Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman

When I started LearnDash, I was going up against a very large competitor with deeper pockets. As time went on, the online course space in WordPress became incredibly saturated, and to stay relevant, I kept a watchful eye on my competitors, so that I could nullify any advantage.

In this interview on plugin.fm, I share exactly how I did this, the lessons learned, what to avoid, and how to win in a crowded market.

#WordPress


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One thing that Lorena and I are trying to be open to this year is taking quicker, shorter trips. For example, we are going for less than a week to Portland, Oregon in April (which we are both really looking forward to).

But this month, we took a cross-country flight to Connecticut to visit her sisters, and our nephew for a couple of days – then came right back home. Her parents were also in town, so that of course be nice. Actually, we did something similar last year, but stayed a tad longer.

While on the topic of travel, we are looking at the calendar for other mini-trips to take. Chicago looks like a possible destination as it will be an opportunity to see my brother and his family. I’m sure we’ll sneak Michigan and Mexico in there as well.

Oh, and this was our first time ever taking Alaska Airlines, so it only seemed fitting to include a picture of one of their airplanes. I thought that it would be less crowded for checking in, but it was about the same as Delta (United has been the best experience).

We had to pay an extra $100 for our bag too because it was over 50lbs. Normally the limit is 72lbs on other airlines – so that was a surprise. Aside from that, our experience was good. I would fly with them again.

#personal


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In late February, I re-injured my bicep tendon when working out. The pain is in the front of my shoulder where the tendons can get impinged. It's a dull, constant pain, and I lose strength for any pushing motions.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the day after I initially hurt it again, I made it worse by lifting, and then by going to two BJJ classes later in that week. I think a part of me was in denial.

The mental toll of this re-injury has been difficult. I wanted so badly to get into a solid routine with BJJ, but everything was halted before it began.

Fool me twice, shame on me…

I had this injury last year (about this same time) due to overuse of my bicep tendon from a rigorous weight-lifting routine. It knocked me out of all activities for 2–3 months, and I had to give up Muay Thai altogether. Actually, that’s what led me to start BJJ. I didn't do any physical therapy. I just rested, and then slowly started to do things like push-ups as time went on.

I’ve stopped doing any of my normal activities again, but this time I’m doing things a little different. I’m taking a more active role in my recovery so that I can strengthen my body in a way to prevent this from happening again:

  • Physical therapy exercises every day
  • Physical therapy appointment once a week
  • Acupuncture once a week
  • Massages once a week

Each week, I’ll assess how things are going. I can say that so far, I feel a noticeable improvement in the injury. It’s still there, but definitely not as pronounced as it was at the beginning. This is encouraging. Over the next two or three weeks, I’ll slowly increase the length of my physical therapy workouts to see how it holds up.

Going forward, I am completely changing the way that I work out.

The second (more important) part of my recovery is changing my entire outlook on working out so that this doesn't happen anymore.

For my entire life, I’ve always enjoyed pushing my body in various ways. Whether it was with HIIT workouts, or weightlifting, I tried to maximize the time spent. This often meant increasing the intensity.

As I am now middle-aged, I see that these workouts have a greater possibility of causing injury. Possibly due to the intensity and the frequency.

Funny thing is: I don’t even enjoy these kinds of workouts. I do them out of habit more than anything. What I really enjoy are athletic pursuits, like BJJ.

Work out to support my hobby.

Instead of working out to look good, or because it’s the “healthy thing to do”, my focus is now to simply support my ability to do BJJ. This means that I’ll only do some light resistance training on my off days, with the primary goal of strengthening and supporting my body for BJJ class. That’s it.

In addition, I will incorporate specific rest and recovery days (massage and acupuncture). I think this will help me to build a better mind & body connection. My mind has been 25, but my body 39. That disconnect has resulted in these frustrating injuries.

As shitty as this injury recurrence has been, I think the lessons learned will mean that I will enter my forties with solid health & fitness habits that are centered around enabling me to progress in BJJ.

