Archive for Uncategorized

Tackling Mental Health: Transcript of My WP Weekly Podcast Interview

I had the podcast interview I did with Marcus Couch and Jeff Chanler on WP Weekly transcribed … you can listen to the interview here as well. My talk and slides on Mental Health and Entrepreneurship, mentioned in the interview, are here. 

***

Intro with music in background: This is WordPress Weekly, your source for the latest news, plug-ins, and interviews with influential leaders in the WordPress community. Here’s your hosts: Jeff Chandler and Marcus Couch.

Jeff Chandler: Welcome everybody to episode 198 of WordPress Weekly for Wednesday, July 8th, 2015. I am your host Jeff Chandler joined by Marcus Couch. And Marcus, I’m feeling back in my element again because as I look behind me, the sky is dark; it is night time, we’re actually doing a show at our normal time.

Marcus Couch: And I thank you for that because, quite frankly, I didn’t know what to do on Wednesday nights with no show to do. It’s just sitting around, twiddling my thumbs going ‘what do I do? What do I do?’ But I’m glad that we’re back at a normal schedule and we have a really great guest for today’s show.

Jeff: Yes, yes we do. And we also have a lot of news to get into. Hopefully we have time to cram it all in to this action packed show. But, uh, the person we have on the show tonight, um, I always enjoy having this guest on the show, I always enjoy our conversations that we have. In fact, he has been on the show so many times I’m going to give him the distinction, prime of the show. Uh, and his name is Cory Miller and he is the founder of iThemes, and Cory why don’t you say hi and tell us a little bit about yourself?

Cory: Well hey everybody and thanks Marcus and Jeff for having me on the show tonight again. Um, so you know Jeff and I go way back and it was the first year I started iThemes, back in 2008 WordCamp Dallas. That’s where I met Jeff and a lot of other distinguished WordPress people, but I started iThemes back in 2008. We did commercial or premium themes back then, but today our business is pretty much the opposite. It is all plug-in based with about five percent themes right now. Our biggest plug-in or hit plug-in is called BackUp Buddy. It does backup, restorations and migrations of WordPress websites. Got a couple plugins out now that are pretty big like iThemes Security- does security for WordPress websites, iThemes Sync – which helps you manage all your WordPress sites in one convenient dashboard and a couple other projects of course. We’ve got 24 members, we’re headquartered in Oklahoma City, about half of the team members (roughly) don’t work in the office. We started our little mantra “Make people’s lives awesome”, and we’ve been trying to do that every year, every day since 2008.

Jeff: Excellent! So one of the main reasons we have you on the show tonight is, uh, usually we talk about WordPress stuff, themes, plugins, what you’re doing and we might get into some of that later on this evening, but we wanted to bring you on because you did a presentation at WordCamp Denver that was just off the hook. *laughs* If I can say that myself. It is on WordPress.TV, I actually happened to watch it today and it was about entrepreneurship and your mental health and how you’ve coped with it for seven years. And you know, watching it, like you said, you and I go way back. I’ve seen you keynote at WordCamps, I’ve seen you speak at other WordCamps, WordPress events on a variety of topics but in this particular presentation I saw a different shade of you I’ve never seen before. Very emotional, very personal- you shared some things in this presentation that nobody has ever heard before so I wanted to bring you on because mental illness is a big topic. I think it is something that’s not something we often talk about here on the show. I know we did a, uh, Sarah Gooding did a blog post about tackling depression in IT and was, boy that- it was like it hit a nerve for so many people and I think just a lot of us are dealing with different various types of mental illness and being alone and struggling with that process so, uh, we’re going to sort of dive into it. But the first thing I have for you is: Out of all the things you’ve talked about, I want to go back to the point where maybe this was an idea or you were motivated enough to actually submit this type of presentation to WordCamp Denver, cause I know during the presentation you said you just sent it to them and were kinda hoping they wouldn’t pick it but if they did, you’d have to do it and they picked it. So what was really the driving factor and motivation to even get up in front of all those people and talk about this and open yourself up the way you did?

Cory: So I [have] talked about mental health before publicly. And I want to make a distinction that I’ve kinda learned since diving into that topic: there’s mental illness and there’s mental health. I kinda focus on the health part but I’m an advocate about good mental health and I wanted to help educate as best as possible, including me first, about mental illness. But there’s a stigma and I, uh, you know the answer to your question is yeah I’ve had some success in my life. There was a time a couple of years ago when I realized I had accomplished everything I set out to do and dreamed about when I was in adolescence. And to realize, you were there at my San Francisco talk last year, Jeff I think, and basically I had done this: you can Google life time expectancy, and you can actually plug your own metrics in and figure out what your days are and when I did that, it was so motivating to me that I have few time on earth, scarce resources in terms of talent and of course treasure. And I want to use that for the most impactful way. And when I do talk, I’ve done a variety of talks, you’ve heard some of those, I’ve always been passionate about the things I’ve talked about. But I realized there’s one area that I wanted to be a mental health champion. I wanted someone to say “let’s get past this stigma” and really get some good resources and people to get help that need help for mental health and illness. And I just decided, “You know what? It’s just time.” I’ve got a platform now, I think of some sort and I want to spend what time I have on earth doing things that impact the most people and I thought to myself the last five years of my journey particularly with mental health have been so impactful, but no one, hardly anyone knows about that. I think I’d be ashamed for me to not share some of my story so that the message could resonate. They don’t need to know my name necessarily, but that the message of good mental health and some practices I’ve learned over the past five years and some of the beliefs that have changed my life and I just said “why not now?” *laughs*

Marcus: And one of the things, Cory, in one of the, you had the slide deck that you went through, and the one that hit me the most, I guess you could say, would be number one: your number one belief which as you listed it was “Sometimes I need help and that’s okay”.

