10 Commitments for Personal and Social Success

Over the past few weeks, I have been working on repairing my old web projects and rediscovering the successful work I did in the past. Everything I was working on had been on a Lunarpages shared web hosting server and then, one day, they all just disappeared…without a trace. I was hacked…severely. My files were riddled with base64 malware, and one by one my web projects died.

I spent the last week learning about the problem and discovering solutions. Once I figured out how to clean and restore all of my work, it was time to decide the best way to move forward in an efficient way. I chose to begin here. With my blog, which you are reading now. At this point, I am confident that I’ve broken the cycle of neglect and have set goals and am developing a plan to repair and restore the web properties that had been so successful in the past.

So, now; here is my first post, in a born-again blog. The words aren’t flowing through my fingers very well yet, and I don’t have a direction for this piece to go. I do know, however, that I would like to express some of what I’ve been reading over the past two years about the neurology of feelings.


When your heart is full of anger, and your creativity has fallen into neglect, it can spread to others like the flu. On the other hand, having a secure base offers comfort, stability and can help to free your positive, creative energy. Anxiety causes a preoccupation with failure and the fear of doing poorly, making mistakes, being rejected, abandoned, and can prevent someone from taking the kinds of risks that are necessary to accomplish important goals.

At some point in the past four years, I lost the sense of engagement and satisfaction that drove me to learn about Internet technology. I was no longer fully present and in sync with the work I was doing. When I was engaged, it was easy to see what these projects needed. I could enter into a feeling of oneness with the work I was creating, and engaging with my different audiences came naturally.

In spite of any intellectual potential I may have had, I was falling into depression and creative complacency. In the same way that my websites were suffering from malware, my head and heart were suffering from work anxiety, uncertainty about the future, and social malaise. Relationships became unsatisfying and going into work each morning was terrifying.

Today I have more than a few stories about how this cycle of neglect perpetuated, and clear examples of the consequences. I can’t tell these stories right now as there are still plotlines that are unresolved and involve relationships that are still unreconciled. Rather than lead with the past, my intention is to look forward to the future. To make commitments that will guide good intentions, develop focus, and allow me to see better the direction I am going in.

The 10 Commitments

  1. Define Core Values
    When floundering in a flotsam of despair, it can be hard to orientate yourself and chose which direction to go. Truly, finding a singular purpose and pursuing it is a major step forward for living a successful life. Being deliberate about why we do the things we do offers simplicity and confidence. Decisions are easier to make because we already know which direction we are going in.
  2. Don’t Get Offended
    Open-minded self-confidence is a social sticky trap for attracting good people. These personality features rely on someone having a think skin and makes it difficult for someone to rattle you and compromise your core stability.
  3. Seek Biological Allies
    Our most meaningful relationships are not always our most positive ones. My favorite artistic example of this is in a Modest Mouse lyric that says “…and I’m lonesome when you’re around, and I’m never lonesome when I’m by myself.” Loneliness has little to do with how many friends and relations that one has and is more closely related to the quality of those relationships. Positivity in our relationships correlates to greater biological resilience, immunity to infection, and greater self-esteem.
  4. Listen Actively, Especially During Disagreements
    Listening is the number one tool for understanding, and being the type of person others want to be around. The ability to understand and navigate different points of view is a paramount skill to have for maintaining positive relationships and preserving a sense of self in each person. If you disagree about something, you may never be able to change their mind now or in the future. Show people that you understand them and respect their right to an opinion.
  5. Share Feelings When it is Appropriate
    This one gets me in more trouble than any of the others. It is still one of the most important aptitudes for social success. To personify my brain, I consider that my amygdala and prefrontal cortex as coworkers, each with something equal and opposite to prove. Many times the emotional limbic side will try and handle the decision-making that might be better left to the prefrontal “high road.” (These ideas came from reading Daniel Goleman, which I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in the neuroscience behind human personality) The skill comes in the ability to share your feelings without dumping your troubles on someone.
  6. Embrace Change
    Fear of change can be paralyzing. This fear paralysis can cause you to be risk-averse to the point of staying in a bad situation, instead of actively trying to improve a situation or emotional environment. Change is always just around the corner and being always prepared means having a plan of action should sudden changes occur.
  7. Make Kindness a Priority
    If someone has had first-hand experience with abuse, pain, neglect, or any such litany of negative experiences, it is easier to reflect that back to others. Being mindful of yourself, and the feelings of others is empowering, addictive, and can counteract some of the social predation that comes from having anger in your heart. Actively seeking out opportunities to care about people that we are close to makes these opportunities easier to spot, and subsequently act on. The better a person becomes at expressing kindness, the more kindness they will inevitably get in return.
  8. Be a Model of Responsibility
    Own your mistakes and be prepared to protect and preserve the things that are important. Be quick to recognize and correct your mistakes. Approach adversity from a position of strength and accountability, rather than shame and blame.
  9. Let Go of Grudges
    Holding grudges creates a knee-jerk stress response that hinders the ability to work and communicate with people. Anger or rage that you associate with someone can wreak havoc on your mind and disrupt the sense of flow that we need to pursue the important goals and other drivers of personal success. This type of stress can also lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Letting go of anger at all costs is both emotionally liberating and can have a real effect on biological health.
  10. Foster Gratitude
    Every day brings something to be thankful for. Developing a gratitude awareness makes it easier to recognize the things that we have and what to be thankful for. Once you have recognized what you are thankful for, stop and think about that feeling. Where do you feel gratitude? In your chest? In your head? Actively seek out the sensation of gratitude and look to understand the places in your body, physical and emotional, that these feelings come from. Finally, learn how to express that feeling to others; letting them know how much they are appreciated, loved, and how important they are to you and the people who love them.

