017: Why You Should Solve Your Own Problems: The Story of Designing My Own Blog Theme [Podcast]

The most important life lesson I’ve learned from the Internet is this: solve your own problems and share the solution.

Solve your own problem
Photo Credit: kmakice via Compfight cc

Listen to the audio version of this post

I’m trying something new today, including an audio version of today’s post. Let me know what you think in the comments. If you like it, I might do more of this sort of thing. You can click the player below to listen.

Or you can also download it at iTunes or on Stitcher.

Now, back to the story…

If you want to get the kind of attention your work deserves and build an audience around your words, the best strategy is to share your struggles and talk about what you did to overcome them.

I first learned this lesson with my blog when I began writing about my own writing process and what I was routinely teaching other writers as a marketing director at a nonprofit.

For seven years, I helped creatives get unstuck and clarify their messages, all the while feeling confused about my own message. But the secret was hiding in my past, which I think is often the case.

The thing that you’re supposed to do with your life, your calling, isn’t some brand new thing waiting “out there” for you to discover it. It’s something you’ve already done, something old and neglected that you’re probably taking for granted.

Simply put, our greatest assets are the things we tend to overlook and ignore. So in the mundane, lies the extraordinary.

It starts with a problem

Recently, I faced a problem.

I wanted to redesign my website but couldn’t find any blog themes that I liked. There were some great resources out there that contained components of what I needed, but none had it all.

Regardless of whatever solution I chose, I was going to have to hire someone to customize it. Why not, I wondered, just hire someone to build me something completely customized?

And that’s just what I did.

You will need help

I wanted to solve this problem but knew I couldn’t do it on my own. I know virtually nothing about web development and can’t code my way out of a cardboard box.

My friend Martyn Chamberlin, however, is one of the most creative web developers I know. He’s smart both on the technical side, in terms of making the code work, as well as artistically savvy. He can make beautiful things that are functional, which is a rare skill.

Together, we worked on a custom WordPress theme that is just that: beautiful and functional. Leveraging Martyn’s experience as a fine artist and my experience in marketing, we focused on a  minimalistic design that drove conversions.

Perhaps most importantly, we created the kind of product we wanted to use ourselves. And then we took it one step further…

Share it with the world

It wasn’t enough for us to simply create something cool. We wanted others to experience what we made.

I believe firmly in this principle of sharing what you know and what you’ve learned with others. If you’ve solved your own problem, you have a responsibility to share the solution.

The idea is this: for those who struggled to find a web design that worked for them, as I did, maybe this is the answer. It’s not for everyone, of course, and that’s the point.

We built something that worked for us, which is what I’ve tried to do with everything I do online: offer solutions to my own problems and struggles, trusting there must be others out there like me.

Now, it’s your turn

The point in sharing all of this is to encourage you to go do likewise. If you know something that seems obvious to you, don’t assume it’s obvious to others. As Derek Sivers says in his book Anything You Want, maybe what’s obvious to you is amazing to others.

  • If you’ve been through a tragedy, be the comfort you wished someone would have given you.
  • If you failed in business before making it big, share the secrets that would’ve kept you from struggling.
  • If all you see around you is ugliness, create the art you wish someone else would make.

Be the change you want to see in the world. Pay it forward. Give so others may receive. It’s not only the right thing to do — it’s a great way to make a living. I know, because this is what I’ve done.

And in the process, I’ve learned something: if you help enough people get what they want, you will never have to worry about what you want. You won’t need much because you’ve made it your mission to solve other people’s needs. The world has a way of rewarding such generosity.

Here’s how it works

The process looks something like this:

  1. Begin with a problem. Take a look at your normal, everyday struggles for clues of problems others may be facing. How could you turn that into something generous?
  2. Get help. See who resonates with your vision, who has the ability to help you realize the solution, and ask them to join your cause.
  3. Share it. Once you have your solution — whether it’s a book or a business or a piece of technology — then let people have it. You may need to charge for it or not; the model depends on what it is. The point is to not hoard your solution, to share it.

When you take your problems and turn them into something that gives back, something other people need, you create value. Which is attractive. It’s interesting and remarkable, the kind of thing that people talk about. When you do this, you just might be surprised by what happens next.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This all starts with identifying a problem, something that’s obvious to you that might be amazing to others. So start there, iterating as you go, until you find something that connects with people’s deep needs and your own passion.

That is the intersection we’re looking for — the place, as Frederick Buechner writes, “where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” It’s where you find your vocation, your unique contribution to the world.

Good luck finding it, and don’t forget to share what you learned.

Resources you should check out

Here are some books and resources worth checking out:

And if you’re shopping for a new blog theme, check out Tribe. It’s currently available to limited number of early bird users at an all-time low price. Be sure you walk through that video tutorial above first, though. Find out more here.

