Dec 22, 2009 personal
Sometimes, the my best method of coping is through writing. Here I am.
To say the last two months have been difficult would be an understatement. But I survived.
In November, an employee who had also become a great friend was hospitalized. He went into a coma and never came out of it. A week later he passed away. Jim was two weeks older than me. His passing really made me put my own life into perspective. Attending his funeral and meeting his parents was more difficult and more emotional than I ever could have imagined. It was a beautiful service, and a great tribute.
Last week I had to lay-off my entire department. I know these guys are pros and will quickly rebound, but we formed a very close-knit team. We were working on some great projects that may never be realized and that also kills me. But mostly, we won’t be working together anymore and I really miss that.
Last weekend, someone broke into my car in my driveway and stole $100 cash. Sure we could have used the cash, but losing it isn’t that big of a deal. What is upsetting is how violated I feel that someone broke into my car on my property. There is a sense of paranoia that occurs after these types events. Now I’m taking extra precautions to make sure my family is safe at night.
And finally, last night my sweet Grandmother passed away. She was my last living grandparent. One of the most loving and kind-hearted persons I have ever known. To her, family was everything. The most difficult part was being so far away from her during her last hours. But I did have the opportunity to call her and say goodbye. I was amazed at how cognizant and aware she was of what was happening to her. She knew her time had come and had gathered her family. She was able to call all her Grandchildren who lived far from home. How amazing.
As I sit here and think about the tragedy and life-changes that have occurred in the past two months, I find myself uncharacteristically in a sound state of mind. It would be too easy to go into a deep depression. It would be too easy to find blame and faults in the world. It would be too easy to be upset that these events happened around Thanksgiving and Christmastime…times when everything should be right and everyone be happy. Those types of emotions would be too easy to have.
I am very sad about what has happened, but I also have a full heart and realize these events had to happen. There is a time when all good things come to an end. I understand that now. I know my life wasn’t the only one impacted. It seems I had a series of events happen to me, but truth is these events happened to a lot of others too. I am grateful they occurred how and when they did. I’m grateful they happened in a short amount of time and I will be able to mourn briefly and then move on with building a better life.
But… please God and whatever karmic energy that surrounds me, no more life changes for a while, OK? Let me catch my breath before the next round.
Jim’s death was a tragedy. I am grateful I knew him. He was a generous soul, helping out with organizations like Helping Hands. His passing around Thanksgiving time might seem inconvenient, but if it was his time to go I’m glad he did it at a time when we reflect on being grateful and helping others. Now, each Thanksgiving I’ll reflect back on the few months that I knew Jim as a friend, and remind myself that volunteering my time is one of the best ways that I can show my gratitude. Thank you Jim.
Losing my entire team at DataNet Pro was very sorrowful. But it was something that had to be done. We took a gamble and tried marketing financial products in a down economy using a bootstrapped budget. It didn’t pay off. It is unfortunate, and the lay-off event seems untimely, but I’m grateful we even had the chance of working together. I had learned so much from each of my staff, in both the business world and life lessons, that I can’t even imagine what the past 9+ months would have been without them. The theme of this holiday season this year is to focus on what matters most in life. Without knowing my team and knowing what they are going through, I don’t know if I would have picked up on that. And what a remarkable people that my wife, my kids and I all have as friends and second family. Thank you to Ryan, Tyler, Lulu, Pete, Johanna, Mark, Sergei and Jim. You all inspire me!
Losing my Grandma is the saddest event of them all, but how grateful and proud I am to be part of her family. Her life, her love, and her family is an amazing legacy to be retold by generations. I know I’ll be passing down the love and values that she instilled in my Mom, and my mom instilled in me. I lived just a couple of miles from Grandma (and so did all my cousins). We were always together. It may seem that having a loved one pass at Christmas time is tragic, but in my eyes I can’t think of a more fitting and better time for Grandma to pass. This was the time of year she loved. This is the time of year we will all remember her.
For 4-5 weeks of every year her house was full of laughter of kids and adults at play, delicious smells from her cooking of stacks and stacks of sugar cookies, sounds of the door chimes from the coming and going of all the grandkids, puddles of melting snow from the boots on her landing, warmth of a fire crackling in her wood burning stove, the sights of two, sometimes three tables spread with goodies for the taking, and the love that comes from knowing everyone who walked in the door was welcomed in that house. I know that all kids think their grandparent’s are magic, but my Grandma especially was.
Merry Christmas Grandma. We love you.
I wish I had resources to develop ALL my ideas. Almost six years ago I jot down a few diagrams and notes for a service that would put the likes of foursquare, Gowalla, loopt, yelp, urban spoon, and others to shame. (Sidenote: I wrote about Dodgeball 5 1/5 years ago. They died as predicted, but not exactly how I thought it would.) MY concept would help increase foot traffic to local businesses, increase the loyalty of local patrons, and could be used in urban and remote towns the same. I just uncovered my notebook recently while I was moving around a few boxes and rediscovered a lot of ideas I scribbled down. This idea is just as solid today as it was six years ago. And it will still be viable 4 years in the future. So another multi-million dollar idea put back on the shelf until the timing is right for me. That’s okay, these ideas are “a-dime-a-dozen”.
