It’s Lonely in Hilton Garden Inn #309

309 and doin’ fine?

It’s hard not blogging.

It’s been just more than eight days since my last post, and since I abhor the blogs that “apologize” for having been away so long, I’ll not do that. My absence was intentional, for a purpose, and I honestly didn’t expect to return so soon.

But I’m alone. On business, in Effingham, IllinoisHilton Garden Inn, my only friend a frisco melt and onion rings from across the street, and I’m bored. So I’ve returned to the blog, my trusted sidekick.

Like my tattoos, this frisco melt, onion rings and malt, sounded like a good idea at the time.

Yes, the break from blogging was by design, for a purpose, and the job at hand is finished, so I’ve returned in my loneliness while in this two-queen, no-smoking suite.

It was a productive eight days. Book-wise I:

  • Completed the first draft of my first non-fiction work with many edits and re-writes scheduled for this weekend.
  • Started production of a 2:30-minute promotional video trailer.
  • Began the website design.
  • Secured domains for the trilogy.
  • Kicked in some extra work to develop a workbook, prayerbook and workshops that will ride the big brother’s coattails.
  • Had a long-awaited conversation with my editor.
  • Hung my head in shame when said editor chastised and ordered me to stop promoting a book that’s months away from publication.

In another area of life:

  • Got new photos of our home construction in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. It’s exciting.
  • Thought about some entrepreneurial ventures down there.
  • Got a couple of business sponsorships on our blog at www.latitudeone.wordpress.com
  • Accepted a gracious invitation from International Living magazine to submit a story about blogging to support our international adventures.

    The “walls” are going up in Cayo, and we’re excited.

And in other news…

  • Watched Chick-fil-A accidentally pull off the greatest marketing campaign in the history of the world simply by stating its already-known core values.
  • Cringed as Mitt Romney offended nine out of every 10 citizens on the European continent.
  • Followed the story of the Mississippi couple who couldn’t be married in a “white” church because they are black.
  • Read the case a 1950s-era Russian gymnast who makes that she, not Michael Phelps, is the greatest olympian of all time. For the record, I think she’s right.
  • Doubted we’d ever catch China in the medal count.
  • While driving 500 miles to this town, found a cool new Sirius radio station that prompted me to take Iphone notes on new songs to buy as I endangered the lives of many along Illinois I-57.
  • Read a surprise post from my wife today, who said she thought I was neat,

    My Dana.

    and that I had a voice like thunder. Said post substantially escalated my testosterone levels. You can read her work at www.mywindow2theworld.wordpress.com

  • On day-one of business travel, ate a Wendy’s double with cheese for lunch, and a Steak & Shake frisco melt with a vanilla malt for dinner, and fully expect to vomit in a bit.

Ya’ll expect another post soon. It’s pretty boring here.

I guess there’s always the third-floor view of Wal-Mart.

Yes, it’s great to be back on the blog. Even if it is from Room 309.

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How to Get Blog Hits When You Sleep

“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art, and working is art, and good business is the best art.” ~ Andy Warhol

***

Years ago, in the world of self employment, I was fortunate one of the most successful local businessmen I know was willing to give me an audience on certain occasions to solicit his sage advice.

He’s one of the wealthiest men in Arkansas, diversely entrepreneurial and a wealth of knowledge.

Out of respect for his time I would call on him only when I needed advice the most.

Crashed at 7:30 p.m. on the Fourth of July 2012. It was a long day.

In passing one morning, he said this:

“The key to making real money is to learn how to make money when you sleep.”

Ever since, I’ve aspired to master the art and science of “making money when you sleep.” It’s surely something to think about.

I’ve never made a dime from a blog post. But my three blog sites do have a future monetary purpose. They’re a platform designed to build a community of followers (more importantly friends) for a book release in the coming months.

And for the record, I just purely enjoy being a part of the blogging community.

But as the release of Light Wins approaches, I’m taking the platform building process more seriously – with a more strategic approach.

And I’m learning more about how to get blog hits when I sleep.

Writing Always Awaits…

Here are just a few things I’ve learned:

