Monthly Archives: February 2010

Growing Pains

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I have been a freelance web designer for a decade now.  When I was 15 I met a woman who really liked a site I had done for a video game and she asked me to develop her web site.  I was paid $20 an hour and designed what I feel is still one of my very best sites, one of those examples of great that you base all your future success on.  My communication wasn’t great, I was a bit flakey, but hey, I was 15!

Since Image Freedom formed last year, we’ve grown very quickly, and I am often amazed at the decisions I made just six months back, or only three months back.  My priorities have changed so much, sometimes even day by day.  There was a time when I scrambled for clients, in a constant panic trying to keep food on the table and thanks to the work back then it set us up for the major players we’ve been working with in 2010.  I am very grateful, and very proud.

What I think is catching up with me lately, is the growing pains.  I was responding to an e-mail today from a time when my communication wasn’t what it is today, and repairing and clarifying a relationship from very early on in our business.  I had to remind myself how unsure I probably was when I created the scope for that project, how unsure I was as to exactly what to include, or what to promise.  It was very humbling to be reminded that while I write big ticket proposals now, several pages long, I was practically begging for business not long ago at all.

My assistant laughed while I talked about this e-mail, she told me it was growing pains and I needed to go through this because I wasn’t the business man I used to be, I’m a lot smarter and coming from a lesser place to where I am now is going to leave some marks.  The perfectionist in me wants to make sure everyone is satisfied 100% of the time, but when you set unrealistic expectations that becomes nearly impossible.  Can’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

Every day I try to be the best businessman I can be, the best optimizer, the best friend, the best family member, etc.  These growing pains have really been taking their tole, and I’ve finally come to a place where I can clear my slate and take a few days to reset the board because the pieces have changed.  I’m not a pawn anymore, but I’m far from the King.

I’m excited to see where the pieces fall in all of this, because I’m not the man I was at 15 designing web sites for fun, and I’m not the business man I was just six months ago when I really got serious about my business.  Growing pains will come and go, but as hard as they can be, they’re proof I’m moving in the right direction and that is a pretty slick idea.

Who are your Mentors?

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When you reach your final day, I think you’ll look back at your life and know that your life was forever changed every time you made a new friend.  Some friends are just for fun, some friends are there for you when you need them most, and others become something greater, they become mentors.

I was raised by my grandparents and have been guided and shaped by my adoptive parents in so many ways, I think one of the most valuable things my grandfather ever taught me (or maybe more accurately tried to teach me) was how to be a good active listener.  I was a hyper kid, active, easily distracted, I often heard that I waited for my turn to speak, and not so much listened when I spoke.  My grandfather stressed the importance of listening, and it is a lesson I am still learning, but one that has opened me up to several amazing people in my short life that have really touched me.

Going back to High School, I got my big break.  Chris had a good ten years on me, maybe more and here I was a seventeen year old kid with a nice computer and a video camera.  Chris was an Apple fan like myself and he brought me on to TheOneRing.net where I became an editor and spent the next three years.  We were Star Wars geeks, working on a Lord of the Rings fan site, it was an interesting combination.  Chris was an amazing graphic artist and web developer, I’m sure he still is, and he has been the bar I judge myself by for many years.  I was a pain in the ass back then, not that I’m not now, but I’m grateful for what he taught me all the same.

Years into my time with TheOneRing I met Norm, and once again the concept of listening became a big deal.  Same hyper kid, same desire to be heard and not to hear and one day Norm took me aside and said “One day you’re going to be content just to listen, and not need to be heard.”  I blinked, and I’m sure at the time I figured “I don’t need this crap!” but I know that stuck with me and now almost ten years later I still reach back in my mind and ask myself what Norm would do, if not also reach out via text or e-mail and ask the man himself.

When I arrived in San Antonio it was a rough experience.  I knew one person out of the whole city and I wasn’t sure who to really talk to or what direction I should travel.  I’d owned a business in California, but I knew people there, I’d had connections.  I’d made a friend during the final days of my time with TheOneRing named Ed.  I reached out to Ed, someone I look at as a true success, and I asked him “what do you do when you lose faith?”

He replied asking if I meant faith in myself, faith in the world, or faith in God.  I told him I feared I’d lost faith in myself.  He wrote back an e-mail to me on par in elegance with anything he’d ever verbalized.  He told me that faith exists in the absence of evidence.  That one line out of so many just knocked me off my feet.  If I had lost faith in myself, it was because it’d been so long since I’d had evidence to back up that faith.  I set out to create that evidence, I put everything else aside, I silenced distractions and I regained my faith in myself.

Looking back, so many people had touched my life.  Where Chris tried to round me out and Norm tried to calm me down, my new friends push me forward and lift me up.  Maybe finally I’m in a place where I can listen intently, from a place where I couldn’t listen from before, and truly feel the wisdom I’m fortunate enough to have received.

The road is long and while I am in a better place than I was, I smile and know that wherever I find myself, I’ll have the wisdom of others who have been there before to support me and will help me step true.  Soon, when I’m ready, it’ll be my turn to return the favors they’ve given me.

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This blog has been inspired by Holly Hoffman (@HollyHoffman on Twitter) of Neovia Solutions.  Holly put out a call to all bloggers about their mentor experiences and I invite you to share your own.  Thank you for reading.

Do you have an Accountability Partner?

