Christian Living

The upside of fear

Stupid spreadsheet.

Typically, I’m a pretty positive– upbeat — and self-confident person. I’m told I’m overly optimistic by my friends. But the past few weeks have brought about unfamiliar emotions. Negativity, melancholy, and anxiety. 

And since these are unfamiliar emotions I haven’t quite known how to respond. In situations where I’m typically chipper I’ve been quiet. In moments I typically shrug off bad news and instantly turn it into a positive I’ve been silent. I’ve been asked for ideas on things and just not had solutions where I normally have been so dependable.

It’s not that I don’t have stuff to say its that I think its time to be quiet and listen– I don’t want the wrong words to come out because of my emotional state so I just bit my tongue.

It all goes back to the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet brought out fear I’d never had before. And, like all fear, it’s illogical and stupid.

The Spreadsheet

As a small business owner my income and expenses are all captured on a master spreadsheet. This gives me a month-by-month look at my business, where my money is coming from and where it is going. (Very similar to a personal budget.) Heading into the summer my balance sheet was very strong for the rest of 2012… this summer we had some record breaking months and some projects coming this fall which could double, even triple what we made in the same months of 2011.

Then over the last few weeks I’ve had to revise some of some numbers down. At the same time I had to make these revisions we ran into a normal business cycle where I pay a lot of money out while I’m waiting for a lot of income to come in. (I call this cash poor, invoice rich.) When larger businesses hit these business cycles they take out short-term loans. But we’re small enough where we just float through these times with our savings.

But it was those normal revisions and that normal business cycle which brought out all of that funky emotional junk.

Factually speaking, the numbers aren’t even that bad. We will still make more than we need. We are totally fine. But the act of making those changes and seeing all that cash go out planted a seed of doubt in me which grew into fear. “What if the cash doesn’t come back?” “What if it gets worse?” “Why don’t I have ____ in savings for when this happens?” “Why don’t I have a line of credit at the bank in case to cover this better?” On and on and on.

This is what I know about fear: Fear will make you dumb. Fear whispers lies in your ears. Fear makes you say no to things you should say yes to and visa versa.

And all of that was true of me in August. Our last camping trip came at a perfect time. Just when I was thinking, “What am I going to do?” We went and looked at the stars and took hikes and laughed and giggled until bed time.

Those 4 days gave me the perspective I so desperately needed: We are totally fine. 

Sitting by the fire helped calm my nerves. It helped lower my anxiety. It reminded me that everything would be OK.

The Upside of Fear

Sitting in church the other day I think it all started to wash over me. Not all fear is bad. I’m afraid of what a spreadsheet says might happen in 3-4 months? Really? How could I be so stupid? Talk about a lack of perspective in light of all that I know about Our God! Talk about allowing emotions to rule over facts! Talk about putting your faith and trust in something really, really small!

Here’s my observation: The only good kind of fear is the kind which leads you to taking positive action. 

Photo credit: James Stark via Flickr (Creative Commons)
McLane Creative

Concierge Service from McLane Creative

I have a little side business called McLane Creative. After we sold YMX in 2008, I needed a category for some of the other stuff I was doing. (Small design projects, consulting, writing stuff, etc.) I figured that if I named it after myself I could never sell it!

For years I’ve had 3-4 people per month approach me about helping them with their blog. Generally, these are friends of mine in ministry who want to have a web presence but don’t really know how to get started. Generally, these are people with a or Blogger blog who want to move to a WordPress self-hosted blog with a custom look/feel.

But the reality is that most youth workers don’t have the $1500 minimum I need to make it worth my while. Which meant that every month for the last several years I’ve had to tell a friend who needs help with their blog that I just couldn’t do it for what they could afford.

Finally, about a month ago, I had an epiphany. If I could just separate the roles, I could put together a standard package to help my friends in ministry out at a price they can afford and also help out some of my freelancing friends. That’s how we got to the Concierge Service.

What is it?

It’s a flat fee service that migrates your blog from or Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress blog on your own hosting package so you have full control and can grow your blog/brand/small business. We’ll do all the work, we’ll customize a WordPress theme of your choosing, and we’ll spend an hour with you teaching you how to use everything, answering your questions, and training you how to maintain the site for yourself.

