I found this article by Ray Tirado on Medium, which has become one of my new favorite places to find great content. Titled “7 Reasons You Will Never Do Anything Amazing With Your Life“, Ray gives us (and himself) a kick in the butt to get going on learning, failing, succeeding, and repeating. The article has generated a lot of interest on the ‘net, equal parts encouraging, affirming, hating, and rejecting. Funny how that always seems to be the case when you pick a fight and stick to your guns. Thanks for writing Ray, and here’s your sketchnotes.
Links Worth Clicking
When I first started blogging intentionally in December 2011, I did what many people do and signed up for a free account at wordpress.com. It was safe, risk-free, and a good way to see if I was really committed to this blogging and writing thing. Turns out I am. In the 4.5 months since, I’ve cranked out 92 posts, and know this is something I want to keep doing for a long time.
So, I made the next logical step, which was to switch to a self-hosted wordpress site. I read early on this transfer would be pretty seamless, but if you had a lot of content it would still be a pain to get everything “just right”. That’s where I fall in, and man, they were right.
I officially made the launch to self-hosted on May 7. I was very excited, and ready to get to work on the bevy of customized options you can activate when you own the site. In the 16 days since, I have been swallowed up by all the options, themes, plugins, and haven’t done much actual writing. Bummer, right?
I want to help you avoid this pitfall, so here are 7 big lessons I’ve learned very quickly:
1. If you have been through 60 days of blogging, or 30 posts, SWITCH
I don’t regret starting with a free wordpress account. I do regret not switching earlier. Because right now I’m trying to organize 140 posts, a decent daily traffic hit which may not follow me to the new site, and more importantly, 50 blog subscribers. I’ve spent nearly 5 months building up a site which is now going to be a placeholder. The email subscribers are the most worrisome part, because there’s no easy way to make sure they re-sign up for the new feed. If you’re on a roll, then just do it.
Of course, it’s great if you simply start your blog from scratch as a self-hosted site. The investment is fairly low, and you’ll be able to have more control and grow faster with your own site.
2. Pick a web host with auto-installation of WordPress
This is a big part, and I’m so glad I used a host which allowed for auto-install, what a time-saver! I went with Host Gator for a few reasons:
- Responsive customer service
- Affordable hosting prices
- Easy auto-install of wordpress, & web storage of the files
3. Pick a theme you trust, and is well-supported
I spent a lot of time going through many different themes & frameworks. I also looked at what was being used on the sites I read and trusted. Time and time again, I kept seeing the Genesis Framework by Studiopress mentioned as one of the best, if not the best, back-end framework for a WordPress site. Now, you do not have to purchase a framework and premium theme to get started with a self-hosted site, but I strongly believe it is worth the initial investment. Here’s why…
- SEO Optimization: Do you understand SEO? Me neither. This fact alone is reason enough for me to use a framework. StudioPress programmers write killer code in to Genesis which allows it to be fully ready for SEO without doing a thing.
- Great Looking Design: Set yourself apart with one of Genesis’ turn-key ready themes. They are ready t0 plug ‘n play, without doing any designing or coding. They’re also ready for any of the widgets the WordPress community can throw at it. Personally, I chose the Eleven40 theme, and have gotten a lot of compliments on the look.
- Unlimited Everything: This was huge for me as well. After you purchase Genesis (and included theme), you are in for life. No up-charging for future updates, redesigns, or support questions. Once you’re in, you’re in. For example, I tried to use a free-mium theme at first, but there were bugs being worked out, and it was tough to get in touch with the designer about how I could fix it. No such issues with StudioPress. Anything I need, I can find an answer in the forums, or a quick message to support, plus all the updates to Genesis and my theme are included forever.
Now, if you don’t want to make the jump to a premium themes and framework, I highly recommend simply using the included WordPress Twenty Eleven theme. This is because it is a WordPress designed theme, so finding support and answers will be much easier than tracking down freelance designers.
4. Install Essential plugins
I was quickly sucked in to the black hole which is wordpress plugins. So many, so interesting, so few you actually need to get started. I use all of these and consider them essential. They’re also free, or exist on donations. The easiest way to find and install them is to search from the plugin menu of your WordPress dashboard. Here are the 7 I use, and actually needed for getting started.
- Pretty Link: URL customizer & tracking.
- Askimet: Comment spam blocker.
- All-in-One SEO Pack: Allows you to customize your site’s SEO terms, which are fed to search engines.
