Let’s be real — when you start worrying over your reputation more than whether you actually like what you’re doing, you’ve got a problem.
Overcommitting myself — as I often do — I was hustling away, preparing validation test cases and user grant templates for the 9-5, where I’m rolling out a major project management tool with my understaffed team; and toiling through my 5-9, editing photos, writing thoughts and scraping my metaphorical nails against the looming writer’s block you face when you’ve got too much on your plate.
So when I got an invite to a major event that would see me out-of-town for a bit, I was honoured. Validated that someone was noticing all the work I was putting into my craft, wanting more of what I could offer on something bigger than the things I was already doing.
I remember proudly telling family and friends how impressed I was that despite major life changes, hard work and grind could win out against being at every event, sharing every hashtag or any of the various things we bloggers do in excess to get noticed.
Which is why when the offer got pulled from the table without follow-up, explanation or any further communication whatsoever, I decided it was time to make a change.
2014’s seen me grow a lot, finally realizing what it’s like to have a voice, believing in it enough to stop compromising and start telling the world how I really feel. I’m not producing as aggressively as I used to, but now I’m giving each post the respect it deserves, trying to outdo myself every time I put pen to paper (literally — that’s how I write my thoughts before they hit your screen!) My blog is my platform to air my thoughts and share my experiences, and despite a blogger industry over 150 million deep, no one does it like I do it.
And that’s what bloggers need to remember — you’re not supposed to do it like anybody else; people read your stuff because it’s you.
But this month more than any this year taught me that my contemporaries are too often scared to have opinions, show vulnerabilities, or be human — in short, too many bloggers spend too much time writing too few things that actually matter.
And May, a month where my nightlife mostly involved playing with my 6-month old and hanging with my wife, it was the month reminding me what I should be doing with my time.
I Go 0 to 100, Man, Real Quick!
May was the first month this year where I really felt comfortable in my new skin — no longer trying to reconcile my #BloggerLife with the new path I’m walking; finding joy in the life of a father, spending less time at events and more in my neighbourhood… in ways, it’s like I pulled a 180º on who I was.
Less social media meant a return to life before tweeting, reconnecting with the family and friends I hadn’t seen as much of since diving into the blogosphere. It meant Saturday strolls with the family to the local ice cream shop, backyard barbecues and friends coming over with gifts and treats to celebrate the new little guy in my life, capturing the hearts and Likes of my social circles. Even as I grew less visible in the Twitterati circles, spending more 9-5 doing the corporate jive and more 5-9 keeping the kid alive, I didn’t feel like I was missing out — a change was in the air, with a new me needed to handle all the adventures laying ahead.
Here’s a look at some key stuff that went down in May, one month closer to making 2014 my best year yet!
Podcasting — More Than JUST a Blogger
Though I’ve yet to launch a podcast myself, I’m not one who’s camera- or microphone-shy. I found some time in May to hook up with Eric Freedlander and Peter DeWolf on their respective podcasts to talk social media, fatherhood, and the constant hustle of life in Toronto. If you’ve got some time to spare and ears yearning for some quality content, you should give ’em both a listen!
With a kid in the picture, our neighbourhood’s embraced us differently — we’ve gone from Sarah and Casey the “nice young couple” to Sarah and Casey the “trustworthy parents”. Instead of East York just being a place I’d go to at night to lay my head I’ve started seeing everything my ‘hood has to offer, its food fare, its parks, its people. The more I immersed myself in my community, the more I knew I needed to get involved.
In May, I started getting hyperlocal in my “urburbs”, linking up with the Greenwood Community Association and the Danforth East Community Association to start telling the tales of Danforth East, using my years of experience up ’til now to help my neighbourhood get the profile it deserves. Over the last several years, Danforth East’s landscape has changed, with plenty of new faces, new shops and plenty of ways to stuff your face. The shots above are just a sample, but you should stop by sometime to see what we’ve got to offer!
Sky’s the Limit
Though no one can believe it, 2014’s almost halfway done. Even a cursory glance at The 2014 100 tells me my paradigm’s shifted considerably these past five months — though I did buy a lawn mower (#61); demolish the hours of TV I expected to consume in 2014 (#67); and shrink the number of browser tabs I keep open by adding everything to my ever-growing to-do list (#71); it’s not like I had room for grandiose travel plans to hit SXSW (#3) or the World Domination Summit (#4). I’ve worked my butt off on the content hustle, churning more content out than ever before, already down to 130 drafts from the 220 I had closing out 2013 (#23). Fixed the wi-fi (#33), sorted the hot mess of a file structure on my computer and external hard drives (#43), rekindled my relationship with my grandparents now that I’m a parent myself (#46) — I don’t even care what the haters say, this year’s been a landmark one for me so far. (Even threw out all the business cards after massively rebranding myself to the new “grown man” Casey Palmer [#64]!)
