Tag Archives: lessons

Aaron Brazell, Uncategorized

If I Had to do it All Again

As I sit here tonight, at a bar, typing on the WordPress app (which will undoubtedly make my fingers cramp typing long form), I’m thinking about my life. What has made me a man, a developer, a friend, and lover (I can even get in Oxford commas on the app!)

In exactly five hundred and fifty six days, I will be 40. FORTY!

I don’t look like an old man.

I don’t (usually) feel like an old man.

I don’t even behave like an old man.

Note: what follows may sound like I’m saying “Get off my lawn!”

Where were we? Oh yes, FORTY.

I just finished my first week on a new job. I’ve been doing WordPress stuff since 2004. I was learning PHP in 2000. I was developing coding chops in 1987 on an Apple IIc!

I’ve been married. Divorced. Had a kid. Owned a house. Chased the rabbit hole that is the American Dream™.

I’ve loved and I’ve lost. I’ve had dear friends pass away from cancer and heart attacks. I’ve watched national tragedy and personal tragedy, and even suffered my own.

My perspective has evolved. Sometimes willingly, sometimes not.

Take weekends and evenings. You may be single. You may not be. It doesn’t matter. Don’t work at all hours of the day and night. You’ll be less productive, because you’ll be less rested. You’ll also be better socially adjusted.

Get up early. Don’t sleep in until 11am. Your body wasn’t meant to do this. Don’t force it to. It will rebel. Related to this, and the last point, get to bed before midnight.

The man who cooks is the man who gets the woman. I’m happily involved, but my girlfriend and I both love to cook. And you know what? It got me ahead when I was single. No woman wants your idea for dinner at your place to be frozen dinners or delivery (there’s a time and place for delivery!).

Find passion that you aren’t aware of. Later in my adult life, I bought a camera and started learning how to shoot… How to visualize and see a photo. Do something, try something. Get outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Volunteer!

Always learn. When I started on WordPress, I was hungry. I was curious. I started learning the ins and outs. I admit that in more recent years, I’ve allowed myself to get comfortable. I’m working on some other interesting things that will stretch me even more. If you’re in tech, you have no choice but to move forward. If you don’t learn, you’ll be left behind.

Don’t take the world literally. Seriously, stop. I’m looking at you, political nerds. Stop parsing everything that politicians do. They do it because it’s politics and all the crazy is a vast, orchestrated act to get you worked up and supply them with power. Live your life. Change what you can and accept what you can’t.

Read. Everything. I’m not a book guy, but if you are, have at them. Spend less time on Facebook and Reddit and more time on sites with content that is written at a college level with an informed, intellectual audience. Read The Atlantic, Ars Technica and the huge variety of other excellent sources. Stretch your intellect.

You’re not right. At least some of the time. Give grace to others, even if you “know” you’re right.

That’s it! Or at least all I can think of after 14h of work and several beers. My hands aren’t even cramped!

Update: The dress is white and gold, you morons.

Aaron Brazell

Five Thoughts for New (and old) Bloggers

I’ve spent a good portion of the weekend restructuring things around here at Technosailor. You can see that the site is much more organized around topics, as you can see from the new Masthead. Each of the verticals have been segregated into five separate blog-like entities.

Desk of the Editor is all of my content. Entrepreneurship, branded Venture Files, will continue to contain Steve Fisher’s content, but will also have contributions from others as appropriate to the topic. Web Marketing is branded Wicked Marketing and is a vertical dedicated to usability and interface design as it pertains to corporate marketing. Tech Policy, a.k.a. SuitCase will officially launch tomorrow with Andrew Feinberg. Finally, Contenido Español is our long time Spanish only content stream edited by Carlos Granier-Phelps. It is being branded Sincronizar, or Synchronize in Spanish.

The front page of the site will undergo some further enhancements that, hopefully, pulls together this content in a snapshot that works well for most readers. Honestly, the current layout which is only a few months old, is not working the way I had hoped. So you’ll continue to see changes over the next weeks.

During the process of reorganizing things, I had to go back through all four years of my archives, a step that kicked me into a significant introspective mode. Where have I come from? Where am I going?

Honestly, much of my content from early years is downright embarrassing. And really, it goes beyond the content. I’ve spent the weekend thinking about the mistakes I’ve made as a blogger and wondering what I would do differently if I could. Keep in mind that my goals for this site were always professional and that I foresaw a day when it would be my only job (I hope that day comes, still!).

Here is my advice for bloggers who wish to do the same thing.

