Monthly Archives: February 2010

Eliminating the Competition

In theory, if you create a product that the competition can’t touch, you have effectively eliminated the competition. But only in theory. In reality, the competition still has as much of an effect on you as always.

It is a powerful strategy to define and separate yourself from the competition by what you offer. By doing so, anyone who understands what you offer, won’t even consider your competition. In that respect, you’ve eliminated the competition, because they can’t really even do what you can.

That whole concept though, hinges on one thing: Whether or not your prospects really understand what you offer.

Helping them understand that can be tricky. In some industries, it is simple, and obvious, and once people know, they will flock to it. But in others, it is much more difficult.

In many industries, there is a standard way of doing things. It is so ingrained in the customer, that the customer will expect you to be like all the rest. Even when you can get people to purchase, they often think you still ought to behave like the competition – because even when the standard way is inferior, it is familiar, and people often default to familiarity even when it is not what they say they really want. People are like that.

Educating them to understand how you do it, and why you do it that way, can be very difficult. One in 20 will “get” it.

Your competition may use the same words you do, to mean different things. They may persuade people that a solution ought to be “easy”, when an easy one doesn’t EVER work. They may just talk louder than you, and get noticed more, so people choose them because they could not find you.

So eliminating the competition by providing a clearly superior offering isn’t the magic pill it should be. It is, however, a great place to start.

The Mobile Internet Dilemma

So we’d like a means of accessing the internet on the road. And an iPhone isn’t quite what we have in mind.

We need a high-bandwidth solution which we can use while traveling, which allows us to actually maintain websites in a relatively secure environment. Can’t do that with cell, it fails on two points:

1. Inadequate bandwidth. Most cell plans have a pitiful amount, and it drops to no more than a smidgen of that if you are out of area.

2. Inadequate security. Cell signals are too insecure to use for website work where passwords are transmitted over the net.

We have Satellite internet here at home, as our backup internet provider. So we know the limits of it, and we feel it would be adequate for travel. But we will never use Hughesnet again, and they are about the only consumer provider of mobile satellite.

We finally found a commercial provider which offers consumer priced options – the plans have unlimited bandwidth, so one of our primary problems is solved, and the connection is private, so it is much more secure than cell. The drawback is that the dish has to be mounted on an RV (we don’t have one yet), and the cost is around $7500 for the dish and install.

We have determined that it would be worth it though. Combined with a used RV, we would have the ability to travel as we wished. Traveling is currently a problem for us because hotel connections are often insecure, which limits the kind of work we can do on the road, and because time in hotels is limited. We have dietary issues with hotels too – we have to pack all our food since we cannot eat out, and we have to rent hotel rooms with a fridge and microwave – this puts us in the higher cost bracket. An RV would solve both of those problems.

So we are now planning and budgeting for an RV and the mobile dish. It won’t solve all the problems, but it will give us some very useful business capabilities.

The Myth of the Accidental Business

There is a myth out there about business startup. It is perpetuated by magazines like Taste of Home, and other sources that tell stories of small business startups. It goes something like this:

Betty Jean loved to make salsa. She gave salsa to her friends and family for Christmas, and pretty soon people started to ask if they could buy it from her. So she started selling it at craft fairs, and demand became so great that she finally added on a commercial kitchen to the back of her house, and now business is booming.

Makes it sound easy, right? Like you can just lazily indulge in a hobby, and business will come your way without even trying, and people will pay you to do what you’ve always done.

Only problem is, they left out half the story.

Betty Jean spent weeks making the stuff for her friends and family at Christmas. She prepared sampler bottles for everyone at the company where her husband worked, and distributed them at the Christmas party, or sent them to work with her husband. Her husband loved her salsa, and was a great talker. He talked to everyone, and kept asking Betty Jean for more salsa to give to his clients as thank-you gifts. In fact, he gave salsa to everyone he met, eventually. He always thought she could sell it and researched the legal and financial requirements for going commercial long before Betty Jean was sure that is what she wanted to do.

