How a Colony of Marauding Army Ants Taught Me 4 Blogging Lessons

  May 29, 2021 blogging tips 🕑 9 minutes read
The swarm begins....

The swarm begins….

 

(Updated 5/29/2021)

 

These SOBs weren’t taking prisoners. Each was in for the kill….butchering….and consumption. Army ants simply do as army ants do; can you blame them for living aligned with their primal instincts?

 

As I sat down on the drone of a throne – the outhouse – in remote Buena Vista, Costa Rica, I spotted a swarm. An ant swarm. An army ant swarm.

 

Thousands of soldier – and the less intimidating looking but equally brutal civilian (what I call them) – ants blanketed the jungle floor. A slew of ’em butchered a stunned scorpion right by the crapper.

 

I knew not what was worse; the horrifying scene of seeing a creature being dissected and eaten alive, or the stench from the grotesque outhouse.

 

Anyway, the ants swarmed the scorpion like I swarm Thai sweet snacks. At any 7-11 in the Land of Smiles.

 

But the barbarian bivouac didn’t stop at the outhouse. I spotted a few holding their noises in “peewww!” fashion as they trooped on over to……the other house.

 

“Honey, the Exterminators Are Here”

 

Me: “Kel…..the exterminators are here.”

 

Kelli: “What?” (wiping sleep from eyes, sleep drool barely visible at corners of mouth)

 

Me: “The exterminators. They have come hither. Didn’t alert us to the early appointment. Stand up guys though. Working for free.”

 

Kelli: “Huh?” (Becoming coherent, wondering what the freak I was talking about)

 

I brought Kelli onto the back porch.

 

So she saw what I was talking ’bout.

 

We were 3 miles away from civilization. An Orkin man raging with testosterone, being armed with a .50 caliber mini gun, wouldn’t have trekked into the remote jungle area where we lived, just to crisp some critters. So Kelli knew nature must be nurturing – or neutralizing – once again in this outpost of a house (and out house) on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.

 

Thousands upon thousands of army ants marched through the house/hut, barreling through as if General Sherman himself (strange reference) whipped their insect booties into a murderous, automon-like, mindless rampage.

 

Systematically, these killers efficiently drove out menacing scorpions (we saw 7 in the house), wasps, roaches, locusts, and just about any living creature too small to crush these suckers. Nature’s pest control.

 

As I walked Thunder, and Kelli tucked herself under the mosquito net, looking like a Gringa Boy in the Bubble, these guys methodically went from East to West, leaving no crevasse unexplored.

 

EVERYTHING was flushed out. Many critters were devoured.

 

The scorpions piddled in their predator pants. Locusts left the premises. Wasps whooshed by our ears. The wasp larvae were not as lucky; all were seized, disassembled for safe transport and hauled back to the colony’s nest.

 

Totally out of character for me, but I’m going to do something weird: I’m gonna draw analogies between bizarre tropical subject matter and blogging.

 

1: Teamwork Wins

 

The savagely armed bullet ants we saw in Buena Vista looked like hell on earth and their bite is the most painful insect bite in the world, but this lone wolf doesn’t inspire the horror reserved for an army ant raid. Sure the one man show can put you on your ass (literally) for a day or 2 via an excruciating bite, but the army ants elicit the “Holy shit, I can’t escape them!” type fear reserved for well-written horror movies.

 

I actually felt compassion for normally fearsome predators like centipedes, scorpions and the large, imposing spiders these army ants stalked. Because these rugged insects had no chance against the barbarian hoard.

 

The army ant carpet spread an area of 20 meters wide and God knows how many meters long. Anything inside that kill zone smaller than a mouse would wind up on the army ant’s FDA nutritional guidelines. Yep. It was army ant chow.

 

I always say, 5,000 army ants working toward a purpose is better than 1 army ant working toward a purpose.

 

Ditto for bloggers.

 

Blogging Lesson

 

Join tribes. Make friends. Be social. Promote other bloggers freely.

 

Imagine 1 army ant stumbling through the jungle house, punch drunk on ego. Bleh.

 

Now imagine 5,000 army ants hellbent on harvesting any sentient being not named Kelli or Ryan, in the crib.

 

Teamwork wins.

 

You can promote yourself. Or you can promote yourself and 100 other bloggers. Maybe 20 or 30 or 70 other bloggers will promote you. Your blogging net spans far and wide with a team in your corner. Far and away, this has been the most transformative tip I followed – and share – as a 13 year blogger. During my blogging career I can only point to building a tribe of loyal blogging buddies as being the ultimate difference maker as far as scaling, growing, succeeding and actually enjoy the ride.

