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The Value of Challenging Yourself

The Value of Challenging Yourself

Over the past few months, I have been challenging myself in different ways. I believe that we grow the most when we feel challenged. When we have a lack of challenge in our lives, we find ourselves deep in a comfort zone. It takes a constant level of difficulty to keep us sharp and feeling motivated.

There are many different methods for challenging ourselves. I try to challenge myself in ways that stretch me both personally and professionally. Some of life’s challenges will come naturally, such as when you get married or have a child. Other challenges we must force ourselves to take on such as losing weight or working to get a promotion.

I like this concept of challenging myself because it keeps me moving towards something. It is easy to get comfortable in situations you would rather be growing in. It’s easy to let things go when it comes to parenting your kids. It’s easy to eat that extra thing instead of throwing it away. The easy road is the most comfortable until it’s not anymore.

In this post, I am going to identify four different areas in which we can challenge ourselves. There are a lot more, but for me, these were where I started.

Common Types of Personal Challenges

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Relational
  • Occupational

These four personal challenge categories are all very difficult topics for me. I have struggled big time in each of these categories. Perhaps I will go deeper into that in a later blog post or podcast episode.

Physical Challenges

I used to be very physically fit. It was easy in my late teens and early twenties. I worked out a lot, was pretty active, and ate whatever I wanted. Pretty simple… Until it wasn’t that simple anymore. Responsibilities took most of my time and soon I was not going to the gym. My diet changed as well. I was not unhealthy, but I was overweight. I was giving my body more than it needed and it was storing that for me. I had to challenge myself to eat better and be more active.

Mental Challenges

Life would happen and I would just deal with it. That used to work for me. Handle it or forget about it. Those were the silos I put everything in until they were overflowing and everything came spilling out. I realized that if you don’t take care of your past you are carrying it with you. It was too heavy and I needed to get a handle on it.


I have never been good at maintaining relationships. I don’t have many friends and even fewer close friends. I was always too busy and didn’t want to spend time with people who had nothing better to talk about than sports facts. That made it hard for me to fit in with groups and I eventually developed some social anxiety. I have been challenging myself to make and maintain more friendships in hopes that some of them become deeper friendships.


The problem with working for yourself is that there are often only two motivators: Money and Clients. You need money so you get clients. Clients want the work done or you don’t get money. If the clients are happy and my bills are paid on time, it is easy to feel safe. Feeling safe for too long leads to a lack of growth both in my business but also in myself professionally. I have had to find new ways to challenge myself to grow while at the same time not killing off what is still working.

Why Do We Need Challenges?

We need challenges to help us grow and get outside of our comfort zone. Without them, we stay comfortable until we get taken out by someone who’s challenge was to get ahead. It happens at work and in our personal lives. If I am not getting outside of my comfort zone then I’m not growing. I am finding ways to avoid frustration and avoid the change that I want in my life. That means I am saying no to opportunities that could be really interesting but might take some extra work and I am saying yes to relaxing and taking the easy route.

If we are ever going to progress, we need to expand beyond our current understanding. You might be a professional in your industry but there is always someone with more experience. My kids often feel like they know everything about a subject until I ask them to go up against someone with more experience than them. Whether it be a video game or their jiu-jitsu class, they need to seek out challenges to help them grow.

It is very important to put yourself up against others, even if they don’t know you are doing it. Sometimes my kids have a great jiu-jitsu session, other times, they get owned by some other kid. That is how life works. Sometimes we win and sometimes we get owned. You can have all of the techniques and lose in endurance. It happens. My kids have been in jiu-jitsu for over a year now and some days feel like they just started last week.

Challenges give us opportunities to learn more about ourselves. You don’t learn much about yourself from the couch. If you sit in your office all day and never bring that new idea to the table, you never learn whether or not your idea would fly. Sometimes we learn that showing up is what it takes and as long as we keep showing up, we keep winning. That is the case for me with my challenge to get back in shape. I just keep showing up. I’m not looking for perfection each time I go to the gym, I just get up and go.

Fear is also overcome when we challenge ourselves. You beat fear regardless of when you take on a new challenge. Fear is what stops you from even starting. Fear is what keeps you in bed at 4AM instead of getting up to go to the gym. Fear is what keeps me from blogging, recording a podcast, sending an email to thousands of people, or talking to my kids about something tough. The more you avoid fear, the easier it gets to stay somewhere safe.

