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Madison, Rats, & Recipe Blogs

By: Michael Blankenship |

“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Greetings from LA and Hawaii.

This week we interviewed the 2021 Miss America 1st runner up, discovered affordable for-credit online college courses, learned how to purchase a profitable blog, why hope is important for humans (and rats), and mused about progress. Our challenge is for you to answer a thoughtful question from Kyree Oliver.

Madison McCuiston

This week we spoke with entrepreneur and graphic designer, Madison McCuiston.

She opened a coffee shop in her hometown at the age of 19, pausing on her degree to focus on running the business. A few years later, in 2020, she won the title of Miss Oregon and, in 2021, became Miss America’s 1st runner up.

Now she’s a full-time graphic designer.

When we asked her what she thinks has contributed to her success, she said,

“Growing up as the daughter of a F15 Fighter Pilot in the US Air Force taught me that you have to work hard to find success. I was taught at a very early age that this is not something someone else can do for you. This fueled my energy to become a business owner at such an early age.”

When we asked her what advice she would give to someone who was trying to walk in her footsteps, she said,

“The most important piece of advice I would give would be to not listen to the negative voices. Someone else’s story will not be your story. We all find success and fulfillment in a different way. Instead, let those negative voices fuel your energy determination to work harder towards the outcome you are envisioning.”

If you want to see more from Madison, check out her graphic design portfolio over here or follow her on LinkedIn.


We discovered Outlier.org this week and it caught our attention as an affordable and exciting way to take college courses from top professors and acquire transferable college credits.

Each course is only $400, completely online, offers 3 transferable credits from the University of Pittsburgh, and Outlier even offers a full refund if you do all the work but don’t pass the course.

Currently, Outliers course offerings include…

  • Calculus I
  • Intro to Astronomy
  • Intro to Philosophy
  • Intro to Macroeconomics
  • Precalculus
  • Intro to Psychology
  • Intro to Statistics
  • Intro to Microeconomics
  • College Algebra

We haven’t tried Outlier for ourselves (yet), but it seemed like an exciting nudge in the right direction for our education system — more affordable, online, for-credit courses from top professors — and well worth the mention.

If you want to learn more, here’s a helpful and honest review on Medium from someone who took Outlier’s Calculus course.

Rats & Hope

In the 1950s, Johns Hopkins professor Curt Richter conducted a disturbing experiment. He put 34 wild rats into tubes of water, forcing them to swim or drown, and within minutes, all the rats had drowned.

He then tweaked the experiment by putting a new group of rats into the tubes of water, but this time picking them up out of the water right before they were expected to drown and holding them for a few minutes. Then he put them back in the water.

Here’s how Psychology Today explains the new results:

“This small interlude made a huge difference. The rats that experienced a brief reprieve swam much longer and lasted much longer than the rats that were left alone. They also recovered almost immediately. When the rats learned that they were not doomed, that the situation was not lost, that there might be a helping hand at the ready—in short, when they had a reason to keep swimming—they did. They did not give up, and they did not go under.

‘After elimination of hopelessness,’ wrote Richter, ‘the rats do not die.’”

There are many differences between rats and humans, of course, but we have at least one similarity: we all need hope to keep going.

Recipe Blogging

A few years ago, our good friend Jacob McMillen purchased a 7-year-old recipe blog for $60,000 — in this article, he explains why he purchased a recipe blog instead of real estate, how he purchased it, and how it’s performing (spoiler: it made about $2,000 per month in ad revenue for a year without any changes).

It’s a detailed and insightful article that will help anyone who’s considering purchasing and managing their own online business.

More recently, Jacob published a podcast/article that explains five ways he increased the blog’s revenue by 45% over the last 12 months. Those strategies include…

  1. Scoring Quick Wins By Revamping Solid (But Unoptimized)
  2. Content Creating New High-Quality Content From Scratch
  3. Leveraging Pinterest
  4. Creating A Targeted Lead Magnet
  5. Creating a Low-Cost Digital Product

Check out the full article over here for more details.


Progress is a funny word. We all want to feel that we’re making progress in our lives — in our careers, our relationships, our health — but what does progress look like?

Does progress mean making more money? Does it mean having more sex? Does it mean weighing 20 pounds less?

Maybe. But maybe not.

Let’s look at the official definition for progress:

“forward or onward movement toward a destination.”

To us, the keyword seems to be “destination”. Progress for you — say, quitting your job and pursuing a new career — might not seem like progress to the people around you (they might even think it’s a step in the wrong direction). But that’s because they’re not heading to the same destination as you. And you’re not heading to the same destination as them.

Comparison is futile.

All a person needs to do, then, is to define their destination (i.e. set goals) — for without knowing your destination, you can’t really make progress — and then use that destination as their compass for which paths to pursue and which to ignore.

If you want help in choosing a destination, check out this article I wrote a while back: “What Should I Do With My Life?” — 7 Steps To Finding Your Purpose.

This Week’s Photo

Neal Waters / Anadolu Agency / Getty

“A view of part of the Tennant Fire in Northern California on July 4, 2021. The fire has been burning since June 28 and has scorched more than 10,000 acres.” via The Atlantic

Extra Stuff

Here are some other articles that caught our attention this week…

Weekly Challenge

I came across a Facebook post from Kyree Oliver recently that posed the following thoughtful question: What would you do differently if you knew you couldn’t get hurt (mentally, emotionally, or physically)?

It’s a question that’s worth spending some time thinking about — so that’s our challenge this week. Answer that question and then ask the equally important follow-up question: should you be afraid of getting hurt in the first place?

Until next week,

Mike & Alec

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