  • You must go beyond writing and hitting the “publish” button.
  • You must become a student of your blog’s metrics.
  • In studying your metrics, you can determine which days, which hours and which parts of the world draw the most attention to your posts.
  • I write early in the morning. My posts are usually complete by 5 a.m., but I don’t publish until around 6 a.m. It seems my readers read early in the morning before they go to work.
  • Readers also view published posts via social media during their lunch hour, at the end of the work day and during the evening.
  • My metrics indicate that Sunday, Monday and Friday draw the most attention. Saturday posts are a crapshoot.
  • Promotion of your blog posts via social media is a science where you must draw a fine line. Your goal in blogging is to become a commodity of information to which people look. But beware the danger of over-exposure. Be purposeful in when, and how frequently you promote via social media. It’s easy to post too frequently and get overlooked.
  • Aside from word press blog followers, my best success comes from promotion through Facebook and Twitter. I do roll my posts into Linked In, but the results are minimal.
  • Twitter promotion is an art. It’s a fast-moving medium and a challenge to get noticed. You must be creative in your short Twitter tease for someone to take notice.
  • Use every short link possible in your post. Refer readers back to previous and related posts you’ve written. My goal is to get readers caught up in a web where they’re not just looking at one post, but clicking through several on each visit. It’s measureable, and you can see it working.
  • Show respect to your followers, likers and those who comment. If they’ve taken time to read your work, it’s the ultimate compliment, and I do everything I can to return the favor.
  • Establish a “predictable” publishing cycle. I expect my daily newspaper to arrive in my driveway every morning around 5 a.m. Your readers may expect the same of you. As a blogger, YOU ARE are a publisher with the potential for a wide-reaching impact. My posts can generally be expected at 6 a.m., noon, and sometimes if I’m bored, around 7 p.m.
  • Topically, you can carve out a niche, or go with diversification. Some bloggers have huge success with advice on writing, self-publishing or photography. Others simply chronicle their life on a variety of topics. Both work, and both have their benefits. I try, with moderate success, to do both.
  • Be consistent in your categories and tags. Most of my posts are categorized in the topics of writing, books and publishing. And I always tag my own name and the name of my book. If you show up in the same place frequently, others will know better how to find you.
  • And follow the advice wordpress gives. Limit the sum of your categories and tags to nine. If you go beyond that, your strategy may not work. I always go with three categories and six tags, and almost always get the placement I desire.
  • When you have an idea for a post, write it down and put it in your pocket. It’s easy to forget a great idea.

For me, it’s a cheap thrill to get out of bed and find I’ve had a hundred views over the night. It’s just one of the things that gets my day off to a good start.

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Summer Solstice Resolutions

Today is summer solstice.

There are 15 hours and 36 minutes of daylight in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

With so many hours in the day, I’ve been thinking, and hereby resolve to:

1. Watch more sunsets.

2. Read more.

3. Write more.

4. Limit the number of blogs I have to at least 10. Too many topics and not enough categories…

5. Keep an eye on the weather and watch for a long weekend of rainy days. That’ll be my next binge writing session.

6. Finish my book by October.

7. Start running again.

8. Set a few rules guidelines for living out the years ahead.

9. STOP and take a picture when I want to take a picture. No more driving by and regretting.

10. Kiss my family members when the urge hits.

11. Question myself a little less.

12. Stop and help people more often.

13. Enjoy freedom.

14. Pursue.

15. Strive to learn to relax.

16. Define success.

17. Remember good things.

18. Right wrongs.

19. Sleep just a few minutes later.

20. Learn more about forgiveness.

Check out today’s post on my secondary blog at http://wp.me/p2tJ80-1O

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The Language of Coachspeak

A quick follow-up from yesterday’s post: Here in Arkansas – It’s the Perfect Storm. http://wp.me/p2bjEC-8j

Quotes (and interpretations) from Coach Gus Malzan regarding his possible candidacy to become the next head coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Malzahn Quote: “I’m the head coach of the Arkansas State Red  Wolves.”

Interpretation: That’s what I am today. For the moment I’m avoiding what tomorrow may bring, and you know I’m not gonna say anything about this, anyway.

Malzahn Quote: “I’m sticking to ‘I’m the head coach here (ASU) and I’m not worried about anything else.'”

Interpretation: I’ve had no DIRECT conversation with UA, but our representatives are talking. I’m not worried about anything. Hey, I come out a winner either way!

Malzahn Quote: “I’m committed to being here.”

Interpretation: Just as much as I was yesterday, but hey, a dream job is a dream job, and I could be committed there too.

Dr. Dean Lee (ASU Athletic  Director)  Quote: “We feel good about who we are and what we have to offer…”

Interpretation: I’m worried.

ASU Quarterback Ryan Aplin Quote: “It’s just something we’re going to have to try to deal with as a team and try to look over it and stay focused on practice.”

Interpretation: I’m doing my best to keep my team in good spirits (because that’s part of my job) but the whole team is really worried. This could be bad.

The Perfect Storm in Arkansas continues to brew. Lightning’s gonna strike somewhere.

Your thoughts?

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Blogging Outside Your Comfort Zone: 7 Tips

(Blogger’s Note: If you’re a blogger or writer, I’d love to hear your own experiences about writing outside your comfort zone. Please share away!)

Traditional tips you’ll read about effective blogging will typically tell you to write about the things you know, choose a niche and pitch yourself as an expert and an authority.

It’s good advice. Everyone’s an expert in something, and there’s definitely something to be said for consistency in your blogging topics. It’s the best way to build a strong platform and a loyal audience. Your readers should come to expect a certain style in your work.

