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Blogging at the Crossroads

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Sometimes, knowing something on an intellectual level simply isn’t enough. Sometimes, the ego needs to be fed even if the fuel it requires has almost nothing to do with the actual end goal.

Such is the place where I find myself this week as I enter my third year on my All Phoenix Real Estate blog, which itself was preceeded by six months on RealTown blogs, making the anniversary of the switch to WordPress less a real anniversary than a simple milestone.

If I had to find a way to sum up 2008 from a blogging perspective, particularly the last six months, I would say it was a period where I found myself thinking too much and therefore writing too little. Listening to the various blogging experts I experimented with shorter posts, keyword-rich posts, posting less frequently to give everyone a chance to read everything. I stopped writing about national issues and tried writing for the audience that I wanted, only to learn the audience I want isn’t there these days.

Simply put, I stopped doing much of what I had done over the first two years (including the RealTown days) that made my blog successful and, even more importantly, that kept me engaged in my own blog.

While many real estate bloggers do so strictly for business, it’s never been quite so easy for me. Make no mistake, the ultimate goal is to generate business and I’ve been able to do that with some success. When other agents were trying to figure out how to market to Calgary when their main client acquisition strategy was an open house, I was reaching across the border through the blog and building relationships.

But truly, as a writer by one-time trade and with a writers’ heart, there also was a real need to cause people to identify with what I was writing. Traffic for the sake of traffic is meaningless and my mind knows this, but my ego wants to see the traffic for the same reasons that drove Howard Stern through much of his career … the admittedly insane notion that everyone ought to be reading what I have to say.

Speaking of Howard Stern …

I once was told that I’m the guy who says what everybody else is thinking but doesn’t want to say. At the time, I accepted the statement as a compliment even if it probably wasn’t fully complimentary. When Active Bob told me at Inman San Francisco that I was a cynical bastard – less than 20 seconds after we had been introduced for the first time – I accepted the statement in stride, even wearing it as a badge of honor.

Truth be told, there are far easier paths to pursue. But after pursuing those paths and realizing they’re not necessarily going to lead to the ancillary benefits I would have hoped for (read: I’m waiting for that Social Media position to materialize), and after feeling the near-daily struggle over the past months to try and find something to write about … perhaps it’s better to accept what I am.

Acerbic. Caustic. An a-hole.

But also honest, to my readers and to myself.

I can’t continue to write as if I’m trying to please an anonymous focus group. I also can’t continue to justify decisions to intentionally not pursue traffic, even if I know the traffic number itself is meaningless, when I need that number to feed my ego. I can’t add H2 tags when I’m too busy ranting to try and figure out a logical place to add a sub-headline.

Silly or not, these are the things that have spurred me on through more than 1,500 posts on sites ranging from my own blog to sellsius, NAR Wisdom, the sadly-murdered Phoenix Real Estate Technology Exchange and, of course, Agent Genius.

It’s not in my nature to sit idly by as some vendors attempt to promote their products by denigrating what’s offered by others. It’s not in my nature to remain moot as a totally meaningless debate over whether a real estate weblogger ought to accept a free trial of a vendors’ services.

(Missing in that argument is the reality that as real estate agents first and foremost, we ought to be in the business of using whatever services allow us to help our clients. This standard of alleged objectivity is a red herring, an attempt to focus debate on a non-issue lest the real issue – how many clients you have helped – be brought to the forefront.)

Over the past couple of months I have found myself settling for counterpunching more and more often. There’s been little effort to mount an offensive; rather, I’ve leaned on the ropes and jabbed here and there without trying to move myself back into the center of the ring.

Ironically, business has not suffered because of this decision.

But that isn’t to say that it’s impossible to have it all – to meet business objectives, and to feed the ego that caused me to put the BlogTopSites widget back on my blog for the first time in two months. (In the interest of disclosure, since that seems to be the new buzzword, I removed the widget because it was slowing down the load time on my blog.)

