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Stop Crying Over Spilled Milk (Especially if You Haven’t Actually Spilled Any!)

My years of being called “Mommy” are long past. At the ripe old age of 44, I am looking forward to the birth of my sixth grandchild any time now. Over time, I have learned many lessons on being a parent… many are things you younger Moms have yet to even imagine. I have often thought of writing to each of you, hoping to impart wisdom and help make your own journeys a bit easier. Something always held me back, though: what makes me so arrogant to believe that anything I learned or have to say will be of any value at all in the face of today’s challenges? I sat back and commented on articles whenever I could find words to convey something uplifting and otherwise held myself in check – until today. My own “baby,” herself a Mommy to the most amazing little two-year-old boy on the planet with her daughter due very soon posted an adorable photo on Instagram that hit my Facebook feed. As I grinned that special goofy Nana grin, the smile faded as I read her caption: “Please excuse the explosion of toys…”

Enough, y’all. My daughter is by far not the only Mommy I see apologizing all over social media for something or another. Do you have any idea how many photos and videos my daughters have convinced me NOT to share of my babies because they felt their house was too much of a disaster to be posted on social media? I mean, seriously – God forbid the rest of the world see that you cannot eat off their floors every moment of every day. I have had it, Moms everywhere! YOU should have had enough of this, as well.

WHY are you continually apologizing if there are toys or a few outfits in the background of an otherwise great photo? Who cares if nothing else in that picture of your little one is not perfect? You are choosing not to share that moment with the rest of us – your friends and family who adore you and that precious face in the photo – because of some weird insecurity. Guess what? NO ONE GIVES A CRAP!

Stop it. Stop apologizing because your little one is not perfectly put together. Stop saying you are sorry when there are toys on the floor, a basket of unfolded clothes off to the side or even a complete disaster in the living room. We get it. You have a child – or several of them. I replied to my daughter’s comment today by saying: “why would you be ashamed of this? There are no dirty dishes or rotten food lying about. There is not trash piled high. Your baby boy is not surrounded by filth. You should be happy and proud that you have a happy, healthy and well-adjusted toddler who loves to play. Yes – you cleaned twenty minutes ago and those toys are already everywhere again. Camden chooses to live life out loud… and boy oh boy is he loud at times. Too many children cannot do the same. So many live in that filth you somehow have come to perceive that is in the background of your photo. Suck it up, buttercup. Until those little ones are long gone from your home, it will NEVER BE COMPLETELY CLEAN for long. When the day comes that it finally is, I promise you will shed a tear and wish that mess back.”

My own apartment is stupid clean as I look around. It even smells clean. Four of my grandbabies are out in Connecticut while I live here in Indiana where I grew up. I see them four times a year and it crushes me heart when I’m not with them. Their momma actually apologizes to me when I FINALLY get there after months apart if their home is not spotless. WHAT?! I don’t give a crap about any of that. The only thing that matters to me during those precious three weeks is soaking up every single moment – every hug, every kiss and all of the moments that I can store until the next time. Leave the stupid dishes in the sink until tomorrow and spend time with me once the kids are asleep, my girl, because you and I don’t get to see each other often enough. Laundry can wait until then, as well. I will even help you do it! Let’s just sit here and enjoy a glass of wine and laugh about every silly thing those amazing kids have done today. I miss you, my beautiful and amazing oldest girl, so much that it hurts me every day. I am proud of you – the Mommy you are and the way you are raising those babies. I’m NOT proud that you think you have to be perfect. I hope I did not teach you that. If it is a product of our “times,” then our times frankly suck.

To my youngest – I know how exhausted you are. We live less than fifteen minutes apart and yet I rarely see you. You have been working full time, going to college full time and managing a two-year-old who is all boy while being pregnant. Why did you apologize for his toys being in that hilarious picture of him with his silly new pose for the camera? Do you really think I – or anyone else who loves you both – would have even noticed if you had not mentioned it?

I would give anything to have a mess in this too-quiet apartment right now. It would mean that my family is around me, living life loudly WITH ME – the way it was meant to be.

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What Happens To Your Outdated Social Profiles?