#personal


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I’m mentally struggling.

At the end of 2022, I had to stop training Muay Thai because of overuse of my bicep tendon. The pain for this kind of injury runs through the front of the shoulder, and it’s a nagging, dull pain that only gets worse over time.

To get better, I had to stop Muay Thai altogether, and all weightlifting in fact. I couldn’t do anything that would aggravate my bicep tendon.

After a couple of months, it felt better, but I couldn’t go back to my typical weights and boxing routine. So, I changed my workout entirely, which led me to starting Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Well, the injury is back.

A week ago, I was trying a new workout that involved incline pushups, among other things. This new angle put stress on my bicep tendon, which caused that ever-annoying pain to flair up again.

I mistakenly thought I was just a little sore from the workout, so the next day I lifted weights and noticed the pain as well. It was at this point that I should have rested, but I did something to make it even worse.

The following day, I had my trial class at a new BJJ gym. I had been looking forward to this for a month, so I didn’t want to miss it. I had a great class, but as you would imagine, my bicep tendon didn’t take kindly and the pain was even more pronounced in my shoulder. Still, I signed up for the gym after the class.

Two days later, I went for another BJJ class. It was fun, but I was noticeably hindered by the pain in my shoulder. After this class, I went home and iced my shoulder for the first time. The reality was sinking in…

I need to stop all activity.

After that second BJJ class, I knew that I had to cut off all exercise activity that involved my upper body. This has been a significant blow to my happiness for a couple of reasons.

First, I had been looking forward to training BJJ really seriously this year. I even set a personal goal that within 18 months I would reach blue belt. It’s beyond frustrating that I only got two classes in and I have to stop. It’s really hard.

Second, working out is a big part of my life. My entire week is often scheduled with various workouts: BJJ, body weight exercises, lifting weights, going on walks, and various other activities.

Cutting most of these out is like having to take away a part of who I am, what I love, and what I value. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke weed. The high I get after a good workout is my drug. Without it, I go through pretty heavy withdrawals.

Recovery mode… again.

It feels like weeks, but I’m only three full days into my recovery. Any hope I had of this going away as I continue training BJJ is out the window. I’m looking at, most likely, 4–6 weeks before I can start to experiment with upper body exercises.

I’m no longer icing the injury and have switched to heat. I sit in the hot tub at least once a day, take a hot shower, and have a heating pad that I use several times throughout the day as well. I also have started weekly acupuncture, as I believe that helped me last time as well.

But, more than anything, I need to just rest.

So, that is where I am at. I came to write here because I needed to get it out of my head. I’m struggling.

#personal


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Earlier this month, Lorena and I flew into Cancun for her childhood friend’s wedding in Playa del Carmen. Unlike the wedding in January, Lorena was part of the wedding party, so she was involved in the entire process leading up to the wedding and, of course, on the day of.

We also saw this as an opportunity to take some time for ourselves.

We ended up staying at the beautiful House of AiA hotel, which describes itself as a wellness retreat. I can agree with that. We got some massages, relaxed on the beach, ordered room service, ate at the vegan-vegetarian restaurants, and participated in a meditation session. It was unlike any hotel I’ve stayed in before.

Dancing by the ocean.

The wedding was on Saturday, and it was really great – the most fun I have personally had at a wedding in Mexico. Lorena knew everyone on the bride’s side because she grew up with most of them. I know that she really enjoyed that part.

The ceremony and reception both took place on the beach, literal steps from the ocean. It was a smaller event, with around 80 people (compared to the ~250 at the one in January). This made it a more intimate evening as we had the chance to interact with everyone.

After the ceremony, we just walked to our tables. As the sun began to set, we ate our meals, talked with others at our table, and prepared for a night full of dancing.

There was a slight negative, unfortunately. I ate something that didn’t sit well with me, and I was throwing up the next day (it wasn’t alcohol, because I didn’t drink). I got over it pretty quickly though, as the hotel had a doctor on site, and gave me some shots to help with the nausea.

