On Writing & Lightning

Writing has always been a part of my life. When I think back on it, it’s always been there. In middle school I toiled away on a journal for class. Later in life when I returned to college as an Adult Learner, there was writing. And I really didn’t mind it. Not one bit.

My writing platform has evolved over time migrating from hardbound journals to essays saved on floppy disks/hard drives and then, on to the first version of this blog on Blogger and moving to it’s current incarnation on the WordPress platform.

It was that second version of my writing platform (essays saved to 3.5″ floppy disks) that I learned a particularly hard lesson. I was tackling college for the first time at a community college in Orlando, Florida during the late 80’s. The computer lab was a series of early Apple MacIntosh computers all lined up in rows on laminate woodgrain work tables. The lab was illuminated with overhead fluorescent lights. The windowless walls were an off white, the floor laid with low pile, brown carpet. Usually, there was a lab assistant present, presumably to keep an eye on the equipment and help those in the lab. I occasionally saw the assistant get up to help someone on their computer. Most of their time seemed devoted to homework or, tapping away on their computer.

One rainy afternoon, I signed in and took a seat at an available MAC. I needed to start a term paper and this was the only way I was going to get one done. I fired up MacWrite and started hammering away on the term paper draft.

I was tapping away just as happy as a clam. Time passed, page after page began to take shape and then… POP! The screen goes blank and the lights go out. I look around in a daze, confused. “What just happened?” I ask aloud. From the half-darkness a response, “The power went out”.  Then another response, “Yeah, we’re in the lighting capitol of the U.S.

My mind reeled from the loss of the work. I was frustrated and angry at myself for (apparently) not saving to the floppy disk more often. What could I do? Could I mentally recall it all? Some of it (hopefully)? Minutes ticked by and the power hadn’t returned. The rain finally relented. Light from outside streamed into the lab from the propped open door. I decided to get up and head outside into the day light.

A small group had assembled outside. We commiserated on our losses. Most had lost a page or, a few minor edits. By comparison, my loss seemed the greatest. There was little sympathy to be found. Most, chided me for not saving frequently enough. What did I know? It was my first time there.

A few minutes later the power was restored. I headed back in and resumed my seat at the workstation. I was staring at a blank screen. It was then, I noticed a small note taped just below the small monochromatic screen. “Save frequently to your disk or, the network temporary folder.”

The computer came back to life and I started writing again. But, before I did I took a moment to learn the keyboard shortcut to save. And from then on, used it every time I paused from writing.

Becoming a Creator & Owner

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It’s my belief that enough of “life must build up inside you, before you can write”. And, I think at last… that has occurred. In fact, a hell of a lot has happened in the last 18 months!

  • We relocated back to North Carolina, and were generously supported by family while we found our footing.
  • I was laid off from the highest paying job in my life. Before our move back to NC, the employer had led me to believe through direct statements that I could continue as a remote employee. This didn’t happen. Instead, two end stories emerged: (1) “I can’t manage you remotely.” (2) “We were unable to sell enough services”.
  • I spent 14 months searching for a job (unsuccessfully).

After all of this, I decided one thing: to start an online marketing company. To take a step in a direction I had never taken (full-time) before. It didn’t happen all at once (or, even overnight). What did happen was that while I was looking for a job, independent work began to come my way.  A few recurring clients and some 90 day and 6 month contracts happened next. And when unemployment ran out, I was standing on my own two feet. It’s proof of the viability of the concept. It was some amount of validation, even.

Now, some don’t understand that an income can be derived from a laptop along with knowledge/experience in marketing and online advertising. But, it really can. No joke: it’s not easy and requires persistence. But, I know a W-2 job has it’s challenges, too (staff reductions, layoffs, downsizing).

Some might ask: Are you bitter or, ticked at that employer or, not finding a job? It was a frustrating experience and there were some darker moments. Some days questioning everything. The “no thanks” and the “we are proceeding with another candidate” piled high. But, on the whole, I have a fairly positive attitude and believe things are getting better every day.

I think the largest thing that has occurred is that, I have realized I am a creator. Now, this wasn’t a term I was used to using (or, even previously comfortable with) but, Keith Bloemendaal of Dutch Built Homes in Carolina Beach, NC dropped this on my Facebook wall:

“Some people are workers, some are creators, I prefer to create and have been blessed in doing so.”

It got me thinking a bit about who I am and what I do… I have created quite a bit over the years and was also a worker at different times. With this thinking a few things emerged:

  • When I create, I am most energized and feel most alive.
  • The company that I founded to help small/medium business, non-profits, and agencies creates more value for themselves, their clients and customers.

