Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman

Lorena and I just returned from a four-day trip to San Carlos, Mexico. The purpose of the trip was to attend the wedding of our friends (who just visited us in January). We rented a stunning Airbnb right on the water’s edge, located a little north of the wedding venue.

It was my first time seeing the Sea of Cortez. I find it beautiful in an untamed way. Steady breezes made for a choppy, deep blue surface. The sky was always blue with an occasional puffy cloud, but those usually blew through rather quickly. I enjoyed drinking coffee in the morning, watching the pelicans swoop down again and again to catch fish.

It probably goes without saying, but I had an opportunity to practice my Spanish quite a bit, especially during the wedding reception dinner. I met a lot of Lorena’s friends from the time she lived in North Carolina. Speaking became more challenging when the DJ put the music on volume 10.

Luckily for me, everyone was bilingual, and their English was better than my Spanish. This made conversations over the loud music more possible. I hope to get to a point where I can continue interacting effectively in Spanish in very loud bars or parties, but I fully recognize that is a very advanced level that will take years to reach. One day!

The plan was to get back to California late Sunday night, flying from Hermosillo to Tijuana, then using the Cross Boarder Xpress (which is amazingly efficient). However, our flight was cancelled due to weather. It was a bit hectic and stressful as we figured out what to do, but ultimately we were on the first flight out the next day.

I really enjoyed the wedding, and San Carlos. Perhaps one day we will return for another visit, but if not, I’ll always remember it.

Here are a few memorable scenes from our trip!

#personal


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Prior to the new year, Lorena and I talked about taking the initiative to travel more. Sticking to our word, we just returned from a quick trip to Seattle.

For close to a year we have discussed the possibility of going to Seattle, so when we saw a gap in our schedule, we purchased tickets for a four-day trip.

Lorena and I are similar in the way we like to travel. We don’t plan many activities ahead of time, but rather “go with the flow” once in the location. Our idea prior to going was to walk around a bit, go to Pike Place Market, try some coffee shops, do a little shopping, book a nice restaurant, and to just discover Seattle’s beauty.

It was a brief visit, but we were able to:

  • Stay at a nice hotel that was centrally located.
  • Have a Washington wine tasting and food in the Space Needle.
  • Walk around the Chihuly Garden & Glass museum.
  • Participate in a guided seafood tour of Pike Place Market, where we got to sample amazing seafood and learn the history of Seattle.
  • Ride the Seattle Great Wheel.
  • Walk around the city and try new restaurants.
  • Drink coffee at the original Starbucks and try other Cafés with incredible coffee. Seattle is known as a coffee hub, and it was some of the best that I’ve ever had.

Of course, it rained, it’s Seattle after all. I’m a sucker for sunshine, but didn’t mind it so much. I feel like it wouldn’t be a proper trip to Seattle without a little gray skies and rain. More than anything, we really liked the vibe of the city. There is a big emphasis on sustainability, organic, and nature.

We are back in California now, and we are recharging our batteries quickly before we head out again, this time to Mexico for our friends’ wedding.

#personal


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I recently released a new logo and web design for GapScout. It’s not perfect, nor will it win any awards, but I’m happy with it as a first version.

The main tool used to build the design was Elementor. I insisted on this because it’s a plugin I am very comfortable in using, which meant I could make future design modifications myself once the designer was done.

The problem, however, is that Elementor can lead to some pretty crappy performance scores, in particular for mobile. In fact, I ran a Google PageSpeed Insights report for Elementor’s own homepage, and their mobile score is pretty… uh…bad.

Your mobile performance score is vital for rankings.

I didn’t believe this until I saw it first hand.

The old GapScout site had a pretty bad mobile score, and when I boosted it to ~90/100, I noticed an uptick in the number of visitors. Seeing as a slight majority of visitors to GapScout are using mobile compared to laptop/desktop, this was a big win.

So, while the new GapScout homepage has a perfect desktop performance (100/100), the mobile score originally sat at a pretty depressing 50/100.

But not for long!

With just a few adjustments and was able to get it up to 99/100.

Note: PageSpeed Insights fluctuates at any given time the test is run. GapScout’s mobile score usually lands between 94-99.

