Staying Focused on the Curves Ahead

This year marks the 15th year that I have been working for myself with no other source of income other than what I have been able to generate on my own. When I started my first business I was 18 years old. I attempted to build an online business that was way before its time. I had limited success but not enough to justify putting much effort into it. A couple of years later I decided to start my own local business by opening a physical store selling retail products. Aside from having a couple of jobs in Mall stores, I had no experience at all. What I didn’t know at that time is that I was starting on a path of self-reliance that would shape my entire life.

It hasn’t been an easy journey at all. It takes more than one hand to count the amount of times that I have made six figures in a given year only to end up with an overdrawn bank account. After starting that first brick and mortar business and deciding to close it, I knew that I at least had a stomach for doing my own thing.
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FoundersCard Review

The name Founders Card sounds pretty inviting. I mean, I have founded a couple of companies so shouldn’t I have a card that says “Founders Card” on it? When Founders Card first launched, the price was high and the perks were ok. I began the signup process but never pulled the trigger. I watched as other entrepreneur friends on Twitter signed up and had mixed reviews, so as I do with things I am unsure about, I waited.

I have 20 invites available which will get you your own Founders Card for $395 instead of the regular $795/yr. price. Use this link to sign up: https://founderscard.com/membership?code=FCJERAD425

After a couple of months went by, and a few dozen perk announcement tweets from Founders Card were posted, I decided that it was time for me to sign up. They had just added Hilton Honors and Virgin America perks, both are companies I do a lot of business with. Getting instant Hilton HHonors™ Gold Status Membership and a variable discount on flights with Virgin America was enough to justify the cost of joining. I was able to obtain a referral from a friend who was a member, so at $395 it was well worth the investment.

Since receiving my Founders Card Membership early October of 2014, I have used many of the perks. A rough calculation showed that I had saved about $1250 over a 4 month period. Let me explain how that happened.
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Education Problems in America

There are many problems that plague the education our youth is receiving today. Education is being more standardized which is taking away the creativity and passion our teachers have for educating and the cost of higher education is so expensive it is pricing out those who are not willing to go into debt to acquire what is still referred to as a “formal education.”

I don’t agree with everything said in the video below but it makes some good points and the video ultimately led me to blog about the topic. Hopefully some interesting conversation becomes of it.

Being relevant is important. There is value in an education but considering the costs, you need to look at the ROI of that education. How long will it take you to make back that $50k in student loan debt? Yes some professions require an education regardless, I get that. You are not allowed to teach yourself medicine or law, but 95% of the rest of the professions of this world can be learned faster and more effectively on your own if you have the right ambition and drive. Not all have the right ambition and drive to self educate, which is where education outside of k-12 comes in, unless of course you want to become a doctor, lawyer or do something totally valuable like major in some weird niche of history. #sarcasm

Back to the topic of relevance: Being relevant has never been more relevant. I know that sounds stupid but if you look at society and the way information moves these days, I am sure you agree. Young people these days want to learn from and look up to relevant people. Earlier generations never looked up to CEO’s of startup companies. Just look at what they talk about and share on social media to see what their true interests are and what they find most relevant. This is not to say that a college professor can’t be relevant, it’s just that there are not many that are.

Below the video player I will break down my thoughts on quotes from the video. I apologize for the few bad words in this video, but I think it is a discussion starter if anything.

“It has never been less valuable to be smart about information than today.”

I agree. Those who know and understand the information that is relevant to whatever discussion, job or project they are involved in are more likely to succeed. Information is at the core of everything. What schooling does do, or perhaps used to do, is teach you how to learn. Today kids are being taught the answers to the standardized tests they need to take because our government is taking away our teachers ability to be creative and relevant.

..They’re making them memorize facts that are at their fingertips.”

I believe we should all have a basic education that is similar. This is what k-12 is. We learn a lot of information that not only gives us somewhat of an understanding of the world we live in but also teaches us how to learn. Do I agree with everything that is taught to our k-12 students? No. This is why I have decided to sent my children to a private school. It has nothing to do with the teachers, it has everything to do with what is forced to be taught.