I AM A CREATOR!  I AM AN OWNER!

P.S. In fact, a few weeks before this “creator” revelation… I started creating, in a way I have never before: creating my first book. Update (1/15/2016): the book “Mastering Google Keep” is now available.

This last bit of creating is where you come in. I could use some help. Are you interested in helping with my first book? Just review a few things like cover design and giving a little feedback and if you’re really interested, I might even send you a manuscript. If you are interested: Add your name here. And as things come up, I’ll reach out. Thanks.

Photo credit: gfpeck

Popular Products of 2014

Listed below are the top products purchased by visitors to my blog in the last year.

  1. Rightline Gear 100S30 Sport 3 Car Top Carrier
  2. New RAY BAN Sunglasses RB 3025 001/58 Gold Aviator
  3. Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB Kit (4GBx2) DDR3 1600 (PC3-12800) 240-Pin UDIMM Memory BLS2KIT4G3D1609DS1S00/BLS2CP4G3D1609DS1S00
  4. Destiny – Standard Edition – PlayStation 4
  5. Du-Bro 499 Tru-Spin Prop Balancer

How do I know this? Through an agreement with Amazon, we earn a very modest commission from product links on this site. We appreciate your support of this blog. Without you, the readers, it would be harder to continue this effort.

My Favorite 3 Tools for DIY Lawn & Landscaping

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Over the years I’ve gone through a fair number of tools for different projects. Through the projects (and years) I’ve run into a number of tools and equipment that flat out sucked but, a few continue to perform year after year. My list below are my personal top 3 tools for DIY Lawn & Landscaping.

  1. LawnmowerToro 22″ Recycler Self-Propelled Mower. Every year I change the oil, change the air filter and tune up the blade. And every year, every time I start it… it starts on the first or, second pull. Just amazing. The other mowers I’ve owned had all kinds of trouble. Bonus tip: I also use dry gas in my gas can. The Toro lawnmower continues to work flawlessly.
  2. String Trimmer – After a few great seasons with the Toro mower (above) and the Troy Built string trimmer suffer ethanol induced fuel line failure… I bought a Toro Straight Shaft String Trimmer. Almost as awesome as the mower… it’s a beast and will chew up less expensive line quick. But, it works like a champ.
  3. Landscaping – True Temper 69-Inch Landscape Digging BarThis tool saved my back and some real $$$ over hiring a Bobcat to remove some very old hollies. Can’t imagine taking on a landscaping project without it. Bonus: In addition to using the bar to remove old shrubs and the like, you can use it to help dig and tamp holes for fence posts.

Do you have some favorite lawn and garden tools? Let me know in the comments below.

Google Alerts & Google Analytics Better Together

As a business person or, marketing consultant there is probably no better free way to measure your marketing impact than to use Google Alerts & Google Analytics together. (And who doesn’t like free, right?).

What is Google Alerts? (The Jelly)

Google Alerts allows you to “get email notifications any time that Google finds new results on a topic you’re interested in. For example, you could get updates about a product you like, find out when people post content about you on the web, or keep up with news stories. (Google Alerts Help)” You can also use Google Alerts to monitor:

  • mentions online of the name of your company
  • online appearances of your key employees names
  • if you are a consultant… the name of your clients
  • your competitor’s names.

And really it’s the first of those last four uses of Google Alerts (mentions online of the name of your company) that will make for a tasty combination with an often little used Google Analytics feature.

What is Google Analytics? (The Peanut Butter)

Google Analytics, if installed on your website, gives you insight into your site’s visitors and their interaction with the content on your website. It can also show you where (most) of the visitors to your site originated.

To make the most of this tasty marketing data sandwich we want to combine Google Alerts with Google Analytics. How do we do this? Read on as we get to the final piece of our PB&J Data Sandwich.

Annotations, Annotations, Annotations (The Bread)

A really neat and often underused feature in Google Analytics is the annotations. This is the bread of our sandwich. Annotations help you document anything you would like to understand that might impact your site. For example, your company was written about in the local business press. Did that article, also released online, result in sending some traffic to your site or, even help make a new lead or sale?

Now when you receive a Goggle Alert set up for your company/product name you can have an annotation added in Google Analytics to see if there was an impact on the traffic visiting your site. It might also lead you to decide (from the example above) to do more or, less public relations work with the local business press.

This post originally appeared as a LinkedIn Today post: https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140810233858-12507477-google-alerts-analytics-better-together