Cory: Absolutely.

Marcus: For me, personally, I go through this community and sometimes I think I’m just this nine hundred foot monster that can just trounce through the city, wreak havoc and cause damage and at the same time do good things and make stuff. But sometimes I get over my head and yet I internalize that. I’m not just from a technical stand point or a job stand point but in over your head in the sense of ‘I’m working fourteen hours a day and ignoring everybody around me. And I’m afraid to acknowledge the fact that I need help, I need help coping with this, I need help coping with the fact that I stare at a screen all day.’ And that hit me the most out of any slide. Do you want to elaborate on how you came to that realization yourself?

Cory: It came five years ago. Thinking ‘I’m the nine hundred pound gorilla that can do anything, can get through anything myself, I don’t need anybody else’ and finding myself face down in the gravel and probably being drug through the gravel and realizing that it’s pride, right? It’s ‘I got it, I got this. I don’t need help. My name’s Cory Miller, I’ve done these things, I’ve lived through these set of experiences. I really don’t’- no, no, no, no. I’m not Superman. I’m not perfect; I hurt just like everyone else. By the way, as an aside to this, every single time I’ve talked about mental health and shared things openly about my own mental health, my struggles with mental health, insecurity, fear, everything, it’s been a resonating thing for people. I wish you could have seen the last part of the q and a of that talk. I got down from the stage, it was a shorter talk that it was cause you guys saw I was very emotional. I don’t like to particularly cry in public or in front of anybody else, back to that pride thing right? But, um, in the twenty-five minutes of q and a, it was amazing cause people just came up to the microphone and said – it wasn’t questions, they just shared their story and most of them were in tears. And I was like ‘this message resonates’ because it’s not about me, it’s about people are hurting and we hide that stuff. And I was the best at it, Marcus. I’m telling ya I am good at hiding my imperfections and I have been since I was in high school. But sometimes ‘I need help, and it’s okay’, comes out of me saying “I won’t ever do that again, I can’t do that again”. Where I hide for six months in solitary confinement – my pain and struggles and don’t share that with the people that love me most. By the way that’s selfish. I’m saying I was selfish five years ago. And so somebody said ‘how did you come up with that’, the seven beliefs I shared. I thought about the last five years, the things I will never change, the beliefs I will never change and that first one is, and I want to be loud and proud about it: Everybody hurts, everybody needs help and that’s just okay.

Jeff: And speaking of help, you went out and, uh, you have a counselor, you actually see a counselor four or five times a year and has you call it you get regular mental health check-ups and it’s somebody you can trust and sort of dump all your garbage on without having to see them at Thanksgiving time, which I thought was a great analogy, cause I’d hate to dump garbage on a family member and then a family reunion comes around and boy it gets awkward. I don’t want that, but tell us about how that’s improved your mental health, just having that ability four times a year to dump the garbage out and feel relieved that you’re just telling someone what you’re going through?

Cory: So I’ve had, actually I think, actually I think I didn’t get to share this I don’t think, I’ve had a counselor [before]. I’ve sought counselling and had therapy probably three to four times in my life. But in 2010, I realized I can’t just do for these struggles. I can’t do it when I bottom out. I need to have regular maintenance just like I would do on my car or how I go into my physician regularly to do checkups and things like that. That’s the same thing and I would argue even more importantly than physical health is mental health. My physical health has got to be right there too, but mental health, you could be the most physically in shape – but be dying inside. So the third or fourth time I sought counseling in my life, back in 2010 when I had filed for divorce, I was going through a divorce and at the guidance of my attorney and some friends I had sought out counseling. I met a guy named Kyle. By the way I want to mention I have full permission to talk about this from my wife, Lindsey. Not the contents of our sessions but that the fact that my wife and I seek counseling on a regular basis, kinda like I mentioned. Last two Mondays we had appointments with him. We’re in New Mexico right now and so we did it over the phone because we walk the talk. I share that because I’m not just saying people should get a counselor, no. In the last two weeks we’ve sought regular counseling [for] Lindsay and I to help through some issues we’re dealing with in our lives. So back in 2010 I met Kyle through a personal friend and just started to do regular visits with him. And it was just amazing that though I can share things with my parents, I can share things with my brother, team- stuff like that. You know there’s certain things that, particularly at that period were like bile and anger and things, but there’s things that I really don’t want to share with another human being that I have to see at a regular family outing and often times I think I found in my life, well one hundred percent of the times, the things, the areas are all about people. If I share something about somebody close to me to another person they’re going to have a different perspective about that person too. And so going to Kyle, he’s a professionally trained counselor and I don’t get to see him at Thanksgiving which is good but I also know I get to just offload my stuff to him.

