The closing speaker at Type A Conference this year is someone I’ve seen before. One thing I’ve learned about conferences, however – reinforced this year when I miss the Facebook session – is that just because I’ve seen someone before doesn’t mean I’ve heard that talk before or that they don’t have a message I need reinforced. Rene Syler is one of those. I’ve seen her speak at Disney Social Media Moms last year (I wasn’t there this year), and once again as she stepped off the stage, I regretted that I hadn’t found the time to just go hang with her. Yet.
I have also posted other Type A Conference recaps:
Keynote session with Chris Garrett
Don’t Rank Me: Getting Past Scores and Numbers with Kelly Whalen and David Binkowski
Time Management with Amy Bair
Taking Over the World with Google+ with Lynette Young
Vlogging for Bloggers: From Keyboard to Camcorder with Christie Crowder
Blog Coding with Peter Pollock and Caitlin
Blog Design with Laurie Smithwick, Brittany VanderLinder, and Melissa Culbertson
Why We Still Blog with Cecily Kellogg, Katherine Stone, and Tanis Miller
Rene Syler: Harnessing Your Super Power
I’m here from @goodenufmother and @ReneSyler. I actually do believe you can have it all, and that’s sort of a controversial thing to say. It’s maybe not all at the same time, and maybe it doesn’t come to you in the way that you think it’s going to come to you. It doesn’t come to you in a Tiffany box tied with a bow delivered by the knight in shining armor Sometimes it comes in a wrinkled up paper bag in the gutter, and you think this is it? This is really it?
You have to own it. Know it, and own it. What my “it” is will not be the same as your it. Don’t say I want to be a power blogger or x. You need to be honest with yourself before you can be honest with other people. If you have a blog or a brand, do you know where it’sgoing to take you ? Is it going to take you out of the closet and into the shower or to the red carpet or to Wylie publishing? If so, then map out how to get to that “it” for you. I’m amazed by people who say, “this is where I want to be” and then don’t have a plan. Would you get into your car for a long road trip and not have a map or an idea of how you’re going to get there?
Following how other people got there is another way to map out how you’re going to get there, but it certainly isn’t the only way. And it’s not how I got to my “it.” I feel inadequate standing on the stage here because you all are professionals. When Kelby said paid versus earned media, I didn’t know what it was. I’m still green in this. I sort of fell into blogging, and I don’t feel like I’m an expert in any way shape or form.
My “it” a few years ago is very different from what it is now. I used to walk down the hallowed halls of CBS. I remember when I walked down the hallway one day, and Dan Rather said, “Hi Rene.” Dan. Rather. I felt like I had arrived. Then one day, I was fired. As quickly as I arrived, I was escorted out. Journalism is a tough field. What made it tougher was that I had told my boss that I was going to have a preventative mastectomy because I had a lot of issues in my family. The greatest risk for breast cancer is having boobs. I told my boss I was having surgery and I was fired. I believe the timing was coincidental. About to lose your breasts and losing your job sucks.
One of my last assignments was to interview the cast of Dream Girls. In one of the last scenes, Jennifer Hudson is just saying, “You’re going love me.” And I had tears streaming down my face. I love that she was telling us that we were simply going to love her. That was the prevailing thought I held onto as I was heading out the door. I’m going to show them; you’re going to be sorry. This will be the worst thing that you ever did – to kick me out the door.
People would say, “This is the best thing that ever happened to you,” but I felt like telling them to shut up befcause it certainly didn’t feel like the best thing that ever happened to me. When I got kicked off the island, as I call it, I had this book coming out called Good Enough Mother. I started blogging so my agent and others wouldn’t forget about me. I’m almost 50, and people can so easily hire people who are 20 some years younger.
The first thing I did was to create a mission statement. My mission statement is, “Good Enough Mother seeks to help mothers and others feel great about the job they are doing as parents through support and shared experience.” I want mothers to feel good about what they do. When I started talking about my experiences, I found out that everyone had experiences like this. The mission statement led to the book and ultimately to the brand.
One thing I also did early on was protect my intellectual property. I didn’t come up with the phrase “good enough mother” – but I own it. My good enough mother is a little different in that it’s ok as a woman to say that I can’t do it all, and that doesn’t make you a bad mom. It really doesn’t. I then secured the domains. Did everyone buy the .com and the .net for your domains? Spend the extra $10 and cover yourself. Then I bought every other domain that I thought might be of interest to me in the future: ReneSyler.com, TheGoodEnoughMother.net, etc.
