Introducing Todd Jones
Todd is a content consultant, a WordPress fan, and native Arkansan. He likes everything from art to dirt track racing, and from rasslin’ to college football. He loves stories of entrepreneurs.
Liam: This is Hallway Chats, where we talk with some of the unique people in and around WordPress.
Tara: Together, we meet and chat with folks you may not know about in our community.
Liam: With our guests, we’ll explore stories of living – and of making a living with WordPress.
Tara: And now the conversation begins. This is episode 24.
Tara: Welcome to Hallway Chats, I’m Tara Claeys.
Liam: And I’m Liam Dempsey. Today we’re joined by Todd Jones. Todd is a content consultant, WordPress fan, and native Arkansan. He likes everything from art to dirt track racing, to raffling college football. He loves stories of entrepreneurs. Hey, Todd.
Todd: Hey, guys.
Tara: Hi, Todd, nice to see you.
Todd: Hey, Tara.
Tara: Welcome to Hallway Chats. Let’s start out with you telling us a little bit more about yourself, a little introduction to who is Todd Jones.
Todd: Well, I guess, maybe the first thing is that I am from Arkansas and probably one of the smaller states in the union. Most people think about Walmart or Bill Clinton, they think about Arkansas. We’re a beautiful state so I hope that you guys come sometime. I mean, I got into WordPress probably 10 -12 years ago, actually, with a football site. I actually wrote an article about that for Opensource.com and I just live in a small town called Conway which is a home of Kris Allen, who’s one of American Idol winners. That’s our climb to fame here, I guess, we’re about 25 miles west in i40, and in the Central Arkansas area. Grew up in Batesville, which is a home of Mark Martin, if anybody out there knows about NASCAR, you’ve heard of him. Beautiful town up in the north -central part of the state. Those things are true, I do like those things. I like art, and wrestling, and I like the stories of wrestling. I grew up watching dirt track racing. My dad actually announced as a public dress announcer at the local tribe, so it kind of got into that. Don’t see it as much as I’d like to but again, I keep up with it and it’s a unique sport in that Friday and Saturday nights across the whole country, somebody is driving a dirt race car, some oval in the cornfield or rice field somewhere. [laughter] And there’s probably millions of fans. What’s really cool about dirt racing at that level was that it might be your mechanic driving, you probably know these guys, and it’s the epitome of the side -hustle. We talk about the side -hustle in our own world. Maybe my side -hustle dial a local news site here in town, these guys, they do it because they love it but most of them, it don’t pay their salary. They might be a mechanic and they work at auto park store, they may just be a garage junkie. It’s a unique sport that way. And wrestling, I like the stories and athleticism, The old – – I think people stopped doing this, but you’ll hear, once in a while someone will say, “Don’t you know wrestling is fake?” And you just roll your eyes. It’s not really fake, it’s staged but the stories are fantastic, and I remember watching as a little kid back when we didn’t know wrestling was fake. Now it’s the best -kept secret, but it’s entertaining. I do like art, not necessarily great at it but I have enough art to be dangerous. Actually, my sister -in -law is an accomplished artist, and photographer, and talent. WordPress is a cool tool to communicate those things. I look at stories, I read stories, I like to read HeroPress every week that Topher does and in fact, I think Tara just had one on there, right? But you’ll read a lot of them and some people, they start a hobby blog or help an organization and got in the WordPress that way. That’s kind of the same with me, I had football blogs and got into WordPress because that was really the best way to publish those things and learn how to develop, and design, and break things, I can break things as well as anybody. I really have gotten to meet everybody in the community, it’s a lot of fun.
Liam: Todd, thank you so much, that was a wonderful and competent intro. That’s great, you’ve given me a lot of areas to explore and I’m not sure where to go first, but let me start with the art side of things. You mentioned that your sister -in -law was accomplished, but I couldn’t tell from your monologue if you commit to art yourself or if you’re a collector or somewhere in between? Do you paint, do you sculpt? What’s your creative outlet around art?
Todd: Canva, C -A -N -V -A, Canva. I like to go there and – – because the blog posts and some of the ebooks I’ve done, I do the covers myself. They’re not really as good as somebody really good but when I was a kid, I took three years in high school art, and one of my favorite college subjects was actually art appreciation. I used to draw, interestingly enough, race cars and stadiums, I used to draw those things. I don’t know why I really liked to draw those things but I drew those things. I used to draw a lot. Obviously, as time’s gone on it kind of got pushed out of the way a little bit.