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This blog post does not apply to you.  You were born without fear.  You were born knowing which task to choose when you only have time to complete one task, and never needing to ask for advice.  This blog post does not apply to you because you never doubt yourself, you always know the right path, and you never make mistakes.

Oh, really?  Well, this blog might apply to you afterall.

My name is Matthew Egan and I am not perfect.  I’d like to think I’m in the top tier of my industry, my customer service is great, and I’ve gotten to the point where my reputation often proceeds me.  I am still far from perfect.  I have countless people whom I look up to, and I have been blessed by meeting some of the greatest minds in San Antonio who keep me honest, keep me focused, and keep me accountable.

I have an accountability partner for this reason.  I’m never alone.  It is so easy to forget that, so easy to get hung up on all of the impending To-Do list items, but if we feel truly alone we’re going to fail.  Some would like to say we’re always alone at the end of the day, that it is only up to us to get the job done, but that is only partially true.  If you surround yourself with positive, forward thinking, funny, wise, remarkable people you will never be alone.

Every week I have lunch with my accountability partner.  She and I talk about my business, we talk about her business, we talk about our families, and about our goals.  There isn’t a whole lot of structure, but we’re honest enough, and open enough where we can show fear, and show weakness, and be stripped to our elements however embarrassing that might be.  It’s hard to not be perfect, it’s hard to be flawed, but it’s all made easier when you can share that part of yourself with someone who will not judge you, someone who… wait for it… is just as flawed as you.

Who are you accountable to?  Your customers?  Your boss?  Your spouse?  Do you need someone in your life who has no stake in your success outside of your friendship?  Find that person, find that support, and you’ll be surprised how freeing it can be.

I may be a business owner, I may often work alone, but I am still a part of a team.

Are you?

No More Lists!

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I get a lot of e-mail.  I get the Toys’R’Us Newsletter (mock me later) I get e-mails from PF Chang’s and Apple and Meetup.com.  I’m tired of it!  I’m going to launch a new campaign, a mission, a quest to unsubscribe to everything that has my e-mail address!  No more lists!

It started out fine, and I’d get a couple of e-mails a day but as an iPhone user I have the compulsion that I MUST check mail the second a little “1” appears on the mail icon.  When I waste that precious finger tap to find out it’s an e-mail from Babies’R’Us about a sale on diapers I get the urge to merge my phone with the nearest adjacent wall.

You distracted me over diapers?!  DIAPERS!?  My son is five years old!

I go into a nerd rage of epic keyboard mashing proportions before noticing my green glowing eyes in a near by mirror and calming down again.  Mailing List rage effects families of all sizes, and kills more people every year than Shark Attacks and Vending Machine related accidents COMBINED.

I think quite possibly all of the trouble in the Middle East would be resolved if they’d all just spend a little time clicking unsubscribe.  BOOM problem solved.  No more wasteful war spending and in one swift move both the economy is righted and global warming is resolved.  Mailing List rage.

So yes, in this bonus blog on a sunny Sunday Valentines Day I commit to you to click unsubscribe on all the garbage and only allow the e-mails I actually want to read to come into my inbox, and distract my iPhone from doing what it should be doing…

…playing Tetris.

Apple vs. Google. vs. Privacy

Earlier this year I was published in Entrepreneur Magazine in an article about Google Chrome weighing the pros and cons of Google’s slick new browser, my vote was to stick with Firefox.  This blog will come as a bit of a departure from the normal, but reading the news there is just a lot going on with Google right now that is frightening to me.

Google REALLY wants your information.

In the movie Minority Report Tom Cruise walks down a hallway filled with 3D advertisers able to scan your eyes and cater advertisements specifically to each user.  These advertisers are able to query a database and know what kind of car you drive, where you live, what else you’ve purchased, etc.  This makes for better advertisement success because the content is catered to the user.

It seems that Google is very eager to learn as much as they can about each person, and assign that data to your gmail or Google User account.  Google now owns YouTube, and knows what you’re watching online, Google tracks your search data through Google to know what you’re into, and if you read the fine print of the Google Chrome license agreement you’ll see that you’re agreeing to let Google record all of your online activity so they can send that back to their engineers to further refine their advertisements to you, and map your behavior online.

Maybe this isn’t a big deal, but people are pretty guarded about their privacy.  Google isn’t recording your bank account number, or your social security number, they aren’t capturing your e-mails or selling your information to third parties, but they are using the map of your virtual self to target advertisements your way.

According to a report by Business Insider Apple is receiving more than $100 Million Dollars annually from Google to keep Google the default Search Engine on the iPhone.  The relationship between Apple and Google is starting to deteriorate in no small part because Google wanted the data collected from their Google Maps application on the iPhone 3G to again further target content and advertising to you based on your behavior.

The issue that concerns me, from a search marketing perspective, is that Google seems to want to decide what is right for you, based on your behavior and their algorithm.  This moves us away from an Organic Search format where web sites are ranked based on popularity and are instead ranked on what your internet behavior says about you.

If Microsoft’s history is any indication, I see lawsuits and public fears becoming more and more prevalent as Google’s Chrome operating system hits the market.  How will people feel when they learn that their operating system is spying on them to build the next generation marketing tools?

That dark Minority Report future might not be too far fetched, we may be only a few clicks away.  How much of your information do you want Google to have?  Is it all in the name of a better more targeted experience or does Google seek to turn our personal data into profitable research?