Does anyone else here trademark? It’s a long involved arduous process, but I do believe that it’s important. You are a brand, and this is your house. If you let someone come in and squat in your house and in your living room, would you let them do that in your real house? Don’t let them do it online. You can do the trademark process yourself, but it’s hard. An attorney is expensive, but it makes it a lot easier. I’ve been through two trademark battles already, and it’s like kissing your sister. No one feels good about it. I was there first and I’m using it, so they got shut down.
Tara emailed me the other day saying, “You’re so organized!” and I was like are you kidding? I’m so not organized, but I do run Good Enough Mother the way you would program a television network. At the fall upfronts, they lay out all the tv shows. At 8pm, they’re going to air this show on Monday nights, etc. I lay out Good Enough Mother like that. I use an Excel grid, and I have clear, defined segments on days they’re going to run. Is it rigid? Maybe, but I do shift things when I need to, and it’s my roadmap that I use to build on. I have a stable of columnists now, and I’m shocked that they want to write for me, and I’m shocked that they do write for me!
I write controversial stories and cover controversial topics. Don’t shy away from controversy. It drives traffic. You want to engender a reacion in your readers with what you put out there. Why do you think the nasty guy on Big Brother gets the ratings he does? Give people a reason to give their opinions. People want to talk about themselves, so give them a reason to do so.
Look at the color on my grid. Across the top, you can see the date and the strand. I do these things called “Life Lessons.” If you want to do this, email me. I send you 10 questions and link back to you. There’s also some social media promotion on the grid and other stuff.
I use this system called Base Camp to keep everything in one place. I use this system with my columnists. We work in groups. No one work together in an office, but we use this camp as a virtual office. The reason I went to this is that I was losing emails. Email is sometimes hard to find things. I felt like, if I could create a virtual office, I wouldn’t lose things. You can load all sorts of files in there.
Shed it! Everyone in here has a good idea of the things they’re good at and the things that they’re not so good at. Work on the things you’re good at, and figure out the things that you’re bad at. What am I bad at? The list is so long. I’m terrible at procrastination. I think it comes from being a trained journalist where I work best on a deadline. If I continue on that path, my heart will explode. That’s where my organization chart comes in. I have to ask for help sometimes. I know that this is one of my big big challenges, so I try or do better with that.
This. Do not do it ever. We have a tendency to look at other people and judge them. We look at where they are and think, “but they’re doing it so easy, they have it so good, they have people helping them.” Don’t compare yourself to someone else. You’ll always be unhappy comparing yourself to someone else. Comparison is the thief of joy.
If you hear nothing else, please listen to me now and tweet this. There is no room in your life for people who make you feel bad. Period. Yes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You need to surround yourself with people who will stoke your fire not soak your fire. We have so many relationship that are convoluted. Maybe people are stabbing you in the back or something else. Why are they in your life? Why do you let them do this?
We’re in NASCAR country, people. Think of it like stock car racing! These people create drag. They will stop you, slow you down, and you will not get ot the finish line when you want to. Do not let people who create drag in your life. Sometimes it’s hard to cut off those relationships, but sometimes an end is a cleverly disguised beginning, and you don’t know how high you can fly until you’re untethered. And that happened to me.
All of a sudden people wanted me. I’m going to all these places speaking and doing all this writing for these other organizations, and it all of a sudden happened in the last eight months. I was afraid to let that relationship go. When I did, it was amazing.
You and I are more than friends. We’re like a small gang. You need this. Whether it’s your family or your husband or your bestie, you need people who are helping you move the ball down the field. It’s all hands on deck. If not, they need to get out.
This is a difficult task to truly assess yourself. One way is really concrete, and the other is not. You need to assess what you’re doing. You need to use your metrics, and everyone in here uses analytics, right? It’s the same thing as counting calories with your website. You need to know your metrics. I use Google analytics. I also keep concrete data on what I was doing a year ago, what are the brands I was working with. What was my Facebook page like, what was my Klout score? I’m not obsessed with them, but I need to know.
