How to build an online presence that will pay off in the real world

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A mistake I make all too often is that I write about things that have no substance — they’re fun for me to write, but don’t give you, the reader, anything solid to consider after you finish reading. I can write about what I would do if I could relive an hour of my childhood or what kind of a story a certain image might provoke, but the truth is that outside of expressing some personal creativity, the bus stops at that last period.

I recognize that blogging posts like these doesn’t build my personal brand and doesn’t represent me in the way that I would like to be perceived online.

This is the issue with a lot of the content that gets posted to the internet. We live in a generation of picture-swipers that have a hard enough time deciding which filter to use on Instagram, let alone reading to the end of a 1,000 word blog post.

But building an online presence is more than just writing good blog posts or saying all the right things on Twitter. If your medium of choice is Instagram or Snapchat, you can still follow some key considerations that will help you build a strong and successful brand. The big things that need to be considered are:

  • Authenticity
  • Value
  • Inspiration
  • Specificity
  • Plausibility

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Authenticity

Being authentic in your blog or social media is paramount in establishing a good online presence. If someone is hilarious in real life, but blogs like a robot I am not going to be all too interested in what they have to say. That’s not to say funny people HAVE to be funny online, but you have to be true to who you are. If the real you and the person you’re portraying don’t add up, people will see through you. As sad as it is for me to say, the reason the Kardashians are as successful as they are is because they are as vain in real life as they are on social media (I say this as someone who has never kept up with any of the Kardashians, but I don’t think my saying they’re a little full of themselves is too far off base).

Value

Value begins and ends with letting go of ego and having a genuine desire to improve what it is you’re doing. In order to make something more valuable, you have to continue learning, improving, and challenging yourself to make a better product. Being derogatory to your friends was great in college, but there is no place for it if you are trying to establish an online brand. Unless you’re Rob Delaney, save the fart jokes for the bar and make an effort to put out a consistent voice through social media that makes your brand appear world-class to other users.

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Inspiration

If you just want to post pictures of your dog and fill out those “which animal cracker best defines your childhood” surveys on Facebook, more power to you. I’m going to block you from my feed, but by all means, Nilla-penguin, live your life. However, if you want to have people pay attention to you, you have to add some value to someone’s life. Tell stories with a purpose, comment on people’s blogs ONLY IF YOU’VE READ THEM. Inspiring people come from all walks of life, and you don’t have to be a revolutionary to be inspiring. Start with being yourself and be kind to others, and you’ll be surprised at how people will pay attention to you.

Specificity

When I first began blogging, I was all over the place. I wrote about poker, running, my dog (who still might make an appearance here or there)… I did some “creative fiction,” talked about my marriage, and about how poor my golf game gets in the winter time. The point is, I was lost and just reaching in every direction trying to get views. Specificity doesn’t mean you have to talk about one subject only for the rest of your life, but have some direction and stick to it. If ESPN started showing election coverage, they wouldn’t be true to their audience. Think of your online presence in the same way. Decide who you are and focus your content on that across all social platforms.

Plausibility

Plausibility means how likely is it that what you represent or have to say is realistic or applicable to the real world? Building a powerful brand online means what you say have to have real meaning to a wide audience on the other side of the screen. I could tell you why Israel is the next hotbed for rare diamonds, but how many people would be able to fly out to Jerusalem and start asking around for some buyers? Probably not many. But, if I tell you that waking up five minutes early and doing 50 push ups will jump start your metabolism and give you more energy throughout the day, that is something you could actually do. (For the record, doing 50 push ups will jump start your metabolism and I really couldn’t tell you left from right about diamonds in Jerusalem.)

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So once you have figured out how to be online, the trick is making the most of it. The simple truth is, you have to be diligent and keep your eyes open for opportunity. The best way to do this is to connect with as many other influencers as your can by reaching out and doing your best to network online. Explore every open door that might lead to another opportunity, and never be afraid to say “yes.”

The process is not a fast moving one, but little by little, you’ll see that by being authentic to who you are and having a consistent message will open doors and lead to real opportunities in the real world.

Writers Prompt #12: An hour as your 10 year old self

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Traveling back to 1995 for an hour would, first of all, mean I get to go back to my Detroit Lions Starter jacket (that I wore in South Florida because when it’s 70 degrees in January, burrrr), Airwalk shoes, fantasizing about the T-shirt wall at Spencers gifts, and checking the value of my baseball card collection in every new edition of Beckett magazine. I’d be checking my pager to see if Zach “911’d” me to get to the basketball court, or if I should go to the aquatic center or the ice rink tonight (because those were the hella dope places to be).