My Challenges

I have been challenging myself to get to the gym first thing in the morning at least four days of the week. My goal is that I never skip more than two days in a row. For the most part, I have been able to stick to that. I have to get up early to get to the gym because that is the only time I can make it. Once the day starts, it’s too late. The demands of my family and work are priorities of mine so I can’t take off for an hour or two in the middle of them. I would prefer to sleep in, but I go to bed early so I can get up really early to work out. I feel great for the rest of the day when I keep that challenge to myself.

Another recent challenge has been to start sending a weekly newsletter to those who have given me their email address over the years through one of my websites. I had a list of over 22,000 emails and I was doing nothing with them. That’s 22,000 people who wanted to hear from me but didn’t. I have also wanted to get back into podcasting. I love podcasting and have been doing it off and on for about 20 years now. I would start and stop, because of fear. I know that I need to challenge myself to send something weekly by email and publish at least one podcast. This challenge is in line with the goals that I have for myself that fit into all four of the categories mentioned above.

My Challenge For You

What fear is blocking you from taking on a new challenge? It could be the opinion of someone else, or just a voice inside you telling you you’re not good enough. If you would be so brave as to share that with me in the comments section below, I would appreciate that. If not, please subscribe to my newsletter and reply to Issue #2 when it comes out. I will be making a similar ask at the end of this week’s email newsletter.

What can you do today to start challenging yourself? For my fitness challenge, sometimes it is just getting out of bed when the alarm goes off. If I get out of bed and head out the door, I will arrive at the gym and workouts will happen. The first step is getting out of bed. If that doesn’t happen, the rest of the plan is over before it even started. What is your first step?

Final Thoughts

Your challenge doesn’t have to be big. I know that on social media everybody looks like they are making these giant leaps ahead, but that is the problem with social media, it’s a highlight reel. We see the before and after pictures posted at the same time and we don’t get the story that includes all of the challenges they had to overcome to get there. Your challenge can be small. Small challenges add up to big change.

It also doesn’t have to be public. Often the first thing we do when we decide to do something is post about it. That does two things. It puts the pressure of other’s expectations on us and it gives people an opportunity to give us excuses as to why we can’t or shouldn’t challenge ourselves. I prefer to challenge myself in private as often as possible because sometimes I don’t know if what I want will benefit me or not in the way I hope it will. If I make it public, I then have to back down in public.

With other challenges, I have to give myself time to work them into my life. Lately, I have been giving myself 30-day challenges so I can measure the results and see if this is really what I want. If it is, I keep at it and hopefully, it will soon become an aspect of my life.

Sometimes we think that involving others whether it be friends, loved ones, or social media followers will help keep us accountable. I have found that people are actually more likely to give you excuses than to help you achieve your goals. When I would decide to stop working towards something I really wanted people would say, “well, you have four kids, you are busy enough,” or something like that. They are not trying to keep me from being the best version of me, they are just trying to help me feel better. But I don’t want to feel better, I want to feel challenged, so I keep it to myself at the beginning.

Whether you want to grow physically, mentally, relationally, occupationally, or all of the above, I hope that you decide to start challenging yourself today.

Thanks for reading! I ask that you would please subscribe to my Weekly Email Newsletter and if you like listening to audio, Subscribe to my Podcast.

Blog Income Reports

My September 2017 Side Income Report

September 2017 Side Income Report

I have certainly let time get away from me this year. I mean, I meet all of my deadlines and don’t miss anything at work, but the goals I make for myself often get put off. My goal of reporting my monthly side income finances is one of those goals that quickly got put on the back burner.

I know we are supposed to be talking about September but October was a crazy month for me. I had two jobs out of state which took up just about two full weeks of the month. Both jobs were on the east coast. I felt it in my productivity and my ability to create content that would assist in my goal of increasing my side income.

With that said, a few things took place in September that was notable.

Toward the end of the month, I hired someone to assist with editing video. This part-time position was created to help us catch up on all of the video content we had filmed but had not yet edited. We had about 30 or so videos in the backlog. I will talk more about the progress here in Octobers post.

I am approaching some major milestones on Youtube. From here on out I will include subscriber counts to the YouTube channels and the increasing percentage as well. Though this report is about income and income is usually referred to in dollars, I also will be paying attention to reach. At this phase, I would prefer an increase in reach over income.

September 2017 side income total – $2446.50 (-17.56%)


  • StateOfTech – $909.62 (+17.42%) Subscribers: 19314 (+5%)
    This YouTube channel is part mobile technology review videos and part tech tutorial videos.
  • Ditch Auto – $349.52 (+1.77%) Subscribers: 17227 (+6.04)
    This YouTube channel is similar to StateOfTech but for Photography. The videos that perform well are reviews and tutorials.
  • Jerad Hill – $32.62 (-2.51%) Subscribers: 4569 (+0.41%)
    This is my personal channel which I do not post too often. I do plan to do a lot more on my personal channel in the near future. I am just trying to decide what I want my focus to be there.

