What Winter Storm Pax Has Taught Me

Winter Storm Pax has taken the South by storm (pardon the pun). In Georgia, around 105,000 people were or are still without power. Over half a million people were part of the Southern black-out in Virginia, Albama, and Georgia in total. I am part of the fortunate few that does not have to wait until Saturday (February 15th) or later to have service restored. It’s been quite an experience!

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It was scary at first feeling so isolated. Nights were cold and dark. Roads were blocked and there was not much to do. With no Internet access and limited cell phone service (and battery life), it was like a taste of the apocalypse to some. Sure, that may seem extreme but, in our connected culture, never underestimate the effects of isolation and doing things the slow way!

Three whole days of no power has given me plenty of time to reflect on a number of things. Part of me is disappointed power was not restored sooner.  I was caught in the midst of scheduling a bunch of posts and preparing some new shows. We had to cancel HorsePLAY! LIVE last night, which sucks, but we’ll bounce back!

Allow me to share some introspective and personal development tidbits…

Gratitude & Perspective

Like many of the folks in Augusta and the CSRA, I am grateful to have my electricity return.  It was easy to get bitter about being in the dark (quite literally) but when you think about all the engineers, police officers, fire men, and other emergency personnel away from their families for long stretches of time, a fresh perspective dispeled such angst. Some of these folks worked double or triple shifts to bring people back online quickly.

We all have had our own trials and tribulations to deal with during the aftermath of Winter Storm Pax.  Some have had damage to their homes and vehicles, others have had to deal with injuries and death. These realizations are humbling.  I am grateful now, more than ever, for what My family has and less worried about what we lack.

Without this perspective, it would be easy to be cynical or jaded. One could say the diligent efforts of Georgia Power and other companies was purely driven by self-interest; after all, getting customers back online ensures billability. On the flip side, we have already established the diligence and sacrificed required to restore electrical grids throughout the South. Let’s not forget the efforts to clear all the trees and roads.

As a whole, I think many of us focus too much on white whine and first-world problems. We forget how much bigger the world is and how fortunate we really are. Be wary not to develop a sense of entitlement, folks. Every day is truly a blessing!

My thanks go out to those facing the bitter cold and dangers while helping restore order!

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Jackie Chan Is NOT Dead: Internet Hoaxes & Lazy Content Marketing

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A few days ago, my oldest son told me Jackie Chan was dead. Naturally, my immediate reaction was great sadness and a feeling of immense loss. Like most other red-blooded males, I love kung-fu flicks and often annoy my significant other with them. I also love Jackie Chan as an actor, director, and person. That’s besides the point, though.. Jackie Chan’s death would be the worst celebrity loss since Michael Jackson, in my opinion.

There is an awesome success story too deep to discuss here (Wikipedia has a wealth of history and it is mostly on-point, if you are curious). My love for Jackie Chan runs pretty deep, and I don’t idolize celebrities like most. He possesses traits and core values similar to my own and, in many ways, I aspire to be half the man he is. Jackie’s antics, warm smile, and quirky personality are enchanting, as Guy Kawasaki would say. His sense of humor is tops, which is something my wife would say I lack, in spite of my own beliefs. *smirk*

Being a bit of a Jackie Chan fan boy, I could not simply accept this news at face value. A quick Google search for “Jackie Chan death” revealed that it was yet another Internet hoax. I was relieved and annoyed at the same time.

Are people so devoid of original ideas that their content must be limited to mere pandering and silly hoaxes/stunts? That’s a rhetorical question, BTW.

This is not by any means the only or last Jackie Chan Internet death hoax. It seems anyone who wants site traffic or attention simply panders by writing about celebrity gossip, famous deaths, and silly pop culture. Some may consider Jackie Chan’s sense of humor or comedy style rather corny or over-simplified.. But he is still far more entertaining than most online content today. Truth.

Sadly, there is more to this story. Part of the issues here is that social media and SEO will always be abused. That means there is a lot of junk and lies spreading around! I blame laziness mainly.

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Your Success In Simple Terms (K.I.S.S. Revisited)

Storm and Wolverine kiss in an alternate timeline.

There

K.I.S.S.

Keep It Simple, Stupid (or, as some prefer, Keep It Simple and Succinct).  You probably hear it used a lot and, as a result, it has become a bit of an empty phrase.

So, what does it really mean?

I strongly believe the intimacy shown in the above picture is something we small business folks should strive for: warm connections.

Let’s move away from the things that are empty and make us into cold, soulless entities. When you simplify, you have more time to focus on the good things life has to offer. Believe me, I know I could work on this more because I spread myself thin sometimes.

Intimacy and engagement (UNmarketing, if you prefer) go hand in hand.. And they make human interaction much more meaningful and fulfilling.

Now, I’m not saying we should go around being best friends with all our clients and prospects.  That’s just not realistic. What I am suggesting here is that we take a more personal approach to things, engage people, and focus on the things that really matterContinue reading

No Bull: Taking No Prisoners When Telling Compelling Stories

I have a TON of content in the pipelines but I think this is one of those emotionally-charged articles that simply cannot wait. I’ve been catching up with my social media optimization (SMO) and blogging efforts. In doing so, I’ve met some really AWESOME geeks that, in a few words, have reminded me why I love a good storyteller!