Jeff: And in the process of offloading stuff to him, does he- obviously I guess he has the capability to sort of work through that and give you advice to work on and obviously it’s helped, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be seeing Kyle.

Cory: Absolutely. So I realized back in 2010 and then when Lindsay and I got married about a year later that we needed, that I needed to do this regularly and sharing that with Lindsay she said “I’m in” and so we kinda put that on the calendar at the beginning of the year, each quarter, we’re going to have this little notice that says ‘Call Kyle and get an appointment’. We’ve done that before, before we’ve had kids, after we’ve had kids, when we’ve had major things happen in our lives we’ll schedule appointments within, between those maybe quarterly periods. Particularly after we had our first and second babies we said listen, first time was how okay does this change our marriage dynamic? We had talked to him before. Second baby, same thing, talked about parenting stuff like how do we parent this little boy, he’s amazing but a toddler , the baby and the jealousy issues and the – talked about all kinds of stuff. So it’s four times a year that I say for my own, what I felt was best for me. The regular maintenance of my mental health and we know we can call Kyle and schedule an appointment. I think we had like maybe a two day notice with him and we got a phone call with him to just talk through some things. Afterwards you get, I think there’s, again I’m not a professionally trained counselor, but my experience has been one: either affirmation and then second: questions and things to think through, and then third would be: tactics. Often times the things I’ve talked about personally had been about conflict between somebody and myself and try to think through and help kind of get perspective on what I’m dealing with and I think it’s just amazing, I believe in seeking the advice of experts, people that go deep in their specific area. Talking to Marcus in Orange County a couple weeks ago, if I have a question about a podcast, I’m going to call Marcus. And I’m going to call you, Jeff, because you’ve been doing this for so long because you guys are the experts in the subject and I would want to know your experience. Same thing applies to a counselor only except you know they’ve got some degree sitting on the wall, certifications and stuff.

Marcus: And so how is that translating, obviously you’ve been doing this for a while now as far as that counseling. How does that translate into your business endeavors, how does it help you make better decisions and dealing with such a large staff, both internally and the people at work on a distributed basis? How do you arm yourself with that ammo now and put it to practice downstream?

Cory: Absolutely number one would be that life is about people, conflict and things happen. We’re not perfect human beings and we have conflict. Number one is just a better perspective about how to deal with people and relationships. I would say the counseling has directly increased my happiness, joy, in health, in life so much. I won’t ever give it up. Number two is business and the team you mentioned, even if you’re a solopreneur, you still have to deal with a lot of people that are just called clients or customers. So even with a staff of twenty-four that we have, and thousands of customers, secondarily would be the conflict that happens. How do you help maintain and grow a long term relationship with people? And then there’s some people that like to vomit on you and how do you set clear and direct boundaries that kinda free you from poisonous relationships? I would use counseling in all those regards about conflict with in my team, conflict within customers that might be poisonous, poisonous people in my life, friends I’ve had to say goodbye to because of what they did and talking it over with Kyle, my counselor. It helps me get a perspective and also great, very healthy balanced tactics to employ to set boundaries, communicate effectively so that my happiness must come first and foremost. That was a hard pill for me to swallow in the last five years but I realized if I was miserable and I was unhappy, the people around me were most likely going to be miserable and unhappy because of me and if I don’t have my own happiness and health in check first and foremost, I can’t help other people and love other people fully and so Kyle has helped me, all those things directly. You know, life is about people. Right? And that’s what makes the journey so amazing through life is the people that you meet that love you that care about you and love, care and support them. And then figuring out the people that are poisonous and like to vomit on you and help you escort them out of your life. Man it’s so helpful to have someone to just deal with this every day. Kyle is significantly older, he’s got grown children and now grandchildren and to be able to walk with him and him help me walk through those experiences has been tremendously helpful. I love advisors in my life and consider my counselor one of my key advisors in life.

Marcus: And have you seen, if we took a timeline of the moment you and Kyle started working together and connected it to the product release cycle and the revenue that iThemes has are they in sync with each other as far as the level of happiness that Cory got the more successful the company became?

Cory: I would say so despite the fact that in 2010 my business and profession was just getting off the ground and just starting to get altitude and just powering through, I had some great things happen in my life and as a result of that year I’ve experienced that kind of success that comes from. That year my personal life was crumbling, I would say overall, it’s weird cause my personal life was in shatters, it was just shattered but my professional life was really taking off that period to maybe think about that correlation back then but I would say I have a greater chance to be successful for my team to be happy and fulfilled and successful themselves, for my customers to have the same, to be happy and fulfilled by the products and services they purchase from us because the person leading that venture is happy and healthy. I still go through my bouts of the stuff. I need to get a tune up on my mental health but I would say everybody that is directly or even remotely directly influenced by my life has got to have felt the wave of happiness because Cory back then, pre-2010, I was a people pleaser. I couldn’t say no very well and I let people use and abuse me and now, no. And I know I’m healthier, I’m better for everybody in my life: my wife, my children, my team and my customers because I have started this road through achieving better mental health.

