My Grateful List for 2018

My health (for real this time).

More than ever before I have come aware that without your health, nothing else really matters. This year I have unfortunately seen friends, family, and acquaintances go through their own personal health battles.

In some cases it is just a symptom of aging, and others have been flat-out bad luck. Watching them go through this has made me realize that I have taken my health for granted. For years I have had unhealthy habits as I always had youth on my side.

Seeing others go through their own personal struggles has made me take stock of my own situation. I am now being more mindful of what I eat and drink. I have started to exercise to five days per week as well (whereas previously I’d manage two to three times a week).

Making the transition to five days of exercise per week was challenging at first, but now it has become part of my routine. My secret to staying committed is to vary my workouts in both routine and duration. For example, some days I go for a run, others I am lifting weights, kayaking, bike riding, and so on. I may workout for an hour, or perhaps twenty-five minutes depending on the day. The variety keeps me from getting bored and making it feel like a chore.

This new routine has me feeling better than ever before physically. There is still room for improvement as my diet still contains too much sodium for my liking, but I am happy with my progress.

My support network.

As is the case with most of us, I went through some highs and lows the past few years. I am fortunate to have a network of supportive friends and family who have been there for me. I generally keep things to myself, but even if I don’t call on them it’s comforting to know that they are always there if needed.

Business growth.

Entrepreneurship is often about never being satisfied – always pushing for the “next thing”. But when I take a moment to just look at where we are today versus just two years ago, I am in awe. A lot of hard work from countless people has solidified LearnDash as not just a WordPress plugin, but an industry recognized learning management system. Every meaningful business metric is positive, can’t ask for more than that.

Travel opportunities.

I had the opportunity to go to California, Nevada, Florida (twice), Alabama, Grand Rapids, and Nashville in 2018. Coming up early next year is Europe. I always have fun experiencing new places domestically or abroad. Looking forward to visiting family in Germany and heading down to France to see some friends (and to show off my French speaking skills).

My cat.

Giving a shout-out to my cat, who I find myself talking to more than I’d like to admit.

She’s a good listener.

Why I Am Abandoning My LinkedIn Profile

Once upon a time I loved LinkedIn.

It served a very different purpose than Facebook, one that I felt would be useful to my career when I worked at a company. 

Years later I used the platform to initially launch LearnDash by sharing blog posts I would write in LinkedIn Groups. Seriously. I didn’t focus on Facebook or Twitter but stuck with just LinkedIn. The groups were actually very active and a great way to connect with other like-minded professionals. That platform alone drove tens of thousands of visitors to our site at the time and helped us build a healthy pre-launch email list.

But this was back in 2012. Today the LinkedIn environment is a lot different.

Nowadays I receive connection requests from complete strangers, and often we don’t even share the same industry in common. This seems to happen more frequently on LinkedIn than any other platform. By way of example, I probably receive one or two friend requests on Facebook from strangers each month. With LinkedIn I receive one or two per day. Just as I won’t accept a Facebook friend request from someone I don’t know, I won’t accept a random LinkedIn connection request.

About every week I go through and close out the requests from those that I do not know (most, if not all of them). During this process I have noticed that sometimes people who request a connection include a custom message… and in nearly every case it is someone requesting a phone call. These messages range from investment conversations, pre-sales inquiries for our LMS, to personal support requests.

People can be quite sneaky with these requests as well!

I was going through my requests the other week and saw that someone included a message saying how much they really loved using LearnDash. I didn’t know the person, but their flattery won me over. I accepted the request and moved on with my day.

Randomly I happened to go back to LinkedIn for something the next day (Saturday) and that same individual had sent me the largest support ticket to date. Paragraph after paragraph detailing the history of their business, how they came upon LearnDash, what they are trying to accomplish, what wasn’t working, and why I needed to help “ASAP”.

It was the classic bait-and-switch, and I fell for it.

Now I naturally didn’t ignore the request. I did a little digging and saw that this particular individual already had a support ticket with us and it was actively being worked on. Still, this individual proceeded to contact multiple LearnDash team members on LinkedIn in a similar fashion, becoming furious that our support wasn’t around on the weekend (something that we are very upfront about by the way). In the end their issue was resolved.

But in my opinion that is not even the worst part about LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has a feature called “InMail”. It is part of having a paid account on LinkedIn and with it you can email anyone, even if you aren’t connected. All I can say is that this feature is literally the equivalent of a telemarketer having your phone number. A lot of unwanted marketing messages.

