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The 2019 Wrap-Up: Design of a Decade

“Reality tells you what you can’t do.”

— Rick Rubin on HBO’s The Shop: Uninterrupted, Season 2, Episode 4

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

The 2019 Wrap-Up — Design of a Decade — Looking Back

This 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 use Facebook at the time, much less everything I’d get up to on Twitter just a year later—the world I spend all this time on now as a Canadian Dad was utterly inconceivable to me back then, because so much less was on the line. Nor was I married. Or had any kids. So many of the things that make me a better man and keep me coming back to do the best that I can for all that are things I wouldn’t appreciate until I had them.

But a decade later, my friend Ramy put it to me best—the more you do something, the more your capacity grows to take on even 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 come 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’t cut it anymore, and in 2020, I think I’ll finally learn what 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 a decade ago is that I think differently.

When I 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 the keys to my success, but what I understand now is that they’re all just indicative of something much larger at play.

It goes back to what I’ve been saying all along—the medium doesn’t matter if you’ve got an amazing story to tell.

The 2019 Wrap-Up — Design of a Decade — Flying for My Hopes and Dreams

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

What that sweat equity looks like for 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 straw every night, and as much as it pains some right now to see me work as hard as I do, I keep doing it because I know there are higher heights I can reach if I try.

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The Life and Times of Casey Palmer — NaBloPoMo, Day 1 — Why I Do What I Do.

“I feel like most of your posts are apologies for not posting more.”

— a Facebook friend on my last post

The Last 60 Days.

T.G.I.N., y’all—Thank Goodness It’s November!

With another Halloween in the books (and less of a haul than the year before, but hey—I hear transitioning from naps will do that to you), I’m finally free to turn my eyes to the rest of 2017 and what it yet has in store—a perfect time to take one last run at unfinished resolutions and dangling loose ends.

The Life and Times of Casey Palmer — NaBloPoMo, Day 1 — Why I Do What I Do. — The Palmer Boys

With sixty days left in the year (not including today), it’d be all too easy to bow out and rest. 2017’s vastly exceeded my expectations in ways I’d never imagined, but it’s not without cost—my triple life’s an unyielding one, but I’d likely give up a thousand nights’ rest if it meant I could continue chasing my ambitions.

I guess you could call me obsessed. With potential, with growth, obsessed with the freakin’ hustle… it’s tiring work, but I’d have it no other way—it’s what I need to do to get where I want to be.

But in this drive to become my best self, some fear I’ve lost my way—that money and opportunity have led me astray, and that the Casey who got me this far’s a memory… but that’s not it at all.

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A Long Kiss Goodnight to Blogging — Why It’s Time to Evolve to the NEXT Best Thing

I hit a point where I didn’t want to write a damn word.

Those who know my #BloggerLife would think me crazy—I’d built a world always filled with adventure, and opportunity was in abundant supply with each passing day. It’s a brand that’s developed over years—one shaping a handsome lifestyle and letting me enjoy freedoms atypical of a Dad with a family to feed and bills to pay.

But in a way, therein lies the problem—I don’t want the same things I wanted back when I started this journey. Once upon a time, it was enough to hit events and write about ’em after, but it took an anime monologue to help me realise why words just weren’t cutting it anymore:

“…you seem to dream of an escape from ordinary life, but life in Tokyo will turn into another ordinary life in about six months or so. And so, if you want something extraordinary, you’ll have to go somewhere else or seek something more underground. But once you’re on the other side… it’ll only take a few days for it to become mundane again.

If you really want to escape an ordinary life, you must constantly evolve.”

— Izaya Orihara, Durarara!!, Episode 12 (2010)

A Long Kiss Goodnight to Blogging — Why It's Time to Evolve to the NEXT Best Thing — Young Casey Wylin Out as Always

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The Life and Times of Casey Palmer — Why Do We Fall?

Casey Palmer and Son at a Baby Shower, Chillin'
You’ll find more moments like these in my life today than you find ones going nuts at events.

People often ask me how I do it — how I manage life as a husband, father and full-time 9-5er while still managing to push content through the blog.

It’s no secret I spend hours working on each piece — scrawling ideas on notepads while commuting to and from work, rewriting relentlessly to refine my posts; putting in copious screen time with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to make sure my photos are not only pixel perfect, but just the right fit for the tales I weave; and spending so much time obsessing over details that I’m glad this isn’t the only thing putting food on the table — as long as it takes to get my posts perfected, my family’d starve in a month.

I definitely take this blog seriously, and while my style and methods may sometimes seem unorthodox, I create standing firmly behind its potential for growth and standing for something at its journey’s end. I think before I blog — a lot — having learned that I want content I can look at years later and still be proud of what I accomplished with some words on the screen.

Casey Palmer Posing in a Pink Shirt at Work

My #BloggerLife’s embedded in every aspect of my blog, driven by lofty beliefs and ambitious goals as I work to tell the best stories I possibly can, hoping to inspire others to live the best lives they can.

