Year 2 In Review
Liam and Tara review the past year of the Hallway Chats podcast, discuss their views about success, share advice and announce plans for year 3.
Tara on Twitter | @taraclaeys
Tara’s pronouns | She/Her
Liam on Twitter | @liamdempsey
Liam’s pronouns | He/Him
Tara: This is Hallway Chats, where we meet people who use WordPress.
Liam: We ask questions, and our guests share their stories, ideas, and perspectives.
Tara: And now the conversation begins. This is episode 104.
Liam: Welcome to Hallway Chats. I’m Liam Dempsey.
Liam: And I’m Tara Claeys. Today, we’re going to do something a little bit different because this is our 104th episode, which means it is our first episode of our third year of doing this podcast because we post every week. We wanted to review as we did last year, review what we’ve done and talk about some of our favorite moments perhaps and what our plans are for the future and interview each other. So here we are with episode 104.
Liam: Three years, Tara Claeys. Three years.
Tara: Already year three, it’s gone by really fast.
Liam: It has. It has. Can I ask you a question?
Tara: Yes, that’s what we’re here for.
Liam: Did you think when we were first starting to talk back in January of 2017 that we would roll in year three?
Tara: No, only because I didn’t think that far ahead. I guess you got to take some of these things one step at a time, and you keep doing it for as long as you can, or as long as you want to, which is what we’ve agreed to do on a year by year basis. So I guess since we’re starting year three, we can start by saying we are going to continue for another year, right?
Liam: Yes. Yes, we are. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, we’re going to continue for another year. I think that’s one of the things I really liked about our approach among other things, is that we take it in stages – where are you at with life this year, do you want to do it next year one more time, rather than some kind of indefinite commitment, or “this is our ride to the top, or probably our ride to the bottom.”
It’s just let’s keep doing it while we’re having fun, while people seem to be enjoying it, while our guests are enjoying it, while our audience seems to be getting value out of it. Let’s just keep it going. That’s been a lot of fun.
Tara: How about you? Did you imagine that we would still be doing this at this point when we started?
Liam: I think my answer is going to be similar to yours. That I had learned from years of running chickenmonkeydog, kind of a silly, quirky blog that I started with my brother. We eventually had a whole number of writers and for probably the better part of at least several years, we were publishing five days a week, 52 weeks a year. And it was great, and it was fun, and it was really valuable in terms of learning to be creative, or at least productive on-demand.
But when we got to the point where life prevented that from happening, because we didn’t really say, “Hey, let’s commit to this until we can’t,” there was a lot of maybe inner turmoil or an angst on my part. Not that I lost sleep, but it just, “I really should be doing it, I really should be doing it.” And I feel by approaching Hallway Chats with a “let’s give it a year and see, let’s give it a year and see, let’s give it a year and see,” it takes that burden away and really just makes it so that we can assess it as a labor of love. And as long as it is one, we keep going.
Tara: I’m going to say this, and I don’t want it to sound like it probably will, but we set low or no expectations, which makes it easy and fun because we’re not trying to hit a goal, there’s no bar that we’re trying to reach. We’re doing this because it’s a labor of love as you said because we enjoy it. It’s something that just I think adds some variety to our otherwise business oriented day.
For me anyway, I think that’s true to have something else to schedule into the week and really to meet new people, which was really…if we did have a goal that was it. It was to meet new people and give them an opportunity to be on a podcast. So I think that’s made it easier to continue because we’re not trying to grow it or improve upon it.
Liam: I suppose I’d even add the low hurdle bar. You and I didn’t really know each other that well as we got started. We didn’t really know each other at all. We knew of each other and we could probably pick each other out of a police lineup, but that would have been about it. So I think possibly some of our reluctance to agree to more than a year was \”what if he’s a jerk after a while? What if he doesn’t do any other work?”
Tara: “What if we don’t work well together?”
Liam: Yeah, exactly.
Tara: In that regard, I think we both feel that it’s gone really smoothly and we’ve complemented each other in our skill set and our interest in what we do in terms of dividing up the not that extensive workload involved with publishing a podcast as we have been. And when I said we’re not looking to improve on it, I also didn’t mean that…I mean, we certainly do talk about how to make this better and what else you might like to do with it, but it’s not a pressure thing. I think, for me, it’s just interesting being a member of the community and working as a team the best way that we can.