Couldn’t even honestly tell you what to expect these last 7 months — the only things written in stone are some family time off to show the kid off to some relatives, but I’m on that grind in every other way. 30 years down and an entire future ahead, though many look at this age and decide it’s over the hill — time to settle down — I constantly remind myself that Oprah didn’t even have The Oprah Winfrey Show until she was 32, building one of the world’s greatest brands over 25 long years of work.
This ain’t a sprint; it’s a marathon I’ve run and will keep running until the Lord finds something else for me to do.
Chase those dreams, people — I know I am.
Until the next,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
When I became a father, many thought I’d have to give up blogging, too busy and tired to bother with social media and my life associated with it. Through 2013, I worried over everything I was giving up with a kid in tow — the parties, the swag, the food — everything that was part of “the scene”. I thought I’d fade into obscurity, becoming an urban legend of Toronto’s social media scene — a precautionary tale to those trying to mix family and Twitter, to show it’s impossible.
But January seemed determined to prove me completely wrong.
Somewhere along the road, I lost a week. Whether it was from an Icepocalypse in Toronto that displaced us from our home, leaving it without power for 30 hours; a nasty illness making it much harder stay jolly (and/or conscious) through the 4-day celebration that is our family’s Christmas; or simply underestimating the wealth of family and friends we have that wants to meet DoomzToo, I suddenly found myself at the tail end of December with entirely too much content left to write!
A sane man would quit, patting himself on the back for the best effort he could’ve possibly put out in a year, and rest on his laurels promising to do a better job the next year.
Unfortunately for me, no one’s ever mistook me for a sane man.
In an effort to make up for lost time, I’ve written. Not the easiest when you have a son who refuses to sleep without being held after all the attention he got at Christmas, but in those 5-minute spurts where he isn’t fighting the urge to shut his eyes and catch some Zs, that’s what I’m doing.
So feast your eyes on the next installment of my year-end wrap-up, and if I don’t manage to knock all these 100 stories out before we’re singing Auld Lang Syne on the 1st, just remember this — I left 2013 with a roar, not a whimper.
It’s the third of 10 posts for my end-of-year wrap-up for The 2013 100, where I tell you all about the past 365 (or so) days, what I managed to pull off, which plans were a flop, and what I’ll try to do again in 2014.
In retrospect, 2013 was insanely busy. It isn’t until you sit down to do a series of posts like this that you really start to understand just how much you try to cram into your days.
There’s probably a lesson in here somewhere about overachieving, but I’m too busy to learn it!
21: Merge my past 10 years of blogging into one site
Few people know I’ve blogged since August 2002, jumping sites until I landed here at CaseyPalmer.com in late 2011.
Though my writing’s grown since the days on LiveJournal, Blogger and Posterous, there’s still some gems in my past decade of blogging that deserve re-visiting.
Over 2003, I went through more than 2000 posts and 8000 comments, leaving only stuff that was still relevant and/or entertaining. It’s sitting on the development site now, as I add tag,s featured images and other SEO-friendly elements.
Expect to see some of my blasts from the past next year!
STATUS: On to the next year!
22: Start a tweetchat
While I’m not done with Twitter, I don’t use it like I used to. Over 3 years, I’ve seen people move on, move away, move to smaller social circles to evade unwanted attention — the allure of Twitter was good as long as I wanted to party, but as the party grew increasingly virtual, having my life revolve around being at the computer at a specific time each week eerily reminded me of those whose lives revolve around their TV shows.
Life’s too short.
STATUS: Ain’t nobody got time for that!
23: Start a podcast
One thing that’ll set you apart from others when you share content on the Internet is the quality of your work. With blogging, it’s how well you write and the image quality behind the photos you use. With videography, getting a high-definition camera will do wonders for your video’s appearance. With podcasts, though, a solid microphone is what stands between amateur hour and repeat listeners.
I hit Canada Computers’ Black Friday sale and got Blue Microphones’ Yeti USB mic, complete with three condenser capsules and four directional modes to help you get the most of any recording situation you’re in!
I’d love to push the envelope with content in the coming year — I actually considered starting a podcast later into 2013 à la Zach Bussey Show (but, you know — with less swearing and more interviews), but between finding a venue, shifting priorities and an insane workload at the 9-to-5, I decided to ease off.
Oprah didn’t land her own show ’til she was 32, though, so I’m not giving up yet!
STATUS: On to the next year!
24: Dabble in Video
Nothing can tell a story like a video can.
Though I only got halfway through the month, I participated in August’s VEDA — or Vlog Every Day in August, by recording with my Canon 60D and sharing on YouTube!