Betty Jean started working the craft fairs – again, working for weeks ahead of time to prepare. She created her branding and worked on a clever slogan. She bought the decorated jelly jars instead of the plain ones, and put cute stickers on the top. She experimented with various pricing and sizes to work out what people really wanted most.

By the time Betty Jean went commercial, she and her husband had BOTH been working hard on laying the foundation. In fact, they’d done more work BEFORE she expanded to a commercial kitchen than many business owners do AFTER they have already obtained a business license.

It didn’t happen accidentally. It happened because they started out putting a lot of effort into it, and when they realized it was a practical opportunity, they pursued it and continued to work on it. Demand from friends and family didn’t happen by accident. It happened from a lot of work – work to share it, work to let people know what she could do. Demand from friends and family just let them know the market really WAS there.

Business never happens accidentally, and it never happens easily. It always takes work.

So the next time you read one of those fairy tales about someone just happening into business without really meaning to, don’t believe it. Read between the lines, because there was a lot of work and effort put into it, whether they intended to form a business from it initially, or not.

Tools vs Toys

This morning I read a rather scathing point by point critique of FaceBook. The author of the review stated many negative impacts on relationships, productivity, and general quality of life. And the author was right. But it isn’t quite as simple as that, because for many people, FaceBook IS a great evil, and a detraction from living – a time sucker which contributes nothing positive to their lives, interferes with real relationships, and can feed addictions that leave a person nothing more than body in the chair that takes but never gives. For others, it enhances positive communications and allows them to accomplish specific necessary goals.

The same can be said for computers in general, cell phones, television sets, and other technology. It can either be a great evil, or a benefit in the lives of those who use them.

So what’s the difference?

Some people use FaceBook, computers, and other technology as a Tool. They use them to make business easier, to create useful or necessary things, and to communicate in ways that move their useful goals forward.

Other people use these things as Toys. They play. And that is ALL they do. Now there’s nothing wrong with a little play to leaven the lump, but when life becomes about Play, to the exclusion of work and real relationships, it is a serious problem.

My computer is a tool. I occasionally play a game of Solitaire or Mahjongg to give my mind a rest from intensive work. I have fun with networking, but use it mostly for developing business relationships and keeping up with some extended family. I honestly don’t get how people can spend hours a day at it.

Social networking and gaming both, are things that can eat up hours and hours of time, and leave nothing to show for it. Who really cares in a year whether you got the high score or not, or whether you found a cute little fish in your Happy Aquarium? It didn’t add to the substance of your life, it just sucked out some time in which you could have been doing something of value.

Many of my business associates find that they sort of get lost with social networking for a while. They have a hard time zeroing in in the tasks that help their business, while reducing the time drain of the things that are just peripheral fluff. But for successful use of social networking for business, it is essential that you figure out which things benefit you, and which things just take time.

When you use a computer and the internet for a Tool, you pay attention to the effectiveness of how you are spending your time. Yes, I know, that was an incredibly awkward sentence!

If something takes a lot of time, but doesn’t really help your business, or your life in a way that enhances your efficiency or your most important relationships, then it is time to take out the machete and do some aggressive thinning.

Stupidity, Dishonesty, and Arrogance – Fatal for a Business

“In a month, I’m going to have the top service in this industry.” He bragged. He then confided that he was building a competing product, and had only bought the one he had from us because he thought it had a feature that it did not. Presumably, he wanted to steal that feature.

He bragged that he was a coding guru. Less of one than he thought, because if he HAD been a coding guru, he’d have known that the feature he thought we had was actually impossible – NO ONE can have it, because the technology that it depended upon was controlled by another company, and they would not EVER make it available.

Never mind the fact that the reason he thought we might have this feature is because he did not read the description of our product. No where did it even imply that it had what he wanted.

Shortly after purchase, he had demanded a refund, saying we had misrepresented it, and that the only reason he had bought is because he thought it had something it did not. Our sales pages clearly described the system, and did not misrepresent it in any way.

But I informed him that he could have a refund if he met the usual terms. He had not. He did not want to. He just wanted an easy way out of his original poor choice. He tried to bully us into issuing a refund that was outside of our policies, and we refused.