A week in Mexico City.

We spent a couple more days enjoying the hotel and weather before we left for Mexico City, where we spent a week with Lorena’s parents, older sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. It was mostly chill, but we did have one day when some family came over for a dinner to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday as well as my own.

I haven’t written much about it lately, but it’s in moments like these that I realize how far I have come with my Spanish. I spoke nearly the entire time with friends and family in Spanish. I’m fluent, but I’m not perfect. That said, with each of these interactions, I get a little bit better.

We are home now, and I must admit that it feels really good. I’m looking forward to getting into a more regular routine here in California.

#personal


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In the competitive world of WordPress products, it's all too common to find yourself trapped in the cycle of insufficient revenue (or no revenue at all), questioning where the disconnect lies between your product and potential customers.

It’s something I come across often, when coaching and when participating in various WordPress communities. As such, I’m writing this post which outlines the most common mistakes I’ve seen by WordPress entrepreneurs.

From targeting an overly niche market to undervaluing the power of compelling calls-to-action (CTAs), each mistake is a barrier to maximizing your earnings.

They are as follows…

Market isn't big enough. Simple economics... there isn't enough demand for the problem you're solving. This is especially true if your product is an add-on for another plugin (i.e. WooCommerce add-on). I've even seen some people create add-ons to add-ons. Best to avoid that, the market will always be too tiny.

Your CTAs are lacking. If you have a free version on the repo, is the pro version enticing enough? That pro version needs to have a unique value that creates anxiety by not having it. That's not to say the free version is bare-bones. Quite the opposite. You need a kick-ass free version to build trust. But once someone has that free version, what's the flow? How do they find out about the pro version? Are there minimal steps to give payment info and get the better features?

Your sales copy is poor. If you're selling a pro version, then don't be afraid to sell. Build hype! You need to be a hype machine on every page of your website. All the stuff that you know already needs to be at play:

  • Crystal clear headline (avoid confusion)
  • Defined audience (it's not for everyone)
  • Testimonials and case studies
  • Targeted opt-ins (for email marketing)
  • Value prop reiterated across headlines
  • Front-end demo
  • Skimmable
  • Money-back guarantee (14 or 30 days)
  • One primary CTA
  • 3 or 4 tier pricing, only one toggle (if any)
  • Single page checkout

You're not easily accessible. Making money without having to talk to people is not a realistic expectation. If you're trying to gain traction, there should be no reason you're not using online chat. At the very least, a very clear “contact us” page or form needs to be visible. Don't make it impossible to contact you.

Your support docs suck. Support documentation is a silent seller. Thorough tutorials with actual images of your software (not artistic renderings). Potential customers will see your level of detail and gain confidence that you'll be there for them should they need help.

You don't get 3rd party, expert opinions. Once you implement these strategies and fill the gaps, you benefit greatly by having your work reviewed by someone who has done it successfully before. I can review what you have now and point you in the right direction.

Email me, and we'll get on the calendar to discuss for an hour. There’s no charge, and we’ll make some progress in your business.

#WordPress


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Last year, I decided to start taking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes as I was looking for a new outlet in life, and figured I’d learn a useful skill why I was at it. Like most people do when starting something new, I went all-in. I went to class three to four times per week.

During that time, I got my first stripe, and then my second one. However, by the time I got my second, I was feeling a little disenchanted with the school’s program. Not the people, they were great. But the program was becoming boring.

My last class was in October 2023.

There were a few reasons why I stopped going:

  • The distance: the gym was 25-30min away from my home, depending on traffic. This made it hard to go when I was feeling less motivated.
  • The program: This was a Gracie Jiu-jitsu certified training center, and therefore has a very specific program that has to be followed.

Allow me to explain a bit more that second point.

A little about the Gracie Jiu-jitsu method.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has a focus on self-defensive over sport. I actually preferred this approach initially because I’m not interested in competing, and I was a little intimidated about starting.