Definitely enjoyed it — We Blog, We Vlog is a fun group, and I’d love to do it again in 2014. It’s also made me think about how to do video better than just sitting in front of the camera and talking to my audience.
Video’s an interesting realm — Justin will be the first to tell you that more vloggers get rich from YouTube than any blogger ever did from their blog. So since the blog’s not doing so well as a medium these days, I look forward to experimenting with other ways to get my ideas across.
Gotta spend money to make money, but I haven’t gotten to sitting down and really sorting my options out for playing in the stock market. Sarah and I invest in a number of mutual funds, but dabbling in pure stocks is a plunge I haven’t seriously considered yet.
I’d like to do it with my “play money” — anything I earn in the 9-to-5 is “kid money”, the money to give him everything he needs; any extras from birthdays, contests, etc. is “play money”, i.e. the money I can use to do whatever I want.
My Mom has an interesting idea, though. She’d mentioned wanting to choose some penny stocks for DoomzToo — something that could potentially pay off for him in the future.
I’d never even thought of it.
So in 2014, I get organized and see about starting to invest in the great stock market game.
STATUS: On to the next year!
28: Get ahead of schedule with the Man Lessons
With Mansformation’s hiatus came a hiatus for my daily Man Lessons. After several months, I found I just couldn’t write unique content anymore — in what may come as a surprise to my female readers, men only have so many problems.
In a similar fashion, I started posting a Question of the Day on my Facebook for a while later into 2013, but it only lasted so long before I felt compelled to do something else.
What did I learn? That with a constant , steady stream of content you can build a great audience — if the content doesn’t suck. In the event that your content does suck, please stop creating it immediately. No one’s going to look at it, and the Internet’s full of enough crap already.
STATUS: Ain’t nobody got time for that!
29: Create a schedule for regular website maintenance
While having your own Internet real estate gives you the freedom to do almost whatever you want with the space, it’s a huge pain in the butt when things aren’t working right! Even now, I’m sorting some load balancing issues out, as CaseyPalmer.com grows in size and complexity.
Part of making your site run smoothly is doing regular site maintenance. Websites can get bogged down with junk data all too easily, and making sure to clear out unnecessary files and that everything’s running right will save you from later headaches.
Facing major site issues in December, I got rid of some unnecessary test sites, cumbersome WordPress plugins and automated processes that had my web host ripping their hair out. While I didn’t adopt a maintenance schedule in 2013, here’s hoping I can get on top of it in 2014!
STATUS: On to the next year!
30: Start the SHEvolution
One of the main arguments I got while developing Mansformation is that men weren’t the sole reason for all the issues out there in the relationship world — there are plenty of problems stemming from how our female counterparts can interpret situations.
So I started working on a program to help women better themselves called SHEvolution.
The plan was to get other prominent female writers in Toronto’s social media community to help pen “Daily Lady Lessons”, and eventually be regular contributors at a sister site to Mansformation.
I recently had lunch with a friend who pointed out that I’ve been a bit of a recluse lately, vanishing from the Toronto Twitter social scene. As we enter the final month of Sarah’s pregnancy (I know, right?!), I’m tying up loose ends on all fronts. Assembling furniture and installing car seats. Completing projects and checking ideas off of the to-do lists. I put my blogging life on hold as I prepared for a far greater role.
Blogging’s been fun, but it’s time to get real.
The City of Legends
It’s already started — my journey down the path of becoming an urban legend in Toronto Twitter’s lore is well underway with my time spent less on parties and product, and more on pre-natal living and planning.
The Casey you knew is dead and gone, grown up forevermore.
Once upon a time, we used to party relentlessly in this city. A week wouldn’t go by without a bevvy of events flooding the calendar, having social medialites explore the city in search of some fun. It wasn’t business or about exposure — many of us entered the social media scene looking for new friends and experiences, getting a feel for this uncharted world before us.
You’d think that things could only get better forever, the way it was going. The parties grew, the exposure broadened — brands poured resources into the community with bloggers standing tall as the mouthpiece to audiences they couldn’t previously approach nearly as intimately.
That was then, and this is 2013. It’s not news — I’ve discussed it before — everything changed. Fewer parties, more structure, and a whole bunch of urban legends where the pillars of Toronto Twitter used to stand — everyone was all grown up with everywhere to go, except the places we’d already been.
Why We Can’t Blog As We Used To
Everyone’s been asking how I’m doing. Becoming a father is no easy task — I’m about to undergo what’s possibly the ultimate transformation in life; the one that sees you change from your parents’ child to a parent seemingly overnight. It can be devastating. Overwhelming. Everything you were once sure of can come into question, and there’s no instruction manual for what comes next! But amidst the chaos and lessons that’re sure to come, surprisingly there’s one thing I’m feeling right now above all else:
When you’re expecting a child, everyone wants to know whether you’re ready. Some will offer their stories to reassure you and show that they’ve been in your shoes, letting you know you’ll be fine. Some ask out of curiosity — not having kids themselves — wanting to know how you know you’ll be ready to have kids. All too many parents want to make you company for their misery, using scare tactics for what? To make them feel better? The awesome ones will offer a helping hand for anything you might need while making the change.
