The period between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorite each year. It’s a time filled with anticipation for the year ahead, a time to look back at the year gone by and a time to state the obvious.
I don’t know why I like that lede so much. Strikes me as first-cup-of-coffee funny on a gray winter’s Saturday morning.
The start to this weekend finds me at my local Subaru dealership, getting an oil change, rotation and a fuel service. I think they call it an induction service, but to what I’m being inducted I don’t know. It’s 27 degrees outside, gray and still and gorgeous. I can do any kind of weather with no wind.
Boy, am I in the wrong state (Oklahoma) for that!
But on to the business at hand.
I love looking ahead to the new year and looking back at the year previous. I am never one to say, “Good riddance!” to the year. There are always highs to balance the lows.
A look back at 2018
And this year had plenty of high moments. I got engaged to a wonderful woman with whom I have enjoyed many an adventure and plan to enjoy decades more. Being a 48-year-old bachelor, I never anticipated what it would feel like to be engaged or married or even tightly coupled. However, I also didn’t spend my bachelor years overly concerned about how I would feel about it. To the contrary: I spent most of those years considering how to do it right in a world where at least half of all marriages ultimately fail and even more relationships fade into the ghosted ether.
With all that said, I feel extraordinarily confident about the start of my marriage in 2019.
We’re getting married on April 12, which would have been my mom’s 80th birthday. She passed away on June 5, and that was certainly the low mark for 2018. However, I gave myself a gift in anticipation of that moment several years ago with the daily phone conversations we’d have on my commute home from work. The regular communication with family is good for the parent, to keep them engaged and connected, but it’s also a giant deposit into the barrel of goodwill and good karma that you’ll be able to lean on when the loved one passes.
For anybody who has aging parents to whom they’re close, I can’t encourage you enough to develop that kind of routine.
Also, I may have some snippets of our conversations thanks to the fact that sometimes Mom didn’t turn off her answering machine when I called and it picked up before she did.
Work ain’t hard if it’s passion
My professional life has gone exceedingly well, especially so because I get to be in news and work with a wonderful newsroom. Over the years, some folks have labeled me a workaholic, but that’s never been true. I enjoy working and, more so, being in motion. Sitting still is not in my DNA. Any time or situation when it’s felt like I’m overworking myself is the product of poor management on my part, failing to delete the actions that need dismissing and overvaluing money for time.
Time is the arbitrage for everything.
It’s why voice is the technology of the 2020s. It’s why Uber exists. It’s why you should hire a housekeeper and a lawn care person (GreenPal is fantastic). It’s why you should get up early (good sleep is awesome but long sleep is insanely overrated), and it’s definitely why you should get off the couch and explore your city, state and world.
Time is the single currency you can’t amass. You can always make more money.
And travel is more important than acquiring any ‘thing.’ Just thought I’d add that.
But I digress.
As I get older, my professional focus is more about helping other people achieve more. I’m taking on more the role of a teacher or mentor to anybody willing to be taught or mentored (willing is ‘key’), and what I realized early on is that words have super little impact where no actions live. The best way how to tell anybody how to do anything is to show them, by setting the example.
So, whether I’m always successful or not, I’m focused on the examples I set every day.
Various side projects
My digital life has been a lesson in drifting, an enjoyment for sure but no real accomplishment other than an exercise in patience. Take my YouTube channel for example. I gained 86 subscribers in 2018, but that’s in a world where it’s not uncommon to gain thousands.
Why is that?
It all depends on how you look at my channel. Is it a songwriter’s channel? A performer’s channel? If so, it’s super clear that the quality of the content at a creative and technical level isn’t moving the needle. However, that’s not totally true. Two of my biggest organic videos of the year were contemporary jazz tracks I recorded and posted a decade ago.
“Step To It” picked up another 6,456 minutes of watch time in 2018.
“Nocturnal” earned 1,237 minutes of watch time.
But those weren’t performed. They were produced. There’s probably a lesson there.