He paid the monthly fee, and then listened in on some training calls, and asked for a training session, which he then decided not to do, and was insulting to the two people he talked to about it. He stated that he did not have time to do a day training session because he had “a real job”.

He asked some additional questions, which were indicative that he was trying to copy the site. Interestingly enough, these were also questions he should never have had to ask if he were the “coding guru” he claimed to be, because they involved fairly elementary skills.

Then he stated he did not want the site. Tiring of his games, the manager pulled the plug on it – suspended the site. He went into a panic! Where was his site? Now, he had not even changed the default text in the site, it had nothing in it to even suggest that anyone actually owned it, and was not even usable as it was. So no harm was done to his business by suspending it. We just stopped him from copying it and selling it as his own, and our terms of use state that this is grounds for immediate termination of service (we had only suspended, not terminated).

He then filed a complaint with PayPal, stating we did not deliver what we had promised, and that we had misrepresented the product. We can prove that we did deliver exactly what we said we would. But it didn’t matter, because PayPal refused to investigate, because it was more than 45 days after the purchase had been made. It galls me a little that I don’t have the chance to defend ourselves, since we were honorable in the process.

All in all, a rather nice example of someone who inspires absolutely no fear in me. As a potential competitor, such a person is not a threat at all.

1. He wanted to steal instead of coming up with an innovative approach of his own. Now, anyone who thinks this is a way to get rich quick is not firing on all cylinders! Those who look for shortcuts, invariably fail, because there ARE no shortcuts to success. Just hard work, creativity, and perseverance, none of which he had. You can only clone and steal a product or the APPEARANCE of a service. You cannot clone, and cannot steal, the work and effort it takes to SELL that product or service, or the work that it takes to actually run a business. And people who are looking for shortcuts usually bomb on that.

2. He was arrogant, and overestimated his own skills. Now, there is nothing wrong with confidence, and feeling you can achieve something big even if you don’t know everything. But to think you are an expert and can do anything without having to learn anything else, is always a colossal mistake. His arrogance will stop him from doing what he wants to do, will cause him to make costly errors, and will turn off his potential customers.

3. His manner and communication were so poor, and so rude, that he will repel his customers very quickly. It will make it very hard for him to get clients at all.

4. If he thinks that anyone who works their own business does not have a “real job”, then he will never be able to be successful at owning his own business. Because it IS a real job. In fact, it is a job and a half! It is clear that he thought we played at working, and that he could have what we did by playing at working. Such a person won’t ever be a threat to real business owners.

I am predicting that this person will not be able to get a business off the ground at all. If by some odd chance he manages to make a sale or two, he will quickly burn out on the actual work, and drive his customers away by insulting them.

Stupidity, Dishonesty, and Arrogance are never a good combination. But for a business, they are fatal. And when you spot those in your competitors, especially those competitors who haven’t even got a business but brag about how much they are going to do, you may know that you don’t need to seriously worry about them. They are not any kind of threat to honest business owners, because their own actions will get in their way.

The best way to do business is still by being smart, honest, and by being willing to learn. And it always will be.

Update: He never did get it off the ground. His idle statements were just that… idle. All talk, no action in any way that could result in any kind of competition for our company.

Protecting Websites and Domain Names for Non-Profits

Many people think that because their website was the most expensive thing they paid for, that it is their most valuable web asset. It isn’t. A website can be reconstructed.

The domain name is actually the most valuable thing you have. For $10 per year, the domain name is the repository of your online reputation, of your online marketing efforts, of repeat traffic, and of your search momentum. And once lost, a domain name can rarely be regained.

There are things that can threaten this, and non-profits seem to be particularly vulnerable. One reason is because of the rapid turnover of leadership – the chance that someone will do something ill considered, ignorant, or unethical, is much higher, because there are more players over time, and most people who come into leadership in a non-profit do not have existing knowledge about protecting a website, and unfortunately, do not want to bother with getting that knowledge.

We’ve experienced several situations where poor decisions on the part of one individual caused long term problems for others and either fatally compromised, or seriously threatened the ownership of a domain name.