But what comes next? Where’s everything when your attention’s demanded elsewhere, but you still feel drawn to all you’ve created, fully aware that you won’t do it justice the way it is right now.
Here’re a few beliefs I have that’ll shape that decision:
1. Blogging’s Gone the Way of the Dinosaur
Not going — gone. I have a blog post half-written on the why (and I have a great many friends who’d happily disagree with me on the point), but in Toronto at least, the last hurrah of blogging was somewhere around 2011. Since then, messaging got shorter with Twitter, prettier with Tumblr and relatable with YouTube. With more people using high-speed Internet at home and high-cap data plans on their phones (which, by the way, make for horrible reading devices over extended periods of time), the demand for high-quality content in bite-sized pieces is higher than ever. Though in many ways, YouTube’s already saturated and matured so much that getting rich from it is far harder than before; video is the name of the game right now, whether bloggers want to admit it or not.
2. Swag Don’t Pay the Bills
Here are two things that’re at a premium in Toronto — space and disposable income. With about 1,200 square feet to play with, you only have room for so much stuff. In fact, for the most part, I’m only working with about 6 square feet (15 cubic)! I recently converted my home office into a nursery, so stuff only goes so far unless I can put it in a desk drawer or dispose of it after a while.
What people need to remember is that time is money — or at the very least, an investment. Ultimately, the time you spend in life should always go toward improving your life and those of the people you care about. (So you know, you accomplish part of this through improving the world around you, but I’ll cover this another time.) I dialled down on the events I’m willing to attend and products I’m willing to promote some time back. There’s only so much time available to me, and got to a point where the value of what I got needed to match the time invested, whether valued through time with family and friends, goods and services, or the stuff that will put food on the table.
3. Bored City is Bored
Toronto — or “Fauxronto” as I’ve been wont to call it lately — is only growing colder and more apathetic. We keep to ourselves and prefer to drag each other down like crabs in a bucket rather than rally together so we all might win. We mistakenly believe that there isn’t enough wealth to go around and act accordingly, thinking we need to defend what little we have to the death and not share it around to see it grow.
And as the world demands more of our time and efforts than ever before, we’ll quickly discover that this isn’t sustainable.
I don’t know about the world (it probably has bigger problems, anyway), but Toronto needs a wake-up call. It needs something amazing to get its people caring again (and no, it’s not Drake). I know bloggers are trying to stand out and get their message across to as many people as possible, but to be effective at it, they need to stop striving for mediocrity.
At any given time, there are 7 billion people on the planet trying to do what you do. This isn’t your parents’ world, where you strove to be top of your class or being a local celebrity gave you a free pass for life. You’re now being compared to everyone in the world, and it’s time for us all to step our game up or fade into obscurity.
There’s more to life than events and free food. There is more… than this.
To Parenthood… and Beyond!
Nothing will make you feel as helpless as being an expecting father with a wife suddenly on bed rest, not knowing what you can do to help, trying anything and everything possible to make things better.
Sarah made me a map of No Frills for my first solo grocery trip so I wouldn’t get too lost. Definitely helped, and didn’t need it anymore for the second trip!
Supply and demand is a bitch, and sometimes grocery stores don’t carry everything that you’re looking for. So I needed to go back and get the rest.
Grocery store ads are a lie. I went to No Frills in search of this magical 10-pound bag of carrots for $2, but all I found was a huge-ass pile of onions with a small carrot sign off to the side, suggesting that they were once there. I am dubious.
I don’t normally eat a lot of ice cream, but a friend introduced Sarah and I to President Choice’s Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ice Cream, which is sugary-salty crack. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
When half of your tag team is out of commission, you get an entirely new appreciation for everything they do, whether it’s running errands across town, household chores, or simply being able to get up and walk down the block to put something in the mail. It’s like she’s a captive in her own home, so in her place, I add her role to my balancing act of work, family and digital pursuits. Perusing the aisles at the grocery store means less time editing photos. Getting supplies at Babies “R” Us means less time sorting out thoughts for the blog. Bit by bit, the social media shuffle feels less the priority and more something I’m leaving behind to become what I must be next.
Bye Bye, Man About Town — Hello, Daddy Blogger!
