How Twenty Fourteen is Going to be My Year!

In my last post I talked about all the fantastic things that took place in the past year. It was an amazing year and I’m grateful for almost every part of it. I could have done without the episode with my heart but even that couldn’t take away from all the great things that have been happening. I ended the post about the coming year the same way I started last year.

Twenty Fourteen is Going to be My Year!

I expect my business to grow, my baby will arrive, my partner and one of my best friends will move back to the states, I will lose a bunch of weight and get healthy again, and start sharing what I’ve learned with others. Some of these are resolutions of sorts while others are just happy things that are inevitable in the coming year. For resolutions however, you can’t just sit back and wait for those things to happen. One must take action to fulfill the goals that they set.

Let me share a few of my resolutions and the things I plan on doing to make them a reality and not just a dream. Then perhaps I’ll touch on some if the inevitable’s and why they’re also important.

Goal for 2014

Grow Business

This past year Ninja Forms went from $3,000 average monthly sales in the first quarter to $18,000 in the fourth quarter. I would like to say that the business growing is more inevitable than a goal. After all the growth its seen happened while I was working another full-time job. This year I will be focusing 100% of my working hours on it. But the truth is growth is never inevitable. It takes hard work, wise decisions, and plenty of luck.

In order to do what I can to keep Ninja Forms going in the direction I want I will start writing more documentation and posting more videos. Writing more articles and improving our support system. I’ll also be making some changes to our website and doing a little more promotion of the product. Not to mention our 3.0 release of Ninja Forms due out mid February and some major extension updates.

All in all Ninja Forms and it’s extensions are getting even better than they already are and our site and documentation will be extremely extensive moving forward. I’m really excited about the new year and what we have in store for Ninja Forms.

Get Healthy

Early this year I had hernia surgery and was never able to get back into my running routine that had helped me lose so much weight. Starting on January 2nd I will run for a minimum of 1 hour every single day but Sunday. I will be watching the calories I consume very closely and once again cut out all soft drinks and drink only water. My goal is to lose 50 lbs by the beginning of June. It will be tough but I’m going to give it all I’ve got.

Another way I’m going to try and assist this process is by purchasing a standing desk and attempt to stand for at least 40% of every work day. I may attempt to increase that over time but that’s my initial goal.

Give Back

I do this already but I want to do it more. I live my life by a code of generosity and love to give. In fact one of the reason we use the business model we do is to give back to the WordPress community. By giving an excellent plugin like Ninja Forms for free we’re providing a top notch product to users whether they need our paid extensions or not. It feels good to provide something we’ve worked so hard on for free.

This year I would love to teach a WordCamp session or two and provide some more resources to help business in the WordPress ecosystem. I have a few actionable ideas on how to give back even more and I look forward to sharing them as the year advances.

The happy inevitable’s

  • My baby’s dues date is June 10th. I will have 6 months to get myself into a solid work routine only to have it instantly destroyed. While I’m extremely nervous about how this will affect my newly created work schedule I’m more than thrilled to face the challenge.
  • My business partner will return to the states in August. When he returns we will begin working out of the same office. Over the past two years we have accomplished a lot with an ocean between us but there is definitely a different energy when we’re together. I can’t wait to see what we dream up when we’re able to have these conversations more freely.

2014 is going to be exciting, hectic, fun, and stressful. I’ve been working toward this coming year for more years than I can recall but it’s finally here. I can promise you at least one thing. I will not squander the opportunities that are before me. Big things are going to happen. See you next year. :)

Twenty Thirteen is Going to be My Year!

These are the words I opened this year with and in all honesty I said them with a hint of wishful thinking. I had no reason to expect 2013 to be some terrific year for me. Kevin and I were about to launch 2.0 of Ninja Forms and completely change the business model but how it would be received and it’s possible success was really more a game of chance.

The year is almost over and I thought I would share just a few of the major life changes that have taken place just this year. My life has been an interesting one to say the least  and perhaps in the future I’ll write more about some of those adventures but for now lets stick with the highlights of 2013.