- Disqus: The best commenting system out there. Allows you to track your comments across multiple sites.
- Feedburner: RSS feed generator and management system
- Social Maven and/or Social Media Widget: Allows you to place good ‘ol social media buttons in your posts
- Editorial Calendar: Keeps you on track with your post schedule
5. Test test test (especially links & files)
After I had everything installed and set up, it was rewarding to be able to look at my new blog and see the finished product. Kind of. For another reason why you should switch to self-hosted sooner rather than later, I had to spend an entire work chunk going through all of my old posts to double-check links, pictures, and files. It was a gigantic pain. Some didn’t exist anymore, had their url moved, or were hosted on my old site. Ugh.
But, it is worth the time to be sure all of your links, pictures, and files work like they’re supposed to. I know when I go to a site and there is a broken link or blank placeholder, my opinion of the site plummets. So test, test, and test again. Friends & family can also help with this when you…
6. Hold a Soft Open
The term soft open comes from the retail and restaurant industries. It’s where a business will open up without fanfare for just a couple of nights, to trusted customers and professionals. They get to hear their feedback, see what needs to be improved, and how the equipment works before the grand opening. I wanted to do the same.
I contacted my 3 F’s (family, friends, and fans), and let them know I was launching my new site in a week, and would like for them to test it out! I asked them to read posts, click on links, subscribe to the feed, comment, share on social media, everything. They saw issues I did not, because I was looking at so much. Plus, I had been cursed with too much knowledge about my site, and I didn’t see it with the beginner’s mind. It was so helpful to hear their opinions about what worked and didn’t work, and the grammatical errors which had popped up during my 6:00 am writing sessions.
7. Get back to writing
Saying this may seem extraneous, simple, and common-sense. But I really had to be disciplined about getting back to actual writing! I underestimated the real time is was going to take for setting up, and then was distracted by good, but time-consuming tasks which go along with a new blog. I already talked about the plugins, but I also researched affiliate programs, education programs, monetization strategies, and so much more. All of those things were a moot point if I didn’t have great content, and I was neglecting my writing.
I needed to be disciplined with my time, because time was scarce. When I got back to the craft, I set aside 20-30 minutes a day to write. Nothing else. No marketing, social media, email, or networking. Just writing. I recommend you do the same.
Well, I know many other lessons will come up in my blogging adventure, and I’ll be sure to let you in on my experience. In fact, last night I was talking to my cousin, who is much brighter with computers than I, and he was asking about this exact topic! WordPress is such a powerful system, and it’s changing the way the internet, web design, programming, and content management works. Yes, I spent several hours over the course of several days to make sure the site was what I wanted. But, knowing the process now I believe I could get everything up and running in a day. I hope a little tutorial like this could help you make the jump to self-hosting if you ‘re considering it. If you do have any questions, please let me know in the comments, or email me directly.
Have a great day!
If you’re finding my blog via my guest post on the Buffer blog, welcome and thank you for clicking through! You will notice pretty quickly (and I’m telling you anyway) that my blog has a few recurring themes, but lots of variety. Like many of us, I’m still finding my writing voice, and my focus online.
If you are reading because you have been with me for the past few weeks or months, thank you for continuing to return and read. This post is for everyone, but I thought it would be nice to give a little context to my blog.
I have been writing steadily for just over 3 months, and in my desire to get off my butt and do the work, I curate a general blog. I write about topics that interest me, and I have a passion for. I’ll write about spirituality, writing, sports, outdoors, business, productivity, personal matters, education, creativity, and more.
When you want to write, the 1st step is to begin writing.
In the past, I would get bogged down in over-thinking writing, making the process of starting more difficult than it had to be. Simply starting, and hitting publish over and over, is a key part of narrowing your focus. Write about lots of topics, and see what resonates with you, where your passion can meet the needs of others. Just start.
Now, very smart people have written very good pieces on what to do after that, and I encourage you to check them out. CopyBlogger, ProBlogger, Jeff Goins, Chris Guillebeau, and several more are available to you. Just do some digging and don’t be afraid to ask!
Now I’m a little further down the road, and there is an important distinction I need to make to go the next level.
I need to find my focus, my mission, and answer the question of “Why?”
There is certainly flexibility around your mission, but your mission needs to frame your blog and why it exists. People who are arrived from Buffer are probably thinking “This guy wrote about productivity and organization, but most of what I see here is about spirituality, writing, and running.”
