All posts by Mitch Mitchell

I'm an independent consultant in many fields, so I have a lot to share.

Dream It And It Will Come

By now most everyone is familiar with the quote “Build it and they will come” from the movie Field of Dreams (which I’ve never seen; I’ll have to rectify that one of these days). Of course, most of us that blog know that’s not quite true. We spend our time writing posts and putting them out there for the masses, and unless we get into the blogosphere and find readers our dreams of blogging success just aren’t going to come true. So, the phrase is false.


Or is it? Not according to someone I just met in person a couple of weeks ago, but who I’ve known for at least 8 years online. He’s the guy in the picture to the right along with myself; I’m the guy on the right in the picture, just to clarify things.

His name is Rasheed, and he’s on an interesting quest. He’s taking a 2-month trek across the country with the intention of visiting people in 40 states that he’s met over the years online. He might be visiting some people he already knows as well; I didn’t clarify that one with him. He started out from Houston, went west, north, then east and eventually will head south down to Florida before getting back to Texas.

Of course we had to talk about this venture, and I asked him why and how he was doing it. He said that his dream was to be able to travel around the country once he got to a certain age to meet people and to see the sights. His reality was that he wasn’t rich and thus had to figure out a way to fund his travels.

However, he said that in his opinion it was more important to have the dream, visualize the dream, and see the dream as a reality by setting a date for when it would begin. In his mind, the dream would create the way he could get it done.

Then he found his way. One of the talents he has it that he can make balloon animals. What he realized is that children love them, people will pay someone to make them for their kids, and all he had to do was find places that would allow him to do it everywhere he went. His belief was that he could fund his entire trip by working only on weekends, when he could also catch up on his rest by staying in one place.

And it’s worked. He finds restaurants or malls that allow him to set up a place for a number of hours and he does his thing. And he’s making pretty good money from it; seems weekend work really can be lucrative if you can find something you love to do that other people love to partake of, and who hasn’t seen a child being amazed at watching balloons become animals?

So the dream worked; all is good, and that’s all it took. No, not quite. Leading up to the date he started preparing for the trip. He bought lots of large blue tubs for his supplies and clothes. He converted the back of his Kia Sedona into a sleeping space (that’s the beauty of being shorter than me, as I’d never fit lol). He bought what he needed so he could cook some meals if he didn’t want to eat fast food. And of course he stays connected via his laptop and smartphone.

He put all of this together over many months once he had the dream secure in his mind and he’d figured out how he was going to fund his trip. He did admit that he wasn’t sure if his trip would last even 2 weeks, since once we all leave the areas where we live we’re not sure how others will react to us but it’s worked out well for him.

This means you not only dream, but you start working towards your dream. This is a great lesson for all of us. Then he asked me about my dream and I said… I don’t have one. Wow, when did that happen? So, I have started thinking about a dream for myself, something to concentrate on, and if I come up with it you know I’ll write about it here because it’s my belief that it’s going to have something to do with readers of this blog, other blogs, and social media. In its own way this is an interesting trek. Thanks Rasheed; you keep on trekking as well.
 

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An Interview With Writer/Blogger Holly Jahangiri

I can’t tell you how long I’ve known or read Holly’s stuff but it’s been at least 3 years or so. You almost can’t miss her on writing sites and on a lot of blogs, and of course she’s got a lot going on in her own right. Multiple blogs, books, writing projects and the like, and in all the right social media places. She’s someone who shows that if you plan right you really can get a lot done. Don’t only enjoy this interview; learn from it:

 

1. We might as well get this out of the way first; how many blogs and websites do you actually have? I found a few, including one, a Typepad blog, that you’ve let go. lol

You get right to the point, don’t you, Mitch? I…don’t honestly know. The ones I keep up to date are these:

https://jahangiri.us/2017 – that’s my personal blog, and the most active.
https://jahangiri.us/books – that’s run, more or less, by my imaginary friends – we authors like to call them “characters” – Trockle, Gurgelda, Irma and her guppies, and some that are still in the making.
http://race2hugo.net – it’s a cheeky dare, a periodical, a dream, and an ongoing project.
http://thenextgoal.com – this is the blog I won last year, and it’s a team effort – it’s nothing without Larry, Ntathu, Brandon, Neeraj, and occasional guest bloggers like James Pruitt.