Make Every Word Count

It’s so easy to get into the mindset that no one is reading a blog and this is “my” space and “I’m gonna write what I want to write”. While there is truth in that, content is evergreen. By evergreen, I mean that it will be there for years to come unless you take the wrong, in my opinion, approach and delete archives that you don’t want anymore.

Understand that people always grow and become more mature. You are no different as I am no different. In four years, if you go through the exercise I’ve gone through this weekend, you will look through different eyes than you did when you first wrote.

On the other hand, people who really only want to blog for themselves can use these opportunities for their benefit. It really is interesting to see progression in your own development and feel good about it.

My advice, though, is to make every word count. Even though you have unlimited space and there’s no such thing, to many people, as too many posts, I’d recommend the economy of words.

This takes practice and discipline. Knowing what you want to say and saying it with just enough words to make your point without being so verbose that you might as well divide a post into multiple posts.

Mark Evans used to tell me that if you can say it in 1000 words, you can say it in 500. If you can say it in 500 words, you can say it in 250.

Your blog is valuable space. Make every word count for something.

Attack Ideas, not People

Another bit of low hanging fruit, when it comes to traffic, is attacking people. Everyone likes a good controversy. I’ve done the “Mike Arrington said…” or “Jason Calacanis said…” thing more times than I care. For awhile, I was highly ranked (#3) in Google for the search phrase, “How to be a whore” because I wrote this article about my friend Duncan Riley. Duncan and I have mended the bridge and are friends today, but that is not always the case.

I’d recommend avoiding the attack paradigm altogether. It’s much more efficient, when building of a brand or property, to offer ideas. Offer solutions, offer ideas, innovate. Be a thinker and a leader. By attacking people, not only do you hurt the chances of working with them, but you garner a recommendation that will follow you for a long time.

Plus, you end up singing from their songbook and not your own. Not beneficial if you desire thought leadership or to be considered a subject matter expert.

Take Time Every Day to Soak In the News

Ever had a day when you just react to something that is going on? I have. Too many times. I’ve discovered, however, that a 1am reading of Google Reader, while I’m relaxed (and because I’m an insomniac), is much more conducive to “catching up” than doing a break-neck scan at 9am before the day begins. Why? Because you’re relaxed and much less likely to act irrationally or reactionary. You’re not misreading content because you have work to get started on. You’re soaking in every word that another blogger is writing.

Are you going to get breaking news that way? Probably not. But you have the benefit of multiple opinions from multiple sources during the course of the news day. On this site, we don’t break news anyway so I’m not looking for the benefit of breaking news. We do analysis and in the presence of the multiplicity of opinions, a story is vetted.

Never Hide Your Archives

As I went through my content this weekend, I came across a post where I was announcing my intention to do paid review posts. This idea smacks of PayPerPost and today I do not want to be affiliated with PPP.

In a moment, I almost sent that post back to draft status and unpublished it but I didn’t. The reason I didn’t is because the entire nature of an archive, as embarassing as it is, is a story of your blogging life. Sure, I wish it wasn’t there but it is and there it will stay.

Maybe one day I’ll go through some kind of exit where my content here is analyzed very closely. I fully anticipate posts like that and others like it will hurt me. Yet, I cannot hide my archives.

Never Think More Highly of Yourself Than You Ought

Today I can brag. Three years ago, not so much. :) I say that cautiously and some will think I’m contradicting myself. Today, I can brag but I have to do it in the humility of knowing that I have a very long way to go. This site is not the mega property I’d like it to be, but it is getting there. It does not have the highest subscription numbers, though all feeds combined are in the neighborhood of 2000 subscribers. It does not have the traffic I want, but it does have significant traffic.

It’s okay to brag if you have something tangible to brag about. Three years ago, I bragged and had no substance to back my bragging up.

Let me tell you a quick stoy about my friend Marshall Kirkpatrick who writes over at Read Write Web. Last November, while in Vegas at Blog World Expo, Marshall and I were at a party at the Wynn thrown by the fabulous Steph Agresta.

As the guests cycled out, Marshall and I were talking outside and he, in his very laid back Oregonian way said, “From one asshole trying to figure things out to another, take this however you want. Maybe you should just not be so aggressively ‘out there'”.

Initially, I was stunned but his comment has stuck with me to this day. Marshall and I were even laughing about it the other week.

See, none of us have really figured this stuff out yet. Some of us brag more than we ought. Maybe I do. However, if you’ve got nothing to brag about then don’t. Plain and simple. No one will think any less of you for not bragging, and if you genuinely have something to brag about then you won’t need to because people will take notice.

Five ideas I’ve picked up in my weekend of introspection. Feel free to add your own lessons in comments.