I want to talk about two of these awesome geeks, little-known (at least for now) rockstar bloggers and storytellers, the elusive JJ and the ass-kicking Spartan Dino Dogan. I’m not usually one for fanboy rhetoric, I deplore it actually, but these two are amazing bloggers, brilliant visionaries, and smart business people. Here’s the main reason why:

They consult and insult in a professional manner that drives REAL value, without hype or excessive bias.

In our a world full of opinions, over-zealous believers (in anything, not just religion), and blind fanaticism, we’re bound to offend some with our contrasting thoughts and beliefs. The stronger our convictions, the stronger the offenses. Julie and Dino realize this so they don’t bother to walk on egg shells. They simply share their positions and beliefs on things and then explain what brought them to formulate their overall worldview and principles.

When sharing information and opinions, you have to balance passion in what you believe to be true or right with being open-minded and sensitive. The latter is huge. If you make some strong statements, be ready to back them up and receive criticism, which leads me to the next point…

Criticism is a GOOD thing.

I’d like to think that I am rather humble and approachable, but even I get excited when buckets of accolades come pouring in. Everyone needs some degree of ego rubbing and I’ll admit it’s nice. Affirmation, motivation, and support keep us driven and there’s only so much you can do within yourself to meet those inherent needs. We humans are social creatures, even if some of us dislike the masses due to ignorance and chest-beating hypocrisy.

Paul Wolfe’s article on stopping comment luvin’ really drives home what may be uncomfortable truths to some. Here’s my own take-aways or, better yet, revelations from the article:

  • Not everyone likes you.
  • Most will oppose you.
  • You may be “flying blind”.
  • Your ideas may just suck.

Let’s be REAL here: it’d be a dreadfully boring world if we all agreed on everything. The things that separate us can also bring us together. If you’re mature and dynamic enough, you’ll learn and change, as needed.

The real rub here is that your truth may be someone else’s lie. The bigger you get (and the more pervasive your personal brand, or virtual resume, becomes), the more you will be inevitably scrutinized and insulted. This is a necessary evil if you want to improve yourself and evolve your ideas.

I’ll recycle one of my favorite quotes to put it simply (and less wordy than I usually do):

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. –Arthur Schopenhauer

What this means to you and I is that great thinkers and innovators will always be met with contention. There is a very thin, almost invisible line between genius and crazy. You may be the latter but you never know until you take the plunge. To that end, I like Chris Brogan’s painfully simple “Launch And Learn” system: don’t over-think or worry, just go out and do it!

A simple shift of perspective goes a long way. Instead of viewing critics as mere trolls, try to draw value from what they say, even if the message is muddled with insults and stupidity. Call me a silly optimist but every bad situation can be turned around into something good!

Don’t just disagree for the sake of disagreeing.

Sure, I just said it’s good to disagree or be disagreed with but now I’m contradicting myself? I’m such a hypocrite (that’s good too because it shows evolving thoughts and personal growth). Seriously, what I mean here is simple: don’t be THAT guy.

Who is THAT guy?

The guy in question is the elusive individual that some refer to as a know-it-all or proudly stupid. These are folks that may be too oblivious or self-absorbed to see that they are just ignorant. They may dress up their attacks with so-called good intentions but, really, they just like to get a rise out of people.

These same people make bold statements to draw fodder for their mental warfare. It’s all about trying to uncover supposed fallacy, inconsistencies, and hypocrisy. That guy likes to discredit people to steal their thunder. Quite often, it’s because they have no real good ideas so might as well shoot down those others share openly. Whatever their motives, they are dangerous because they use knowledge for selfish and/or destructive things.

Don’t be THAT guy, m’kay?

You. are. a. cunt.

Depending on who you are, you’ll either laugh at that or be grossly offended.

Marketing, creative works, communication, business, simple human interaction.. Everything that involves opening up, storytelling, and being a bit vulnerable has a scary risk: people will often resort to insults when you made them feel small. You may have done it on purpose or by accident. Either way, you have to deal with it. Ignorance set ablaze can be quite damaging, to say the very least.

Women particularly get a raw deal when it comes to “getting intimate” with an audience. If a man shares a strong opinion, he is considered insightful or revolutionary (insert synonyms and other buzz words HERE). When a woman does the same thing, she is merely opinionated.. Or a cunt.

If communication is at the core of your business, and it should be, you have to become a word maven. Be wary of words and their connotations. Some topics and words are hot-button items, sure to set someone off. On the flip side, don’t be easy to offend. Words are, ultimately, what you make of them.

If heated debate after sharing a compelling story is unavoidable, try the following:

  • Thank them for the participation.
  • Relate to their stance somehow.
  • Share a story and your findings thereof.
  • Be authentic and as civil as possible.

Being the bigger person pays huge dividends and it’ll make the other person look like more of an ass too, if the situation calls for it. Kill ’em with kindness, as they say. Sound like a plan?