Being a good internet citizen, I tweeted at Elementor to let them know that improving their mobile score is definitely possible with just a few tweaks, and this tweet elicited a few responses:

Thanks to Robert and Ross, their replies to my tweet were the inspiration for this blog post. So, I’m writing it for them, but you as well, because this probably helps anyone who is using Elementor and WordPress.

How I get a great mobile performance for the GapScout website.

Okay, onto the good stuff. I’ll keep it short because:

  1. You don’t care about backstories, just what works.

  2. I’m not very technical, and can’t explain a ton of detail anyway.

STEP 1: Use a host that doesn’t suck.

I’ll start with the often overstated, but most critical part to any website performance metric: use a good webhost!!!!!!!!@*&($@*

You’re not going to get great results on some $10/mo hosting plan. Sorry.

I’m using Rocket.net, and holy crap, it’s fast. Like amazing.

I think I’m currently on the $30/mo plan, but maybe I paid yearly, so that dropped to $25/mo. I dunno, I’m too lazy to go look.

They will migrate you for free, so just switch. Also, I’m not affiliated with them nor do I get any kickback for referrals. I just take comfort in knowing that you will like me because my recommendation is a good one. 😉

STEP 2: Buy the Perfmatters plugin.

This is the other critical component, especially for mobile. Perfmatters was actually recommended to me by Rocket.net. The plugin is $29/year (there is no free version).

Okay, so now I am going to share with you my settings, but first things first:

Disclaimer: My settings probably won’t work 100% for your site because it depends on which plugins you have installed. I also can’t help you troubleshoot anything.

With that out of the way, these are the settings I have in place in Perfmatters on the GapScout website:

  • Under Assets, the follow settings are turned on: Defer Javascript Include JQuery Delay Javascript Delay All Scripts (for Delay Behavior setting) Delay Timeout Remove Unused CSS
  • Under Lazy Loading, the following settings are turned on: Images Add Missing Image Dimensions
  • Under Lazy Loading, in the “Exclude from Lazy Loading” field: Filename of the website’s logo
  • Under Fonts, the following settings are turned on: Disable Google Fonts

That last setting is because I am not using Google fonts, but have instead uploaded a custom font through Elementor. If you are using Google fonts, you will not want to turn on that setting. Instead, turn on these two:

  1. Display Swap

  2. Local Google Fonts

STEP 3: Add support for custom fonts in Elementor. (Optional)

If you are like me and have uploaded your own custom font to Elementor, then there is one more step to take for optimizing font display. Do not worry about this step if you are not using custom fonts or Elementor.

First, you need to preload your fonts in Perfmatters.

  1. Navigate to Preloading.

  2. Paste the URL where you uploaded your font in WordPress.

  3. Under Select Type, choose “Font”.

  4. Select the CrossOrigin checkbox.

  5. Repeat for font variations as needed and save.

Now that the custom fonts are specified in the preloading menu, the last thing you need to follow this support article to add the following filter:

add_filter( 'elementor_pro/custom_fonts/font_display', function( $current_value, $font_family, $data ) { return 'swap'; }, 10, 3 );

Once you have added that (I recommend using the code snippets plugin), you have to do the following steps:

  1. Head over to the Custom fonts screen at Elementor > Custom Fonts.

  2. Edit the custom font you want to regenerate (simple edit and update, no changes are needed).

  3. Repeat step 2 for each font you want to regenerate.

  4. Head over to Elementor > Tools > click on the Regenerate Files.

And you’re done!

Most of this process took me only 15 or 20 minutes. I did run into a snag at one point and simply reached out to Perfmatter’s support (you’re in good hands, they were incredibly helpful).

In the end, I skyrocketed the GapScout homepage mobile score from a pathetic 50/100 to a consistent 94-99/100.

Want to dig a little deeper?

As always, whenever you make changes like this, it’s a good idea to use an incognito window to visit your website to make sure it still looks (and performs) the way that you expect. If something goes wrong, simply turn off the settings you activated so that you can troubleshoot effectively.

If you are interested in optimizing your WordPress site, then Perfmatters has a more comprehensive guide that I can recommend. I like that they also include references to individuals who can help you in the event that you need a little assistance.

And remember: chasing high mobile scores can be fun, but the most important thing is that your website is a pleasant user experience for your visitors.