The assessment of your life is more squishy. It’s an abstract measurement. Right now, I’m a little off kilter. My kids eat Skittles and Sprite for breakfast – just kidding. I feel, though, that I’m working so hard right now, and I’ve got to take my foot off the gas a little bit. I’m running this crazy race, and I’ve got to take a step back a bit. My husband is an amazing support, and he’s wonderful. We’ve been married 18 years. I swear it feels like 18 minutes. Under water. This is why I come here to places like this – to get away! There really is no greater, more ardent supporter of me than my husband.
We’re like the Cosby family. We have the dog, the kid texting, and so forth. I have two great kids who are 15 and 14, Casey and Cole. They keep me grounded and that’s what I’m talking about. Whatever you’re doing? This (family) is what matters. I know we want to make money, but this at the end of the day is what’s important. You need to have your priorities straight.
Drink champagne, and dance on the table. You need to have your priorities straight. I don’t think we take enough time to take a deep breath. I don’t think we take enough time to stop and smell the roses, as cliche as that sounds. I don’t think we take the time to do that. How many of you saw that the biggest risk factor for stroke was a lack of sleep in the study recently? How many did that scare? How many here get more than four hours a sleep a night? (Few) You’ve got to be good to yourself, too.
Look at this slide. How many of us have been like this little guy saying, “Oh, I just can’t do it.” You need to know why you write, why it’s important. You need to know what Sara was talking about. She came home and the words were bursting out of her fingertips, but how do you get that? I feel like I’m saving the world and mothers one mother at a time. I’m teaching everyone that it’s ok to not be perfect, that’s what I believe. I also truly believe that I will not fail. Unless I quit. I will not fail.
I started Good Enough Mother in 2005, and it’s 2012. Do the math. I’m not the guy on the bottom giving up, because I know I’m close. And even though I may not be close, I’m going to keep going. I have a passion for it, and I feel like I’m doing good. When I hear from people saying that I made them feel that it’s ok to send a bag lunch to school that didn’t have a sandwich in it, it reminds me that it’s so important to know that the only way you will fail is if you give up. Find out what it is that you need to keep going, and then latch on to it. Is it your friends and your family? Is it getting centered again to find out why we got into this? I go to bed every night, and I worry about the same things you do. I know I can’t give up now, though, because I’m too close.
This is the part where I would cry. More than anything, I want people to say when they look at me that she was a fighter. She didn’t give up. She had some really crappy stuff happen, and she didn’t give up. She fought, and she reinvented. The stuff that didn’t work, she went back and reassessed, and then she was a success. People will say that she was an overnight success, and I will throttle them. There is nothing I did over the last 7 years that was easy. I didn’t do it with an agent or a handler; I did it on my own without a cadre of help. Thank you for believing in the mission.
If you feel like you’re in a place where you can’t do it anymore, what are you going to do? You’re going to give them hell. Then you’re going to get up another day and fight. I always felt like someone was going to ride in and pull me out of that crap someday, and it was always going to be good. And you know? Someone did. Do you know what was? It was me. I rode in and pulled myself out of the crap.
You mentioned a part time assistant. I can’t figure out what kind of a job I can give someone to help. I can’t have someone tweet for me or blog for me. There are only so many hours in a day. What do you find an assistant can help you with?Rene: I do a lot of public speaking, so she handles some of that. I have the Base Camp system, and we have five interns this summer, so she rides herd on them. She helps upload content from the guest contributors. I do some external writing, so she helps with that and with my schedule. She does a lot.
Audience member: Anyone can clean your house. You can use that time to work on your business.
I’m from a PR/media relations background, and I have a blog. Have you gotten the doggy face when you tell people you’re a blogger? I left PR 7 years ago to be a full time mom, and now I’m trying to inch my way back and I didn’t work with bloggers then. What are the changes you’re seeing from the PR side?Rene: First of all, the lady in the back – how do you handle when you tell people you’re a blogger? I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. We as women have to put the focus where it needs to be, on us and our families. We’ve got to stop focusing on external stuff and focus more on internal stuff. People ask what am I doing now, and I want to say go to Google, and type in “Rene Syler.” When old media colleagues say that I had to get your phone number from your old hairstylist, I don’t get it. Google. It’s right here.