Liam: Yeah, life.
Todd: Yeah, life. But I appreciate and I have friends that are artists in town, I like to support them when I can. Yeah, my sister -in -law did a fine arts degree and was in an ad agency for a long time and ended up doing freelance photography. She’s really good at that and won a lot of awards. But I’m not saying I’m a great artist, it’s more of an appreciator of art. I still think if I had more time I knew what to do with, I might actually start growing again. But I had a lot of fun. It allows you to be creative, try to be creative, play around with some different things. My art teacher in high school was good because she had us to try so many different things. Silk screening to painting, to sculpture.
Liam: Have you posted any of your illustrations, your drawings online anywhere?
Todd: Well, as I said, most – – if you go to MainWP, where I do most of my blogging right now, they’re a WordPress platform for updating multiple sites, and you bring me the blogs that I write, the header images, I do those myself. I just use Canva. That’s about as artistic as I get these days but I take a lot of pictures with my phone and stuff. I know that I’m not professional, I’m very much an amateur but I take those because, one, I don’t want to steal copyrighted images so I take pictures myself and there’s no chance of that. And I’m always blogging for something, and whether it’s me taking a picture on top of Mount Nebo in Western Arkansas, which I did one year and my pictures aren’t great but you can turn those into an image for a blog really easy.
Liam: Yeah, it’s nice that way, isn’t it?
Todd: Yeah. It’s better when somebody who’s a professional goes, “Yeah, that picture is – -” But there’s always – –
Liam: Sorry to cut you off there, Todd. Speaking of professionals, tell us a little bit about what you do professionally? You mentioned content, or Tara had read about – – I guess I read it. Anyway, you do content, tell us a little bit more about that, would you?
Tara: I knew about it, you talked about it.
Liam: Thanks for clarifying.
Todd: Probably my main gig right now is writing those blog posts at MainWP. I enjoy doing that and they give me a lot of freedom to do that. I’ve dealt with some health issues this year, it’s kind of held me back which, hopefully, I can get past that. I want to be able to help people clarify their story, as a – – whether it’s a WordPress agency or a company you’re working with, what is that story? Because I think stories are – – we are wired, studies are coming out every day, it seems like, to relate to stories, they’re so relatable. I get more and more fascinated about the story aspect of content, and how can we implement those as WordPress professionals even. There are many ways to do that, whether it’s a podcast or a video, a blog post, there’s – – go ahead?
Tara: Writing and blogging for MainWP and doing content, talk about how that works as a business and how it relates to marketing, for example. If you’re telling a story – – I read a lot, we probably all do, about a marketing tactic or technique of telling a story in order to draw people in for a sale or as a marketing benefit but then also as a community benefit writing a blog post for MainWP and what you do, which maybe doesn’t have that marketing component to it, has more of a community component. How do you cover those bases?
Todd: I think one good example is what Topher’s doing at HeroPress. I get those emails every Wednesday and I try to go read every one of them, and he’s got people telling their story, which is fantastic. “Hey, this is how I got into WordPress, this is why I like WordPress, these are people who helped me.” We mentioned Corey Mill earlier, he’s been a very big name in WordPress space and how he advocates for people, that kind of thing. I think telling a story really facilitates the community and it can be done both ways. When Topher does it, of course, he has person to write their story. I think it’s kind of interesting that I knew a couple of people. You did one, not long a lady in our state did one, not long ago. But then there’s the other side of it which I think – – I’ve done this from a startup entrepreneurial standpoint where you interview and you retell the story, kind of like a feature article. I did that a lot when I was writing with Talk Business & Politics here in the state. I really enjoyed it, one of the last articles I got to do, we’ve got a lady in our state who’s a trailblazer for ladies in business but period, just people, not just ladies but everybody. And she was a first woman inducted into the Business Hall of Fame in Arkansas. I had to be able to phone with her, and talk to her, and ask her questions, listen to her. And it was just a wonderful experience. I’ve got to have those opportunities more than once, and I think maybe the WordPress community could use a little bit more of that. It’s one thing for someone to tell their story, but what if somebody sat down – with Chris Lema or Carrie Dils or Dennis from MainWP and learn their whole story, and turn that into a feature. I think there’s something – – you feel like you know somebody a little better, does that make sense?