But the adventuresome blogger, will, from time to time, will make a gutsy move and go outside his comfort zone for the sake of curiosity, and just to see what happens. That’s exactly what I did yesterday.

My brand of writing is designed to make people think. Not necessarily to change their minds, but to think differently with new perspectives about certain things. Mostly, I enjoy using Biblical metaphors and writing about the application they have in our present lives. But every so often, I’ll jump outside my writer’s comfort zone to experiment, and yesterday’s blog, titled Here in Arkansas – It’s the Perfect Storm http://wp.me/p2bjEC-8j …. was just that. An experiment that proved interesting.

The blog’s topic was the national attention that’s been drawn to the University of Arkansas’ football program and the subsequent firing of head coach Bobby Petrino. Moreover, it speculated the Razorbacks would attempt to lure Arkansas State University coach Gus Malzahn (just 300 miles down the road) as his replacement.

It’s a topic ripe for speculation and controversy, and so I ventured into the unknown to see what attention might be drawn to my theory of how the scenario might play over the next few days.

The results: A record number of hits for a single post with readers in seven countries.

In thinking about writing outside our comfort zones, I wanted to offer seven tips, lessons learned, if you will, for how this post generated record traffic. Consider these tips in a future venture outside your own blogging comfort zone.

  • LOOK FOR A HOT TOPIC – Even if you’re not an expert, it’s okay to jump in the middle of something. Sports, especially college football, is a big deal. In the SEC, some call it Saturday Down South. Take advantage of writing directly to a well-defined audience. SEC football fans are pretty well-defined.
  • SPECULATE – That you are not an expert – it matters not. Opinion piece writing generates more opinions, and more hits on your blog. It creates conversation and back-and-forth dialogue. Everyone has an opinion. Share yours.
  • TAG TAG TAGHere in Arkansas – It’s the Perfect Storm http://wp.me/p2bjEC-8j had some 50 tags attached, and the search engine results showed the tags worked.

  • USE POWERFUL VISUALS – It was an easy choice for this particular post. Choose an image of a Razorback and one of an Arkansas State University Redwolf, and the collective blood pressure of football fans across the state skyrockets.

  • GO PLACES YOU’VE NEVER GONE BEFORE – I placed this post on Facebook pages everywhere … official pages of both universities, football blogs across the South, media outlet blogs, and it worked.
  • USE POWERFUL METAPHORS – The Perfect Storm perfectly described the possible scenario for the outcome of this unique situation. All the elements are perfectly lined up for a monumental fight if UA even breathes on Malzahn.
  • BE INTENTIONAL IN LOOKING FOR RIVALRIES – For your post it may be politics, education, religion or whatever. College football in the South is ripe with rivalries and putting yesterday’s post in the middle of it all just added a small bit of flame to the fire. That’s what writers love, right?

Niche, consistency, expertise – yes – it’s the best way to blog. But stretch yourself sometimes and get in the thick of something wild.

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Discovering Tozer

Two good friends recently turned me on to the works of A.W. Tozer, who in 1919, began 44 years of Christian ministry. His works are among the most insightful I’ve read. It’s as if they were written just yesterday.

Among the more than 40 books he authored, at least two are regarded as Christian classics: The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy. His books impress on the reader the possibility and necessity for a deeper relationship with God.

I wanted to share selected exerpts from the preface of The Pursuit of God, written June 16, 1948. See his insight just as it exists today:

“In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct “interpretations” of truth. They are thirsty for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water…

“There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, or anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy…

“I trust I speak in charity, but the lack in our pulpits is real. Milton’s terrible sentence applies to our day as accurately as it did to his: ‘The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.’ It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the Kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table. The truth of  Wesley’s words is established before our eyes: ‘Orthodoxy, or right opinion is, at best, a very slender part of religion…

“Thanks to our spendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold ‘right opinions,’ probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church  the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us…

“Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth.  The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness ofr the very  God Himself in the core and center of their hearts…

~A.W. Tozer – The Pursuit of God

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Is the Easter Bunny the Anti-Christ?

Last Christmas eve I attended a candlelight service where 50 or so people came together to prepare their hearts for the celebration of Christ‘s birth.

I’ve attended many of these services over the years at many different churches and I like them. I like that we sing the traditional Christmas songs; I like that kids come in their pajamas in anticipation of the wild morning ahead; and I like how it makes me think back to more than 2,000 years ago when the world received the miracle of miracles.

As I walked into the foyer for that particular service, one of the sweetest ladies I know was the first to greet me. I was prepared to give her a hug and wish her a warm Merry Christmas.

But before I could extend a hand and offer a warm greeting, she took the initiative with this:

“Don’t tell me Merry Christmas. Say happy birthday, Jesus.”

