Category: My Life

Pexels photo about blogging by Suzy Hazelwood - downloaded from Pexels

The One Thing I’ve Been Failing At In 2021

I haven’t been blogging…or podcasting…or video blogging here on my own blog. Well, that’s really three things but they are all related to the one master concept: blogging.

Yes, that’s it. I’ve been slacking on blogging. I’m a WordPress consultant. I’ve trained so many others on how to blog for success and I’ve personally been invested in the power of WordPress, the most popular content management system in the world, for over 19-years. But I haven’t been utilizing my own blog, which is sitting here dormant for a few years now waiting for me to resurface and add to it. To give it some love. To fill it with the wisdom and knowledge I’ve gained over the years so that it can share the deep insights and experiences I’ve accumulated with anyone who cares to drop by for a read.

I’ve failed to keep up.

Why haven’t I been blogging on my own website? Well, it’s for a number of reasons.

I could say I haven’t been blogging because I’m so busy, right? Sure, I launched my first freemium WordPress plugin, Radio Station PRO, in August. At the same time, I maintain a few client sites through my WordPress consulting practice, Digital Strategy Works. And after taking a year-long break from small business coaching, I rejoined the coaching program at Mountain BizWorks, an awesome nonprofit community lender here in Asheville.

I have also been interviewing for full-time positions while co-parenting our 7-year old son who entered first grade this year. I started interviewing in August with some of the positions taking over 5-weeks to go from resumé submission to final decision. I’d say there were probably around 100 emails and 25 zoom calls. Crafting resumés for multiple jobs also takes a lot of time. But WordPress consultant and Liquid Web’s Chris Lema is also pretty busy, yet he’s found the time to write a post on his blog every day in 2021.

While I’ve recently been contributing content to our Radio Station PRO blog, that’s a bit different than what I should be doing here, which is writing about my experiences – whether that be with WordPress, my clients, or things I discover at random I should share with you – the reader.

But being busy isn’t the only reason for not blogging. Sometimes writing is hard. First, you have to think of something to write. Then you have to craft your prose in a somewhat intelligent and meaningful way while also filling it with details you think the reader will embrace and digest. You also have to edit yourself, like I’ve done to this post over the few hours it’s taken me to write it (while also being interrupted by our 7-year old on a few occasions). You have to do it again and again on a daily basis if that’s the goal. And, writer’s block is certainly a constant. Questioning what you write, when you write it, and why is constantly in the back of my mind, for sure.

In a recent post, “Five Habits That Will Make You Smarter,” Chris Lema writes:

The hardest part is thinking clearly. Having a single idea that you want to share and be helpful all at the same time.” We’re five days from the end of the year and Chris has thought about that single idea every day and executed on it. How is it that he can do it and you or I cannot?

Chris Lema

Well, I can’t beat myself up about it, because Chris and I are two different people. It’s common for all of us to look at what others are doing on social media or as bloggers and podcasters and think, “Wow, why can’t I be like that person? Why can’t I churn out great content like that every day? I want to be just as interesting and thoughtful, but it’s so hard when I’ve got so much to do.”

I reflect back to the moment my Organizational Behavior instructor at New York University wrote this on the blackboard:

“You’re perception is your reality.”

We have the propensity to look at what others are doing and measure ourselves against the quality of the content they produce, the effort they put forward, or the time they spend. But we all have our own lives and face daily challenges that others do not. There are only so many hours in a day, there are always conversations to be had and work to be done, and there are always fires to put out. That’s just how my life is. But it also gives me a signal that if I do want to publish more often, I need to take the time and the effort, which means taking from somewhere else.

I’m a DJ, a coach, a Managing Partner, a consultant, and a husband and father. That’s a lot to fit on my weekly calendar.

I know I am constantly interrupted by things I cannot control every day, so it’s a wonder that Chris is able to pull off writing a blog post daily for 365 days straight. I really don’t know how he does it, but I’m sure once he got started doing it, he figured out how to create a formula for success.

And that’s what I struggle with – a formula for success. Formulas require ingredients. Ingredients are the structure of formulas. Without a structure, you can’t create a formula. We want to structure our days with the ingredients that are the recipe for our formulas, but sometimes life throws at you stuff you just can’t control to interrupt your workflow, impact your progress, and break your formula.

