Newvick Lee
07 Dec 2016

Case Study: Mikael Syding - How did the European hedge fund manager of the decade build a popular blog?

Mikael Syding is a crazy guy. He was the European hedge fund manager of the decade. Now he's turned his efforts to writing a popular self-improvement blog based on his unique perspective from a background in "finance, technology, health, psychology, philosophy, and personal development". His list of recommended books is very interesting.

His views are unique. That's a huge driver for what makes his writing interesting. I give part credit to him for convincing me to pursue something tech related rather than blindly jumping into a traditional career path.

The goal of his blog is to "identify and achieve your desires, get results in life, while enjoying it and not being a dick". What makes his blog so interesting?

We'll break it down AntNinja style! Here's a link to his blog if you want to follow along.




1. Attention

When you first look at his site, you'll be thrown off. You start thinking, "who is this weird guy"? His front page shows a very fit picture of him, and the blog title is "The Retarded Hedge Fund Manager".

These three things don't go together: muscular/fit, retarded, top hedge fund manager. So when you see that combination, your brain automatically goes, "What?!??!??" He also happens to be a great marketer.

He catches your attention, so you start drifting to read more about him. You go to the "About" page to see what this guy is all about, and you're hit with a very interesting bio.

He sums up the goal of his writing in one diagram:


What makes him worth reading? His wide range of experiences. This is where his perspective comes from:

  • Europe’s best hedge fund manager,
  • Royally laureled natural science student
  • 30 years in the gym
  • 3 different martial arts (and street fighter)
  • Statistics
  • Programming (10 different languages since 1982)
  • Amateur track racer (Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini)

Again, he combines very different experiences together. From reading the rest of his short bio, you can tell he got to where he is by being an original thinker. What's even better, he wants to share his perspective with YOU.

Lesson Learned:

1) If you have a vast variety of different experiences, share them right at the beginning. Don't worry about looking weird. That's only going to help you.


2. Problem Definition and 3. Solution

Just another self-improvement blog? Nope. Sure, his competition is the thousands of self-improvement blogs out there. But he stands out.

What niche of self-improvement is he filling? What problem is he solving?

People who read improvement blogs do so because they want something specific. That could be "feel good motivation", finance tips, fitness strategies, and everything else under the sun.

Mikael Syding doesn't write about a specific area. So what niche is he filling?

He's providing ACTIONABLE advice as an ORIGINAL thinker in a DIRECT way. That's more rare than you think. As a top investor, it's his job to be an original thinker. Readers get to have a glimpse of his framework of thinking in digestible and actionable content.

Let's go through an example. He gives fitness and health advice from time to time. He has the body to show for his results. This is an example of the type of advice he gives from 30 years of gym experience:


He's tried every kind of routine: high reps, low reps, light weights, heavy weights, strange esoteric movements, long sessions, short sessions and so on. And this is what he's gone back to in the end.

How does he show he's an original thinker? In one example, he reflects back on his own decision making processes and realizes that most of the time, there's only one factor that is most important.

Mikael Syding: "Early on I realized that whenever I faced a difficult choice and made elaborate pros/cons lists, there was always just one factor that decided the whole thing. The number or strengths/weights of the arguments just never were a factor in the decision. It was always just one thing."

"There really is no “list” of goals – just ONE ITEM"

We get an insight into some of his decision making processes based on personal experience in investing. This is not just fluff or theory, this is from someone with "skin in the game" as Nassim Taleb likes to say.

What's "skin in the game"? When a decision you make puts you in a very real risk of losing something you value.

Lesson learned:

2) Write posts about topics you've thought a lot about AND where you had skin in the game, because this intersection is where you can really build trust with readers.


 

4. Proof and Credibility

His credibility comes from his experiences. Things he says about himself are easily verifiable. You can just google who won the European hedge fund manager of the decade award. He's read many books and references their content from time to time, so you know he's very knowledgeable. When he tells you "Don't fear failing", he actually gives you a video of the time he tore his hamstring during deadlifts.

He backs up what he says.

One of his philosophies is 'Living Laterally'.

Mikael Syding: " Once again, life is about contrasts and diversity, about (unusual) combinations, not about finding the one answer and method. That includes my one rule about laterality; sometimes you should focus instead, and then circle back to controlled diversity and experimenting."

We live in a society where people tell us we have to specialize in one thing and get really good at it, otherwise we'll never do anything useful. And if you do build up a great career out of it, keep going at it.

Mikael Syding has been in finance for 20 years and did extremely well for himself. But he took an exit from high finance. He's explored learning math, programming, science and various other topics in his early retirement. In short, he's showing that he's living his philosophy of "Living Laterally", which gives very strong support to the idea.

Lesson learned:

3) Show, don't tell. If you're going to spout out advice, support it from your own experience. That's how people know you're not BS.


5. Call to Action

He only has one call to action on his blog. He wants you to sign up to his email list. At the end of each blog post, he never forgets to ask you to subscribe. With each subscription, there's also an offer of a free e-book as a welcome gift.

If you look at older articles compared with the latest one (on December 7, 2016 as of this writing), you can see that he has experimented with the copy when asking for people to subscribe.

Here's an example of copy from an older article (January 2015).

Here's an example of copy from a more recent article, 1 year later (Dec 7, 2016):


In between these two posts, he's been experimenting with different types of copy. Just goes to show he's learning along the way and figuring out which type of copy works better.

Usually bloggers just ask for a email subscription with a catchy line or two. But it seems like Mikael Syding has understood that if getting email subscriptions is important, than what's even more important is the process that leads up to getting email subscriptions.

Lesson learned:

4) Keep improving on the copy for your call to action. If you want people to subscribe to your email list, you'd better be improving on how you ask people to sign up.


Conclusion:

Mikael Syding's blogging style isn't for everyone. We've tried to extract tips that can be applied to any blog. Here are four great lessons you can apply to your own blog:

1) If you have a vast variety of different experiences, share them right at the beginning. Don't worry about looking weird. That's only going to help you.
2) Write posts about topics you've thought a lot about AND where you had skin in the game, because this intersection is where you can really build trust with readers.
3) Show, don't tell. If you're going to spout out advice, support it from your own experience. That's how people know you're not BS.
4) Keep improving on the copy for your call to action. If you want people to subscribe to your email list, you'd better be improving on how you ask people to sign up.



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We learn from the best on the internet. We also have skin in the game because we're applying what we've learned.

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