Liam: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a big part of what we’re trying to do here.
Todd: Case studies are something that – – a few people in the WordPress space use case studies, I’d like to see more people use case studies. But at the count of case studies that I do are more story -based, you have the more technical case studies, which you got to have some of those but being able to build that story out in a way that’s relatable. I think we all have a story and I just think some people stories are more interesting than others. How did this person become – – and you see it a lot in the startup world. I guess I go back to that a lot but you’ll see – – Noah Kagan, he’s somebody I followed a lot, he runs Sumo, you guys might be familiar with Sumo. And one of the first things I ever got from him was an ebook he wrote. I don’t think it’s very much, maybe ¢99 or something. He may give it away now for all I know, but it was his story. It wasn’t classic, it probably wouldn’t make an A in English class in college. I think I may have seen some spelling errors here and there, which is ironic because I’m the worst speller there is.
Liam: But that way, you always bought them.
Todd: And he’s just one guy, you’ve got a lot of people but – –
Liam: Let me ask you this, speaking of stories, and you’re very clear to me in this time that we’ve been speaking that you’re very passionate about a number of different things. And I wonder as you weave those all together into a meaningful way for your own life story, ensuring that, and that’s – – I wonder, what is your definition of success, how do you bring that all together? How does success weave into your life, how do you define it?
Todd: I think the questions you left for me are personal and professional, and I remember I wanted to go over that because I didn’ know how to answer that, but I think the word that comes to mind is legacy. What kind of legacy are you leaving behind? And I think that works professionally or personally, but I guess, I have a list of a lot of my favorite writers and I’ve never really done anything at that, but one of my favorite writers is a guy who passed away actually same year as my dad, in 2013. His day job was a professor of philosophy at USC, Southern Cal. And his side gig, if you want to call it that, was he was a minister and a Christian formations writer. His name is Dallas Willard. I watched, his funeral is on Youtube or whatever, and he left such a legacy in both worlds. The professional philosophy world, and then in the Christian formation world. I remember his granddaughter got up and, I know I’m going to blow this but – – [laughter]
Todd: Yeah, paraphrase. She was talking about him and he referred to her as a grand daughter, not a granddaughter, but a grand daughter. That’s the kind of person he was, he left the legacy, he made people feel so much more than maybe what they thought of themselves. And there’s a lot of other things he did, but that’s like an example of the idea of leaving a legacy. I think we all know people that left a legacy that’s important in our lives. I think if you may not be rich like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos or whatever, but who do we remember 10, 15, 20 years later?
Liam: Legacy is well beyond money, that’s for sure. Todd, legacy means a lot to you, that’s clear. What’s the single most important thing you’re doing or you do every day to ensure that you’re leaving a legacy about which you would be proud?
Todd: I guess just trying not to screw up. [laughs] I was thinking about that question and maybe you kind of took it a little differently than I was reading it whenever I was looking at your questions. But I thought about it this morning a little bit, it was like, I was reading that in terms of achieving success, I suppose, and my thought was, just get out of bed. Sometimes, just getting out of bed, and I don’t know, maybe you guys have been in a dark period in your time, I have too and they come back around occasionally. And I can remember at times where getting out of bed was an accomplishment. And then one of the Facebook groups I’m in, Kim Dowell’s one of the administrators, this little hashtag just started up recently. I think it means something in a lot of this, and it just said, just show up.
Tara: Yeah, I kind of just say that.
Todd: Yeah, just show up. And I think you can take that so many different ways but, my goodness, part of leaving a legacy, just show up. I had a little conversation at chiropractor’s office this morning with a lady, and I was telling her how I got roped into doing a story time when I was working at the bookstore. One of the things I would do, I was a cashier and kids often get left behind in experiences like that. I would try to pay attention to kid a little bit. I think one time I did my best impersonation of Captain Jack, or a pirate. “Argh.” and my general manager heard it and she said, “Oh, you’d be great for storytime.” It took me a long time to get out of that, out of story time. But at the same time – –
Tara: Did you like it?
