Reflecting on 16 Years of Mark’s Daily Apple
17 years ago, my friend and mentor Art Devany asked me to write a couple fitness articles for his website. I did. “Escape from Vegan Island” and “The Case Against Cardio” got such huge responses from his readers that I decided to start my own blog.
16 years later, I’m still going strong. I’m not really a sentimental guy, but I’m feeling very emotional right now. This blog was a personal revelation for me.
I’d spent my entire life as an entrepreneur of many coats: mowing lawns, painting houses, grilling chuck steaks out of my dorm room, opening frozen yogurt shops in Palo Alto, training triathletes and marathoners and wealthy socialites in LA, selling supplements on TV and later the Internet. I was always pretty successful, but eventually I knew I’d have to move on to something else. I had to keep moving at all times. Always on the prowl. And I was always selling.
Mark’s Daily Apple made me realize I could start from a different place: talking about all the things I found interesting and useful about human health, fitness, evolution, and biology. These were discussions I was having with friends already, ideas I was exploring on my own. I honestly started the blog because I realized that other people were also interested in this angle, and it seemed like a fun idea that could turn into something big later on.
When the readership kept coming back and growing year over year, I knew I was onto something. After a year, we had 1,000 regular readers. By two years, we had 2,000. And then it just exploded.
I’d originally planned to write an article a day for a year (or two) and figured that would have exhausted my realm of expertise. There’d be nothing more to say. But the thing about blogs, especially back then, was the real magic happened in the comments and emails you’d get after posting an article. The articles take on a life of their own. A random comment from some guy who was reading the post at 2 AM sends you on another tangential exploration of a different angle of nutritional science. You read one study and see a link to another related one, and go on down the rabbit hole. The mystery unfolds before you.
That was the coolest part: we were uncovering a mystery.
There was a real sense of exploration back then. The entire concept of ancestral health was very underground and limited to Loren Cordain’s work on diet and ancient anthropology, plus a few other people like the Weston Price Foundation. For the most part though, almost no one was talking about it. Certainly no one in the general population was aware of it. We were uncovering new (old) wisdom, seemingly every week. We were figuring out all the interactions between environment and health and all the mismatches between the expectations of our ancient genes and the conditions of the modern world. It was impossible not to find something new to write about.
So I kept writing, and the readership kept growing, and the ideas we were developing kept spreading among “regular” people. It was a true health renaissance.
But it started from a little momentary diversion. A small seed, germinated and supported. Well, many small seeds—all the other writers and thinkers in this new space. There’s a good lesson there, isn’t there?
- Do something you’re interested in and that a decent number of other people are interested in. (The initial response I got from the articles I wrote for Art proved that these ideas had legs.)
- Do something you know can help people. I could look around and see poor health everywhere. The evolutionary mismatches were impossible to miss. I knew that these ideas could help millions.
- Pursue it diligently. I wrote something every day. I continue to write something almost every day.
Those three things—confirming that whatever you’re pursuing has appeal, confirming that it will objectively help people or fill a need, and then sticking with it—were key for the success of Mark’s Daily Apple. They’re key for any new pursuit.
Of course, the thread running through the rise of Mark’s Daily Apple is you, the readers. The people. I wouldn’t have done this if I wasn’t getting feedback from you. If no one was reading, I wouldn’t have written for long. Writing is for readers. Without readers, it means much less.
It’s popular for writers to say they “write in order to think.” Perhaps that’s true for them, but it’s not for me. I write so that I can change people’s lives. I write so that people can read my writing and come away happier, healthier, and more engaged.
And so, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for coming on this journey with me. Thank you for pushing me to keep digging, keep exploring, keep learning. It’s been sixteen years so far, and I look forward to many, many more.
Take care, everyone.
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