I first thought, “I know people who write general, personal blogs. There’s Leo from Zen Habits, the Minimalists, Tim Ferriss, or Joel Runyon“. This is true, but when I thought about it more, I realized that each of these writers has a focus and mission to their sites.
- Leo – Simplicity and Peace
- Minimalists – Um, Minimalism
- Tim Ferriss – Lifestyle Design
- Joel Runyon – Doing impossible things, telling a story
The other direction to take is to have a very specific focus to your blog, like Fitness Reloaded, The Art of Manliness, No Meat Athlete, or Smart Football. These authors craft their sites around specific content and topics, leaving the generalities to others. They are about the details! Yes, there is flexibility within their topic, but everything points back to their focus.
How did I start to narrow down the topics? Thanks to Jeff Goins’ Intentional Blogging course (free, register here), I was able to visually get down what interested me. There was a lot, as you can see. To read my entire post about the visual & generation process, click here.
As you can see, the focus of my blog and yours is important. If we want to “turn pro” in our minds, as Steven Pressfield talks about, we need to decide what the focus and mission of our work is. It’s fine to have a general blog that shares about your life, and communicates with friends and family.
But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about doing the work, creating value and connections for others, and being a professional.
Once you’ve found your focus, get to it. You may need to buy a new domain name, and the process of generating content begins again. Make sure you pick a mission that resonates with you, because without that internal drive, the grinding days will feel that much worse, and your great days will not feel that great.
Do what you love, even if it makes you less money. Passion, flexibility, and simplicity are better.
Have a great day.
I want to thank everyone that has been checking out the guest post I wrote at Buffer, it has done really well! One of the cool side effects from writing a limited list is that I left products and applications out by necessity, and it started a conversation about tools I didn’t even know about yet!
So here is a list of 9 tools that readers brought to my attention in the comments and on twitter. Thanks for helping us all be more productive and organized on the web!
Bit.ly – The standard in link-shortening software. I’ve been using it for a couple years, offers custom urls and analytics. Tip o’ the hat to ME.
Dropbox – Great cloud storage solution for keeping your stuff together online, especially large files. 2gb free storage to start. Use this code to sign up (Disclaimer: This code is a referral that just gives me some extra storage, no money). Tip o’ the hat to Shawn.
Clipix– Another cool looking web clipping app, not as fully featured as Evernote, but simplicity could be its best feature. I look forward to trying it out! Tip o’ the hat to Dmoser34 on the Buffer comment thread.
So there you go, 9 more great apps and services to try out! Do you use any of these? Anything else we can share with each other? I would love to hear your comments.
Have a great day!
FYI, this post was written on my iPhone, sitting in the Charlotte airport. Fun huh?
I don’t normally post entertainment videos, I simply don’t run a viral video kind of site. The videos I’ve posted are ones I feel inspire, educate, and kick-start adventure. But this video from Britain’s Got Talent blew me away. Before you play the video, let’s have a quick look at the contestants, shall we? Meet Jonathan and Charlotte.
Yeahhhhh… can’t say I would react any differently than ol’ Simon at the beginning, with snarky skepticism (it’s kinda his thing). They’re both precious and all, but c’mon!
Enough screen grabs (for now), raise the volume to max allowable level, and hit play.
Of course you figured the big fella was going to be talented, but NOT LIKE THAT. I laughed, I nearly cried, and scared my dog with several exclamations of WOW!
The reactions are equally priceless, here are my favorites:
You can’t miss shocked excited guy and his nearly-sobbing lady friend, classic!
Judge David Walliams is either praying or telling Jonathan “You bring great honor to your family”. Either way, he’s sold half-way through the song.
Even Simon is coming around! The magic of the opera!
The British Seacrests are dumbfounded!
YAY FOR THE OPERA!
At the end, everybody’s loving it. Even Simon, whose expression of happiness looked so strained because he normally doesn’t show these silly emotions. Again, wow. I haven’t seen or heard anything like that since Paul Potts brought down the house.
Oh dear, I might have a musical thing for goofy-looking British amateur opera singers suffering from low self-esteem! Moving on…
There are also great lessons before and after the performance, where Charlotte talks about not judging a person on their appearance, i.e. ” you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, you have to read it and see what’s inside”. It’s obvious her encouragement has meant a lot to Jonathan, in fact he says so on stage. After they finish, Simon actually suggests Jonathan continue on without Charlotte, because she is merely good. He is incredible. But Jonathan affirms her right back, saying “We came as a duo, and we’re going to stay a duo”.