“Most kids are learning more on their own because they have more information than they do in the classroom.”

Kids are learning more outside of the classroom than they are in the classroom because of the information that is available to them. That does not mean that all kids are learning valuable information outside of the classroom. Some kids are, such as the growing population of iPhone App Developers under the age of 16. However there are even more kids who are learning hazardous information because of the media and television shows that are available today. Parental controls are almost impossible to enforce.

Should kids be allowed to choose the information they wish to ingest and replace that with school? No way. This is what parenting is. Parenting does not stop when you drop your kids off at school nor does it stop when you put a laptop or iPad in the hands of your kids. This is what happens in a world where there are far too few households with a parent present throughout the day. Properly parented kids are much more likely to choose to ingest information of value and not waste their time fantasizing about what the entertainment industry glamorizes.

“The internet is the biggest culture shift in the history of human beings.”

What about the fall of man, or the birth and death of Jesus Christ? Perhaps the internet is the biggest culture shift in our history of the last two hundred years. That I might agree with.

“We are teaching our children to memorize &*%^, and regurgitate it.”

If we keep letting the government have their way, this is exactly what will be the case for education, especially public education. Teachers need to be given the freedom to teach. Teaching is not just a process of cramming information into the heads of our youth, it’s about taking that information and making it real. If you hated history, it’s not because history isn’t relevant or interesting, it’s because your history teacher sucked.

“I hope my children are D & F students because that gives me the time to teach them the real $%^# because they won’t be working on their homework.”

So what he is saying is that he will be an involved parent but he won’t embed the importance of being able to learn from others into the minds and personalities of his children. How communist of him. I want my children to be able to learn from anybody who has something worth learning and I want them to be able to differentiate between what is worth learning and what is a waste of their mental capacity. I am a more hands on learner who likes to learn by example. I don’t excel learning by textbook. Textbooks today are evolving but the textbooks of the 80-90’s were horrible. Paying attention in school, doing homework and meeting deadlines so you can get a good grade prepares you for the future as you will most likely be required to do work and meet deadlines as an employee. I think that it takes schooling and hands on parenting to grow children into adults who will add value to society and be able to provide for themselves. I do believe that this could be taught outside of school but it would require just about as many hours as you put in at work each day and most of us are not going to be able to afford to retire by the time our kids reach schooling age.

“There is eye rolling and checking out in classrooms across this country.”

I think this is a less of a problem with education and more a problem of how children are being raised. Most children are more interested in their Angry Birds score than they are interested in getting a 100% on a test at school. This is a parenting problem which ultimately results in an attention span problem as kids age. However, there were many classes I took in college where I knew my professor was teaching us at a snails pace and was teaching information that was no longer relevant. This led to much eye rolling and checking out from me and ultimately led to me dropping out of college.

What are your thoughts about education today? Is it the fault of the government, our teachers, professors or parents? What can fix it?

Facebook Video Ads – 15 Days In

Facebook recently added the ability to upload a video and turn it into an ad. This is cool because Facebook videos start to play in the newsfeed as people scroll. As a photographer and videographer, I have visually appealing content that when actually seen in the newsfeed, gets a lot of views and likes. Some of the top liked items on Facebook are cat pics/vids and wedding photos.

As I have with all other Facebook ad tools, I gave it a try. I had a video reel that I had put together from a previous wedding season which I thought would be a good video to try out Facebook Video Ads with. It was a simple process, just as easy as starting a text based ad using an image. I uploaded the image, set my target demographic and hit start.

The video started off a bit slow as far as views and interactions went, but as time moved forward, that view count grew and is now receiving about 900 views per day. I am running this campaign from December 19th through the end of January. Today marks day 15 of that campaign.

Here is what that ad looks like”

Facebook Video Ad

Here is what the view count looks like over the past 15 days:

Facebook Video Ad Dashboard View Count

And the most important data about the Facebook Video Ad Performance:

Facebook Video Ad View Analytics

So far I am enjoying the result. Of course it comes down to whether or not I end up booking any of the brides who contact me, but so far I have received a lot of inquiries. In the first 15 days, the video received 9,000 views, 100 likes, 4 comments, and 1 share using the share button. Beyond that, there have been a lot of clicks to my website as well as inquiries that have came in stating the Facebook video was what led them to contact me.