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Daily Thoughts #5 — Of Questionable Choices and Consequences

Note:

  • Despite ending my night as a hot mess, Guu SakaBar is utterly delicious and I couldn’t recommend it more!

Background music: Obsibilo’s “Soixante-8”, Creative Commons licensed

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Daily Thoughts #2 — #FrustratingFridays

Background music: Obsibilo’s “Soixante-8”, Creative Commons licensed

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Daily Thoughts #1 — A Simple Start

Background music: Obsibilo’s “Soixante-8”, Creative Commons licensed

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THE MONTHS OF BER: What Comes Next? Rethinking My Blog!

I’ve written this post more than a dozen times this week, piecing thoughts together from a million directions to figure out what comes next. Fresh from a summer of contests, events and family gathering, I spent a lot of energy killing it these past months, leaving me unsure what’s left in the tank to see this momentum through the year’s end.

Brand development’s a marathon, not a sprint. You might have some hot content one day and trick yourself into thinking you can strike lightning twice with the piece after that, and again with the one after that.

But creating amazing work is seldom so simple, and I don’t care whether you’re writing your first blog post or you’re raking in more than most people’s mortgage payments every time you hit “Publish”, all content creators need reminding that not everything they put out will be mind-blowing… and they need to learn to accept that.

Getting Used to the New Casey Palmer

The Months of Ber — What Comes Next —  My Son's Curious Gaze
Whenever I lose focus, this is the face that comes into view, and then I remember why I do what I do.

At this point in my life, my story’s that of a man who’s trying to raise a family, working entirely too hard, and far too ambitious for his own good, convinced her can do anything if he only uses his mind, time and effort to make it happen.

When I see the trips my fashion blogger friends take, or some food bloggers I know are hanging with chefs like Susur Lee, I catch myself thinking, “I need to step my game up! I need to show these bloggers what I’m really packing and tell ’em what time it is! I need to get my hands on all the opportunities and all the things!”

But come on — let’s be real.

There aren’t too many big-name bloggers I know who haven’t made blogging their full-time gig, or used a blog as a launchpad into doing something full-time that started with the words on their screen. Trying to blog daily’s already admirable — I tried to do it in 2011, and only hit 324 of the year’s posts. But trying to do it while working a full-time job takes a ton of hard work and discipline. And to add parenthood on top of that?

Some days it feels like success isn’t even an option.

But then I take a few deep breaths, look at myself in the mirror, and remember it’s not all about the glitz and glamour.

Free stuff is nice — getting paid to write content is even better — but that’s not what people relate to. People want to hear about the time you went away to a writer’s retreat to get some quality time in with your writing, only realizing after the 3-hour drive that you’d forgotten your laptop’s power cord, and the outdated battery only gives an hour of juice to work with.

People want to hear about the time your brother changed his cell phone number without telling anyone in the family, leading to them scouring the lands to see whether he’s still breathing for fear than an angry ex-girlfriend had exacted their revenge, leaving his corpse in a ditch for us to find.

The Months of Ber — What Comes Next —  Casey Baby Photo
Too many bloggers forget that we all started at this point, and need to write from a point that ALL readers will understand! (*Sailor outfit not included.)

People don’t want to hear about your #BloggerLife and all the stuff you get that you think they should get with a little disclaimer at the bottom of all your posts — they want to hear about your life and maybe even share their experiences with the things going on when you’re not dealing with life in the blogosphere.

Any blogger can write a good story if they try hard enough — use good grammar; be emotionally compelling; and don’t be long-winded when driving your point home.

But it takes truly gifted bloggers to find beauty in the utterly mundane, touching on things we’re all thinking, but too often lack the words to give it voice.

And that’s what I should strive for as a Dad blogger — everything else is just window dressing.

The Path Ahead….

The Months of Ber — What Comes Next  — The Path Ahead

Once upon a time, in an age where tweetups were all the rage and Twitter wasn’t the self-promotional tool it is now, I’d think nothing of going out 4 or 5 times a week, soaking in what Toronto had to offer and never having a shortage of adventure to write about.

Now that my story’s changed, I need to change right along with it and see the world in a different light to find new inspirations for the stores I share — less waiting for the next awesome email to come in, and more appreciating what I already have in all its abundance.

And if that isn’t a life lesson, I don’t know what is.

Until the next time,

–case p.

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Blog The Great Social Media Story

THE GREAT SOCIAL MEDIA STORY: I Am Not a Blogger

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.”

–unknown

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?

–case p.

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Blog The Great Social Media Story

THE GREAT SOCIAL MEDIA STORY: NEVER Forget the Fun!!!

I’d been lying to myself all along.

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.

These past few years, I’ve been privy to numerous opportunities because of social media and my blogging. I’ve been to Vegas. Twice. I got a press pass to Toronto Pride, snapping pics of people like Keisha Chanté and Corey Hart up close and personal. I’ve stood on the court of the Air Canada Centre and eaten at more places than I can remember.

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,

–case p.