After proofreading this post, I realize that it has a lot of pseudo-advice and not a lot of actual solutions. This is okay, though because it is more for me than for you. As I continue to recover and redevelop my old web properties, I will be making a lot of guesses about the right way to go about building them and adding content. If you have any comments or advice for me, please don’t hesitate to share them. I am only as good as the people I surround myself with, so; if we are friends I will always accept your positive input.

Building Links

LinkbuildingI haven’t written about much over the past few years, and it’s really a damn shame. The last two years have been chaos, and the stories that came out of that time are pretty awesome. So now I’m a professional and my business card says I know what the fuck I’m talking about. I think that’s pretty cool, considering the way everything ended up coming together.

Now I am a specialist, and I help different types of companies make really important decisions about their websites. There are a lot of different ways to tweak websites to make them perform. Once the thing is running, I help tune it on the fly and  guide through algorithmic twists and competitive obstacles. It’s a fun and fast-paced environment, where the advice that is taken could be the difference between a client’s success and a flatline. While that is mostly unlikely my work wouldn’t be worth much at all without the foundational element of PageRank; links. Luckily, I have someone on my team who is awesome at it.

We know the difference between a good link and a bad link. Good links are the ones that appear naturally and bad ones are the ones that appear forced, or unnatural. We also know that, if you’re doing it right, linkbuilding can take a very long time to produce results. Links are relationships, because they take a meeting and interaction of people in order to be built. The most lucrative ones take a long time to cultivate, and the payout is huge.

The world is more different now then it ever was before. People meet and communicate at any distance, managing tasks like clockwork on a myriad of devices, keeping up with countless responsibilities. Millions of glowing screens, of varying sizes, pounding colors and sounds into people’s faces day after day. The Internet is organized chaos, but it’s really fucking easy to tell the bullshit apart from the things that we think are interesting and useful. That is the reason why good links are so important, and so hard to come by.

Links and relationships are what drew me into SEO in the first place. I got an internship through social media research and outreach. During my internship I learned about Raven Tools, and wrote a blog post about their customer support system. The next day I got an email from Raven offering me a month or two subscription, to say thanks for the hat-tip. I was so pleased by their response, that I wrote a really nice review for them on another blog. Now I use Raven both at work and for all of my side projects. Boom. Link, relationship.

Full disclosure, the Raven Tools banner in the sidebar probably uses the old affiliate code and won’t pay me out. Old blog template, new thoughts. I was pissed about the rank tracker going away, but I get it now. It’s fine, just keep reading.

