Starting Your Own Blog – Why Everyone Should Do It

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone should start their own blog. It’s something that I put off for a long time and now wish I did much sooner. I made all kinds of excuses for not starting the blog: “I’m too busy”, “No one will care about what I have to write”, “It will be too much work”, etc. However, I realize now that there will come a time in everyone’s life when they will wish they have a blog – and wish they started it much sooner.

Starting your own blog couldn’t be easier, and if you’ve never had a blog before I suggest just using GoDaddy to host your blog. I use them to manage all my domain names and also used them to host my blog originally. They do all the work for you and will have you up and running in a matter of minutes. It requires zero technical knowledge. As an extra bonus, if you signup for their web hosting, you get your domain registration free for the first year.

There are a few reasons I think having a blog can prove quite valuable:

Marketing yourself: For the vast majority of people, this isn’t an issue “right now”. Most people are in a position where they already have a job, or are happy with their particular situation. However, the only thing that is constant is change. I’m a big fan of the book Who Moved My Cheese?, which is a fun story about change. While you might not be marketing yourself currently, you will at some point in the future. The fact is, you should always be marketing yourself, but that’s a topic for another post.

Blogging can provide a nice income: While it might take some time to build a decent revenue stream, it can prove to be a nice supplemental income for years to come. For some people it can even turn into a full time job. The fact is that you are looking at a minimum of 12-18 months to build decent traffic, so why not start now? Do yourself a favor and read the book ProBlogger. It will give you some excellent ideas on what to blog about and as the book gets into, most people opt for a “personal blog” as their first blog.

Create a Personal Voice: The less formal, more conversational format of blogging allows companies and individuals make deeper connections. It also allows you to express your views and opinions on various subjects. This can have a positive, but sometimes negative, effect when talking about touchy subjects such as religion or politics. Your personal voice and level of trust can used in positive ways down the road.

Share Knowledge: Blogging allows you to share knowledge with your readers, and do so with a high level of trust. I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel good personally when I expose others to something that has affected my life in a positive way. This post in particular is a good example of this. If just one person starts a blog because of this post then I will feel like I have done some good.

It Takes Relatively Little Time: In order to sustain an active blog, you only need to make one or two posts per week. A blog with 6 to 8 posts per month will keep traffic building and flowing to your blog. Most people can easily come up with 6 to 8 topics per month and write all this and under two hours. Two hours per month is a small price to pay for the rewards that can come down the road. However, many people either give up, become frustrated, or simply lose interest before their blog even has a chance. You need to have thick skin and be prepared for many days with few, or even zero visitors, but not give up. Remember, that building a successful blog is a long-term, if not very long-term, project.

Southern Californian Community Supported Agriculture

I’ve written about Community Supported Agriculture before – When I was in Las Vegas this past fall I joined a CSA via Quail Hollow Farm. It was a really great experience and the weekly food delivery became one my favorite moments each week. The CSA exposed me to several foods I would never purchase in a grocery store. Things such as okra, Swiss chard, and radishes are just a few examples of this. The only problem with the CSA is my frequent travel schedule. The produce from the farm doesn’t stop growing just because you’re out of town. It becomes very uneconomical to miss food deliveries.

Since we’re out in Southern California for the next several weeks, arguably the Mecca for fresh produce and CSA’s, I set out to find a CSA that would meet our needs. It’s unusual to find a CSA that will allow you to join for anything less than a season, which is typically 13 weeks. However, with the help of www.localharvest.org I was able to locate JR organics. Luckily for us they offer a four week CSA trial. I would have preferred a solution that would have subscribed us for our entire seven-week stay, but I will settle on the four weeks.

Since I didn’t subscribe to the CSA until late Monday night I suspect my first delivery won’t be until Wednesday, January 19th. However, I might get lucky and get our first food delivery Wednesday, January 13th.

JR organics lists all their past box contents on their website. Their delivery for last week, January 4th, was lettuce, arugula, peas, hard squash, bell peppers, Swiss chard, kale, bunching onions, beets, avocados, and apples. All these items are 100% organic and fit perfectly within my modified vegan diet.

