WHAT YOU MISSED (Vegas Edition) — Being a #BiSC-uit: A Weekend That Changes EVERYTHING

A whole group of BiSC-uits dressed up for the White Party at BiSC 2013!
Photo courtesy of San.

Sometimes you just won’t recognize something that’s been missing in your life until you experience it.

I’ve been back in Toronto a few days now after almost a week spent in the crazy of Las Vegas — but I haven’t blogged. I haven’t felt the urge to get back in the mix and put my blood, sweat and tears into my content… not unless I was ready to chance everything and start to write stuff that lives up to my potential. That week in Vegas — much of it spent at Bloggers in Sin City (BiSC) — returned something to me that I didn’t know I was missing. It gave me something that makes me look at the world around me in a different way, and changes what I’m trying to accomplish with everything I do.

It gave me hope.

BECOMING A BETTER BLOGGER: Square Peg, Round Hole

A complex drawing I made back in 1999.
There was a time where I realized that creating anything that was worth it would need a WHOLE lot of work. I mustn’t forget this.

Blogging is a hustle. It requires you mind, heart and soul to produce content and have it truly reflect who you are. With so many bloggers out there, you’re unlikely to see any returns from your writing without a lot of effort and a lot of time. Building a blog is a labour of love, and you need to mould it into something outstanding. But if you’re a blogger putting content out and relying on consistent frequency and not consistent quality, I’m sorry, but you’re doing blogging wrong.

Is Consistency King?

These past few years of immersion in social media haven’t been passive for me. On top of all the events, the tweets and the new relationships I’ve developed over that time, I’ve attended many webinars and conferences; read ebooks and blogs; and spoken with many “thought leaders” about social media and being successful with it.

Much of it points to the same thing — be consistent with your content. Let your audience know when to expect the next instalment so they’re subconsciously ready for it. Expectation is key.

And I agree — I’d love to move to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday format, putting content out at 9 every morning, ready for all the people who want some content to consume before they start their busy days. But that’s not going to happen.

Not yet, anyway.

Thirst vs. Truth

I’m a mix of a few things when it comes to my blog — a realist, impatient, and an ambitious perfectionist.

My realist side knows that there’s only so many hours in a day, and that blogging isn’t my top priority. My marriage; my relationship with family and friends; and maintaining enough income to support my lifestyle (among others) far outrank it, so I must be realistic about how much time I can put toward my blog.

My impatient side, however, wants to see this change. It wants importance now. It wants to make blogging a higher priority and for all of it to amount to something today — to call his own shots and be seen as some authority in some industry somewhere. He has no plan (he hates planning) and wants everything to happen immediately, without fully realizing how much work it takes for anyone to get anywhere.

Especially in social media.

But it’s the ambitious perfectionist side of me that’s really running the show. He refuses to release content until he’s added tags to the images; scanned the text to make sure it delivers as powerfully as possible; and feel like it’s the best possible effort that he could put out. Sure, he’d like to put content out regularly, but to him, blogging is an art form and he’s not about to compromise it by trying to force something mediocre out to try to hit an arbitrary schedule.

And that’s where I see the problem — too many bloggers are using an outdated rulebook and focusing on hitting that schedule without making sure that what they’re putting out is the very best that they can produce.

Quality Over Quantity — Every. Single. Time.

Crosswordmania 2008
We can’t accomplish anything that’s worth it overnight — just ask the ridiculous amount of crosswords, Sudokus and other word and number puzzles I solved to try to hone my brain!

Blogs have been around for well over a decade, and it’s not like the market for people’s attention has shrunk since then. If you want to make an impact, you’ve got to give people a reason to want to pay attention to you. Engagement isn’t a natural by-product of creating content consistently — you have to earn it by making stuff that you stand behind. That you’re passionate about. That you believe in.

And you won’t get that if you half-ass your craft to hit a quota.