I’ve spent three years letting social media know who I am. I’m the guy who’s unafraid to engage a crowd in real discussion, even if someone’s clearly an idiot. Who’s willing to forgo sleep and personal gain to help my friends succeed, believing that we only truly help ourselves when we help the whole improve. And I’m the guy who’s been straight with everyone since Day 1 — the married guy who wants everyone to get along, wishing that we could all just work together to change things for the better.
But egos get in the way. My ego tells me that I’ve worked hard at writing, relationship management and photography to create the blog you see today. I always expect to perform at a certain standard and want to make sure that anyone working with me shares my vision. The egos of other bloggers scream that there’s not enough product, opportunities or exposure out there for everybody, and so we all fight our hardest to be better than the next blogger to prove that we deserve everything we get. I’ve suggested things like group blogging or a blogger consortium before, but it’s been shot down by questions of who gets what and how to make sure everyone contributes their fair share.
Though my current blog’s only been around a couple of years, everything that’s gone into it took years to develop. I’ve built websites since I was 15. I picked up my first camera at 13. My Mom jokes that I started drawing as soon as I came out of the womb!
But if I spend all my time on social media, I won’t have much time left teaching my child about the world that social media’s in. And that’s the real point of parenting, isn’t it?
What Next? What NOW.
So what’s next? I’ve written up a storm. I recently managed to carry out one of my goals in The 2013 100 and end up on the first page of Google results for “Casey” (at least when you’re browsing in Canada). I’m so much further along than I was when I’d started this trek, but I’m not like everyone else. There aren’t many Twitter friends I have who’re married, even fewer with kids, and in the tiny slice of the group that remains, the ones who blog I could count on one hand — two at most.
I’m sailing into largely uncharted territory, trying to play like the other kids do with a completely different set of rules.
But a game I’m still willing to play.
I’m still writing. I’m still striving to make better content every time I put something out, challenging how things currently are and battling for a better breed of human being. A baby isn’t an obstacle — it’s an opportunity. I want to wake up seeing the possibilities for the world around me — not fixate on its problems and simply accept them for what they are.
The journey doesn’t just suddenly stop.
The Dawn of the Daddy Blogger
So, in the end, you can fool yourself all you want, but real life wins. Bills need paying, mouths need feeding, and no one’s gonna hold your hand and do it for you. It’s a real world out there with real issues, and while social media’s good respite from it all, it’s not sustainable living. You need to come out and face the world eventually.
And that’s been my 2013 — maturing from “look at all these things I’ll miss” to “look at all these things waiting for me in my new life!” Social media tools come and go — we went from MySpace to Facebook to Twitter to Google+ to New MySpace (obviously, not all of these did as well as they’d hoped) — but the big, bad world ain’t going nowhere.
So goodbye to 2011 Casey. Goodbye to doing ten tweetchats a week; saying “yes” to every invite that comes my way; to toiling over reviews for products that I could easily just buy myself; or to getting along with people who poison my environment in the name of keeping the peace in the community.
Ain’t nobody got time for all that—it’s time to get my grown man on!
Nobody knows what’s coming next, but I’ll be there, toiling away in the shadows, getting ready for a day where social media and reality are two sides of the same coin.
Until next we meet,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
What keeps you up at night? Worries? Feelings of inadequacy?
I was going to hit the sack a half hour before I started writing this when I decided to check whether Drake’s family had responded to his cut “Too Much” from Nothing Was the Same*. Within minutes, I came across a CRWN interview between Drake and Elliot Wilson on where he’s at, what we can take away from “Too Much”, but what’s maybe most important, how to look at our lives right now.
I’ve been working on blog posts, calculations and tools for ages to show it, but maybe it’s better to just come out and say it — the golden age of blogging is dead. Dead. It was this innovative new thing back when we didn’t have Internet behemoths like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter — but it’s not 2003 anymore. The Internet has changed — drastically — and its consumers crave something more. Something that resonates with them now instead of bloggers playing by rules made by the people who’ve already come and got their money. The bloggers who’ve already moved on to columnist positions, public speaking and TV gigs. The ones who knew that blogging alone wasn’t sustainable and reached for greater heights to avoid getting lumped in with everyone else.
It’s time to think up a new way to play the game.
The Game Has Changed
But that doesn’t mean that people don’t still want to hear stories — people still love stories… but little novellas like the ones I write might not get that message across anymore.
The Internet’s rife with possibility. We have HTML5, CSS3, jQuery and all sorts of other toys to play with to really test the medium — we just need to sit down, rethink how we get that story across, and push the hell out of that envelope**.
**Not that kids will know what an envelope is in another decade or two.
I guess all I’m trying to say is that if you’re trying to reach the top of the game as we know it, have fun — it only has so much longer to go.
New games. New rules. New tools.
It’s time to build a better blogosphere.
Let’s do this.
