All posts by Mitch Mitchell

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

One Year Lived By Adam Shepard – Book Review

I owe Adam Shepard kind of an apology. Last year when he sent me his book One Year Lived, I had 4 books ahead of his to get through first. Then over the course of a month while traveling back and forth from my consulting gig out of state I read it kind of piecemeal because you know how time can go, and actually finished it in the middle of last June.

oneyearremoved

That’s when I should have written the review, but time gets away from you. So I’m writing it today, and I’ll be letting him know about it (Hi Adam). And y’all did catch that he sent it to me, a digital copy, so there’s my disclosure up front.

Some background on Adam. He’s a former basketball player at Merrimack College who, just after graduating, took a challenge of trying to show that someone with almost no money and no assets could turn their life around and find a way to take care of themselves to the extent where they could afford a place to live, have a job and put some money away. The resulting book was called Scratch Beginnings, and I have to admit I haven’t read that one but I did see many interviews with him talking about it; fascinating stuff, so I will be trying to get around to reading that book.

By 2011 he got restless and decided he wanted an adventure before settling down and doing what others probably expected him to do with his life. He decided to sell almost all of his possessions, take the money he got from it and travel around the world for a year. But not the type of trip many people fathom, that being to exotic locales, warm waters, high class society and 5-star hotels. He didn’t have that kind of money or background, so he planned much differently.

Instead, he started his trip from Raleigh, North Carolina, went to Antigua first, then through countries in South America, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Spain and finally Slovakia before coming back home, 17 countries and 4 continents in all. Slovakia wasn’t on the itinerary by the way, but he met someone special and that’s where she was from, so… 🙂

The thing is, he didn’t just visit all these countries and hang with the people enjoying himself, though he did have some fun. Part of his quest was to help build things, work with the people on different projects, participate in some of the things that were close to those living in the places he visited, and basically taking it all in, seeing how other people lived much differently than what he saw in the states. He talked about some of the kids he met, some of the dangerous people he encountered, getting into a bullfighting ring and getting hurt, and eventually meeting someone who became pretty special for him, hence the trip to Slovakia.

He didn’t have a lot of money but found that it didn’t cost him much being in South America, cost him a lot more being in Australia, learn how expensive alcohol can be around the world, learned how to budget his flying money by finding major hubs to fly to and from, and sacrificed some comforts to save money because he had the time to do so. In a strange way, it reminded me of the story of my friend Rasheed, which turned out to be my most popular blog post of all time, who figured out how to fund his dream of traveling to 44 states in 2 months by making balloon animals.

My thoughts about the book, not that I’ve given you some of the things about it are thus.

One, I probably never would have even picked up this book in a store, let alone read it, as it’s way outside my genre.

Two, after reading it and enjoying it a lot, I’ve read other books of its type, with people chronicling their adventures. I thought about how I write this blog and tell stories to then highlight lessons of some sort, and how this book has that going for it.

Three, I initially wondered whether this was the type of thing every person could conceive of doing in today’s “bucket list” culture and almost thought of it as the musings of a privileged guy deciding to slum it for a while. Once I got into the first 25% of the book I changed my mind because his trip wasn’t easy and in a way I enjoyed living through him, as I knew these would never be the types of experiences I’d ever try on my own.

Four, I thought about how money conscious he was to be able to do all of this traveling while starting out with just under $20,000 American dollars; that seems inconceivable but he did it. Creativity and having a dream really can get us through almost anything we put our minds through, right?

The finale? I think most of you would like this book because it’s full of adventures and lessons and realities of lives that most of us will never experience and probably know nothing about. I’ve seen poverty but the kind of poverty seen in foreign countries with governments that seem to throw up more things to fight those who are trying to help than helping their people is a different kind of experience we don’t see all that often in more developed countries.

I’m linking to the book page so you can see where you can purchase it on your own. Get it!