There are a couple on WordPress.com, one on Tumblr, one on Posterous, a few on Blogger… the Typepad blog wasn’t exactly “let go,” it was a step in the migration from Vox (now closed) to my personal blog. I hate to let anything go, though. Does that make me an Internet hoarder? Seriously, they all come in handy from time to time; if someone has a question about how to do something, I can check it out. That’s really how I’ve managed to accumulate so many in the first place – curiosity and the need to try things out for myself, if they sound interesting. They’re not ALL that interesting, in the long run.

2. You are way connected on social media. I get asked this about writing all my blogs but how do you keep up with it all?

You’re assuming I do. I try, but I think you’d have to be superhuman to keep up with everything, and I’m not superhuman. Then again, people think I type 500 words a minute. It’s not true. The secret to looking like you type 500 words a minute is to type in phrases, instead of full paragraphs or sentences – when you’re in IM with someone, keep them busy reading while you type the next bit, and they think you’ve got mad typing skillz. Same thing with Social Media – I write, I try to keep the conversation going, I get friends talking to each other, then I go write some more. And if I miss a few things here and there, well…don’t we all?

3. Do you make your living writing? If so, how are you doing it, and if not what else do you do?

I have a full time job. I’ve worked as a technical writer, documentation project manager, and social media analyst. I “moonlight” as an author – I’ve written two children’s books, Trockle, and A Puppy, Not a Guppy, and I have contributed to several anthologies of short stories and poetry. I blog for fun and sometimes to promote my books, but I have never seriously tried to monetize my blog.

4. You actually won one of your blogs via a contest, beating my buddy Mitch Allen along the way. How did you do it, how did it feel to win and was the effort worth it?

It was an incredibly intense competition – by the end, it was just grueling and exhausting. I remember one day, Neeraj Sachdeva and I were head to head on “who can publish the most posts” – I think EACH of us published nineteen in one day. That was a truly miserable experience – I mean, at the time we were both functioning on adrenaline and fumes and competitive zeal, but I think sustaining that kind of competitive drive over ten weeks left us a little burnt out on it.

We had a lot of fun at the beginning – we bonded as a team and had meetings in Google Hangouts, and it was really something special. Unfortunately, the nature of the game was such that only one would be left standing at the end. We went from being teammates to competitors (and we always KNEW that was coming, but until week 5, we were undefeated, so we didn’t have to face it and I think that made it harder when we finally had to do it). It felt a little bit like being in The Hunger Games, rather than Survivor. We even tried to change the game and eat the berries, but that didn’t fly.

5. Let’s talk about the writing process. Is it different for you depending on what you’re writing?

The process is a bit different, of course, between non-fiction or technical writing and writing fiction or children’s picture books, sure. One requires research; the other requires allowing my “imaginary friends” out to play and give dictation. I suppose blogging is a combination of these two, more or less.

6. How would you describe your style, which is a lot different than mine? I have to admit that sometimes it hurts my head. lol

What the heck does that mean? Should I send you a bottle of Advil, Mitch? I like to think my style is an eccentric mash-up of Erma Bombeck, Edgar Allan Poe, and O. Henry, with occasional flashes of Guy de Maupassant, Shel Silverstein, and Tom Lehrer. I don’t know – how would YOU describe my style?

This brings up something I think of from time to time: Is it up to an author to describe his or her style? I’ve heard writers claim to write “classic literature,” but I always thought that one of the requirements of that genre was that the author be dead. I aspire to be read, not dead.

7. Since you have an Amazon account I went to look and saw that you have 4 books up there. What was it like writing those and getting them published, and do you have anything on the horizon?

