I’ve asked too much of the wires and connections- I’m about to crash and burn. I stop, and shut it all down. A life lesson-Repair and Restore.

    Oh the profundity of it all. So, for now, I’ve got to close, I feel a spider crawling on my neck.

  13. Andrea Coulter (@WholiHealthCare)

    Hi Lissa,

    I started blogging in July after taking your course with Amy. It was a fabulous course and I learned so much, thank you for authentically being so generous.
    Aside from writing it to hopefully one day attain a literary agent and publicist, I blog because I care so deeply about helping people learn how to find their own true health.
    My own journey has been long and arduous and I know there must be others who feel the same way. Who are struggling with health issues and confused about what path to take. My vision is to teach people how to take back control of their health. How to relearn to listen to themselves and know what they need and when they need it to obtain true health.
    I hope to be able to look back like you and reflect on an amazing journey of helping others with love and passion as you do.
    Thanks for being an inspiration.
    warm hugs,

  14. Shasta

    Great blog Lissa! Thanks for sharing….. It validated the work we all do and inspired us to keep being honest, generous, and open. Loved it. (Especially #2!) 🙂


  15. Jenilyn-Holistic Fertility Coach

    Lissa, I recall starting my blog on fertility too. I was so uncomfortable at first, especially when I shared parts of my life on it. However, I love the feedback and how I hear it helped someone else. I enjoyed reading this, keep on blogging! Jenilyn

  16. Sarah

    Lissa, I am SO inspired by you! I am SO inspired!

    I will blog for the next 6 weeks EVERY Day! Wow, that is a commitment!

    I am here, I am ready!

    Let’s GO!

    Blessings of Aloha, Sarah

  17. Lissa Rankin, MD

    Dear Sarah-
    YOU GO GIRL!!!

    So proud of you!
    Good luck with your 6 week blog commitment.

  18. DeMario Ash

    Dear Lissa,

    I’ve been following you for several months now and I finally feel that I’m at a place in my life where I can open-up and share my story…

    I’m an African-American male who grew up in the streets of Chicago with very little prospects or opportunites. For years my father was verbally/physically abusive to my mom and my siblings and my childhood resulted in gangs, drugs, and even incarceration.

    Upon my release God began to do an amazing work in me culminating with a loving marriage and two beautiful children. I was also deeply involved in my church and ultimately acquired a minister’s license. I assumed I was on my way to fulfilling a life-long dream of becoming a Pastor and working with my wife in full-time ministry. That all changed about a year ago when I discovered that this was not the path for me. When I began to speak out about inconsistencies I saw in the church I was outcast and told that I was the problem. This was a very low point in my life because not only did it challenge everything I did but also who I was.

    In retrospect there was one common theme that kept reoccurring in my life and that theme was “victimization”. From my home life as a child, to the streets of Chicago, through the federal prison system, and even the church I’ve felt vicitmized. For me the question became not “who’s to blame” but “where do I go from here?”

    My goal is to share my story of abuse and help to empower others. I started a fitness business entitled F.O.C.U.S (Fitness Objectives Conquered by Utilizing Systems) which focuses on physical, mental, and spiritual health. What I’m great at is communicating with people either one-on-one or in group settings. What I’m not so good at is networking, blogging, and emails…

    I’m writing to let you know how much your story has touched me but also to learn how to get started blogging and inquire if we could work together on future projects.

    There’s ALOT I left out and would love to continue this dialogue…



  19. Donna Workman

    First of all congratulations on this milestone. I am a novice blog reader. Yours is the first blog I have followed with any continuity, and I love it. I look for your name in my email, and smile when I see it right below my Inner Pilot Light.

    Your soul baring honesty touched me from the first, your parallel philosophies made me braver about my feelings,and your get off your ass and do it approach to fear grabbed me by the throat.

    I am a little braver, a little bolder, a lot more honest with myself, more forgiving of the human condition, and completely devoted to finding my fearlesss self and pushing her out there into that six lane highway that I have to cross to get on with the rest of my journey.

    So glad that your agent pushed you to reach out, You helped me get a few steps closer to my authentic self via self reflection, and some forgiving love.