As soon as I get my first delivery I will post a follow-up blog about my experience.

Time to lose some weight

Since I graduated high school my weight has fluctuated between 150 and 175 pounds. I’ve always been very conscious of weight and the adverse health repercussions, so when my weight gets up around 170 pounds I usually do my best to get back down again.

When I arrived in the Cayman Islands in the first part of 2009 I was at my highest weight ever, about 174 pounds. However, with my naturally active lifestyle in the Cayman Islands of playing tennis, swimming, snorkeling, diving, biking, and going to the gym the weight naturally started to come off. On top of this, I got into a major healthy eating kick. I read several books about nutrition and found myself trying to be almost exclusively vegan. With the combination of eating healthy and getting regular exercise I found my weight at a decade low of 150 pounds when I left the Cayman Islands in March of 2010.

The bad news is that after I left the Cayman Islands I found myself getting almost zero exercise. When I got to Las Vegas I no longer belonged to a tennis club, no longer belonged to a gym, and no longer owned a boat. I also found myself “cheating” on my healthy eating ways. It’s mostly because we were eating out a lot more. It’s a side effect of catching up with so many people I hadn’t seen since 2005. We also had a lot of visitors come in and out of Vegas during the WSOP; most of whom wanted to eat out (at not so healthy places).

Even though I still eat way healthier overall than I used to, I realized that I was starting to fall off the “wagon” when I found myself eating two pieces of fried chicken yesterday. I can’t think of too many things that are less healthy than fried chicken. I also found my weight at 160 pounds, a full 10 pounds heavier than I was when I left the Cayman Islands just nine months ago. That means that I’ve been gaining about 1 pound per month. It’s time to reverse that trend.

Starting tomorrow I’m going back to my strict healthy eating ways, which will be a modified vegan diet. Basically, I’m going to be eating 100% vegan with these few exceptions: I’m going to allow myself one 6 ounce portion of free range chicken breast, two 6 ounce portions of fresh wild caught fish, two free range eggs, and an unlimited amount of cage free egg whites each week. I’m also going to force myself to get some exercise. I’m at my house in California right now where the weather is great and I have little excuse not to be outside. There is a wonderful road behind our house, that leads to a great hiking trail, which I will take advantage of everyday (unless it’s raining). I’ll start by walking the mountain as fast as I can. Then, I’ll step up up to a run / walk and progressively try to improve my time.

I’m going to be in California until February 24th, when we leave for Costa Rica to go to a friends wedding. So, this gives me almost 7 full weeks of this uninterrupted routine. My goal is to lose between one half and 1 pound each week. I’ll be posting my progress each week, which will hopefully make me even more disciplined.

Wish me luck.

Dragon Dictate 2.0 – A Real Lifesaver

I saw a commercial the other day for Dragon’s dictate software. I was quite skeptical because I used software like this in the past and it was horrible. However, it’s been several years and I was hoping the technology had improved a lot. Since I find myself writing more than I have in years, software like this could prove invaluable to me. It would allow me to write my posts much quicker and with fewer errors. On top of this, it would save wear and tear on my wrists. I find my fingers and wrists start to hurt when I type for an extended period of time. With all this in mind, I figured I’d give it a shot.

I ended up going with Dragon Dictate 2.0 Bluetooth for Mac. They also have a Windows version which is at version 11. The reviews for the Windows version are much kinder, but I use a Mac exclusively. The Bluetooth edition comes with a USB wireless headphone / microphone and sells for $269.99 on Amazon.com. However, you can buy the software for as little as $125.98 without the microphone. I found the pricing for the bundle to be a better option for me since I wanted the headphone anyway.

The software arrived yesterday and this entire post has been written using Dragon Dictate 2.0 for Mac. To this point the software only made two errors, which I find very impressive.

