Hi, I'm Pierre Bastien. I live in Philadelphia with my lovely wife and two kids. I was born in New Jersey and I've spent most of my life in the Northeast US. By day, I design trading and middle office software for the financial services industry. By night, I create Websites and do online projects including Squash Source, a blog about squash equipment, and BrickBreaker Guide, which is a guide to beating BrickBreaker.

What I’m Writing With

I was randomly inspired to write a blog post about the writing implements currently sitting on my desk. That seems like a pretty weird topic but I had a VERY strong impulse to do it, so here we go:

2014-10-20 20.25.10

The one on the bottom is the Zebra G-301 Gel. Here’s the product picture:

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I just started using this pen. It puts down a smooth, consistent, satisfying line of black ink. It also has a satisfying clicker. It’s made of stainless steel, which feels quality, but the pen is quite light.

It’s about the same thickness as BIC Round Stics. Speaking of BIC Round Sticks, this was my go-to pen for YEARS (blue ink).

 

Loved the balance on these, and the length of them. To me they’re just sort of the perfect disposable plastic pen. My big problem with them is I have a tendency to gnaw them. Not like tiger-style or anything, just a little roughhousing now and then. But over time they do wear down and yeah, get a little gross.

So I decided to switch to a pen that I would not chew. Bring on the stainless steel.

I do 95% of my writing with the Zebra G-301.

The next pen in the picture is a Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique ballpoint pen:

mont-blanc

This was a gift. A super awesome gift, because holy crap, I had no idea until just now that this was a $326 pen. Anyway I feel pretty badass whenever I use this puppy. Maybe I should use it more. The only problem is it’s quite heavy, and a little hard to spin (I like to do a couple simple pen tricks).

Last but not least I have a Staples-brand mechanical pencil. For those times when you just need a pencil.

pencils

Important Update: since writing this post, I’ve swapped the mechanical pencil for a nice Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencil.

Passive Income Success

In November I made a total of $326.92 in passive income, beating my passive income goal of $300 per month! Yippee!

Originally I’d set a goal of generating $300 per month by September 30th, which I failed to meet, but I was able to push past that mark only two months later.

I didn’t do much differently to meet the goal. I pretty much just kept posting and had a good month of traffic on my squash site, which provided $238 worth of the revenue through a combination of ads and affiliate sales. My WordPress consulting gig provided $60. My BrickBreaker site provided $25. And this site contributed $4.

I suppose I have a couple quibbles with my success:

  • I’m only counting revenue. I’m not counting some expenses, such as hosting, or the Keyword Strategy tool I use to help with search engine optimization. I figure my expenses are about $40 per month total.
  • The WordPress gig is only semi-passive. If I died today, that passive income stream would continue for a couple months since it gets charged automatically on a monthly basis, but soon enough my clients would cancel their service.

You know what though? Who cares! That’s THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS (minus expenses) OUT OF THIN AIR (except for lots of work)! Make it rain!

It’s taken me a while to write this post, so I now know that in December my total income dropped to $283, below the three hundred mark. Oh well, that’s only SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS in total. Wooooooooooot!

Of course it’s a bit funny to get excited about $300 per month. That’s not exactly change-the-world money. But I have had fun learning a new skill that, over time, will add to my bank account. That doesn’t suck. So, I’ll take this moment to celebrate.

What now?

My plan now is to keep working until the squash site brings in $300 per month all by itself. I’ll just leave my goal the same ($300 per month) but make the goal a bit harder by restricting myself only to revenue from the squash site.

‘Til next time!

 

Passive Income Fail

This is an update on my passive income project. Back in April, I decided to follow blogger Steve Pavlina’s passive income creation series. Later, per Steve’s encouragement, I set a public goal of creating, by September 30th 2012, a new passive income stream generating at least $300 per month. Well September 30th just passed, so … how’d I do?

I spent the first couple months mostly trying to develop the right mindset. This was in keeping with Steve’s series. During this time I came to the realization that creating passive income was primarily about creating passive value first. The question then became: where and how do I create passive value?

I had a couple ideas at the time. One was to provide support for people using WordPress blogging software. Over the years, through doing my own personal Web projects, I’ve built up a decent skill set around WordPress publishing and coding in HTML / CSS. I considered creating and marketing a service where I’d help 10 people build and maintain a WordPress Website for $30 a month.

The good thing about the WordPress idea is it was clear how I’d provide value, and how I’d reach $300 per month in income. It wasn’t clear, though, whether this could really be considered “passive”. Would there be any scale to this kind of venture? I didn’t know, so I tested it out.