XangaMy friend Drew Olanoff got me thinking with a recent Tweet about Photobucket. I replied to him with something snarky and then put “note to self: find and delete old PB account.” I shuddered when I thought about the pictures languishing there. Thankfully, y’all will never find it. I used an email address and username from years before I started working in social media, and have never used those since for anything. Whew! But still… now that I remember they’re there, I really don’t want them there.

Social sites come and social sites go. There are a few that will dig in for the long haul such as Facebook and Twitter. We once thought that about MySpace. Oh and Xanga. Remember that place? I’m willing to bet your old profile is still there. And the dumb photos you’d rather no one see these days. Let’s not forget the status messages about your ex – the one you’re hoping your current love never sees.

You’ve forgotten about those accounts, haven’t you? I did and I KNOW better. As more and more of these types of web spaces open up on a daily basis, it’s something we need to think about. How often have you signed up for a hot new site, filled in a profile complete with pictures and information and then quickly moved on to the next shiny new toy? That stuff doesn’t get deleted except in the rare case the site actually closes. Go ahead – I’ll wait while you go confirm that your old MySpace and Xanga pages are still there.

When the announcement came a little while ago about the “new” new MySpace, I went into full panic mode. I knew everyone would go log in or create new profiles to check it out. I remembered what my profile looked like and nearly threw up. It was full of blinky stuff, lovey-dovey quotes, messages to my ex and pictures of the two of us. I don’t want to remember that stuff let alone have to have anyone see it. It took me about ten minutes to get in – I had no clue which old password and email I had used. Finally – I was able to delete most of it and clean it up. That process took a while, admittedly, but was worth it.

So what should we do? It’s simple. We’re all still going to join new sites and create profiles. I recommend keeping them very basic at first unless you become a heavy user. That way if you never log in again you have nothing to worry about in the future. Additionally, let’s say a Facebook killer DOES come along one day and you decide you’re going to make “the switch.” Take the time to clean up anything on the old site you wouldn’t want someone to see in five years. Download your data/photos/etc on sites that allow it. Delete anything that could somehow incriminate or embarrass you later in life.

It may seem like a pain to have to do these things, but how will you feel when you run for President one day and some lame reporter digs up your long-forgotten drunken toga party pics on MySpace?

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Stop Selling and Get Social

This morning started out no differently than any other. I showered and dressed, straightened up our apartment and decided what to cook for dinner. I then fired up the computer and headed out to the porch with my iPhone to enjoy the last (likely) warm day of this year for a few moments. I scanned Twitter and Facebook, seeing the same old same old posted everywhere. I’m so used to this that I didn’t realize how BAD my streams have gotten… until I looked at a beautiful photograph my good friend Dave Delaney had posted of him and his son. It was in that moment that I remembered what the hell social media is for.

We all have become so good at marketing ourselves, our companies or our clients on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter that we have forgotten to be social. We aren’t sharing our lives. We aren’t talking to each other. We’re too busy competing for the most clicks, favorites and Likes. We crave those almighty shares and will do whatever it takes to get them. You bet your ass social marketing is a glorious thing. I won’t bother to deny it. I get paid to leverage my clients in these spaces, just like you do.

It saddens me, though, that we no longer truly socialize with each other. I’m not talking about the damn checkins from Foursquare telling the world what you’re eating for lunch or which movie you’ll be attending. I want to know what you think. How do you feel about relevant issues? I want you to stop blindly reTweeting links to an article you enjoyed and instead tell me WHY you liked it. What’s your take on those written words? How would you have written the story differently?

When all of these thoughts collided in my blonde little head, I spent an hour going through Tweets and Facebook posts. I calculated approximately 95% of what I saw fell into one of three categories:

  • Links to articles (this includes re-sharing) with zero commentary, follow-up or original thoughts added.
  • Quick messages telling me to buy your book/service/product – most of which didn’t bother to tell me WHY I should want to do this.
  • Missives begging me to look at this metric or that report.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of talking about ROI. I don’t want to hear any more about metrics. I don’t give a flying fig what your “numbers” are, honestly. I want you to talk to me – and this includes companies and brands. Even a company can have a conversation. People will appreciate you answering their questions and asking some of your own to facilitate discussion MUCH more than they’ll appreciate yet another link to yet another sale. I promise.

Don’t you remember the days where building relationships and trust was the most important thing you could do in the social space? Do you all honestly believe that turning into some link-posting robot is going to build anything? All you’re doing is making people want to tune you out. I’m just as guilty, but I’m vowing here and now to change that.