Jeff: I want to go back and set the stage here cause I think it’s important where it’s 2010, there’s some great things going on in your professional life, or I think even your iThemes was nominated for a local award this was when you were nominated to become a contributing author to I think – all in one WordPress, something to that effect. I mean you were just high rolling; Backup buddy, you had some great product releases. You were doing well, the professional side of Cory that I know through Twitter and social and public interactions, it looked like your life was going great. I mean you’re on cloud nine and then at the same time you’re just in the deepest pits of despair and you’re in this self-constructed jail cell of misery because of so many things going down in your personal life, it feels like you’re being dragged on gravel. Just incredible how you can, personally you’re down so low and professionally be up so high. And it just sort of in the WordPress community through social media through Facebook we usually only get a glimpse of the best sides of people or they usually post the happiest things or the great things they’re eating but we only know as much as we know, or how much they want to share. And I think one of the things that you found out personally by spreading the message and talking at WordCamps is you’ve personally found out that you are not alone and you’ve spread this message to various WordCamps that they are not alone and I think a lot of people are appreciative of the because when you get inside that jail box of misery, and your mental health gets really down it can exponentially grow, you know there’s a lot of bad things that can happen out of that if you don’t get the help, if you don’t remove the pride and do something to save yourself before something really bad happens.

Cory: Absolutely. I think it’s sad and I definitely don’t want to portray an image of myself ever that everything is perfect in my life. It isn’t. But if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram you’re going to see pictures of me smiling, you’re going to see pictures of my wife, my two adorable babies, miracle little babies, but it’s not the whole picture. It’s just the things that, you know, I curate those things to share, the things I’m very, very proud of. But it’s sad too, cause I don’t want to give a false illusion of ‘Cory’s got his stuff all together, he’s perfect at-‘absolutely not’, that’s not the case! I still struggle. I put a slide up at Denver and it was probably fifteen things and I just said this is what entrepreneurs, this is what I deal with, I have dealt with through my journey and deal with this on a daily basis. One of those is insecurity. I feel like I’ve had my, I’ve achieved my own definition of success but I still, every single day, deal with insecurity. Deal with the fact that I’ve built this business and I’m not good enough and I have these crappy negative thoughts in my life, you know that I try to eradicate with more positive things, that I’m not good enough, there’s more talented people that should be in my position or have been able to have the fortune and opportunity to run a business like I have and see it grow. And so I deal with those things and I, you know it’s sad, I don’t want that portrait necessarily portrayed now, for sure, is that I’ve got my stuff together. Here’s the thing I’ll tell you that has a little bit frustrated me after my talk in Denver. I did a blog post that got a lot of traction and now since the video is up on, it’s kind of a resurgence, you know, the whole, the message I was trying to share but there will be a select set of people that will say ‘Good job Cory, you know people need to hear that’ and I think to myself ‘you need to hear that’. Everyone needs it.

Jeff: Right.

Cory: Because I was the one that needed to hear it back in 2010 and I still need to hear it today, tomorrow and the next day and so I think there’s this illusion that by saying that I think we say ‘I’ve got my stuff together, I’ve got it under control’ and it’s part of that pride. And I want to kinda tell people, honestly I get a little irritated and maybe borderline angry cause I want to say ‘No no no no no, there will be a time where you will be on your knees in life and need help and please don’t say you’ll never hit there’ because as a person I want to tell you that life will bring you to your knees and maybe you’ll be scraping on the gravel like me and I know that potentially could happen in my lifetime [again] and I want to be ready for that. Anyway diatribe over on that one.

Marcus: No, you’re right and insecurity is a huge one, especially in this community and sometimes people over compensate for it. Even me, even when doing this show I second guess myself a hundred times. “Am I even qualified to be on this’, I hear Jeff laughing in the background but that’s the thing, I’m on the top of the mountain as far as being a podcast host in this community and yet, you know, I sometimes, I can’t relax, and yet ‘My god I’ve got the gig, what am I worried about?’ Right? So, and that creeps in and I want to come to another point that you mentioned, you know you talked about you put yourself in basically solitary confinement for six months and people that do this for a living and work in WordPress or work in any kind of field where there staring at a screen all day you can still have a very productive day yet still be in solitary for six months right and I think that’s one of the dangers we don’t recognize often is that even though we’re still productive even though we still have good ideas, there are ways that we kind of consolidate and hide the pain even though we’re still fully active and on slack in all the rest of it, right?

Cory: Oh yeah, were you guys at WordCamp Raleigh, WordCamp Chicago in 2010?

J/M: No not me. / Uh, 2009 I was in Chicago and Raleigh I might have been, unless that was also 2009.