Todd: Yeah, to some degree I did. I like the actual storytime part. What would happen was the customers would then start asking me about books and I wouldn’t know anything about the books. I might know about some classics but not all of them. We just didn’t have enough people really is what it was, they really should have had a children’s worker back there or something like that. Plus, you have to give the kids cookies, and milk, and all that kind of stuff. But I enjoyed telling a story part.
Tara: That’s a good memory.
Todd: Leaving a legacy sometimes is just showing up. I’ll tell you one thing, my dad wasn’t perfect, I know that. But I’ll tell you one thing my dad did do, he showed at my brother’s and I’s athletic events, mostly football. When we played, I can remember in seventh grade, the very first football game that I played in for the seventh -grade football team, it was about an hour and a half away. Not only was my dad at the stands, but my mom’s dad, he brought my grandpa and they were in the stands. I don’t forget those things and I think kids don’t forget those things.
Tara: It sounds like you take those things to heart and use them in the way that you interact with people as well, Todd. I appreciate the idea of showing up and I know you show up for others. I’ve seen you in Slack and Facebook communities. Can you talk a little bit about community and sort of in terms of showing up, what you find to be the most challenging thing about showing up, and what you find to be the most rewarding, both for yourself and the communities that you participate in?
Todd: I think helping people is a rewarding experience. When you do something, I did these homepage evaluations back a couple months ago and a couple or three people who were in Facebook groups took advantage of it while I was doing them for free, but you give them the information and they really seem to appreciate it and try to implement things you said. That’s the rewarding part of it. The flip side of that is people – you don’t see it as much as you do people appreciate what you’ve done. But there are people out there who will take anything for free and they kind of have no gratefulness for it, they want you to do more.
I felt very fortunate, I felt like everybody that received that were very appreciative. I just think that is a challenge that comes up sometimes when you’re trying to help someone. And I don’t have any real recent experience with that but I know other people experienced that as well. But when you’re just trying to help somebody, you give them maybe a resource to go to or some information based on experience, and they want more information, or they want more. And it’s like, help yourself a little bit. I think we all do that, we all try to be helpful. One thing that WordPress community is very – – every WordPress community I’ve been in has been very helpful. I think I’ve learned a lot in Slack chatrooms and in Facebook groups. You always have someone, and it doesn’t matter what group you’re in because I’m in writer and copywriter groups too. You always have someone who – – they ask silly questions, they ask questions that have already been answered, they want you to do more for them. You can do some of these things for yourself. There’s a lot of empowerment in these groups.
Todd: It’s the same in the writer groups I’m in. The people who lead those groups are very empowering. I have watched one group, a very respected copywriter with a lot of experience, frankly, he’s a badass when it comes to copywriting. And I’ve watched him dole out information that would take most of us 10 to 15 years to learn for free. And you’re like, “Man, somebody needs to copy and paste this and put it – -” I started to do it and put it in Evernote or something. This guy was giving some of the most – – and I’m like, “This is really good stuff.”
Liam: That’s wonderful you get stuff like that.
Todd: Yeah, and I see WordPress too.
Tara: It inspired everyone in the community to be so giving. I think that’s a great thing about WordPress community especially so that people share and that pay -it -forward idea, then you are inspired to share just as freely.
Todd: Yeah, but I think the challenge of doing that sometimes is the people not willing to – – they want more or they don’t help themselves. But I think that’s so much fewer, most people are appreciative and they work hard. I just think that’s once in a while but it does happen and it can be frustrating and challenging.
Liam: that’s for sure. Todd, let me change gears on you a little bit and ask you, what is the single most valuable piece of advice, and it can be either professional or personal, that you have ever received and implemented in your own life?