Views are important, but the currency on YouTube and, eventually on any video platform, is watch time. How long can you keep a person watching your video content? It’s important because it indicates quality. Most folks are willing to click on a video. Very few are willing to sit there for 7 minutes and 32 seconds.
In the list above, you’ll see a couple of original songs with a high amount of watch time. Those weren’t organically achieved. I ran two types of ads in 2018: Google ads against YouTube videos and Facebook ads against Facebook posts on my teeny-tiny Ryan Welton Digital Facebook page that point to my YouTube channel.
The Google ads did an amazing job of boosting my superficial stats, but they failed to produce engagement and subscribers.
The Facebook ads, especially when executed against cover songs, did an amazing job of turning targeted viewers into subscribers. Mind you, for me, we’re talking dozens of new subscribers instead of hundreds or thousands, but any one of us learns or achieves in nuggets. The snowball falling downhill gets bigger the farther it goes.
On the other hand, my No. 1 video for 2018 didn’t require a dime for it to catch fire. It was called “How To Play ‘Rosanna’ By Toto For Piano,” and it amassed 8,044 minutes of watch time for the year. I don’t even know that I did such a great job with it, but it helped some people get the gist of the chord progressions in the song and, a bit, of how to play the imposing synth solo in the middle of the track.
It had value.
And for the 95 percent of us who aren’t young, beautiful or incredibly talented, value is where it’s at.
Teach somebody how to do something. Pass along your experiences to other people. Document your adventures. Share wisdom.
Do it over and over and over.
That’s the plan for 2019 in my digital life. When it came to this blog, I was largely all over the place, writing about the Sooners and Browns and baseball and YouTube, and that’s all well and good. I think I can still do that as the mood hits, as inspiration strikes.
But as I look at other platforms, I’ll be doing so more closely with an eye for value I can offer to somebody else. I’ll also be looking at eliminating content that provides low return and focus on content that provides much greater return. Whether it be in work or play, passion or necessary mundanity, we all have way too much wasted motion.
In that regard, 2019 is a year to move the needle in a big way.
Walk, don’t run?
I don’t know, however, that it’s going to be the year I run my fourth consecutive half marathon in Oklahoma City come the last weekend in April. My training in 2018 was poor, and while I blamed it a lot on the weather, I should also pin it on the extra 10 pounds (now 20) I was carrying.
Mid-year grief sure didn’t help, and neither did a pre-Thanksgiving car wreck. Kristi and I walked away from that, sure enough, but it’s been a giant pain in the butt on numerous fronts ever since. As I sit here finishing this blog post on a Sunday morning, I can confirm that my right knee confirms the accident.
The swelling on the inside of it might not seem the result of Grade 3 whiplash, but when you start connecting the physical dots from spine-to-foot, it’s not unbelievable how that could be. And there’s not a chance I could run to the mailbox right this moment much less a quick three miles.
Not that there’s ever been anything quick about my running.
We’ll see. You all know how much I love running; now it’s just a matter of how much I love training. Need to be better at the latter to be able to enjoy the former.
Any time I spend ‘not training’ I’m liable to spend on my newest passion: eBay and all-things-flip. Earlier this year, Kristi and I started a little store called R&K’s Happy HodgePodge, and it was born of young Olivia’s enjoyment of garage sales meshed with my inner drive to turn everything into a quest.
I had watched some Gary Vee videos on that ‘flip life,’ and then got interested in how people do it. How they source their products. How they price them. And how they manage a small business based on the simplest of retail tenets: Buy low and resell higher.
That’s all that retail is.
Plus, if I get good at it, it could provide a nice little retirement nest-egg or some money for more travel. I’m telling you: for me, long-term, there is nothing I’d rather spend my money on than travel.
Either way, it’s a fun little side venture.
It seems I’m mostly rambling now, but I’ll leave you with this thought from the wise sage of the advertising world, Don Draper. One of the things I admired most about his character in the series “Mad Men” is his ability to stoically maintain his focus on tomorrow.
“I have a life, and it only goes in one direction: forward.”
Cheers to an amazing+challenging+satisfying 2019 ahead.