In the first instance, a director made a deal with a local web designer to build a site. Knowing little about it, the director did not ensure that any precautions were taken to protect the ownership of the domain name.  The domain name was bought by, and registered in the name of, the website builder.  This oversight was not discovered until a few years later, when the company wished to rebuild the site. The web designer kindly offered it to them – for the extortionate price of $1500. The domain name did not have enough value to warrant a $50 charge, let alone $1500. The non-profit had to start over, but the premium domain name they had once used was gone.

We are currently working with another non-profit. The website was set up several years ago by a previous director. Fortunately the domain name was registered under the corporate name, but the contact was still the director. This is typical, and usually not a problem, though it was this time, because the access information was not tracked properly. We found old documents referring to the ownership of the domain name, but the username, password, and even the access URL for the domain manager had been changed when the company changed to a different billing manager. The phone number in the documents was also out of date. What should have been a simple process, ended up taking weeks, sorting out just where the domain name was, and how to contact them. A Whois search helped, but wasn’t enough to solve the problems.

The last problem we encountered was that the domain name was registered through Enom. I always groan when I hear that, because Enom is a domain name wholesaler. They do not handle direct contact with the customers. They expect their resellers to do so. It can be challenging discovering just who the reseller IS, and sometimes the ability to make changes to the domain name is dependent upon that reseller’s good will. Some will stall or refuse to cooperate when changes are needed.

These kinds of issues are not uncommon with sole proprietors, or even small corporations, but they seem to be more prevalent with non-profits – especially small ones that feel that they don’t have time for proper documentation of website access info, nor the budget to pay for someone else to do it. Silly, because it takes WAY more time to solve problems caused later, and they can be MUCH more costly.

The only real solution to this is to keep good documentation of what was done, with whom, and who has current information. A good webmaster who knows your website inside and out can be an asset, but don’t rely on them completely! A non-profit MUST keep track of the access information themselves, in such a way that if someone disappears, they can still continue to manage their online assets.

A record should be kept of the following information:

1. Domain name access info.

2. Hosting access info, and instructions for accessing stats or backups.

3. Website Admin area access info (if applicable).

4. Any particular policies for use and access.

Without this, an organization is playing Russian Roulette with their website.

If you are a webmaster, it is your obligation to set up a site for your client that does not have these problems built in, and to inform them of the need to document this information. It is your obligation to give them full management to their domain name, and to cooperate if they wish to move it.

If you are a director of a small organization, it is your job to ensure that the website will go forward if you move on to another job.

Failing to do this is not just costly, it is also time consuming and very frustrating to have to deal with. No honorable person will leave that kind of mess behind them for someone else to clean up.

Webmaster Elitism Part 3 – W3C Compliance

Many webmasters, and site owners make a big deal over W3C Compliance. It is actually an almost meaningless standard for small businesses (and most big ones) – and is always likely to be.

I expect these comments to raise a hailstorm of controversy. But I’ve not written this hastily, and I have the experience to back up what I am saying.

First of all, WC3 standards are created by a group of major players in the web industry. Microsoft is one of them. There are others. They have set standards for code – some of these standards are nothing more than common sense (things that good coders do anyway). They include such things as making sure all tags are closed, and that certain kinds of tags are used to go forward. Others are completely nonsensical, apparently chosen by someone who had the power to say, “That one”.

The original goal was to enhance predictability across browsers. From the beginning, browsers interpreted code differently – and still do in spite of W3C Standards. Web designers have long been counseled to get pages to look GOOD in all browsers, but not to attempt to get them to look identical, because they simply render differently. It was bad enough when web pages were composed primarily of HTML, but now with a high usage of JavaScript, CSS, and other languages, the problem is much more of an issue.

When checking for W3C compliance, gross errors are rarely an issue. I mean, unclosed tags will cause rendering problems, so they don’t usually get past a designer anyway. Huge issues are easy to spot because they cause issues that are visible on the page. But there are a ton of fussy, immaterial little things which do not affect output, do not affect usability, and do not affect anything that matters to anyone, and which can be difficult to solve for a number of reasons.