That’s who I am. That’s what I need. And that’s what I’ll be doing from now on.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Teresa Boardman

    January 7, 2009 at 9:44 am

    LOL I see a couple of things I can comment on in this one. I try not to listen to experts too much because it stifles my creativity and my desire to blog. I have learned what works for me and I try to be true to it and to my readers. I don’t apologize for anything I do on my blog. I don’t care what anyone in the “re-net” thinks about the blog, what I write, who I write it for, if I take gifts, bribes or graft or what platform it is on or how often I post or if I am doing it right or wrong or any other way. I do what I want to do for reasons known only to me that I will never justify or explain to anyone. I am currently working on some new things and approaching them the same way that I approach my blog. I do it my way or not at all.

  2. Jim Gatos

    January 7, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I have to agree with Teresa… I’ve become “bolder” in my posts, more concise and “tighter”.. Seems to be working… I keep it very personal and experiment with posts, mainly…

  3. Benn Rosales

    January 7, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Teresa, I agree with what you’re saying, but the truth is, the consumer of the content (the buying or selling real estate consumer) isn’t interested in watching the writer go through puberty.

    The questions are fundamentally for any writer on their blog: does my content deliver a message, and what is that message. There is nothing wrong with advocating on topics that impact the whole, but if it only impacts a narrow margin of the collective then it really is just ego driven, and often irresponsible.

    If the material is just another mood swing, chances are it was a waste of time both writing and reading it unless the reader is into reading diarys.

    At the end of the day, I’m with what Jonathan has said in his last several posts that if it isn’t about business, then what’s the point? You might as well get yourself one of those webblogs on livejournal, because no ones wallet cares about the day the writer had.

  4. Jonathan Dalton

    January 7, 2009 at 11:26 am

    One thing I’ve managed to avoid is to go through puberty on my blog, Benn. And I do mean that in all seriousness – you’ve not seen me talk about getting a day job, you’ve not seen me talk about how frustrating it is showing houses to people who don’t buy. (Yes, I’ve vented about a couple of dishonest souls along the way, but so be it.)

    Irresponsible or not, that’s the direction my blog once had (or lack thereof) and that’s where I’m returning to some degree.

    Once upon a time I wrote to an audience of one. And it was enjoyable and I received business from it. I’m still getting some business from writing to make the larger population happy, but I’m deriving less and less joy from the exercise.

  5. Benn Rosales

    January 7, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Yep, Jonathan, you haven’t, but neither of us can say the same of others in the space that have virtually been failing at trying to be everything they never actually were to everyone else for the past year and desperately succeeding.

  6. Jonathan Dalton

    January 7, 2009 at 11:55 am

    That’s definitely true.

    There are things I’ll write here at AG that I wouldn’t dare right on my regular blog. I’ve been far more introspective here than I’ll be there just because there are things – states of mind, emotions, etc. – that I want to share in case someone else feels the same that I don’t want in front of my regular audience.

    If people link the two, so be it, but they will have to work for it.

    I absolutely agree that there are some rather self-destructive things that appear on many blogs and, in spite of them, the agents continue to succeed. Or so it seems.

  7. Matthew Hardy

    January 7, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    I’ve been making an analysis of the blogs I read and altering my feed list. Here’s my new criteria: I am looking for graciousness, intelligence, humor and above all, helpfulness. Out: vitriol, hubris and mean-spiritedness.

  8. Benn Rosales

    January 7, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Matthew, you’re a gentleman regardless of what they all say about you! 🙂

  9. Jonathan Dalton

    January 7, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Wait, Matt … does that mean I did or didn’t make the cut? 🙂

  10. Elaine Reese

    January 7, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Jonathan, I think you’re on to something. When I started blogging, I began with AR. Wrote – or tried to write – to appeal to other agents. After a while, I decided the time spent doing that, was causing my business to suffer (in 2007). I couldn’t write to MY consumer on AR.

    So I switched to my own blog and wrote as if I were talking to my clients or trying to provide the info that prospects might like to know. I share the portion of my personal life that I might share with a client (which means that not everything is shared). It worked for me, as 2008 was good. Prospects can decide if they don’t like me (they don’t call) or decide if they DO like me (they call). WYSIWYG

    Not that I don’t enjoy the commraderie or knowledge gained from other agents, I just had to reset my priorities and evaluate the ROI to make sure I put food on my own table.