I quit my church

Since 2001 I’ve been pastoring a church in some capacity or another and in 2005 I started a little church plant in Cleveland, TN. This little church was my whole life. For the large portion of it’s existence it was my main focus and passion. This year I closed the church and we went our separate ways. We’re all still in contact but some have moved on to other churches and other are just laying low until they decide how they want to proceed.

This was an extremely hard move for me but I know the time had come. One huge life changing event complete.

I quit my job

At this point there seems to be a pattern emerging. It’s not the first time I’ve ever quit my job but it’s certainly the first time I did it when I was perfectly happy with my employer. I loved where I worked and the people I worked with. I just couldn’t keep it up with how much my own business was growing. The WP Ninjas do a minimal amount of client work from time to time but our main plugin, Ninja Forms, is really getting very popular. If Kevin and I want to continue to develop and support it with the quality that we have up till now I need to devote myself to it exclusively. So as of January, 2014 I will be completely focused on WP Ninja projects alone.

I’m going to be a Dad!

The most exciting news of all is that sometime in early to mid June of 2014 I’m going to be a dad. This is crazy to me and I’m not completely sure it has settled in just yet. Angela and I have been married for 15 years. We had thought about having kids much earlier but life and other decisions apparently had gotten in the way. Not any more and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s scary and I’m sure I will have plenty to write about that over the next… 18 years. I guess I’ll just leave it at that for the time being.

Looking forward

It has been a phenomenal year and I’m so grateful for all the good fortune my family and I have had this year. These are just the highlights and I couldn’t have predicted any of it happening. At the beginning of the year I made this statement with a whole lot of wishful thinking but now I proclaim with complete confidence ( and a healthy portion of caution )…

Twenty Fourteen is Going to be My Year!

2 nights in the ICU

I haven’t written on this site for over a year so you might be wondering why I’m writing this all of the sudden. One answer is I’ve been thinking about my own mortality and what I’ll leave behind. Another one might be that there is so many changes going on in my life right now that I thought it would make sense to have a place to capture it all. If for no other reason than as a reminder of why I made the decisions I made.

Now that we have that out of the way let’s get on with the point of this post…

Last week my heart broke

Not in some sappy emotional way but in a very real physical way. On Thursday of last week around 1 o’clock in the afternoon I started to feel very strange. It started with me feeling my heart beat hard in my chest like I had not remembered ever experiencing. It was so hard that if I didn’t know better I would have thought it had escaped my chest cavity to come to the surface and knock right against my flesh. My heart beat wasn’t just hard but it was fast an irregular too. I tried slowing my breathing, walking around, getting some water, but nothing seemed to calm me down. Then I started to get slightly lightheaded and decided to go to the ER.

Hilarity ensues and someday you might even here about it

I had grand notions of telling you of all the adventures that were had in my two night stay in the ICU. Everything from the nurse with Tourettes to the nurse who sat by my bed the first night and began to tell me how he was going to “scare me” about the issues I was having. I’m not through this ordeal just yet but these moments at least give me something to smile about in the meantime. I’m just too tried from the medications to try and tell them in such a way that makes them as entertaining as they were while they were happening.

This is the end…

…of this post but not the end of me. I still have a lot of things to say and accomplish before I check out. I’m fine and as far as we can tell  completely healthy but two nights in the ICU made me want to make sure I didn’t miss one opportunity to leave as much of me behind when I finally do check out. So the blog is back. It remains to be seen whether that is a good thing or not.

Freelance Tip: The truth about not trying

Most people know I’m a web developer and I sell products and do freelance work over at WP Ninjas. Over the years I had stopped taking on clients in favor of selling WordPress plugins. It’s been a nice change but a couple months ago I decided that I would start taking on clients again. Since that decision I have been slammed with requests an numerous projects.

Now the interesting thing is I didn’t change anything about the way I do business. I didn’t update my website announcing the change. I didn’t do anything to actively seek out additional freelance work. It just start coming in out of no where and now my weeknights and weekends are jam packed of all kinds of work. It’s a very nice problem.