Metrics that stand out to me the most:

3.489% Clickthrough rate – That is pretty good even though it sounds like a small number.
62 Website Clicks – This means that 62 people clicked the learn more link and visited my website.
39 Other Actions – This is the conversion pixel I placed on my website to track conversions. That means that 63% of the clicks that come to my website are resulting in inquiries. You do the math.

It will be interesting to see how many of these inquiries turn into booked weddings. Time will tell. Perhaps after all this is over I will post a followup article.

Parenting, Life, Business & Freedom in 2015

Let me apologize in advance by saying that this post is a mess. It’s a mess of thoughts, emotions and frustrations most of which are not in any specific order. I just started typing about where I am at right now and stuff came out. So if you are interested, read on.

Well, it’s 2015 and though I don’t put much into resolutions or starting over, part of me does hope for the best when the new year begins. The last couple of months of parenting have been tough. All three of my kids have been super emotional and they constantly mess with each other. Of course there are those moments where they play nice but its short lived. As I sit here and type this, my kids are watching Clifford. Emmy looks over at Cohen and he kicks her in the leg. They love each other one moment and hate each other the next. I don’t think they know any other way to express themselves yet, but it’s sure annoying to have to constantly be putting out fires as each battle is taken to far. A very naive part of me hoped that something would change and the first of the year would magically start off perfect.

Here is a photo of my daughter. She was screaming for no reason at all. Well, I am sure there was a reason, but I have no idea what was upsetting her. She gets so mad just out of no where. The only way to fix that is to pick her up. If you do anything at all with Liam and it does not go his way, he shuts down and throws a fit. Cohen is quieter but has his moments of complete breakdown where you can’t to anything but put him on his bed and tell him to come find you when he is done throwing a fit.

What is nice is that both of my boys are easy to talk to. They are quick to ask for forgiveness and they know when they have wronged someone. I recognize that they are just going through a phase where they are not sure how to express feeling so they lash out at whomever is in the way. Liam is not like this with anybody but us. He knows that he cannot get away with acting that way toward friends but he knows that he can with us. I have not found a good way of dealing with his outbursts that consistently works. Trial and error I guess. Each kid is different.

This last year was a bit rough for me physically. I have never felt more tired and been less active than I was in 2014. I probably made it to the gym less than 15 times the entire year. There was a time when it was easy for me to get to the gym 6 days a week and spent about 2 hours there each day. I realize what needs to happen to change that, but I have gotten myself into a place of too much demand of my own resources to easily change that. I recognize that this needs to change this year as I cannot continue on the path I am on. Part of what is annoying to me is that I am not an unhealthy person. I don’t eat bad foods and I don’t overeat. I am active compared to most people I know, but for me, it must not be enough.

I have found that I am on a path that I did not intend on heading down. I don’t want to sound like I am complaining as I really love my life and have absolutely nothing to complain about. What has happened is that I have driven myself to a place that was not where I originally had intended on being.

When I was in my early 20’s, I was working a lot. I knew that what I was doing was not sustainable and that I would need to change if I wanted to be healthy and have a family one day. I made those changes by closing off a business I had started and began freelancing as a website and graphic designer. My time was instantly more manageable and I had much more control over everything. Fast forward ten years and I have wound up in a similar situation as I was before. I am not overworking and I almost never work on the weekends but it is not the level of freedom I wanted and was working to create for myself. As we get older, we get more responsibilities but some of those are not necessary. I worked from home for six years and only got an office because we needed the extra room for our growing family. With those added expenses I took on more clients because I wanted to make sure I was able to cover the increase in overhead. As I brought on more clients I needed to hire employees. Then I needed more space so overhead went even higher. There is nothing wrong with all of this as this is part of growing a business into something successful. The issue is that it has not brought me the freedom I originally wanted. I am achieving a lot more than I could be on my own, but it has not resulted in the level of freedom I desire.