Links are valuable to both parties and timing can make it or break it. When I started looking for a job last year I had a technical interview, where I was asked about rel=prev/next and faceted navigation. I think I botched the interview and it was taking a long time for these guys to get back to me. I got tired of waiting to hear back so I wrote a blog post about rel=prev/next on my sorely neglected SEO blog. I published the blog in the morning and promoted it where I knew that my interviewer would run into it. In a stroke of pure dumb luck, he was also publishing a 11,200 word beast on the company blog at pretty much the same time of day. He saw my joint and popped in a link to Beginning SEO. Later I was offered a job. Slam fucking dunk.

I’d love to do something cool with that blog too. If you think you have something in mind, feel free to get at me.

Point is, links are tangible things that are valuable. Links can be valuable like money and they can be valuable like people. The payout is whatever you put into it, and you will get the most out of the ones you cultivate.

Anatomy of a Mixtape: With Rockin Examples

I have always been a junkie for some good music. I have been since I was a kid. There is nothing in my life that that I have spent more time thinking about and exposing myself to. The way that you discover a band, or a particular song, can do a lot for how you feel about it. For instance: When I was 14 my friend Christy Miles scooped me up and brought me to one of my first punk shows. I hadn’t heard of Samiam before but I was stoked like they were my favorite band. I bought a t-shirt and threw it on stage in between songs and told Jason to sign it. He took a sharpie and wrote “BOB” – with quotes – showed the crowd and threw it back at me. Ever since then, the album Soar has been one of the longest records I’ve kept close. Unfortunately every album that they released after that was horseshit and they stopped playing their old songs at shows.

The point is that the way I discover music is part of what makes that music important to me. When you’re sharing music with your friends, if you’re anything like me, it’s critically important how that music is presented. Weaving together the perfect mix that has meaning, mood and a great flow. There are thousands of ways of doing this however most of the mixtapes that old girlfriends’ ex-boyfriends made for them, that I’ve heard, totally miss the boat.

There are some pretty specific times to make a mixtape and each time calls for a different technique. Admittedly, most of them have to do with girls, but it isn’t the case all the time. These are examples of actual mixes I made for actual people over the past seven or so years. Each of these playlists were made for their own purposes, which I will explain.

The names have not been changed to punish the guilty.

Some of the mixes will be incomplete. Some songs listed will be left out because I might not have the proper rights to add them. That’s cool though because these mixes were made because of individuals, and they belong to them. If you want to hear all of these songs…happy hunting. Every one of these songs is my favorite song ever, in addition to all of my other favorite songs. If you don’t like it, talk shit. My music is way better then yours.

I put these playlists on Spotify, so you’re going to need to get that to play them.

Mix For The Girl You’re Into

This is for when there is a girl you’re kicking it with and you what to throw her a hint. This is the first, and most widely used mixtape scenario. You want to be frank without coming on too strong, so you start with something like Devo’s Girl U Want. Follow that with something heartwarming and energetic, with maybe a touch of sadness. At this point it’s easy to get wrapped up in the sappy stuff, and you definitely don’t want to freak her out, so put on some nonsense that could be construed as suggestive; like Hang Out by Thurston Moore. After that you want to really drive the message home. You have to be careful if you mellow out the mood at the end, because you’ll kill it if you tone it down too quickly.
Mix for the girl you’re into
Girl U Want – DEVO
Jinx Removing – Jawbreaker
Head On – Pixies
I Love Your Brain – Frank Black and the Catholics
Hang Out – Thurston Moore
I Only Want You – Eagles Of Death Metal
It Takes Time – Muck and the Mires
It’s Hard to Turn Me On – Quasi
If It Wasn’t For You – Handsome Boy Modeling School
Hot Wire My Heart – Sonic Youth
I Can’t Stand It – The Velvet Underground
I Want You Around – Ramones
I Am Pentagon – Make-Up
Valentine – Old 97’s
Ambulance – TV on the Radio
The Long Road – Tiger Army
Forget the Flowers – Wilco
Into Your Eyes – Lucero
Say Yes – Elliott Smith