Well, there are a few others – I think you’ve read Innocents & Demons, right? Hidden Lies is the first published short story anthology. Vivian and I published that together in 2005, and that’s where our publishing paths diverged: She decided to build a small publishing empire, and I decided I was really happy being an author and had no desire to be a publisher! I contributed several poems to Walking the Earth. When Vivian asked if I’d ever found a publisher for Trockle – a book she’d read and believed in the minute I wrote it – I had to admit that I really hadn’t tried. I’m really bad about submitting my work for publication. I don’t mind rejection; I just don’t like throwing it into the abyss and waiting to hear something back. So no, Trockle was still just a dog-eared manuscript tucked into my son’s bookcase, and I was thrilled that 4RV Publishing wanted to bring it to the rest of the world. They later published my second children’s book, A Puppy, Not a Guppy – that one was inspired by my kids’ pleas for a pet, but also my own experiences as a kid whose parents were slow to warm to the idea of a puppy.

I have a couple of things on the horizon – I’ve got a third children’s book in the works. It’s being illustrated, and should be ready for prime time later this year or early next year (Update: Holly’s third children’s book, A New Leaf for Lyle, was released in May 2014, and can be found on Amazon). And then there’s the race2hugo.net dare – your friend Mitchell Allen started that, and we got Marian Allen involved, as well, and now, well… I haven’t heard from Mitch in a while. Is he still breathing or did he stow away on the new Mars Rover?

8. I was really intrigued by your post Don’t Feed The Trolls. I also remember your position on kind of the same subject on a past Facebook post. You know I tend to believe that free speech goes both ways, and if people get responses they didn’t expect and don’t like that they shouldn’t say those things to begin with. Talk about your position on this and what you feel separates a troll from someone who may just be having a really bad day.

There’s a fair amount of psychology involved, and I’m not sure any of us can distinguish the trolls from the grouches 100% of the time with 100% accuracy. But here’s an example – I got a really nasty critique, once, on writing.com. If I’d had less self-confidence, I’d have crumpled up in a little damp ball of mush and tears, and maybe quit writing altogether. Instead, I read and reread the critique until I felt pretty sure the writer hadn’t even read, and wasn’t commenting on, my story, at all. I read his words with the eyes of someone who has occasionally had a bad day and might’ve been tempted to kick the dog as they tossed their briefcase by the door.

I wrote back to the critic, something to the effect of, “I’m really sorry you’ve had a bad day. Sounds like maybe someone’s kicked you around and given you a bad time, and I hope that doing the same to a complete stranger has helped you, in some way, to feel just a little bit better. Have a happier week!”

In less than six hours, I had a reply, an apology, and a new friend. Sure enough, it was a kid – 17 or so – and he’d had a lousy, rotten, awful day at school. And because I’d responded with a little sympathy – without being angry or being a complete doormat about it – he immediately realized how stupid the attack on me had been, and we wiped the slate clean and started over. He was a pretty good writer, too.

Of course, writers love to get a reaction – so who knows? Maybe I’ve mistaken a few trolls for fans, over the years. I think the most cutting comment I ever got was something along the lines of “This is boring. Stop now,” on my blog. But they were outnumbered, so I ignored them. 🙂

Trolls, on the other hand, knowingly taunt and harass people to get their kicks. They delight in getting people emotionally spun up; it’s just a game to them. I really believe that people who live to make others feel bad must feel pretty rotten about themselves, but I’m not a shrink, and it’s not my job to save the world. I’d rather shut down the conversation before it gets really ugly than to see good people get hurt.

Freedom of speech exists for several reasons – being trollish is not one of them. Freedom of speech exists to protect the exchange of ideas, primarily political or social ideas, that may be unpopular. The kind of stuff that may constitute “though crimes” in other countries. But with freedom comes responsibility. Trolls don’t want to communicate, they want to dominate – and that’s the antithesis of “free exchange of ideas,” isn’t it? My blog is not “public property” and the First Amendment doesn’t give trolls squatters’ rights.

9. Your stuff is so creative. Do you walk around like I do with all these ideas of things to write about, or do you have periods where you struggle to find something to write about?

