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Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy: One Year Later...
This is where it all started. I ran the James Page Beer Run dressed as some kind of Roman warrior slash Greek God. An epic wind kicked up, making my cape look badass and endowing me with local barefoot running superpowers. And I decided to embrace my awesomeness. I became...The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy. Then I ordered another beer rocket and some fries.
Dearest citizens. Today my little corner of the Internet will turn one year old. What all started as a drunken decision that faithful weekend turned into a series of drunken decisions that landed me here today. Looking back on this last year, I am in utter disbelief at how far this blog has come.
I came into blogging with absolutely no expectations. I would have been fine going viral within a week. I would have been fine with a Vanilla Ice-style meteoric rise and fall that landed me in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sequel with bad sideburns. I would have been fine if the only person who read my stuff was my stalker (by the way...haven't heard from you lately....how are things?). I'm more than thrilled with the way things have turned out.
At major milestones like anniversaries, I always like to take a moment to do some reflection on how I got to where I am. That...and Jason posted something on this same topic last Friday, and our budding bro-mance demands I do the same. So I'm going to use this post to talk about how I think I got where I am today.
Step #1: I wrote in my own voice
If you've been tuning in to my website for long enough, you know that my posts have a particular flavor. It's a blend of wit, stupidity, booze, hookers, trash talk, hookers or booze again, and possibly some actual useful information. It's been that way since my very first post (which you can read here). If you read it, you'll notice it's pretty much "same shit, different day". I think I even use some of the same jokes.
The way I act online is the way I am in person. You can't pretend to be someone you're not; especially when you write. But sometimes writing in your own voice can be difficult. I've been fortunate enough to have figured it out pretty early on.
Step #2: I'm not afraid to fail
In Jason's last post, he credited a lot of my success with brilliant decision making. I don't know if I would go that far. I think I've done some fairly dumb things with this blog. But I think I've gotten to where I am so quickly because I've been able to react to idiotic moves, and learn how to make smarter decisions the next time.
This blog has been a one year experiment in what works and what doesn't. Each time I post, I watch Google Analytics like a complete stats nerd. I try things that other successful bloggers are doing. I dabble in things that no one else is doing. Sometimes it works...sometimes it's a gigantic flop. Regardless, the one thing I'm never worried about is failure. Really...what's the worst that could happen?
But from my limited experience as a blogger, I know the rewards. I'm aiming for more rewards...
Step #3: I never compromised my principles
I entered into the minimalist shoe review game with a very specific mission. To cut the crap and tell it like it is. I am of the opinion that too many product reviewers place nice-nice with companies, fearing that if they don't their swag lines will dry up. That's not fair to you; the consumer. So I was determined to buck that trend and shoot straight. Plus, product reviews were in desperate need of a bit of flavor...and possibly rodeo clowns (still trying to figure out how to work those in to a review).
And what I found happened was the exact opposite of the fears. Companies actually began approaching me for swag reviews BECAUSE I didn't hold any punches. They knew that a positive review from me would mean more. But if they didn't, I still wouldn't care. A company that doesn't appreciate honest feedback isn't worthy of my support anyway. And a couple of bucks worth of free shit isn't worth kowtowing to any corporation.
That's one of the many things that I won't change just to get ahead. When you do that, you start to go down the wrong path. I believe that my path will be revealed to me. I just have to be me.
Step #4: I got some help along the way
I realized pretty early on that blogging isn't a zero-sum game. It's a community of support and friendship. We don't compete with each other for audience; we collaborate. We draw on each other's talents. I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for all of my friends who have supported my blog and provided me with countless opportunities to get ahead.
I can't thank them all enough. And if they ever need anything, I'll do whatever I can to help.
Step #5: I stepped up when my number was called
I adhere to the Starship Troopers theory of leadership. I will lead "until I die, or you find someone better". I don't believe you choose when you become a leader. I think that your call to leadership just happens, and it's up to you to step up and not fuck it up. I also believe that Denise Richards looks hot in body armor.
I don't quite know how I fit into the leadership structure of the barefoot running community. I don't even know if we have one. If we do, it seems to be loosely organized around massive alcohol consumption and questionable clothing decisions (read...kilts and short shorts). I do know that people come to me looking for some form of leadership. It could be as simple as scheduling the next Barefoot Runners Society group run, or as complex as representing a minimalist running brand at a huge event. Regardless, when someone comes calling I consider it my duty to step up and doing a bang up job.
Until they stop coming and find someone better....
Step #6: I remember who I write for...
This blog started as a place for me to record my random thoughts and make people laugh a bit. It's grown to be a site that people from all over the world turn to as a barefoot running resource. It didn't get that way because of me. It got that way because of you. And I'll never forget that. That's why I answer every email I get...even the ones about male enhancement (it's "all natural" right?). I respond to every facebook post. I stay at clinics and events until everyone goes home.
That's my way of saying thank you. So for every time you read my rants, every time you recommend my site to a friend or link it on facebook, every time you contact me for advice or give me a tip....thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Someone at a party recently asked me how to create a successful blog. I told him two things. First, I said, "Be yourself online". I am a loud-mouthed, no BS dude that dreams a lot, loves to learn and share, takes chances, and pays it forward. That's what my blog is. That's all there is to it. I am where I am today because of those three little words.
I also told him, "If you're happy, your blog is successful." I was happy when my blog got 30 pageviews a day because I was having fun and living the way I want to live. I'm happy today because I'm having fun and living the way I want to live. If you don't have happiness, you don't have anything.
Cheers to more years citizens!