Site development funds are supposed to be channeled first to areas where the site owner can see an appreciable ROI (Return on Investment). If they cannot, then it should be left out unless a site owner has money to burn and insists. Obsessing about compliance can burn money with no ROI at all.

Now, the real problems come in with four issues:

1. The prevalence of code checkers and buzz about compliance has lead many site owners to believe that somehow their site is superior if it is W3C compliant. Sadly, that isn’t true at all. In fact, a site that passes may be a WORSE site than one that does not, because in general, W3C compliance does not have anything to do with the things that matter most – such as suitable design, readable text, good images, search engine optimization, etc. I’ll repeat that – W3C compliance has NO effect whatsoever on SEO. This means a lot of site owners end up spending extra working out tweaky fussy irrelevant things to make  a site W3C compliant, when in fact, it does nothing to enhance the site at all, in any way that matters. Judging on a basis of site owner ROI (Return on Investment), compulsive adherence to W3C compliance fails to deliver any increase whatsoever in enhanced profitability, but it can end up being more costly to implement. We’ve even had clients who insisted on a W3C compliant template, then went in and edited their own site and inserted non-compliant code, so even if a site starts out that way, it may not stay that way!

2. Browsers are not really W3C Compliant. In fact, Microsoft, one of the players in dictating the standards, consistently produces the LEAST compliant browser! It is clear in release after release, that compliance is not at the top of their list for development, because for every compliance issue they address, they introduce additional non-compliant issues. Microsoft has never been about being a team player, they’ve always been more about perpetuating their own way of doing things – one gets the distinct feeling that they are not on the board to comply with standards agreed upon, but to try to make sure THEIR way of doing things is included in the standard. They display only a token effort toward complying with the standard. If the standard is meaningless to them, then it is pretty well meaningless to anyone else. Because non-compliance by a browser means you CANNOT produce a 100% compliant site and have it function correctly, in many cases. A non-compliant browser may REQUIRE that you use non-compliant code to achieve certain goals. As long as browsers are non-compliant, rigid adherence to the standard is not practical, and in fact, is a little silly. And obsessing about compliance becomes merely a matter of elitism, not a matter of performance or anything else relevant to the ROI for the site owner.

3. The standard is changing. W3C standards are not a “write them once” endeavor. They are constantly evolving, because the code and usage are constantly evolving. And browsers have yet to catch up with the LAST standard, let alone move forward to the next one. This lag and delay means that while the original goal of developing a standard for web code that would enhance predictability across browsers was not a bad one, the practicality of realizing it is an impossibility.

4. Coding is incredibly complex. It is a language. This means that the usage and rules can NEVER be completely defined and absolute, any more than the English language can be. Just as a dictionary is always out of date, and just as grammar rules always have exceptions, and good writers always break the rules, coding rules can never possibly define every conceivable usage or combination. So any attempt to define standards ends up being an exercise in futility long term.

Do I think it is a complete waste of time? Not really. I just think that a healthy dose of common sense needs to be applied! I’ve seen template designers wallowing in apologies over a non-compliant bit of code in their template, when that was the only way they could get IE to behave. And I think it is silly that anyone in the industry would think that an apology was needed at all! I see new site owners running W3C checkers on their site and worrying about the errors, when they should be LOOKING at their site, and worrying about what is on the surface, because that is what their customers are seeing.

  • It is possible to produce a site that functions predictably, looks good, works well, and earns money, that is not W3C Compliant – in fact, there are millions of them that do this.
  • It is possible to produce a horrid site that is not indexable by search engines, that looks terrible, which customers hate, and which repels every person who visits it and fails to function predictably, and have that site pass the W3C Checkers with flying colors. In fact, there are millions of these out there too.

Code checkers cannot think. They can only look for specific technical issues, some of which matter, some of which do not. They cannot tell what is good, they cannot judge quality. And that is the problem with an arbitrary standard which creates rules, but cannot adjust those rules for practical and realistic situations.

It comes back to the bottom line. If what you are doing does not help the site owner earn better, then there isn’t any point in doing it, no matter how good a coder you had to become to do it. If it works for the intended purpose, it is good. A good coder will already be doing the Compliant things that really matter. Beyond that, they’ll be focusing their efforts where it pays the client to do so.