Liam: I think we’ve lucked out in the way that we’ve divvied up the work between us. It’s kind of been a natural progression of you like these kinds of tasks, I don’t; I like those kinds of tasks, you don’t. And we just self-selected and it’s worked out pretty nicely. And we swapped some of the tasks from time to time, haven’t we? But we’ve never said, “I’m done with this, you have it back.”
Sometimes we said, “Hey, I can take that for a while and give you a little bit of break from the tedium of that.” But it’s been interesting from that. I mean, we’re not business partners in any sense of the word. We don’t make any money out of this. That’s not our focus. But we communicate and work together heck a lot on this, anywhere from two to four hours a week on this, don’t we?
Tara: Yeah. Yeah. Thank goodness for Slack.
Liam: Oh, yeah. That’s for sure. That’s for sure. You can always count on me to mention a tool or two on one of these shows.
Tara: That’s something I wanted to touch on because you talked about how we didn’t really have a plan to make it better, and then you kind of said, “Well, we always want to make it better but there wasn’t outside pressure to do so.” We’re not trying to hit a target or anything.
I’ve been thinking a lot in recent weeks and months. I think I mentioned it once or twice to you, around how the types of questions, the follow up questions, the responses to what our guest says, say, changes. It’d be really interesting to sit down and listen to all 103 previous episodes and see where our respective focus as individuals has changed in the two years and what that might say about ourselves.
Tara: Yeah, that’s a good point. I wonder if it has. Possibly. We do have a formula of asking a couple of the same questions each time. And hopefully that’s not getting old. I always enjoy hearing what people have to say. And I think, as we’ve talked about it among ourselves too, that answer to those questions about success and advice, I adopt some of them into my life when I hear them. And I think that one’s opinion of what success is, changes over time. So I like hearing what other people have to say about that. And sometimes it reinforces a feeling that I already have or introduces something new.
Liam: I definitely like the successful question. It’s probably my favorite. And really the different flavors that we get, and while we can group some of them together into this category, or that category, or this general message and that general message, it’s really interesting to me to see how each of our guest tweaks and tailor that to their individual situation and experience.
Tara: I agree. So you want to talk about that? Do you want to talk about success in our own views and where they are now versus a year ago?
Liam: Yeah, sure. I don’t remember. Did I ask you first? I think I asked you first.
Tara: I think I went first last time. Yes.
Liam: Do you want me to go first this time, then?
Tara: Yes, please.
Liam: All right. We both confessed to each other earlier before we hit the record button that neither of us had listened to previous episode of what we shared the year before. But as you and I were talking, Tara, I definitely went and searched the transcript and read my definition of success from last year. So that’s another reason why we should continue to do transcripts and continue to do transcripts.
Tara: Yes. Good for you. I’m going to go blind. So we’ll have to see if mine is the same or not.
Liam: If anything, I would say that my definition is the same in the last year. And I’ll get to what the definition in just a second. But the experience that I’ve had in the last year has made me all the more committed to that definition, all the more convinced of its veracity, and all the more dedicated to following that definition toward success.
And not quoting verbatim, although I quite literally could because the transcript is directly in front of me, it was really that success for me is living as mindfully as I can around my relationship with God. So being very aware of God’s presence in my life, and trying to make sure that I live accordingly. And if we wanted to turn this into a Christian podcast, we could break that down in a lot of different ways. But I’ll just leave it at that for now. It’s just really being mindful of that.
And then the way that that plays out in every situation, in everyday life, I often fail miserably at trying to live that way, but when I do live that way, it’s a great reminder of the benefit and value of doing that.
Tara: I respect that about you, that you stick with that. I think we’ve chatted with a lot of people, their faith is very central to their definition of success and happiness and their life. Well, I probably wouldn’t give that answer myself as a number one thing. It’s something that I respect, and that I do have in my life even if it’s not my number one answer.
Liam: Sure. And I think I stick with it because it works for me. It’s not that I’m sticking with it because I should believe in and I should follow that. It has had a demonstrably beneficial effect on my life in many, many different levels and no negative effects. So all the more reason to keep at it.
Tara: Right. So that’s my answer. And in advance of maybe if we do year four, I’ll have to come back and read the transcript again to see what I said. Let me ask you. You said you weren’t going to go back and look and read.
Liam: So this will be all the more interesting to me.
Tara: Yeah, I did not go back.
Liam: What is your definition of success?
Tara: I think I have a vague recollection of what I said last year, which related to the idea that it changes over time. And I think my definition of success is probably not that different either than it was if I can remember what it was last year, which has to do with sort of being my best self and being better person every day. And that maybe relate to my faith and to what I believe that God has in store for me or for once how I can live my best self as it relates to say, what would Jesus do. But I think I just have an inner compass myself of how I can be the best person I can be.