I do have times when I feel like my head is just empty of anything worth writing down. What that usually means is that I’m hanging on too tight, trying to control the action, and my characters are balking – refusing to help me tell their story. Instead of struggling, I find other types of creative outlets – photography, painting, scrapbooking – I just let the ideas simmer instead of beating my head against the proverbial wall.

10. Time for you; talk about what’s coming up, your business, you, and what you’d like your future to be.

This is how you ask a grown-up “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” It’s an interesting question, because the fact is, I’m pretty happy right here and now. I’ve got a good 15-20 years before I even think of retiring, and even then, I can’t imagine not staying busy. Of course, I’d like to know that my kids have found a way to do whatever it is in life that makes them happy. I’d like to have a few successful books to my name. I’d like to travel. But there’s really nothing “missing” now.
 

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Does Your Writing Touch People?

You know, last month I did a series of posts that began with the term “blogging tips”. The whole series was done with the intention of giving people some shorter pieces on blogging as opposed to some of my longer pieces on the subject. I’m not sure how much people liked them as opposed to my normal writing but I do know that traffic increased some, though I think it was for the post on Getty Images more than the blogging posts, as it seemed to have touched a nerve.


It may be polluted
but it’s my lake

I’ve always said that when you write a blog you should be aiming for one of three things: to educate, to entertain, or to inform. You can integrate them into each other if you wish, but you should at least achieve one of those three things with each post.

What I also hope to do with each post is touch someone in some fashion, most of the time in a positive way. If I can make a connection with someone that goes beyond “nice post” status, to the point where that person decides what I’ve given them is strong enough that they can use it in some fashion for their lives, then it’s all good.

I write a lot of motivational posts with that goal in mind, but there’s a post I wrote that was titled Know Your Audience Part II that touched a young man (okay, he’s 38, but that’s young to me) named Alan and encouraged him to write a post linking back to it because of some thoughts he’d been having at the time. The post he wrote was called Why Cicero’s 6 Mistakes Of Man Is All You Need. What’s funny about it is it’s the type of post that, had I read it first, it would have inspired me to write something.

I’m going to own up to something here. I’ve been in business 11 years, but the last 3 1/2 have been horrendous. I’m surviving by the skin of my teeth, which is never any fun. Frankly, there are times when I’m ready to chuck it all in and go jump in the lake; then I remember I can’t swim, I don’t want fish touching me, our lake is considered one of the most polluted in the world (yes, I said world) even though I like walking at it, I’m scared of dying, I know bugs would somehow be involved, my mother would blame herself for some reason, and my own mantra that states “Every day is another chance to start again.” I wouldn’t be true to my own mantra if I took myself out, would I?

And, of course, hearing about things like Alan being inspired by something I wrote, a guy I didn’t even know or know anything about until the middle of July, even though he wrote his post in January. And I realize that’s what it’s all about. It’s about having the opportunity to help change someone else’s life by being honest and forthright and calling out bad behavior when it’s exhibited and trying to teach and motivate and, well, sometimes just plain ol’ have fun.

I’m feeling pretty good as I write this; how many times do you get to feel this way when you write a blog post? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could feel it more often? I appreciate all of you; thanks for continuing to stop by and read what I have to say.
 

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The Cleanse

One of the strangest things about getting older is that you suddenly start talking about some things that as a younger person you’d never talk about because they’re uncomfortable. I hear that women talk about a lot of stuff that men would never entertain broaching, but even this topic is beyond many of them.

Some quick history. I’ve had a problem with my left leg for almost 2 years. My thigh is numb almost all the time to some degree. Actually, not the entire thigh, but the left outside area, near my knee. Sometimes it’s fairly mild, not even an inconvenience; sometimes it’s much worse and spread over a larger area of my thigh.

In the last 6 to 9 months I’ve started having some other issues with my leg. Sometimes it hurts a lot, and sometimes it adds burning into the mix. Every once in awhile I have this nerve, called an IT Band, that pops out and goes down my leg and on the outside of my knee, and that’s when the most pain comes.