  11. BawldGuy

    January 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Blogging isn’t different than any other skill. You can choose to learn in public, or learn from those who’re skilled practitioners.

    Do it my way? Sure — but with professional guidance. I went from umpiring minor league Little League games to NCAA post season games in a relatively short time period.

    Think I did it all my way? Yeah, right. We all do it ‘our’ way, but purposefully and consistently stubbing my toe in the dark, ain’t my idea of the most efficient learning curve. I learned from some real pros.

    We get to do it our own way when we grasp and kinda sorta master the skills for that particular discipline. There just aren’t that many ‘naturals’ out there. And even naturals still learned from the truly experienced, no matter what they say.

    Good stuff, Jon.

  12. Matthew Hardy

    January 7, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    @Benn

    A really insightful comment from someone who’s “kind of a big deal”. 😉

    @Jonathan

    Still readin’ dude!

    @BawldGuy

    Quality people who are exceedingly good at what they do seem to become increasing humble. Jeff Brown is a man worth listening to.

  13. Benn Rosales

    January 7, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    haha no, that’s @tcar the ninja

  14. Ken Brand

    January 7, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Thought provoking post Jonathan.

    A struggle, introspection, reflection and a bit confusion and discomfort is natural and positive.

    Searching for voice, salient content, attractive prose, angle of approach, meaning and motivation are the scars, rewards, highs and lows of growing.

    Personally, I don’t factor in what others think about my subjects, I do focus on universally attractive aspects such as interesting writing style, composition, organization, clarity/brevity. Studying and reading damn fine writing is a must for the always aspiring blogger/communicator/thought leader/successful agent.

    You’ve given me pause to self examine. Thanks.

  15. teresa boardman

    January 12, 2009 at 6:28 am

    Of course I write about business. My blog is loaded with statistics that can’t be found any where else and some of my posts becomes the stories the local papers pick up six months to a year later.

  16. Bri

    January 23, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Our BTS image is just that – an image. It isn’t JavaScript – it could not have been the cause of your slowdowns.

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Opinion Editorials

Finances in my 20s: What I wish I knew then that I know now

(EDITORIAL) They say money makes the world go round. So, let’s discuss how to be smart with finances before it’s too late.

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finances

Being in my early twenties, something I’m still getting used to is the fact that I’m making my own money. This is not to be confused with the babysitting money I was making 10 years ago. Twice a month is the same routine: I get my paycheck and think, “Wooo! We goin’ out tonight!” but then I snap back to reality and think about what that money needs to be put towards. The smallest part of it going towards fun. It’s been tricky to really start learning the ins and outs of finances. So, I do what I usually do in any type of learning process? I ask for advice. I used to be fixated on asking those more advanced in age than I what they wish they knew when they were my age. Now that I’m determined to learn about finances, that question has been altered.

I reached out to a few professionals I know and trust and they gave me solid feedback to keep in mind about building my finances, about what they wish they had known in their 20s. However, I don’t think this only applies to those just starting out, and may be helpful for all of us.

“It’s important to simply know the value of money,” says human resource expert, Nicole Clark. “I think once you start earning your own money and are responsible for your housing, food, etc. you realize how valuable money is and how important it is to budget appropriately and make sure you’re watching your spending.”

Law firm executive director, Michael John, agrees with Clark’s sentiments. “I wish I had kept the value of saving in mind when I was younger,” explains John. “But, still remembering to balance savings while rewarding yourself and enjoying what your efforts produce.”

There are so many aspects of finance to keep in mind – saving, investing, budgeting, retirement plans, and so on and so forth.

In addition to suggesting to spend less than you make and to pay off your credit card in full each month, Kentucky-based attorney, Christopher Groeschen, explained the importance of a 401k.

“Every employee in America should be contributing everything they can into a 401k every year, up to the current $18,000 maximum per person,” suggests Groeschen.