What This Means for Us
At the beginning, Simon is very sarcastic, and gives a dismissive “You think you can really win?” followed by “Ok good luck”. Jonathan has already spoken about his self-esteem and confidence issues, is standing in front of thousands of people, and the man who controls their fate is rude. And then he goes out and puts on an incredible performance!
As you continue to create your art and make your mark on the world, there will be people, like Simon, who dismiss you. Don’t listen to them, follow your passions. There will be people like Charlotte, who are beside you, encouraging you, and watching your back. Did you catch Jonathan actually starting a beat early? Charlotte simply gave him an affirming look, and he re-grouped. Just like that. You cannot underestimate the support of others when pursuing your passions. They are integral!
So keep singing, writing, painting, working, filming, cooking, and contributing. Bit by bit, you’ll build a community of people who expect your contribution in their lives. When the time comes, put on the performance you know you are capable of. The world needs Jonathan to sing. What does the world need you to do?
Invisible Children is in the news again, and not just for the attention they have received for their viral video, Kony 2012. Jason Russell was arrested for indecent exposure and behavior, due to extreme exhaustion and dehydration. I don’t know the full story, and there are many different accounts. None of them are good though, the man was in a bad situation and there is going to be more backlash. But via my friends Jeremy and Jay, here is a great take on how the Devil may have responded to Russell’s breakdown and arrest. Think he was happy? Probably not.
I received your letter this morning and I must say I am not the least bit pleased. You brag and gloat that you got the face of the world’s largest youth movement to go mad. To tear off his clothes and cry out to the Enemy in the streets for all the world to see. You list the lies you whispered in his ear as if it was some brilliant chess move. I understand that you think this is a huge victory, but I’m afraid you are terribly wrong. You fool. You have ruined everything. You had a perfect opportunity to inflate his pride, to make him believe it was indeed his voice and vision that woke the world up to love and justice. You could have coached him to be eloquent and poised, and in so doing, trick the world into giving him the credit. These millions of disgustingly idealistic and optimistic young people could have believed that this man is the author of these virtues. You could have distracted them completely from the very ideas of love and justice. You could have distracted them completely from The Enemy and His work in the individual hearts and minds of young people. You could have made them think ‘I’ll never be that smart, that creative, that loving, that handsome, that true, so I might as well do nothing.’
Read the rest at The Water is Black.
Now on to the rest of this week’s reading:
New book! Enjoying my read through Zorba the Greek, I will definitely have a review up in a couple weeks. Zorba came highly recommended by friends and other writers, even made its way in to the final chapters of Bird by Bird.
Empty Handed, Full Hearted – Zen Habits – Good advice for letting go of our things and being open to the present.
Creative Funk? – Jeff Goins – Who doesn’t go through this?
An old, used copy of The Copywriters Handbook (1st Ed). Yes it was published in 1990, before the internet. It also has great things to say about simply writing, getting your point across, and communicating effectively. All of which is at a premium in today’s 140 character & text message world. And it was $3.99.
How to Really Enjoy Tea – Podcast via Expert Enough, very interesting story about the process and experience of drinking tea.
Why You Should Clean Up Your Facebook Profile – Study done that suggests the way you present yourself on Facebook accurately predicts your academic and job performance. Basically, don’t be an online moron (or a face-to-face moron).
Doodlers Unite! – A fun TED talk by Sunni Brown, who uses doodles and other visual aids to increase productivity and find solutions. Her book Gamestorming just arrived, and is next on my work list after Copywriters.
What are you reading? Would love to hear your suggestions, I’m always looking for interesting reads. Have a great day!
Jason Fried is the head of 37Signals, a company that makes web-based collaboration apps for small businesses. At Rockmont, we use Backpack, and it has really helped us become more organized and share information better. He also curates their popular Signal vs. Noise blog, and wrote a book called ReWork.
Besides his efforts in design and programming, Jason’s other passion is the way people work (hence the title and subject of the book).
I also enjoy hearing how and where people work, and techniques for being more productive.
- Do you enjoy working early, late, or the usual 9-5?
- When do you feel most productive?
- Do you work better alone or in a group?
- Do you feel you must be at an office, or do you accomplish more at home or the coffee shop?
In this TED talk, Jason lays out the main problems (he calls them the M&Ms) and offers three suggestions to make work work. I would enjoy hearing your suggestions and comments!