Wednesday, July 26, 2006


July 24th is a very exciting day in Utah. There are parades, barbecues, and parties. There are celebrations in parks, complete with bands, rides, food, rodeos and dancing. It’s a great time for sharing with family. And it all ends in the night with Fireworks. You can drive up into the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains overlooking the Salt Lake City metro area and see firework displays lighting up all across the valley.

It celebrates the day the first pioneer settlers came down Emigration Canyon and into the valley in their wagon trains in 1847.

A few years ago, in 1997, Utah celebrated the Sesquicentennial of that event (that’s a $75 word for “150-year anniversary”). There were lots of the same sorts of celebrations, all turned up a notch, but there was also something special. There were groups of people that re-enacted the trek of thousands of miles by walking and riding wagons and horses all the way across the scorching summer plains of Nebraska and Wyoming.

Of course, there were those in the trek that did it a little bit differently than our pioneer forefathers. The old-timers didn’t have GPS satellite pointers to mark the paths. They didn’t have cell phones or RV’s or mp3 players. I remember hearing about one man, a reporter, who made the trek posting digital photos on his blog along the way. He had a satellite internet connection and a solar panel to recharge the batteries in his laptop.

Partly in an attempt to get connected with my own pioneer ancestors, and partly out of interest, and partly because my wife got me a fortuitous Father’s Day gift, I’ve been learning how to cook in a dutch oven this summer. It has been a lot of fun, and I’ve been making some interesting and very scrumptious meals, if I do say so myself. The first one was pizza (because I had a fond memory of dutch oven pizza from a scout camp), then a chicken and rice dish with lemon slices, then an odd, but delicious, chicken soup. My attempt at making bread didn’t turn out so well, but the cobbler I made for a night out with our friends did.

I’ve been pouring over instruction books, on the ‘net and from the bookstore shelves, looking over recipes and learning all I can. I’m constantly amazed at what impressive, even gourmet meals I see in pictures that have been cooked outside with little more than this black iron pot and some coals. There are all kinds of breads and rolls, soups and stews, cakes and pies. It’s like anything that you can cook, fry, bake or boil can be made in this thing.

So, where am I going with all this?

Well, here it is: I spend all day at work on the computer. I teach my students, I work on my websites, I set up and monitor my promotions. I build links and write blogs. When I’m not at my desk, I’m carrying my cell phone. I can call, text message, or jump on the ‘net from anywhere. I can also read books and spin songs on my handheld.

When I go home, I’ll unwind in front of the TV, or spend some more time chatting online with a friend. Maybe I’ll spend some time recording a song in my studio and upload it to my site. I’m a child of my times. I am connected. I am wired.

Until just recently, I thought “roughing it” meant a dialup connection.

So, my point is that even though it’s very important to be actively engaged in your online business on a daily basis, and that it takes lots of hours at the computer to make a business run, it’s also good to unplug. Take some time and do some things that separate you from the busy tech-driven world.

My pioneer ancestors walked across the plains without a broadband connection or even a microwave. Yet, somehow, they survived. You can live without it for a little while, too.

Don’t worry, it’ll still be there when you get back.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Words, Words, Words

The ‘net is all about communications.

That’s it.

Here we’ve got this really cool toy that allows us to move information around the world as good as instantly. We move pictures, sounds, numbers, and even money, it’s true, but most of what we move is words.

That’s right, as much as we talk about the web as a source of media in all its various forms, the vast, vast majority of all communications over the net is text. And that means that to effectively do business on the ‘net, you have to become comfortable with using words. You have to use words to convert website visitors into buyers. You have to use the right words so that people find you using search engines. You have to use words well when you’re responding to a customer’s email. Ads have to be written, agreements read and signed. It’s all in the words.

Unfortunately, there are many people who don’t feel confident in their word skills. I can understand that. It’s a confidence thing. But nonetheless, there are some things that, done continuously, can make you a better writer. And it’s not like all the drudgery that you dealt with in school, either.

First of all, in order to write well, it helps to read, and read lots. The more you read, the more your mind becomes saturated with language, and the more good writing you absorb. It becomes easier to write because what you write will “sound better” in your mind’s ear. It’s good to know rules of grammar, but what will work best is training your mind to listen for the way sentences should be put together.