I anticipate a great deal of disagreement with my points. That is what blog comments are for.

SERPs Become Irrelevant

Google has been moving more and more toward individual search results. This means that website owners who watch their own search engine rank positions are not seeing what they think they are seeing.

Google tracks YOUR preferences. So if you Google your own website, then click on the link, you’ll rise in the search results – but ONLY on YOUR computer.

If you Google your search terms, and click on your competitor’s site, then you’ll drop in the rankings. But again, ONLY on your computer.

This means you CAN’T get an accurate ranking by searching. And it means that SERPs are becoming less relevant as a means of measuring your marketing and SEO efforts. Because the past browser history on that computer will skew the results, and make them almost meaningless.

We have clients that watch these results and obsess over them. If they drop a position, they’ll call in a panic and worry over what they did wrong. If they rise a point, they’ll clasp their hands in glee and celebrate for a week. And while I’m all for celebrating achievements, this is no longer anything worth celebrating – because it doesn’t MEAN anything anymore. It kind of never did – I mean, you can rank high and still not get traffic, get traffic and still not get sales, so it was measuring the wrong thing in the first place.

So we, as webmasters, now get to explain to our clients over and over, why rising and falling in the search results has no value in measuring anything. We get to tell them what we’ve always told them – SERPs are irrelevant, don’t watch search engine positions, watch TRAFFIC and SALES numbers. Because those are the only things that really matter anyway.

But there are people who just don’t get this. So we’ve come up with a solution for them…

We can tell them, “Just don’t ever click your competitor’s links in the search engine results, because that will push them up! Click your link instead!”

Of course, I’m joking – but with some clients, you just know that no matter how you explain it, they aren’t going to get it, so you really FEEL like telling them that, just to get them to take their obsession elsewhere.

The point? Measure sales. Search engine position is totally meaningless, and TRAFFIC is also a meaningless number without sales. Sales numbers are what tell you whether you’ve really got it right or not. And watch TRENDS, not just numbers. If your sales are rising, even slowly, then you’ve got something right, and you’ll eventually get where you want to be. If they’ve plateaued, or never even got started, then something needs to be tweaked. If they are declining, then something needs to be adjusted.

Measure what matters, and don’t obsess about things that are not essential to success.

An Excess of Negativity

It is so easy to find problems. It is sometimes wickedly satisfying to craft a scathing indictment of a bad idea. It is simpler to find problems than to spot achievements. And it is certainly easier to criticize than it is to find alternative solutions.

Sometimes the ability to speak and write ends up NOT being an asset. It is so easy to fall into the habit of writing critiques and finding fault, and using biting sarcasm instead of uplifting wit.

I think I’ve struggled with this my whole life. Learning the art of kind words, instead of sarcasm or criticism. My lesser nature would drag me into being a dark and unpleasant person if I allowed it to – and I’m sure that for some people who encounter only that side of me, I am already that. But I fight to keep the better side of me as the character that is growing. The growing group of people who actually think I am a nice person is encouragement that I may be on the right track, if I can just keep going and not backslide.

Each day, I try to find something to blog about. Some days it is easy, other days it is hard. And it is always easier to find something to complain about than to find something to teach or provoke productive thought.

What keeps me trying is the concept of becoming who I really want to be. I want to be someone better. I want to leave the world a better place because I was here. I want to touch lives and lift them just a little because I passed by. I know… it will take becoming someone quite a bit better than the person I am now.

Anyone can point a finger and criticize. But not everyone can propose solutions, encourage in spite of problems, and accept even when needed change doesn’t happen where they want it to.  But I choose, a little bit at a time, who I am becoming, each time I poise my fingers over the keyboard, and each time I open my mouth.

Three Years of Blogging

I recently went through my blog to review and reprint some of my blog posts. I realized I’d been blogging for a little over three years. And I was a latecomer to the game.

I’ve learned some things as I’ve done it, and I’ve gone through phases with blogging. It has been a bit of an evolution, and it has changed some over time, due partly to factors particular to ME, and due to some factors inherent to online changes.