But if I only had an hour to spend, I’d probably leave my Magic the Gathering cards at home, tell Sonic the Hedgehog that he’d have to get those gold rings without me, and I’d call as many friends as I could think of…

Bike gang, y’all!

There was something cool about riding bikes in a group that made me feel cool. I imagine it’s the childhood equivalent of what motorcycle gangs feel like when they ride on Sundays, only we didn’t throw the motorcycle wave around everywhere we went.

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Sup bro? Sup bro? Image courtesy of http://www.motorsport.com

Rival bike gangs were serious business, and if we had to meet at the sandpit for a fight after school next week well that’s just politics.

So if I only had one hour to be 10 years old again, I’d be outside, with friends, doing something that made me feel confident. I don’t think that riding bikes was every my favorite thing to do at the time, but looking back, it was the thing that best defined who I was as a kid. And the best part is, while I don’t ride bikes anymore, being outside with friends doing the things I love to do most is still something that defines who I am as an adult.

Travel, tacos, and missing shoes?

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I have two confessions I should lay out there before I get into what I think I’m about to write (because knowing what you want to say when you start to write is SO OVERRATED!).

  • I am 36 hours away from boarding a plane from Columbus–>Charlotte–>Grand Cayman
  • Nah-nah-na-boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo

With that being said, the point I want to get at is that I am traveling as someone who hates spending money if I don’t have to spend money. I am fine spending money on a nice dinner here and there with my wife (though I can honestly say that every time I see the check, it hurts a little bit inside). I will spend money on nice clothes every now and then because I think it’s important to have quality pieces in a man’s wardrobe. I will spend money on playing a nice golf course because it is something I love. Finally, I will spend money gambling because even though you can tell me the house has an edge, I think I can outsmart the game and give myself an advantage and I don’t care if I am irrational about it, I believe it, so let’s just leave it alone (for the record, total gambling net probably is in the red).

Other than those things, I don’t really like spending money. I like seeing my savings account and my checking account grow. I like knowing that I can afford something, but never actually pulling the trigger on buying it. I like filling up digital shopping carts, and slowly removing item by item until there is one “sale” t shirt left, and I will leave that tab open for 5 days until I want to restart my computer and I just close out of the tab.

Judge if you want, I can take it.

I’ve posted not too long ago about travel –> SEE HERE — and that my wife and I are going to Grand Cayman and Ireland this year. I think we also booked a trip to Nashville to see some friends (shout out to Josh, Kenzie and Arlie). Normally, the thought of spending the kind of money we’re going to be spending would make me wall up and start biking it to work, but I am coming around to the idea that travel, for those of us who don’t have kids, is one of the best and most important things you can spend money on at this stage in life.

Here’s the thing, if you come at me with “you should save because you should pay off debt… or buy a house… or for a new car… or whatever,” I’m sure you have a point. I wouldn’t advocate traveling if you can’t pay your electric bill or if you are struggling to keep gas in the car. But what I’ve come to understand about myself is that I was to save for things that don’t really exist. Seeing my bank account grow is like watching the time pass on a clock. The numbers go up, but if you don’t turn around and enjoy life a little bit, you won’t ever get to see what really matters. I think back about the places my wife and I have gone over the last five years, and I can’t tell you how much it’s added to our relationship.

It’s kind of like food. Staying at home all the time is like eating tacos every night for dinner. I love tacos. I’m comfortable with tacos. I can bank on the fact that they’ll be as solid tonight for dinner as they were last night. Sure you can add avocado or sour cream to tacos every now and then, or get real crazy and put some new salsa in there, but at the end of the day nothing really changes. Traveling is like saying, “you know what, tacos. I love you, and you’re where my heart is, but I’m going out for Italian tonight. I might even have a few appetizers before I settle on pasta.”

Sure you have to have someone watch your tacos every now and then, and make sure the trash gets taken out and they get the mail if you are away from your tacos for a few days, but those are all minor details.

Traveling has given me some of the best memories I’ll ever have and I still laugh about them to this day. Sure it takes a big chunk out of your bank account, but in a month or two, you won’t remember it was there anyway. But you will remember standing in an elevator with no shoes on and an open bottle of champagne when a couple checking in sees you and the only thing that comes to your head to say is, “I don’t have any shoes!”

Traveling lets you get out of your kitchen and taste life a little differently. And trust me, you’ll appreciate your tacos that much more when you come back to them (at least until you decide to plan a sushi trip!).

 

Eight Things I Learned about Marriage after Two Years

 

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For those that didn’t see, this blog was published in “The Good Men Project” and can be seen (with different pictures) here: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/eight-things-learned-marriage-two-years-dg/

My wife and I just had our second wedding anniversary, and while I haven’t learned the secret to 60 years of coexistence like my grandparents might be able to teach, there are some things I’ve gotten out of the last 730 days that I think are valuable in their own right. After all, if you can’t make it past two years, you aren’t going to be celebrating a 60th anytime soon.

