Hi everyone,

Because of what I am sharing in this month's newsletter, I will be posting this article on the site also and wanted to get it out to you a few days before I publish it there. I hope you have an amazing summer!

It’s hard for me to believe that it has been 9 months since this site was “launched”. Even though I had started releasing the SA 101 videos on YouTube in June of 2009, and work on creating the website began around that same time, it wasn’t until October 2009 until I felt there was enough actual content on the site (25 pages) to be of value to visitors. At that point I began promoting that the site was up and began inviting people to visit.

In the beginning one of the things I was really focusing on was getting as much content up as possible that I believed would be of value to the people who would visit the site. Jerry and I were releasing videos on a weekly basis with added content in the transcriptions, but I really believed that people would want more material than just that.

As I thought about what else people could benefit from, my experience in the past had shown me that people were often looking for inspirational and motivational quotes, so I decided to include a section for inspirational quotes on the site.

I also wanted to offer contributions from other people who I admire and respect because I always wanted to make sure that people visiting the site would have perceptions other than just mine available to them. So I added a section for contributing authors and coaches and contacted two friends who have newsletters that I believe provide tremendous value and that I personally enjoy reading and asked them for permission to share their material with you.

The majority of content used for building the site though has been the video series Self-Awareness 101, releasing my book The Warrior Sage; Sacred Scars and the articles that I have been releasing sharing my own personal journey, the lessons that I have learned along the way, and how I am continuing to learn as I progress in my own personal development and self-awareness.

After releasing the last episode of SA 101, Jerry and I had a couple of meetings to discuss what we have learned since beginning this project and to explore the directions that we feel we need to go from this point on both personally and professionally. Based on those discussions I want to share a few distinctions that we have made and how these distinctions will be moving things in a new direction here at YDLC.

Community. - My greatest intention has been to create a community here on the site where people would share their own experiences, the lessons they learned and the skills that they personally used to make progress in their own lives. In an effort to create that community we have run into some challenges along the way. My initial choice for a forum provider didn’t work out, and by migrating to a new software we lost some of the momentum that had been gained with the community in the original forums. Jerry also made a great distinction that many people are already very comfortable in the communities that they are already a part of (YouTube, Facebook, MySpace etc.) and that by asking people to come join our forums and the community here, I am expecting people to leave an environment that is familiar and comfortable to them. As we talked about it, I realized that asking people to do this may not be the best way to create the community I envision in the long term, so I will be exploring how to connect more effectively with people in the communities that they already are a part of. I believe that Jerry made a great distinction when he reminded me of the saying that “You need to meet people where they are” so I will be looking at how to better integrate that into my daily actions without overwhelming myself. The forums will also continue to be a part of the site, and I look forward to it growing and participating in the discussions that are there.

Strengths and Weaknesses - One of the topics that I have discussed in SA 101 and in my book is about recognizing your strengths and weaknesses then capitalizing on those strengths and either leveraging the weaknesses to someone else who has a strength in that area, or making a choice to improve or remove the area of weakness if possible. As Jerry and I looked back over the past year and a half of filming, and the experiences that we have had to this point with the site, we each learned things about ourselves and what we perceive to be the strengths and weaknesses of ourselves and what has been created so far. Respecting that Jerry chooses to be “behind the scenes” and is not public about his personal journey, I will only be sharing distinctions that I have made about my own strengths and weaknesses.

  • The strength of my personal story - Over the years I had gotten tired of sharing my “history”. I personally knew that those experiences had created who I am today, and shaped my perceptions of the world. But after many years of sharing those stories with people, I had gotten to a place where I wanted to focus on who I was “now” and not where I had come from. I realized through this process that the history that I was trying to avoid sharing, is actually one of my greatest strengths because when I am sharing it, people connect with the fact that I am not just sharing “theories” but that I actually used these skills I am talking about to overcome those experiences.
  • My strength of creating content “On Cue” - Having worked as a workshop facilitator and keynote speaker, I have usually worked with a “key” idea that I would vary slightly depending on the venue I when presenting it. I mean that parts of the presentation would be adapted for the audience, but the majority of what I was talking about was a “module” that I was already familiar with. With SA 101 I stepped out of my comfort zone in my presentation style as we progressed with the series. In the beginning I would pick a topic, create my outline, prepare examples, make a list of bullet points I wanted to make sure to address and then we would film. What I found over time was that as I would get feedback from viewers, it became very apparent that people connected much more with episodes that we filmed when I was using an approach that was much more “spur of the moment”. In making this distinction the filming became more of a “stream of consciousness” approach rather than a prepared one. Over time Jerry and I discussed how my ability to create the content in that manner made my presentation more authentic
  • My strength when creating content is more “Verbal” - Although I have been releasing articles on YDLC, 80% of them have been created using a process where I record my thoughts and then have a friend transcribe them. Then I go back and add or remove content where needed to make sure that the message I want to convey is there. Although I do enjoy the “creation process” in writing articles, based on my current schedule, recording is a better way to release content on a consistent basis.
  • Monetizing the web site is not currently my strength - The intention with YDLC has always been to create valuable content and give it away for free. The idea of how I would begin making money was that it would come from donations, from offering other products that I have created such as my music CD “Coming Home“, from generating speaking engagements or by recommending products of people who I respect where I would get a commission when a sale was generated. So far that has not worked out too well. To date the site has generated less than $2 which came from Amazon.com sales. Although I am currently blessed with the fact that my current profession as a DJ allows me to take care of my financial responsibilities without the site generating any revenue, it is my intention in time to be able to replace the income that comes from Djing so I can spend more time doing what I truly love which is creating content and connecting with people in an effort to make a difference in their lives. To do that I either need to improve my own skills at marketing myself, my services and the site or I will need to leverage that to someone else who has marketing as their strength.
  • I haven’t been doing as good of a job getting out a “monthly” newsletter as I would like - With many of the projects that I have been working on, I may have overcommitted myself to a “monthly” newsletter. I want to make sure to give value to the people who have subscribed beyond what is available on the site. But I have been struggling to get the newsletter out on a regular basis. Although I don’t believe that I can leverage this to someone else, I believe that some of the new approaches that I will be implementing will allow me to either improve the consistency, or at least make sure that the quality of the content in the newsletter is of an even greater quality.

