April 23, 2014

Signing My 11th Year About.com Contract

I’m working from home this afternoon, in part because I plan on making a beautiful corn chowder recipe for the family’s dinner tonight.  I needed to take a break from what I was doing to review the new About.com contract that will govern the licensing of my copyrights to The New York Times subsidiary for the Investing for Beginners site.  As I looked through the pages, highlighter in hand, I decided to brew some sweet tea to enjoy in my few hours of solitude before the rush this evening.

Joshua Kennon About.com Contract Reading

Reading through the contract at home …

Reading the text on the white paper in front of me, I realized this is my eleventh year with the network.  About.com is unique because it isn’t a job; it’s not what I do for a living, more like an interesting hobby that lets me help people.  It is a platform on which nearly 1,000 experts share their insights on a specific topic and share in a portion of the advertising earnings.  

I signed my first contract in February of 2001, when the excesses of the dot-com boom were still evident and the company had not yet gone through the enormous changes that followed in the subsequent decade.  I remember the call from my first editor, which I took in my bedroom as an 18 year old high school student living at home with my parents.  It was a far different world back then and the business wasn’t nearly as large as it is today; the site itself wasn’t anything of which to speak, generating a mere fraction of the page views and visits it does today.  They looked for good writers, first and foremost, and I beat out much older people for the investing topic, despite having none of the wealth and success I enjoy today.  I was given, essentially, free rein within my topic to write about anything that interested me.    

I remember visiting the flagship office on Broadway with foosball tables and soaring ceilings before the company moved to more modest digs.  Nearly everyone at headquarters has come and gone – at least two or three waves of personnel – and I continue to write, having turned my tiny little site into a large, profitable endeavor that has benefited both parties.  

Back then, some of my best content was written from a college dorm room in New Jersey on a Dell Notebook computer on a dial-up Internet connection, wearing Banana Republic sweaters and talking about my ideas with Aaron.  Today, most are penned long-hand with a $1,200 gold-accented fountain pen in leather bound notebooks that are then transposed into html and uploaded to the site; written late at night, sitting by the fireplace and wrapped in a cashmere blanket as the family watches a movie or plays video games.  

Nearly everything has changed in those 11 years, as I grew from an 18 year old kid to a nearly-30-year-old man.  I launched my first businesses and became financially successful, proving that the concepts I was writing about could work in the real world, just as they had for countless men and women before me.  It’s just a funny thing … and I’m so grateful.  And at peace about the experience.  As I type this, I look down and the shirt I’m wearing is custom made from fine, textured Italian fabrics and cost near as much as the rent payment my parents made on the tiny 900 square foot house in which they raised the four kids, started their business, and rebuilt their life after losing everything.  My days are spent doing what I love, with people I love.  I’m free to pursue my passions, to learn, and to experience.  Always in the background, as one great constant on my journey, were my regular articles on the network.  The site grew with me.  Many of the readers grew with me.  

Looking to the future, in another 11 years, I’ll be 40.  I can’t imagine the changes the world will see in that time.  What I can do is strive to be a little wiser, a little kinder, and a little richer every night than I was when I woke up in the morning.  Compounding has a powerful effect that way.  What I do know is that I hope I continue to write, and help people, on About.com, even though it is only a small part of what I do.  It has been such a rewarding experience.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexandre.mouravskiy Alexandre Mouravskiy

    By the way, if you have nothing to prove, as you so often like to mention, why is it that everything you write and photograph revolves around ostentatious displays of things people who aren’t wealthy would consider wealth?

    I’m just curious here, and I find your site and persona to be an unending bag of giggles.

    • Joshua Kennon

      Because the people in my life, which are the most valuable thing (life is, after all, about relationships more than anything else), didn’t sign up to have their privacy violated and broadcast to the world.  That means 90% to 95% of my day doesn’t make it on here.  Last night, for example, I spent the entire evening sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen playing marbles with a 4-year-old as we cut out snowflakes from paper napkins.  The people I write to help – those who want financial independence – don’t learn anything from that part of me and, even if they did, they don’t have a right to it.  

      As for what I post, I share an authentic experience of how I live.  That is what a blog is.  This is who I am.  It’s what my life looks like if you were me.  It’s the real day-to-day of how I go through the world.  What you are essentially asking is, “Why don’t you censor yourself because some people may find who you are, and how you live, offensive?”  

      I don’t believe in that kind of dishonesty.  I see a well made piece of furniture and get super-excited because of the skill it took to build it and the artistry necessary to execute the design.  You, apparently, see money and class distinctions.  That’s your baggage, not mine.

      (I don’t mean that disrespectfully at all. And thank you for being honest enough to post under your real name, which makes me realize it is a real question.)

    • Joshua Kennon

      P.S. The short answer would be, I don’t think about where I fall relative to other people.  One of the big themes is to focus on what you want for your own life and then pursue it, whether that means living in a log cabin and hunting to live off the land or flying around in a private jet.  I like what I like and present it honestly and unfiltered.  So, to answer your question: I don’t think about what the average person thinks of me because I don’t care.  I believe that’s the correct way to live.  If I were black, I wouldn’t care what a racist thought of me.  If I were bisexual, I wouldn’t care what a fundamentalist religious nut thought of me.  If were a human rights campaigner in the third-world, I woudn’t care what the government thought of me.  I think people should live how they want, be open and honest about what they love, and follow their passion.  This is my life.  This is my history.  I want to be able to look back and remember it how it was, not some white-washed, filtered image of it in the fear that I might, someday, offend someone.  That’s no way to live.  

  • Anon

    Alexandre’s comment was out of line, but Joshua answered it with class.  Clearly the comment comes from a person that does not follow this blog/site closely enough.

  • Fran Short

    I would be disappointed if Joshua did not provide the details of his life that some may consider braggadocios.  I follow the blog for many reasons most of which is to learn about financial matters and investing for wealth creation.  One of the benefits of wealth is to enjoy the “finer things”.  It is interesting to read how Joshua enjoys his success.  Why pretend that we create wealth for no reason.  Please keep it coming.

    • Gilvus

      I give you five Internets for excellent use of “braggadocious” :-D

      To me, “finer things” means flipping the bird when someone tries to use the threat of job loss to control how you use your time. That kind of freedom is sweeter than any gold-rimmed iMac or Creed-scented cashmere fountain pen. Personally, I’d like to hear more stories like that from Joshua’s cranial repository.