For example, because we’re practicing social distancing over the last two years and many of us aren’t able to socialize in crowded spaces or have parties in our houses without risking someone getting sick, my wife is asked me not to DJ online on Saturday nights, which meant switching to another day.

My goal was to switch my house music mix show I do for the Asheville House Music Society from Saturday nights from 9 to 11 to Thursday mornings from 11 to 1. But that effort is disrupted by the interview process and client work. I haven’t been able to do a mix show for a few months now. It’s disappointing, but I’ll have to figure out another time once things clear up, because they’re a little messy at the moment.

And during the holidays, our son is off from school for two full weeks. His friend who lives next door is in Hungary for the holidays visiting family and at the same time her parents needed to renew a work visa, so playdates are few and far between while yet another resurgence of Covid forces parents to rethink putting our children in any group childcare setting.

When you have a young child, you are their world for the most part and that is especially true now. Parenting during Covid requires an immense amount of attention to your little ones. They are not yet fully self-reliant and it requires hours of working with them for everything from brushing teeth and taking a shower before bed to finding crafting opportunities or taking them somewhere for outdoor play to get their energy out. It’s a constant struggle to find alone time for yourself to get what you need to get accomplished.

I used to bring our son to the local YMCA where he could go for three hours after school, but since we canceled our membership because of Covid, it’s no longer an option. The hours in the day get sliced up by the hour-long roundtrips to school each morning and afternoon.

Then there’s social audio on Clubhouse and video introductions through LunchClub or JoinBonsai, which is my favorite random meeting app of the moment. With everything I’ve got going on, my idea to launch weekly social audio chats about WordPress and house music has fallen by the wayside. I’ve been able to manage calls on both of these new video introduction services, but I have to limit it to once a week, which means I need to pick between them. Since I know the founders of JoinBonsai, that’s the platform of choice I’ll be committing to for the time being. But what does limiting your networking end up doing in the meantime? It might mean fewer opportunities, for sure.

When I was single, it was much easier to self-isolate and get what I needed to get done. I didn’t have a wife and son who needed me to be a husband and a parent. Because my wife has a permanent partial disability and our son is on 32 Duracell batteries of energy every day, it requires me to be much more active in his life than most working fathers are.My wife also has her own small business, to which I contribute digital strategy and web development hours to. When I’m doing that, I’m not doing something else.

I also launched Radio Station PRO in August. Bringing a WordPress plugin to market requires a commitment, as well. There’s product development, project management, and customer support. Since we don’t have a big marketing budget, I’m also doing 1-to-1 sales and business development working through lists of radio stations in the U.S. and abroad. List building is time-consuming, for sure. My development partner is in Australia. He’s available after U.S. business hours, so that puts me squarely into working late nights or very early mornings because of the time difference.

While I relish the time spent with our son playing multiple sports, riding our bikes on the single-track trails or greenways in our area, it whittles down the hours that I can spend on my work. Pair all that with Covid and you can quickly see between coaching and consulting, building Radio Station PRO, and Covid-era parenting of a 7-year old that requires a huge amount of time. So much so, that I’ve been failing at blogging and podcasting on my own site.

So, what do I do now? The only thing I can do is to make blogging part of my regimen again and be patient with it. I’m not going to get to a post a day. Not sure I’m even going to get to a post a week, but I need to start somewhere. And to prep for that somewhere, I started posting to Twitter every day.

Building followers on Twitter is not like building followers on Facebook. On Twitter, far more people are invested in discussions around shared interests without having to join groups. Twitter is kind of an open sea that Facebook and LinkedIn are not. You get both their work and personal insights, which used to happen on Facebook, but not so much nowadays. And, unlike LinkedIn, you can always try and open up a conversation with anyone on Twitter. If they are active on Twitter daily, then they’re going to be far more responsive to your approach than folks on LinkedIn, many of whom are members but not actively posting or networking through the service. While this is changing slightly, it’s not enough to rely on. Twitter is fast becoming my go-to network to build followers and connections. Yes, there’s Instagram too, but for conversations, Twitter is where it’s at.