Of course this book went live last April, so I’ll ask the question here and hope Adam stops by to answer it: Does your life still include Ivana? 😉 Meanwhile, for the rest of you, check out the little video below:
 


http://youtu.be/senmpQHbH9o

 

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What Passes For Good Information Might Not Be

By now those of you who are using WordPress as your blogging platform of choice know that there’s an update, 3.9. It’s definitely changed some things, including overriding some of my settings for how I have my admin area colorized, but I’m going to let that go… for now…

panel01

Instead, I want to key on something you might not have noticed yet. If you look at the comment section of your admin area, underneath the names of people who comment on your blog you’ll now see this number. It shows how many times someone has commented on your blog; cool eh?

I thought that this would be cool to use because maybe I’d want to write a post showing how many people have commented often and how often they’ve done so. Then I looked deeper at it.

As an example I’m showing a strip of my admin panel (so, my colors are funky lol) highlighting our friend Peter Pellicia when he was calling himself Sire. You’ll notice that had made 3 separate comments; you’ll also notice that the number of approved comments WordPress is showing aren’t the same. Heck, they’re all drastically different.

I looked at a bunch of comments from Pete just to see if I could find a pattern. Turns out that answer is no. It’s not based on link, topic, email address, name… You can look at it yourself; there’s nothing defining what it’s looking at.

Thus, I’m forced to conclude that, even though it initially seemed cool, it’s really worthless information. There’s nothing legitimate I can do with it, and if you look at your information, at some point you might realize the same thing.

Sometimes that’s just how it goes. Some of us hold onto certain numbers as if they’re the Holy Grail while others look at those numbers and scoff. Let’s see… Klout score, page rank, Alexa rank, Compete rank, number of followers on Twitter, number of friends on Facebook… over and over we see numbers that are supposed to mean something that probably mean less than what we think. Some are good as a visceral reference (for instance, I tend to use Alexa as a broad based number to determine how well a website’s traffic might be, realizing that a site in the 100,000’s is working better than a site in the 3 millions while recognizing that a site in the 3 millions might be making more money if it’s targeted to its audience properly), but not much else.

For that matter, even the number of blog comments might not tell you what’s going on with your blog. The difference between a blog post with 300 comments and a blog post with 2 might be the popularity of the writer and not the content. If Sergey Brin writes a blog post and takes comments, how many people do you think will comment hoping that either he’ll see it and want to hire them to work for Google (ain’t happening kids lol) as opposed to commenting on this blog hoping I can help make them famous (that’s not happening either… for now…)?

Even Google Analytics, for all the press and publicity we’ve all given it, can’t really help us out. Most of the data about keywords is hidden in a collective area, so we don’t even know why or how people are finding us via search engines. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what the data they’re giving us really means in the long run; that’s not helpful is it?

Bummer right? If there are so many reports and such that we can’t trust, what can we trust to help us figure things out?

First, you know what your engagement is like, so trust your instincts. I love using Adrienne Smith as an example of someone who truly gets the engagement piece. Her blog posts always get a lot of comments, and not nickel and dime stuff. She puts things on Facebook and Google Plus and you see a lot of people responding to it, even if it’s just questions like what color is your dog (I don’t think that’s specifically one she’s asked but… lol).

Me? Most of the things I put on Google Plus are ignored, and sometimes I wish more of the stuff I share on Facebook was. lol Still, I know where I stand and have an opportunity to figure out what I need to do to improve. I don’t need any of the rankings to tell me what’s going on; I can see which posts people are commenting on and I know which of my tweets get shared on Twitter.

If you didn’t sit back and look at the numbers, are you comfortable trusting your own instincts to know where you stand on social media? For that matter, do you trust your instincts to help you get through life? Let me know; I’m interested in this topic and hope you are also.
 

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Sometimes You Don’t Have Control Over The Goals You’ve Set For Yourself

Back at the end of December I wrote a post here and included a video on some of my long and short term goals for 2014 and beyond. It’s no secret that I want to be a professional speaker and travel around the country giving presentations and getting paid for it. There’s also no question that I know what the secret is to getting there.