1 – Learn what your partner’s favorite thing is about themselves

It’s one thing to compliment your partner when they look good or get promoted at work. It’s another thing to compliment your wife on her ability to get shit done (if that’s what she’s into).

If you can’t make each other laugh just being who you are, you are going to have a hard time enjoying each other for the rest of your lives.

My wife loves being a trailblazer — as I write this she is planning a community 5K and health and wellness expo from scratch. Telling her that she’s killing it and that I am proud of how well she’s handling such a big project means more to her than telling her she looks good in a bathing suit or how perfect her hair looks after she gets it cut. Figure out what your wife loves most about herself and make a point to let her know you love it too.

2- Find the humor in ordinary situations

Dating was great. You stay out late, have one too many drinks, and usually have sex — a lot of sex. When you get married (and I can only imagine after kids), things slow down and nights out with friends are all to often swapped for nights on the couch being smothered by your dog who doesn’t know the meaning of personal space. It’s in these situations that marriages can be made or broken because this is real life and these moments will be what 80% of your non-working lives will be together. If you can’t make each other laugh just being who you are, you are going to have a hard time enjoying each other for the rest of your lives.

3- It’s still OK to celebrate little moments

My wife and I still celebrate our “date-iversary.” It’s a stupid thing, but it shows that we still remember the day we decided to become exclusive (even if we have some trouble remembering that WHOLE night). You’re expected to do things for her birthday or anniversary, but showing her that those little moments still mean something to you shows her that you value your relationship.

4- Take your health seriously

Another great thing about dating was you probably splurged on some late night eats, a few too many late night drinks, and probably found yourselves eating out more than your budget would have preferred.

I love our together time, but I also appreciate some time to myself.

When you get married, the kitchen becomes more important in many ways than the bedroom. Everything in life starts with your health, including not only your happiness and satisfaction with your partner, but with yourself as well. Cook together, and make sure you both carve out time to exercise. Healthy relationships begin with healthy people, so make sure you are doing your part.

5- Pay attention to your appearance

I know how easy it can be to go another day without shaving or rock the same sweatpants three or four nights in a row after you get home from work. There is a fine line between being comfortable in your home and letting yourself go. Looking good for your partner is an important way to remind them that you want to be your best for them. I have found that the more I shave my face, the more she will shave her legs. Looking your best leads to feeling your best, which leads to confidence in and out of the home, and confidence is something everyone finds attractive.

6- Understand each other’s needs for space and togetherness

My wife doesn’t need much “me time.” She loves spending time together and hates it when I have to go away for a night or two for work (for the record, so do I). I love our together time, but I also appreciate some time to myself. I love to get outside and run. My wife has never questioned me when I say I need to go run and I love her that much more for allowing me to do what I need to do to be me. I also recognize her needs to be together and I will gladly trade “guy time” for time spent just watching bad TV with her and our dog.

7- Have an opinion

It all boils down to listening to each other, respecting each other, and having fun with each other.

Ninety-nine times out of 100, my wife seems to disagree with my opinion when it comes to option A and option B, but she respects the fact that I weigh the options and tell her how I feel. Playing the “I don’t care” card shows a lack of interest in the issue at hand. You don’t have to be stern about why you want to go for sushi instead of Mexican, but she’ll appreciate that you put down your phone long enough to tell her how you’re craving spicy tuna, even if you end up having margaritas at El Vaquero.

8- Ego has no place in relationships

It’s easy to stand up for your wife if she is being mistreated in public. It’s more difficult when it’s just the two of you having an argument, but the latter can diffuse a huge fight waiting to happen. Putting your ego aside doesn’t always mean admitting you’re wrong (though that does go a long way sometimes), rather it means honestly putting yourself in her position and trying to understand where she’s coming from. Those “where did that come from” fights usually don’t start because someone is picking a fight, but because they don’t feel the other person is putting in the effort to see things from the other perspective.

There are plenty of other things I am learning about myself, my wife, and our relationship as we go along. It’s hard to narrow down the list sometimes, but I think that my wife and I are on a good path and I believe that we are destined for 60 years together some day. It all boils down to listening to each other, respecting each other, and having fun with each other. If you have that, the first two years will fly by faster than you realize.

– See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/eight-things-learned-marriage-two-years-dg/#sthash.Llwag0e6.dpuf

Writing Prompt #10: Describe a woman in your life who has impacted you deeply.

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Image courtesy of themuse.jezebel.com

My wife and my mother are the two most important women in my life, but for contrarian’s sake, I’ll pick Joan Didion because she is my favorite living author and the person that helped me understand what it is to write a great essay.

