“Always Learning” has never been more true than this last year.
At the end of 2013 I shut off my personal blog. I also shut down numerous other blogs and projects – some of which weren’t getting much attention and some that were beginning to really take off! I even shut down my wife and I’s personal “lifestyle” blog, and we had nowhere to post photos of our cats and house projects… for a year! Horrible right?!
So why did I do this?
A few reasons…
1. The main reason was that I was starting-up a brand new publishing business in a brand new town and it was demanding a ton of time!
I also had people stalking me online trying to piece together who I was, and I just wasn’t convinced I wanted my local community to know all the details of my life yet. I didn’t know this community yet, so I didn’t want them to know me better than I knew them – make sense? It did to me.
2. I also felt that with our recent move, my new business, the work with a brand new church I was helping start here as well, my freelancing and consulting work, and my numerous other projects and ideas that I was just becoming spread thin and too unfocused.
Typically, I’d write for clarity. However, during this time I thought it’d be worth trying a different approach since I needed to free up more time anyway. It had been 10 years since I hadn’t blogged somewhere all year.
I’ll explain my thoughts on that experiment below (it was horrible).
3. It was time to update and redesign some of my sites, including this one, and I figured this would give me the time to do this nice and slow while deciding what my “personal brand” would be about – especially given all the changes I was in the midst of.
I’d burst on to the scene in the future being polished, clearly focused, and dashing as could be. …Yea, about that? Not so much on some, a bit better on others.
What Came Of This Little Hiatus From Internet?
I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the start of a little over an entire year offline now.
Of course I still had to check emails for my business, and I followed and read many blogs as well as built others for other people and business, but I didn’t post or work on anything of my own for the last year.
I also didn’t leave a single comment on any blog, write guest posts, and very rarely posted to social media.
I hear it: “So that’s not really a year off the internet…”
Well, no, not exactly, but it was a year off the internet as far as what I love most about it. It was a year off the internet as much as will ever be possible for the rest of the future of humanity, barring some apocalyptic circumstance.
And speaking of desolation…
That’s pretty much what happened to all my properties and projects. Most of the email subscribers, most of the contributors, all of the readers… gone.
But to me, that hasn’t been that big of a deal. I can always build something, and rebuild, and build something else. And, there will always be readers, contributors, spectators, and the like coming and going, ebbing and flowing.
What’s been the biggest loss for me, was simply the lack of writing on my part.
Obviously you and I both know there’s more than one way to write… and I did continue to fill some Evernote notebooks with fragments of ideas and occasional snippets of journals and future books.
But I’ve never been much for journaling, unless it’s public journaling. Call it ego if you want – it probably partly is – but I like to think it’s that (1.) I have always felt compelled to help others and believe I can, and (2.) I’ve always performed better when under pressure or on a stage.
Whether it was piano recitals my whole childhood, races all through high school and college, huge papers and tests in academics, or simple spitting out public blog posts – I always do better with, and even need, the pressure and performance.
Soo… my writing was crap this last year. Plain and simple.
Sure, there’s a few other ways to look at it.
I did focus on starting a business, learned salesmanship, sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stuff and started a business in 5 months with the highest closing ratio at the time in the nation of people doing what I was doing.
So I learned a bit about what I could do if I ever focused on one thing, and I got a debt-free business out of it. – Valuable!
I did reorganize every hard drive, cloud drive, photo system, backup system, Evernote notebook stack, bookcase, folder, file cabinet and anything else I could find – multiple times! (I’m kinda obsessed with organization.) – Valuable!
I did read a plethora of books, blogs and essays, and watch a few documentaries… and a few tv shows on Netflix actually. These gave me tons of more ideas and valuable research for past ideas. – Valuable! (I think?)
I did get the new church plant here set up with a shiny new website, and head up their blogging team and communications for a few months. – Valuable!
I did consult with a number of small businesses around the area. – Valuable!
I did learn a few things about community management, publishing and writing for print, photography, event planning, hiring and firing staff, advertising, billing and collections, dealing with crazy clients, etc., as I ran my neighborhood magazine here in the city. – Valuable!
I learned the enormous power of networking – offline, or “IRL” (in real life) as it’s called! – Crazy Valuable!
I re-learned the value of quality mentorship and the need for community – but partly cause I spent the whole year fairly stressed, tired, and discontent. – Valuable! (except for why it had to be re-learned)
I learned how important it is to value your spouse and be valued in return, especially when doing hard things! This goes for other family members as well, but just not quite as much. – Valuable!
I had some honorable, crazy-grateful, significant job offers and opportunities. – Valuable!
I probably learned a few other things… but maybe those aren’t valuable if I can’t think of them now?
So Was This Year Off Really Worth Nothing But Crap?
I don’t know. Maybe not.
Yet as I look back on it, and stand in this moment, I feel frustrated by it all.
As the dust settles on 2014, I feel like I’ve non-stop hustled, accomplished a lot, and feel no better off for it.
My plans have changed somewhat – I think for the better. Some of the things I once valued have even changed – I think for the better. My circumstances are nothing to complain about.
Yet, some of my most core, deepest desires feel neglected. Namely, I made almost zero progress on the craft of writing – which I’ve realized I love more than ever.
Then to top it off, the last few months I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of job postings for “Content Managers”, “PR and Content Leads”, “Community Managers”, “Chief Marketing Officers”, “Content Crafters”, etc., for all these software and tech companies – an industry I really want to work further into.
What is now most frustrating is that, sure, one can apply and tell these folks that, “I guarantee I know what I’m doing! You’d love it! I’ll love you! I’ll work so hard! I’m probably the nerdiest-on-this-topic, hardest working, always-learning, driven, person you’ll have applying!”
Then they’ll look at you and say, “Oh yea!? How do you figure? You don’t even maintain your own blog and your follower counts stopped rising a year ago. Suuuure you know what you’re doing.”
How could I argue?
Fellow bloggers and people I would have been considered “on pace” with last year, are now chief marketing officers for companies or working with other awesome internet or software companies in varying roles – no doubt largely due to their personal platforms they built the last couple years.
“Okay, boo-hoo, what’s wrong with your job!?”
Not much. I don’t mean to complain. I’m so stinkin blessed! It’s just simply not aligned with where I want to be heading in the near future – which I’ve known for a few years – because of some of my core beliefs of tech, software, the church (yes, I’m “religious”) and serving people in the years to come.
(I’ll be writing about this a lot this year.)
So what’s the big take-away I’ve learned from it all?
I love writing, and have to do it to feel clarified.
I cannot tell if I write to think, or if I think to write. I cannot tell the difference anymore and kinda don’t think there is one for me.
So if I could only choose one focus for this next year, it would be this:
Learn to be a freakin-good, make-them-talk copywriter, and write everywhere, everyday!
(And thankfully, that doesn’t have to be my only focus, and I wrote a few more of them out already in this post).
Who knows, maybe it took this last year to get clarity on that. Either way, I’m certain that God is good and faithful and always takes care of things, and I’m going to keep learning, keep working hard, stay grateful, and keep enjoying.
Here it goes!