On Facebook, people seem to love posts about my life and my family, but few – if any – respond to posts about my work. Facebook Groups are where work-related stuff happens and they tend to be siloed. Your personality doesn’t shine through like on Twitter, where my followers seem to be interested in both my work and my life. Kind of strange that’s the case, but because it’s always open and public, Twitter has different work and play feel to it missing from my Facebook wall.

Posting to Twitter daily is now part of my recipe. It’s one ingredient in the formula. But I have to add back blogging, video, and podcasting to this space. Two years ago, I created WordPress for Small Biz, which is a video blog speaking WordPress to Small Business owners. Right now, that site sits dormant, as well. I wonder if I’ll get back to it because it’s a great idea, but I have to choose my battles carefully and invest in the ones that make sense.

Lastly, not only do I have to do it to express myself and share my wisdom and valuable insights, but I also need to get far more familiar with the new block editor in WordPress. One can’t be a good WordPress consultant if you aren’t using the latest and greatest tools.

For these posts, I’m now fully embracing the block editor (I refuse to call it Gutenberg anymore as that ship has sailed) and shifting away from the Classic editor, which will force me to learn and adopt the new tools in WordPress as the platform transitions into a full-site editing suite. I recently finished two client sites and have pushed upon them the benefits of getting uncomfortable by going with the block editor and leaving the Classic editor behind.

The point I hope I’ve made in this post is, it’s easy to beat ourselves up over what we think we’re not accomplishing. It’s true – your perception is your reality. What’s true for you is only true for you at this moment. It’s not the reality for anyone else around you.

People seem to think I’m a genius and I’m amazing at what I do – that’s especially true for my wife who is my biggest fan. But I’m very hard on myself because I have goals I want to achieve and dreams I want to live out. When those things are impacted, I get frustrated and am not as patient as I should be. As a solopreneur, I only have myself to rely on. I’m responsible for my own income and when that income is impacted by interruptions in my life, I’m probably a little hard to be around.

I think being honest about that will help those who read this post identify with the same life issues I face and, at the very least, give some comfort that it’s not only you who goes through these trials and tribulations. Despite the content creators who wow us in social media and on the web with their output, all we can do is be ourselves and create what we’re capable of. If we take it one day at a time today and put in place the ingredients to our recipe, then we’ll build the framework we want not over hours and days, but months and years and that’s okay too.

Do what you can and don’t much worry about what everyone else is doing, because it’s only going to make you feel inferior. If that’s how see yourself, it’s not what others see in you. Just take it one day at a time, like I’m doing right now. Find some time somewhere and sit down and produce something. Find the success in that one thing and then start replicating it when you can. No one is monitoring you but yourself. No one is expecting you to do so but yourself and share with them your truth, so they understand and can support you when you’re feeling insecure about what you’re not accomplishing today.

I beat myself up daily about what I’m not getting done, but I have to remember that raising our son the way we do today will lead to better outcomes for him tomorrow.

Everything else can wait.

What I’m working on

  Last night I clocked out at 1 am after working on a WordPress DNS setup for Comfort Theory, trying to figure out why my Flexible SSL locks from CloudFlare aren’t fully green on my WordPress multisite network, and figuring out how to get a custom URL for another client, Youth Mission Co here in Asheville.

On my multisite, I’m getting a bunch of mixed content errors on my Digital Strategy Works domain, despite the Chrome JavaScript console showing me that all error URLs start with https! Sigh. More research needed.
Today was quite busy too. Between caring for Hudson, our 13-month old, all morning while my wife continues to work on her health, fitting in the configuration of Modern Tribes’s Event Calendar ticketing system with Woo Commerce checkout and PayPal IPN for, as well as having a late afternoon dinner with wife and son, the day is still not over.
I just launched a new coupon campaign for All In One SEO Pack Pro and cleared some social media posts tonight in Sprout Social and I still haven’t figured out my issue with my multisite. I have yet to run by another client’s restaurant, East Village Grille, to show him his new restaurant menu system I implemented using

Ah ha! I just now finished the battle with YouTube on merging two channels. Learning something new everyday! Verification was a little difficult as well, but enduring leads to success! Just gotta work the issues.