Mitchell doesn’t let pain stop him from doing anything, but I’m not a total male idiot either, so I finally decided to go to a doctor to take a look at it. He had me get a back x-ray (the first ever after having back and related trouble for more than 20 years), which I didn’t quite understand, but when the results came back it showed that I had some degeneration in my lower back on the left side, the result from back injuries in the 90’s, and he recommended I go to physical therapy.

I was about 3 weeks into physical therapy when the therapist asked me to go into one of the treatment rooms for a private conversation. Once in there, he asked me if the doctor had ever told me anything about the x-ray. I told him just that the doc said I had arthritis of the back, which is why I was there. He said that the x-ray also produced a second result saying that there was excessive stool in my colon. Supposedly, it’s not something radiologists will ever point out unless it’s serious, as it could have something to do with back pain.

I didn’t have any back pain before physical therapy, but now I was having some. However, I’d had that colonoscopy back in November, and the docs ended up saying my colon was slightly twisted, and that could be messing things up (yeah, I see the pun lol).

I came home to talk to my wife about it and I knew what was coming. If there’s anyone who’s always talked about colon health, it’s her. She’s done all sorts of things to keep herself regular and cleaned out, stuff I’d never consider doing. However, her suggestion to me was to go on a 14-day colon cleanse of some sort. She said it would get things going and that I might even lose some weight behind it (look another pun).

I decided to give it a shot, so I bought the product you see in the image above (click on it & it’ll take you to the page I bought the product from ) Organic Total Body 14 Day Cleanse, which is what my wife recommended I try. It’s an all natural thing that comes with 3 different bottles of pills, each one numbered.

Each day I started out taking 2 pills from the 1st bottle first thing in the morning. You have to take them either 30 minutes before you eat anything or 2 hours after eating; I took all of them before eating anything. Thirty minutes later you take 3 pills from bottle #2, then go about your day. At some point early evening you take 3 more pills from bottle #2 and 2 pills from bottle #3. Then you’re done for the night. The package also comes with 3 small packages of a natural laxative, in case you need a boost at some point.

I needed a boost on day one because I felt like I was already locked up. For years I’ve taken Metamucil to help me “go”, but I wasn’t going to take any of it while on this stuff. So I took the laxative the evening of day one.

On day two, things started happening, and I was mentally prepared for it but not physically prepared. I went to the bathroom 5 times that first day. Thing is, 3 of those times weren’t what I’d term “normal”. Okay, since I’m disclosing stuff, and you need to know it, the 3 non-normal times everything came out in liquid form. That’s kind of how it was when I had to clean my system out for the colonoscopy, but it just felt different this time around.

I’m not going to go into an every day thing, even though I kept a journal, just to see what would happen. Every day after the second day, except 3 days, I went 4 times. One day I went 6 times, one day 3 times, and the last day only once; that was weird. The day after the last pills I went 4 times, and I’m back on a regular schedule now.

How did I feel? Truthfully, at the end I didn’t feel any different, but based on how often I went I had to have been much cleaner than when I started. Every day when I went 4 times half of those times it came out as liquid; on the day I went 6 times it came out as liquid 4 of those times. I didn’t have any “cheap” bowel movements during this period either.

And I lost 2 1/2 pounds, which, along with previous weight loss, brought me to my lowest weight since 1997; wow! I’ve since put on a couple of pounds but that’s about it, and I think, since it just ended this week, that after the weekend I’ll get back on the stick and see if I can lose those couple of pounds and even more weight.

That’s my experience with a cleanse. My wife believes I should think about doing it every 3 months to protect myself. It seems that, if you do some reading, going regular is important to remove poisons from the body, and some of the stuff you learn if you don’t have good colon health is scary.

As for my leg… well, physical therapy has ended after 10 sessions, and I’ve learned some stretching exercises that help a lot. I have fewer episodes of pain when I’m not exercising and the pain I do have is less extreme. When I exercise, I know how to alleviate some of the pain every once in awhile and when I can’t, ibuprofen in my friend. I might end up having a nerve conduction study to see if more can be done about it, but one therapist said I might have to deal with the numbness the rest of my life; sigh… well, if it’s not painful, I can handle it.

