Inside The Mind of a Reader

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A blogger’s life is interesting. 

We spend hours writing, but feedback is rare.   One of our biggest questions is what’s it REALLY like inside the mind of a reader when they read the words we’ve written?  Are those words making an impact?

Recently, I had the rare privilege of finding out. 

The story begins with an email from a reader, but it goes much further. This is a story about the impact each of us are making in our world.  Some of us are more fortunate than others in getting a rare glimpse into that impact, but rest assured each of us are impacting others. This is just one example from some retired guy who happens to write, but it’s a story I think you’ll enjoy.  I hope it helps you to think about the impact you’re having, even if you never get a glimpse into how your life affects others.

Let’s start at the beginning, with that previously mentioned email.  The author was a very unique reader named Brad.

Brad is 1 in 10,000 – literally.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I've had a rare opportunity to see inside the mind of a reader, and today I share what I've learned... Click To Tweet


Inside The Mind of a Reader

The story begins on May 21, 2021 when I opened an email from a reader.  I get a lot of reader emails, but this one was different.   Brad is 52, and plans on retiring in ~3 years.  He was writing to let me know he’d recently completed reading every one of my posts (that’s 345 posts, you can see all of them on my Every Post Written page).

Reading every one of my posts is a rare accomplishment – I know of only 8 other readers who have done the same.  I appreciate each of you – you’re the most loyal of the loyal, and I’m sincerely honored to have you in the “100% Club”!

But Brad went a step further.

Attached to his email was the photograph below, which I shared on my Facebook Page.  Not only had Brad read every post, but he took notes along the way!  There are 10k of you who subscribe to my email, but Brad is the only reader who has read every post and taken notes in the process.

1 in 10,000, indeed. 

Here’s the proof:


inside a reader's mind


Intrigued, I reached out to Brad to see if he’d be willing to share his notes with me.  I couldn’t imagine what a reader would take away from reading all of my posts.  How could I miss this opportunity to see inside the mind of a reader?  This chance to see what type of impact my words were having on another person’s life?

Fortunately, he said yes, and a week or so later I received a package in the mail…


Inside The Mind of a Reader – 45 Pages of Notes

Inside that envelope were 45 pages of handwritten, single-spaced notes.  I was in awe.  I can’t tell you how honored I am that a reader would take that amount of time to seriously ponder the words I had written.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to get some insight into what impact those words had on a reader. 

Brad took 45 pages of notes while reading every post every published on The Retirement Manifesto. What were the key lessons learned? Read on... Click To Tweet

For the record, he didn’t start taking notes until the March 2017 post “You Need Something To Retire To”, which meant those notes didn’t even cover the first two years of my writing!  Brad is impressive in his notetaking.  For a quick taste, here’s the first page in his packet, starting with the post cited above:

inside the mind of a reader's notes

Fortunately, Brad has good handwriting, and I spent several hours reading every page.  It was a trip down memory lane as I reviewed the past 4+ years of my life.  It was also fascinating to see how effective Brad was in condensing the various posts into their key components.  

I paused when I read the following sentence from the page above, part of the summary of what Brad took away from Purpose, Motivation & Life Aspirations:

“Clear scientific evidence that consistent, moderate exercise is the best thing you can do to enjoy the same activities in your 70’s that you do in your 50’s.   * cold water swimming  (example)”

That sentence is a clean and pithy summary of the message Brad received from words I had written 4 years ago, and I was pleased to see those words had made an impact.  I felt like I peering inside the mind of a reader, and it was rewarding to see the message a reader had taken from my work.

We all make an impact.  I consider myself fortunate in getting some insight into the impact my words have had.


Inside The Mind Of A Reader – A Few Highlights

As I write these words, I struggle with how to effectively share all of the key messages Brad captured.  The task seems overwhelming, so I’ve elected to focus on a few of the comments that most resonated with me, along with links to the related post. 


What I Learned From Peering Inside the Mind of a Reader

I applaud Brad’s efforts in reading all of my posts.  The “100% Club” has a very select membership, and I’m happy to welcome him into the club.  More importantly, I appreciate his willingness to share the notes he took during the months it took to read through my work.

In reading his notes, I’ve realized something.

All of us impact others, but most of us never see that impact.  Few of us realize the ways we’re affecting other people’s lives.  You don’t have to be a blogger to impact folks.  The conversations we have make an impact.  The things we do make an impact.  The gifts we give have an impact.  The notes we take have an impact.

The lives we live have an impact.

In reading Brad’s notes, I had a small view into the impact I’ve made on someone’s life.  It’s a rare, and treasured opportunity.  For that, Brad, I say “Thank You”.

I hope, someday, you’re all fortunate enough to see the impact you’re making in your world.  Because, whether you realize it or not, you are making an impact.

Make it an impact for good.