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
Like a Jay-Z retirement, I wasn’t stepping away from the social media game, but my relationship with it was definitely changing. When I met someone at Friday’s TacoTweetup who asked how many tweetups I’d been to, his eyes bugged out when I answered “I dunno — 100? 150?”
For a while there, Twitter was my life.
When I get into something, I really go deep. I have a live recording from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon of Drake performing “Too Much” from his upcoming Nothing Was the Same album which is currently playing for the 57th time — and it premiered Saturday night (zoom ahead to 5:15 in the video if you want to check it out). So when I found out about a place back in 2010 where I could be as crazy as I wanted and people were happy for it, there was no way I was looking back.
But it was always a juggling act.
The eldest of three boys, I’ve always been the “model son”. Never got in trouble; always did well in school; got a stable job; and married with kid on the way. In many ways, I’m a traditionalist, building a strong foundation so I can make the best of the life I lead.
But the other side of me wants to hit every event, blog on all the things, and live like life has no limit. He shows up to events, cash in one hand and camera in the other — because there’s no moment other than the one you’re in right now, so why not live it to the fullest?
But the longer you spend immersed in social media, the more you learn a simple truth — social media isn’t reality.
Recently, I took a step back from social media to start working on my life away from the computer. It wasn’t a grand exodus, but enough of a change that I could do things like tackle a new job and convert my home office into a nursery. We’ve all got things to do in our lives and choices to make — it was time for me to man up a little and start acting like an adult.
You can only live in Dreamland for so long. Wining and dining in exchange for a few words on social media is a pretty sweet deal, but free meals won’t keep a roof over your head. Many tell themselves that they’re paying their dues — all this face time is merely the path to something better; but it only reminds me of a phrase I was fond of a decade ago:
You need to check yourself before you wreck yourself!
The Cost of Blogging
Everything has a price. Looking at my friend Zach, he’s spent 2013 living A Sponsored Life in a large-scale social experiment, but has to deal with the negative press from those who consider him a freeloader and don’t really get what he’s trying to accomplish. Or how about the numerous times someone takes a pot shot at someone else’s social media snafu, only to have it bite them in the rear end later on?
There, too, is a cost to blogging.
With my blog, after years of trying to build something meaningful, I finally started feeling like I’d carved something I could call my own — but there’s a constant battle I’m fighting; the one where if I take one step too far in the wrong direction, I’m in danger of selling out everything I believe in. I’ve been blessed to receive so much over the years, and to have access to so many opportunities — but if you forget who you are, all of it can change you.
And not for the better.
But the pitches pile up, the handshakes happen, and for every post you write to chat on something that landed at your doorstep, that’s two you’re writing to show that there’s still a heart beating in your chest. You become your own worst enemy, trying to keep up with an editorial calendar out of control — with you smack in the middle.
Not the most sustainable lifestyle.
So I took a step back to take stock of my life. I took a look at the job I’m fighting the odds to excel at, because I don’t see failure as an option. I look at my wife and the new life that she’s mere months from bringing into this world and the new adventure we’ll be travelling. I look at friendships in need of care and repair, left neglected while I started too hard in the wrong direction.
Blogging ain’t everything and I’d do well to remember that.
Will the Real Casey Palmer Please Stand Up?
So in the meantime, you’ll need to bear with me. I still want to hit all the places and do all the things — but Daddy Casey comes first. White Collar Casey comes first. Husband Casey comes first. There’s so much I need to be other than a blogger — and without these, blogging wouldn’t be everything at all — it’d be nothing without a story to tell.
And no one wants that.
Until the next time,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
Have you ever done something for ages, suddenly realizing that you’ve been branded with a term that either sells you short or diminishes what you really are? Michael Jordan would eventually try different hats a coach, actor, baseball player and ultimately a very successful businessman, but most people will automatically think of his time dominating on the Chicago Bulls, helping lead the team to 6 championships. No one laughs at his star power now, but to anyone witha few decades under their belt, they still remember Justin Timberlake’s time as the front-runner of ★NSYNC, the ultra-poppy boy band that serves as direct competition for the Backstreet Boys.
I can’t help but think that one day I’ll look at the path behind me and think of blogging in the very same way.
Blogging in Toronto is a Full-Time Gig
Don’t doubt it for a moment — blogging in Toronto is a business unto itself. In a city that’s all too used to being taken less seriously than their neighbours just across the lake, Torontonians work themselves to the bone in response, all to get noticed. Even before we entered the questionable economy that we’re stuck in now, all it took was a look at a Super Bowl Sunday or New York skyline to understand that Toronto wasn’t nearly as flush with marketing dollars as similar industries in American cities. Toronto bloggers maybe vocal, but are fish in a much smaller pond, spreading their message to fewer eyes and ears. It’s a challenging struggle getting through all the white noise of the Internet!