The box came with two DVDs and the wireless headset. I’m not sure why dictation software needs two DVDs, but it seems like the first DVD had very little on it. The installation process took about 10 minutes. After that, I spent another 10 to 15 minutes training the software. The joke around the house was that “I was training my Dragon.”

So far I’m very happy with my purchase and I would recommend Dragon Dictate to anyone who finds themselves typing a lot.

A New Dedicated Server For Faster And More Reliable Performance

I purchased a new dedicated server a couple of weeks ago and today I’m moving my blog over to this new box. In fact, if you are reading this post, then you are doing so via my new server. I did a bunch of research before making my decision since it’s not something I want to be changing often. It’s also a big investment for my new company at $220 per month / $2,640 per year. Since I don’t have heavy traffic (yet) I could have gone with shared hosting, but you sacrifice so much with shared hosting including intermittent performance issues and downtime. Since Terran Marketing is an online affiliate marketing company, I think it’s important to have a good backbone in my hosting company. In the end I selected HostGator as my hosting company.

I went with HostGator for several reasons. 1) Their pricing was very competitive. 2) I’ve used them before via a HostGator reseller (SEO Hosting) and their support proved to be quite good. They have 24/7 email, phone, and chat support. I’ve just been using the chat support, which takes an average of less than 3 minutes to connect to. They’ve been able to answer my questions within minutes every single time. Since I’ve been out of the IT game for quite a while this has been invaluable. 3) All their servers come with cPanel, which I’m used to working with at my previous hosting company. Since I don’t know Linux very well this (cPanel) is another nice feature.

I selected HostGator’s “Standard Dedicated Server” package, which is one level above their lowest package. The bottom of the line package is $174 a month vs the $219 that I’m paying. An extra $45 per month is a decent chunk of change, but there were some features I really needed. I really wanted 4 GB of memory, dual hard disk drives (so a drive crash can’t take me down), and the 13 dedicated IP addresses. I plan on running about 10 sites on this box, so the IP addresses were important to me. I already moved one of my projects, WordPress Themes, over to the new server and I couldn’t be happier with everything so far.

Why good web hosting is so important for your website

A good customer experience: All of us have been to a website that loads slow – it’s frustrating. Many customers / readers will just click away when this happens. You know the old saying, you only have one chance to make a first impression. There are so many sites on the Internet that your first chance will most likely be your only chance in most cases. Google has done a study about how speed effects visitors. It’s very interesting. It’s also leads to my next point…

Faster sites = Higher rankings: Back in April 2010, Google admitted that website speed now effects SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Google says that “we’re obsessed with speed” which makes me obsessed with speed. There are 100′s of things you can do to make your site load faster, but all of them are useless unless you have a solid web host. I’ll be posting a follow-up article about several things you can do to decrease load times on your site apart from a good web host.

A New Year – A New Chapter In My Life

Today is a pretty monumental day in my life. As of today I’m officially no loner an employee of Protos Marketing; a company I started in my basement back in January 2004. It wasn’t called Protos Marketing back then, but rather it was just a single website under a handshake partnership called Poker Source Online. It was a combination of being at the right place at the right time and a lot of hard work that made us unbelievably successful. Over the past 7 years our success allowed us to grow and make acquisitions. The company that resulted is now known as Protos Marketing.

I’m still a significant shareholder in Protos Marketing and will be involved as Chairman of the Board for the foreseeable future, but the reigns of the company have been turned over to our new CEO, Adam Small. I’m still very emotionally invested in the company, so today is a bitter sweet day in a lot of ways. It’s hard to turn your “baby” over to someone else. However, I feel really good about this because I think the company will be better off without me at the helm in a lot of ways. I also think we got really lucky to find Adam, someone I’m confident will do a great job running things.