Take no prisoners. Go for the gusto. Stir debate. RAWR.

Back to Dino and JJ! Did I mention I love these two geeks? While their target audiences are slightly different, they both excite me because they take no prisoners. Love them or hate them, they keep pushing onward. They go all the way, with no hesitation, stirring debate to provoke thoughts and sharing useful, valuable stuff every step of the way. It’s awe-inspiring!

They each have their own unique style, underlying themes, and target audiences but they both:

  • Tell it how it is, making no apologies about it. At the same time, they’re not looking to call people out or mud-sling.
  • Write in a hard-nosed, emotionally-stirring manner that still manages to be focused, direct, and objective.
  • Value their supporters in real ways, rather than merely patronizing them.
  • Avoid hype and excessive bias or spin, sticking to facts and figures.
  • Share stories we can all relate to somehow, even if the subject matter is a bit obscure to some.
  • Know when to rub egos or give you a dose of reality, as needed (SEE Insultant and Consultant in Dino’s House (DIYBlogger.net))

Last but not least, JJ and Dino are amazing at edifying their peers and supporters. This makes stories really hit home for a wider audience. Their creative works feel very warm and inclusive. They’re not creating little elitist clubs for mere self-gratification and that, on it’s own, is truly remarkable!

Tell your story and be authentic.

Let’s gather around the campfire…

Good storytelling is hard to come by. Authentic experiences are all the more rare. With all the faceless, soulless entities out there, it’s easy to stand out if you’re simply being REAL. Each and every day, I am trying to become a better storyteller because I know it’ll help me become a better person (yes, it sounds cheesy.. sue me). More importantly, I know I am providing unique, valuable content, not peddling propaganda, rehashed junk, and silly, empty rhetoric.

Simply put, being authentic means not being under-handed. Be direct with your ideas and forthcoming with intentions. Don’t try to be a salesperson. Just do something that people will want to talk about and good things will come.

I know I derailed here a bit but I urge you to read any articles written by Dino, JJ, and their friends. It’s almost always guaranteed to be a good read if you keep an open mind. Just remember: when you tell a story, talk TO me, not AT me. Remarkable stories turn into engaging conversations.

Let’s Discuss:

Think back to the last time someone told you a story. Consider what inspired you or pissed you off…

  • What makes you feel like you really connect with someone, even if only afforded a few minutes to interact?
  • Do you prefer a more preachy or serious tone, or something different?
  • What differentiates storytellers most for you (think businesses, web sites, blogs, and other stuff)?
  • How do you think a creative gets a message to really hit home with an audience?

Any other thoughts? Please share. If you disagree with me, even better. Let’s be mindful of the other guests: keep it clean and constructive. I look forward to your wonderful and thought-provoking ideas, folks!

Some Rants And Gripes About The Challenges Of Working From Home

It’s time for a real rant. I’ve been inspired by Dino Dogan’s “take no prisoners” approach to business. He’s a modern-day business Spartan. I’d like to follow his lead by being part insultant, part consultant here (more than usual).

Working from home can be a real pain. As I’ve discussed in my “Work From Home Success” series and related articles, independent work can be very rewarding but it is not without it’s drawbacks. Really, it’s not for everyone.

What really grinds my gears is when people don’t get what you do. It can be your fault that people don’t “get it” but, mostly, it’s due to how people are conditioned. For most of the world, if you do not have an office, tons of wealth, and massive popularity, taking your “thing” seriously is a tough sell. Let’s explore some of my personal sore points with WFHing (Working From Home)… Continue reading

To Niche Or Not To Niche? The Urgency In Focusing On The Few, NOT The Masses

Today, I caught a tweet (one that was actually useful) leading me back to the Make Money Blogging article by BlogBuildingServices.com – GREAT read!  It got me thinking: do you REALLY need to have a “niche” to be successful as a blogger (or heck, even a writer)?  The short answer is NO..  But it certainly makes life easier.

If I compare my two main blogs, Yogizilla’s Blankity Blank-Blank (An NoF Portal) and Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Pass Online (DPO), DPO is certainly the winner in terms of performance and visibility.  On a slow day, DPO gets 80-100 visitors and that’s regardless of whether or not there have been recent updates.  Yu-Gi-Oh! is the main focus of the site but I discuss anime, manga, and video games on DPO too!  Certainly, those topics are all things that have avid fans.  Anime, manga, and Yu-Gi-Oh! are certainly niches too.

It would seem that having a more diversified blog is not worth the trouble, right?  Not at all.  When I get hits on this blog, they are more quality hits.  Less spam, more real visitors, more returning traffic..  This is great for SMO purposes..  SEO, not so much.

Really, that’s where the magic happens with blogs: optimizing for social media and search engines (SMO and SEO, respectively).  Razor-sharp focus on a single niche can help but, if your focus is TOO small, you can over-optimize your content.  What I like about having two different blogs is that I get to use different writing styles; better yet, my Yogizilla-branded primary blog allows me to go off on tangents and somehow connect everything with often-subtle underlying themes. Continue reading