Why I Designed My Own Blog Theme (or Why You Should Solve Your Own Problems and Then Share the Solution)

What’s a problem you’ve solved that others would benefit from hearing about? Share in the comments.

69 thoughts on “017: Why You Should Solve Your Own Problems: The Story of Designing My Own Blog Theme [Podcast]

  1. I see you are a great example of Lewis Schiff’s business principle discoveries. Making the art valuable and money-worthy and thereby growing and sustaining the business of your art. Thanks for being a great example to follow, Mr. Jeff.

  2. It’s funny, sometimes we want to make sure everything is perfect before we ‘ship it’ so to speak. Including the problems and struggles makes it more real – and folks can relate. The other benefit is people *always* search for answers to problems. If you share your problem and how you solved it, people will search for, and find your solution!

  3. Very cool. This is the boost I needed to create blog posts. It’s funny because I am working on a post now that involves solving a problem in my sewing studio. I struggle with post ideas and sharing my solutions to problems is a great way to come up with good content. In addition, I usually share where I get my inspiration for my solution, thus creating additional links on my website. Having legitimate links, as I understand it, also helps with Google ranking. Thanks for sharing Jeff. Found you through Blogging Your Passion and am enjoying your articles.

  4. One of the best posts ever. I’m not entirely certain why, perhaps it is just what I needed right this moment, but it is fabulous. I will be sharing it! Thank you, Jeff.

  5. I’m one of the happy buyers of your theme because it was exactly what I was looking for and unable to find. I encountered the same problems and hurdles you did. Looking very forward to getting everything moving upward now that I have the right foundation. Great post and insight Jeff. Thanks.

  6. Jeff – Great advice. Seems we all feel as if we have nothing to share or to offer others. But too often we have solved problems and had problems that could help others. One of my clients who is a paralytic told me “God has given me this gift for a reason, I now need to use it.” I thought WOW.

    But I also love the idea you did your own theme. With all the common wisdom of outsource everything, sometimes those important things need that personal touch. That is why Steve Jobs was intimately involved in each Apple product.

  7. Jeff – thanks so much for these thoughts, especially,
    “This all starts with identifying a problem, something that’s obvious to you that might be amazing to others.”
    I spent the weekend at The Declare Conference for Christian women bloggers and came home with a new business plan and enthusiasm to solve a problem.
    Thanks for your encouragement and enthusiasm.

  8. Jeff,

    I purchased your theme on Friday, August 8th and by Monday August 11th with work with styling CSS help from a designer, I redid my blog. You can check it out at https://chipdizard.com. I would LOVE to give a testimonial to your service and how easy the site was to put together, especially for me who is not a coder.

    You said it best: if you help enough people get what they want, you will never have to worry about what you want.

    Thanks for being generous and helping others and I intend to continue in my work with churches and ministries paying it forward.

  9. Thank you Jeff for sharing your thoughts and your journey. I just purchased the book “Anything You a Want” and look forward to reading it.

  10. OK, this is so funny, because I’ve been scouring all the WP themes out there (for my soon-to-arrive “me” blog) and thinking, “I like them, but they don’t do everything I want to do.” But the one blog setup I found that DID…is yours! In other words, awesome timing, thank you.

    As to your other point about solving your own problems and sharing your wisdom, yes indeed. We’ve all read enough recycled content…we want personal stories and experiences. Those resonate. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Thanks for this inspiring post. I’m just about to give up my old Blogger account and move to WordPress.org. With new title / theme / art. I’m struggling with how much of the work I want to do myself and how much of it I want done by a professional. Because I want to be independent, but I also want the blog to look nice…..Oh, so many considerations!

  12. This is great, Jeff! I’m with you 100% on the belief that if we find a solution to a problem that can help others, we have a responsibility to share it.
    I’m on the verge of switching from Blogger to WordPress, changing themes and whatnot, and your podcast couldn’t have come at a better time. As a writer, English tutor and aspiring author, I have, over the last few years, come up with ‘formulas’ for how to do a number of things, such as write an essay, write a story, get out of writers block, or why we shouldn’t feel stink when people reject what we produce. I think most things (if not everything) can be ‘logicked’ out by digging into the issue and finding what’s at the heart of it. And when these things are common enough that people can relate, but not so obvious that everyone already knows about them, then they’re likely to be interesting and helpful, at least for someone.
    Thanks again!

  13. Four months ago we made the move from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to our dream designation of Maui, Hawaii. We wanted to move for the last three years, it was a problem that we solved. What you’re saying is spot on. When you talk about problems you’ve solved in your life and offer a solution people listen. I wrote about this in my latest for the Huffington Post. Not only did people respond like crazy, the article is currently featured on the front page of Yahoo! https://www.huffingtonpost.com/kimanzi-constable/6-lessons-moving-to-hawai_b_5666615.html Take Jeff’s advice!

