Chris Garrett makes it quite clear that he’s in the “business” of blogging and new media- it’s right there on his very popular web site, ChrisG.com. And if you are ever fortunate enough to spend any time with him, it’s also quite clear he is a person who knows a LOT about those things, and is one of the most valuable learning resources in the blogosphere.
But there is more to Chris than this knowledge and business savvy. Much more. He’s a thoughtful, friendly, and caring person who genuinely wants to help people, not only by improving their web sites, but by improving the quality of their lives as well.
I recently chatted with Chris on a variety of topics, and as usual it was a fascinating discussion with tons of great insights. Let’s listen in……….
Terry: Chris, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. On your “about” page, you refer to your use of the Internet as an “addiction” that started in 1994. I’m always curious about this – what was the catalyst back then that triggered the addiction?
Chris: I started off with those old dialup modem “Bulletin Boards” (or BBS as they were called). I kind of dismissed the Internet to begin with as it had a stuffy academic reputation. There was access in a limited way through the college I worked at, but it was seen as slow and boring and all the action was on the ‘boards. In stages I started getting into the Internet via the usenet newsgroups and email, I saw it as an extension of the geeky socializing I was doing on Fidonet and the BBS stuff.
What really impacted me was my first experience of the web, I could see the possibilities. Then I got my first contact through a website I had put up. The first complete stranger who ONLY knew me via my website. That was a real revelation. I’ve never looked back!
Terry: I loved one of your most popular posts about defeating procrastination – I get the feeling that while you say that you struggle with “analysis paralysis”, you have a streak of impatience that drives you to take risks and at least do SOMETHING . How do you balance those two things in successfully moving forward with your career?
Chris: I have always believed that we progress as people by
1. Knowing our own nature, and working with or improving that.
2. Making the best of what we have been given.
3. Pushing our comfort zones.
When you look at it, what do we risk in most cases? A bit of reputation and some money. When you compare that against a surgeon, or my dad who was a fire fighter, and lives are at risk, do we really have that much to be nervous about?
So I know I am shy and an introvert, but I speak at events (like SOBCon). That meets all three requirements! We have to make things happen, lucky people are those who are prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that arise. I know I can sometimes get my wheels stuck in the mud by overthinking things so sometimes I have to take a leap of faith. My main way of dealing with things though is to partner with other people who will push me. Then I feel obligated to fulfill my end of the bargain and not get bogged down in contemplating my navel!
Terry: I share your love of a good curry, and I’ll always fondly remember our chat about Chicken Tikka Masala (which resulted in a blog post). The interesting take away we both had from that discussion was how something that is now a staple of every Indian restaurant came about from a simple request for gravy by Glasgow restaurant customer. I now think of that dish as a symbol of how individual initiative can have such a profound effect on the world. What does it mean to you?
Chris: I agree with your assessment but it also has another meaning for me, which I will try to articulate but the idea is still forming so bear with me!
When I think of Chicken Tikka Masala, I think of how the dish was already quite popular, it’s a good dish, but that sauce added something special and individual. That random, possibly drunk, restaurant customer found what was missing and it took the recipe to a whole new level! If you want to put it in context, Chicken Tikka was a commodity and the “special sauce” is what took it from being so-so to fantastic.
If we think about what we do in our daily lives, some of it can be seen as commodity, same, me-too, and what we can do to make it so much more is bring ourselves to the party. We are our special sauce! We all have something about us that is new, different, special and valuable, we just have to bring it out.
So I see it as a mission when I talk to clients to find their CTM, what is your special, spicy, delicious sauce that you can add to your commodity chicken product or service? 😉
Terry: Tell me about your partnership with Darren Rowse – your book “ProBlogger” was quite the success (it’s still ranked 2,194 on Amazon a year and-a-half after its release). How did this collaboration come about, and will you two be working again on anything else? Lastly, do you think the lessons still hold up today given the rapid evolution of other Social Media platforms?
Chris: I first “met” Darren in 2004 I think it was. We later worked together on Performancing.com (Darren contributed some early content to the site, etc), and struck up a friendship, talking on Skype and email, and so on. Darren and I were already planning to work on something when the opportunity for the book came about.
I think the reason the collaboration made sense was because we have a similar outlook but different approach. Obviously Darren is the champion of making blog income from Adsense, Chitika and so on, whereas I don’t do any of that and more make my income because I blog, not necessarily directly from my blog. It gives the reader a rounded view and opportunities to pick what resonates with them. The lessons do hold up surprisingly well, but then the core of the book is about creating something of value and being true to yourself and your audience, rather than obsessing about specific technologies and tactics.
The shocking thing for many people is it is only this year in Las Vegas of all places that we both met physically for the first time. We had a meal together in Melbourne too, which was great. Darren is one of my favorite people but I am sure he knows that already, heh. I am sure we will work on something together in future, but Darren is so busy I am not sure how much time he will have in his schedule!
Terry: Thanks again for chatting Chris – one more question: It seems like each and every time we speak we end up having a very deep and involved conversation –in your words, we’re always trying to “fix the world”. (The last one at SOBCon09 resulted in posts on my blog and yours about finding our joy and purpose in our lives). Now I bet that you are “world-fixing” more often than our all-too-infrequent conversations – what’s on your mind lately that you could share with my readers?
Chris: Funnily enough I was thinking about that just this morning!
One thing that has been on my mind on and off this year is that I decided who my mentors were and I got to meet each of them in person this year. I know some people have a formal arrangement about who mentors them, but mine didn’t know I regarded them as mentors and I have only told one of them! I did mention their names on an interview lately so maybe they know now.
Two things come to mind from this.
1. I think it is important to have mentors and to choose well. They shouldn’t just be people you can learn skills from but who show you a bigger game, an approach to life and work. People you would want to (largely) emulate.
2. The human qualities I felt these people possessed I think are sadly scarce but are the reasons for their success. Generosity, empathy, putting others needs first, standing up for things … it saddens me that many of the “gurus” that people in this industry turn to do not have these qualities. They talk about “turning the internet into your personal ATM machine”, about sucking money out of the system or peoples wallets, it’s all about take-take-take.
It’s like people have it backwards, they are thinking about what they can get rather than how they can help. Like one of your favorite songs, we only get what we give, right? Maybe the economy has been the catalyst for this, but I think we need to focus even more on providing value and about helping people. The more we help others the greater our own rewards will be, and the more fun we have.
So bottom line, pick carefully who you want to model to improve your situation, and focus on giving and helping. Bring your CTM to the table to add your own special sauce to the mix … I think that’s a nice recipe for success!