Mix For The Girl Who Has Great Taste In Other Music

Have you ever met someone who knows as much, and is as passionate about rock and roll as you are but listens to like 90% classic rock bands? In this case you want to put together a mix of your oldest favorites, less old favorites and some out-in-left-field joints. The point of this one is to introduce her to bands she may or may not have heard of, but probably doesn’t listen to. This is a tricky one to pull off because of all of the different sounds you need to put together and still impress a rock chick. You have to cover your favorite parts of the spectrum, while keeping in mind the kind of music she likes. You have to mirror her taste but be unique enough so she says something like “Who sings that Boogie on the Beach song? I’ve seen that in a movie.”
Mix for the girl who has a great taste in other music
Teen Age Riot – Sonic Youth
Iehiro’s Dilemna – Goblin Cock
Arctic Snow – Burning Brides
Patti Smith Math Scratch – Thurston Moore
Guero Canelo – Calexico
Never Too Late – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
Suspect Device – Stiff Little Fingers
Trying Too Hard – Crimpshrine
Boogie on the Beach – Red Elvises
Baby Blue Sedan – Modest Mouse
Above the Clouds – Gangstarr
Devil in Jersey City – Coheed and Cambria
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1 – The Flaming Lips
Cold Blows The Wind – Ween
Overkill – Ministry
I’m Waiting for the Man – The Velvet Underground
Öngyilkos Vasárnap – Venetian Snares
Pitseleh – Elliott Smith
Desastre Natural – Tomahawk
Stormy Weather – Pixies

Drinking Songs for the Boys

When people say they hate a certain type of music it usually means they’ve only heard the most shallow of the genre. They probably haven’t heard a lot of the bands that don’t have a wide circulation. Usually they say Rap and Country. This is a country mix so if you’re going to have a closed mind about all that then you can skip it. I made this one for my very good friend Whiskey Mike, so we have it in the truck when we go fishing. He’s Iowa farm raised and we would listen to a bunch of Willie Nelson,  David Allen Coe, Conway Twitty and all that. I brought along a Lucero CD one time and he started to bug me about all of the Americana I had. This is what I came up with.
Drinking Songs for the Boys
Pop Country Really Sucks – Hank Williams III
Hangover Daze – Shelby Cobra
No Depression – Uncle Tupelo
High Noon in Killville – Angry Johnny And The Killbillies
Tomorrow Morning – Drag The River
All Sewn Up – Lucero
The Girl With the Golden Hair – The Rio Grandiose
Barrel Of My Gun – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
Piss Up A Rope – Ween
Drunker Than Satan – Horatio Lee Jenkins
Crawlspace – Calexico
Medicine – Drag The River
Forget the Flowers – Wilco
Whiskey – Angry Johnny And The Killbillies
Guns Bitches Brawls & Bottles – G.G. Allin
The Bottle Let Me Down – Merle Haggard
I Gotta Get Drunk (with Merle Haggard & George Jones) – Willie Nelson
Redwood – Calexico
Last Song About Satan – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
My Best Girl – Lucero

Mix for Your Girlfriend (or wife)

One of the best mixes you can make is a mix for your girlfriend. You spend a ton of time with her, and you’re always monopolizing the stereo. She’s the best girl ever, so she doesn’t mind. You want to always bring your best jams because, face it…you’re going to be pissed if she wants to turn it of…or worse, put in that same shitty Morcheeba CD that she loves to listen to over and over. This is an easy one to put together because you’ve been listening to these albums with her for months. You know your favorites, her favorites and you know how to put them together. This one is up-beat, smart and just a little bit sentimental…because that’s how she makes you feel.
Mix for Your Girlfriend
Acceptable In The 80’s – Calvin Harris
Because You’re Young – Cock Sparrer
Hero – Sixer
Other Day – Free Fall
Tell Me A Story – Samiam
Jump In The Fire – The Night Marchers
Stukas Over Disneyland – Dickies
Race for the Prize – The Flaming Lips
Twist And Crawl – Death In Vegas
Visit Colnel – Thee Oh Sees
Love in a Trashcan – The Raveonettes
Tomorrow World – Squarepusher
Rewind – Cylob
Cahlottel Mittnacht – Devotchka
Loved Despite of Great Faults – Blonde Redhead
Lilac Wine – Jeff Buckley
Girl – Built to Spill
Dog With Sharper Teeth – Daisy Chainsaw
The Holiday Song – Frank Black Francis
Mind Contorted – Daniel Johnston
Poor Little Raccoon – Angry Johnny And The Killbillies
Coolest Little Monster – Electric Frankenstein

If you recognize one of these mixes as one I gave you one time – but you don’t recognize the story that goes with it – it’s because I gave you a copy of a mix I made for someone else…harsh.