 

Follow bloggers like Anthony Gaenzle. He teaches you how to build your blogging network through his example. Observe how he interacts on Twitter. Pay close attention to his feed. Note how he opens his blog to guest posting. Be all about community. See your blog as a co-creation between many bloggers. Like swarming army ants, everybody will see you and your tribe coming except that you arrive in love, service and generosity….not with a pair of butchering mandibles!

 

2: Be Methodical

 

After 6 hours the army ants marched on through. Off to pillage the jungle. Back to R and R. Also known as, gazing into the wilderness with a vacant stare. Trying to “rest” in the restroom known as an outhouse before it go dark, because then, I’d have to dig a hole. And not to plant a flag. Hope you’re not eating.

 

OK….so 2 days after this general sense of relief, the army ants slowly trickled back into the house. But this time, from West to East. The previous East to West sweep netted ’em a monumental mound of insect meat. Time to cross harvest.

 

Almost like the sadistic ants were screaming, “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” on the second trip, covering the same terrain but probing hiding spots from a different angle.

 

We’re talking DeNiro in Cape Fear type scary. Little insidious bastards. I’m kidding. Because they weren’t that little. No seriously, twas fascinating to see their military precision. Almost freaky. Because they swarmed the house and surrounding grounds for the following 3-4 hours, just like 2 days prior, but from the exact opposite direction. To finish off the stragglers or prey which had eluded the murderous, maniacal mass on the first sweep.

 

Lesson

 

If killing scorpions and 2 inch long roaches, sweep back thru areas to catch these lazy SOBs unawares. Oh shoot. Forgot I was writing for bloggers. Not army ants.

 

The *blogging* lesson: methodically assess your blog from a top-down perspective. You’re not prying for prey; you’re probing for problems.

 

Is your blog fully aligned with your niche? Does every piece of content and ad and image align with your brand? Go over it once. Then again. Be thorough. Weed out any mis-aligned elements. Align and shine. Being methodical often requires raw, exhaustive thought. Such is the way of the pro blogger.

 

I updated this blog post 5 years after the initial publish date. Thinking through links – inbound and outbound – as well as the timeliness of strategies discussed forced me to engage in consecutive thought for a bit. I enjoy thinking some but beyond a few moments feels exhausting sometimes. However, the devil in the details sits within the nest of deliberate, consecutive thought.

 

Put in the mental legwork. Add details most bloggers seem to miss. Staying on topic with each post is but one detail. Branding, design and various monetizing elements all need to be taken into account for you to add success-promoting details to your blog.

 

The house where we are living for the month here in Panama has been meticulously designed by the homeowners. Each person obviously has exquisite tastes, from the interior design, to the landscaping, to the overall feel of the dwelling and property. Much raw thought went into designing such a stunning masterpiece. Follow their lead to design your blogging campaign into an equally stunning masterpiece.

 

3: Be Flexible

 

Let’s flip it. See what we did to live harmoniously with the attacking ants.

 

Getting around the house was like playing a game of jungle Twister.

 

Imagine thousands of ants. Masking the floor. Sure they sensed our presence. And got out of the way. But our fancy footwork helped us avoid a catastrophic poop storm of epic proportions.

 

I tip toed through the tulips to avoid a tremendously terrible situation.

 

I had to be flexible, taking different paths, contorting myself like a Chinese gymnast, twisting and turning like a Whirling Dervish to avoid the mine field of angry jaws in the house.

 

Bloggers

 

Be like the coconut tree swaying to and fro in a tropical gale.

 

Show blogging flexibility.

 

Bounce to and fro. Go with the flow.

 

The ants forced Kelli and I to be flexible. Bending, contorting, and traversing paths AROUND the jungle’s little hellions helped us avoid the jaws of death.

 

Bloggers, go with the flow. If your fave blogger closes comments, don’t complain. Comment on another high profile blog. Or submit a guest post to said comment closing blogger.

 

I deep sixed 3400 blog posts, my old blog, and old brand, in a Holy Trinity of trashing that’d made rigid bloggers puke their guts out. Think I heard retching right now.

 

I had lunch with my friend and superstar blogger/online icon/entrepreneurial dynamo Zac Johnson the other day. He stressed the importance of evolving with the times.

 

Have fun blogging what you blog about. If you’re not having fun anymore, trash the blog. Trash the brand. Be malleable. Dance around the gaping jaws of the army ants.

 

Add income streams you enjoy working. Release worn out income streams.

 

Be like water. As Bruce Lee said.

 

Flexible bloggers evolve. Rigid bloggers break.

 

The old me published a high volume of new content but never promoted or updated my old content. But being flexible in my blogging approach goaded me to begin promoting old blog posts on social media as well as adding 500 or more words of updated content to old blog posts, republishing these works for a traffic and profits boost. I had to dissolve rigid ways to be flexible enough in order to edit, update and re-publish old content to make it evergreen. Being open played a huge part in me making this blogging shift.