41 comments

  1. Wow, that’s amazing dude. And it shows how much of an impact you’ve made to folks out there. It’s so cool that we live in a time where people can get connected this way

  2. Hi Fritz, I wanted to let you know that I have also read all of your posts and created my own tracking spreadsheets along the way. Thank you.

    1. You’re a 100%’er !!! You’re #9 in the club – thank you, thank you!

      AND, you took notes a spreadsheet along the way! I guess Brad’s only 2 in 10,000! I’m sincerely honored that you’ve dedicated so much time to reading my work, Nancy. I’d be interested in seeing that spreadsheet some day, if it’s something you’d be willing to share? Thanks again for being the most loyal of readers!

  3. Always enjoy your writings Fritz and this blog post was really good and reminded me of some of posts that really resonated with me too so thank you !

  4. Fritz~ Awesome post!!! As I prepare for retirement I’ve listed my four pillars from your blogs: 1. Mental 2. Physical 3. Social 4. Financial I’ve also listed my 4-5 levels of retirement income to identify what’s coming in, so I can decide what will need to go out. Last I’m in the process of writing a “STEP OF SUCCESS” book. That there is NO elevator to success, only steps and that success leaves clues!!! Thanks for your great stuff!!!

    1. Marc, it sounds like you’re well prepared. I like that you listed Mental as the #1 Pillar, and Financial as #4. Your priorities appear to be in the right place! I can’t wait to read your book – keep me posted!

  5. Wow – what a commitment and learnings. Brad had an impact on me as his notes just led me to explore some of the articles that I had not previously read. I teared up throughout reading “The final words of a dying man” and was so impressed by “The Veteran”. Fritz and Brad – you both have made a difference to me. Thanks!

    1. JB, you weren’t the only one that teared up on “The Final Words” – that was tough one to write. And, of all the experiences I’ve had as a blogger, my time with “The Veteran” on that transoceanic flight will always be one of my favorite memories. Glad today’s post led you to exploring some of my older posts, much appreciated.

  6. Wow, this is pretty cool! I can’t say that I’ve read every one of your posts but I’ve read a lot of them, and my goal is to read them all. I have learned so much from you sharing your thoughts and techniques on managing your time and finances in retirement. On Friday, July 2nd, I will celebrate the first anniversary of my retirement, and I have to say it’s been great. I can honestly say that it’s been an adjustment not having a set schedule every day, and (at first) not getting a paycheck every two weeks, but now I’ve settled into the idea that I don’t “have” to get everything done “today”. That has been the hardest thing to get my head around, but I’m getting there. Since retiring, and even with the Covid 19 mess, my wife and I have traveled to see all our kids (in PA, CA, and SC), been to FL three times, and traveled with our classic car group for a week at a Gatlinburg, TN and a September trip to a KY state park lodge. Plus I built a new 3 car addition to my garage/shop to have more space for my classic car hobby. Overall retirement has been great! Thanks Fritz for inspiring so many of us to do retirement right.

    1. Happy Retire-versary! And thanks for sharing those pics of your new shop, I thought my shop was looking good until I saw yours. Wink. Thanks for being a loyal reader, glad my work has helped on your journey thus far.

  7. I would like to thank you and Brad for this post – it’s been a great reminder for me on some of the gems in your posts.

  8. Fritz,
    We are the same age and had similar career experiences (1 company, pension)
    I’ve learned lots from your posts and it validates what I have done in terms of my planning.
    Thank you!

  9. Fritz, I too can remember every post that these notes were capturing. I remember subscribing to your blog back in 2018 and was so excited to read about a reasonable person living a very similar life I was living, and doing it a year ahead of me. The fear of retirement was like going on a hike I would never attempt because the path was overgrown. But I had you ahead of me with the machete clearing the way and convincing me there was nothing to be scared of. Positive attitude makes everything possible. Thank you……. Joel

  10. Fritz – what an impressive post on getting a chance to see directly your writing’s impact on a specific reader. However, please know that your writing has affected many many readers including this one!!

    Your “Re-Tire” post is one of my favorites and has forever changed the way I use and consider that word. I am about a year away from the starting line and I am SO much better prepared and poised for success thanks to you!

    Thanks for what you do!

  11. That’s so cool. I had a young summer intern early in my career when I was running a small engineering department. Years later she looked me up when she was back in our town and told me she wanted me to know her goal while managing her small engineering department was to do it as much like me as she could. She said my group had been full of laughter and camaraderie while turning out awesome work. She said the main thing was everyone was having fun. She wanted to lead her folks the same way. It really is a tremendous joy when you get that kind of feedback. Just like you’ve gotten from Brad and the rest of us in the comments. You are doing a good work, Fritz.

    1. “It really is a tremendous joy when you get that kind of feedback.”

      True, that! Cool story, thanks for sharing. I suspect she’ll be successful in her career with that kind of an approach. Thanks for making an impact.

  12. Fritz:
    This is why I remind you that you are AWESOME!…..Because you are helping others embrace their AWESOMENESS! Keep Being you and thank you for doing so!