To those of you who’ve managed to balance quality and frequency, I applaud you. You invest the time, you don’t cut corners, but your time management skills are stupendous enough to keep it consistent. You are the type of bloggers we need to aspire to become if we ever want blogging to get the respect we so obviously crave.

To everyone else — it’s time to wake up; mediocrity isn’t going to cut it anymore. The Internet is flooded with content — most of it mediocre — and convincing an already-swamped audience that you’re the person to listen to will need info and content with the highest calibre of authority, entertainment and value available to them. It’s like I said before — stand for something or you’ll fall for anything, and guess what:

if you don’t step your game up, you’ll definitely be falling behind.

–case p.

Tragedy and a Lesson in Moving On — The Boston Marathon Bombings

The now-famous video frame that shows one of the bombs detonating at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Source: Stringer/Reuters

What do we do in the face of tragedy? Do we stop everything we do to remember the victims, or do we work even harder to honour them?

The answer, it turns out, isn’t so simple.

Do We Move On or Do We Remember?

Ever since the Boston Marathon bombings a few days back, I haven’t been overly keen to blog. I’d written a post about blogging — about how people choose to sacrifice quality for quantity when it comes to blogging and why they needed to change the entire idea of how we blog. I’d actually written all weekend, on topics like my February trip to Las Vegas, a look at the future, and a number of the events I’ve been to as of late.

But none of it felt right. None of it felt like the stuff I should be blogging about, considering that others had it so much worse off than I did. It felt — empty, maybe. Like the things I planned to blog about didn’t hold enough meaning to share them with others. Much of what I’d planned to blog about suddenly felt tasteless. The things I was passionate about moments before didn’t interest me anymore.

And so, I slowed down for a bit. For the second time in as many weeks, I found myself in a state of self-analysis, trying to figure out why it is that I do what I do.

We all respond to tragedies in different ways. Some of us internalize that pain, empathize and cope with it by ourselves. Some of us work hard to prove that we’re still alive and won’t let the ills of the world get us down. There’re any of a multitude of coping mechanisms we use to try to get past acts like this, but there’s something it gives you, if even for the briefest of moments — perspective. A tragedy like this gives everyone the chance to reflect on what’s actually important.

Problems Without Solutions

I’m a problem solver — I like to look at a situation and try to figure out what the best possible outcome is, and I’ve gotten pretty decent at it. But the problems that really matter in this world are bigger than any one person: hunger, greed, war, disease, violence… it feels at times like the world is sinking and there’s no purchase for us to climb out of the pit.

I’m a problem solver. When someone has an issue come up in their lives, my first reaction is to try to come up with a solution (much to Sarah’s chagrin when she just wants to vent). My brain works a mile a minute, trying to connect dots and figure out what I can do to make things better.

But some problems are too big to easily find their solutions. Things like war, hunger, poverty — or yes, senseless acts of violence — are things that have been around for generations, and one should not expect to find a solution for them overnight. We can share ideas, volunteer and donate — but many of these are Band-Aid solutions that don’t address the real issues that allow these things to keep happening:

Ourselves and our attitudes toward the world we live in.

So I took to my notebook and tried to rationalize what was going on. I started writing what you’re reading now — what the things I’ve seen and read about these past few days has me thinking about. Processing the negative and trying to turn it into something positive. Something to make this world a little better — even if only for a moment.

Pulling the Band-Aid Off

In the end, I decided it was due time to get back to the grind and do what I do best. We can’t stop our lives for every tragedy that happens or we’d never get anything done. At the same time, we should never forget that these tragedies happened, nor forget the victims that endured them. The world’s a big place — and it’s not all good. Many of us are simply going through the motions day by day as we try to make sense of it all and find our place. And while we still need to solve the equation for world peace, what I do know is this — we won’t find it without waking up, caring a little more about each other, and choosing more actions that benefit our communities and not just ourselves.

From ABC News: “A runner tapes a sign combining a Boston Red Sox logo with a yellow ribbon on a corner street post where Massachusetts Street intersects another roadway, April 15, 2013, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)”

Make the world you want to live in.

–case p.