I would think that over the past year that’s evolved a little bit into how can I live my life in a way that inspires other people to also want to live their best life. So by example, finding ways to give back, finding patience with people and situations in the world that are frustrating, looking at each day with a positive attitude and a hopeful attitude. All of those things, living that way can seem really corny when you’re not able to, I think, to adopt that perspective. But for me, I have found myself inspired by others who approach every day like that. And so I hope that by living that way myself I’m inspiring those around me to do the same. So that may be how my definition of success has evolved to sort of spread out beyond myself.
Liam: I like that. When you talked about this approach might be corny, I think so much of anyone’s individual definition of success. If they really truly embrace it certainly runs the risk of being corny because we’re all humans and we have a shared human experience at some level. You know, the philosophy, the approach, the mantra, the activities and aspects of life that really make your heart tick, and your life work are not necessarily going to be the same for me and the same for the next person, and the next person. They all run the risk of being corny. “Well, that will never work for me. Why would I do that?” But I love to see that you’re embracing it and living that. That’s great.
Tara: Thanks. When I say corny, I also think it can be annoying for people because right now in my life, I feel very fortunate that a lot of things are going well. And so it’s easy to say life is great and to wake up grateful for the morning and the sunshine when you have a lot to be grateful for and happy about and things are going well and you’re comfortable.
So I acknowledge that it comes from sort of a place of privilege to be able to do that. But I also believe that it’s a mindset and that you can find a positive attitude no matter what your circumstances are. There are lots of examples of that in the world. But I also believe that people who have depression and who are struggling, that the message of wake up and have a sunny day is corny and annoying, and so it’s not for everybody. But I think that at some point in everybody’s life, it’s applicable, hopefully.
Liam: I’d agree with that. And I liked the caveat around mental well-being. It’s not always easy to take a positive approach when there’s mental illness there. There are so many different causes of mental and wellness. Again, that’s a whole ‘nother episode right there if we wanted to. But yeah, I get that and I like those caveats. I liked what you’ve done that. Thank you.
Liam: We also ask our guests about advice. The best advice that you’ve ever received. And last year, you shared a really good one that I don’t know that I share that story with people all the time or that often. That I certainly generally completely out of context, except for me because I know the backstory just tell people to be the pilot all the time now. And what the heck does that mean? Don’t worry about that, just do want to do. I love that little phrase. Be the pilot. Be the pilot.
Tara: That’s awesome. I had a sign made for my office and everything is sort of…I looked for the domain and as a matter of fact of course because we are web people. But I suppose that would still be my best advice. I was looking back at some other episodes to see and to try to remind myself of advice that other people had shared, and Rene Morozowich had shared something that had to do with sort of my view of success. The advice that she had was that you control your life, that it’s in your hands of where you’re going to take it. And so I’ve adopted that a lot into my year since we spoke with her. So I would say that’s a new piece of advice that I would share.
Liam: That’s a good one. That’s a good one. And it kind of relates back to your definition of success around keeping a positive outlook and life happens and it’s just what you make of it kind of thing.
Tara: You shared last year, I think it was something about apologizing. Being the first to apologize. That was your advice last year.
Liam: Absolutely it was. Thank you. Good memory. That was advice I had from my father. I still think that’s a really good bit of advice. It certainly, given the way I live, I have plenty of opportunities to apologize. And it’s still a good one.
But if it’s okay, I’d want to share a different one that I recently stumbled upon. It was in a book I was reading. And in advance of this conversation, I was kind of flipping through the various books I’m reading trying to find it, and I can’t. So I don’t know what book it was in. So I can’t give attribution.
But it was around the virtue of humility. What I paraphrased from it is that humility is a virtue that has to be lived publicly. Humility is a virtue that has to be lived publicly – practiced publicly. That really caught my attention. A couple of years ago, a few years ago, my colleague, Lauren Pittenger and I spent, I don’t even know how many hours coming up with keywords and a mission statement for LBDesign, my company. One of our core words, our core values was humility.
That’s a virtue that speaks a lot to me in that it’s easy to get on our high horse and say, “Look at the great things going on around this. We made this all happen, aren’t we awesome?” But it’s the humility that saysI got here because other people helped, I got here because I was given opportunities, I got here because this person blocks that person that enabled me to go over there.