So I got to thinking…

All of these experiences have made me reflect on the utility of LinkedIn. What stands out to me the most is that in the past six years it has not once resulted in something productive or profitable for our business. It has just wasted my time and added some frustration in my days.

Oddly enough, I have found that Facebook has been better for my network more than anything, be it for staying in touch or talking shop (which is strange because I don’t even intend to use it for that purpose).

I can’t completely delete my LinkedIn profile because I feel there is utility in “owning my name”, but based on my experience I am not going to use it anymore. I have since added a message in all caps at the top of my profile indicating that the account is no longer actively maintained. It’s funny, even in just doing that I already feel a little “lighter”. Just one less thing to think about.

I hope that LinkedIn can turn things around one day and become more relevant and less spammy. I think there is a need for a serious, business-first social site. LinkedIn used to fill this need, but not anymore.

What They Don’t Tell You About Entrepreneurship

That moment when you serve your business instead of the other way around.

In just one week I have attended two conferences, been booked as a guest on several podcasts, delivered pro-bono consulting to someone close in my network, hosted my own webinar to help a colleague with the visibility of a project, and delivered a training webinar on e-learning development.

Yes, much of this was quite enjoyable. But I didn’t do it for me. I did it for the business.

Oh, and of course between all of this I am doing day-to-day tasks required to run a business. You know, the stuff like talking with customers, holding team meetings, speaking with potential vendors, and brainstorming other ways to expand our products & brand.

As I look at my calendar at what is coming up I am left wondering: how did I get to this place?

Because I can assure you that things weren’t always like this. I wasn’t always this busy and booked-up with constant demands on my time.

In fact it used to be quite the opposite.

There was once a time when we didn’t have any employees besides myself and Kloe. No one was calling to have me as a guest on any webinar, podcast, or publication. No conferences, meet-ups, or masterminds. My day literally involved answering some pre-sales and support tickets and then going for a run.

Simple.

But like any ambitious Entrepreneur we wanted more. We worked our asses off and when that “more” was realized it became obvious that our relationship with the business had forever changed.

Starting a business is like starting a relationship. Everything is exciting at first. You get that “butterfly” feeling in your stomach with the smallest wins, and your day is completely ruined with the smallest setbacks.

As you get used to the entrepreneurial highs and lows you begin to take everything in stride. What used to matter doesn’t anymore. It is just more stable and there is comfort in that stability.

But like any long-term relationship, keeping the flame alive and well takes effort. If we get too comfortable then the business suffers. We have to find new and creative ways to stay motivated.

I think this is something any successful business goes through, and if you have dreams of entrepreneurship then this could very well be your reality… and you might not like it.

Your daily tasks will change, as will your role. As you bring on team members you will have to learn to give up control on things that you have always been responsible for. Trust me, this is hard. It’s something that I am still working on to this day as I learn and grow with the business.

I have now realized that at some point my business stopped working for me, and I instead have started working for my business. The business is bigger than any one person now. That’s actually a good thing, but it has been an adjustment.

This isn’t really talked about in entrepreneurship. Controlling your time is just a fantasy that entrepreneurial publications pitch. If you care about business growth then this will be short-lived. Enjoy the moment because soon everything will change. Not for the worse, but it will change.

Re-Focusing on Health is Good for Business

Personal health (negative or positive) often directly correlates to business health.

Recently I have become more aware of how important it is to develop healthy habits as an entrepreneur. Probably because it’s so easy to develop not-so-health ones.

Owning a business is stressful, and the easy fix is to mask that stress by eating unhealthy snacks, or cracking a beer after the work day. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of these things, but as with anything in life: moderation is the key.

It’s easy to slip though, and recently I was slipping.

For roughly two-years I have been actively boxing to stay in shape and to relieve stress. Weather permitting I’d also go for some runs in the nearby forest. However, mid-summer this year I sustained an injury to my hand. Long story short, boxing had to stop.

My workout routine took a serious hit because I couldn’t find anything that motivated me like boxing – which I thoroughly enjoy. And let’s face it, running is boring.

I wasn’t doing very much physical activity aside from taking the dog for walks.

As a result I gained a few extra pounds, but that wasn’t the main issue. The bigger problem was that my unhealthy habits were impacting my energy levels. It became a struggle to get motivated and this in turn was having a negative effect on my approach to business.

Entrepreneurship is about finding (and maintaining) motivation.

The sad truth about being an entrepreneur is that you are only as good as your last “win”.

In the case of LearnDash, we may work months on a really great feature and immediately after its released, people want to know what’s coming up next.

But when you’re in the product space then that is pretty much par for the course. It’s to be expected.