 

Certain practices keep you open. I meditate, do Kriya yoga, do yin yoga and follow my breathing each day to be open, flexible and willing to change. Follow your intuition to figure out which opening practices best serve you.

 

4: Get out of There When Things Go to Sh*t

 

Kelli mistakenly walked into the army ant colony to take a shower.

 

Within a split second, soldiers sunk their formidable fangs into her soft flesh.

 

Indigenous folks in the Talamanca jungle region (where we were at the time) use soldier army ants for suturing. Ants bite. Lock in. Lock on. Ya gotta decapitate them to remove the body. Jaws stay. Nature’s stitches.

 

Kelli had to pull out a few of these dudes before she got the hell out of there. Things started going south. She saw the warning signals. Namely army ants swarming her legs to defend themselves.

 

Lesson

 

Already mentioned how I completely trashed my online brand and my blog and 3400 blog posts. Things began to go to shit. Everything felt like work. Hard work. I struggled like a catfish out of water, flip flopping around like court jester dancing on a row of razors. So I trashed my blog. I trashed everything.

 

Kelli sprinted out of the aggressive ant farm within 5 seconds, avoiding serious injury and excruciating, prolonged pain. A few vicious bites sent her a loud and clear message.

 

Heed the warning signs when you’re starting to get stung, my blogging buddies.

 

Don’t wait until your blog crashes and burns completely. Don’t cling to a losing proposition. Change gears. Or change direction.

 

Your intuition will give you all the guidance you need. Cause you just FEEL when things are collapsing. Don’t be stung into submission by the army ant hoard. Bounce. Work on your inner world. Follow your fun. Trust. Leave all else behind.

 

No need to crash and burn with your blog. You intuitively know when things are beginning to fall apart.

 

Ditch the niche.

 

Do a 180.

 

You know what to do.

 

But of course, letting go feels scary at times. I feared letting go 3400 blog posts and an old niche, some 7 years ago. Yet here I am. Releasing the old, worn out and tired feels scary at first but alternative seems to be misery-inducing. Either you free yourself to be happy through the principle of release or you prolong misery to increase your blogging failure……thinking of it this way, do you even have a choice?

  1. Renard Moreau says:
    at 12:56 pm

    [ Smiles ] Ryan, you would make a great Buddhist monk.

    There is an old saying, “Wise is he who learns from Nature).

    I liked the way you used an army of ants to put across this very important blogging message.

    Nicely done!

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 3:21 pm

      Thanks Renard! Although I suspect Buddhist monks would be less excited – and scared – of the colony/army/terror hoard 😉

  2. Tom Andrews says:
    at 9:33 am

    Awesome post once again, Ryan.

    As Renard said, I love the way you linked the army of ants back to blogging. Shows how vital it is to always have your “content antennae” up, because you never know how something completely unrelated to the topic you’re writing about will give you an awesome idea for a blog post.

    Your message about teamwork resonated with me.

    You always get people in any industry who spew hate on their competitors. Thing is, those people won’t be successful because they don’t have an “abundant” mindset. They think any competitor will “steal” their clients.

    Instead, they should realize the world’s a pretty darn big place, and there’s more than enough work to go around.

    The talented people in any industry, such as yourself in the blogging world, always look to connect with their industry peers. Why? Because instead of fearing them, they know they can learn from them and share ideas with each other.

    So, yeah, I completely agree with you that teamwork’s super-important.

    Tom

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 2:08 am

      Hi Tom,

      After suffering most of my life – offline and online – by living aligned with a dominant energy of fear, lack and limitation, I made a blanket decision not too long ago: I will see the world as abundant. This means everything flows to Infinity. Money. Ideas. Health. Happiness. Joy. Freedom.

      This was THE shift in my life that helped me move from thinking competitively, to co-creating. It’s not even getting a slice of the pie, or baking a bigger pie: the pie is infinity. Forever. Our Source goes on and on, forever. So there goes the fear, and the idea of competition, and we replace with abundance and fun and love, and co-create with others, and blogging gets really really really easy.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Ryan

  3. Ryan Biddulph says:
    at 5:41 pm

    I have no idea how in the hell the font changed for this post.

  4. Monique West says:
    at 9:54 pm

    Once again, another enjoyable read. You have quite a way with words. I’m learning the methodical lesson now. When I first started, I did not write with my audience in mind. Now I’m going back to all my old posts and making some changes. I will keep all these lessons in mind as I continue my blogging journey.

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 5:09 pm

      Ditto Monique. I am doing the same thing. Reviewing old posts helps us make changes to connect with our communities.

  5. Kellye says:
    at 10:33 pm

    This was my first time reading your blog, and I love your style! I am excited to call you “friend” and “team member”!