And not to say that we didn’t work hard or to denigrate our own contributions to our success, but in every level just kind of stripping ourselves back and in a positive way knowing our place in the universe. And not in our knowing our place, like, “Know your place, Liam. That’s above you.” I don’t mean that. But just kind of how we stand, we’re no better than anybody else. And not an intrinsic worth.
And practicing that in public is something I’ve been trying to work on in the recent years. And that’s not easy for me to do. But then to read that, and to have that put succinctly, that humility is a virtue that has to be practiced in public. That’s my additional advice for the start of year three.
Tara: I have a couple of thoughts about that. My initial thought was that that’s interesting, of course, because that seems like it’s relating to the idea of leading by example. That you are inspiring others to be humble by being humble yourself, which is grooving with my view of success at the moment. But I also wonder, as a business owner, how that applies to your business.
I find when I am on a call with potential clients now, as I’ve gotten better at what I’m doing, and really passionate about what I’m doing and feel like I’m decent at it, to be humble a little bit there but not completely. How do you combine humility with selling yourself as being good at what you do, and giving yourself credit for doing a good job for something in order to get a new business?
Liam: I think humility is often confused and conflicted with other virtues and vices. Humility isn’t saying I don’t know what I’m doing. Humility isn’t saying I shouldn’t be or I don’t belong. Humility isn’t constantly self-deprecating…
Tara: No. Sorry to interrupt you. I’m not saying that. I’m saying it’s also not saying, “Look at how great I am. Isn’t that humility or not?”
Liam: You know, I think that’s part of it. But I would put humility more in kind of going back to what I said briefly earlier is knowing our place in the universe and in existence and where we stand. In that sense, as a human being, I have a certain worth and value. And my value is no more than yours or any other human beings. Whether they’re the best, most generous self-giving person in the world, or the least, their intrinsic value is still the same. Instrumental value can vary differently. And certainly, somebody who is always giving them themselves has a great instrumental value than somebody who is always taking and being mean and being vicious.
So when I talk about humility, it’s really knowing and appreciating that I am just one part of everything, and the part that I have is for me to discern my role in that. Talking about a client meeting, I have the opportunity to help these clients get to wherever they want to go. And with the skills and experience and knowledge that I’ve gained over the years, I can help them get there.
I also know that I’m not the only one that can help them get there and that I may not even be the best person to help them get there. And I’m certainly not the best at the types of services that I provide. But I also can know even humbly so that that which I do provide, because I’m willing to work hard, because I willing to learn, I’m willing to come at it in a way that enables me to continue to get better at it, that I can still bring real value to them. So I can talk about it candidly and openly without failing to be humble.
Tara: That’s helpful.
Liam: That’s the theory anyway, Tara. That’s the theory.
Tara: Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s important to have confidence when you are running your own business and selling your services to someone. You need to be confident about that. And so I guess maybe where’s the line between confidence and lack of humility? What’s the opposite of humility?
Liam: Probably false pride. I kind of think of humility and confidence, maybe like some example of Bruce Lee, that great martial artist who was renowned as one of the fastest martial artists. Any really skilled martial artists that I’ve ever met had a quiet, humble confidence. They didn’t need to show off their martial art skills, or their punching or their kicking, or how they could kill me with half a pinky without even trying. That last bit is a bit silly. But they didn’t have to show off their skills because they were confident in them.
And the way that they presented themselves, the way that they talked about it, the way that they tried to share their knowledge with me made it very clear, that holy cow, this woman is an amazing martial artist. That’s amazing. But that martial artist didn’t say, “Look at me, I’m so fast, I could kill you in a second with my pinky.” That’s kind of the difference. It’s not that we can’t be confident. We can what we know in our instrumental value. But we presented in a way that reflects our limitations.
Tara: We could really talk about this a lot because then my mind goes to you and I both are in marketing, so there you also are responsible for telling everybody how great your clients are. So not to belabor the point, but it’s an interesting conversation.
Liam: Oh, it totally is. And we see that, right? Somebody goes so over the top with their marketing that it just comes across as disingenuous.
Tara: Right. And you always hear that your headlines, your messaging should be talking about how you’re going to help someone not how great you are. So I guess that applies to the idea that you’re talking about? Of course, clients usually want to talk about how great they are.
Liam: It’s just shifting the needle a few degrees. Not so much we are great but we’ve got to deliver great results for our clients.
Tara: Good point.
Liam: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Tara: Let us talk about year three.