I want to talk to you. I want to get to know you. I want to understand WHY you think the way you do. I want you to explain to me how your company/product/service can help me – WITHOUT throwing statistics or metrics at me. What was your vision when you started? Why did you decide to do what you’re doing? Where do you plan to go from here?

Social media sites are boring these days, y’all. I dare you to look at your own streams through critical eyes and tell me you aren’t seeing the same thing. I wondered briefly if I’m just following all of the wrong people. It’s definitely not that: I have cultivated a pretty awesome list of friends on all of my social networks. You’re all different – and that’s what I love about each and every one of you.

Here’s my challenge to you: I DARE you to stop selling and be social – even for half an hour. Don’t post a single link to yourself, your product or your service. Don’t talk about metrics or numbers or tools. Telling people their business will never thrive without you is not allowed, either. Instead, I want you to just TALK TO PEOPLE. Ask them questions. Answer theirs. Open a discussion about something (NOT POLITICS!!) that is important to you. Find out how others feel.

Building this type of relationship is going to be far more valuable to you than anything else you will do this week… this month… or this year.

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Social Gaming Should NOT be in Your Media Plan

Oy Vey. I read an article earlier that made my mouth hit the floor. I’m pretty sure I whispered an expletive or three. The author lists seven reasons why your brand “must” incorporate some type of social game in order to attract and keep a community of followers. Unfortunately, I’m not joking.

Before you start yelling at me, I already understand the damn statistics:

  • 600 million users play games on Facebook. 50% of the U.S. population between the ages of 18 to 44 does so on a daily basis.
  • Ads shown inside of these games are delivered during breaks in the game. This means your ad will be seen pretty much every single time.
  • Mobile is the growth of social gaming! Yep, I know… I play AngryBirds too. Apparently, the author is convinced this will extend the penetration and reach of your campaign.

While I cannot argue with those facts, the part of the article I take offense to is this:

Social gaming produces positive emotions, stronger social relationships and a sense of achievement among users that your brand can take part in. As a result, consumers associate these good emotions with your messaging.

WRONG! There is something that produces positive emotions and stronger social relationships, and I guarantee it isn’t some damn game. It’s human interaction. Stop being lazy by letting a game do the work for you. Get out there in the trenches and cultivate those relationships. TALK TO PEOPLE. Stop worrying so much about ROI and metrics and all that other crap that self-titled “gurus” spout the need to worry about. Get back to focusing on the people themselves and watch what happens.

I absolutely hate that social media is turning into nothing more than a giant marketing tool. There’s a right and a wrong way to build a loyal and happy community around your brand. Throwing links at them, promising special sales or giving them a game to waste time with a couple of times are all very wrong. Asking people how they are, finding out who they are and figuring out a way to truly ENGAGE them is what is right.

A Community Manager isn’t someone who pushes out a bunch of rah-rah about your brand and then sits back and promises to make things right when something goes wrong. A Community Manager is right there IN the community… talking to people… getting to know them… making them truly feel connected to what you are doing. When this happens, all of that ROI mumbo-jumbo will naturally happen all by itself. Pinky promise.


Why Do You Need a Virtual Assistant?

Let’s face it: there simply are not enough hours in the day for you to get everything accomplished. It doesn’t matter how organized you are nor how many lists you make – things happen. Calls and emails come in. Clients need something urgently. Your child has a doctor’s appointment and your significant other is out of town. You have a speaking engagement this evening, but another client absolutely needs that proposal written up before morning. Your hair is turning grey right before your eyes, wrinkles are showing up on your forehead and you are tired. You look in the mirror at night and ask yourself how in the hell you’re going to get through the next day.

Does this sound even remotely like you? I’m willing to bet that many of you are now nodding your head in agreement. I understand that you don’t feel you can give up control of portions of your work. It’s difficult. How can you be sure it will be done correctly? What if you pay the assistant and they just decide not to complete the task? Isn’t it easier just to do it yourself – somehow – even at the cost of your health and personal life? How will you even find the time to tell a VA what it is you need to have done and give them the necessary access, tools and information to help you?

Trust me. I understand. One of the first things many of my clients have told me is “I KNOW I need help – but I don’t know how/where/why.” I take the time to really talk with them. We go over various things they’re working on and discuss areas where I may be able to help lighten the load. We work together to figure out the best course of action. At first, it’s a difficult transition for some people. There are those who want to speak with me umpteen times each day at first, making sure that I’m on top of things. I never turn away a request to talk and am very open about what I’m doing, how I’m handling things and why things are going the way they are every step of the way.

Another type of client may drop the ball on communication. They’ll ask me to do a project for them – and then get too busy to answer any questions. I cannot possibly redo your website without input from you. I can’t fix the nightmare that is your Inbox unless you give me at least a little bit of guidance as to what you want to focus on and what can be set aside or unsubscribed from.

Most of the time, though, I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing people. We discuss a task, I get it done quickly and perfectly and they ride off into the sunset happily. Many times, they come back when they need something else done. Several of them have kindly passed along other opportunities and connections.

Your life and your work are busy – there is no doubt about that. I can help you become more successful by doing some of the “grunt” work that you just don’t have time for – yet which is necessary to be completed – leaving you to focus on the larger picture. I’m always open to tailoring a package which works for both of us, whether you’re needing help with one project or someone to help out on a regular basis.

Let me help you grow your business while leaving time for you to actually have a life. That, my friends, is what it’s all about anyway.

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Community Management: Marketing or Customer Service?

Let me preface this post by explaining just a little of my background. I am not a snob – but I do have very set opinions of what a Community Manager is and does. I began my CM career as a volunteer moderator for a wedding website forum back in 1999. I quickly moved up to Administrator there, and helped manage a very robust site with more than 50,000 active women. From there, I branched out over the years into working as a volunteer moderator/administrator on many large computer help forums, sports-related forums and more. I even helped run a few IRC networks in my day. All of these things translated into a paying job in 2007 when I went to work as the Community Manager for Chris Pirillo. There again, I dealt with people – not products.

Earlier today, I happened across a job posting on Twitter for a Community Manager with a company I very much respect. I clicked through to the listing to check it out and was actually angry to see that they had listed the job under “Marketing” – two categories below the people they needed to hire in “Customer Service.” Wait, what? Since when did managing a community evolve from working with people into pushing a damn product or service? Say I’m behind the times all you want, but I think this is a travesty to the profession… not an evolution as some claim.

A Marketer deals with marketing products or services. A PR person deals with public relations. A Community Manager deals with people. Period. End of story. Managing a community isn’t supposed to be about trying to convince a group of people to buy whatever it is you’re selling. It’s about breathing life into them – connecting them to each other and giving them the platform and tools to change the world. Your company may be what brought them together, but do you really think they’re only going to stick around because you sell the best gadget for the lowest price? They want interaction. They want direction. They want to become a true community.

Many of you are going to argue that the role of the CM is changing to include marketing and brand evangelism. There again – I disagree. A Community Manager works with the people – talking to them, listening to them, interacting with them and helping to evolve and grow the hamlet. A Brand Evangelist is something completely different. These people are the cheerleaders for the company itself and the things being sold. They deal with customers, yes… in order to facilitate sales and keep them happy with product.

Can a single person do both things at once? Absolutely! However, slapping the title of Community Manager on a job description stating you want someone to help you sell yourself is just not cool. Call it what it is folks – a Marketer, a PR person or even a Brand Evangelist. If you want someone to work with people in order to help build a true COMMUNITY – then we can talk.


How Should Celebrities be Using Social Media?

We all know that celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher have taken to social media sites in a very big way over the past year. We see stars coming from all industries carrying millions of fans and followers. Many of these people interact on a regular basis, sharing their lives with us just like anyone else would. However, some of the VIPs have begun to turn over the handling of their accounts to marketing and PR companies. I’m not so sure this is a great idea.

I’m going to pick on Ashton for a few moments to illustrate an important point. We’ve all heard stories of his big Twitter oopsie. The man received a lot of flak over saying something he felt was right at the time. OMG… he made a mistake. So what? I’m willing to wager every single one of us has – at some point – Tweeted out something we later wish we hadn’t. Do we hire a PR person to write on our behalf? Of course we don’t. We may apologize or even pretend it never happened, but we continue on as before. We’re human after all. We screw up. We learn from our mistakes and we keep going.

Ashton’s blooper wasn’t the Tweet itself. His flub was in giving up on himself. He still has a bajillion followers, but how many bother to follow the stream now? They know the words aren’t coming from Kutcher. Mr. celebrity is no longer sharing his life – someone else is simply sharing his work. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather find out what he thinks about current topics, how he feels about the world around him and what his plans are for the future. I don’t give a rat’s patootie when his next appearance is. I wanted to understand and know Ashton as a PERSON – not as some Hollywood icon.

So what should these stars do? They have to be real. They shouldn’t have some mouthpiece sending out missives for them. Why can’t more of them embrace social media like WWE star Shawn Michaels does? Shawn talks WITH people – he doesn’t talk AT them. He interacts. He answers questions. He lets us into his life – good and bad. Sure, he may talk about his upcoming adventures in showbiz occasionally, but more often you’ll find him discussing his latest hunting trip or something fun he did with his kids. That, my friends, is a perfect example of a superstar getting social media absolutely right.

I’m sick to death of the PR people taking over Twitter, and it’s time the hotshots themselves take it back. Social media marketing is powerful, yes. It’s a great way for musicians, actors, sports bigwigs and writers to promote themselves, yes. But they need to learn to just hang out and BE THERE, instead of only trying to sell us – well – themselves.

Talk to us, folks… I guarantee we’ll love you a lot more (and buy more of your stuff!!) once you do.

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Does Social Media Make us Even More Intolerant?

The world is full of hate and bigotry. Intolerance is so thick in the atmosphere that it’s a wonder any Oxygen can get through to us. We bash those with religious beliefs different than our own. Anyone whose sexual preference doesn’t quite mesh with what we feel is right is turned into an object of loathing. There are people who judge others based on everything from the color of their skin to their IQ number to their gender. No one is ever satisfied. Nothing is ever quite good enough. As I grew up, my momma would say with a sigh that “someday” when I was an adult, people would learn to accept each other. I guess at the age of forty I’m pretty grown up now – yet I don’t see that things are better. In fact, I often wonder lately if social media is making us even more intolerant towards others.

The anonymity of the Internet has been blamed for people who like to troll or bully others for quite some time. Extend that just a tiny bit, and allow yourself to notice how much hatred is spewed across the Internet every day – often in the form of supposed jokes. Haters spew their filth on several different mediums all at once. Ignorance definitely isn’t bliss – it’s dangerous. Those who are ignorant of others’ way of life tend to be fearful of the unknown. That turns into hatred and condemnation – and even more intolerance. My brain spins just thinking about all of the racial, sexual, gender and religious slurs I read on a daily basis. It’s insane.

Tolerance will never happen until ALL of those who preach about it actually begin to practice it.

The biggest problem I see are the posers who don’t practice what they freaking preach. Day in and day out, I see someone on Twitter or Facebook get onto a soapbox, going on and on about how our President should not be judged because of the color of his skin. That same person then turns around a few hours later and goes off on a tangent about “those disgusting gay people who should burn in Hell.” Don’t even get me started on their posts the next day: one moment preaching about how Christianity is the only true religion and then turning around to crack jokes about rape. Seriously? I could have sworn that Christianity teaches tolerance, acceptance and love – for EVERYONE. That’s a subject for a different post, though.

Just as social media sites have made it easier for us to connect with others in a positive way, they have made it easier for the human race to tear each other down. It takes ten seconds to type out a Tweet or Wall post – and a lifetime to erase the pain that your words could cause. Think before you post. Stop hiding behind a keyboard and take ONE moment to decide if you are one of those contributing to the ball of antipathy surrounding our lives. If so – do the rest of us a favor and just knock it off already.

When exactly are we going to stop hating each other for our differences and instead embrace each other because of those aberrations? Sadly, I don’t think it will be in my lifetime.


Whitney Houston’s Death Brings Social Media Together in Record Time

I just happened to be staring at my Twitter stream at the very moment the AP broke the news of Whitney’s death. I fully admit to being a huge fan – and to having tears rolling down my face as I read the news and quickly pulled together a YouTube playlist. Such a tragic loss of an astounding talent. I’m not going to begin to speculate on the cause of death. Was it drug-related? It’s possible, yes, but does that really even matter at this point? As I continued to refresh my various social streams, I noticed the Trending Topics on Twitter changing quickly to reflect the loss and had to blink a few times to make sure I was seeing correctly.

