Last year at VMworld 2014, I had some fantastic experiences and met heaps of great people (some of them are the kind of people who talk funny and use words like ‘heaps!’). I found myself challenged by certain conversations, and motivated, inspired, and excited by others. During the course of the show last year, at some specific point and more or less unintentionally, I found myself setting some goals based on what I was observing and hearing. I said to myself – “By this time next year, I will accomplish X, Y, and Z.” This post may be my first non-technical article on my blog, so I’m excited to break into that space and share two things: the three goals I set for myself and what my experience was in my pursuit of them.
Perhaps not surprisingly, these goals I set myself came about from things I realized in 1:1 conversation, or in a 1:few setting. Large groups are so fun, but I also love the depth that an intimate conversation setting can facilitate. I spent the day of registration wandering around with my friends Eric Wright and Angelo Luciani, and Eric and I were in the same hotel a 20 minute walk from the conference center, so we walked alone back to the hotel a time or two. They had no idea about this, and the only thing I’ve ever said about it was a hint I dropped a moonth or two ago. But it was with them that either a conversation or an experience caused me to set each one of these three goals. I’m on a plane now headed to VMworld 2015 and I’m so excited to land at SFO and wander around downtown San Francisco with those guys (and others) again, and who knows – maybe set some goals for next year! So, about the goals…
Lose Some Weight!
This came up on day one. As we were walking around the conference center and surrounding areas and taking gratuitous numbers of VMworld selfies for Angelo to post, we saw lots of people. I knew some of them and met a bunch of new people. I don’t recall exactly how many, but somewhere in the ballpark of 6-8 people said when they first saw Angelo, “Hey you look great! You’ve definitely lost some weight!” As basement-dwelling, Mountain Dew sipping, sedentary sysadmins or consultants, many in our industry can become more consumed with uptime (legendary XKCD comic) than with our overall health and wellness. I’ve never been particularly fit, and I’ve never been grossly overweight. Just the plain old American standard – sedentary, 20 pounds overweight, and eating like I don’t care. So as people said this to Angelo, I remember thinking, “Wouldn’t it be nice if next year people said that to me?” And so I resolved that by next year’s VMworld, I would have changed my lifestyle such that people might say to me, “Have you lost weight?!”
In the fall of 2014, I started on the journey that I consider the catalyst for success in this goal (just gave away the punchline, but I was successful!). I’d been following this guy Dave Asprey on his blog for a couple of years. As a casual observer, I read some interesting stuff and wondered how much of it could really be true. But as I said, I was nothing but a fly on the wall. Dave is a fellow geek (he was a successful Silicon Valley exec before changing his focus to what they call ‘biohacking’) and because of that he loves data. I felt comfortable trying out some of the ideas Dave has because he backed it with good hard data. His blog is about hacking human performance and health so that you can accomplish your goals. “Sounds like what I need!” He also has a fantastic podcast that I listen to regularly. So a month or so after VMworld, I started religiously drinking Bulletproof Coffee, which is the thing Dave has become most famous for. He recently wrote a book that is more all-encompassing in terms of diet, but the coffee embodies all the tenets of a Bulletproof diet, which can be boiled down to something like, “Very high in healthy fats, moderate in grass-fed meats and veggies, and very low in things like grains and legumes.” It’s much more intricate than that, so I hope I’m representing it fairly. If you’re struggling with weight or feeling sluggish and performing poorly and have ‘brain fog,’ HEAR THIS. From October-ish to March-ish, I did nothing but replace my breakfast with a delicious, satisfying cup of Bulletproof Coffee. I lost 20 pounds and felt better than I had in a couple years. All the naysayers about how eating something so contrary to what Americans have been taught is healthy the last couple decades can keep on naysaying, while I lose weight, feel awesome, and outperform them.
Based on my success there, I decided to give the full-fledged Bulletproof Diet a shot. This article is going to be crazy long already, so I won’t go into too much detail but my experience was this: it’s very expensive to do it right, it involves lots of prep time and time to cook, and it only works if you fully embrace it. Cheating much at all will throw off everything you’re creating and ruin your results. For me, I wound up flaking out and not maintaining my Bulletproof lifestyle; not because it didn’t work, but because it requires you to be so dedicated and I’m immature and not always dedicated. Maybe in the future, I’ll try it again. It certainly improves fitness and performance and is worth it.