I’ll probably be in bed tonight again at 1 am.

MetroTV Reel from 2000 to 2002

15-years after my stint as Senior Producer at MetroTV in New York City, I’ve finally uploaded and posted my old reel, which features Rachel Perry, a popular TV host who started her early career at MetroTV and went on to work for many major entertainment networks. In this video, you’ll see an interview with Meres, the curator of 5ptz, a graffiti art space in Long Island City, Queens. Rachel also hosts The New York Music Rundown from the original Halcyon space on Smith Street in Brooklyn. There are also interviews with Nas, Brian McKnight, and the Roots and appearances by Groove Armada, Paul Van Dyk, Boy George, and Deep Dish. My good friend, DJ Madsol Desar was on the wheels, as well.

I really enjoyed my early stint producing television programming and probably should have stuck with it. After my layoff from MetroTV due to reduction in staff at Cablevision after 9/11, it was difficult to find a job in New York City. I ended up focusing on streaming media and worked for two big banks and MLB Advanced Media, before landing a gig developing a contextual commerce music platform for StarStyle.

This video is really a throwback and reminds me of one the best jobs I ever had in New York City. I enjoyed using my music connections to book artists on The Daily Beat or feature my friends, like DJ Madsol Desar, on one of the show. The New York Music Rundown ended up winning a Communicator Award for Best New Cable Product.

Let me know what you think of this video by leaving a comment below.

My Christmas story 2014 about a boy named Hudson

Missy & Tony with Baby Hudson
Missy & Tony with Baby Hudson

On this Christmas Day 2014, I am a father at 48-years of age.

My wife and I started trying to have kids in 2007, but we were unsuccessful. We kept at it, even trying the science route of fertility treatments for a while. The toxins in the treatments hit Missy hard. She has a hard time dealing with toxins in medication as a result of a condition related to a prior mold exposure. We decided it was time to look into adoption and sought out an agency in Raleigh, NC to help us start our search.

Since we began our search, we’ve moved a few times. In the world of adoption, with every move comes the necessity of a new home study and updated criminal background checks–county, state, and federal. The adoption process is extremely thorough and meant to weed out couples that may have colorful pasts.

After spending two months in Ecuador over the winter, we settled into our new apartment in Asheville, NC. We thought it was important to start marketing ourselves locally, so we printed out postcard size flyers and tacked them up in coffee shops and cafés around the city.  We also re-engaged on the web, updating our Facebook Open Adoption page, our website, and our agency adoption page. Those efforts paid off when we were discovered by a local adoption attorney here in Asheville, Christopher Craig (of Craig Associates). Fortuitously, Chris connected with a local birth mother who was almost to term at 8-months at an adoption workshop held at the Pack Library in the city center.

Chris set up a meeting with the birth mom and she selected us! It was then 3 short weeks attending ultrasounds and quickly getting to know her and her own parents, who were super supportive of her on this journey. On December 7 at 2:42 am, Missy was with the birth mother in the delivery room and witnessed the birth of our son. Just like that, we became parents almost overnight.

It was definitely not as simple as it sounds. There were some legal hurdles we needed to clear up between birth mom and a prior relationship, as well as an issue the hospital’s risk management department wanted us to resolve. The week of the 7th was a busy time getting those details taken care of from our tiny overnight room in the NICU at Mission Hospital, also here in Asheville. Little Hudson David Antonio Zeoli needed just a bit of extra care, because he wasn’t feeling well after the delivery. It was nothing serious. The hospital was just being cautious. That day, our lives changed forever.

It’s an odd feeling going through the adoption process. I think adoption, while common, is not necessarily top of mind for most people who can conceive. It’s a different kind of waiting. When you’re in a search for an adoptive child, it can get monotonous and it can become a seemingly never-ending journey. There’s all the calls with the agency for guidance, education, and support. Then there’s the marketing of yourselves and your story to prospective birth moms. Of course, there’s the hours of filling out paperwork and more paperwork to go through the red tape that is there for the child’s safety, but sometimes seems so redundant. Lastly, there’s the waiting for something…anything to happen. It’s hit or miss. You might connect with a birth mother who isn’t ready. Or, in some cases, you are contacted by people trying to sell babies illegally and women who aren’t pregnant with mental health issues that can’t control their behavior. You have to be able to read between the lines. If you’ve never gone through the adoption process, it is a challenge to recognize when something is real or when it’s not.