  13. Yes! We do make an impact. We just don’t see it too much. Thank you so much for sharing. I will continue my RE-TIRE and look for future things to keep my mind busy and enjoy life.

    Dave

      1. Love this one. I’m not sure I can commit to 100% but I think I’ll go back and read my favourites after reading this! An author friend once said to me after I self published my book, “You’ll look back on it and think – I can’t believe I wrote that” both in a gee I’m clever and doh! ;0) Sharon. Avoca Beach. Australia

  14. Hello again Fritz!!

    It’s been a minute since I’ve commented, but as one of “The Nine” 100%ers, trust that I always read every article as soon as you publish them. And what a great article this was! To get feedback on how what you have written has impacted someone’s life is an amazing feeling…I have had similar experiences myself, as I was once a professional musician for many years and always enjoyed hearing that lyrics I had written or songs I wrote had affected peoples personal lives or helped them through dark times. It is a truly unique feeling and inspiration. Though I have indeed read all your posts to date, I haven’t taken notes on them all….but I do have a notebook filled with many pages of notes, important information and plans for my own eventual retirement constructed from yours(and some of J.L. Collins) writings. Unfortunately I’m a late bloomer on this path to FI and won’t reach a financial number capable of supporting a good retirement until around a more traditional retirement age…I’m a peace with that…I only hope to continue righting my ship and use what you and others teach to prepare myself for a glorious retirement…So keep writing my friend….I(and many others you inspire) will continue to read!!

    Jason L.

    1. The 100% Club is growing!

      Truly honored by your commitment to my work, Jason, and I do suspect the impact of writing lyrics is equally (or, likely, more) powerful than the work I do on this blog. Thanks for making an impact, and thanks for being in the rare club dedicated for only the loyalist of loyal readers. And, stand proud in your “late bloomer on the path to FI” statement, at least you’ve recognized the need to “right your ship” while there’s still time to make a difference. Many folks our age are not able to make that statement.

  15. Great validation of your work and message. Maybe your follow-up book should be a Tony Robbins-ish retirement self-help effort with CDs, infomercials, and firewalks?
    Thanks for what you do.

    1. There aren’t many things that can be said with certainty, but this is one of them: I’ll never write a “Tony Robbins-ish retirement self-help with CDs, informercials and firewalks”. I’m a simple man….smiles.

  16. Proverbs 25:11-13 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

    11 A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

    Fritz,
    Keep in mind that your greatest impact may not be in the depth of the disciple but, the impact of the words, or nugget of wisdom received.

    You may not know this side of eternity the impact of your words shared.
    Just be assured it is probably smaller than perceived in a momentary flight of grandiosity, but far greater than believed during the passing persistent weight of despair.

    You have framed many questions well, and imparted nuggets I have shared with others.

    We may all be like a rock splashed in a pond, but you have splashed well, and your ripples, your concentric circles of impact, have touched the retirement lives of many.

    1. “…but you have splashed well”.

      Nice metaphor, thanks for sharing. And yes, I agree that none of us will ever truly know our impact in this life, but it’ll be an interesting view back from the other side of eternity…

  17. Hi Fritz, great post. It reaffirmed my opinion that you’re affecting my people with your writing. I have read so many of your post multiple times because you pack so much information into each post, it takes time to absorb the information and apply it to your own individual situation. I appreciate the 1000’s of hours you have devoted to researching and writing your articles. It is a pure joy and always a learning experience to read your articles. Keep writing, when you are not out driving around in your jeep!

    1. 31, if my memory serves correctly, you were one of the original 8 in the 100% club!? Thank you for recognizing the “1000’s of hours”, they’re hours I’ve invested happily. Glad to know they’re making an impact. And yes, my Jeep gets priority, especially at this time of year!

  18. What timing? I have watched you on YouTube with the Money Guy and Josh Scandlen but I had never read your blogs before so this weekend I started reading your blogs at the beginning. I have only gotten through the first 50 of them so far but then I thought that I would at least read your current blog and this is it. I like your thought process and that you are a believer. I look forward to reading the rest of your articles. Some of them I will need to revisit as I get closer to retirement.

  19. This post came at a great time for me as a new blogger. I’m only 12 posts in. I said to my husband this morning, “It’s weird, writing into the ether. Except for a couple of comments, I have no idea if anyone is reading my posts. It’s a good thing I’m writing for myself.” I didn’t expect an instant following. Still, it does feel good when someone makes a comment. 45 pages of notes must have felt incredible!! Congratulations!

    1. Annie, I remember when I was in your shoes, seems like it was only yesterday. Congrats on starting your blog, and best wishes for wherever it takes you! Focus on creating great content, every time, and savor the joy of writing (I love your mentality of “writing for myself”, that’s the right type of motivation for a blogger). Don’t worry about the growth, if your stuff is good the readers will find you. Good luck!

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