Cory: So those camps I had speaking opportunities there and Raleigh was very, very tough, it was the first one I was truly probably going through the worst part and it was this odd thing where I compartmentalized and could put the bad over here and then put on a smile and go on stage and give a really, probably 2010, I think the video is probably still out there, it was the first time in my life I got a standing ovation and then they threw yellow ah orange stress balls at me. If I quote unquote had a professional speaking career, which I don’t, I’ve never been paid, it was the highlight and yet I was hurting so bad inside which is pretty instrumental turning point in talks yet I was dying and hurting inside so freaking bad. Compartmentalized, hide, put on a pretty smile and give a pretty passionate talk and no one knew.

Jeff: Yeah. I want to talk about this point where in your professional career you reached this point where you were, you would show up and arrive to work at iThemes and you didn’t want, you almost hated your job. You didn’t enjoy coming to work every day you didn’t enjoy working, you didn’t enjoy getting stuff done, you just, you sort of contemplated asking yourself is this really want to be doing is this really how I want to feel every day and sort of explain that part of your life and what you did to correct that problem so that you became a happy person again.

Cory: So it was the first time in my career at iThemes that I was so miserable that I didn’t want to be there, just like you said. And when I went, it was that we had a set of people, very small group of people there. They belong[ed] somewhere else. They’re not bad people. They’re actually talented people. They didn’t belong in our group in our family than the rest of us and for about eight months I allowed that group of people to make me miserable. And to turn my emotions and my feelings and even question whether I wanted to be at the business I started. And it took me eight months and it’s sad, because I think about the eight months I was miserable, people that did belong there who are still with us today, that I probably made them miserable in the process. And probably because I didn’t act sooner and tell a very small group of people they should find another place to work that some of them eventually left, we encouraged and made a decision for them to move on. That group of people made a different journey than the rest of us were. They were on their own journey, it was misaligned with what we were doing, we were going they just didn’t sync kinda, I haven’t necessarily kept in touch but I know they went on and probably, because they fit somewhere different but for me it was allowing people into our inner circle that did not belong there and, are you guys able to hear me ok?

Marcus: Yeah, let me ask you this Cory. Were there any people that you thought were brought into the whole process and the journey and things that were lost because the other ones poisoned them, poisoning the well, so to speak? Were there people that you wish didn’t get corrupted by the bad people that were in the company?

Cory: I’ll tell ya! I love bragging on our people who have walked with me, some of them have been with me for seven years. Jeff you know Chris Jean. He’s been with me the longest, he’s remarkable. It is a testament to the quality individuals that were and are that that poison did not affect them. Not as happy as they could have been maybe, they realized things were going to change, absolutely. Almost to a T, we either help those people leave or they left on their own accord, we’d go, yeah we just wondered when you’d do it and it kinda hurts cause like dang, I don’t want anyone to do that. My fear was that that cancer would spread to them and that attitude and stuff. It’s a testament to the quality of human beings we have working in iThemes that it didn’t- that’s what’s crazy! They kept doing the same committed work, passionate about what they did, despite the fact there was people trying either to either intentionally or not sabotage what we were doing.

Marcus: Yeah, the good analogy of that is that these were the trees that learned how to bend but not break through the worst storms that the company had to endure and the people within.

Cory: That’s a great way to say that.

Jeff: Holy moly, man that has me in a deep thought Marcus.
Marcus: That one’s going in my book! *laughs*

Jeff: So Cory, later on in your presentation you talk about something that I’ve been trying to do myself, it’s difficult to do but sort of rewiring your brain to be positive and productive versus negative and pessimistic. I’m definitely the first one to where something negative happens in my life ‘That’s it, my life’s over, this is going to happen, this is going to happen, my life is shot to hell because of this one bad thing’ instead of thinking ‘well I’ll get through it and maybe here’s the bright side to it, or the silver lining in the cloud’. This is something you mentioned, have you been able to rewire your brain in order to be positive and productive or are you still struggling with that?

Cory: Our self-talk sucks. If we talked to people that we loved the way we talked to ourselves, we wouldn’t have very many people that loved us or cared about us. In fact ,and it is crazy that we talk to ourselves in such negative, demeaning, ridiculously terrible, unbelieving ways and so, Jeff, it’s a constant daily struggle for me. The first thing something happens there’ll be insecurity for me. It’ll be a fear, it’ll be a ‘you’re not good enough, Cory’ kind of talk, and it’s a daily chore to say ‘no, you won’t talk (that way)’ and to rewire and to think, we want to, I don’t know if it’s this part in our brain, I can’t remember what it’s called, but the caveman part where we fear threats and things like that but we instantly go to fear. What I’ve been trying to do is, there’s a very healthy fear we should have by the way, but for this particular fear we rewire the brain to say instead of fear let’s do boldness. We see somebody coming out that has a competing product that’s got their stuff together that’s going to do good, I want to default to boldness, to say I have something to contribute to the world and I want to give it and I’m not going to let some other person’s talent affect my boldness, my action to do that. So I’d say it’s a daily struggle, it starts with me and then people in my life, my team and everything to say because we default to this negative crappy way of self-talk to ourselves on a daily basis we think no person would ever want to be my friend if I talked to them in that manner. Why in my own life and talents equally – I try to be the most encouraging person to my friends, to my family, to my team tell them ‘you have talents, I see your talents working in this way’ yet I don’t do that [for myself]. That’s just- it’s crazy, it’s ludacris. Our self-talk sucks and we have to change that but that’s a daily chore because the clock resets, our mind will default to bad. We have to push it from the sad over to the positive and live that way.

