Franzy! One of the more mellow WARPs on the Loon Mountain Ski Patrol and a good friend. That was one of his sayings and it sort of stuck. There’s a handful of amusing stories floating around the patrol alum. Stories of heroism, tom-foolery, bravery, stupidity and yes, drunken exploits typically involving a hot tub, a snowbank, often a creek and almost always a near (or real) injury. And to think: We were the ones looking out for YOUR well-being!
A while back I learned (heard from a good teacher) that in business, you don’t have to be the best. You just have to be a little bit better than your competition. As a business owner, this was a relief to hear and to allow to settle in. I didn’t intend to conquer the Internet. I didn’t intend to own my own business. Now, almost 5 years later, I’m thrilled to be exactly where I am.
I started out managing social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), building or maintaining websites and helping businesses get found through online searches. Now I find myself leaning far more heavily into WordPress development, custom websites and really trying to dig deeper into the guts of a website: HTML, CSS, PHP, custom templates, etc. Partnerships with a handful of amazing people and businesses have afforded me the ability to really focus my attentions and hone my skill set.
For the past couple of years it has been obvious that I was not going to be able to maintain this “…master of none” business model. The more I learned about social media management, the more I learned that there was so much more to offer my clients. The more Google changes their algorithms, the more we realize that SEO is truly more about creating useful content than it is about keywords and meta data. If you are fortunate enough to have the freedom to explore different life paths, it is truly satisfying to find something that you really enjoy.
While working at Rocket Science Internet Solutions, yes that was the real name!, I worked alongside (actually shared an office) with my boss and dear friend, Ingo Roemer. My favorite part of that job was generating network maps for new clients. A business would have 100 computers and we would lay out the strategy for how to connect them to each other and to the Internet. RSIS was the first ISP in the state of New Hampshire (or so I’m told).
One of our favorite post-work (sometimes mid-work) past times was playing a networked game of Duke Nukem. This was a first-person shooter game in which all of us in the office were able to be in the same “neighborhood” and basically try to shoot each other. Hearing Chuck screaming from his office down the hall because he was so mad at being shot again was one of our favorite things. After lots of reading and lots of trial and error, I got to the point where I could build my own “neighborhoods” in the software and could then see them “come to life” on the screen.
Both of these experiences taught me that I enjoyed the creativity that working on computers provided. I was given the ability to create something with code and see the final product come out as something useful and often really fun. I find this same enjoyment in building websites. I am able to take what a business owner is envisioning in their heads and, with the help of a good designer, make that dream a reality. The more I learn about the way WordPress works and the way the templates are structured, the more power I’m afforded and the better result is produced.
I have a TON to learn about PHP and website development. The advantage I hold is that I love learning new things. I have learned that each step I take in the learning process gives me one more tool to make the next website I build just that much cooler. Every class I take puts one more arrow in the quiver. These lessons not only benefit me by making the process more smooth and efficient. Each lesson opens a new door to a skill or feature that I didn’t think was possible.
I’m not a patient “take baby steps” kind of guy. I want to learn everything there is to know about something in the next 15 minutes. As we all know, life doesn’t actually work that way. Website design has taught me that each of those baby steps, those steps I have inadvertently been taking over the last 5 years, is just another skill you can use to do a better job and produce a better product in a more effective way.
Aiming to try is not going to get you very far in this life. Staying on the sidelines and wishing you were doing (insert your aspirations here), is never going to get you there. My only advice (unsolicited as it may be) to you would be to start today by making decisions that nudge you towards that goal. I knew I wanted to learn more about website design while I was working for my friend and mentor Tom Tremblay. Thankfully, Sean Bossie came along and hired me to do a little work for him on the side. Had I not taken that initial step to reach out to Sean and offer my (wholly uneducated) assistance, I would likely not be where I am today. That initial decision to get out of my rut, get out of my comfort zone and pursue something that I thought I might enjoy has shaped the rest of my career and life to this point.
You don’t have to be a professional guitar player and singer to open for Dave Mathews at Red Rocks. But you DO have to take that first step to borrow a friends guitar and take your first lesson. You have to get out of your rut and start making decisions that get you pointed in the direction you want your life to be going. You really do have to aim to try!