“401ks present an opportunity for young investors to 1) learn about investing and 2) enter the market through a relatively low-risk vehicle (depending on your allocations),” he observes.

“An additional benefit is that 401ks also allow employees to earn FREE MONEY through employer matches,” he continues. “At the very least, every employee should contribute the amount necessary to earn the employer match (usually up to 4%) otherwise, you are giving up the opportunity to earn FREE MONEY. Earning FREE MONEY from your employer that is TAX FREE is much more important than having an extra Starbucks latte every day.”

Whether we like it or not, money is a core aspect of our daily lives. It should never be the most important thing, but we cannot deny that it is, in fact, an important thing. It’s tricky to learn, but investing in my future has become a priority.

This editorial was first published in May 2018.

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Opinion Editorials

Dopamine detox to rewire your brain from internet addiction (it’s common!)

(EDITORIAL) So, you’re addicted to the internet. Whether your drug of choice is scrolling, posting, or interacting – it’s time for a dopamine detox.

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Upside down photo of man holding iphone case saying "social media seriously harms your mental health" representing dopamine.

Ah, smartphones. The best friend we can carry around in our pockets. This small device that’s nearly glued to our hands gives us instant access to many worlds.

It’s exciting to see what’s up on Instagram, take up to six stabs at Wordle, and scroll recipes you’ll never make on Pinterest. It’s also a place where we can share the highlights of our life and, in return, get validation through likes.

With that validation comes a small rush of dopamine, something we’ve all become accustomed – and some of us addicted – to.

While I’m not addicted to posting, I would say I have an addiction to scrolling. I can’t make it through a 50-minute episode of “Dexter” without picking up my phone to check an app or two.

And there is that dopamine rush with it, where you feel like you’re the most up-to-date you’ve ever been. But what about when this becomes too much and we’re overloaded with information and feel bogged down by the constant updates?

First, we need to understand what dopamine is.

It’s a neurotransmitter that works in two spots in the brain: first, its production helps us begin movement and speech. Second, we feel it when we receive or expect a reward. It even creates a kind of “high” similar to what’s found in nicotine and cocaine.

So, if we expect these dopamine hits from social media and we don’t get those results, the dopamine crashes to the ground creating burnout.

Well, this can cause burnout. And, while tempting, the solution isn’t as easy as just deleting all of your social media and walking away clean. Additionally, “take a break” features are too easy to swipe away.

So what can you do?

Mana Ionescu at Lightspan Digital recommends a Dopamine Detox.

While breaking an addiction takes longer than a day, Ionescu recommends starting there and tailoring it to your needs.

Here is what she describes is necessary for a detox:

  1. Turn off all notifications on your phone. ALL of them. You will be looking at your phone every 10 minutes as it is. You won’t miss anything. We lose endless hours of productivity because of those pings.
  2. Tell people to call you if it’s urgent. And teach them the difference between urgent and important. So do keep call notifications on.
  3. Stop over-messaging. The more you message, the more you’ll get responses.
  4. Shed the pressure to respond right away to messages that don’t need a response right away.
  5. Take detox days. Nothing but calls, confirming meetings, and using the GPS is allowed on those days.
  6. Put your phone on sleep mode at night. You can, at least on iPhone, set permissions so that certain phone numbers can get through, in case you’re worried about mom.
  7. If you’re dating, remember that texting is for laughing, flirting, and confirming plans. Please pick up the phone and talk to that person to get to know them. I will not take you seriously if you just keep texting.
  8. And yes, we all know the game, whoever looks at their phone first over dinner picks up the bill.

This won’t be easy, but your brain will likely thank you in the long run. And, when you’re back online, hit up the comments and let us know how the detox went!

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Opinion Editorials

Strong leaders can use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) In the COVID-19 crisis, some leaders fumbled through it, while others quietly safeguarded their company’s future.

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strong leaders

Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how strong leaders can see their teams, their companies, and their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always but is amplified when a crisis occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve their teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything was disrupted and people are adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when leaders game plan, strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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