Amazon Affiliate

  • Amazon Product Links – $527.77 (-47.31%)
    With August being back to school, it makes sense that these numbers would be higher. The majority of the product links I have out there are for technology and camera equipment. We have not put out much content that includes product links so I don’t expect much growth here until Christmas shopping begins.

Google Adsense

  • Google Adsense links/display – $108.97 (-7.41%)
    I cut some of the fat on a couple of my websites which will initially produce a decrease in traffic. I deleted a lot of content that I did not feel was relevant anymore. Many of these pages would generate a click or two here and there from organic search, but I deleted it all so that the search engines could focus on crawling quality content.


  • Paid courses on Udemy – $0 (-100%)
    I only have one paid course currently and that course is getting old. It needs to be refreshed. I have plans later this month to get new courses out that will be paid and to revise a couple of my existing courses to drive some return traffic to my instructor page.

Other Income

  • Other monthly revenue streams from side work – $518 (-23.28%)
    I turned off a couple of sources of this other income that I did not plan to maintain any longer. These sources really only brought in $20-75 per source and took an average of 3 hours per source. Not a good return on invested time, so they are gone.

I like the color red on a car, not on income statements. I have not looked at the numbers for October yet but I am sure they won’t look much better. Unfortunately, I just have not had the time to spend on much. Unless I cut back somewhere, there is no room left for growth. This is why I have started removing some of the items that consumed a small bit of my time. Removing, even more, will allow for more time on my side projects.

October is going to tell a similar story as to September. I battled with not posting September or October at all, but that would not paint a very fair picture of reality. The reality is that sometimes I start things and don’t have the time I thought I would have. I often get into trouble in this way. I am learning that it has to do with some fear that I carry that stems from a need for security. It’s not completely unhealthy, but there have been times I have missed opportunities because I chose security over risk.

One last thing of note: Both of my brothers have now entered the realms of the self-employed. My middle brother bought a truck and started his own mobile diesel repair business. My youngest brother was doing some sales for a solar company and saw a need for solar panel cleaning. One of them is full-time self-employed and the other is on his way there. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Stay tuned for October’s numbers. I know I didn’t provide much hype, but I will be posting them soon.

Thanks for reading. If you want to connect, shoot me an email or contact me through social media. I enjoy connecting with others on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Check out August 2017 financials.

Blog Income Reports

Going Public With My Financials

Going Public with my Financials

Over my years as a self-employed, I have always had some kind of work on the side that I have maintained. When I started in Photography, that was my side business. I started earning a few hundred extra dollars each month from side photography jobs and that continued to grow fast. When I started designing websites, it was a side business but in 2005 I made it my full-time business.

In 2007 when the first iPhone was launched, I started another side business reviewing apps. Years later that turned into a technology review YouTube channel which I still run (very much on the side) today. I mostly review and produce tips/tricks videos for technology that I use or purchase for work.

In 2014 I filmed a photography course which I put online for free. A year later I started a YouTube channel and started producing content around photography as well. The photography course took off and at the time I am writing this, has over 240,000 students that have taken the course. Unfortunately, I did not provide much follow up to that course to generate any revenue, but I have attempted to gather emails and engage with some of the students through a Facebook group.

I always have to be working on something. I spend the majority of my day focusing on creating for my clients. I pour a lot of thought and effort into their projects, but I still desire to work on something of my own, which is why I keep a couple of things going at all times.

In an attempt to be more accountable to my side projects I am going to start challenging myself to give some extra time to those projects. As my side projects produce more income, I can afford to work on them more. At this point, I am only able to work on them once I have completed all of my client work. That leaves enough time to work on them, but not really create on the level I really want to be at with these projects. That might require adding someone to my team who’s job is to help with the creation of the content I want to be producing. This will take more revenue.

I’m going public with my financials

Ok, so I am kind of going public with my financials. I am going to be sharing a monthly post that breaks down where all of my side income is coming from and how it’s growing. I am doing this because if it is not growing, change needs to happen, and this will help me visualize it. This will also keep the fire lit under my butt because who wants to read financial reports on something that is not growing. This will start out very rudimentary, but I hope to evolve it into something fun to look at and read. This has been something I have wanted to do for quite some time, but have not due to not having time to make it look awesome. NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO LOOK AWESOME JERAD! Ok, so it would be nice if it did, but for now, it’s just going to be a list.