    Here’s to at least four more!!!!!

  20. Renee

    Wow, I can so relate to this! It fits in with what I believe and what I am doing to a tee.

    Thank you for inspiring me to keep going. I really resonate with everything you have to say.


  21. Lissa Rankin, MD

    DeMario, thank you so much for sharing your story. Good luck with all you’re here on this earth to do.

    And Donna, your words so warmed my heart! Thank you sweetness 🙂

  22. Midge

    Hello, Lissa,
    Many thanks for sharing your stories, reflections, and insights—your wide-open-hearted blog posts not only resonate with your readers (it’s so wonderful to discover kindred spirits, isn’t it?), they inspire us to imagine, wonder, dare, and celebrate (and so much more) our wondrous adventures. We are, all of us, brilliant and beautiful beings who share an infinite abundance of love and kindness. Your stories and your wisdom remind us that we already are who we want to be, right now and always.
    Through blogging, I have not only created a journal of my questions, wonderings, and yes, even my rantings, I have discovered a community of humorous, intelligent, free-thinking, inspiring, and even like-hearted people around the world who have so much to share. Our words, our blogs are our gifts to one another and ourselves. Venturing further into the blogosphere, I continue to stumble upon the perfect post with the most meaningful message by a wonderful writer. I am one lucky blogger, and wild woman!
    Yours in sharing the toils and tribulations of daring to live my life out loud,

  23. Aurora

    I love lesson 4! I have been wondering whether I express to much love for people and on the other hand, have been weirded out when people seem to be expressing too much love for me… more to consider :3 Thanks for sharing 😀

  24. Amanda Downing

    Hi Lissa

    I have been reading your blog for about a year since I heard your interview with Debbie from Nia. I was physically, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt at the time. Too many years of focusing on others like my husband, 5 children , parents, friends and the children I teach. I was searching for answers and your words resonated so deeply with my soul. I have shared your blog with many of my friends around the world. I have made the decision to leave teaching at the end of this year, dance Nia at least times a week because when I dance my soul just sings, go walking in the bush everyday and maybe find a village in France to just plop by myself for at least 6 weeks. Your recent blog just resonated so deeply with me as I have been talking about beginning a blog since 2010 when I took my self off and travelled to a small village in France to do a weeks course with Barbara Sher. A huge challenge for a woman who was born in 1957 in a small country town in Australia. It was the beginning of my reneissence. Lissa and all the other inspirational people who have replied to this blog thank you, you have inspired me to get into action!!!!

    Love to you all

  25. Lissa Rankin, MD

    Way to go Amanda- and all the rest of you!

  26. Lauren @ The Homeostatic Mindset

    I started a blog in August to chronicle my recovery journey overcoming anorexia- and it’s the best thing I could have done!! It is SO incredibly cathartic for me to write about my experiences and it has opened up a whole world to me of other bloggers who are blogging about their own eating disorder recovery. I have made some wonderful virtual friends along the way and challenged myself more in recovery than I EVER would have if I didn’t have my blog. It’s such an inspiring community! Thank you, Lissa, for you constant inspiration and love! xo

  27. Hollie Flynn

    Happy Anniversary Lissa!

    Thank you for leading with love! And thank you for sharing these incredible lessons. I’m going to print them off and read often.

    I think it’s so important to hear you started with 3 readers. 🙂 Great reminder and inspiration to “just get started”… to move forward with imperfect action on a consistent basis. We do not have to know it all or write as the “expert or teacher”….

    Share, love, inspire, and help others to discover….

    Still learning too! xo!

  28. June Sienkiewicz Reese

    I just started my blog two weeks ago. I was putting my writing on FB and encouraged by others to start one. I can relate as I too was an English Creative writing major. Thank you Lisa for the wisdom.

  29. John Gatto

    If you write everyday,you will becomevgoodcstbitvfrkm feedbackbifvyou dritiquecyourselfcregularly.vIbhavecwrittenvfivevbooks (seecaamazin) with
    A minimum of effort,aftervhatingvto writevincschool. mostvofbitbuscdevrlooingvHABITS


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