And she meant it.

I remember the strong movement a few years ago against the “Xmas” phrase. And for the record, it’s a movement I support. It does, in fact, take the Christ out of Christmas. But Santa Claus isn’t the devil, and neither is the Easter bunny.

For the last few years, I’ve noticed a similar trend. Among many evangelical Christians, Easter has now become “Resurrection Sunday.”

It’s certainly true enough. Among all things, first and foremost, Easter is the time when we recognize the one aspect that makes Christianity unique among all other religions. We serve a living God, not one who is dead in the tomb, or worshiped as a stone carving. Christ is alive, and it’s a belief I hold to be as true as the air I breathe.

So Resurrection Sunday – it’s a good thing.

But what of the extremity of this … because I like Easter.

Ninety percent of the references I heard in my church yesterday were to Resurrection Sunday – not Easter. That’s fine, but when did Easter become such a bad thing that we go out of our way to avoid the word?

I don’t hate the Easter bunny…and I don’t believe Jesus would either.

He’s soft, cuddly and has that really cute cotton tail.

My grandmother loved flowers. She particularly loved the Easter lily. I wonder if it should now become the Resurrection Sunday lily?

I’m not anti-Resurrection Sunday.

But I am pro-Easter.

Hop on Peter Cottontail. Jesus loves you too.

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Happy Transparent Birthday, Dana.

Happy 39th birthday, my sweet love. What would I do without you?

39 Reasons I Love You…

  1. You make me smile and laugh.
  2. Despite my quirks and faults, you love me without condition.
  3. God‘s face shines through your eyes to every person who sees you.
  4. Your compassion, that which comes straight from your heart, is your greatest characteristic.
  5. You forgive.
  6. You came along.
  7. Don’t know a single person whom you haven’t blessed.
  8.  Since I first met you, life has never been the same.
  9. You’ve taught me great life lessons.
  10. You held me through those nights that were so hard.
  11. You gave me a “man” room.
  12. Your face is pure beauty, but your heart is more so.
  13. Basherte.
  14. Helpmate.
  15. Friend.
  16. You make everyone you touch, including me, better than we/they are.
  17. You love my family.
  18. You know when to reign me in.
  19. You make a great first impression.
  20. You overlook my mistakes.
  21. Your sense of adventure inspires me.
  22. You never ask for much.
  23. You look great in a sundress and cheap sunglasses.
  24. Your eyes pierce through to my heart.
  25. You play a mean conga.
  26. I love that you can be cosmopolitan one moment, and country the next.
  27. You never stopped believing.
  28. You understood the hurt.
  29. You bring people together and know your role on the team.
  30. You lead quietly, making things happen, and no one ever knows it.
  31. You care not for the credit.
  32. No one looks better in a funky hat.
  33. Your touch overwhelms me.
  34. Your soul speaks to mine.
  35. You came along.
  36. You came along.
  37. You came along.
  38. You came along
  39. And you saved my life.

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Aggressively Pursuing the UN-balanced Life

Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”

~ James Dean

For years, I’ve considered my obsessive-compulsive behavior to be a character flaw.

But, alas, I believe I will now embrace it.

Several weeks ago, I hired a coach to help keep me disciplined in specific areas of my life I deem important. We’ve had interesting conversations about dreams, goals, and mostly he has helped me take a view of things not just from the surface but from an “elevation of 20,000 feet.” It’s given me a new perspective on the totality of life.

In our last conversation as time came to a close, he pitched the idea of the importance of living a balanced life. He explained how too much focus in one area can detract from another, and the danger of creating “deficits” in some particular life compartments.

The balanced life.

I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’ve decided, as good as it sounds, it’s not for me.

I’m 46 years old. Had some major highs, and some of the lowest of the lows. Each high and low has been a great lesson. There have been some mistakes, and I’d take a “do-over” on some things, but I’ve had a great life, unbalanced as it may have been.

And I’m not sure I can change that now. The last thing I want to be is milquetoast. I don’t want to pursue a little bit of anything.

I want to stand on the equator, close my eyes and marvel at the magnificence of God‘s creation.

When I can wrap my mind around running again, I don’t want to exercise for 30 minutes a day. I want to train for one last marathon.

I want to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children.

I want to exhibit the radical love that Jesus showed to the woman caught in adultery.

I want to feed the hungry, comfort the hurting.

I want to collaborate with a small group of committed people…and change the world.

I want to lavishly spoil my wife, kids, mom, best friend and other friends with love, kindness and gifts.

I want to write books, not for the sake of calling myself an author, but to be a best-selling writer, and to offer readers a new perspective on things that really matter.

I want to drink thousand calorie milkshakes whenever the urge hits me.

I want to live life to the RADICAL EXTREME.

A balanced life. It sounds so right…and yet so boring.

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