Paying Dues — Stand for Something or Fall for Anything

Sign: "I'm lost. I've gone to look for myself. If I should return before I get back, please ask me to wait."
Sometimes you must step outside of yourself to really see what you’re doing.

“Everybody wanna be a star, don’t wanna be who they are.”

— Beanie Sigel, “Everybody Wanna Be A Star”, The Truth (2000)

You can get sucked into the game faster than you can blink.

Build an audience and people will start knocking at your door. Brands, would-be collaborators, haters — making yourself visible for all to see will make you a target for all sorts of attention, like it or not.

But never forget what they came for in the first place.

We’re Bringin’ Blogging Back — YUP!!!

The blogger brand’s diluted. Everyone’s fighting for the same piece of pie and many bloggers are more than happy to do whatever it takes to stand out and go home with the biggest morsels. Some of us fight to keep our integrity, but often feel like integrity doesn’t pay. Commissions pay. Sponsored and affiliate posts pay. But at the same time, if you don’t do it right, they can take away from your brand  and everything that you stand for.

Many of us follow the same formula. Sure, we might tweak it — add a personal touch here, an amusing anecdote there — but ultimately, there’s a finite number of opportunities for a finite number of players, all who’re learning from each other how to keep those opportunities coming.

It’s all too easy to lose your way. I love a good event — the chance to practice photography with interesting subjects and to experience things that I wouldn’t otherwise. When brands send me on experiences because they want to see my words and understand my take on it, I’m honoured and flattered. But if I don’t keep a balance between event/product reviews and posts about what I’m really thinking, not only am I alienating my audience, I’m not being true to myself.

So where’s the sweet spot between integrity, relevancy and profitability?

Why Blog If You Can’t Keep It Real?

Cheryl Lynn had it right back in the 70s — “Got to be real!” And in keeping it real — it’s not easy to feed mouths from blogging alone. People are skeptical — selling stuff to people over the Internet takes an insane amount of charisma and influences; not just anyone can separate people from their hard-earned dollars. And being even more real, what incentive do many bloggers out there offer brands to trust them with the products and images that they’ve poured millions into? The idea of free labour and an engaged audience might seem like an attractive package to offer from a blogger’s perspective, but your following of a few thousand is nothing compared to the millions consuming TV, magazines, movies, etc.

If you don’t stand for anything — if all you do is parroting what other bloggers are doing and hoping to get the same success, you’ll soon find that first impression are the only ones to make impressions — you can’t pull the same stunt twice on the Internet and expect it to stick; people are always looking for the next thing. You are not the next social media darling. You are not the next big-time blogger. You’re the next you — what is it that you can do that no one else can?

 Going Back to Myself

In the end, this is my promise. I will stand for a higher standard. I will work to stand out from the crowd not through elitism, but through telling a story and sharing thoughts that improve the world, not simply beat to the rhythm it already has. I will challenge things and ask the hard questions. I will be a blogger — and not just a mouthpiece.

Stand for something or fall for anything. The world’s waiting for you to be yourself — why be the next whoever or act like everybody else? Show us what makes you different, and the world might start paying attention!

–case p.

DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE TIME… I worked at Screemers?

There are some of us in the world who don’t really have a “bucket list” or anything like that. I haven’t really made a list of things I’d like to do before I die; I don’t have anything I’m seriously willing to give a kidney for — I just live life and enjoy whatever it happens to throw my way.

And sometimes, life throws me experiences that make me do a double-take. Like the time I became a cast member (or a “haunter”) at Screemers Haunted Theme Park!

To Scare or Not to Scare?

I almost didn’t go to Screemers’ Night Out at first — it was the same night that I was supposed to head up to Collingwood for an annual chalet retreat, and haunted houses have never been my thing. I just don’t scare easily! But I read through the email that Jamie had sent me as way of an invite (to Toronto’s “spookiest bloggers”, though I’m still at a loss for what that means exactly…), and I realized that this would be a little different from your typical event — I wasn’t there to give the haunters their best shot at scaring the pants off of me…

…I would be DOING the scaring!