Todd: I have to go back and read what I wrote because I remember that question and going, “What can I say?” There’s a free frame that is standing out to me recently that just seems to always get reiterated. I mentioned Dallas Willard earlier, he had a conversation – – I don’t know if you guys read Christian books or anything but John Ortberg is a spiritual writer, presbytery minister. He tells a story, he found a new assignment and he was just really hurried, he had so much going on, he really felt like he needs some spiritual wisdom, so who’s to give a call to but Dallas Willard? Tells him everything and Dallas makes a pause and he says, and you can read this on, it’s been reiterated many times on the internet in different websites and blogs, but he says to John, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” And John thought about that and wrote it down, he goes, “Okay, that’s good. What else?” Dallas says, “No, there is nothing else. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” I don’t know if that applies everybody else but it – –
Tara: It doesn’t apply in Washington DC, I can tell you that. [laughs]
Todd: Well, hurry – – and see, there’s a difference between hurry and busy. And whenever I first came across that, I had to tell myself that. It’s one thing to be busy, but it’s another thing to be hurried. There’s a fine line there. Some days, you’re busy from you get up until the time you lay your head down, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re hurried, you’re productive, whatever. When you’re overly hurried – – I don’t know if I can really define what that means.
Tara: I think it’s a stress component to it, in my mind, right? When I hear her read, I think stressed out, when I hear busy, I don’t feel as much stress, I don’t know if that makes sense.
Todd: Sometimes when you’re busy, you’re doing something that you really love so you’re not really stressed about it unless you have the good stress. But for me, because I’ve had – – I don’t talk about this stuff too much but I’ve had chronic health issues for years in different areas, and whenever I get hurried, I’m not at my best. And I have to remind myself to slow down. Sometimes if I don’t remind myself that, I get reminded. I can’t put in 12, 14 -hour days. But occasionally, you can get through those. But man, I can’t speak for other people, and I’m certainly not as young as I was 20 years ago but I get a little jealous of my friends who are entrepreneurs that are in their 20s and 30s. They’ve got way much more energy and they can go way much better than me. And I’m just like, “You go. I can’t but you go.” And I watch them like they’re the Energizer Bunny. But I have to remind myself of that. I think that is a good lesson and I don’t know if that’s really a business or it’s more of a personal thing.
Liam: I think it’s both.
Liam: When I heard you say that, it really struck me as addressing the need for mindfulness and self -awareness and living in the moment. Because busy is having tasks, chores, responsibilities that occupy our time. And hurry implies, in my mind a focus on the next task, or three tasks down the road, or what’s coming tomorrow, and worrying about the future, or perhaps stressing about what we didn’t get to in the past. whereas, if we’re not hurried, we’re focused on the tasks of people and situations around us, and can address it in a meaningful and mindful way.
Todd: We’d probably all do well to get up and go for a walk for about an hour before we do anything, wouldn’t we?
Liam: Amen to that.
Todd: My friend, Austin Church, wrote a blog on Medium and I think the title was something like, ‘What’s missing in your freelancer life is not what you think or what mistake you’re making’. And basically it was this, he said he started 2009 as a freelancer. He said, “I wish I had gone fishing every month since 2009.” In other words, you have time where you’re more available, and what we tend to do, I know I do this, I start thinking, “How can I get more people to get in my pipeline or whatever.” He’s like, “Just go fishing or go hiking, go do something fun.” And it’s really hard because we think, “What’s going to happen in two months? Am I going to have enough money to pay the bills?” Always easier said than done, right?
Tara: It is. And on that note, I think it’s time for us to all go take a walk or go fishing. We’re out of time. Todd, it’s been delightful to have you on and get to know you a little bit and share your story. Thank you for sharing all that you did with us, and sharing about your community, I think, makes me want to go to Arkansas one day. We’re glad to have you on and hope to see you sometime in the future, Todd. Can you tell us and tell everyone listening where they can find you and find more about you?
Todd: I usually direct people to my Twitter first because I’ve probably been there longer than anywhere. My Twitter handle is @tjones. I’ve had that since ’08 I think, I don’t know, long time ago, back before the mass humanity was there. My website is Grafixcatmedia.com and I spell differently, so I’m assuming you’ll put it in the show notes but G -R -A -F -I -Xcatmedia.com. And I’m on Facebook as well, and LinkedIn, and all of those profiles. I think it’s Toddjonesark or something like that on LinkedIn anyway. I’m even on Instagram and Snapchat for that matter.
Tara: Okay. Thanks again for joining us, it’s really been a pleasure and best wishes to you, Todd.
Todd: Thanks for having me, appreciate it.
Liam: Todd, it’s been a pleasure, thanks for your time. I’ve loved chatting with you, loved getting to know you just a little bit and look forward to reading more of you story and your blog in the coming weeks, months, and years ahead.
Todd: Thank you, appreciate it.
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