Jeff: Well said. Marcus?

Marcus: And how does one do that throughout- let’s take your typical, your WordPress solopreneur so to speak, your guy that’s at home making sites for people or fixing sites or what have you. How do you arm yourself when you’re the army of one? Because self-talk is pretty much all you have, right? What’s the best way to, kinda, approach your day and certain situations arrive? When you’re the one man band you’ve got to deal with sales calls and deal with rejection, with clerical stuff then you gotta deal with all the technical aspects of it. And so amongst those there are fifty ways to get disappointment throughout the day or get hard on yourself or what your abilities or natural abilities may be. What’s that trigger for you? How do you know ‘okay this is a situation that I need to back off from’? What’s your trigger for that?

Cory: I would say you’re not alone even as a solopreneur. My, and maybe not everyone has this, my first partner no matter what the size of business is, is my spouse/ significant other. Now I’m married to an amazing woman named Lindsay. She is my number one partner. I would venture to say most people, maybe, I don’t know the stats, have a significant other in their life or maybe have a parent or whatever that is their supporting cast. No matter if you’re solopreneur or someone that runs a 500 person business. Supporting cast that we need in our lives and I think it starts first and foremost starts with your spouse/ significant other. That’s your first partner in life, person in my life I’m so thankful that I met her that she supports me and loves me in the way I need to be loved. The five love languages, you can take a free assessment online. There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t talk about our love languages and words of affirmation. Last year she gave me fifty-two cards written with things she loves about me. I tell you what, when I get in the dumps, in my backpack, it goes with me everywhere I go. So the supporting cast is key, one dimension from my experience from having a counselor, having a spouse that significantly loves, supports and cares and appreciates you, friends that were negative nellies or weren’t good for my life they were poison, I’ve had to say not really a friend, I’m going to discontinue this relationship. The cast is absolutely key. Then Marcus, the answer to your question would be that it’s just self-awareness to know to counteract them with boldness. If it’s fear, if it’s negativity, counteract with positivity; to appreciate one of the greatest treasures I think that about increasing my own happiness and positivity, by the way, is to be thankful and grateful for the time talent treasure people. So I would try to wire my brain to – say negative thing enter my mind saying ‘I’m not good enough for this client’ now my counteract would say ‘ok what am I really good at that other people see and stands out?’ I’m an authentic relationship person, I hone my skills every single day of my life, I would start to self-talk those things counteract through self-awareness so you’re getting negative thoughts and then counteract them with the opposite. ‘I’m not good enough’ *laughs” You know my what my wife adores me, this client loves me, he can’t wait to pay me more money, you know I would just start to, thought in that self-talk I think it just comes from self-awareness and it’s a habit right that we have to teach ourselves, I’m saying I’ll have to teach myself cause I’ll get in this deep cloud and realize, maybe it’s been a couple days, I’m in this funk I gotta get out of it somehow, not to do that. Does that does that mean scheduling a call with my counselor or does that mean calling a friend of mine, getting some encouragement. I want to share one other thing Marcus and Jeff, about something in my life – during the last four years, I have had a peer group. So one of the things I’ve learned is the value of a peer group: a group of people with the same values and willing to trust, and pour into each other’s loves so four years, five years ago, actually in 2010 I qualified for a group called Entrepreneurs’ Organization (http://eonetwork.org). I joined a local chapter in Oklahoma and I was placed in a group, they call it a forum, but we meet in person and so I was placed in a forum group of seven other guys. They just happened to be men and for the last four years I’ve met with that group once a month for three hours, every single month for four years. The month after I got married I joined that group and so I’ve had two babies and my business success and all that increased happiness part- in a big part- cause I have a group of like-minded, value-centered people that trust each other and want to share experiences – how that expresses itself for solopreneur or someone else what would be to find a group of people, maybe four people who are on the same journey not competitive journey with you but the same journey and meet regularly. You know they’ve been called accountability groups, find a group of people to pour your life into that will pour their life into you, that are about your success and happiness and that group has been so impactful for me because they get it! They understand what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and a father; seven of the eight are. And it’s been remarkable. One of the presentations I did was about, we were getting ready to have Calloway, that said ‘what’s it like to be a successful entrepreneur, driven, ambitious entrepreneur and be a parent, be a father?’ And it was amazing the kind of experiences I got from that, that I gleaned and put into action in my own life. And has been, just having a peer group with the same values on the same journey I think is absolutely life impacting and helpful. I wish more people had access to groups like that. I want that for my COO Matt Danner, I want that for my wife, I want that for my friends, just having people on the same journey of life together.

