The 2019 Wrap-Up: Design of a Decade

β€œReality tells you what youΒ can’t do.”

β€” Rick Rubin on HBO’s The Shop: Uninterrupted, Season 2, Episode 4

It’s theΒ end of aΒ decade, and I can’t help but reflect on where I amΒ now versus where I was back in December 2009.

The 2019 Wrap-Up β€” Design of a Decade β€” Looking Back

ThisΒ entire decade, pretty much, has been the balancing act between the blog, the family, and the day-to-day work as a public servant for Ontario.

Back then, I’d just started my first job out of the Ontario Internship Program, putting my time and energy into that and the time I spent with Sarah. I didn’t even really useΒ Facebook at the time, much less everything I’d get up to on Twitter just a yearΒ laterβ€”the world I spend all this time on now as a Canadian Dad was utterlyΒ inconceivable to me back then, because so much less was on theΒ line. Nor was I married. Or had anyΒ kids. So many of the things thatΒ make me a better man and keep me coming back to do the best that IΒ can for all that are things I wouldn’t appreciate until IΒ had them.

But a decade later, my friend Ramy put it to me bestβ€”the more you do something, the more your capacity grows to take on evenΒ more, and that’s the mentality I’m keeping with me as I get ready for 2020. Work smarter. Plan better. Make better decisions. I’ve comeΒ this far this last decade while doing whatever I wanted and getting better at it along the way. But you eventually hit a point where that just doesn’tΒ cut it anymore, and in 2020, I think I’ll finally learn whatΒ I’m made of.

LESSON ONE: Success is More Than Just a Number on a Screen

One thing I can tell you that separates the me today from the person I was aΒ decade ago is that IΒ think differently.

When IΒ started this blogger journey, I treated success like it was a quantifiable measure. That I was the sum of the followers I had. Or that I should measure my happiness by the number of comments I got on my work. I would chase after engagement rates, post frequencies and Domain Authority scores, thinking that they were theΒ keys to my success, but what I understandΒ now is that they’re all just indicative of something muchΒ larger at play.

It goes back to what I’ve been saying all alongβ€”the medium doesn’tΒ matter if you’ve got an amazingΒ story to tell.

The 2019 Wrap-Up β€” Design of a Decade β€” Flying for My Hopes and Dreams

When I took a break from creating as intensely as IΒ usually did in the last few months of the decade, it made me understand that it was what I probably should’ve been doing allΒ alongβ€”taking the time to make my workΒ great instead of justΒ good. You get used to trying so hard to beΒ first or trying to be onΒ trend that you forget that great workΒ usually doesn’t just pop out of thin air. If you don’t spend the time andΒ nurture it, you’re only doingΒ yourself a disservice.

What that sweat equity looks like forΒ me is bleeding pens dry. Blazing through as many notebooks as I can. I’m trying to spin gold from a dining room table full of strawΒ every night, and as much as itΒ pains some right now to see me work as hard as I do, IΒ keep doing it because I know there are higher heights I can reach if IΒ try.

The Life and Times of Casey Palmer β€” The State of the #BloggerLife, September 2018 β€” Go Out with a BANG.

The hardest part of creating great content is figuring out where all the pieces go.

The Life and Times of Casey Palmer β€” The State of the #BloggerLife, September 2018 β€” Go Out with a BANG. β€” LEGO Pieces

The job of a great storyteller is creating a compelling narrative from beginning to end. No fluff to lose your audience’s attention. No ambiguity so they miss the point. A great storyteller uses every tool at their disposal to tell tales thatΒ stayΒ with people long after they hear them.

And it’s rareβ€”with blogging, most creators only think a post at a time. They pat themselves on the back for a job well done when they knock a story out of the park.

But there’s a muchΒ bigger story at handβ€”that massive overarching story that started when you shared your very first piece of content with the world and that you’re still developing even as you hustleΒ today.

Maybe it was when you first became a parent and started jotting all your thoughts as your whole world changed around you. For others, it’s that proud moment theyΒ finally start a business and begin changing their destinies.

But for me, it goes back earlier stillβ€”to my first days as a writer in the ’90s when I wrote short stories and novels as a teenager. I didn’t know then what I knowΒ nowβ€”that it was the start of a story more than twenty years in the making. One that’d show me where I need to go next.