Wicker Paradise Photo Archive: Superbowl Sunday Inspiration Quote. shared via http://blog.wickerparadise.com
Wicker Paradise via Compfight

Well… I kind of have to modify that second part, the one about knowing the secret. Truth be told, even with over 1,500 articles on this site, 3,500 or so total for all my blogs, articles all over the place and for as long as I’ve been online I’m still not all that well known. I’m not infamous enough or notorious enough or brazen enough to go too far out of my comfort zone of who I am to crossover enough to be really big time.

Yet, with all that folderol, I assumed that when all was said and done that I would have achieved at least enough notoriety as a black blogger that, at least somewhere along the line, I might have a shot at making a top 100 list somewhere of black bloggers, and possibly have it extend to social media.

Thus, when a post came out on a blog that listed the 100 Most Influential Black People on digital/social media, I thought I might have an outside shot at it. After all, I came in #224 in a recent blog list and was maybe behind 7 or 8 black bloggers on the list. That’s the kind of thing that makes you think you have a shot on a more directed list, wouldn’t you agree?

Well, it didn’t happen, but I don’t want you to think I’m mad at the list or upset that I’m not on it. That’s not the point of this post because that’s not the lesson here. It’s not that I’m not on the list, or my buddy Ileane Smith isn’t on the list or Lisa Irby isn’t on the list or Beverly Mahone isn’t on the list, folks who are more prominent in social media moreso than me. Well, it is, but it’s not.

If you want to achieve greatness stop asking for permission
billsoPHOTO via Compfight

What it’s about is criteria that, for goals many of us set, we don’t have a chance to reach because we not only don’t know the criteria until after the fact, but we don’t even know how to get into the game when compared to some of the folks that are on the list, or in the game.

When the list starts with President Obama, Beyonce, The Rock and Oprah, you know you’re in trouble. It doesn’t matter whether the question is if they’re actually just prominent and influential people in general, which carries over into social media, or whether their social media presence is strong enough so that even if they weren’t famous celebrities would they even count. What matters is that it’s not always about criteria… it’s about who you know and who knows you.

I’ve got to be truthful. At 54 years of age I don’t think that any marketing I could even think about doing would propel me to the level of most of the people on the list, so shooting for a top 100 inclusion makes little sense. Heck, if the folks I named above couldn’t get it done, what the heck am I going to do?

However, I have decided that one of my goals for 2014 is to work on becoming more prominent, to the point where my name is mentioned by more people, I’m interviewed by more people, more people view my videos, and my name does get out there in some fashion.

Do I think any of it will get me on the list? Nope, not a chance. However, it could happen and that’s not really what the goal comes down to being about.

Ever hear of a guy named Eric Thomas? He’s a motivational speaker and I’ll bet that you’ve heard some things he’s said in motivational videos without realizing it’s him. He’s a guy who grew up in a bad section of Detroit, dropped out of high school, lived a horrible life that ended up with him and his wife being homeless for a long time until he realized one day that his experience didn’t have to define him. He went back to get his GED, then got his college degree, got his master’s degree, and is a paper from a doctorate, just before he turned 39 I believe. He had a company and employs others, travels all over the country giving motivational speeches and does a lot of other interesting things.

And he has a goal… to get the Nobel Peace Prize. He said it’s not that he thinks he’ll really get it but it’s an audacious challenge he feels will motivate him to push harder to be better and become better known, to help more people, and even if he doesn’t get there he’ll improve and improve the lives of many more people.

See, we all have goals that we can have some control over. I had a minor goal since Christmas to buy a washer and dryer, which seems like a small goal, but my wife and I bought a washer and dryer, as well as a new stove, weeks ago. Cash, no credit, no payments… that was a minor goal but one we had control over.

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Sometimes we have goals that we may or may not have control over, that may or may not manifest themselves the way we think they will. Last year I had a money goal I wanted to hit and I didn’t quite hit it in 2013. However, from last May to this May I will have hit that money goal, which will mean I hit my money goal in a year, just not the way I thought I would. And, if I continue on my present contract until at least the end of November, I’ll actually hit that money goal by then for 2014; if it ends, I have other things in the works to help me get there.