How much does it cost and how do I get started?

I’m still nailing down the details, but I anticipate starting this in June 2011 and the cost will be between $475-$625.

Want to learn more?

I’ve written a more detailed explanation here. And if you are interested in this service let me know.

And, of course, if you just think I’m nuts, leave a comment.

Web/Tech Weblogs

Reminder: Back-up your blog

This morning I woke up and my blog was down. With more than 6 years of content here that is scary.

It was a healthy reminder to me that it was time to back-up my blog. (After fixing some corrupt tables)

This is your reminder: If you haven’t backed-up your self-hosted WordPress blog lately, you need to do it.

Don’t know how?

No problem! I wrote a tutorial for you over on the McLane Creative blog.

McLane Creative

Common things I say as a creative

I love naiveté. Not being sarcastic– for reals. For a lot of ministry folks I am the first creative person they’ve tried to hire.

Here are things you may hear me say when I talk to a prospective McLane Creative client:

Yes, I will help you if I have time. No, the best stuff in life is actually not free. Yes, I will charge you even if you are in ministry. No, I don’t discount because you are in ministry… so am I. Yes, there is a difference between being available and free. No, my job isn’t to do everything for you, it’s to give you ideas. No, I will not do a proposal since you called me. Yes, I will give you an estimate for free. No, you won’t get anything from me until you pay 50% down. No, I do not believe the concept that  there are no new ideas under the sun… otherwise you wouldn’t have called me. No, I don’t understand why you think it’s OK to ask me for ideas for free. If you are going to get paid for my ideas, shouldn’t I be able to get paid to? Yes, you can call me back after you think about it.

That said– McLane Creative is growing! I now have  Adam 2.0 on my team. (aka Dave Luke Design) If you are looking for a WordPress solution for your own blog or your organization, average projects are $750 – $2000, contact me.

Here’s our latest work: The Marin Foundation (Two more sites about to launch)

social media Web/Tech

Two quick updates from McLane Creative

A fun outlet for me is building WordPress sites, consulting, and social media campaigns at McLane Creative. Since it’s a creative outlet I tend to be pretty picky with who I work with. Here are three quick slogans I use to describe my work there:

  • Guaranteed to be on budget and past deadline.
  • I tend to chose you more than you chose me.
  • I pick projects that matter to me, regardless of budget.

Interestingly, this tiny business has continued to grow through 2009-2010. And with marketing slogans like that… how could it not?

I’ve fallen into a pace where 7-8 projects per years is just about right. Any more or less and it’s just not worth it.

Two quick structural updates:

  1. I’ve moved all of my hosting from Bluehost to 6sync. More importantly, I’ve moved from a shared hosting environment which lead to some unexplained downtime and nasty malware, to a VPS environment where I’m much more in control. More on this move.
  2. I installed a client collaboration tool. The way MC works is that I build a custom team of freelancers for each project. This is an ultra efficient model of web development for the client… but the pitfall is that it requires that I manage a bunch of people working together for the first time over and over again. The new client area (powered by Collabtive) centralizes the teams communication with the client. More on this move.
family Weblogs

Kristen is Blogging Again

Yup, Kristen has got her blog going again. I know she plans on talking more about our families shift to an organic lifestyle, gardening, shell hunting, and fun stuff for our kids.

Kristen was a pretty successful mom-blogger when that fad was hot. She got burnt out with all the free product people sent us to review so I think she’s going to avoid that this time around.

She and I sat down yesterday  to talk about a new look for her blog… let me know what you think. We were looking to create something fresh, open, and elegant. (Yes, the shell is one she found in a neighborhood in Haiti. Only Kristen could find a shell in a path a mile from the ocean amidst all that garbage!)


WordPress 3.0

Any time any type of software goes from one version number to the next, it is significant. WordPress 3.0 brings a few interesting highlights.