You’ll seldom find anyone who’s just a blogger — Christine’s a digital media specialist; Val runs a PR company; and even though his approach can be somewhat unorthodox at times, before Zach decided to spend a year without a decent bed, he spent his time working as an ambassador for a multitude of brands and freelancing. I see so many bloggers out there writing blog as a side hustle to something else that’s really putting food on the table — most often involving social media, marketing or public speaking from what I’ve seen.
Blogging ain’t easy. The market’s a lot more saturated now that it was back when I casually started in summer 2002, but the bar for creating a solid blog is set so high that writing one for anything other than purely personal reasons means facing very diminished returns for quite some time. But for many bloggers, it’s not about exposure — it’s about carving out the opportunity to experience parts of the world that you might not have seen otherwise, and building your own vehicle to live your dreams, whatever they might be.
It’s news to no one that yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the Great March on Washington, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech that’s forever etched in the collective history of our species. Much has happened in the half-century since, one notable thing being the technological developments that got us to a point where everybody’s more convinced than ever that they can achieve their dreams. In many ways, a blog is a stepping stone to that — a dream you’re trying to reach.
However, the problems come when you don’t know what that dream is.
Casey in Bloggerland
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
It’s not like we all sold out.
Not intentionally, at least.
The world of social media is a dangerously addictive one, luring you in with a taste of free food, alcohol and swag. They’re not asking much — you just need to spread the word. But you see others doing it and the rewards they’re getting, so you work a little harder. And then a little more. And a little more.
When you ford blindly through the darkness, simply writing for the sake of writing without taking the time to figure out what makes you tick first, blindly going so far down the blogging rabbit hole that you can no longer see what direction you’re travelling for lack of a torch — it gets a little difficult to figure out who the heck you are. That’s where I’m writing this from — somewhere deep in the burrow, trying to figure out what’s next.
Some would argue that you could simply drop the blog and move on. That if it causes so much stress and anxiety over making it good, perhaps I should go find something else that makes me happy. That I have nothing to prove, and that I’ve accomplished enough in my life that I should stand proud of everything I’ve pulled off so far, and I should ease back in preparation for the next phase of my life.
And hearing this tell me that these are the people who don’t really get it.
I look at the content some of my peers put out from time to time and wonder how they do it. How do you post daily when you’re posting about nothing? How do you continually post about the same things as everyone else and not get bored? How are you satisfied with just being a blogger, when there’s so much more out there?
My blog is a labour of love — the ultimate representation of everything that is me. I’ve learned over time that while content is king and you can captivate audiences with social media, but memories are short. You may have written thousands of posts, but unless you find a good way to keep old stuff relevant, everyone’s always looking to see what your next trick is. Soon enough, you’re not just a blogger anymore. Maybe you venture into photography. Or being a brand ambassador. Or videography, podcasting or consulting. Maybe you start building your portfolio and your life in social media starts to develop its own unique flavour. Is that when you step away? When you’ve poured so much into something that it may as well be part of you? When my son grows up and wants to follow his dreams, what sort of father would I be if I didn’t pursue mine?
I’m Not a Blogger, I Just Talk a Lot.
This post took me weeks to write. I tried to write it looking at what’s going on in my head as we enter Sarah’s third trimester of pregnancy and the major life change that’s just around the bend. I tried looking hard at the lists upon lists of things to do in the next few months. I felt drained and that I’d written all I could write, but I was wrong.
Originally, I put “I’m not a blogger, I just talk a lot” as a joke, riffing off Big Pun’s classic line from 1998’s “I’m Not a Player”. (And if “I’m not a player, I just crush a lot” doesn’t ring a bell to you, you have some catching up to do!) But the longer I kept it up, the more questions it raised — what is a blogger? Had I finally become one? And — was being a blogger holding me back from so much else in my life?
Perhaps I’m just a guy with a blog. Blogging’s not a full-time gig for me like it is for so many of my peers. In a recent chat with Zach, he touched on something that I hadn’t put words to — that I tend to over-think things. Everything I write has to have purpose. Everything I do needs to be perfect. Rather than swing 10 times and hit once, I try for a perfect batting average every time I’m up to bat.
Because I can afford to.
I’m not a blogger — I’m someone who blogs in their free time, passionate about telling the best stories I possibly can. I’m not just a web designer — I’m someone with a vision, using the tools around me to show the world the ideas rattling in my head. I’m not just a photographer, social medialite or a coder — these are all skills and abilities I’ve picked up on the side to supplement this interesting second life I’ve established for myself.
The point is this — I’m not just a blogger. None of are “just” anything — I’ m innumerable things — a Torontonian, a white-collar worker, a bureaucrat, a writer, a father-to-be, an athlete, a foodie-in-training, a husband, a son, a brother, a technophile, an advisor, a hip-hop head — but ultimately, they’re all just different parts of who I am. I need to combine these things to tell my story. I need to continue developing every facet of my life to define my truth that’s important to me, and make sure that everything I do aligns with that core essence of who I am.