In turn though this means that it is necessary to stay motivated in order to continually innovate. It’s an endless cycle, which is one reason why I truly believe that not everyone would necessarily enjoy owning their own business.

Towards the end of the summer my motivation was on the downward trend, and it was happening in parallel with my physical health. Mentally I was in a weird place as well. I wasn’t depressed, but rather just more negative… if that makes sense. My response to daily business and life events had a negative slant. Things just seemed “hard”.

Fortunately, I have since made a positive shift.

I’m still disappointed that I can’t participate in boxing but recently I’ve replaced it with a new challenge: P90X3. I figure that the best way to shake myself out of the funk was to commit to a structured program. If anything it would help me to start creating healthy habits again.

So far so good with P90X3. I’m done with the first month. I’ve cut back on the unhealthy snacks and drinks, and I cook a bit more instead of making something in the microwave. When possible I try to get to bed at a normal hour… I could probably be better at that one.

As a result I’m feeling like I have a bit more energy to take on the daily challenges associated with business ownership. I look and feel better, and this translates to increased confidence.

It’s possible that I am not always going to be motivated and in a positive frame of mind, even if am practicing healthy habits. And you know, that’s okay. I just won’t be staying in that place.

So here’s to re-focusing on healthy habits, and to keeping them going… even through the holidays! 😯

7-Months Owning a Dog

Dogs are a joy, but not always enjoyable.

For years Kloé and I have contemplated getting a dog, and finally this year we decided to take the plunge.

In April we brought Romy into our home and she has been a welcomed addition. Well, except for the cat. She’s not a fan.

Entering mile two…

Romy is a French Brittany Spaniel which means she was bread to be a hunting dog.

Except we don’t hunt

So, we have a really energetic dog that needs heavy stimulation to replace what she’d normally get “out in the field”. 🙂

This means we go for walks. A lot of walks. Four to six miles a day walks. Needless to say my health has definitely improved since getting a dog. Seriously, if you are looking to make a healthy lifestyle change then forget starving yourself with diets, just get a dog. They’re more enjoyable anyhow.

Besides walks though she has a good number of “dog friends” that she gets to wrestle with every week, so that helps to deplete her energy levels as well.

While our experience with the dog has been a positive one, it doesn’t mean that we always enjoy it. Honestly, having a dog with this amount of energy can be a lot of work. Some days are definitely harder than others.

If you are thinking about getting an dog then make sure you heavily research the breed. If the breed is a hunting breed then here are some things you can expect…

  • Three walks a day (mileage depending on breed)
  • Super intelligent, to the point where the trouble they get into is pretty sophisticated
  • Multiple “fetch” play sessions each day
  • Always on alert and will run to the nearest window to look for (bark at) God-knows-what because you didn’t hear anything

Some days dealing with the above can be a challenge, but these are also the qualities that make up the personality we enjoy so much.

As someone who has always been more of a cat person I can say that getting a dog has made life a lot more interesting. More laughs, new challenges, and new life habits.

Plus, one positive byproduct about all these walks is that I get a lot of time to think about our business. I’ve come up with some really creative ideas while hiking through the forest. Something I would otherwise be missing out on.

While I am by no means a seasoned dog owner, my only piece of advice would be to make sure you research the hell out of various breeds before you get a dog (assuming you don’t go the rescue route) so that you can get a dog that fits best with your lifestyle. You will be happier, and so will the dog.

One Is The Loneliest Number

…As in, this is the first blog post.

I have owned the “.com” version of my name forever.

For a long time it pointed to my LinkedIn profile as I never really knew what to do with it. I considered starting a personal blog many times, but this time it’s different.

In the past I had grandiose plans of building up a “personal brand”, but I no longer have that interest.

Well, scratch that. It would be nice, but being an entrepreneur has taught me some valuable lessons about building a brand… least of which is that it’s freaking hard.

I simply don’t have the energy or hours to dedicate to such an endeavor.

So what’s the point of justinferriman.com?

Over the years I have learned that I need to create headspace if I am going to be effective as an entrepreneur, husband, brother, son, friend, etc. My mind has been known to hold me hostage if I don’t get my thoughts out “on to paper”.

This site is that paper. It’s the place where I get to share things that I feel are important.

You might not find these same things important. And I’m okay with that.

You see, once my thoughts are out and “on paper”, they are no longer spinning in my head and it leaves space for me to think about other (important and not-so-important) things.

So here we are. The first blog post of hopefully many, but I really don’t have an agenda. This site may go weeks without a post, or may get multiple per week – I suppose it all depends on what I need to get out of my head.