Some people want to build a business to make money, I want to build a business to give me more freedom. Freedom to me is being able to drop everything and hang out with my family or be there for them when they need me. Freedom is the ability to attend all of my children’s school functions. Freedom is being able to take off anytime I want to take my family to the coast. For the most part, I do have those freedoms, but I am still not where I want to be. Freedom does cost money. To be able to have a flexible schedule, you have to be able to afford to take that time off.

I do have much more freedom than most. We have vacationed a couple of times each year as a family. I have been able to be there for my wife before, during and after each of our children have been born. My oldest and my wife have had some extended hospital stays over the last few years and I was able to drop everything to be there for them. The business I have built has allowed me that kind of freedom.

I am starting to feel like it sounds like I am complaining about my life. This is not the case as I am blessed far beyond what I deserve. What I am not, is content. Typing that last sentence kind of makes me sad but at the same time optimistic. I know that I am not the kind of person who could ever be completely content, but I am at the point where I would like a season of contentment. My life is constantly in R&D (research and development) but lately I have not been able to spend as much time in R&D mode as I would like. I like trying new things so I can see what works and what doesn’t. I always want to know what will work best. I am not happy until I know the best way to accomplish a task. I have also not been able to cultivate relationships with my friends for several years and that is starting to wear on me. We need community and I don’t really have that on a personal level.

It’s not going to be comfortable, but there will be changes this year. I hate the fact that I am talking about it and even going as far as typing it out on January 1, but it is what it is. I have thought about it every day of last year and not much changed. It is too easy to get into a rut and just let the days pass by while you continuously tell yourself that you will start that tomorrow. My family gets my full attention and my clients do as well. Its time for me to find a way to continue to be available to those who need me while making sure there is enough energy left for myself.

With all of that said, here is the thing I need to keep reminding myself: It’s not about me. It really is not about me. Its about what I find important and where my priorities are. When you have those in line, it is much easier to be where you want to be. The hard thing is that when you have more priorities than you used to, it gets harder to figure out how to keep them all at the top. My family is my most important earthly possession. It is important to me that my wife is happy and that she feels secure. It is important to me that my kids are happy and that my wife is able to stay home with them rather than have to work. I would sacrifice just about everything to keep my wife home with my kids, that is more important than possessions or any kind of freedom I could desire for myself. I don’t think that many people get that, and the only one who suffers is the child.

So where does that leave me? Well, it leaves me tired and sometimes frustrated, but I need to see past that. Last year was a lot about giving into that tiredness and allowing myself to feel like there was not enough time for myself. This year, I will make an effort to assure I fix the things that have been bothering me. No more excuses. Its 2015, which is the year the movie “Back to the Future” gave us a glimpse into what the future would be like. We might not have Hoverboards and we definitely don’t dress like Biff and his crew did, but we are living in exciting times.

With all that said, I’m going to go peek in on my precious sleeping children which erases all memories of the frustrations of the day.

Parting words from Biff Tannen:

So, why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here?

New Course: 4 Steps to Starting a WordPress Blog Website

4 Steps to Starting a WordPress Blog WebsiteOver the years I have spoken with a lot of people who just want to build a simple website to start their idea. They either do not have a budget to have a designer build them a website or they want to do it on their own. Regardless, I have created a free course that teaches just how easy it is to setup a WordPress website. In 4 steps, or about 20 minutes, you can setup a WordPress website and start posting content. Whether you are wanting to start a blog to post about something you are passionate about or you want to build a new website for your business, this course is for you. It gets you up and running in no time.

To sign up for the free course, visit this link: https://www.udemy.com/4-steps-to-starting-a-wordpress-blog-website

At the end of the course, I provide 20 minutes of bonus audio discussion on building a successful website. From there, you will need to learn how to use WordPress. Well, I have a course for that as well and it’s also free titled “Getting Started With WordPress – A Beginners Guide.”

To sign up for the free course, visit this link: https://www.udemy.com/getting-started-with-wordpress-a-beginners-guide

These courses are free to take.