About five years ago, blogging spammers really started to saturate the blogging arena, changing what had been a fairly simple way to get attention, back into a harder one. This happens to every method for promotioning. It is the nature of the web. At that time, quickie marketers were still telling people two lies:

  • “You just GOTTA blog”
  • “It’s easy to get attention online from a blog.”

Neither one was ever true, then, or now (and they still get repeated regularly). Blogging is actually hard work – you have to do it consistently, and you have to produce stuff that people actually WANT to read – not everybody has the knack for that. And cheap sources for content just don’t do the trick, because all they produce is tired and overused stuff with no new information.

I came into the game fairly late – I didn’t blog for a long time, because I knew it didn’t fit my life or goals at the time. Eventually I decided to, because I had a purpose, and knew how I wanted to use it. So that is now my first rule for success with blogging – know what your purpose is with it, and what you hope to share and achieve with it.

At one time, I had four active blogs, but I found that posting to them took all my time, and worse, all my writing energy. I had nothing left for instructional writing, creating training materials, etc. It just sucked me dry! So I let three of them go – life had changed and they were less purposeful and necessary then anyway.

Social networking has also changed, making it easier to use a blog productively, by feeding it into other venues. Because of that, blogging is something I recommend for any business owner who can write. In fact, it has replaced article marketing for me, and I find it to be much more effective, and simpler to do and accomplish goals with. But I only recommend it once the groundwork is laid, and once a business owner feels the time is right to take it on.

I think I’ve matured some as a writer from blogging also. I can better distinguish between “good enough” and “print perfect”. When I produce long term resources, they have to be “print perfect”. But blogging can be “good enough”. It can be done in a hurry, off the top of my head, and reviewed once for anything embarrassing before publishing. I don’t agonize over posts. I can change them later if I need to. It has helped me learn to write very fast, and to get it more accurate the first time through.

Blogging is hardest when life is hardest. When I’m buried in things that are too private to share, and when my thought processes are taken up by stresses and difficulties that I don’t quite know how to overcome yet. Then I feel like I am just wrung out and have nothing left.

I find that with some effort, I can actually produce one blog post per day. But it does take effort. Over the last three years, I’ve produced just over 250 posts. That’s roughly one every four days. Of course, that included spates of daily, and many times when I posted weekly, and sometimes when I was sunk in the mire and skipped weeks! It was kind of fun to read back over them and remember some of the discoveries, and some of the events surrounding the posts.

Three years, and counting. Somehow, that seems significant, even though I think that what I write is largely insignificant.

A Higher Degree of Responsibility

I’ve been living like most Americans. I have always expected that as long as I had money, I could get what I needed, when I needed it. Food isn’t something I thought about much, and less so about things like shampoo and laundry soap.

Since becoming allergic or sensitive to almost everything, my perspective has had to change. I’ve been feeling frustrated for months, because controlling my diet has been so hard. I can’t eat out ANYWHERE without eating things that I pay for later. I can usually choose items that aren’t too bad, but sometimes am left with no good choices. It is very hard to control it everywhere.

Recently I attended a dinner. The person preparing it asked me ahead of time what I could eat, and assured me that he’d have things there that were “safe” for me to eat. My son and daughter have nearly the same restrictions, so he assured me that we’d be able to eat the dinner. I took him at his word, since he had asked me ahead of time what I could have.

When we got there, dinner was served – and not ONE THING on the menu was anything that I could eat without a consequence. It was a fairly normal dinner – but every item was off limits. The meat, the bread, the potatoes, the salad, every bit. Oh, I can eat those things, but only certain kinds, and only if made a certain way.

I’ve realized that if I want to keep myself from paying for it later, I have to take complete control – I can’t leave anything to anyone else’s judgment. If I am invited to dinner, I need to pack my own food, just in case. When I travel, I have to have pre-cooked food with me, because I can’t buy things in restaurants or even most grocery stores to eat on the road.