#WordPress


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Starting a software company has many moving parts, and an often overlooked part of the process is creating an attractive, memorable brand experience for visitors.

The previous GapScout website was created by me (and that’s not a good thing). I put together something that looked decent, and then turned my focus on building my team that would ultimately build GapScout.

Thankfully, that design is retired. I’m pretty pleased with the new look, both the logo and design overall.

I am not one for flash, and I think the new design conveys that the value we will offer is in the AI and data. No distractions, just the facts. Clean, simple, and effective – just like the GapScout software intends to be!

Speaking of which…

BETA program is almost ready.

It has been six months since I first talked about starting GapScout. I will admit, things are not as far along as I originally envisioned. My goal was to have a beta program open by now.

You would think I’d be used to slower timelines by now, having worked in software for over a decade.

But alas, that is the nature of this industry. I am an entrepreneur, not a developer. In the end, this is for the best because I can focus on the vision and not the execution.

Building an AI tool that can provide value (i.e. help people make better decisions and make more money) is no simple task. I am thankful to have incredibly smart folks involved with this project. They are smart, thoughtful, and don’t want to rush anything. I can appreciate that.

Something quite important to me is that our first version provides you immediate value. Yes, there are plans for additional value-adding features, but right from the start I want to make sure that people are happy using GapScout. That is my personal goal.

If you like the idea of having an AI tool at your disposal to quickly analyze your business, your competitors, and your market for quick wins and in-depth insights, then invite you to become a beta tester!

#entrepreneurship


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It has been roughly six months since I started the GapScout project, and I will admit, the delays in the progress have started to get to me a little.

On one hand, I get it. I am no stranger to software development delays. I don’t think I ever had a project finish on schedule if I’m honest. But at the same time, it is frustrating. This is particularly true because the current progress (as of this blog post) prevents me from really going hard with a pre-launch strategy.

Building (another) business on a blog.

To date, all I have been doing is focusing on content marketing with blog posts. In 2012, I built LearnDash from a blog, so I guess I am just going back to my roots. I’ll admit, though, getting results from blogging today is a lot more challenging than it was back then.

From August through December, I made sure that two blog posts were being published per week. Each article is 1,500-2,500 words. The tone used is informative and the goal is to teach or help someone understand a business related concept.

At the end of the day, helpful content builds trust, and that’s my goal with the content created on the blog. It’s a simple formula, but one that I know can help drive revenue.

I have been using a “Pillar & Spoke” strategy that was first told to me by my good friend, Ross Johnson. The concept is fairly simple:

  • Pick “pillar” keywords that are broader in nature (i.e. “Market Research”).
  • Find related, longer-tailed keywords for that topic, called “spokes”.
  • Link the spokes together, and point the spokes back to the pillar. The pillar then links out to the spokes.

Google likes this kind of linking, and it adds some extra “weight” to your posts in the eyes of the search engine. Well, that’s what we believe, anyway. Who really knows?

Upping to three articles per week in 2023.

Posting twice per week was working, but I wasn’t satisfied with the results. I felt as if the site should be getting more visitors and sign-ups for the beta release (which is currently the “goal” of the website that exists today).

So, starting in January 2023, I have increased the publishing schedule to three posts per week. It’s still early, but current signs show that just increasing to three times per week is having a positive effect. Traffic is up, and impressions are up as well. Just have a look at the upward trajectory that starts in the new year.

I will continue with this plan going forward, and I expect to see these positive results continue to snowball over time.

Key takeaways for your business.

Look, I’m not an SEO expert. Anything I know is because people way smarter than me have helped me out. With that in mind, here are some tips that I live by with the GapScout blog that, I think, will help you as well.

  • Publish three articles per week.
  • Write articles that are a minimum of 1,200 words.
  • Use the pillar & spoke strategy outlined earlier.
  • Share articles on social media (Twitter is quite effective).
  • Use an SEO tool to optimize your articles (I use Yoast).
  • Reach out to other related blogs for contextual mentions.*
  • Be consistent, and patient!

*From what I have noticed, getting backlinks is still very much an important factor for building your presence in Google. Just a few mentions on reputable domains can really help boost your visibility!

This is my strategy. Nothing fancy. It’s working, but admittedly, there are probably things I could be doing that would make this more effective.

