Valuable Land, Stiff Arms, and Inspiration – The Year In Review

gab-photo.jpgIt’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll…

The traffic and numbers speak for themselves. It’s still a long way to the top, or even the middle, for this little site that was started almost five years ago. The initial goal was to knock the rust off the writing tool, collect some thoughts, and commit fond memories to paper (screen) that could not be forgotten.

Hardly traffic building strategies.

But a funny thing happens when you write on-line like this. You make a couple of friends, your old friends and family members hop on board, and before you know it, you have an audience. And those people help you out.

Articles get shared, people take notice, and the traffic goes skyward. In review of this blog for the year 2012, it was the best one yet for traffic and article quality, which is not a coincidence.

The words continue to come from the heart. I couldn’t do it any other way.

2012 was a year for several very popular articles here at JAW. I’d like to say it was all about the excellence of the content, but I know I had some assistance along the way.  To those of you who shared, linked, commented, and most of all – read – thank you.

I Coulda Been A Contender

My favorite post this year, one that got substantial traffic numbers was The Most Valuable Land On Earth. It tied together two of my favorite stories with the foregone conclusion that life is short, your clock is burning down, so go ahead: live the life you want to. My friend Brian helped this post gain some ground by publishing the content at his site Brian Dodd On Leadership.

Many thanks to Brian.

It wasn’t the only post shared on another site. This year’s most popular article (in terms of traffic) is 6 Nuggets Of Financial Wisdom From The Old School, which shares details of how my immigrant grandparents handled their finances. This article got a little help from financial blogger Len Penzo, who graciously featured it in a weekly round-up this summer.

Len has a popular site. Needless to say, he made 6 Nuggets a popular read.

Craig McBreen also had a hand in inspiring a high traffic article. A while back, he wrote about the unplanned initial meeting with his wife in a nightclub, although he had no business being there. It’s one of the best posts at his site.

Hey! I’ve got a story like that one!!

Luck Be A Lady was born. It’s a memory that I’ll more than likely never forget, but just in case I do, I wrote it down.

Craig wasn’t the only one to inspire. I was forming sentences in my head as I read the words of prolific writers like Jack and Staci, who were also kind enough to stop by and comment on a regular basis. Words do indeed have power and significance.

It’s Not Just About The Numbers

There are posts that drove minimal traffic as well, but in the end, that doesn’t matter. Articles like Tougher Than The Rest or Thank You For Being A Friend put a lump in my throat and a chill up my spine as I’m writing them. And that’s the whole idea of this chore in the first place. To remember and pay tribute, and leave a part of yourself behind for all the world to see.

The Best of the Rest in 2012:

Happy Birthday. P.S. The World Needs You Here

The Immigrant Song – Inspiration Around Every Corner

Explaining Evil To Your Children

Joe Lied – And Why It Should Matter To You

Growin’ Up – Giving A Stiff Arm To The Face Of Life

Like this article? There’s more on the way! You can get free updates to content at this site by subscribing by email or feed reader. Feel free to share via Twitter and/or Facebook. Photo credit to Gabrielle DeGiorgio.

Writing From The Dark Side

In a past life, my wife would need to implore me to come back from my dalliance with “the dark side”. When I worked for a company I liked to call “The Evil Empire”, that was a place I visited on too frequent a basis. I was not the easiest person to live with.

However, that job is gone, and Happy Joe has been present and accounted for 99% of the time. But, I seem to be on a little of a dark side streak. Negative events in the media have prompted publication of the two most recent posts here, my related opinions of the Aurora mass murder and the cover up and subsequent betrayal by Joe Paterno.

The original intent of this site was to pay tribute to those closest to me: grandparents, godmother, members of my family and friends, sharing the life lessons they passed along to me. Which I consider a gift.

Chris Brogan had put it best: “Turn your lens on your family. Tell family stories for future generations.”

Although my last two posts approach what is quality content, I’m unsure if the stories fit here. I want a certain feel to each post or series of posts. I didn’t get that feeling.

Lens On The Family

I left a comment at Jack’s place after he published an excellent post about how certain smells trigger memory. As I read it, one memory of the smell of meatballs cooking in my kitchen as I’m frying them immediately brings me back to my grandmother’s house, the scenario always being the same: Early on a Saturday morning, running down the stairs in my pajamas, woken up by the scent of meatballs wafting through the halls.

And the ritual of being the first to get a meatball sample at the start of another weekend. Perfect blog fodder for whenever I decide to dispatch procrastination and just write it.