Sometimes, you have to jump at opportunities even if it means you personally won’t reap the benefits. If you don’t you may never see your vision come to light. This year I lucked into such an opportunity. I had hired a very talented team of SEO’s and developers to build a network of websites for my employer. While we did pretty good at building the traditional sites that my company was familiar with, we were missing our killer app. We had nothing that set us apart from the many, many competitive sites in our industry. The main challenge we faced was that we didn’t have a core community website that we could use to leverage trust and authority from the search engines. This authority site had to be unique, and it couldn’t just be another blog, forum, or directory. Those are all done and dated already. We needed a different type of site. As I’ve faced this exact challenge in the past with many different clients, it’s no surprise I already had an idea for the type of site we’d need that would bring the power and authority to get the rankings we were after. Now was the time to build it, even if it means that I’d be giving my prized idea to my company as intellectual property. But, that’s part of why they hired me, to bring all my ideas that can benefit us directly and put them on the table.
I did some research and discovered it would cost us almost six figures to purchase the licensing and custom development for the type of site that I wanted to build. So I talked it over with my developers and did a quick feasibility analysis. This could be done! I told my team that this was a second priority to any other projects they were assigned. I have some brilliant developers. They were able to conquer all my projects ahead of schedule, beating my most unrealistic expectations for deadlines. They built facebook app after facebook app, all the top priority sites in queue, and a lot of single one-off projects from me and from corporate. I have worked with a lot of great developers in the past, but these two have truly shown me they are two of the best. So with a lot of projects cleared off the board, and an initiative to focus only on projects that would benefit us in SEO, I gave the guys a greenlight to work full-time on the project.
This week we are ready to launch the main project, and it’s supporting sister sites, to the public as beta. I’ll be posting about it soon as an official announcement. Stay tuned!
BTW – As much as I honor my development team in this post, I can’t say enough about the fantastic marketers that I have that make up the rest of my team! They too are brilliant, motivated, and bring a very unique set of skills and talents that contributes to the unique nature of the team. Some of our projects haven’t panned out exactly like planned, but it isn’t because of a lack of trying or lack of talent. The industry we are in is truly a bitch and very competitive. But, with the launch of our new project, I expect some great things from the result of an entire-team marketing effort in a very short amount of time. So, as before, stay tuned!
There was a game show on TV when I was a kid that I really wanted to try-out for and become a contestant. I don’t remember the show as much as I remember the Grand Prize offered each week: a 5 minute shopping spree at Toys-R-Us. I didn’t really care about being on TV or anything, I just wanted to be on the show for a shot at the prize! Was I a toy freak? No, not really. I just discovered a way that I could take advantage of the prize!
You see, I’d watch in agony each week as the kids who won would run through Toys-R-Us and make the same mistakes over and over. They’d all do the same thing: with huge eyes, they’d frantic their shopping cart through the store filling it with things like bikes, skateboards, basketballs, huge stuffed animals, radio control cars, and other huge items. I swear one time a kid tried to stick a trampoline in his shopping cart. Watching these kids would frustrate me because they were doing it wrong! They get to keep everything they could squeeze into one cart. If only they had my strategy, they could have gotten all those toys and more. My plan was pretty simple to. If I were on the show, I’d run straight to the baseball cards and fill the cart until it was overflowing. I could then maximize the space in my shopping cart with some of the smallest, yet highest valued items in the store. I wouldn’t need to run all the many aisles, I could maximize my full 5 minutes in a single spot. After I took home my loot, I’d open all the packs, sort them out, create a few sets, and resell those sets plus the highest valued singles back to my local baseball card dealers (there were many in the 80′s and early 90′s). With the money, I’d return back to Toys-R-Us and get the toys I wanted and still have a lot of money left over.
As my friends know, I’ve always been a entrepreneur geek. Sure I enjoyed making money, but what I enjoyed most was optimizing a little-known process (which could also be thought of as exploiting a loophole or exploiting the system). My career choices are pretty much par for the course from my humble beginnings. As a Search Engine Optimizer and Social Marketer, I look for ways to “optimize” the experience for my clients. I make their website more suitable for success within search engines and social networks. Back 3 to 5 years ago, I was simply exploiting holes in Google’s algorithm. These days I play their game, but still have many opportunities to leverage social networks like Twitter, reddit, StumbleUpon, and Facebook in the process.
I enjoy it. It’s fun to be able to make changes and see how it affects the traffic coming into the site. I’ve been on the tipping point for a few months with one of my sites, and I think we are about to release a product (another website) that will soon push it over the edge and give me the results I’ve been looking for for so long. One downside to this business is that it can be entirely frustrating to not get the results you were hoping for as soon as you want. But when you do achieve success, it is very rewarding. So I’m hoping this little extra “oomph” that my team has been working on for the past 2 months will really jump start something good. We’ll see what happens. But our shopping cart is full and we are more than ready!