Because of this I have been thinking a lot about my freelance business and how to make it grow and sustainable. So here is my first freelance tip as I work through this journey…

It’s possible to get all kinds of business without ever trying but it’s inevitable that you will lose it if you continue to do the same.

My first race is tomorrow

I have been running for about 5 months now and tomorrow is my first official race, the Chattanooga 4 Bridges Half Marathon.

I’m excited but I’m also apprehensive. I just recently found out I have a hernia and so I haven’t really been able to run the two weeks leading up to the race. It’s unfamiliar terrain as it pertains to hills and I’ve pretty much ran the same area for the past 5 months with virtually no hills.

If it’s possible to feel completely prepared and yet unprepared at the same time that’s how I feel right now.

After this I’ll have my surgery consultation to find out when and for how long it will be before I can run again. It appears my running season starts and ends with the same race.

Tomorrow I fully intend to post my stats no matter how proud or ashamed of them I may be.

Wish me luck.

Faster isn’t always better

For the past 5 months, as a runner, I’ve only focused on going faster and farther. The goal is to cover whatever distance at a faster pace than the last time I ran the same distance. That’s great for running but can be disastrous in other areas of your life.

A couple weeks ago I found out I had a hernia. I’m not doing anything very fast anymore for fear of aggravating it further. The sudden change has caused me to rediscover the joy of taking things slow. It’s helping me to enjoy once again the process and not just the completion.

Not everything in life was meant to be done faster. Some things are meant to be savored, reflected upon, and perhaps sometimes even completely paused so that we can get the absolute most out of the moment.

Life goes by fast enough without us rushing through it.

Nike+ for WordPress

I have an extremely obsessive personality. Once I get into my head to do something I do it with a focus like few have seen. I set some goals to lose weight and just improve my all around fitness level and have been going strong for several months now. I will hopefully have a big announcement about that very soon.

In order to aide in the weight loss process I took up running. This was a logical choice as I have a lot of friends who are runners so I would always have lot’s of encouragement and friendly competition. But what I really love about running is my ability to compete against myself. Faster, longer, faster & longer. Fastest mile, fastest 5K, fastest 10k, fastest half marathon. The ways in which I can accomplish a new personal best are almost endless which really keeps me on track.

Nike+ has been instrumental in this process. I love having the ability to keep a record of every run I make and all my personal records. The one thing that Nike+ doesn’t do well yet is share all your stats with the world. You can share individual runs on Twitter and Facebook and friends within Nike+ can see limited data but it still has a long way to go. I wanted a way to share my stats on my own website and the option to share just the specific stats I wanted in the moment. Luckily I do that sort of thing.

If you have a website and it’s powered by WordPress I’ve created the Nike+ WordPress plugin and it’s available now in the WordPress Repository. It currently lets you display your all time stats or most resent run with a widget or shortcode. I’m using it in this site so check out my sidebar or visit my running page to see my stats. Now go give it a spin.

I have some ideas for additional features but if you have some suggestions please feel free to submit them in the comments.

Sub 200lbs – A huge milestone

I hadn’t been comfortable for along time. Tying my shoes, riding in the car, pretty much anything that caused me to bend made me very aware that something needed to change, but for one reason or another it just had not become a priority yet. One day when I stepped on the scale it was like I got slapped silly with a sack of fat. Only my body was the sack of fat. The scale read 244lbs. This was the heaviest I had ever been and all of sudden my priorities changed.

The thing you need to know is that I hadn’t really weighed over 135lbs all the way up until I was at least 25 years old. It was only a couple years before that I started my apparent lifelong vocation of sitting all day in front of a computer. I believe that and the lack of discipline to control the amount of food I was consuming is the reason the scale assaulted me that fateful day. My point is that even over a 10 year period, 110lbs is a lot weight to gain. I was skinny and could have used to put on a few pounds but definitely not 110 worth.