I am not posting this information to show off or come across like I am bragging about success in any way. I am posting this information to be accountable and to show that you can earn enough money on the side to afford to take your family on vacation or put money into savings. The goal is not to be rich, the goal is to be comfortable and to have the freedom to choose my work.

To get started, I am going to post what August of 2017 looked like. I will explain what each of these items is in short and will post about them more in length at a later time. I plan to have revenue goals and reach goals as well. Reach goals will be around subscriber count, new students, and sign-ups.

My side income comes from a few different locations online. I am going to list everything that I plan to grow. Know that there are some small side income streams that I do not care to grow anymore so I will bunch those together into an “other” category which is where old side income revenue streams will go to die. The numbers below are gross revenue. In future months I will try to list expenses associated to having earned that income. Currently, I have some overhead that is shared between Hill Media Group and these side projects so some of the income reported below also has to pay for a portion of the overhead.

Current side income total – $2,967.69


  • StateOfTech – $774.62
    This YouTube channel is part mobile technology review videos and part tech tutorial videos.
  • Ditch Auto – $347.75
    This YouTube channel is similar to StateOfTech but for Photography. The videos that perform well are reviews and tutorials.
  • Jerad Hill – $33.46
    This is my personal channel which I do not post too often. I do plan to do a lot more on my personal channel in the near future. I am just trying to decide what I want my focus to be there.

Amazon Affiliate:

  • Amazon Product Links – $1,001.61
    These are a bit hard to track because I have one Affiliate account that has links spread across a couple of websites and YouTube channels. Typically, if I am not making new videos, I see a major dip in revenue from Amazon Affiliate links.

Google Adsense:

  • Google Adsense links/display – $117.69
    Adsense links are also a little hard to track because I am using one account to manage ads placed on a few different sites and I have not yet segmented out those ads so I can see which are performing well and which are not. This is an area for growth for sure.


  • Paid courses on Udemy – $17.36
    Most of my courses are free. My goal was to produce free courses and then have a paid course as the next step. The problem is that I never produced any of those paid courses. I have one course that gets one or two new sign ups each month producing a tiny revenue but I list it here because I plan to grow this.


  • Other monthly revenue streams from side work – $675.20
    I will elaborate more on this “other” category in the future. This amount is nothing to be upset about and some of you will wonder why I am not trying to grow it. This section represents income from about 8 different locations and it will take a lot of work to continue to grow it.

I do have other monthly revenue streams such as the income earned from Hill Media Group and my Photography work. My main work is what pays the bills. The goal here is to increase my monthly revenue from my side projects and eventually try to narrow my focus. As I mentioned before, the purpose of this post is to be public about my side work financials for accountability and to keep me motivated. I do hope that this information motivates others as well. This is very much side work for me. Some months I put 20 or so hours into this, other months it’s less. If I devoted a bit more time and focus to these projects, I would see substantial growth, and that is the goal here.

In sharing this information, what is something you are currently doing on the side? Are you earning any income from it and would you want to if you could? I would love to hear your thoughts or comments below.

Blog Business Growth


50/50 Self Generated Income Goal

If you went 50/50 on something instead of just 100% on one thing, how could that change your life?

This may be a weird statement coming from a person who is self-employed, but my goal for 2017 is to transform my income stream. My goal is that by the end of the year, at least 50% of it will come from self-generated projects or products. This means that at least half of the income I earn this year needs to come from projects or products that I have generated, not from client work.

You see, since I started this journey as a self-employed person, I have made my income doing work for other people. Whether designing websites for businesses or photographing weddings, I am doing work that I was hired to do by someone else who had a need. I may own my own business, but I am working for others.

There is nothing wrong with doing work for other people. Our country runs on the trade of services for dollars. Ultimately, I want to get to the place where the majority of my income is generated from products and services I have created. I have spent the last 19 years of my life pouring my energy into the projects of others. I would moonlight occasionally on my own projects and have had some success with a few of them, but they always ended up on the backburner because client work paid faster.

So how do I plan to transform my income stream this year? Glad you asked.

I have a couple of projects that I will be working on a lot this year in an attempt to tip the scale toward self-generated income. A couple of these projects are still in the conceptual stage and I am not ready to share much about them. The other projects are already live and I will pour into them even more this year.

The first project is Ditch Auto. Four years ago, I filmed a course to help people get out of auto mode on their cameras so they could unlock the true potential of their cameras which are found in manual mode. Pro photographers use manual mode to properly expose and capture the image they see rather than the image the camera sees. I filmed this course in a day and did not anticipate it growing into a thriving photography community. Today, over 125,000 people have taken the course and we have a pretty active Facebook Group as well. Starting the beginning of this year, we launched a weekly photography challenge, which kicked off strong and is growing larger each week.

