Life-Sparring.com launched on October 22, 2015, with the first blog post, an introduction piece titled “Life gets better with Life-Sparring – Put your gloves on!”.
While the post marked the official kickoff of the project, the way to the starting line was much longer.
The Beginning – An Idea Born out of a Personal Crisis
Towards the end of 2014, I was not in my happiest place. I had graduated from my MBA program in summer of 2014 and despite having started a new job, I was lacking fulfillment. The two years of the part-time MBA program had provided me with a constant opportunity to learn and develop, an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. After the program ended, I had difficulties to re-adjust to “civilian life”.
I felt stuck on multiple levels: stuck in my career, where the new job seemed too similar to the previous one; stuck in a relationship, that was neither moving forward (towards marriage) nor backward (break-up) and stuck in my personal development. I felt depressed, lacked energy and direction and in consequence suffered from insomnia and gained weight.
In this state of mind the idea for Life-Sparring.com was born. It was my attempt to drag myself out of the slump, fighting for more success and happiness. The minimum expectation was, that blogging would motivate me to be more consistent with my self-improvement experiments and that this would lead to better results and lasting improvements.
The optimistic hope was, that I might be able to find a few “Sparring-Partners” on the way, who not only are interested in my ramblings but who are also commenting and sharing their own problems, challenges and solutions.
While I was toying with the idea since 2014, it was an epiphany that led to the name “Life-Sparring”. I am not sure where I had the idea, but I instantly knew that it was the missing piece. "Life-Sparring" described exactly what I needed to improve my life. I was excited and surprised that the domain was still available and did not hesitate to secure it right away, in August of 2015. I built the website, which stayed pretty much unchanged over the past twelve months, based on a Squarespace template. Even the logo I made myself with a free logo editor provided by Squarespace.
Life-Sparring Works! – At Least For Me
Exactly 365 days after the first post, I am writing this Life-Sparring round, it’s number 30.
The past year was a pretty exciting journey. Starting the blog lifted my energy level, it gave me a new sense of purpose. I started to meditate regularly, tried out new experiences like Cryotherapy and the Cold Shower Challenge, I got experts to analyze my running style and lost almost 5 kg of body weight (4.7 kg if comparing the 10-day moving averages of the two dates) and 1.7 kg of body fat (again 10-day moving average to average).
With the newly found can-do attitude, I proposed in December of 2015 to my girlfriend of 7 years. Our wedding was held in July of this year in Malaysia.
At work, I had a decent year and finally arrived in my position. The little successes outside of the offices alleviated some of the pressure I was feeling and with a more positive outlook, I could find motivating professional challenges in my current job.
While I am still far from being the person I want to become, I can state with utter conviction: Life-Sparring works! At least for myself.
More Shadow Boxing than Sparring
While my personal Life-Sparring experience after the first full year is completely positive, it is difficult to say how successful I was reaching and inspiring others.
The overall statistics in are not too bad. A total of almost 5,000 page views (filtered and cleaned for all forms of referral spam and bot activities) in 4153 Sessions from 3587 users is an encouraging result.
Visitors to the site hailed from different 100 countries and territories. And while the top of the list is no surprise, the United States (42.34 %) dominate, followed by Hong Kong (11.15%), UK (5.24%), Germany (4.76%), Canada (4.42%) and Australia (3.77%), there were several exotic territories among the countries of origin: Saudi Arabia (3 Sessions), Guam (2), Cambodia (2), Oman (2), Grenada (1) and the Cayman Islands (1) were some of the real surprises.
As expected, most of the visitors were male (60.5%) and in the age groups 25-34 years (36.44%) and 35-44 years (27.04%).
A little disappointing was the level of engagement on the page and social media. The hope when starting the blog was to create interactions with the readers. Currently, Life-Sparring reassembles still more shadow boxing in front of an audience, than a sparring session.
The reason for this is partly the acquisition of visitor traffic. Among the sources of traffic, Google dominates with 55% of all sessions (75% thereof organic), followed by Facebook (22%) and Direct traffic (20%). Apparent is the lack of referrals from other blogs or websites, referrals hat would bring in visitors who would likely stick around a bit longer. Visitors coming via Google only see 1.09 pages in average per session and only 5.7% of the users are recurring visitors. In contrast, visitors coming via Facebook saw per session 1.26 pages and 25% of them were coming back.
The number of comments on the page was pretty limited and the Facebook page (currently 519 likes, more than half acquired through ads) is mainly kept alive by my friends.
In the instances where I got feedback, it was very positive. Especially some of my friends were extremely supportive and helpful. A special thank you goes out to David from Australia, who on multiple occasions pointed out typos and grammar mistakes in my articles. But I also would like to thank everyone who shared, recommended, liked and read Life-Sparring content over the past year.
Now that the base has been established, the challenge for the second year of the Life-Sparring experiment will be to be more successful in creating meaningful interaction with and among the readers.
The Clear Crowd Favorite – A Review of a Kickstarter Product
When I started the blog, I had a rough idea about the scope I wanted to cover. There was no master plan for the topics, however. I wrote the articles as I found inspiration for them.
It is interesting to see, after a full year of writing more than 32,000 words in 29 blog articles, which direction the blog took. The word cloud made with Tagul Word Cloud Art is a good representation of what Life-Sparring was about in the past 12 months.
Especially in the second half of the first year, the blog focused more on topics around health, quantified self and fitness than I would have anticipated. On the other side, there were fewer articles on career and management topics as initially expected, simply because I found it difficult to write about my professional challenges while being on the job.
The crowd favorites among the 29 Life-Sparring rounds were almost entirely articles with very practical content. By far the most views got an article reviewing a popular Kickstarter project. Runners up were blogs about my "digital ecosystem" to process information with multiple apps and about my experience with DNA sequencing service 23andme. All top three articles were published between February and April and are still on regular base among the most viewed articles every week.
Much less love and attention did get articles that were more on the philosophical spectrum. One of my personal favorites was a short but very personal piece titled Trying to Break the Spell - Some Reflections on Fear.
What the future will bring? More experiments, more reviews and maybe something I really would love to do: interviews and collaborations.
A Good Investment - Even Without Monetisation
Just in case you wondered. I did not earn a single cent with Life-Sparring but spent US$ 1,353 on my number one hobby. Biggest investment were around US$ 545 for advertising on Facebook and Google. Hosting and related services set me back US$ 257, a similar amount I dropped on professional proofreading. The rest of the expenses mainly went into stock photos and design elements.
I would surely not complain if one day I would recover my expenses through sponsoring or an endorsement partnership, this is however not the primary and not even the secondary focus of the whole endeavor.
So far Life-Sparring is worth every cent and every minute that I invested into the project!
In this spirit: keep your hands up, protect yourself at all time! Let's Spar for Life, Career and Happiness!