 Life is the sum of our experiences, this is true — but it’s the unique experiences that really stand out! And while working at a haunted house is never something that’d ever been on my radar (I mean, let’s be serious — I’ve spent the last decade in office jobs; you can’t get any more “normal”), there was no way I was about to pass up permission to scare the hell out of people!

And Scare I Did!!!

It was pretty cool — after some quick makeup and airbrushing in the rear “haunters’ dressing room” and changing into an orange jumpsuit (with blood spatters added for extra effect), I was ready to scare some unsuspecting humans!!!

So I guess I was expected to go scare people for a few minutes to get a feel for what it’s like to be a haunter at Screemers, but I got a little carried away…

The bar at Screemers' Night Out
This… would be the start of many bad things.

Yeah… the free Molson Canadian and Jägermeister really only helped to get me more amped up to mess with people’s heads — and while I started in the front of the Asylum, popping up from behind a window to scare people, I quickly learned some lessons from my more seasoned coworkers:

1. No one’s scared of zombies

Sure, you can announce yourself with a loud growl and slowly move toward them, but that won’t really instil fear in people — just initial surprise that quickly peters off.

2. Location, location, location!

My scare potential totally skyrocketed when I changed locations to the second half of the Asylum — a maze of mirrors and prison bars washed in pulsing strobe lights! But location was a lead-in to the third lesson…

3. Fear is PSYCHOLOGICAL

A creepy grin and utter silence will do more than a single growl and low moan ever will — and it’s better for your throat in the long run!

What I’d learn most is that the unknown is what will drive people crazy. Banging noises from unseen sources and threats laid out in the open but not knowing what they’ll do next — these freak people out. Getting through something like Screemers is a testament to your sanity more so than anything else as they slowly try to chip away at it!

In short, it was awesome.

In closing…

In the end, I was broken out of my trance when Val, Zach, Tiff and her fiancé Ryan crossed my path and recognized me — just as well, because I was being summoned to make my way up to the chalet!

L-R: Tiff, ZOMBIE DOOMZ, Jamie, Val
L-R: Tiff, ZOMBIE DOOMZ, Jamie, Val

Thanks go out to Jamie and Screemers for a fun-filled night of moistening pants!

But you didn’t think I was going to let my wife and our friends get away with cutting my fun short, did you???

Haunting Knows No Bounds

The makeup goes on easily enough, but with the dress room only having a dinky little washroom, there’s no way it was coming off very easily!

So, with my friend Trevor in tow, I made my way home by TTC with the makeup still on.

This in itself closed the night with three last stories:

  • A hospital worker thought I had been grievously injured at the Canada vs Cuba game that Trevor had gone to and offered to give me emergency first aid for my cuts and scrapes. She felt pretty dumb after I explained that it was only makeup….
  • When we got back home, as planned, Trevor went in first to Sarah in the front room to let her know I was running a little late. I let a couple of minutes pass, crept up to the window and BANGED on it, making a gruesome face. I’ve never heard Sarah scream so loud in my life!!!
  • Finally, we got up to the chalet and I darted over to the entrance. Rapping hard on the door a few times, I waited there with a hood over my head, when who should answer — Trevor’s wife Sakshi! Yanking the hood back and giving a triumphant growl, well — let’s just say that Sakshi screamed even louder than Sarah did!

Best. Night. Ever.

Don’t believe me? Check out stories from Tammy BurnsPam MacNaughtanCamilla Cicconetti or the official Storify Overview of the Night.

So that was my Friday night. Who can top it?

–case p.

Why Blog if You Can’t Keep it Real?

If you can’t keep it real, why the heck are you blogging, anyway??? Last night was the first night I’d had off in a while to do something other than work. I don’t know how we get so wrapped up in our jobs — okay, that’s a lie, I totally do: it’s all a response to worry and fear. The worry that if we fail to do a good job that we’ll wind up on the street, unable to sustain our lives. The fear that comes with the possibility of failure and the horrors that could happen due to us not living up to expectations. Though I’m still convinced of a saying that I came up with last year:

“Jobs need people more than people need jobs.”