The Life and Times of Casey Palmer β€” The State of the #BloggerLife, August 2018 β€” In the Belly of the Beast

The Life and Times of Casey Palmer β€” The State of the #BloggerLife, August 2018 β€” In the Belly of the Beast β€” Casey at JapanQuakeTO
Photo courtesy of Chris Luckhardt.

I told myself that once I made my way through my never-ending pile of paper, I’d get myself a Nintendo Switch with the latest Mario and Zelda games to reward myself for all the hard work. Which isΒ great, because gettingΒ months ahead in my contentΒ by getting all of this done is the only way I’d find the time toΒ play them.

But if you’re new around these parts, my problem with paper’s not entirely new.

It’s not the paper itself that’s the problemβ€”I’m my most creative when I write things out by handβ€”but all that creativity leads to a ton of unfinishedΒ ideas, piling up to the sky as they await the finishing touches that’ll let me share them with the world! I’ve kept aΒ high standard for my workβ€”easy wins like question posts and blindly following trends isn’t my style… I’m trying to create content that’ll forever outlast me. We’re in a world right now where few want to invest inΒ anything needing more than a few minutes of their time, but I’d rather not sell my soul for the sake of popularity.

There’reΒ bigger prizes at hand.

Hustlin’ ’til You Drop? SOMETHING’S Gotta STOP.

Last updated on January 26th, 2021 at 09:55 am

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

“Every day I’m hustlin'”

— Rick Ross, “Hustlin'”, Port of Miami (2006)

The other night I was typing up a storm in #blkcreativesβ€”by far my favourite Twitter chat right nowβ€”when something caught my eye.

That month’s theme was money and money management, which invariably got us talking about how we make money. Black folk are all too familiar with the hustle. We’re raised believing we need to work twice as hard to get half as far as our non-Black peers, but no one discusses the consequences of this thinking when left unchecked.

If You're Hustlin' 'til You Drop, SOMETHING'S Gotta STOP. β€” Those Father and Son Moments

We’ve never been big on mental health. I sought professional help a few times in my 20s because I just pushed myself too hard. Working hard is importantβ€”I don’t have time for those complaining about their lives while doing nothing to change themβ€”but so is finding balance. I’ve spent much of 2017 putting everything I could into growing the brand, but with all the things tugging me in every other possible directionβ€”my family, my job, and my churchβ€”I just reached a point where I’d no more to give.

And this sorely affected my writing.

I’m don’t lack things to writeβ€”my to-do lists dozens of items deepβ€”but writing is a feeling process. How well you write is completely dependent on how well you feel, so when you’re feeling burnt out, it isn’t doing any favours to anyone.

Something needed to give before it was me who took the hit!

An Elegy for Mediocrity

Last updated on January 16th, 2021 at 11:53 pm

Last Updated: January 16, 2021

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


Y’all ain’t interested in writing anything great.

The name of the game is mediocrity. Mediocre blogs that don’t share anything worth reading; people who skip birthdays for mediocre events; mediocre personalities, expectations and lives. No one’s striving for anything amazing anymore.

And it boggles my mindβ€”everything’s literally within reach, but when people find out how much work it takes to build a personal brand and cultivate it to the point where people actually want to read what you write, they just give up. They rather spend time telling you it “must be nice” than to build anything meaningful for themselves, letting themselves fail before they’ve really given anything a shotβ€”and I can’t go for that.

The Life and Times of Casey Palmer - An Elegy for Mediocrity β€” Can't Sleep

I stopped listening to the haters a long time agoβ€”no more of the people who thought I was “setting myself up for disappointment” when they hear my lofty dreams or peers willing to create content that was simply “good enough”; I’ve spent many years getting to know myself, and can tell you that if I don’t keep pushing to get better with every piece I put out, I may as well quit now, ‘cuz I know I won’t make it through.

But I get itβ€”I get that some people only got in this hustle to get their money and go, not overly concerned about what they leave behind as long as they get their cheque. That there’s a literal army of bloggers who don’t give two cares about standing out, long as there’s a shortcut or two to feed their bottom line.