I’m not exactly sure why I would write about anything else, especially the topics of mass murder and pedophile supporters. There are more than enough people to comment and write about all the crazy in the world. I did it, and it felt like a chore. When I left that brief comment about smells and memory, it flowed. I know if I turn it into a full length post, that would flow as well.

This summer has not been all peaches and cream. I lost my best friend after his long struggle with Parkinson’s, and another very good friend of mine passed away suddenly at the age of 59, just two weeks later.

It’s said that once you hit a certain age that you start to attend more funerals than weddings, and it looks like I may be in that place. That’s one part of life where you wish you could roll back the clock.

Clocks notwithstanding, life’s frequent patches of darkness are more than enough to shed light on without going to the current events pages to handle that as well. Lessons to be learned.

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My Take: The $100 Start Up

Corporate America is a big hungry beast that may swallow you whole or spit you out.

Depending on your situation, you could see the above statement ringing very true. In our fragile economy over the past several years, many of us have lost jobs, incomes, or have had our present income sliced substantially.

For the working class in this country, the scene has not been (and may not be) a pretty one.

I wrote about three of my workmates, people with great sales numbers and far reaching tenure, losing their jobs in a heartbeat, without warning. One minute there, the next minute gone. Like being taken out by Deniro and Pesci in Goodfellas. 🙂

If you’re a little worried about your employment, and looking over your shoulder, I’d say you have every right to be.

Instead of dealing with the constant worry, it’s better to know what can happen, and to plan ahead accordingly. With our world bringing technology to our doorstep faster and less expensively than ever before, it’s well within the realm of possibility to begin your own small business, and do it quickly and on the cheap.

Chris Guillebeau’s book The $100 Start Up is just the guide to show you what to do, and how to do it. It’s an important book for these volatile times that we live in.

I got to know Chris’ material through his website, The Art of Non-Conformity. I will admit I only bothered reading because I thought of myself as a pretty rebellious non-conformist in middle and high school. The title appealed to me.

But once I dug in, I discovered some great content on travel, business, entrepreneurship, and, well, non-conformity.

And Chris gives most of it away for free.

The book is no different than the site, really, quality content in an easy to read format. Chris does reference his own experience within the book, but what is most interesting to me (and will be to you) are the examples he cites of other individuals starting and growing micro-businesses that have replaced an income from a job.

And a good number of them were started for $100 or less.

Is it easy to run a business when you’re used to collecting a paycheck? No it’s damn hard, especially at the outset. It may take more work than you’ve ever done before.

But you can’t ignore the facts. Jobs are gone, folks. And they’re not coming back. If for some reason you lose yours, what would you rather do? Start something on your own, or send out resumes for a year, hoping you draw attention to yourself for your experience?

As a disclaimer, I will tell you:  I like the company I work for, love my colleagues, and expect to be there for a while and collect my retirement checks when I’m done.

But life doesn’t work out the way we plan sometimes. I recommend Chris’ book because it gives me a certain level of comfort knowing that if those plans don’t work out, I don’t have to stress. I can relax.

Chris’ words say it best: The central message of the book is that the skills (and the money) you already have are all you need. You don’t need an MBA. You don’t need to beg the bank for money. You don’t need to write a 60-page business plan that no one will ever read.

To start a business, you just need a product or service, a group of people willing to buy it, and a way to get paid. That’s it! Focus on these three things exclusively.

Win a copy of the book

Here at the site, I’d like to giveaway one free copy of the $100 Startup to one of our readers. To be eligible to win, all you have to do is leave a comment at the end of the post, and share the post on either Facebook or Twitter (or both). I will pick a random winner by 5/31. Just be sure to leave a valid email with a comment so I can get your shipping address in case you’re the lucky winner!

The Purpose Driven Blog: It’s All About Me, My Friend

I read frequently that the consensus to have a site that is popular, that people will read,  is to be helpful. A familiar buzz phrase is to publish “useful content”. Some writers will even go overboard and put an “insanely” in front of that phrase.

I know writers that do this well. When it comes to business and social media, my friends Marcus and Craig put out some great stuff. If I want to know how to effectively use email or Twitter to its full potential in a business context, a guy like Marcus can show me some ropes.

And although Marcus posts about business, he puts a lot of personality into those words. I’ve never met him off-line, but he comes across as one of the guys, someone I can sit down and share beers with.

