It started with a single email to another Dad blogger, which fittingly enough, was also my first mistake: “Hey man, I am just starting a new blog and was wondering if you could tell me how you go about getting to do the cool reviews of kid stuff?”
His reply: “Just network and be yourself. You’ll figure it out”
I left that interaction kind of confused and felt like he hadn’t really help me at all. Looking back at it a year later, it was actually a perfect answer and one that I have nothing more to add to. Just be yourself.
I’m a bit late on this one but back in February my little site celebrated its first full year on the internet. I would be lying if I used any other excuse but procrastination at the magnitude of putting together a “year in review” type post. In the end, I have found the exercise of looking back to have opened up a well of emotions that I never knew I had in me.
I’m not even sure where to start, to be honest. I guess the best place would be with my first post, which was a mangled tale that looks exactly like what someone’s first post should look like. In my excitement, I even approved and replied to a spam comment, like a true newbie, and have decided to leave it there to remind myself that everybody has to start somewhere.
Oddly enough, my second post was my first experience in dealing with a brand. I wrote an innocent post about how my daughter loved the website, JibJab, and received an email a week later from the owner of the site, who wanted to thank me for the post by sending t-shirts for the whole family. It was an awesome experience but also one that set me off on my year long journey of self discovery that I could have never imagined when I started this thing.
It wasn’t all roses, of course. I think I made every mistake in the book, not that there is a literal book, but if there is something people in the social media/blogging space frown upon, I did that thing. The thing I realized though is that everyone frowns on something, so you have to do your best to stay ethical and true to yourself. I have been lied to, had my ideas stolen, gotten deservedly schooled for writing crap, and even got called a sellout by someone who I thought should be working with me to help spread the good word of Dad. In fact, that particular interaction almost scared me enough to shut it down altogether after only two months of blogging. I’m glad I didn’t.
For every stress wrinkle this journey has caused, there has been at least ten positive and life changing experiences. I’ve attended a lot of events filled with incredibly kind people; some of whom went completely out of their way to make sure I fit in. For that, I am eternally grateful and will absolutely pay it forward when the time comes to do so.
The two big events, Blissdom Canada and the Dad 2.0 Summit, were both experiences that I will never forget. It is impossible for me to explain the impact that both of these conferences have had on my life as a human being or as a father. The opportunity provided to me by the organizers of Dad 2.0 to share a story about the passing of my father, is one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It showed me that I am allowed to show vulnerability without feeling like less of a man and that I may even be able to help someone else by sharing my story. A lot of things changed for me that weekend.
I’ve always tried to give back where I can but the power of social media has opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that are out there to help others. From sharing stories about bullying and featuring amazing children doing incredible things, to sharing inspirational stories from citizens and brands alike, I feel I have evolved into a different and much better person. The day I spent with my daughter in the waiting room at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, handing out Tim Hortons gift cards to staff and other worried parents, is something that I will be forever grateful for.
I’ve been presented with many great opportunities in my short time in this space and I am continually humbled by them. A few of my highlights include skating with the cast of Disney on Ice, playing CandyLand against a Harlem Globetrotter, being featured monthly on a radio show, convincing Jann Arden to call my wife on her birthday and being featured on the cover of the Lifestyle section of the Globe and Mail. I have also been fortunate enough to provide my children with things that we would otherwise never have been able to afford and I never take any of it for granted.
All of this said, there are two highlights that stand above the rest.
The first happened just recently when Canadian Tire responded to a commenter on one of my posts, by providing her children with new hockey skates because she has been unable to afford them. For me, it was a moment of inspiration in knowing that there is still a lot of good in the world. I have never worked with Canadian Tire and have no idea if I ever will but they won me over that day and showed me that I can help make a difference in the world.
The second is simply, the blogging community. Something that I think is often lost amidst the laughing, fighting and discussions about Pinterest is the fact that when this community comes together, we can do amazing things. Looking back at an improbable Movember campaign in which we raised $10,000 more than our original goal, or the amazing show of support for our ill or fallen comrades, the community is really the most inspiring part of it all. Knowing that you have the collective power to exact change is a strong motivator to continue building this thing. To me, the people of this community are more than just avatars or good contacts to have, they are friends and I’m not sure if you can quantify that.
It’s been a wild ride. People I idolized when I started out, now talk to me as friends and equals. I still idolize them, but I do so with a little less sweat than before. I have learned how to be a better person, father, husband and writer because of these people and hope to inspire others in the same way they have for me.
I don’t like to pass judgment on the way people run their blogs but I will say this; if you are running your blog like it is a competition against other bloggers, you are doing it wrong and you are missing out on something amazing. Kindness will always win out, I can promise you that.
Finally, I want to say a special Thank You to a couple people who have made this journey possible. First to my web designer, host and the first person to offer assistance while asking for nothing in return, Shawn Merrikin; thank you for not only setting this all up for me but also allowing me to text you in a panic at 10pm on a Tuesday because I somehow locked myself out of my site and thought I was being hacked. I can’t offer you anything but money, which you have turned down, but I’ll figure something out. Also, if you guys are looking for a host or web designer, this is your guy.
I save the largest thank you for my wife and children. My kids don’t really get it but someday they will see how much they have inspired the positive changes in me. My wife on the other hand, has been nothing but supportive throughout the blogging whirlwind. In a space that features about 10 female bloggers to every man, the trust she has shown in me just further proves that I made the right choice in marrying her. My family is my ultimate inspiration and the day this comes between them is the day I close the doors on the site.
So, yeahhhhh, about 1500 words later and a million more thoughts on an incredible year, I think it’s best to leave you with the most important things I’ve learned so far. Be kind. Respect opinions that differ from yours. Think before you speak (or write). Don’t feed the trolls. Be yourself. Give back. Finally, there’s always a better answer than to attack someone on social media.
Thank you to everyone for all of this. I don’t feel deserving and am humbled by every single person who has stopped by to read, chat or help me. I still have no idea what I am doing but I’m happy that I am surrounded with good people while I figure it out. Here’s to another year!