However, I later found out that their format is pretty rigid.

There is no sparring (called “rolling”) for the first 8-12 months. Not even 50% positional sparring. This doesn’t come until you have “passed” out of the fundamentals stage, at which point you get a little more sparring.

To move onto this level, you need four stripes, to take each of the 36 classes three times, and then to train for a pretty big test where you demonstrate the 36 in a sequenced progression.

If you pass, you then get a special belt (white with a blue stripe in the middle) and are permitted to some of the higher-level classes that do include some controlled rolling.

Why I cancelled my membership.

For me, the classes became boring due to the repetition and no practical application. Everything was simulated with a non-resisting opponent. This was fine in the beginning, but after 50 hours or so of learning, I wanted an opportunity to apply what I have learned.

For example, if the class was about the rear naked choke, then you had the same class that you had the last time you took that same one. You practice the move with a partner who lets you apply everything without any real resistance. Literally nothing changes. This became pretty boring after a while.

The non-resisting aspect, in my mind, gave people unfounded confidence. I’d train with four stripe white belts who would attempt to teach me all the time. I respected that they had put in more hours than me, but at the end of the day, they were still a novice. They hadn’t even tested their skills with a resisting opponent.

While the instructors were very good at my gym (I liked them quite a bit), the one thing that stood out to me was that all of them would regularly train at other gyms as well. The gym owner got his black belt in the traditional way. Learning, rolling, and competing a little. He didn’t get it from a Gracie certified training center. That was eye-opening for me.

I am starting 2024 at a new gym.

California has no shortage of BJJ options. I did a ton of research and narrowed it down to four that were within 15 minutes of my home (better than the 25-30 of my previous gym).

I’ll spare the finer details, but I chose one that has a smaller number of students, but a high ratio of black belts to white belts.

In my first class, there were five of us:

  • 2 black belts
  • 1 purple belt
  • 2 white belts (including me)

My first day, I did positional sparring with everyone. As a reminder, I didn’t do this even once after six months at my other gym. Sure, the higher belts just toyed with me. I felt like I had a competing chance against the other (more experienced) white belt, but he too was more practiced in rolling.

For me, the combination of instruction (both judo and ground technique), small class sizes, and proximity to my home, all won me over. Plus, the head instructor was really cool. Very personable, knowledgeable, and just a nice guy all around.

At the moment, I’m trying to incorporate two classes per week into my schedule, but hope to do three when time allows.

My goal by the end of the year is to feel more comfortable in the fundamentals, and maybe have a stripe or two on the belt. It’s 18mo to 3yrs to get a blue belt, so I have a long way to go until (or if) that day comes. For now, I’ll just focus on learning.

#personal


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At the time of writing this, I’m 38 years old, and I can say without any hesitation that recently I have become the healthiest I have ever been in my entire life.

There was a time when I was more athletic. For example, when playing soccer for my college. But I wouldn’t say I was healthy.

I drank a lot of alcohol.

I ate a ton of pizza, pop, and other junk on a daily basis. But, I was young, so I could get away with it. Plus, I was running so much with soccer that I never put on a single pound.

I don’t regret that time at all. I mean, it was fun to crush an entire pizza after a game or tough practice.

The younger me would find today me boring.

Remember when you were younger, and you would think about what you would be like when you were 10 or 15 years older?

Well, that young version of me would think I am pretty boring. In fact, he wouldn’t think it was remotely possible that he would end up this way.

For starters…

I rarely drink anymore.

For years, I drank a lot.

Too much.

It was how I relaxed, had fun, socialized, and did business. If I’m honest, I just loved catching a buzz. But it all came with a cost, especially as I got older. I became all too familiar with hangovers, threw-up more times than I can remember, and made terrible decisions along the way.

Alcohol does that. We think we are in control, until we aren’t. It got so bad for me that I cut it out of my life cold turkey back in 2019. There were countless benefits to doing so, one of the best was that it made losing weight a lot easier. For me, the quality of my sleep and clarity of mind were also welcomed changes.