I never, ever would have thought I would be here adopting a child at this point in my life. But somehow, this is where I am. I’m doing something I never, ever thought I’d do. I’m not going to say that I was 100% on board with adoption in the first place. I wasn’t totally sold on the idea, but I went along with it, because it was important to Missy and we really did need to start our family. I’d been building a business and knew how important it was to stay engaged in and relevant in my field. Looking for a child seemed like a distant possibility. Really? Someone is going to give us their child? Just like that? OK.

It’s like waiting for that trip to Disney World your parents had promised you after they’d postponed it a few years in a row. Sure, Disney World seemed like a great place, but with each passing year it felt so far away–like it was never going to happen.  And to get there, you couldn’t go on your own. You needed someone to help you. As the waiting game commenced, there were times it just seemed like the Disney trip might never come. You began to treat waiting like it was something you wanted to look forward to, but without firm plans, you shift it back of mind, hoping for the day, but never fully investing in the idea.

Fortunately, we finally made it to the proverbial Disney World! Like all adoptions, it took some time. Weeks into months and months into years. But, now we are adoptive parents to this little amazing young man who we call, Hudson.

Our child, Hudson
Hudson David Antonio Zeoli | Born 12/7

He’s here. After all the waiting and wishing, Missy and I finally get to realize what comes a little easier to so many people I’ve known over the years who were able to have kids. Many of my friends have kids graduating from college or in the workforce. Time went by. Not so fast, but just as fast as time goes by. Tick-tock, tick-tock, and the calendar flips to the next day after the last.  Another year goes by and you wonder, “where did the time go?” You can’t really grasp what you’re not experiencing, because it’s hard to know what parenting is like unless you’re a parent.

BOOM! Now, we’re parents. Whoa! The whole world just stopped on a dime when someone said, “here you go…here’s your son.” We’ve arrived and are embracing this little man with all the love we have to give. With our hearts, minds, and spirit. We know that everyday he’s with us is a gift of immeasurable proportions. For this gift, we are incredibly grateful. It seems so surreal. We know adoptions happen everyday, but when they happen to you, it’s an experience one cannot really explain. Someone has made a plan for you to adopt their child and you begin a new journey without that same 9-months others have to plan. I’m now on my first ride at Disney World aka the “Interstellar Galactic World of the Marvelous (and Gassy) Hudson David Antonio Zeoli.” It’s just as fun now as it was back then.

I don’t much believe in Christmas miracles. I’m a pragmatist. I know Christmas is a man-made holiday that has become the most commercial holiday of them all. We make up these things to make sense of the world and create days to stop and celebrate for celebration’s sake. I know we had done the work to put ourselves in a place where we would be found, and we were. Yes, lightning does strike and people say magic does happen. I’m going to say that the universe felt the energy from our hearts and found a way for all that love to bring Hudson to us. The spirit of many warm and kind people looking out for us – all aligned for the same common purpose – to give Hudson an opportunity he might not have otherwise had out of the gate, most likely contributed to our celebration today.

Image of Tony Zeoli with his son, Hudson
Tony Zeoli & his son, Hudson

On this Christmas Day, I am so grateful for my wife and so grateful for my son. I now have a family to call my own. Something many men aspire to have, because it’s innate in all of us to procreate, sustain and propel human existence. While it did not happen naturally, it happened the way it was meant to. We were given the gift of caring for a child who did not come from us, but is now with us forever. He is us and we are him, brought together as one family unit through the love, support, and recognition of others.

While I have faith there is a higher power, I find that power one of energy connecting everyone’s worlds. If that is God in some people’s minds, then God is the one to thank for providing the energy and connective tissue to bring this story to a wonderful close.

Thank you for reading. Good night and Merry Christmas.

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