I will be sure to report back again this year on how things are going with the three posts per week. So far, I’m very optimistic with the impact that will have for the business.

Until next time!

#entrepreneurship


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I use this blog for a variety of topics, one of which being a way to document my progress learning Spanish. Today is another one of those posts!

Recently, Lorena’s good friend from North Carolina came to visit us with her fiancé. We will be going to their wedding in March, and they were kind enough to come out to California for a weekend visit.

They were both incredibly kind and fun people, and I can see us having a strong friendship for many years to come. We are already planning a trip to go out and visit them.

They are both from Mexico, so as you would expect, they are bilingual.

Something that is important to me is that I don’t want other people to automatically switch to English simply because I am in the room. This is why I bust my ass learning Spanish – so that I can be part of Lorena’s culture, including the friendships she formed before we met.

As such, we spent the entire weekend speaking a mix of Spanish and English. I’d probably say it was about 50/50. It was a surreal experience for me, participating in deep conversations in Spanish, jokes and all. Yes, I sometimes screwed up conjugations, genders, and word order – but that didn’t matter. What mattered is that I got to know them better in their native language. It made it fun and easy for them.

A highlight for me was the last night when we went out to dinner. At one point I realized that we had all been speaking Spanish for the majority of dinner, and it wasn’t a struggle at all. Maybe it was the glass of wine that loosened me up a bit more, but everything was flowing easily.

This has encouraged to keep up with my studying, and to practice the more advanced structures as I work towards the C1 level of fluency (as of writing this, I am at B2).

#personal


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Another eventful year is in the books, and I’m starting to think more about the coming year and what to expect.

If I’m honest, the past few years have been a whirlwind of activity for me and Lorena, with some huge life events. This coming year feels like an opportunity to slow down slightly and just enjoy life.

I am not one for making hard-set resolutions for a new year, but I do have general goals that I wish to achieve (or continue working towards) from a personal and professional standpoint.

The year of GapScout.

Since August of last year, I have been working on building GapScout. My goal for 2023 is to launch and grow the initial user base, ending the year in profit.

It’s hard to pinpoint a dollar figure for the business because there are still so many factors that I don’t know yet. That said, I think my first goal is making the first $100,000 in revenue for the business.

The beginning of the year will be quite eventful as I anticipate the release of the beta version, and finally getting real-world feedback from people. The one thing I am struggling with currently is pricing, so hopefully that will become more clear during that time.

Oh, and I want to do is stay small for as long as possible. I plan to use contractors to do this, and will likely do this all through 2023. To achieve this, I have been focusing on creating simplified processes that don’t depend on me specifically. Ultimately, I want GapScout to be a useful little tool that isn’t resource heavy.

A little side hobby.

While I am energized by GapScout, I don’t want to burn out from focusing on it every day, all the time. I like to learn new things regarding online business, and so this year I’m giving myself permission to pursue small side projects. For example, I enjoy building websites. Years ago (in my early 20s), I had success selling them too.

What is nice about this kind of hobby is that it’s not so technical. I can enjoy the process without the complications of building and selling software. I love that too, but sometimes my mind needs a break.

Paying it forward.

This is something that I have been thinking about quite a bit lately. When I was running LearnDash, I felt like I didn’t have the headspace to do anything else. I had obligations with employees, customers, and getting more customers. Then, I had to work on the sale of the business (which took about a year).

At the end of it all, I was burnt out – and I still had to help with the transition.

I started to reflect more on what I wanted to do with my time, and something that I have always enjoyed was teaching. I used to give presentations at conferences about areas of entrepreneurship, and I always felt energized by them afterward.

I have travelled a path that many wish to travel, but don’t know how. I have learned so much along my entrepreneurial journey, and I wish to share these lessons learned.

I am looking into ways to teach formally, starting by looking at adjunct professor openings at the local universities in my area. That said, I am open to bringing the world of entrepreneurship to children as well.

I am still working through what any of this will look like, but I do know I am feeling a calling to teaching, and I intend to explore that further.

Finally taking the time to travel just for ourselves.

Lorena and I first met just before the pandemic started. In a way, the lockdown significantly progressed our relationship, as we were isolated with one another without any of the typical distractions.

During the first couple of years, we couldn’t do much travel. Our trips always involved going to see family. I enjoyed the prolonged stays, but now that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, we finally feel that we are in a position to take trips for just us.