When I started blogging, I did it to get my name out there. Now I’m building a GEMpire. I’m building a brand and adding value to a brand and building something that I’m going to give to someone someday when they hand me a little slip of paper with a lot of zeroes. The big media are a little reluctant because there’s no control. Now everyone with a smart phone is a media producer/consumer. Everyone is a purveyor of news and information, and that makes people in forner offices nervous.
What’s next for you?Rene: I am planning to have a cocktail after this. That’s as far as I have plans. So whenever people ask what’s your plan or goal, I say: Outside of building Good Enough Mother, I don’t know. I didn’t have a plan with this. I had no idea that at almost 50 I was going to be working harder than I ever have with building this brand. When people tell me they want to be a journalist, I’m like really? There’s so much else out there. I don’t know that people know what it is now compared to what it was years ago.
I had a friend say to me because Rikki Lake has a new show and Katie Couric has a new show, why don’t you try to get back onto tv? I have spent the last seven years working hard pushing Good Enough Mother. I’m not in a point where I can give that up and go work for another news show. It’s not that it isn’t a great and noble thing to do; I just don’t want to do it. You may not always know what you want to do, but you know what you don’t want to do.
I will say that what’s really exciting to me is video online. This YouTube partnership is really exciting to me. A screen can be something you hold in your hand now, and that’s what is really exciting to me.
I love the fact that you share that when you’re thinking about content, do something debatable or controversial. I’m a contributing writer on 100 Days of Real Food, and we’re telling people what’s in their fast food and food in general. We get a lot of haters. What’s your way of dealing with the haters so you can keep having that impact?
Rene; Do you care about what you’re doing and believe in it ? Yes? Then I don’t care. Not everyone is going to like me. There are 24 hours in a day, and I’d rather spend it with the people who do care about me than the people who don’t. When I get hate mail, I send them a book, a button and a mug. Then I ask that they spell my name correctly and link to my site (laughs). You will not convince them to think your way, but how much time and energy do you want to spend engaging that? I’m busy building a GEMpire.
This thing, this internet, is a big fat sandbox. There will be people who like you and people who don’t like you. This guy wrote in to CNN and said, “I don’t know who you are, and I wish that you’d do something about your mangy hair.” I wrote a blog post with his comment. I went through the whole thing and said that I know what it’s like to be married to an older man and for him to have young kids. I know what it’s like to cry with that person as they sit with you and you’re about to go through a life changing surgery. So let it go. You aren’t going to please everyone.
You went through this incredible ordeal. When did you know when it was time for you to help others through this sort of thing? Sometimes I see people writing through crises, and it looks more like a train wreck than something that will help someone. Sometimes I feel like I need to wait until I’m through the other side of it.Rene: I don’t know the answer to that. It’s sort of an internal thing. If you have any doubt before you come out with something big, then you should listen to that. With my surgery, whenever I go places, I speak about breast cancer because people don’t understand that this is one of the most curable cancers. If it is found early. If you find it at stage 0 or stage 1. You don’t get a mammogram generally until age 40. I’m impressed by how many of you here knew that. But you’d be shocked by the number of people who don’t know this or who don’t know basic things.
My surgery is not for everyone, and it’s sort of a controversial thing. I’ll never forget a co-worker who said I don’t know why you wouldn’t just trust God to keep you healthy. I need to be around for those kids of mine, and I’m going to do what I have to do. It took me awhile to get to that place with CBS to talk about being fired. It’s hard to talk about being fired from a job that public. Now I own it. And? So?
Emily from Colorado Mom: I blog about my son and his autism. How do I know where to tstop telling my story and keep it from bleeding into his story?Rene: I’m running into that with my teenagers. I used to be able to tell everyhting. My son told his whole third grade class that “my mom got fired and had a boob job.” I was like thank you, Son, thank you a lot.
In this case, everything online doesn’t go away. If you think you’re veering into a territory that could hurt him someday down the line, stop. Sleep on it. If you still think it’s ok, then ask someone. Send it to a friend. Ask, “Is this too personal. Should I write it anonymously?” There are ways to get a message out without putting all your stuff out there.
Nikki from The Guilty Parent: The Good Enough Mother goes hand in hand with what I do. I am big on not apologizing. Even though I’m not apologizing for things and decisions on the blog and I’m strong about not having to, how do you stop apologizing off the page?Rene: I just lock myself in a room and let them find me. If it’s something that needs to be apologized for, then I’m going to be honest that motherhood is this great awesome thing, but sometimes there are things that suck. If you’re in a situation where you know you need to come clean and apologize, then do so. If you are doing it because it’s a habit, then I don’t know. It’s not really me to apologize just because. I’m so sorry, that was terrible!