I’m one person, doing all he can to tell his story.
Shouldn’t that be what we all strive for?
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
I’ve been stuck in a rut for who knows how long, and it’s been getting harder to hide. My blogs grow increasingly critical of the blogging industry around me; I find it harder to put a solid post together now than in times past; and I just feel like I’m dragging my heels, lethargic and unable to keep up with my peers that are doing some fantastic things. I even spoke with a friend about whether I’d already peaked and now faced what looked to be a life of utter normalcy.
Turns out I was just looking at my life all wrong.
The Missing Ingredient
July 15th marked my 30th birthday, and I was happy to mark it with a few changes:
After years of badgering by family and friends, I finally got my driver’s licence — and in style, behind the wheel of a 2011 Ford Edge Select, which I’ve enjoyed taking for spins around Toronto so far
I held my second annual DoomzDay birthday party on the 19th, and while the night ended less than optimally by losing my wallet and testing my tolerance for tequila (yet again), I was surrounded by family and friends as I prepared to take one of the most significant leaps of my life in only a handful of months
I heard the stories of other 30-year-olds still living with their parents and working minimum-wage jobs, feeling blessed to have a steady job, be in a healthy marriage, own property and readying myself for the magical challenge journey of fatherhood
I’m known for my luck, and there’s a lot of good in my life — so why did I feel like I was all out of steam with nothing left to give?
It wouldn’t come to me until I started reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It!, which Sarah gave me as part of my birthday gift. It was nothing new — it was a simple point that we’ve all known since forever, but dutifully ignore it to fit in. And that point is this: we do best when we do what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re all coded differently — we all have things we enjoy and things we dread; things we’re fantastic at and others we’ll suck at no matter how hard we try. And when you find the thing you’re born to do, and you pour your blood, sweat and tears into it — they say no matter how much you work at it, it doesn’t feel like work at all.
It feels like fun.
Everyone. Stop the presses! We’ve forgotten how to have FUN!!!
Why We Do Social Media Wrong. So Very, Very Wrong.
I remember being sad the day after DoomzDay that I didn’t have quite the turnout that I did last year. With a storm watch afoot following in the heels of Stormageddon 2013 and three-hour delay, it was enough to slice the attendance to half of what I’d anticipated. I’d put months into promotion, planning, developing a playlist, scouting locations — I wanted it to come off just right.
Does any of this sound fun to you? It’s supposed to be a celebration — how’s stressing over every little detail going to make me enjoy my party any more?
And that’s only the beginning — let’s take a look at social media in general.
So much happened, and all people asked of me was to write about it. Take photos. Spread the word on social media. Which all works… for a while.
It doesn’t take long before you start figuring out who the “big names” are in the industry and start getting a taste of the green-eyed monster as you look at their lives:
“They got a free trip to where?”
“They got to drive what?”
“Who gave them a free which?!”
And it’s not long before that envy turns ugly, with those feelings showing up in the conversations you have with your peers:
“They don’t deserve that. They don’t even fit the image of what that brand should be looking for!”
“I’m good at what I do — why don’t they pick me?”
“I heard they had to do this and this to get that and that!”
The lessons we learned about envy, gossip, grudges and spite as kids are the same ones we learned as teens and the same ones that apply to us now:
When we wish ill on others, it only hurts ourselves
You never get ahead when you use all your energy worrying about someone else, and
When you spend so much time welling all that negativity up in yourself, you leave so little room for positivity and actually enjoying everything that life has to offer you.
So what does this all mean?
I’m 30. I’ve been building websites half my life and blogging for a third of it. I know the importance of SEO, promotion, good writing and robust multimedia. I know that you need to stay authentic to stay relevant.
But I also know how easy it is to lose your way. To forget why it is you do what you do. To get so caught up in the minutiae of what others say you need for a great blog, and forget that your blog is simply the best representation of you and what you offer to the world!
Happy Birthday, Mr. Palmer
I am not my content — my content is part of my story.
I’ll still look at things to review, read the books, try the food and go to all the places. I’ll try new things and find new ways to integrate all of them into my life.
But if I don’t remember to have fun while doing it, I haven’t learned a damn thing.
I’m going to worry less about the page views and more about the stories. Less about the Klout scores and more about the feelings. Less about how many comments I get, and more about whether the blogs I write energise me enough to write more. Because I haven’t peaked. I haven’t quit. This isn’t the end of my life’s road — I’m only just merging onto the highway.
Happy belated, Casey Palmer — welcome to the rest of your life.
HYFR and YOLO,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands: