When I was in high school, I wasn’t a typical teenager. I was not a geek, not a jock (playing on the tennis team did not count), and not popular. I was a shy, socially awkward, honor roll student, who read the Wall Street Journal every day in the school library during study hall.
Fast forward ten years later (1995), and I discovered the wonders of using the Internet. Instead of having to deal with people in person, I could do everything by phone or email, so I was in heaven. But, in the many years I spent working seven days a week, 16+ hours a day online building my company and buying thousands of domains, I was never really a consumer of what was out there. I did not take advantage of everything the Web had to offer. Sure, I looked at viral videos and went to silly websites, but I was just an anonymous person visiting faceless pages. Although I owned a bunch of popular websites (such as Bored.com), I always stayed in the background of the industry, doing my own thing. Bored.com was a reflection of my personality, and I put my heart into that site, but nobody cared who created or ran it. It just was.
All that changed significantly for me though in the late 2000s. After I sold half my websites (including Bored.com) in 2008, I took more time to try to learn about what everybody else was doing. I started reading a handful of blogs each day (I currently read TechCrunch.com, Domaining.com, and JamesAltucher.com), news sites (CNN.com, TheDailyBeast.com, Digg.com, and MarketWatch.com), and entertainment sites (TMZ.com, RadarOnline.com, Facebook.com). I also started reading 10 times as many business books as I used to, mainly due to the convenience of being able to read them in e-book format on the Kindle I had just purchased (I now read them instead on my iPhone via the Kindle app).
Around that same time, I realized that it was kind of pointless for me to have a company home page, since I stopped having clients in the late 1990s, so I converted my ImpulseCorp.com website to be primarily a blog for my business. I was not sure what I was going to publish, but I figured I would come up with something. I made some interesting blog postings over the first few months (such as How I Invented A Product That Got Sold In Toy Stores and Partnerships) but it was not until I told the behind the scenes story of how I sold Bored.com that my blog started to get noticed.
Also during that time, I started writing songs. Up until age 38 I had no desire to be a songwriter, and played no musical instruments, but I happened to walk into a bookstore and see a book on sale for $8 called something like “Record Your Own Hip-Hop Song” and it even came with a microphone and software, so I bought it. Within 24 hours, I had written and recorded my first song, and soon the floodgates opened. By the end of the year I had recorded 50 songs, and now have over 100 (see MCEricB.com). I even had a minor Internet hit with Pimp My Sleigh.
I still up to this point was basically just expressing myself in new, more public ways. This year though, I have been trying to more actively become part of the overall feedback loop of life. For example, I joined a site called Criticue.com, where you view screenshots of websites and give webmasters your opinions about what you like and dislike, and any improvements you think they should make to the site. For each site you review, you get one credit towards a review of your own site. Many webmasters of the sites I reviewed messaged back to me right away with comments or questions, and some made the changes I suggested. In addition, I changed some of my own sites based on the comments I received.
I also joined an online forum for songwriters, where I critique the lyrics of songs that other songwriters post, and they review mine. For every song I post, I probably review at least 50 other songs. I have found that critiquing is like a muscle I flex, where the more I do it, the easier and stronger it gets. I like giving my opinion because I know the songwriters are eager to hear it. And, when people review my songs, it helps me improve as a songwriter.
Even more recently, I was asked by DomainInvesting.com (Elliot’s Blog) to do some guest postings, and that has been going well. It helps me reach a much wider audience. I also have become more active posting comments on articles in domain related blogs. I was even invited to be a keynote speaker at two different domain conferences, but I declined those. It was flattering, but I really like to keep things as virtual as possible. I wouldn’t have a problem with speaking to an audience of 1000 people about I topic I feel comfortable with (domains), I just don’t like to travel for business. I don’t want to be away from my wife and kids, and I don’t want to waste the time involved in preparing for it and getting there and back. I would much rather be working. This is the same reason I have never attended any industry conferences or trade shows, and the same reason I love having a home office.
Some people experience the thrill of life through extreme sports, partying, dating, gambling, and the like. I have my biggest adventures online and am fine with that. I am still the same shy, quirky kid I was in high school. But different. I am a work in progress.