  • Theme improvements. (You’ll get better themes as a result)
  • Menu improvements. (Made it easier to add dropdowns)
  • Multi-user, multi-blog administration built in
  • Some cool dashboard improvements, highlighted in the video. Now I can make WordPress act more like a CMS.
  • Even easier to update WordPress software and plug-ins
  • McLane Creative customers: You shouldn’t have any problems with the upgrade. All of the templates/sites I have out there are compliant and should upgrade just fine. To upgrade, open up your dashboard and click the “Upgrade to WordPress 3.0” link at the top of the screen.

    If there are any problems, let me know.

    If you have a WordPress stand-alone blog, I highly suggest upgrading immediately. With more than 1200 bug fixes, there is bound to be a security issue in there you’ll want cleaned up.

    social media

    Some McLane Creative Jives

    There’s a lot going on with the funkier side of my life. That is, the fun projects I take on to fill my waking moments and force me to learn new skillz about all things design, social media, and WordPress.

    Here’s the last three:

    San Diego Spiritual Directors Association | WordPress theme | WordPress theme w/custom landing page which we’ll continue to morph

    Youth Ministry Advance Team: Haiti | Social media strategy & branding

    What’s next? I have a couple more smallish projects that will wrap-up by the end of May. Beyond that? I’m open. I’ve learned that although there are way more people looking for WordPress design, social media strategy, and other design stuff… I need to be picky. If I’m not energized by a project than I just have no enthusiasm to do it. Since this is what I’m doing as a hobby– I’m not tempted to do projects I don’t give a hoot about.

    In general, McLane Creative (it’s not just me, I’ve got friends who I sub-contract with) can handle 2-3 projects per month. Any more than that and it stops being fun.

    If you’re looking for someone to do a WordPress theme or do some general web design or talk social media strategy, head over to my contact page and we can chat.

    Just a note: I love helping people fix their broken WordPress blogs. If you regularly bust your blog and want my occasional help, I’m happy to put you on an annual retainer. (aka My kids college fund)

    social media

    McLane Creative

    McLane Creative

    If you pay close attention, you may see a links to on some websites. What is that all about?

    Essentially, McLane Creative is for stuff I do outside of my work at Youth Specialties. Sometimes there may be a project I want to experiment with that has nothing to do with my full-time gig, so I fly those things under that banner. Those are personal projects… stuff I play with when I’m bored.

    But I also do some projects for people under the McLane Creative name. Up until this point I’ve kept those projects very small, kept closely within my network of friends, and kept my involvement in them below the radar. The simple truth is that for every project I had time to work on I was saying no to about 20 inquiries.

    As an entrepreneur– this drove me nuts! There are so many great ideas out there and it is super annoying to have to say no to 95% of them. (And about 99% of my own) I simply don’t have the time/energy to do more than what I’m already doing… but there must be a third option.

    That third option was such a simple solution. Why didn’t I think of this before? I’ll keep doing the 5% of projects completely on my own. But I’ll also start saying yes to more projects I’m passionate about, just won’t do 100% of the work myself. Instead, I’ll work with my network of existing friends who are all themselves brilliantly creative. In football terms, my role with McLane Creative will be primarily to distribute the ball. (Unlike in the NFL, this will be a fair trade deal. I don’t believe in hiring coders in Eastern Europe or Asia, you need to ask about that these days when hiring creatives.)

    So these are the 4 types of things I’m now open to under the banner of McLane Creative: (*super-important disclaimer below)

    • Web design/development/implementation
    • Social media and online marketing consulting
    • Full-on marketing campaigns (print, video, web)
    • Speaking, staff training, one-on-one nerd coaching, writing

    Last, it’s probably good to say up-front that I don’t work for free. (I do a fair amount of pro bono work, but I pick those projects on my own for my own reasons.) Since I pick only projects I am passionate about, my rates tend to reflect that passion. But free? No can do. Barter? I do like tacos. I’m looking for a country club to exchange a free membership for web design!

    Want to know more? Hit the feedback button on the side of my blog or head over to the website and contact me.

    *Super-important Disclaimer. I’m not starting a business in any way, shape, or form! I’ve got a job that I love enough to call two full-time jobs already. The only way I can say yes to more is to hand most of it off. Nor will I consider any project, even one that I’d hand off to a friend, which competes with Youth Specialties/YouthWorks in my opinion.