Yes, this was one of those “I’m Just Sharing” posts that I’ve shared that you might not want to know about, but it’s important that you know, especially as you get older. Now I have to go find some cookies! 😉
 

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Commenting On Similarly Themed And Niched Blogs

A recommendation I see all the time by people who proclaim to teach you how to increase traffic to your blog and to get juice for your blog is through commenting; that part is actually correct. The second half of that recommendation is to only comment on blogs that talk about the same thing your blog talks about, with the expectation that people will see that who are already interested in your topic and they’ll pop over.

That sounds great in theory but I’m here to tell you that it’s kind of a fallacy in more ways than one. Yes, I’ve done an experiment and I’m here to give you some shocking results. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a research project, but at least I got paid for this one.

Let me explain. I was paid by someone to go out and visit blogs in a certain niche and then write comments under his name. This is a client for whom I’ve done work for 3 years and he’s a good guy, and of course I got paid well for it. Y’all know I’m not one of those types that will only write one line either. Since I knew his topic really well I knew that I could write comments that made sense and were on point with the niche, which is real estate.

The experiment was to write 50 comments on real estate related blogs. I could deviate as long as the topic was real estate in some fashion, which included legal and finance blogs. It took me 3 days to get this done, mainly because many sites weren’t really blogs, and some blogs didn’t accept comments. Some were only highlights of property as well; nothing to say there. I used the “blog” search feature of Google to find these blogs.

What happened? Out of 50 comments, my comment showed up 29 times; that’s it. Out of those 21 times the comment didn’t show up, 16 times no comments showed up at all, which either means no one else commented or the writer didn’t approve anyone’s comments.

Out of the 29 times that the comment I left showed up, it got a response only twice; yup, that’s it. On only 4 blogs total was there use of CommentLuv. And on one of the blogs that my comment got a comment, the guy asked a question, which I responded to and that guy responded to that comment as well.

So, what do we assume? Are these people typical bloggers, in that they don’t know what some of us consider as the rules of blogging in responding to comments? Do these people only write and not really monitor the blogs, and thus never approve any of the comments? Do these people not want someone from the same industry in their space, taking away from what they’re trying to do? Are they, in essence, blog sculpting, or just making sure their advertising is the only one, blog or not?

In the past I’ve been the lone voice that’s said commenting only on blogs whose niche or topic is the same as yours doesn’t always work. I tried in the past commenting only on leadership blogs using my business blog link and found that many of those blogs never approved my comments either, and some didn’t approve any comments. Isn’t that a strange thing to discover when it’s a business blog, and you’d think that those people would have been taught that engagement is what they’re shooting for if their blog says it’s accepting comments, unlike what Seth Godin does, which is to not accept comments at all? At least when I comment on SEO blogs and use that business blog’s account those people always respond; that’s an industry that knows better, right?

Of course, me being me, I have a secondary reason for writing this particular post. I know there are a lot of people who monitor their comments for more than just content. There are some folks who delete links from sites whose niche doesn’t correspond with their own. They do that to stay in keeping with what they believe the search engines like and don’t like. I’m not sure how true all that is, and it’s hard to discount that as working or not.

I have to say that it’s rare for me to delete links from legitimate comments, though I have done it. If there’s a link going back to something I totally disagree with I will remove the link and the “love” if you will. But most of those links come from spammers and thus it’s an easy call; that’s why it’s rare that someone who really cares writes a comment and represents something that might be sleazy or salacious or something that just irks me to no end, like “payday loans”. I don’t care where you’re coming from otherwise; if you have something to share and it’s not stupid, use your link, get your love, and hopefully you’ll come back. Who knows, we might work together in some fashion one day; that would be nice as well.

If you’ve been waiting to comment only on specific types of blogs, stop. If you feel like commenting, whether it’s highly ranked or in your niche, do it. Reciprocity works in many different ways, and you never know when you’ll meet a friend.
 

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