Her book, “The White Album,” changed my life. There was one article about the Los Angeles water systems — how water would travel from reservoirs north of the city down into Los Angeles, ultimately going into people’s homes then back into the sewers and out to the Pacific Ocean. She tracked the water like it was a farm-to-table vegetable, documenting what happened to the water at each process. She talked about how it was cleaned and how long it sat at one place before ultimately draining into some pond and trickling back into the ocean. After I read it, I couldn’t believe I just read about something like water and was so fascinated by it.

I also read her book, “The Year of Magical Thinking.” There, she described the first year living alone after her husband of fifty-some odd years died. She talked about making two table settings out of habit, and being constantly reminded that she no longer has that person there she shared her whole life with.

I will never be the kind of writer that Didion is, but I will take the things she did so wonderfully and apply them to the things that I do. I don’t remember how I found her books, but I’m so glad that I did because she is one of the most influential women in my life, despite the fact that I’ve never had the chance to meet her.

Writing Prompt #09: Safe Spaces

So I’ve been bad about keeping up with my D2S Writing Prompts, so I made a point to get back on board this week with the following piece about defining your safe space and describing what it means to you. ENJOY!

I think a lot of people think of a safe space as their own little quiet corner of the world, but for me, my safe space is anything but quiet. When I need to think — really be alone with my thoughts — I put my headphones in and get outside to run.

We all have our routines, whether it’s work or family or our schedules. Those things are fine, but to be able to think about things creatively, we have to do things a bit off-kilter. For me, I need to run. I start out by finding a good station on Spotify. I will usually lock in to the music for the first part of the run just to ease comfortably into my space.

After a few miles when I start to get tired, that’s when I do my best thinking. I start to forget about the music and my heavy breathing, and I can just put my legs on autopilot and coast. I think about things I want to write about or ways to handle certain problems I might have at the time. I’ll think about my plans for the weekend or which PGA player will win the tournament this weekend. I’ll replay hands from poker games I played years ago and try to figure out what I could have done differently or how I might do that again the next time I play. I think this time more so than any other is like a hard reset for my brain. I purge out every thought I’ve had over the past few days and and just able to exist in the moment.

I can honestly say that I am at my best when I run. I’m not the fastest runner, nor do I have dreams of bigger races or PR’s. I run because it allows me to be myself. I run because it allows me to feel free, and freedom is the safest place in the world to me.

Call to Action: To hell with Free Time!

 

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As adults, we say “free time” the way we said “recess” or “play time” when we were younger. All too often, we work 40-50 hours Monday-Friday to get to our “free time,” then sit on the couch for half of the day for one reason or another. We catch up on shows, relax (aka – nap), surf the web (aka – look at Instagram posts), or eat despite the fact that we ate something an hour and a half ago and say, “I might be hungry, but I might not be?”

I was this person, too, you know? When I had roommates, I remember staying in my room until 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. because the longer I stayed in there, the more embarrassing it would look when I finally came out to greet the world. I would say things about getting my resume together or being really sore from that workout I did yesterday (or was it the day before? Or was it last month?). I could spend a whole day in my house, not cook anything and just order food, then put on an Ohio State shirt and watch the 8:00 p.m. game until I went up to bed and lay awake until 3:00 a.m.

 

Free time.

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Thankfully, those days are behind me. I couldn’t sleep in past 8:30 a.m. if I wanted to and if I’ve been in my house for more than four straight hours, I start to go a little crazy (and I like my house!). What happened is my wife and I started making plans. We plan things out a month in advance. We buy concert tickets for shows six months down the road and we share calendars for workouts, happy hours, work schedules, even when we are going to give our dog a bath. We almost have to schedule “free time,” otherwise our days won’t allow us any time to breathe.

And it’s not just on weekends either. We plan time to work on our freelance businesses, schedule meetings with event coordinators for things we want to put into motion six months down the road. Of course, we plan couch time to smother our dog, but there are some nights he has to remind us to get him his walk (he does this by eating a little bathroom waste bin trash or moving our shoes from our closet).

So here’s where I ask you to self-reflect and look at what it is you do on the weekends or when you get off from work. Do you beeline to your couch and order pizza most nights, or do you have plans to do something productive with your free time? As Millennials, it’s easy for us to say that something isn’t worth our time, but we are devaluing our time by wasting it every day. I’m all for “lets do it more efficiently,” but when it comes to going from a computer screen at work to a TV screen at home, we have to change how we are doing things.

So, it’s OK to start small, but at least START. Make “free time” a thing where you get free yourself from what has been comfortable to this point, and challenge yourself to do something new. Who knows, you might start to enjoy it!

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