Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

It’s time to make Life in the Fishbowl great again!

Make Life in the Fishbowl Great Again

This might be ill-advised, but I have a confession to make. This wasn’t intentional. And I’m sure it’s a pretty common occurrence. But it’s still something I need to confess.

I lost my voice.

I’ve spent so much time worrying about how many facebook likes my page has, how many clicks an affiliate link received, and how many people sign up for my email newsletter that I had kind of lost sight of why I even write on here to begin with. Don’t get me wrong. All of those things are important. I’m still working on building a community through the facebook page (although facebook is making it even more difficult…again) . By the way, if you haven’t “liked” that page – what are you waiting for? Go ahead. Like it. I’ll wait until you’re done. I think working with brands is important. And I’d still really like it if you subscribed to my email list.

I still think the email list is important, especially since FaceGooglebookTwitterGram can change the rules at any moment (and they do). So…why not go ahead and sign up for that, too?



But in the midst of all of this peripheral stuff, I feel like I might have lost my way just a little bit. I lost my voice. But I think I’ve found it again. So I’ve decided that it’s time.

It’s time to keep the main thing the main thing. I’ve been a storyteller all of my life. And that’s what I’m going to keep doing here. I’m going to tell stories.

It’s time to return to sharing my heart and my passion. I want to do big things. I want you to do big things. Live life big. Because it behooves us to live, right? So if even a little tiny part of this space helps inspire you to make a difference in your own life, the lives of those closest to you, or the lives of others around the world (and making a few memories along the way), that’s a huge win in my book. And since it’s my site, we’re playing by my rules from my book.

Will I still be publishing sponsored posts? Absolutely. I love working with brands and I really enjoy participating in their campaigns. In fact, I have a sponsored post coming up in about two weeks that I think you’re going to love. It was a lot of fun to put together. Will I ever be able to make a living off of sponsored posts and other brand partnerships? Probably not. And I’m quite OK with that.

It’s time. Now is the time.

It’s time to throw off the chains of whatever was holding me back. It’s time to keep improving and making this site the best that it can be, pursuing excellence with renewed vigor. It’s time to write about what I love more than writing about what I think I should be writing about because everyone else is writing about it. It’s time to use my voice again. It’s time to stand out and do something different.

It’s time to make Life in the Fishbowl great again!

Maybe I should put that saying on some buttons and pass them out. I could include the hashtag #ImWithMattdantodd.

I think this is a change we can all believe in. Are you with me? Let’s do something great together!

 

Here’s what happened at SoFabU OTR in Cincinnati

This grant was  provided to me by Collective Bias, Inc. All opinions are mine alone. #SoFabUOTR #CollectiveBias
SoFabU OTR in Cincinnati name tag

I love it when I leave a leave a conference feeling equipped, encouraged, challenged, and inspired. That’s exactly what happened at SoFabU On the Road (“OTR,” for short). Here’s how it happened…

On the Road Again

I hopped in my car before the sun came up a few Saturdays ago. I gassed up the car and hit the open road, headed east towards the Land of Seven Hills, the home of the Reds, Graeter’s Handcrafted Ice Cream, and Ahalogy. It was also a stop on the SoFabU On the Road world tour.

OK. It’s not really a world tour. But they’re definitely hitting all regions of the contiguous United States. And that’s pretty cool!

SoFabU OnTheRoad attendees in Cincinnati
Image via SoFabU OnTheRoad

 Ahalogy was a gracious host

For the morning session, we met in the offices of Ahalogy. They’re experts about marketing on Pinterest. They know their stuff. Not only did they welcome us to their amazing facility, but they also dropped some serious Pinterest knowledge on us. Continue reading Here’s what happened at SoFabU OTR in Cincinnati

D is for Digital Sharecropping

Before we go to far in this discussion, I want to go ahead and encourage you to sign up for the Life in the Fishbowl newsletter. It’s going to be a weekly recap of all the fun stuff you might or might not have seen here in this beloved space. It’s going to be the best way to keep updated!

With this email update, I promise:

  • No spam. Ever.
  • Your contact information will remain private and will never be sold to any third-party.
  • I’ll do my best to entertain you and keep you informed. Hopefully we can build a nifty little community here.

So what are you waiting for?

Subscribe to our mailing list

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I already explained a few weeks ago how subscribing to the email newsletter is one way you can help support our adoption. So that should be reason enough to subscribe. Right? But wait. There’s more!

Facebook has changed.

We all know that Facebook is unpredictable. It has a reputation for liking to change things with little warning. You know how people get upset when Facebook tweaks the timeline’s appearance? Imagine what that’s like for a Page owner whose reach is suddenly dropped to near zero. That’s what happened to many pages at the end of last year/beginning of this year. It wasn’t pretty.

People had figured out how to game the system. Some were even able to make money off of it. And now? Nada, basically. Facebook has made it clear that if you want your Page content seen by your audience, you have to pay to play. That wasn’t very good news for small business owners. And it definitely wasn’t very good news for sites like this one.

Google has changed.

It’s no secret that Google keeps changing its algorithm to try to stay ahead of those who make money by gaming their system. Unlike Facebook, Google is pretty up-front about what they like and what they don’t like. Don’t get me wrong. They still keep the SEO folk jumping. And guessing. But the general framework remains consistent.

That being said, they keep changing things. And there are people who have full-time jobs to keep up with what Google changes. I don’t really have time for that. And I don’t really care about that. All I care about it sharing my story with you. So why worry about what hoops I’m jumping through?

Google+ has changed.