Personal Passions - Another thing that we discovered during these meetings is that some of the things we are “passionate” about and that we believed would be nurtured through doing the SA 101 series were not fulfilling us based on how we had to produce the series. Jerry and I both have a passion for creating content that will impact people. Jerry has a passion for creating videos that will use the visual medium to truly capture someone’s attention. And I love to use the communication skills and presentation styles that allow me to do the same thing. Because of the time limitations of having committed to a weekly release and because we needed to keep the videos under 10 minutes since we were using YouTube as a major vehicle for finding our audience, neither of us were truly expressing our passions in the way that would have fulfilled us most. We also were not able to spend the kind of time making the presentation of the content as powerful as we could have if we would have been able to embrace our strengths and passions.

What Will Best Serve The Audience - Although I really enjoyed the process of creating the video series, I have to ask myself, “Is this medium and this format best serving the needs of the audience?” What I mean by that is that I think that video is a great medium when used correctly. But for what I am looking to accomplish I had to ask, “Do people really get the greatest benefit from a 10 minute video?” It may inspire them, it may touch them on some level, it may even get them to take some action based on the exercise that I offer. But I believe that the audience would be better served if I were doing an audio podcast rather than a video. With an audio podcast I am removing several barriers that have been present with using video as the media for the series.

In respect to videos, there are actually three limitations regarding time. One is being able to schedule the time for Jerry and I to shoot. Jerry and I live about 45 minutes from each other and because we each have “day jobs” outside of creating the content for SA 101, we would often need to schedule a shoot that would begin at 9PM and go until 6AM so we could capture 3 to 4 different episodes in that one session.

People do not realize the time that goes into even setting up for one of these shoots. Jerry would usually arrive at 9PM. We would unload his equipment and then he would begin setting up. We would have to rearrange the furniture in the location where we were shooting, and Jerry would spend about 2 hours setting up all of his lights, audio and camera equipment.

Next we would take about 15-20 minutes to discuss the topic we were going to shoot and get clarity on what I wanted to express. Then we would roll the camera and I would speak non-stop for about 10 minutes on the topic. There was no “cut” or edit of what you see, it is all done in one section. At the end of that take, Jerry and I would discuss what I could do better, Jerry may make some lighting or audio changes and then we would go again. After another 10 minute run through of the topic, Jerry and I would again discuss what I could improve and then we would do it again. Normally by the third or fourth take we would both be happy with the content and then move on to the next topic.

When we were done Jerry would take those 3 to 4 episodes home so he could transfer them to his computer and go through every version we taped to make sure the one we agreed on was the best take. Then he would create an audio file of the episode so I could get it to my friend to transcribe. Next he would put in the intro and outro segment that you saw in each video, find photographs that were relevant to the topic that I was talking about, create the graphics then insert the photos and graphics into the video. Then he would have to render out the computer file into multiple versions that we could upload to YouTube, the YDLC site and other sites that we were releasing them on.

While he was working on all of this, I would get back the transcripts from my friend and sit down going over them to add content that would create more value for the reader and remove content that may have been redundant or just didn’t make as much sense in the written version as it did when people could see my expressions and movements.

Ok… I’ll stop now… and there was still a lot more that would go into making a single episode. And I do want to make sure to say this, we each treasure the experience we had doing it. It was a year filled with personal and professional growth and impacted both of our lives in amazing ways. But if I truly want to consistently provide value to the audience there has to be a better way.

The next restriction with time is that YouTube which was one of our main outlets for the video series limits the length of a video to 10 minutes. And actually I believe that 10 minutes of sitting watching someone just “talk” pushes the limits of their attention. Especially if the video is just me being a “talking head” where there is not a lot of other material in the video to capture your attention and excite you.