Start off by reading things you like. Pick some fun novels. Read magazines about your interests, your hobbies, your business. Then read to get informed. Get on the net and find content-rich sites. Read your competition’s websites. Read the newspaper. Not only are you filling your mind with the sound of good language, but you’ll be learning the things you’re reading about. You’ll stay informed.

While reading will help you write better, there’s nothing that will improve you like practice. You’ll need to write. And just like you had to read a lot, you’ll want to write a lot.

Start off writing for fun. Write emails to family and friends. Keep a journal. These are useful because they’re low pressure. You can’t make mistakes because there’s basically nothing at stake. You’re not turning them in for a grade, you’re not trying to close a sale, you’re just writing about your day. With no pressure, you can just let it all go and have fun with it. Do it EVERY DAY.

Starting a personal blog is a great idea, too, but it’s a bit more public. Still, since it’s personal, there’s no rules about what you’re writing about or what you’re saying. So, it’s still pretty much just for fun. Still, it can also help build an audience and point traffic at your website, so it still has some direct business value as well.

In doing business on the web, you’ll need to learn to write to sell. This is really the same as what English professors might call “Writing to Convince”. The business world calls it “Ad Copy”. Whatever you call it, it involves putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and writing something that, from their perspective, solves their problems. There are a lot of ways to learn how to do this, all the way from taking classes, to simply reading lots of ads.

I do have to add one thing that’s also critical to successful internet writing. As long as the computer is an obstacle between your mind and the written word, it will be difficult. That means that you need to be familiar with both the workings of word processing, and fluent with the keyboard. And, while taking classes is a good way to learn, nothing beats practice!

This will show my age, but when I was in high school, our typing classes were mostly filled with girls, preparing to be secretaries. Even though it was a man teaching the class, there were only 4 boys among the students. I didn’t even do that well. When I got out, I think I was at about 30 wpm, tops.

These days, they often start kids in what are now called “keyboarding” class in elementary school, and everyone is involved.

When I was a kid, it was possible for someone to be very successful in business and life without ever knowing how to type. Not anymore. Heck, there are kids who can text message with their thumb on a cell phone faster than I could type when I was their age!

With practice and patience, any of these obstacles can be overcome. Fill your mind’s ear with good words. Write every day. Learn your tools. It will pay off big in the long run.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of…

Almost all Americans know that quote. It comes from the Declaration of Independence. This document, while it has no legal bearing on our government (where the Constitution does), spells out clearly the ideals of what it means to be American. In a lot of ways, it’s like our country’s mission statement.

Here’s the full quote:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” (for a full, annotated text of the Declaration, go to:

That spells out that we believe that everyone on the earth should have the right to live, the right to choose their own path, and the right to be happy and seek to better their own lives.

It’s that last part that I want to talk about today. Actually, I want to celebrate it today. The Pursuit of Happiness. That simple phrase, when applied economically, has created a concept, a focus, that we often nebulously refer to as “The American Dream”. This is the idea that no matter what the circumstance, a person with creativity, motivation and persistence can excel in America. That’s why America’s economy is one of the strongest in the world. That’s why America is often referred to as “The Land of Opportunity”.

American history is full of “rags to riches” stories of impoverished children or immigrants who arrived on our shores penniless. People who, after much hard work and innovation, amassed great fortunes.

Most of you who are reading this today are doing so because you’re entrepreneurs yourself. Maybe you’re on the edge of it, merely considering taking the plunge. Do you have the creativity to stand out, to make a difference? Do you have the motivation to try? To move from dreaming to action? Do you have the persistence to keep at it until the success comes, to not abandon your dreams because they don’t happen as fast as you wanted at first?

To you, I say, welcome to this Land of Opportunity!

If you want to have a part in this land, but you feel you don’t have those traits I mentioned, join in anyway, and strive to develop them! Get help! Work with others whose strengths complement your weaknesses. Learn and grow. Then turn around, and help others learn and grow in your steps.

Ours is a great tradition of a free market economy. Yes, in many cases, it has had to be regulated and maintained. Yes, the freedom to excel has often brought with it the freedom to exploit. Many who’ve chosen these destructive paths have caused considerable damage to the world around them. It’s not a perfect system.

But I still celebrate it. In this season of celebrating our nation, let’s remember our roots and celebrate our freedom to pursue happiness.

And let’s celebrate it by going out and pursuing it with vigor.