Call me a liar if you want, but I’m convinced of this. If we didn’t try so hard to keep up with multiple Joneses, live beyond our means and keep up appearances to the world around us (who mostly don’t really care too much about us as individuals, so in effect, we do a lot of this for no reason whatsoever…) — we could settle for jobs that pay less, provide less hours, but possibly afford more happiness. With Toronto having the high cost of living that it does and the very visible homelessness problem (in its downtown core especially) that it does, there’s no way I’d wish to be unemployed, but balance is a must. Which brings me to here — trying to get in the rhythm of blogging again. You may or may not have noticed I changed the tagline of my site to:

“I’m not a blogger, I just talk a lot.”

Completely true. Ask any “popular” blogger about how they approach their craft, and they’ll likely tell you about the time and effort that goes into keeping a blog fresh, from using editorial calendars, spending hours working on and scheduling posts, and generally approaching the entire art of blogging as if it were a second job. But I hate planning. Sarah’s always taking care of the planning in our marriage because I’m so horrible at it. I’m the spontaneous one. The doer. I don’t think — I prefer to just get something out of the way and move on to the next thing. Apparently personality tests completely agree that this is the way my brain is hard-wired. (I’m an ENTP in my Myers-Briggs assessment if that means anything to you.) This is why I’m way more inclined to use Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to get my ideas out. It’s instantaneous. It’s quick. It matches the speed at which thoughts come to me a little more closely. But there has to be some reason to blog, right? I suppose when it all comes down to it — we all want somewhere where we can share the stories of our lives, and furthermore, somewhere where people will actually care about our existence. By and large, the Internet is a vast and boring place. We’re in a day and age where if we have an Internet connection, we’ve seen much of everything. You could discover more through YouTube, Wikipedia and social media in the last half a decade than you could through any encyclopedia in the years before. So when you see these niche blogs on things like tech, fashion or whatever other material goods — they’re great and all, but you rarely get any sense of feeling from them. No personality. No connection with the reader. There’s nothing that makes most blogs more real than any other blog — they end up just being words on the screen rather than a reflection of the writer providing them. And in my opinion, if you can’t keep it real, you don’t have a story to tell. But in a world where we share our thoughts in little bite-sized chunks and at a quicker pace than ever before… is there even a place for blogging anymore? This is the conundrum I came across — I was looking at my blog the other day and I thought — “I’m bored with this. I write a bunch of stuff, but I don’t care enough about it to finish what I started.” It’s not like it’s the first time it’s happened, either. My blogs in the past — and I’m pretty sure the same could be said for most people’s blogs — have died off because I didn’t feel connected to my content. I think I said it best when I told Jelani and Bess about my predicament:

“I’m writing like a news reporter looking in on my life, rather than writing like the guy living my life.”

Yeah, well that can’t happen anymore. Writing about only the events that pass in my life is lopsided. It’s like having a newspaper that only covers current events, without any of the columns and Op-Ed pieces that keep readers coming back. So even if I’m not really a blogger; even if I like the spontaneity and freedom of keeping my thoughts in bite-sized chunks of 140 or 63,206 characters (alright, Facebook’s not so bite-sized anymore) — it looks like I’m going to keep blogging for the simple reason that I like to write. Despite the fact that I lead an active social life, hitting up dinners with friends, tweet ups and learning conferences; despite the overly-busy work schedule that often just sees me coming home to pas out and do it all over again the next day; despite the fact that I’m using up most of my time for one thing or another, I still — like most people — feel like I want people to hear my story. So here I am, world. I hope your eyes are open, because I’ve got a lot to say!

–case p.

The 2K11 24/7 LXIV: Spelling, Blogging and Skills, oh my!