Exactly seventeen minutes after news of her death broke, something Whitney-related carried all ten of the TTs. I don’t know if anyone has kept track of these things – but that has to be a record – or damn close to one. Within a a few hours, the passing of both Steve Jobs and Michael Jackson held this “honor.” But again – within a few hours. We’re talking seventeen minutes here, folks. I watched and I counted and I verified. That’s astounding.

The grief is overwhelming on every social network I’m a part of. One good friend – the beautiful and talented activist Steph Rudat summed up many feelings we all share right now when she Tweeted simply that “Whitney’s music was the soundtrack of my life.” Rosie O’Donnell admitted to being overwhelmed and unable to even put her feelings into words. People who didn’t like her music are Tweeting and Facebooking about her. Every major blog and news source is vying to get articles out faster than anyone else – before we even know a cause or place of death.

Another friend sent me a tongue-in-cheek picture, proclaiming today as the day I personally broke major national news before his Australian news source. I sent my Tweet about three seconds after the AP sent theirs – and theirs was the first of millions. I don’t care about being first. But I care about social media and networks, and it’s making my jaw hit the floor to watch this unfold right before my eyes.

Rest in peace, Whitney. Your too-short life was filled with some awful things, yes, but your talent and music rose above it all. You truly were one of the greatest divas of all time – and your voice will never be forgotten. I hope you have now found the comfort and joy that you so craved during your time on Earth.


Social Media is No Longer Social

For the first time in several weeks, I sat watching my Twitter stream and attempting to interact with others. Between health issues and moving, I simply hadn’t had the time to spend being social. It turns out that the break was crucial for me. Coming back, I’m noticing something that is very troubling – social media is no longer social. Tweet after Tweet flew past my radar, with about 90% of the missives being full of everything BUT true engagement.

When was the last time you actually paid attention to the things being posted in your social streams? How many of those messages contain links? The more self-promotion I saw, the more distressed I became. I began to understand that we are all treating Twitter, Facebook and even Google+ as nothing more than a vehicle to our own success. Of course that’s important… I’d never deny that. However, I am convinced many of you are doing it completely wrong.

You’re talking TO people instead of WITH them. Where did social go? When did we stop having conversations? Don’t give me that baloney about Twitter not being conducive to carrying on a dialogue. 140 characters is more than enough to enable you to make someone feel as though you care about them, who they are and what they’re doing. Drawing people in and making them a part of what you’re up to is the biggest key to being successful that I can think of. It doesn’t matter what type of business you’re in. The fact remains that you better damn well be talking with people or you’re getting nowhere fast.

When was the last time you took the time to not just respond to @ messages or questions and actually went looking for things to discuss? Click on profiles of people in your community. Take the time to read what they are talking about and join in their conversation. Who cares if they don’t happen to be discussing your brand at that particular moment? By integrating yourself into THEIR world, you’re seriously upping the chance that they will want to be a part of yours.

We hear talk all day long about building brand loyalty. There are many ways to do this, of course. You have to have a solid product. Keep your prices reasonable. Have a great return/replacement policy. All of these things are pieces of the puzzle. I’m here to tell you that true interaction with your audience is the single most effective way to build their trust and earn their devotion. I promise.

Additionally, can anyone show me where the rule is written that says everything you must put onto a social network must in some way deal with your brand or business? I’m definitely not telling you to share your lunch menu with the world, but it is a pretty darn good idea to show all of us that you’re human, too. Occasionally opening up conversations about your interests, frustrations and goals outside of your business is another great way to get people interested. It shows them that you’re no different than they are, and gives them another way to make a connection with you – which again translates into someone who will remember you when they need your service or product.

I have never claimed to be any type of expert, guru or rockstar. In fact, I loathe those titles. I’m simply a girl who has spent more than twelve years working with large communities online – beginning long before Twitter or Facebook showed up. I’ve spent thousands upon thousands of hours TALKING WITH PEOPLE, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. I can not and will not promise you that I can get you more followers, raise your profits or fill your head with some mythical ROI. What I can guarantee you is that if you make yourself SOCIAL in the truest sense of the word, you’re going to get a lot further than if you keep doing things the way you are.