  14. I had trouble finding quality social connection buttons for my blog. I learned basic HTML a while ago, so I learned how to create my own social buttons.

    When I shared what I created, I got great feedback. Now those my social buttons are available for everyone who wants them.

  15. Jeff,
    I try to offer sound advice on better living and some inspirational art and cartoons on my site. If I can share some wisdom that helps another person then I feel fulfilled. Congrats on your new Tribe theme and thanks for your great posts!

  16. You have a really good audio voice. Nothing worse than listening to a monotone, but you’re good. Now to check out the Tribe theme.

  17. Hi Jeff,

    This is the exactly what I wanted to hear. I was fed up with other blogger bragging about how much money they are making. I can’t relate to that because I still have problems with managing wordpress site. Thanks for your insightful advice.

    Jun from Korea

  18. Hi Jeff,

    I completely agree with what you said about how we overlook what comes easily to us and think it’s no big deal. I took my writing skills for granted my whole life and only 3 years ago realized that is what I should be focusing on. The road to becoming a paid writer hasn’t been easy, but that is ok because I know now that I’m on the right path and will get to my destination sooner or later. (And then to the one after that 🙂


  19. Great advice, Jeff! I’ve also found that questions people often ask such as advice or how I did something is another way to discover the problems that need to be solved for which we are particularly equipped to solve. It’s nice when those solutions we come up with are able to put food on the table, but I believe that, if we continue seeking out those needs that we can fill, we will eventually be able to put food on the table with our solutions.

    May we be faithful to diligently seek out those needs and fill them as a way to love our neighbor!

  20. Great blog (I listened and read) both ways were just as compelling. Many of us myself included have ideas we bury inside as we think they are silly or worse. Yet look in history all the way up to today at all the ideas that were silly that now resolve problems. Thanks for the reminder to chase after those ideas beyond just emailing it to yourself as a record for the patent you never apply for.

  21. “When you take your problems and turn them into something that gives back, something other people need, you create value.” I’ve always loved how that process works. The cycle of redemption, problems turned into possibilities. Nothing is wasted. Thanks, Jeff.

  22. Thanks a lot for sharing! I am about to get the tribe theme. I sent you an email asking you if I need the Genesis Framework to use The Tribe Theme, and I didn’t get a reply. Please would you mind to tell me if the Tribe theme needs any Framework? Thanks.

  23. Great post, Jeff. I wrote my first book based on the “problem” of being from a normal family. For too long, I didn’t think that my story mattered because it was, well, normal. I came to realize, though, that there are many men and women who want to lead a healthy family (or school or church or business) but just don’t know what that looks like. My experience as a child may not have been completely ideal, but the feedback I have gotten has proven that my “normal” is, in many ways, someone else’s “ideal.” Thanks for the constant reminders to create for the benefit of others.

  24. I think I am learning to be the comfort I wish I received when going through some horrific stuff. Feeling all alone like that, wasn’t necessary. And yet, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be writing as I do.

  25. I love this post Jeff – I think one of the beautiful things about the internet is the ability to share our knowledge with anyone and everyone in the hopes that it helps others in the smallest of ways.

    In my years of travel writing, I discovered that no-one ever seemed to be honest in their writing either with themselves or their readers and I wanted to change that. So I started to find some inner courage and write what others couldn’t or didn’t want to say and launched a new website dedicated entirely to personal development and mental health. My hopes, as I explain in my About page, is that even if my words help just one person feel a little less alone then all my hours of writing will have been worth it.
    My sharing my strength through my writing, I hope to be the ‘friend’ that people can turn to when they need a virtual ‘hug’.

    “The Universe does not laugh when you fail, it smiles when you try” right?!


  26. This sometimes requires a step of faith and real honesty too. I grappled for a while about beginning my blog on faith and chronic depression… turns out so many people needed to know they’re weren’t alone, and were looking for someone to share words and ideas on how to live one day at a time without feeling like they had failed their Creator somehow….. I had to be brave enough to go public with my battles and solutions. Turns out… there’s an audience for that. I’m learning your own problems and solutions can be a pretty powerful fuel for your readers or audience.
    Your quote from Buechner was the perfect icing for your post, Jeff. Thanks again for the guidance you bring.

  27. Hi Jeff,

    What a wonderful, honest post. I’m in the due diligence phase of creating a membership site and I believe the Tribe theme may be just what I’m looking for. Do you have any idea how soon it will be available? Are we looking at weeks? Months? Next year?

  28. The audio version was a great addition, Jeff. The Tribe theme is nothing short of the best. However, I agree, sharing what we learn is a great way to help others, give back and in the process, learn what we’ve actually learned. Too many people don’t realize the value they already have in what they already know and get caught up trying to find something totally unique, when really they already have their uniqueness…. Great post!

Comments are closed.