I managed to land two paying customers to give it a shot with. I discovered pretty quickly that I enjoy the work, but it’s tough to juggle the time demands. I can’t just put in the Website work whenever I want — I have to, or WANT to, be highly responsive to my customers’ timelines. When both clients needed something done at around the same time, I became pretty stressed out at night trying to get things finished. (I have a day job and am pursuing this project in my spare time.) Scaling to 10 clients seemed daunting. So, I stopped trying to find new clients, though I’ve continued to help my 2 existing clients.

My other idea was a blog / informational site about my favorite sport, squash. I already had the beginnings of a site, but I needed to grow it. Here, it was clearer how the model would work, because I had already created an informational site about BrickBreaker, the classic BlackBerry game. As I mentioned in Creating Passive Value, I’d been able to build the BrickBreaker site into making $30 per month, though it took two years. I figured if I could build a site 10 times bigger for squash, I’d meet my $300 per month goal. Around July 4th, I decided to focus on growing the squash site.

I stuck to publishing useful squash content on a regular basis. At first I posted a combination of news and articles about squash equipment. Over time I moved away from news, which, like the WordPress business, was very timing-intensive. In other words the timing of my publishing was driven by external demands; it wasn’t something I could just work on whenever I had the time. But mainly, I just stuck to publishing.

Over time, my site experienced pretty steady growth. The traffic has come from a combination of other sites linking to mine, and search engine traffic.

You’ll notice traffic starts to drop off after September 9th. This is because in the middle of the month, I accidentally blocked search engines from accessing my site. Oops. After a week or so in purgatory, it looks like traffic is climbing back up to near its former heights. This is a bummer, but I’m in this for the long term, so it’s not a big concern.

Well enough with all the background, how did I do numbers-wise in September?

Here’s the breakdown:

BrickBreaker site

AdSense Ads – $17.06

WordPress Business

WooThemes Affiliate Sales – $17.50

WordPress Support $60.00

Squash Site

AdSense Ads – $17.71

Amazon.com Affiliate Sales – $3.00

Amazon.co.uk Affiliate Sales – GBP 20.59 ($33.24)

Spartoo.co.uk Affiliate Sales – GBP 6.44 ($10.40)

TOTAL: $158.91

 

So, I failed to reach my $300 per month goal. Boo hoo. Of course, I still came away with a hundred and fifty bucks, so I can drown my sorrows in a LOT of beer. And I created two new businesses, tiny though they may be.

One lesson I take away from all this is it was really helpful to set a goal. I think if I hadn’t done that, I’d probably still be dithering over what business to start with.

I know almost everyone says it’s super-duper-wonderful to set goals and everyone should do it, but I’ve had my doubts. I’ve previously written about the benefits of paring back the number of goals I’ve set. I’m still intrigued and fascinated by Leo Babauta’s writing on having no goals. But the results, for me are in: having a goal is helpful.

While having a goal was helpful, it was also important for me not to get too concerned about it. When I accidentally shut my site off from the search engines during the home stretch, I could have freaked out. Instead I just kept posting every day, knowing everything will work out over the long term, even if I don’t hit my short-term goals.

I guess now it’s time for a new goal. I’ll keep the same monetary amount, just extend my deadline a bit. Here we go, with authority:

I am now successfully creating a new stream of passive income by March 29th, 2013, that generates at least $300 per month on average and endures for a minimum of 10 years, and I’m doing this in a way that delivers strong value for many others around the world.

I picked March 29th because it’s a good distance away, but not too far. Also, it’s my birthday :-).

Blog Focus

What’s your blog focus?

I listened to a good podcast from Merlin Mann and John Gruber, two Internet-famous bloggers, about how to create a blog that doesn’t suck.

What I took away from it is this: first, your best bet is to obsess about something. Anything. And second, you should identify your ideal reader.

I realized that my ideal reader is my former self. Actually something like that is mentioned on the podcast: one of the guys (Gruber?) says he writes his blog for a version of himself.

Ten years ago I was a young adult living in New York City, making a good living, with great friends and a wonderful wife (no kids yet), and yet I was frequently stressed out, and often unhappy.

Years later I have two kids. Kids are awesome, but they can be very stressful at times. Studies show this is normal. Still, I feel many times happier now that I did before this supposedly stress-inducing turn of events.

Why is that?

It’s a question that fascinates me, and ultimately, I think my writing is an attempt to make sense of that transformation and explain it to my younger self. Of course, I’m past the point of being able to use this information in my own life, but I enjoy the deconstruction process, and more importantly other people can still benefit from what I’ve learned.