And other times we have no control over the ultimate goals we set. In 2012 Pete Pelliccia and I decided to shoot for the Shorty Award for blogging, and we really thought we had a chance at it. We didn’t come close, even if we both finished in the top 15. The winner was some musician in another country who, as far as I could determine, didn’t even have a blog. But people in his country voted for him and he was popular there and that was that for us. I haven’t tried since because in its own way it’s rigged, not by the people who run it but by groups of people who can vote anyone into a category they don’t really qualify for. Still, it was a shot at gaining a bit more publicity, as I got to write about it and try to encourage people to vote for me, even if I never knew who voted.

That’s what I want to push on all of you, or anyone who reads this particular post. If you’re trying to make money, if you’re trying to gain publicity, or if you’re just trying to get more followers or even something else, you have to have something to aim for that you don’t really think you’ll ever reach but you still shoot for it. You don’t have to figure out immediately what you’re going to do to get there, though you will have to try something at some point. You don’t have to share it like I have; you just have to do it.

And, like last time, if you think you need some help I’ll do what I can. I’m not going to put more work into promoting you than you should be doing, but if I see the effort and you want some help, I’ll help. Helping is a version of marketing and self promotion also; kind of a pay it forward event if you will.

Am I crazy? Are you crazy? Are you ready for bigger and better? Let me know below; yeah!
 

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10 More Writing Tips, This Time In Three Minutes

Man, time moves fast. It was almost 2 years ago that I wrote my original post giving 10 Writing Tips In Two Minutes. Whereas I want to try to keep the other article in your mind, it also occurred to me that there are more tips that could help people that, though maybe not fitting within 2 minutes, will fit within 3 minutes. At least that’s all the time it would take me to read them. 🙂

With that said let’s get going.

her hands
Vyacheslav Bondaruk via Compfight

1. Create an outline. Sounds like work but it can really help you keep your focus on whatever you want to write about.

2. If you see a squiggly line underneath certain words, it either means you spelled it wrong or your spell check doesn’t recognize the word. Don’t ignore it; fix it.

3. Always keep a piece of paper or something else you can record on with you so if you have an idea to write about you can note it & come back to it later on.

4. If you have a favorite word you know you always use, after you’ve finished writing go back to see if you’re written it too many times, and if so eliminate some of them.

5. If your writing feels too formal you probably didn’t use any, or many, contractions. Use them; they make you feel real to your audience.

6. If you use large words make sure you’re using them properly. Using them makes you look smart to people who won’t look them up in a dictionary, but if your using them correctly then dabbling in the art of sesquipedalian can be a bit of fun. 🙂

7. Learn how to create paragraphs where the content is related so you’re not putting white space between sentences “just because”. People don’t want to read articles where every sentence is considered a paragraph any more than they want to read paragraphs that go on forever.

8. If you’re describing something, make sure you give enough without going too far. If you write “a guy with brown hair” that could be almost anyone. At the same time, Grisham once wrote 50 pages on how to build a car in the middle of a novel for a one line plot item two chapters later; way too much information.

9. Using things like smiley faces, lol, etc, help people know when you’re not being overly serious. It’s not always easy in short pieces like what shows up on blogs to convey your intent all the time.

10. When you’re done, if you’re not an experienced writer go back, read what you wrote, and verify that you got the proper point across. In an article I wrote for someone else once I wrote 3 words wrong and totally changed the meaning of the entire article. Trust me, it happens to all of us.

So, did it take you only 3 minutes? If it too longer no biggie as long as you got something out of it. Let me know if it helped, or if I need to explain anything further. Enjoy!
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mitch Mitchell

Your Speech Is Free, But Consequences Aren’t

Brendan, Brendan, Brendan… gone so soon after rising so high… I guess stupidity can follow someone long into their future can’t it?

For those of you who aren’t up to speed, a couple of weeks ago Mozilla, the company that puts out Firefox (my favorite browser by the way), promoted Brendan Eich to the CEO position. In 11 days he was gone, the victim of what I’m going to say is public stupidity in giving money to support the California proposition against gay marriage back in 2008. The uproar was immediate I guess because, being out of the news loop as I sometimes am, I didn’t know it had occurred until the day he’d resigned.