I believe that even an article like this one can be too much for someone to sit down in front of a computer and read all the way through because of time restraints and physical comfort. I know that I sometimes will not watch a video or read an article that could really benefit me because when I first look at it, it looks like it will take too much time.

Based on the fact that one of my strengths is a background in music and audio production, Jerry suggested that a solution would be for me to begin doing an audio podcast.

Equipment wise, there is much less to set up and maintain. Schedule wise I am able to record on my own without needing Jerry there so it gives me much more flexibility. There is no real time limitation. Since it will be just audio it will be a much smaller file to upload to sites for distribution which means that I will not have restrictions on how long I talk about a specific topic. It will be portable.

Jerry made a great point that when people listen to podcasts they download them to their iPods and take them with them. They listen to them while driving, while walking, while exercising or working around the house. There is nothing tying you down in front of a computer when you listen to a podcast.

Ultimately I believe that I can provide more value and also give you more flexibility in when and how you enjoy the content.

Does this mean that there will not be anymore videos? Not at all. Jerry and I are working on plans for some pretty exciting video projects. But we want the content and production to be best served in a visual medium. I’m very excited about what we are exploring in regard to future video projects, and also about what opportunities creating this audio series will open up.

What Are People Connecting With - One of the things I have known for a long time, but have been avoiding embracing is that what makes me unique, is my personal experience. Not that my personal experience is any better or worse than any other persons, just that it is my unique experience that allows me to connect with certain people that someone else who is sharing the same lessons may not connect with. I know that when I was first getting sober, that I was not able to connect as deeply with someone who was more of a “social drunk” because I was what many people would have considered a “hard core” alcoholic.

It was hard for me to connect with someone who would have a glass of wine each night when they got home from work who would occasionally lose control and go on a binge for a few days getting completely intoxicated who decided to come to a 12 step program because they were recognizing that it was causing trouble for them in their life. I respect that they had a problem with alcohol, but I just could not relate with what they were dealing with.

But when I met someone like Bill who was a counselor at the second rehab I went to, who was biker that had done time in jail, who not only drank as heavily as I did but also lived his life in the same environments as I did, who first came to rehab with a dislocated shoulder from a bar fight and a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand; this was a person I could connect with. Not because I idolized his bad ass lifestyle, but because I had lived it and I knew if anyone could show me how to get sober, it was him.

Over the years I have recognized that I can hear the exact same message from 5 different teachers and it will have no affect on me, but then I would hear it from a 6th person and I would totally connect with it. I know that much of what I have said in my videos and articles, others have said before and people in the future will continue to say. And also what has become very clear from the response to the site so far, is that what people are connecting with is my personal story and learning how I specifically apply these things.

For a very long time, I was staying away from my “story” because I wanted people to connect with who I am today, not look at me based on what my life used to be like. But the feedback I have gotten has reconnected me to how important my history is to allow people to connect with where I am now.

What’s Next? Based on these distinctions, I believe that adding more inspirational quotes from other people or more articles from other coaches and authors actually distracts from what really connects with the people who come to the site. Although I truly wanted to offer people different perspectives, I was also removing responsibility of the quality of the content and the message from myself. As a friend of mine recently shared, there can be a lot of fear attached to accepting full responsibility for the message you are sharing.

Although I will be leaving the articles from Joel and Loren on the site, I have decided that from this point on, I am going to focus on what people have been telling me that they connect with, which is my personal journey. I will continue to release segments of The Warrior Sage; Sacred Scars as well as new articles that explore not only the “self-awareness” aspect of my life, but all areas. It has been my intention to share all facets of my journey, and I believe that if I am going to continue to explore who I truly am and grow as I wish to inspire others to grow, I will need to be even more open about my journey as a mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual being. What the articles and podcasts will be about will be a reflection of what I am experiencing in my personal life and what I am learning as I progress through it. At the moment, I’m not making any commitment to the frequency of these articles and podcasts because I want them to be created from a place of delivering quality content, not trying to meet a “deadline”.

I’m also looking at changing the frequency of the newsletter. I still want to deliver content that is specifically created for the newsletter subscribers, but I have not been staying in integrity with getting the newsletter out on a regular basis and I do not like the fact that I have not been living up to that commitment. I believe that what will bring me peace, and also give you value is to release myself from the monthly expectation and share a newsletter when I truly have something of value to share. Since these new articles and podcasts will be coming out in this “unscheduled” way, I do suggest subscribing to the RSS feeds. This way you will be notified each time something is released here on the site. If you are not familiar with RSS feeds, .

Adjusting to all these distinctions and applying them to the site is definitely going to be stretching my comfort zone in many ways. It is a journey that I'm looking forward to, and am excited about where it will take me both personally and professionally. As always, I look forward to your feedback, your suggestions and I look forward to connecting again soon.

Until next time...

With Love and Respect,

Willard

(To access previous newsletters visit the Newsletter Archive)



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