Jenn from SuperJennBlog: I write for empowerment, and I write the good and the bad. In your real life, you know things in your head, but how do you put this message in your heart? How do you believe it there when you go to bed at night?Rene: This is a marathon, not a sprint. Your job as a mother is not judged on one day. It’s judged on 18 years and beyond. Some days will not be great. Some days you’ll be batting 1.000. It all evens out. Some days you’re batting .333, some days you’ll be at 1.000.
How many times do you have a kid saying, “Can you just get off that laptop and watch tv with me?” I have to say sometimes that I can’t because I’m on deadline. Your children are not hurt when you’re doing this occasionally. It’s bad if you do it all the time. Your children also are hurt if you’re constantly at their beck and call. They have to know that they are not the sun and that the universe does not revolve around them. When my kids were born, I was still Rene Syler, I just had a baby. I still have goals and dreams.
This might be something you have to work on. You have to say that I wasn’t perfect today. Kids need to understand that they’re going to have disappointments, so it’s my job to be the first one.
Another audience member: I really belive that guilt, fear and doubt are little monsters, and they sit around us all the time. We can choose to feed them with self-deprecating thoughts and feelings, or we can choose to flick them away and say, “See you.” I often have to remind myself not to feed them because if you feed them too much, they stand in your way of getting things done.
Jessie from Parenting is a Big Deal: We are all solid mothers here, but there are so many children out there who aren’t getting what they need. How do you deal with knowing this is out there?Rene: This is not Selfish Mother. It doesn’t really meant that you feed your kids Skittles and Sprite. It means that it’s ok to say I need a break. It’s ok to have your own needs. It isn’t that it’s ok to ignore your child. That’s not what this is about. So far, I haven’t had to deal with any of those comment on my blog, but I’ve seen them written somewhere else, but it’s people who don’t get it. It’s people who just see the title and pop off.
Heather from Domestic Extraordinaire: I have two daughters 14 and 17, and that’s where I’m so proud of my blog, except for my 14 year old is telling everyone about my blog. My 17 year old really doesn’t care. How do your teenagers deal with your blog and life?Rene: I’m building a GEMpire, and my duaghter works for me now. She uploads content. I’m making this a family thing. My husband is spearheading the marketing team. I need to get my son involved somehow, somewhere. I ask, “Are you ok with me writing these things?” And if they’re ok with it and you’re ok with it, then who are you not ok with it being out there? You have to be ok with it being out there.
The internet is a big thing. You have to know that once it’s out, it’s out. If you are going to be worried about the person two doors or two streets over who is going to see it, then don’t write it. Unlike traditional television, where your assistant could handle the backlash, we don’t have that. Now they just tweet at you how you stink. That’s the world we’re in right now, so if you feel like maybe I’d best not say it, then skip it.
Angela England from Untrained Housewife: I write about the traditions that used to be passed down over generations. I just had this huge book project, and what I had to come to terms with was being 100 percent intentional when I was working and then leave the office and leave the computer and be 100 percent present with my children when I was with my children. It’s the only way I’ve survived the past six months. Having said that, it’s been six months of insanity for me. How do you get reenergized?Rene: I do this because what I write about, I believe. I wake up each morning and can’t wait to write. Good Enough Mother didn’t start as a way to make money. I started blogging because I didn’t want to get forgotten, but the nugget of what this is all about was always in me. Before I popped out the first kid, I knew that I wasn’t going to be a perfect mother; I wasn’t going to be a perfect anything.
Sometimes you get involved in a project where you’re not getting enough sleep or anything, and it’s hard. You’ve got to get back to what it is that is your passion. If you’re working on what is your passion, you’ll never be working. It’s pretty clear that this conference is Kelby’s passion. She’s walked around with a smile on her face because she has a passion for this. She believes in this and in the mission and what she’s doing.
I’m the same way but on a smaller scale. That’s how I get recharged. That’s what keeps me going. I wake up each morning and think about, “How can I make someone’s life better today?” It goes back to my mission statement.