Jeff: Now you talk about Counselors and peer groups and finding people that are on the same journey and I just wanted to share that I don’t see a counselor, per say, but I do this thing every Friday night. Google Hangout called WP After Hours so it’s a little get together we have, a lot of us in the WordPress community are working from home, maybe we don’t go out on a Friday night so we just sit back, have a couple brewskiis from our computer chair on a Google Hangout chat that can have up to ten people and we just talk about the struggles we endured during the week, we sort of air it out on each other and it’s worked out to be a pretty good support group where we just have a good time. I look forward to Fridays now, I look forward to being on there with a couple of great people airing out my grievances and everybody just sort of helping each other, everybody is just giving each other words of encouragement and it just goes to show that you don’t have to go see a counselor you don’t have to pay someone, but maybe just like Cory said: just find that group or create the group yourself and maintain it. There’s plenty of people out there that are going through the same things you are and I mean, Cory, as you said you don’t have to go through this alone, because you did it alone you had that six, seven, eight months’ worth of misery and nobody should go through that.

Cory: I think that’s awesome example of how to do that cause that’s impactful for your life and you’re the judge. I’m not, but if that’s helping impact your life and under some other things are hurting and to be able to get past some of the obstacles I just think, life is better done by the way with people who love and support and care about you. I think that’s an excellent example.

Jeff: Awesome. So before we wrap up this up here, Marcus any last questions dealing with mental illness or mental health for Cory?

Marcus: Well one other thing I got out of the presentation and even what some of Cory’s mentioned some in the show is that you’ve got to get those negative influences out of your life and it’s not just a matter of dismissing it’s a matter of forgiving what happened even if they burned you cause that resentment will kill you. It will burn through your brain to where you can’t do anything as far as work or productivity or personal life or anything as long as you hold on to that resentment so I think that’s a key portion in that sending people away; you kinda have to forgive them for a sense of your own freedom. That’s something that I got subliminally, Cory, out of your talk; I sense that’s your feeling as well.

Cory: Absolutely. Being able to forgive and move on doesn’t mean you necessarily keep those people in your life but forgive, the blessing of health I think people commented on the post I did. When I basically said publicly in writing that I had been divorced and people said you know “I bet that feels good” I wanted to say “no, I dealt with that in the past, I didn’t do that for therapeutic value”. About my divorce, I’ve been through all that not that the scars may not be there or whatever but I’ve dealt with that pain and moved on. I’m only sharing the story so it helps people come out from the shadows and seek help, however that is. To deal with that hurt, the bitterness, whatever it is and I’m so glad you mentioned the word forgiveness because to hold on to that would be poison in my life, my kids, my team, my wife, and customers would all feel that poison if I held on to those things, but I’ll give the caveat it does not mean those people remain in your life, you can forgive one and still not have them in your life there are people that have done things in the past that I cannot, will not have them around the people that I love most in this world. Anyway that’s an excellent point Marcus, very well said too.

Marcus: Thanks, Well I want to say thanks very much Cory about coming on the show. Sort of a change of pace for us cause we’re not really talking about products or themes or stuff like that but talking about some of the things that are actually impacting me, impacting you, impacting a lot of us in the WordPress community, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, agencies, distributed workers all over the place. Anyone out there thinks you’re alone or you’re the only one dealing with feeling whatever it is you’re dealing with – you’re not, you’re definitely not alone and Cory again I wanted to say in person thank you very much for being brave enough. I guess I should say to come out there and be so open and share some of these really difficult times of your life but more importantly how you ended up on the other side and then using your skills and talents and going across the country to various WordCamps helping and telling others and encouraging others that yeah, there’s times in your life you will be on your knees but there are ways to get back on your feet and I think you are doing a huge, generous, positive thing and service and I hope you continue to spread the word at various WordCamps and I think the issue of mental health in general has to be talked about more at a lot of these WordCamps and the code and contributions all of that’s important but I wouldn’t mind seeing more time, dedication and speakers devoted to mental health, physical health and things of that nature that are sort of insular to being productive and getting things done. So thanks for everything you’ve done man, not that you’re going anywhere I just want to say thanks! *laughs*

Cory: I appreciate you guys allowing me and also for the sharing of the message. It’s not about me, it’s about the message to help hurting people and man, if we affect one person’s life tonight after this it would be so worth it. I appreciate you guys, you’re awesome people and I’d be glad to be able to shake your hands and have a drink or two with you guys at some point.

Marcus: Thanks.

Jeff: I gotta tell ya I look forward to it and based on the WiFi connection you have and the way it makes your voice slow-mo, some of the people out there may think you’ve had a couple drinks. *Jeff and Marcus laugh*

Cory: Aww, I hope the message came across though.

Jeff: No, no its cool, I’m looking forward to seeing you at the next WordCamp which I have no idea when that will be either Columbus, Ohio or maybe Prestige? Or WordCamp Hampton Roads, I don’t know, definitely not WordCamp US, since that’ll happen next year. We’ll have to definitely see each other then but we’re going to have to have you of before the end of the year to talk about what’s going on at iThemes, your company, and your business relationship with Crowd Favorite. I want to know some of the products and things you’re doing. We gotta talk about this stuff so I hope you’re up for doing that later on this year.

Cory: Would love that and we’ll get a better internet connection for you guys.

Jeff: Well Cory it was a pleasure talking to you, enjoy New Mexico I hear it’s beautiful this time of year.

Cory: It is.