I give advice, to my employees and friends, that you should “always be training your replacement” at any job. Some people are scared to lose their job and hold on as tightly as they can to it. Successful people are always training someone else on how to do their job, so they can be replaced and move onward and upward. That is the situation I found myself in towards the end of last year, when I realized it was best for me to gracefully step aside. I’ve never been a greedy person and feel that it’s in the other shareholders and employees best interest not to have my salary hitting the company any longer. It’s not because the company can’t afford to pay the salary, but an inherent trait to want to feel good about any job I’m doing – even if it’s for my own company. The bottom line is I didn’t feel like I could do enough to contribute on a day to day basis to justify what I was being paid. I don’t believe in doing to others what I don’t want done to myself. So, when I could no longer say in good faith that I would pay someone else the same amount of money to do what I was doing, that was the end of the road for me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I found myself in this position. I think it boils down to two things:

1. The core of the company is located in Costa Rica and I’ve been based in the Cayman Islands or Las Vegas the past two years. It’s resulted in me feeling very disconnected from the business. I’ve discovered that no matter how many phone calls, AIM conversations, video chats, or periodic visits you have it doesn’t come close to actually being there. I think that it’s vitally important for the CEO to be interacting with as many employees as possible on a continuous basis. I was only able to interact with 5 or 6 people on a continuous basis in a remote location. I seriously considered moving back to Costa Rica to rectify the situation, but I didn’t think that was a good option for my family or my personal / mental well-being.

2. I’ve honestly lost my passion for the online poker industry. It’s not because I don’t have a personal interest in poker any longer; I still find myself watching Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker all the time. I also enjoy heading to the casino from time to time to play some cash games or even a tournament. It has more to do with how the industry has evolved and the type of people in this industry. While there are good people in this industry, they are few an far between. I’ve met over 1,000 industry people over the past 7 years and I can hardly think of 10 I want to continue a relationship with. I should have realized what we were getting into when someone copied our idea and content word for word in the first month of business, then told the poker rooms we were stealing it from them. This is the kind of people you are dealing with in the online gaming industry. It’s just total sleaze and it’s ramped. I’m not naive enough to think this stuff doesn’t happen in other industries, it just happens more in online gaming.

Since I’m officially moving on and starting a new company, Terran Marketing, I think it’s important to reflect on the past several years and learn from any mistakes I’ve made. I’ve always said there is nothing wrong with making mistakes, just as long as you don’t make them more than once. People who never make mistakes are simply not taking chances; people who don’t take chances simply can’t be successful.

1. Surround yourself with good people – This has to be the most important thing I’ve learned. You can’t tackle a problem, project, or build a company without top talent and passion. Simply hiring more people (quantity vs quality) won’t solve anything either. Top talent demands top dollars and it’s worth it in the end! Having someone who does such a good job that you simply don’t have to think about that particular aspect of the business any loner is worth their weight in gold. At Terran Marketing I’m going to do my best to grow things at a rate that allows me to evaluate many people on a contract basis before adding them to payroll on an ongoing basis.

2. Keep overhead to a minimum – It’s really easy to let spending get out of control. A pet project here, a pet project there, and next thing you know it’s a major drain on the balance sheet. We were horrible about this at Protos for years and I’m happy to say the problem has almost totally been rectified at this point. It’s something I’ve learned from and will do a much better job of keeping track of at Terran Marketing.

3. Don’t start too many projects – This was a major problem at Protos. It was never a lack of ideas that got us in trouble. It was a combination of not having enough of item number 1 above, not staying focused on the project until it was done, and having too many projects to be able to keep track of the details. As I embark on this new era, I already find myself with more ideas than resources to tackle them. I’m going to do my best to ensure that each project I start is completed 100% and has the necessary ongoing resources before starting anything new.

I’m excited and optimistic to see how Protos Marketing evolves in this new era. I’m also excited to see what progress Terran Marketing makes. I definitely plan on taking things very slow to start with because I need somewhat of a break. However, I’m not wired to just do nothing. Over time I hope to prove to my wife, my parents, my critics, and myself that Protos wasn’t just a fluke. I’m looking forward to documenting the trails and tribulations of Terran Marketing via this blog. Hopefully it will allow others to learn from my mistakes and from my wins.

I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy, and successful, 2011.