It’s not that we haven’t had some vacations. We have, but they have been more local to the U.S. or Mexico. We are excited to explore Europe, specifically Portugal and Italy. We also have an interest in going to Japan, as neither of us have been to Asia.

In addition to some of these longer trips, we intend to travel more around California, and the West Coast in general, such as to Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and Salt Lake City.

We have the time and the ability to travel this year, and we intend to do so. Of course, we are also looking forward to seeing family as well in Mexico, Michigan, Illinois, and Connecticut this year as well.

My Spanish journey to C1 fluency.

I think last year will always be the year of my biggest progression in Spanish, and I won’t lose sight of that. It was the year that I finally reached fluency!

But fluency is not perfection – and I am far from perfect. I need to learn more vocabulary, get more comfortable and quicker with certain verb conjugations, and improve my general conversational understanding.

The point is, I do well today, but I could get better. I sometimes fall into a habit of saying the easier thing than what I really want to say because the grammatical structure is more complex than what I am used to.

This year, I plan to work with my online tutor four days a week. I started this process in the middle of last year, and it really helped me get to that next level. I reached the B2 level, and now my eyes are set on C1. I think realistically, being a strong C1 is the best I can hope for in the language. I am aiming to reach this level within one to three years. My tutor thinks that by the end I’ll be in the early C1 phases. We’ll see!

I’ll need to know more words (vocab will never stop), practice advanced grammar, and ultimate expose myself more to the language via television, books, and conversation.

Most importantly, I will try to embrace every moment.

As I approach 40, I am starting to better understand that every single moment in my life is a blessing. Nothing is guaranteed, and time is so precious.

I am more patient than I have ever been in my life. I am now taking the time to appreciate the small moments that I have with Lorena, my parents, her parents, and our friends. I want to grow in this outlook. Like many people, I sometimes have trouble keeping the small things small – but I am aware of this, and I am trying to improve.

Overall, I am optimistic and excited to live life in 2023. I anticipate that it will be a year full of memories, laughs, and love.

#personal


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Last year was a great year regarding my Spanish learning, finally reaching fluency in the language. Today, I reached another achievement that I never would have thought possible only a few years back.

In January 2020, I didn’t know any Spanish besides the very basics. In February 2020, I started my one-on-one lessons on iTalki, which led me to study more relevant vocabulary lists and to practice reading using books designed for language learners.

It’s January 2023, and I just had my first business meeting completely in Spanish!

It was a conversation with the designer working on the GapScout website redesign. He is from Spain and needed clarification on my feedback, and requested a meeting in Spanish, since he knew that I could speak it.

We ended the meeting with more clarity on the direction going forward. That was great, but more importantly, I felt extremely accomplished.

I’m far from perfect, and I still have a lot to learn. But it’s these little victories that both encourage and motivate me to keep up with my vigorous Spanish study schedule.

#personal


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I don’t write much about WordPress anymore now that I’m working on GapScout. That said, I enjoy the industry, but now merely as a user of the software rather than a product creator.

Still, I can’t help but always have my business mind turned-on as I witness the emerging trends.

There is a lot of chatter about blocks, and the theme space dying (as it has traditionally been defined). Some folks seem excited, as the feeling resembles the early days of plugins.

I don’t think blocks will become the “new” plugins. Not initially, anyhow. Some maturity needs to happen first. Specifically, with how these solutions are marketed on a wider scale to the average user.

More on that shortly, but for the moment, let’s look at how we got here.

2012-2016: Plugins emerge as viable money-makers.

My entrepreneurial stint in WordPress was from 2012-2021, in what I would say was the golden era of WordPress plugins. Prior to these years, it was all about themes. But developers started to get creative with the introduction of custom post types.

The WordPress plugin landscape in 2012 was a different beast altogether. It was young, innovative, and very grassroots. There were very few “big players” at the time. Off the top of my mind, we had WooThemes, iThemes, GravityForms, and Easy Digital Downloads.

The years of 2012-2016 marked the emergence and maturation of WordPress plugins as a business endeavor. Plugins transitioned from being donation-based, to one-time payment, to recurring license fees.