Free speech

Loozrboy via Compfight

Of all things, I came to the news because of a press release someone put on on a dating site called OKCupid that I saw on Twitter (yes, one of my favorite news sources) trying not to take credit for promoting the initial protest against the hire (but the gloating was obvious) and then reading that not only were a lot of people up in arms about the hire but many people within the company were as well. And the statement made by the head of the board certainly didn’t sound like the normal company speak lines of “We’re sorry to see _____ go…”, instead coming out like “We were wrong, and thanks for helping us see the light.”

What was interesting is that the people who normally could have cared less about anything that happened in tech that believed as Eich did came out saying that this was a clear violation of free speech and that it was setting a dangerous precedent. That once again I felt it was time to straighten everyone out about our free speech laws in this country shows that folks aren’t paying attention to either myself or what’s really going on. I touched upon the topic of being controversial in 2011 and early in 2012 when I talked about the courage it takes to be in social media, and Holly & I touched on the topic when I interviewed her later in 2012, which means I haven’t talked about it in more than 18 months; my bad. So, let’s get this clear once more, since it really can’t be stated enough times.

In the United States, everyone has the right to express their opinion. What everyone doesn’t have a right to do is state their opinion and not have someone else disagree with it if they choose to. It’s the reason why so many people can love the movie Frozen (count me in) and a few can say they think it’s overrated. It’s the reason why so many young girls love Justin Bieber to the end of the world and others hate his guts (I don’t have an opinion either way).

What everyone has to realize is that, as I stated in the “controversy” article, if you’re strong enough to stand behind your convictions, say whatever you want to say and deal with whatever the consequences might be later on. If your opinions keep you from getting a job later on because they’re counter to what that particular employer wants to deal with, so be it.

Sorry kids, but that’s not the same thing as discrimination, where you don’t hire someone for what they are. No one asked to be black or female or gay or disabled or bald or heavy or… name something.

When we decide to say whatever we want to say, if it’s going to irk someone it could impact your life; that’s just how it goes. I take stands on things all the time, but I try to word my missives in a way that they’re not specifically insulting to anyone. If they take offense I’m ready to deal with it. But I don’t have masses of people hating on me because I’m not stupid.

King Mango Strut 2013, Coconut Grove, Miami, FL (27 of 75)

photo-gator via Compfight

What’s stupid? When you can donate money to a cause you know might hurt you later on and don’t do it anonymously, doing it so you can write it off in your taxes which, if you’re a public official or a public CEO, are allowed to be seen by anyone. Brandon, really?

Here’s a bit of family history. My grandfather was a registered Republican for a major part of his life. He never voted for a single Republican in his entire life. He owned an auto repair shop in a Republican city and knew he’d never get any business if he’d registered as a Democrat. So he did what he had to do to survive, kept his mouth shut even amongst his friends, and voted his conscience. He wasn’t ready to be controversial until he shut down his business, and no one was the wiser until he had nothing to worry about. Freedom of speech? In his day, even with the Constitution? Please!

Freedom of speech is a legal reality; freedom of consequences is a true reality. If you’re big enough or important enough or passionate enough of stupid enough (Facebook drunk pictures; really folks?), those things can come back to hurt you. I know someone who literally changed her name and waited a year for it to sink in so she could start applying for jobs under that name, in hopes that her political views under her other name would become obscure, as she is a liberal fireball but lives in a conservative area. How many of you would want to go through something like that?

Let’s not be too timid to have an opinion but let’s also not be naive. We all know when we’re about to say something on purpose that someone else might not like. If you don’t want to deal with the potential heat then don’t say it. If you can deal with it, and you’ve thought about your future, then go ahead.

Still, as the video below will prove, I believe there are times when you must speak your piece; it’s just how I roll:
 


http://youtu.be/x7MGr36qXYI

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mitch Mitchell