Please let me know what you think of this little guide and I would be stoked if you added your best playlists to it too.

Unseen Denver

When you don’t update your blog for a while your last post starts to kind of look like a headstone. It seems that sometime last summer I hit a wall of complacency and stopped updating this blog. I blame it all on having a job.

I started this blog pretty much right when I was laid off in February of 2009. I intended it to be a place where I can talk about how awesome I am at the Internet so people would want to hire me. I’ve been employed now for nearly a year and this joint has been collecting dust for about seven months…see how that works out? The time and motivation slipped through the folds of my brain into chasm 13. Not all of my motivation, mind you; just the motivation to blog.

I work in digital marketing now so blogging should be part of my makeup, but sadly it isn’t. I published two successful photoblogs last year and managed to get them off the ground with nearly no time spent on putting actual words on the screen. I also mess with SEO and Social Media all day, every day, for the company I work for. So how have I gotten by for this long? I have been relying very heavily on the hep of others. Meanwhile my time is being taken up by a bunch of different tasks, plans and events, which happen to be what I sat down to talk about today.

I suppose the first things to address are the two web sites I launched in 2010.  I can talk ad nauseam about the time I spent running around through the streets of this city or that. Whether it was Boston, Denver, Richmond or anywhere else, the  city street was always my first love. I feel most comfortable in the city…any city. When I moved back to Denver, in November of 2004, I was flooded with the most vivid memories of growing up here. I was exploring Capitol Hill, Uptown, Downtown, LoDo and all of the other neighborhoods with the newness of discovery that I felt each time I would explore a new city. The difference is that I recognized these streets. They looked a lot different then I remember them to be in the late 80s and early 90s. I left in 1994, just six years after LoDo got its designation as a historical district. There was no Beta and whatever the Sports Column was then, it certainly was not the best place in town to pick up last-call tricks. Oh how times have changed.

I wasted unknown hours loitering on 13th and wasted untold dollars on records and t-shirts at Wax Trax, back when they had four stores on the block. Buying sunglasses and shit at Fashion Nation or Imi Jimi, before Tom Hollar was murdered. I ended up living in Capitol Hill for nearly six years after I moved back. I scurried around in the same familiar alleys that I smoked pot and pissed in since I was 14 years old. The difference is that this time I had a smartphone and Twitter.

If you’re reading this then I’m assuming that you know that the rest is history. If you don’t know, then too bad. The story is still too fresh and I tell it too many times. To make a long story short; with help, motivation and inspiration from Amber, Meaghan, April, Jeremy and a few others I created Unseen Denver. I was on the fence about developing this website, mostly because I never imagined that anyone could possibly think these images were as awesome as I thought they were. I realized how cool people thought this idea was at SXSW later that March.

Allen and I had just gotten into Austin and we had dinner with some Denver friends. At the table P.J. told me that he was stoked for Unseen Denver and he felt like he was experiencing the beginning of a “I knew them back when they started” thing. I spent the following week in the filthy streets of Austin Texas, listening to live rock and roll for hours a day… Now I’m just rambling.

Since then Unseen Denver has had 74 different contributors and continues to get more images emailed to her every single day. We (her and I) have a Contributing Editor, mentions in the Denver Westword and even a shout out in the New York Times….Holy shit, right? I also started working with my very old friend Igor from Driven by Boredom on the New York version: Unseen NYC…more on that another time.

Unseen Denver is a year old now and it’s time to fucking party. Through this mini adventure of website management I have met some truly incredible people. Two of these people you will know as Tim Davids and Rachel Romero. This coming Saturday, March 5, they are joining forces to produce a party, the likes of I have never been involved with. Big Top Denver is going to be full of bands, emcees, artists, booze and the very best crowd that you will find this decade. Check out www.bigtopdenver.com to see all of the badass videos and fliers they put together for this joint. I asked them if I could celebrate Unseen Denver’s birthday at their party, and they gave me a media installation at the event and a spot on the flier.

This blog post was supposed to be about the different things I am involved in, so here they are:

  1. Full time job
  2. I’m back in school
  3. Unseen Denver
  4. Unseen NYC
  5. Residual freelance
  6. Podcast

Number 6 is a very slow moving project that may never, ever see the light of day. If it doesn’t come to fruition, I will always look back at it as a crime against my ambition.