At VMworld 2015 one year later, I’m a full 30 pounds lighter than last year. I have more energy and feel more focused. I want to applaud Angelo for HIS achievement that he didn’t even know inspired me to follow suit. I also want to encourage everyone who reads this, attending VMworld or not, to make your health a priority. Other things in life seem to fall in line more cleanly when you’re fit and focused. I anticipate setting another fitness goal for 2016, possibly around activity and exercise.
Write for Hire
One of the times Eric and I were walking back to the hotel, we were talking about some of the work he’d been doing on the side. Eric is part of launching and organizing an awesome program called Virtual Design Master which just wrapped up Season 3. He had also been writing articles for other friends of ours who produce technical marketing content and was knee-deep in creating coursework for Pluralsight. At the time of our discussion, I had never written for hire. I wrote because I wanted to. And I still do plenty of that. But as we talked, I realized that as interesting as IT is (and believe me, I have late nights where I can’t fall asleep because the gears are turning about some technology), the only reason I do any of it is for my family. Money isn’t everything, but it certainly creates opportunities and allows for experiences that can’t be had without said money. I realized that since I like to write and technology excites me, there were probably folks who would pay me for my writing. The person who is both a good writer AND very technical is actually somewhat rare. Since I want to spoil my wife and daughter because we have enough money, I set my intentions to find writing work in 2015.
I have done seminars with a group called Klemmer & Associates. Don’t Google it – you mostly get results from the mad people who created a poor experience for themselves and want to whine. K&A folks are great and I attribute almost any success I have with things that I learned about myself in their seminars. They have a saying, “When the Intention is clear, a Mechanism will appear.” This means that when you become super focused on what you want to achieve, the means for achieving that almost seem to fall in your lap. The idea you need just comes to you, the person to hook you up gets introduced to you at a party, or whatever. This goal was certainly proof of that concept. Going into September, I got very clear that I intended to write for hire. Between November and now, I have written many articles for various publications and generated >$10,000 in extra income for my family this year. The reason I set the stage about “intention” is that I didn’t seek out ONE of the writing gigs that made that money. I got clear on what I wanted, and suddenly started receiving emails and phone calls asking me to write. I did not promote myself one time. That is such a powerful illustration of the intention/mechanism philosophy.
I REALLY appreciate the opportunity that I’ve been given by the folks who pay me to write. I really enjoy it and I’m honored that you find my writing valuable. You know who you are. In 2016, I suspect I may set a new goal about what sorts of things I write about and be more selective about who I write for. Eric, thanks for the inspiring chat that you had no idea would make my family some substantial “walking around money” this year!
Triple My Blog Traffic
I can’t remember whether or not this happened in the same conversation as the previous one or not, but Eric and I were talking about what happened to his blog traffic as things happened like VDM launching and being invited to be a delegate at VIrtualization Field Day 3. I don’t think I made this metric up, so I’m guessing Eric said something along the lines of “my blog traffic tripled” during that conversation. Either way, I resolved that I would put in the effort – make no mistake, running a blog with any following takes lots of effort – to generate extra value and thusly 3x readership.
Blog traffic is not inconsequential – even if you don’t run a website for profit, it can net you things like connections, opportunity, or Karma. I don’t believe in Karma as a religious principle, but what I mean by that is very real; creating valuable material earns you good will from others which WILL eventually find its way back to you. So I set out to revamp the website, configure new tools, and create a new plan for how I use this site. Of the three goals, this one was by far the most challenging to me. High quality blog posts don’t just spring up out of nowhere – there’s a substantial time comittment involved. With a full time job and a new family, being efficient and squeezing little bursts of productivity into small spaces has been key. That said, I’m proud to say that between VMworld 2014 and this year at VMworld 2015, I’ve had days where new posts generated 10x the traffic they would have last year, and on an average day I’m 3x to 4x more viewed. In July of 2015, readership was 4x what I had in July of 2014. As I mentioned, this hasn’t been inconsequential. There’s a good chance that some of the paid writing gigs I’ve recieved started with the editor viewing my blog. Stephen Foskett says he doesn’t know how many people read his blog and doesn’t care. And I think there’s a lot of value in that sentiment. But at least for this little experiment, I believe that measuring that metric allowed me to improve it, and improving it allowed me to harvest value from it.
To wrap up a long and more-personal-than-ever post, I want to thank (not by name) anyone and everyone in the IT community who’s been instrumental in helping me meet these goals this year. I challenge you to set aggressive goals like these for yourself and we can work on attaining them together in 2016! Also, even though you guys had no idea, special thanks to Eric and Angelo for hanging out and giving me some good ideas that made 2015 a great year. I land in about 90 minutes – I’ll come find you and we’ll high-five