In my mind, WooThemes was the biggest proponent in pushing the industry in this direction. I have them to thank for giving me the confidence to start charging yearly for LearnDash. WooThemes normalized this business model, and it was further validated when they were bought out by Automattic in 2015.

Shortly after the acquisition of WooThemes, the plugin market exploded in growth.

Whether it was Automattic validating the plugin approach, or the overall growth of WordPress as a CMS via hosting companies doubling-down on WordPress, 2016 marked the beginning of the upswing in the plugin market.

Each vertical became flooded again with a new wave of players. From memberships, to forms, to learning management systems, and more – there were always five or six viable options available to users.

With more options in the space across the board, we saw a larger range of pricing. From the “buy me a coffee” donation schemes, to hundreds of dollars, and everything in between. WordPress plugins started to compete directly with popular SaaS solutions.

Some people didn’t like this. They felt that the WordPress industry was getting too greedy and losing touch of its original intent. The reality though was WordPress was growing up. Big players, and big money, were now entering the ecosystem.

This expansion continued through the next four years, until…

The pandemic over-accelerates growth, exits begin to occur.

The pandemic resulted in a surge of revenue for LearnDash. Like, in a very significant way, and my company wasn’t the only one. Everyone who I talked to in my network experienced the same.

I can’t recall the exact number, but I’m pretty sure I hired roughly 12-15 more people in about three months. It was a crazy, stressful, and extremely profitable time.

For reasons that I have already discussed, selling became the best way forward – and I wasn’t the only one. A record number of WordPress companies sold, particularly in 2021.

These weren’t small “Flippa”-style sales, either. By way of example, I hired investment bankers to manage the sale of LearnDash and I learned quickly that WordPress was a legitimate investment space for many large VC firms. This was big-time stuff, and I knew that I needed top-tier professionals involved in the process.

The market normalizes, with more competition than ever before.

What no one knew at the time of the pandemic was when (or even if) there would be an end to this “COVID bump”. Today, the consensus is that things have definitely calmed down.

Many established WordPress plugin providers came out the other side of the pandemic with better processes, bigger teams, and bigger pocketbooks. The popular segments (online courses, for example) have seen a surge in competition as everyone tried to get a piece of the pie.

More players, more money, more at stake. No matter which niche you choose today, breaking into the WordPress plugin space is more difficult than ever. The bigger players are part of larger VC portfolios, resulting in more resources and reach. Your best chance is to already have a following (YouTube channel, popular website, etc.) and to sell to your audience.

This has the entrepreneurial-minded folks looking outwards to other opportunities, which brings us to Gutenberg Blocks.

Blocks today are what plugins were in 2010-2012.

There is a lot of hype around blocks, and rightfully so, though I am not yet convinced that we have found the commercial way forward.

People don’t search for blocks, they search for solutions, and currently the market is very “block-focused” with the marketing and terminology. Not only is that boring, it only appeals to the indoctrinated of WordPress.

It reminds me of when everyone was talking about “custom post types”, and describing their plugins in this way, instead of the end-result that they allowed you to accomplish.

Innovation is coming to WordPress in the form of blocks, not plugins. This will lead some to discover some new, profitable segments. Will it be as big of a gold rush as the plugin boom we saw? Maybe – but that hinges on something important.

To be successful, the WordPress community shouldn’t look to Automattic to define the Gutenberg block market.

Plugins grew in popularity because of the third-party players in the space. Full stop. In fact, Automattic’s success with plugins (WooCommerce) was the result of an acquisition, not anything they did. Any other plugin they’ve released is usually a fourth or fifth tier option at best.

This being the case, the community should resist the temptation to look to Automattic for “the path forward”. Objectively, they don’t have a great track record for inherent innovation.

I believe we are seeing community innovation happen, and this is encouraging. From block patterns and frameworks, the transition of themes, and block-powered functionality in popular plugins. The market is starting to innovate and define not only how to use blocks commercially, but why blocks are a good way forward.

So, is this the new gold rush in WordPress? I think it very well could be. It is still in the very early days, which is fun and confusing at the same time. We don’t know how things will play out quite yet because, well, everything is still in flux.

But if you are an entrepreneur and are looking for opportunities in the WordPress space, then you will do well to keep blocks at the top of mind.

#WordPress


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You know how some people like to say that time flies by? Well, that was not the case for 2022. The year was long, and full of big life events for me and Lorena.