The world now lives by rules which don’t accommodate some kinds of differences. Not really. And where particular health needs are concerned, nobody else ever WILL care enough to remember it all and help make sure it is done right. Not the schools, not the doctors, not the friends or family, even. They may WANT to, but they simply don’t. Often, when you explain what you can or cannot do, they water it down and assume a little fudging won’t matter. And it does.

Kids with diabetes will be given sugar without regard to their blood sugar balance, and the individuals responsible won’t be the ones in the ER with them. Kids with allergies will be given irritants, in spite of having been told that they cannot have this and that it is serious, and those who did it won’t be up all night with them trying to control a bad reaction. Kids with Crohn’s will be given milk, or soy, or preservatives, and the person who gave it to them won’t be there when the kid is doubled over in pain later that day. It is just human nature to not take it seriously until you’ve lived with it.

It is at once intimidating, tiring, and empowering. The realization that I am the only person responsible for it, and that I HAVE to make SURE that there are no exceptions. It is hard – but it also means that I can choose to make things better, myself, and that I don’t HAVE to have to give anyone else control over that.

When we go shopping in Laramie, I have to pack a cooked organic meat patty, a homemade whole wheat roll (made with fresh milled flour and coconut or olive oil), an organic cucumber, an organic apple, and an organic yogurt with a lactaid tablet. I have salted cashews (roasted without peanut oil), and dried mangoes (organic, unsweetened), tucked in the side pocket in the door of our car. They stay there permanently, for emergency food. I also have spoons and forks there, so that if I have to eat on the road, I’m equipped for it. When we stay anywhere overnight, I pack my food. We stay in hotels that have a fridge and microwave because I can’t eat out.

Yeah. It is VERY hard. But it is also very necessary. Each time I eat something I should not, it takes me two weeks or more to heal from it. There are so many things that can happen by chance, like the Organic apples we bought the other day, that had been washed in something that gave me a belly ache – I could not have seen that one coming. So I have to control every single thing I can, every single time, or I end up losing ground instead of getting better.

I AM getting better. It is slow, and it is hard, and sometimes I can’t tell you how much I just want to go and eat pizza. But I don’t. Because I want something better. And it has a price, and I am the one who has to pay it.

In the end, WE are the ones responsible for our health. Not the doctor, not the cook, not our family, and certainly not the government! The only way to improve it, is to take that responsibility.

Points of Life Converge on FaceBook

My life seems to have a range of “phases”, and segments. At this time, there is family, church, and business. The way people see me in each of those roles can be widely different.

Family and church has always overlapped and blended well. Family and business have always had a little overlap, but not as much. And the way my business associates view me is probably quite different than how my grown kids see me.

I got on FaceBook largely for professional reasons. I use it primarily as a business tool. So my first associates there were those that I had known online in other capacities.

Then some of my family found me… ok. So now we have extended family and my business associates being exposed to one another. Hmmm. Some interesting dynamics there, especially since most of my extended family really has NO idea of what I really do, or that I even have a professional reputation.

Then some of my church friends found me. Ok again. But it makes for an interesting mix – again, most of them really don’t understand what we do in business, or how we do business. The parts of my life that have normally been separate are beginning to intersect on FaceBook in a way I had not anticipated.

Then highschool friends started finding me. Hmmm. Even more interesting. Highschool was a LONG time ago. I was a very different person then in many ways (though those who don’t know me will think not much has changed). Some people from highschool are not necessarily people I WANT to find or associate with. Now people I’d lost contact with are thrown in with people whom I associate with for other reasons.

I think this is the only place in my life where all of those different facets of relationships come together like that. It isn’t something that would happen through the normal course of life. And I’m not sure whether it is a good thing, or just a disconcerting thing.

For sure, it means that you can’t maintain more than one persona. You have to be more consistent in the person you present to the world. Being duplicitous is likely to backfire. I have always tried to just be myself in networking, so that comes easy. But I can see that for some people, this convergence could present some awkward intersections of parts of their lives which they might want to keep separate.

I don’t know that I have a conclusion about this, more of just an observation that something unexpected happened. Most of my networking venues are geared toward business, but FaceBook covers the spectrum. That means that all areas of your life and relationships may eventually intersect there. And for some people, it might present some interesting outcomes!

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.