5 Lessons I Learned from Bill Mushkin

For a long time I’ve wanted to write about some of the incredible people I have met throughout my misadventures. I finally bit the bullet and told a story about my friend Igor a couple of posts back. It was a lot of fun to write, and I learned that if there’s nothing to write about, I know I will always have a wealth of stories to tell about the unique people I have met…and there have been many, trust me. I am having a ball with these, so you can expect to see more in the future. For now, here’s some background…

When I moved to Colorado from Virginia, I did so with one carload of my possessions. I left VA for a variety of reasons; the biggest one being that I couldn’t find a job. After my clothing store closed I was pretty destitute and I had a lot of trouble finding a job. I came across a roadblock like this from time to time.  This one found me living out of my car on the streets of Virginia Beach, not even able to get a part-time job at 7-11. I knew it was time to pick-up and move on.

The first office job I ever got happened about a month after I moved back into Denver. It was a domain name registrar in a small brick loft upstairs from Paris on the Platte, on 15th. The company was called DomainSite and we also ran a younger registrar called name.com out of that office. Soon after I was hired we moved into a much fancier office in Lowry, where I spent the next four years.

The owner of these companies is a man named Bill Mushkin. Bill had lived a life much, much different than mine. It was hard for me to relate to him at times, at least partly because of those differences. I’m sure I took him by surprise from time to time too. Bill’s kindness, shrewd business sense and marked individuality is pretty amazing. I saw my boss weather strife both in business and personally. In good times, as well as in bad, I got to see Bill use his skill and authority to carve his business out of intentions as good as the values that they were born from.Throughout my tenure at this job I learned a lot more than the domain name racket.

Bill’s uniqueness shines through everything he does. Anyone who knows him can bear testimony. He took me in and made me a part of his company, almost literally off of the street. Four years later I had knowledge of what I wanted to do and I was headed in the right direction.

Here are a couple of things that I learned during that time.

  1. Beware of overspecializing
    It’s hard to find your way by a single path. If you have the ability to create something large, you should already know how to manage the little things. It is also true that that in order to reach vast depths, you have to start in the shallows. Bill has been, among other things, a Wall Street trader, college professor  and also founded a few wildly successful (and some starkly different) companies.
  2. Learn to adapt
    When water comes out of the faucet it takes the shape of the container it falls into, filling each angle and curve. It can be a tiny drop, or a gigantic ocean; vapor, fluid & ice. Striving to be a successful, real-live, human company that serves an international customer base while maintaining a small staff with high morale… you have to adapt. If you can separate certainty from your path, when you overcome one obstacle easily, you will have already overcome every obstacle you will encounter.
  3. Do not compromise your identity
    Specifically I mean matters of business and making your living. Businesses can be large or small, and industry continues to evolve with a life of its own. A freelancer who serves a handful of clients is not entirely different from an established company in a global marketplace. The difference comes in that the larger a company gets, the slower and less maneuverable it becomes.  Individuals are able to move more quickly and are less predictable.  Knowing one’s self, and one’s own strengths and limitations come only with practice. Every moment is a decisive one and a slack mind can equal certain defeat.
  4. Own your style
    Style is relative. There are old styles, new styles and different styles in every way of thought. The most efficient method of developing your own style is to clearly understand the styles of others. Morals, ideas and reasonable people will always conflict, no matter how you choose to act. Some will try to actively understand style, but still fall far from the mark. It is natural to misunderstand people, and small misunderstandings become large ones. If you are  cognizant of your ethics, and you pay close attention to the intentions of others, you will avoid dangerous faux pas.
  5. Appreciate nature
    No, I don’t mean go hiking. Nature is circumstances and it is chaos. It is incalculable; it has no beginning and no end. Nature is complete and unhindered freedom within the bounds of Natural Law. Only by knowing the nature of circumstance will you have the ability to develop strategy. There is rhythm in every situation. Once you have found this rhythm you will come to solutions without effort.

I’m hearing a lot more buzz about name.com around town lately, and I think it’s great. Name.com is sponsoring local nerd events and is keeping up an incredibly fun and friendly social media presence. I like seeing new people getting excited about my old company and I thought it was important to also know about the CEO, social leader and loving father who was responsible.

Thanks Bill.

Image above © name.com 2010