Liam: Let’s. We’ve mentioned probably in the previous episode – not previous 103 but previous from last year – that one of our challenges really is around finding guests who we don’t previously know. Not that we don’t like people that we know, but we really do want to get out into the far corners from us. All those respectively far corners are the center of their own, and rightfully so. But all the different places and people where WordPress thrives and exists even, we want to get there.
We have struggled, in addition to running our own businesses and having our families in our lives, to schedule guests and meet guests in a timeframe that doesn’t leave a scrambling a lot of times, which from a labor of love perspective, at some level reduces the love of the labor.
Tara: And we are committed to the schedule that we set for ourselves. So while we don’t have thousands and thousands of followers who are going to say, “Where’s the podcast?” on Thursday at 5:30 in the morning. They’re not sitting there waiting for it. So I think, in reality, if we were to have missed a week, or published a day late, it would not have been anything anyone would have been disappointed about. I don’t think. Except for we have committed to this, and you and I both sort of have a sense of duty in that way.
So It’s great that we have not really missed the mark on that, at least not intentionally, at all. And so that’s been a good thing. But it has been more challenging in the last few months to schedule guests to publish every week.
Liam: To that end, we are going to revert back to actually our original plan. We were originally going to publish twice a month, every other week, once a fortnight. And we did that for one episode, and then we got a really nice positive response so we switched to weekly. But for the next year, we’re going to publish every other week.
We think this will be a benefit in a number of different ways. One, it’ll be a little bit easier on us logistically. I’ve certainly noticed that depending on what’s happening in my life, I don’t always have the time that I would like to dedicate to sharing each of the podcasts that comes out. I feel like I do some of our guests more of a disservice by not tweeting as often as the previous guests or maybe the previous guests before that. And it’s not because I didn’t like that show or I didn’t want to share that show or I thought less of this guest over that guests. It’s more just life had me, deadlines had me, I tweeted when I could.
If we can spread the tweeting out over and the social media sharing and promotion out over two weeks instead of one, that makes it a little bit easier for us to treat all of our guests equally.
Tara: Yes. And from a technical standpoint, it’s twice a month preparing the episode. So doing the audio, and then we have someone who transcribes for us, and go through, and edit that and prepare it for publication. So that workload gets cut in half as well as the expense of that. Which is our main expense with this podcast is the transcription, which we do because we feel it’s important to offer a transcription of the entire episode that people can read. It’s more accessible. And so we’re committed to that. But it is a significant expense. So it’s not our main reason for going to twice a month, but it does reduce our cost.
Liam: Yeah, absolutely it does. But I would just kind of like that really it’s the timing, and it’s the finding the guests that’s proving the challenge. Tara and I have shared in a number of WordCamp talks that we’ve given what our costs here, and this isn’t the place to talk about that. But we’ve agreed at the start of every year, “are you prepared to cover your half of the cost? Is that something you want to do? and we always do that. But the real challenge is finding guests and because of the commitment, and the fact that we want to honor that commitment, I would definitely feel bad if we were on a Thursday and our podcast didn’t go out. I would not be pleased with that. I’d be disappointed in myself for that.
So this makes it a little bit easier for us to reach that without sacrificing the quality and our commitment. And it’s only a one-year commitment. So who knows, maybe next year we’re going to be a daily podcast.
Liam: Or probably not.
Tara: So with that in mind, since our main impetus for making this timing change was because it’s been a little bit frazzled to get people scheduled at the last minute, we are always looking for guests and it would make it really helpful if we could have scheduled out into future weeks several guests that we could then prepare and do in advance rather than at the last minute.
So I’d like to put a call out for people. If you’ve been on the show already, and I suspect that a lot of our listeners have been on our show, if you’ve been on the show and you would share with others who might be interested in joining us as well. Also, we have a form on our website where you can recommend people to us and we will reach out to them. We love meeting new people and that’s what we’re all about.
Liam: Absolutely. And people from all over the world, every culture, everybody using WordPress is somebody we want to talk to. Tara, thank you for two solid years. I look forward to a third.
Tara: Thanks, Liam. This was fun.
Liam: It sure was. We’ll see you in the next episode.
Liam: Thanks for listening to the show. We sure hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Tara: If you like what we’re doing here – meeting new people in our WordPress community – we invite you to tell others about it. We’re on iTunes and at hallwaychats.com.
Liam: Better yet, ask your WordPress friends and colleagues to join us on the show. Encourage them to complete the “Be on the show” form on our site, to tell us about themselves.