When my sister-in-law sent me a message that read, "I've seen your article in three different places today," the magnitude of the situation sank in. My article had gone viral.
Within hours of publishing "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," my 600 word list was shared hundreds of thousands of times. As my article spread across social media like wildfire, one of the places it landed was on Cheryl Snapp Conner's Facebook feed.
Cheryl, a Forbes contributor, chose to share my list--along with her commentary about the importance of mental strength in the entrepreneurial world--in an article titled "Mentally Strong People: 13 Things Mentally Avoid." Incredibly, that article also went viral. It attracted millions of readers within a matter of weeks, and ultimately garnered over 10 million views.
It's been a year and a half since that viral firestorm. Here are the top 10 ways that article changed my life:
1. I got a book deal. Within two weeks of writing my article, I received a phone call from a literary agent encouraging me to write a book. About a month later I signed a book deal with William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.
2. Celebrities shared my work. The amount of buzz that article received from top influencers was incredible. Actors, sports figures, CEOs, musicians, and many well-known names spread the word at lightning speed.
3. My online article made offline news. Glenn Beck discussed my article on his radio show and a few days later, Rush Limbaugh shared my list with his listeners. Requests from the media poured in and I discussed mental strength on several national TV programs.
4. I received new income generating opportunities. After the article gained popularity, I was presented with lucrative writing and speaking opportunities. My articles have appeared in national magazines and I've been invited to speak to audiences ranging from athletes to executives about mental strength.
5. People shared my content in different forms. People from around the world made videos, posters, and infographics about the "13 Things." A year and a half later, it's humbling to see people still sharing my article on social media.
6. People sent me free stuff. I've received some interesting items in the mail, ranging from a bag of sugar to a forehead thermometer. Some items were perks that arrived because the flurry of social media activity increased my Klout score. Other gifts appeared when businesses and PR firms sent me their products.
7. My message reached a global audience. My article was translated into dozens of languages and I received requests to reprint my article in magazines all over the world. My book is even being translated into over 20 languages.
8. People shared their stories of mental strength. Some people emailed me their stories of resilience, while others approached me at speaking engagements to share how they'd overcome adversity. Hearing inspirational stories of mental strength has been one of the best parts of this entire experience.
9. I agreed to share my story. As a psychotherapist, I'm used to listening to other people talk about their stories--not sharing my own. And although millions of people read my article, few knew my list was actually a letter to myself during one of the darkest times in my life. With some encouragement however, I decided to share the personal behind my article in my book. And now I'm glad I did.
10. My book hit the shelves. Exactly 13 months after writing my article, my book, also called 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, went on sale. Seeing it sold in bookstores, big box stores, and airports has been a surreal experience. I never imagined one article could change my life in so many ways.
Content Remains King
I have no way of knowing how many people actually read my article, but some people have estimated the number is well over 20 million. In addition to my own blog and Forbes, my list has appeared on popular websites such as Psychology Today, Lifehack, Thought Catalog and Huffington Post. It's also been reprinted in several national magazines.
People often ask me for the 'secret' to creating a viral blog post. But if there's one thing I've learned, it's that there isn't a magic formula that guarantees millions of views.
I certainly never intended to create a viral message. I didn't worry about SEO tactics and I didn't pay attention to the day or time that I posted it. Instead, I focused on communicating a message I felt passionate about sharing.
I hope my story gives hope to bloggers everywhere that it is possible to create content that will rise to the top of our overcrowded newsfeeds. Take care with each and every article you write, because you never which article might go viral.
Every Friday, HuffPost's Culture Shift newsletter helps you figure out which books you should read, art you should check out, movies you should watch and music should listen to. Learn more