Everything from personal to professional changes, this year had a little bit of everything.

Landing in California.

Lorena and I started the year trying to figure out where we wanted to permanently live. While we didn’t know exactly where, we did know that we wanted out of Texas.

Just prior to the start of 2022, we backed out of a deal for a home in Lake Tahoe. After the home inspection, we found that it had some foundational issues (and the owners never disclosed this in their listing, even though they knew about them).

They made life a little difficult for us, which was frustrating, but we knew that backing out was for the best. In the end, we were able to part ways without any major issues.

As we looked at new possible locations, we eventually narrowed it down to Salt Lake City and Southern California. Seeing as we met in San Diego, we were both drawn to SoCal. On a whim, we went there in early Spring, we saw a home that we really liked and ended up putting in an offer. It was official: California was going to be our home.

The rest of the year was spent bouncing between Texas, Mexico, and California, with our primary residence still being in Texas through the end of this year. This made us feel a little bit like nomads, but after the Thanksgiving holiday, we have finally landed in California for good. It becomes our official home in the new year.

I love California. There are just some things that cannot be replicated in any other state. For me, it’s the water. I love the ocean and the beach (hey, I’m a Pisces). The landscapes across the state are stunning, and the sunshine is good for your health.

My professional life changed significantly as well.

This was a transitional year when it came to work.

I started out the year very engaged with LearnDash as an advisor, continuing to help with the transition since the acquisition in September 2021.

A few months into the new year, and I decided that I needed to take a giant step back, accepting that it was no longer my ship to sail. I made myself available when called upon, which turned out to be a pretty rare occasion. The team in place has put the company on a great trajectory from what I can tell.

I realize now that taking a step back was the best thing for me. It freed up my mind to think about other things. I had dabbled in potential activities (like land investing and podcasting), but after some self-reflection and conversations with Lorena, I found myself drawn back into software.

Just prior to when my contractual duties ended at LearnDash, I launched GapScout, and since August, I have been chipping away at building an AI that helps other entrepreneurs to compete (and win) in their respective markets.

Progress is being made, though it hasn’t been without challenges. The beta launch is expected to be in late January, or early February 2023 – and I’m excited about it!

My biggest personal achievement: Spanish fluency!

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal for myself: become fluent in Spanish. I was approaching two years of study, and I could feel that I was so close.

Still, I was frustrated. By April, I was still struggling to get over the hump. I expressed this displeasure with Lorena, who suggested that we extend our stay in Mexico so that I could get some additional immersion. We were already going to Mexico City to become Godparents to our nephew, so an extended stay made sense.

I spoke Spanish whenever I could with the family and friends. When we went out, I always tried my best to have natural conversations. Some nights I would go to bed completely discouraged because I couldn’t understand someone, or with my inability to find the right words – but I always tried again the next day.

By the time we returned to Texas, I felt that I had made significant strides, but I still wouldn’t say I was fluent (but almost). I didn’t want to lose any of my hard work, so I began taking four lessons per week with my tutor, Andrés. I have been taking classes on Zoom with him since February 2020, and we have built a nice friendship. Our lessons can be formal, but also just involve us talking about life – which I find to be incredibly beneficial.

The result? Five to six months of this rigorous schedule, and my ability to both speak and understand Spanish improved significantly. I can now say that I have reached a CEFR B2 level, the first official level of fluency in a language! I really enjoy speaking with my family from Mexico, or just striking up spontaneous Spanish conversations with people that I meet. I can’t get enough of it now!

My next goal is to get to the C1 level, which I hope to achieve within two to three years. It’s a lot harder to get to this level as I’ll need to learn more vocabulary and advanced grammatical structures, as well as a better understanding of colloquial expressions. Still, I’m motivated and know that I can reach it with hard work!

Plans for 2023.

I think I will take the time to document our plans for 2023 in another post, but I can say that Lorena and I intend to travel more (both in the country, in Mexico, and Europe).

Aside from personal travels, I will be focusing exclusively on launching and growing GapScout, and Lorena has plans for a master’s degree. Seeing friends, and simply enjoying our time in California, will also be in our future.

But before any of that happens, we will be closing out 2022 by relaxing with family over the Christmas holiday. A perfect way to end another eventful year.

#personal


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