Over the next couple weeks I talked my wife into letting us buy a treadmill. I would turn on a movie or TV show on Netflix and walk for 30 to 75 minutes almost every day. I also started tracking how many calories I was eating. I was completely obsessed. It paid off too. I lost about 30lbs and people were starting to notice. Then the weight loss stalled. I was still doing everything I was before but nothing was changing and the holidays were quickly approaching.

My compulsive nature threw me off the treadmill and into something more interesting for the next 7 months. Prior to my lapse I had started to feel so much better that I think I lost sight of how far I had come.  It wasn’t until the beginning of April that I had climbed back to 228lbs and was feeling miserable again.

On April 30th I started seriously running (more on that in another post) and got back on track with losing weight.

Today my current weight is 199lbs!

It feels so good to reach such a huge milestone in my journey I started just over a year ago. It only now is starting to feel real for me.

What life changes are you making?

It doesn’t matter how great your product is if your customer service sucks

I build websites for clients and I sell plugins. This is mostly a side business for me at the moment but it’s something I love to do and hope that I can do it on a larger scale in the future. I’m also a customer of many great products and because of that I’m faced with the biggest problem that technology companies have got to figure out…poor customer service.

I’ve purchased and used plenty of perfectly fine  products only to run into a small (or in my current circumstance) big problem only to find that there was no way to contact the creators. At least not if you needed a response sooner than a few days. That’s where I am right now.

I use Square in multiple ways but one of the more mission critical ways is in a local coffee bar that I’m a partner of. We use Square as our primary POS. It processes all of our transactions including and especially credit card transactions. Just a short while ago it stopped processing credit cards. This has the potential to cost us a lot of money. We need help and we need it immediately.

The problem is their website has absolutely no contact information. All they have is a “Help Center” where you can find a related question or submit a new one. No worries though. They promise to get back to you “as soon as possible”. That’s fine if your selling mittens and sweaters but this is how we transact sales and “as soon as possible” is not acceptable. We need assurance that someone is working on this right now, not at their earliest convenience.

The point is this. It doesn’t matter how great your product is. It doesn’t matter how affordable you are. It doesn’t even matter if you are the only game in town. If your customer service is broken, your whole company is broken. If you want to be great, I would start there.

Some times you have to start over

I started this blog in December of 2006. A lot has changed since then.

I thought I knew exactly who I was and where I was headed. I wrote posts and put them into categories that I thought would live forever only to find that not everything can be categorized. I even tried to categorize myself.

There was the spiritual me that cared about things like faith & church. There was the web designer me that cared about technology & innovation. But there was also little parts of me that didn’t seem to fit anywhere else so I would force them into one of my predetermined categories.

Sectioning myself off like that seemed like the perfect way to serve up only the content someone might want without offending or boring them with the content that they might not identify with. The problem is that as the years have passed the lines between sections began to blur and in trying to give people only the part of me that they might want, I gave them none of me at all. At least not in any genuine context.

But isn’t that what this site should be about…me. All of me. Not just the desirable parts or the parts that I can polish well enough to put on display. Not manageable sections like that of a buffet where you can choose the parts you like and skip over the rest. Every part of me, as it happens. No filters. No apologies. Okay, maybe some apologies.

A fresh start

I’ve deleted all previous content. Not permanently but long enough for me to feel the clarity of not having 6 years of content trying to dictate where I should go or what I should write. I’ve also deleted all exiting categories. I think I’m going to move to a tag based system. There is to much crossover in my life and I don’t want to fall into the trap of sectioning myself off again. Tags will provide a sort of web of connected thoughts across my life which seems far more appropriate. Yes, technically tags are just a different kind of sectioning, but it feel far more organic and liquid.

What’s Next?

Haven’t you been paying attention? I have no idea. Life may be as such that I write a lot at some points and nothing at others. My posts may be weighted heavily towards a particular topic for periods of time and then out of no where I may post something completely unrelated to anything I’ve written before. Life is unpredictable. Why should this blog be any different?