Today, I have a drink maybe once every 6–8 weeks, depending on what’s going on in life (like when attending a wedding, for example). Even then, it’s one small glass of wine or champagne. Every time, I sort of regret it because it messes up my sleep. I’m just not as rested the next day.

By the way, I credit this book for helping me to change my mindset about alcohol. Give it a read if you’re interested.

But another shocking fact about myself today that younger me would not be able to comprehend…

I don’t eat meat.

This one is relatively new. Recently, Lorena started a vegan diet, so I decided to give it a try as well. I’ll admit, I was nervous when I first started because all I’ve known my entire life is meat, eggs, dairy, etc.

But you know what? It’s actually not that hard of a transition. It forced us to start thinking outside the box on the food we would cook, and we’ve been making some really tasty meals from plant based whole foods.

I feel pretty damn good, but more motivating is that I look good.

Vanity can be an incredibly strong motivator. It’s pretty easy for me to keep eating like this when my muscles have become more defined, I can see my abs without flexing, and my clothes fit exactly how I want them to.

How to reach your own peak health.

As I’ve started to enter middle-age, I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends and colleagues struggle with their own health.

I’m not a nutritionist, doctor, or even fitness expert. But what I am good at is pushing myself to question assumptions I’ve made about my life. I encourage you to do the same.

  • Try a new weight routine that you’ve never done before. No matter what it is, you have the ability to do it, I promise. I mix up dumbbells and body weight exercises roughly four times per week for 20min to 1hr, depending.
  • Pay attention to the food you eat. Track your macros for a bit (I did this, and lost 10lbs — and this was before switching to a vegan diet).
  • Stop doing strenuous cardio and just walk every day. I walk 4000–6000 steps every day, depending on what I have going on. It’s a game changer. It takes me about 40 minutes to do, and I’ve found the “alone time” to be quite beneficial from a business and personal perspective.
  • Most of all, have fun with it. Track your progress over time. Don’t get discouraged when you hit a wall. Just know that behavior switches like this always have a positive impact on your health, and if you have your health, you have your life.

#happiness


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Normally when we go to Mexico, it’s for an extended amount of time. This trip was a bit different.

I am on my way back from Mexico City as I write this, after spending just a week in the country. Last weekend, we attended a wedding of Lorena’s classmate from grade school. The wedding itself was about 1.5hrs outside of Mexico City in a town called Cuernavaca. We went with Lorena’s parents and younger sister, as the families are friends.

Our holiday travel has been fast and furious since November, and since that time, we have been battling never-ending colds and fatigue. However, we seem to be on the mend (finally).

In any event, chalk this up as 2024’s first official trip.

We’re on our way back to California today after a two-day delay due to Aeromexico cancelling our original flight. In a few short weeks, we go to another wedding in Cancun!

#personal


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Welp, this isn’t something I ever thought I’d do.

Lorena is still battling her Grave’s disease condition, and as part of that, she has been exploring options in her diet. Through a roundabout way, she landed on a whole foods plant based diet.

We watched a documentary together, and afterward talked about what we thought about it. There were very interesting points made about the human health condition and how it is related to what we eat, specifically: the standard American diet.

The documentary makes a variety of cases for eating a vegan diet, so if you’re interested, then give that a watch.

So, I figured I had nothing to lose by giving a vegan meal plan a shot. I’ll miss eggs the most. I have been eating them daily for breakfast for a few years. But, in reality that’s not super healthy in the first place, so it’s a net-positive dropping those out of my food rotation.

In fact, these changes won’t be too hard.

Lorena and I will be on the journey together, so that always helps. I’ve already made a few meals (like cauliflower hot wings) and they were excellent. What is more challenging is finding suitable food options when traveling, or when visiting friends and family.

I’ll report on how it goes after a few weeks.

#personal


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