Over at his website, Vince publishes excellent food related content in the format of easy, simple to prepare recipes accompanied by mouth watering photos.

His philosophy is simple. It’s easy to eat well at home, without the bloated prices and caloric content of a restaurant.

He’s right. I’ve saved thousands of dollars in the “dining out” category of my budget by following this principle. Reading Vince has helped me do this.

That’s what I call helpful content.

I set out to do the same with my posts, the intentions are there. But, the content that I write that I most identify with are the posts that are about my concerns. Whether it’s about me, my wife and kids, or other members of my family, what I write really has nothing to do with the reader.

It’s all me, me, me.

And according to many ‘experts’, without the ability to help your reader, your content fails.

I will try to keep the reader in mind with future posts. But I know the only way I have been helpful to you (if at all) is purely by accident. By creating feelings of how great it is to be a parent, or to recreate that glow of growing up in the 70s and 80s (What an era!).  🙂

Really though, it’s all about me.

I need to prop up my ability to remember. Man, the memory goes, and it can go quick. Take the aforementioned 70s – 80s. Those images used to be crystal clear in my mind, in full color, with the voices of my grandmother and other family sharply present.

Now, everything looks grainy, with that color a little washed out, and faded. Memories  become less vivid. I want to try to put a halt to that. This blog should help keep memories alive.

This reason is my number one. Whether it’s a post about my godmother, reflecting on a kitchen coffee ritual from the past, or remembering saying goodbye to my mentor, the written word can take what you might have forgotten and bring it all rushing back.

The blog can also act as a great resource for my kids. As my friend Jack mentioned in a comment recently, my children may want to read these words. Why not?

When the time comes, they can think back to a breath taking end to an epic baseball game, the relaxing summer days spent on the lake in their youth, or an unforgettable trip to New York City.

All that will be here waiting.

Yes, it would be nice if I could give you some social media tips or post content that is more business friendly. But that’s not the direction I’m interested in taking. I have a different purpose.

If you read this far, and you’re still sticking around, thank you. I’m here to build a library of words that my kids may appreciate years from now. But I think you can take away a little appreciation as well.

And who knows? Maybe, in the end, some of this may even be…helpful.

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Two Years Later, And The Best Is Yet To Come

I published my first post here two years ago, On Writing, With A Comeback Twist not really knowing what to expect. I thought the internet was a magical thing that, with a wave of a wand, would bring me a flood of readers.

What it did bring, in the words of my friend Marcus Sheridan, was crickets. That sound you hear late at night, when nobody’s around and it doesn’t look like any one is coming.

But that was OK, looking back. I wrote and hit “publish” just because it was something I wanted to do. I wanted a little project outside of my paid “work”. Something that gave life a little more juice.

In other words, I wrote for myself first. If someone found me and wanted to read, awesome. But I was writing for them second.

Things have changed a bit, and I’ve learned how to share my writing, as well as others’ work, through social media. Readership has grown, and I have made some friends and connections from writing here at this site.

I hate to use the word “passion”, as it’s a term that seems so overused these days. But I knew I was on the track to something when I hit publish and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

I’ve deviated at times from the subjects that I set out to write about in the beginning. You need a new topic every once in a while to keep things fresh. The original goal is still the same, however.

I’m a child of the 70s and 80s. My biggest influences growing up were Italian immigrants who came to America in search of a better life. My grandmother, grandfather, and my godmother. Old School inspiration.

My Dad with my grandparents, Rose and Sebastian DeGiorgio, circa 1946

It is my very firm opinion that the America of 2011 could learn a lot from the immigrant generations that preceded those of us that were just getting started twenty or thirty years ago.

If you have known me for any length of time, my job here is to remind you of these cornerstones of my life, and make sure you don’t forget them.

If for some reason you are brand new, then let me make the introductions. If I do my job right, they are people you won’t soon forget.

From the last two years, here are some of the best:

The Last Sicilian, And The Gift Of Tradition

Reflections on Memorial Day And A Salute To A Soldier Long Gone

Thoughts On Work Ethic, My Grandfather’s Hands, And Stone Cold Winters

Absolute Requirements of the Italian Kitchen

“Life Is Precious”, Epilogue

Memories Of My Grandfather

I’ve really enjoyed myself posting to this site for the last two years. I think, with the help of Gabrielle the guest poster, we’ll have much more content ready to go in the months to come. Although I began just “writing for myself”, nowadays I appreciate new readers stopping by to check it out. You can help with this by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc. to spread the word. Thanks!