Jeff: Alright, so Marcus that’s it. I wish we had a little bit better internet connection but I think people overall will stick around to hear his message and overall it wasn’t too bad. It definitely, we covered a lot of ground here. I think we did the most important thing and that was spread his message and hopefully the people out there listening take a lot away from the things that were discussed on the show and by all means those of you listening to the show if you have got any feedback from this show or you’d like us to talk about this topic some more, talk about other mental health or issues dealing with WP development or solopreneurs – send me a email jeffc@wptavern.com. Let us know. Also feel free to share your stories what you’ve done to try and be more positive instead of negative, we would love to hear your feedback and we have a free show next week so we’ll be able to get in to most of your feedback so give it to us.

Marcus: That’s right and you know for me this, its hits home for me because I’m the one going through some stuff right now and that’s one of the reasons why I had this guest in particular scheduled today and also I want to remind people that in our show notes I’m going to put links to the slide deck that Cory used for his presentation in addition to the direct link on wordpress.TV that had his presentation from WordCamp Denver where he talks about a lot of this stuff so make sure you go to the show notes and the links will all be there.

Footsteps of Entrepreneurship

Family EntrepreneurshipMy mom texted me this photo last night and I immediately asked to get a print so I could hang in my office.

I want to tell this story in person to everybody who visits me.

This is my grandfather’s first business on grand opening in July 1967. It was a drive-thru restaurant in Big Bear, California, and burgers were 24 cents.

He would later also start a fence company, construction company and ultimately a motorcycle dealership (which he still works at to this day and where I worked for several summers). He’s a masterful network (a people person), a shrewd real estate investor (although he’d never call himself that), and one heck of a role model for me.

I remember the first time I told him I wanted to own a business. He encouraged me to get a job with a pension instead.

I still don’t think he realizes the impact and influence his life and work had (and continues to have) on me, as an entrepreneur, as a grandfather, and as my friend.

But needless to say in 2008 when I had the opportunity to start iThemes, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and accomplished something I’m very proud of: I followed in my Papa Leo’s footsteps.

The Big Question I’ve Been Asking More and More

For the past couple of months, I’ve been asking a new question as we consider or get close to green lighting big ideas, opportunities, projects and partnerships.

How could this fail?

It’s the question I find asking myself, or our team, or whoever we’re working with … not as a way to be pessimistic about making the decision. But as a way to more accurately ensure SUCCESS of the project or deal.

  • Find the obstacles, challenges, ways your deal could fail.
  • Systematically, strategically blow up them the hell up.
  • Win. Win big. Win better. Win faster. Win more often.

This question was inspired by Strategic Coach who teaches some big-picture awesome thinking for entrepreneurs.

At first, I didn’t want to think about how a cool project or big idea could fail. But I realized the answers to how it could fail are the strategic ways to maximize success.

Try it out and see what you think.

What’s Your Biggest Hurdle For Hiring Your First Employee?

One of the most frequent questions I get from freelancers, solopreneurs and developer-entrepreneurs is on hiring their first employees.

I’m working on an in-depth post (or series) on this topic … but before I get too involved sharing my experiences, thoughts and ideas, I’d like to get some input from you.

If you’re a freelancer, solopreneur or developer-entrepreneur, please take a second to complete the form below.

Sorry. This form is no longer accepting new submissions.

Go Where the Conversation Is

It’s taken me a while to finally realize that “the conversation” isn’t on my blog.

In fact, unless you’re like Penelope Trunk (an awesome, sharp writer with big-time exposure) and blog about going to your first day of marriage counseling (or even something remotely controversial), there’s a chance the conversation isn’t on your blog either.

Then today, maybe, it hit me …

I get more comments on my Facebook and Twitter status than this blog (or any of my blogs).

Yes, maybe I’m not doing something right.

Yes, I don’t like to stir up trouble and yes, I hate conflict and controversy (I’d prefer to teach, build relationships through my blog – it’s an extensive and expression of me and the other stuff’s not me).

Yes, I have a lot of Facebook friends (almost 800), and Twitter followers (around 2k) … a lot more than people coming to this blog.

And yes yes yes, I’m still a HUGE fan of blogging.

But the conversation isn’t here, and probably won’t ever be.

The conversation is there … not here.

(And you know what? I’m OK with that.)

That means, increasingly, I’ve been spending more and more time on my social media strategies on Twitter and Facebook.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far … and still refining …

  • Facebook is for friends and reconnecting – I’m still not comfortable with “friending” someone, which connects them to other friends (I don’t want someone thinking a stranger is OK because somehow they are connected to me)
  • Twitter is for business, marketing and reflection – for me, Twitter is often a rough draft of my thoughts, an awesome tool for customer service and for relationship building
  • My blog is still my cornerstone marketing tool – it’s still my 24/7 ever-changing resume, my primary marketing tool (on- or offline), I own the domain name real estate (I’m not leasing land owned by FB or Twitter), and so far, it’s still the best, most affordable way under the sun to get found by the search engines (when I get outranked by social media for my own domain name I might change my tune – but that’s one of their greatest opportunities actually)

What about you? What have you learned?

Wait … don’t comment here, give it a Tweet instead.