My plans for Ditch Auto this year include the modernization of the original course, creating additional courses, and growing the community to help people grow as photographers whether they want to be in business as a photographer, or enjoy it as a hobby.

The second project is State of Tech: In 2007 I started a blog where I reviewed iPhone Apps. Over the years that turned into a podcast that diversified into a variety of different mobile technologies. The last 10 years in the mobile tech space has taught me that many people still do not understand the technology they are walking around with each day. State of Tech has a small, but growing online community on Youtube and I intend to grow that following through the production of valuable content. State of Tech will also expand into a variety of educational courses geared toward helping people better understand and use their smart devices. I believe that Ditch Auto has more promise as far as generating an income goes, but there is a huge gap in educating people on mobile technology.

Project #3 is not a product that is going to help me meet or exceed my goal as mentioned above, but it will eventually contribute to my bottom line.

As I mentioned before, I have spent the majority of my adult life doing creative work for others. During that time, there are many tools and services I have become a professional in using. A few years ago, I started to work towards shifting the income stream of my company Hill Media Group. For years I was doing project-based work for a fixed fee. Once the project ended, I was paid and I had to find a new project. I still do a lot of project-based work, but about 25% of Hill Media Group’s income comes from ongoing work we do for our clients.

I realized that we are really good at handling tasks for our clients. When our clients deliver a clear task to us, we often can turn it around for them in a short period of time. The relationship we have with our clients that retain our services on a monthly basis makes it easy for us to prioritize their tasks and get them done.

Project #3 will be a new company that specializes in handling a variety of digital tasks for small businesses and organizations. I am partnering with a long-term employee and friend of mine to launch this. I am really excited about the concept and have already begun developing the infrastructure needed to manage this new startup company.

Growth through actual products, not affiliate marketing.

It’s not that hard to create a ton of average content and link to products to generate income. Nobody will make much money doing that. If you want to generate income from affiliate marketing you have to create fantastic content and a lot of it. While there is nothing wrong with generating revenue from affiliates, I prefer to generate content to market my own products.

I have had some limited success in affiliate marketing. When the Hoverboard was new and exciting, I filmed a review of my Hoverboard for State of Tech and the Amazon Affiliate link generated between $1,800-$2,500 for several months until Amazon removed all of them from their inventory. What I learned from that experience was that your affiliate income stream is only as good as the product. Technology changes quickly, and fads move even faster than technology does. It takes a lot of effort to stay ahead of the curve to assure you always growing.

Why do I need my income to be self-generated?

I’ll say it again: There is nothing wrong with doing work for other people. The products and products I want to create will be consumed or used by other people, but there is a difference. The effort I am putting into my projects and products are generated from ideas and inspirations that I had. I saw a need and created something. These projects and products will be for others to consume, but they will be something that I saw from conception to delivery. If it succeeds, it will be because I saw the problem and executed on a solution. If it fails, it will be a lesson in which I can not direct a complaint at anyone but myself. I need that kind of challenge in my life. It will be an exercise in generating more control over my destiny by executing on my own ideas instead of focusing on others. It sounds like a selfish move, but it’s really not. I will do more good this way.

For years I have also had a desire to share my financials publically. I used to be held down by debt and seemed to always be carrying a balance somewhere. Whether it was car payments or credit card debt, I had it, and somehow justified it. These days I try to keep my family as close to debt free as possible. Though it is not always possible (yet), we are closer than ever. I plan to share some of my financial information as it pertains to achieving the goal mentioned above. Stay tuned for more information on that.


Shortly after turning 30 and having a few kids, I made this list of things I wanted to achieve over the next few decades. I called it my challenge list and I have not done a very good job of working on achieving those challenges. Now I could give myself the benefit of the doubt and blame it on being a busy business owner, husband, and father, but I’m not going to do that. The whole idea behind this list was that I would attempt to achieve some of these things while maintaining the life I am living. No excuses. So in 2017, I am going to start crossing off some of the challenges from the list. I encourage you to check back often and if I seem to be slacking, please call me out on social media.

A Challenge

My main goal for 2017 is to slide the revenue scale away from client-based work to my own projects and products. If you could slide the scale away from 100% and closer to 50/50, what would that look like, and how would it change your life? I’m not just talking about income, but anything. Perhaps you want to change your diet or travel more. How can you slide the scale toward doing that more?

If you could, take a moment to think about that. If you have a thought or an idea, share it in the comment section below! I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for sticking around to the end of this post. If you want to follow along as I work toward my goal, make sure to follow me on social media. You can find the links on this page.

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