But there’s no cheat sheet that’ll tell you how to reach the top of the heap. No membership guide that’ll tell you when you’ve “made it”, and the perks you can expect at each stage of the game. This is something you need to build for yourself, doing it because it fuels you, pumping through your veinsβ€”those who’ve come out looking for an easy payday quickly realize this grind demands more than most are willing to give, and it’s the few who know they need more than money from it all who’ll still be here in the end.

Which is why I’m losing my mind trying to get back on my horse after what feels like an eternity spent without a solid blog post out.

The Life and Times of Casey Palmer - An Elegy for Mediocrity β€” The Paper Stack

Before heading out on a 10-day trip to Mexico to see my sister-in-law get married in a little place called Tequesquitengo, I could feel it creeping in on me from all sidesβ€”a heap of sponsored content that wasn’t going to write itself; plenty of action with the 9-5 that needed handling before I took the time off; and a very comprehensive to-do list that wasn’t going away without doing what I needed to do as a Dad and doing right by my family. It’s easy enough to call yourself a bloggerβ€”slap a few words together, add a few photos and call it a dayβ€”but putting out content that’ll do any better than the stuff you’d find in a local community newsletter is a full-time gig unto itself.

It’s a struggle, thoughβ€”I’ve spent countless hours trying to find myself: working past the sponsored posts to examine some deeply rooted parts of my soulβ€”my ever-changing life as a father, trying to do the best I can for my children without sacrificing the things that make me who I am. Further studies into life as a Black man in one of the most diverse cities on the face of the planet. I’ve been so caught up in the hustle that I’ve failed to feed my soul, and that’s something that’ll need changing if I don’t want to get reacquainted with burnout.

But knowing what I want to write and doing it justice are two different thingsβ€”have I led the kind of life that makes me qualified to discuss any of it? Can I write the kind of stuff that’ll matter years down the road, or am I chasing an ideal I’ll never manage to touch, stuff that’s no better than any of my peers?

This is what keeps me up at nightβ€”knowing how badly I want to reach my potential, but not knowing if I’ll ever get there. Though I’ve written long enough and hard enough to be confident that my work can do great things, I still can’t convince myself it has what it takes to change lives. Or that it can do any more than simply take up digital space and do any better than the uninspired memes and uninformed opinions that already constantly plague us.

I sit here, and I’ve yet to be convinced that my work can outlast me.

And that’s what it really comes down toβ€”I want so badly to create classics that the pressure I put on myself sometimes halts me in my steps… but we all know there’s only one way I’m going to reach my goal, and that’s to keep on writing.

So that’s exactly what I’ll do.

Be Mediocre if You Wantβ€”But Remember; Hard Work ALWAYS Pays Off.

These moments where self-doubt takes hold and I start questioning whether I’ll actually manage to make something valuable from my efforts, I have to remind myself of the things I’ve accomplished already, and how I would’ve called it quits a long time ago if I listened to everyone telling me what they thought I couldn’t do. That I couldn’t be successful if I strayed from the safe pathβ€”that a stable job, good family and debt-free existence were as far as my dreams should go. That I couldn’t exceed my life’s stationβ€”that a life without trust funds, Ivy League schools and family connections could only take me so far, and that I should leave greatness for those better equipped for it… it’s simply not meant for a lowly commoner like myself. Sureβ€”I look at my peers who show up on the scene more often; the ones travelling across the globe and going to the hottest events… and while it’s obvious to me that this would’ve been easier when I was younger and childless, you don’t just quit because something gets harder.

You just get better at it and figure out what works for you.

The Life and Times of Casey Palmer - An Elegy for Mediocrity β€” Casey's BACK!

So I hope you didn’t miss me too much, but the boy is backβ€”you can only let a cloud hang overhead for so long before it’s time to get yourself together and move on; when it feels like the world’s trying to hold you back, that’s when you shine your boots, stand tall, and remind it that ain’t nobody got time for that.

But the hustle continues and I’ve still a million and one other things that I could be doing, so I’m gonna get back to it. If you made it this far down the post, kudos to you, and I’ll tell you thisβ€”if the 2016 we’ve seen so far is any indication of things to come, we’ve still got a very interesting year ahead of us!

Thanks for continuing to check the blog out and until the next,

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