Spelling is important. I don’t care if you don’t care about how you spell – SPELLING IS IMPORTANT. And grammar? Oh you’d better BELIEVE that grammar is too! If so many people didn’t botch it up, we wouldn’t have people like Grammar Girl or posts dedicated to people being irked by people publishing online while being unable to spell correctly.

I BESEECH you to make an effort to spell correctly. Here’s my comments on a few of the errors I see constantly that make me squirrely:

  • “Definitely” has no “a” in it. Anywhere. At all. Amazing, no?
  • “Sneak peek” are two words that rhyme. Surprisingly, rhyming words do not have to be spelled with similar endings! So “sneak peak” and “sneek peek” ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE. 
  • The ever-prevalent confusion of your/you’re and they’re/their/there. You need to stop it. Now. This will straighten you out BUT good. 

It’s impossible to capture all of this madness in one post, but I hope that one day by the year’s end, I can produce something to contribute to making it a little less common!

It’s good to have people who keep you accountable when you’re blogging – to make sure that you’re putting quality content out into the bllogosphere, that your spelling’s correct… I suppose in short that they make sure that your blog continues to improve and thrive. NJ does this for me, sometimes – makes sure that I’m not totally screwing up each and every day. Thanks for that!

Other people have blog alliances, where they agree to support one another through advice, feedback and comments; there’s online forums where those of similar backgrounds can come together to share their thoughts and ideas. Gotta do what you can with what you have!

So there’s a ton of awesomeness coming up, but you’ll see more of that in my other blog. Until then, I have games to play and snacks to eat!

I’m out!

–case p.

64/365

The 2K11 24/7 XXXIX: Less Talk, More Action!!!

You can talk all you want about the things you intend to do, but it’s meaningless unless you actually do anything about it! I definitely want to get the schedule for this blog back on track — the last while has seen me getting posts in with minutes to spare before midnight, and that’s not a practice I want to see becoming a regularity for my blog. The more I can get done ahead of time, the more time I can spend working on getting the blog more exposure, giving it a crisper look and making sure that it’s nothing short of a genuine, 100% effort at good blogging! So here I am, getting my ideas on paper (so to speak) so I can get back to getting quality posts about quality topics without worrying about missing anything due to last-minute rushes. I’ve been crafting this one in particular since what I’m told are the “wee hours” of the morning (though I do this so often that it just seems to be “normal hours of operation”, in my opinion) working on a few entries to get a handle on the flow of the blog. I’m thinking that it’ll be easiest if I ferry my ideas between a text file on my laptop and an ongoing email on my BlackBerry. I can make this work 🙂

So what’s keeping our protagonist up on an early Tuesday morning?

Entry 0001: Genesis.

Okay, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

So I’ve promised for a while that I’d start a new blog with a new direction. But I had to stop and think about that one—there’s how many blogs on the Internet already about people and their lives that nobody really care about? I mean, sure, many people of “Generation Please-Attach-a-Letter-Here-so-Social-Scientists-Can-Better-Label-Us” probably have multiple blogs:

  • The blog they use to keep up on downloads from other blogs.
  • Or the blog they use to trick their parents into thinking that they lead a wholesome, trouble-free life.
  • How about the blog they keep on lock down to get all emo with—whining, crying, moaning, groaning, all the fun stuff!

This won’t be any of those.

I was looking at my bank account balance one day, and found myself trying to figure out where the hell all my money had gone. It really doesn’t help that I do enough of my transactions in cash so I can stash the change away for a rainy day.

So then it came to me! It was a glorious moment in the shower, and I nearly slipped and killed myself, but I’m okay, I swear! I need to make a blog about my life. A blog where I can rate and track what the hell happened, since I obviously don’t know. All the crap I buy, the places I eat, the stuff I read! Yes. Yes, this will be excellent.

Stay tuned, all!

–case p.


P.S. Mom and Dad, as you’ll probably come across this blog as I grow in popularity and stature, yup, it’s pretty much all true. But don’t worry. If you have come across this, I’m probably reasonably wealthy by this point, so you don’t really have to worry.