Oh, who am I kidding? None of you really use Google+. But if you did, you’d probably know that they might finally be putting Google+ to rest. I know you don’t care about this. I really don’t, either. Except for the fact that it’s another example of the rules changing.

Pinterest has changed.

Did you know that people were making money off Pinterest? And it wasn’t just by driving traffic to their site. But that’s not happening anymore, either. While this didn’t have any impact on me and what I do, it’s yet another example of the rules changing.

Myspace has changed.

Wait.

Does Myspace still exist? I honestly don’t know. Or care. I’ll bet you don’t know or care, either.

Remember when that was the social platform that you had to be on?

ch-ch-changes…

You see the pattern. Right? Things change. Especially when it comes to social platforms. Any of them can change their rules or requirements at a moment’s notice.  And that’s their right. They own the platform. They can set the rules. And they do.

Those of us who rely on their platforms to help build our own audience and to share our content (and maybe even make money)?  We’re just digital sharecroppers.

My friend, Felicia, introduced me to this term a little more than a year ago. She wrote a great article about digital sharecropping in the wake of the Great Guest Blogging Massacre of 2014. Michael Hyatt uses a slightly different analogy, talking about a landlord/tenant relationship. The message is the same: when you rely solely on other platforms to get people to read your stories, you’re bound by their rules (no matter how ridiculous they might be).

It’s time to take control.

Don’t get me wrong. Twitter is still my first-love. And I have fun on my Facebook page. But I could lose those with little to no warning. That’s their right. And that’s OK. I’ll keep using them. I have fun with them. But I can’t rely solely on them when it comes to this blog.

If I’m going to take this blogging thing seriously, it’s time to do what I should’ve done a long time ago and take a little more control of getting what I write in front of your eyeballs. Because that’s the purpose of writing, right? It needs to be read. What’s the point of telling stories if there isn’t anyone to hear it? Right?

That’s why I’m asking you to sign up for the newsletter. It’s not nearly as trendy as the latest social media platform. But it’s pretty reliable. And all of us use it.

It’ll be much better for us in the long-run. I promise!

subscribe to Life in the Fishbowl

 

**I’m participating in the April A to Z Challenge. This post is part of that endeavor. You can see my other entries to this year’s challenge here. A lot of people are doing the same thing. You should check out some of their posts!**

 

I’m packing my bags for SoFabU on the Road in Cincinnati!

This grant was  provided to me by Collective Bias, Inc. All opinions are mine alone. #SoFabUOTR #CollectiveBias

Cincinnati at night
image via Wikimedia Commons

OK. In reality, it’s just going to be one bag. And I haven’t really started packing yet. The event doesn’t happen for another month. But I’m pretty excited to have this opportunity.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had some great opportunities to publish some sponsored posts on this blog. And the money that is being made is helping to cover some of our adoption fees and travel expenses. But after we bring “W” home, we’re going to have another mouth to feed – a 14 year old boy’s mouth to feed. That means we’ll need to be able to put more food on the table. Because 14 year old boys like to eat. A lot.

So, it’s time to step up. It’s time to take my blog to the next level. 

So I’m hitting the road on April 25 and driving to Cincinnati to participate in a one-day event that’s been put together by Collective Bias’s Social Fabric University: SoFabU On the Road.

There’s a lot that excites me about this conference, but I’m most looking forward to the Keynote Session. Here’s the description:

Attendees will walk away with a solid understanding of how to pair analytics data (Google, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook) with common, free publishing tools to grow their audience with data-driven processes.

That’s exactly what I need! I know just enough analytics to get myself into trouble. I’m looking forward to learning how to keep myself out of trouble. In doing that, I’ll be able to make this blog even better for you, Dear Reader.  Then I can find other ways to get myself into trouble.

I struggled long and hard about attending this conference. With all of our extra funds going towards adoption-related expenses, there really isn’t a lot of room in our budget to cover something like this. I agree that it’s an investment that will have big returns long-term. I agree that this really is a quite affordable event. But I still hesitated on jumping in.

Then something unexpected happened.

I was awarded a grant to go to SoFabU On the Road in Cincinnati! It covers the ticket and travel expenses. And that’s pretty amazing. And unexpected. And amazing. I had applied for the grant, but didn’t really think I’d be chosen. I’m humbled at this opportunity and plan on making the most of it. This could have HUGE implications for our family. I even have a little post-conference mini-retreat planned so I can go ahead and work out a plan to start implementing all of the new ideas that I’ll learn while they’re still fresh in my mind.

SoFabU On the Road isn’t just coming to Cincinnati. They’ll be meeting in several cities throughout the United States during the year, including Chicago, Dallas, and Atlanta. In all, they will visit 11 different cities when all is said and done. It’s likely that they’ll be coming to your area in the near future. But if you want to join me in Cincy, I would act fast. The Early Bird registration price ends soon! You don’t want to miss out on the big savings, do you?

I’m excited to be visiting the Queen City in a few weeks. If you’re there, feel free to tap me on the shoulder and say “howdy.” I’d love to connect with you. It’s always fun to put digital names with real-live faces.

Looking back: 10 posts for 10 years!

10 posts for 10 years

It seems this has been a week of significant milestones for this humble little blog. I published my 2000th post a few days ago. And then this weekend marked the 10th anniversary…or “blogiversary”…of this blog. I want to thank you again for sticking with me. It’s been quite a ride, hasn’t it?

Over this ten year span, I’ve written about a lot of different life experiences. Some were great. Some were awful. Horribly awful. Here are some highlights from the past decade…

  1. I shared my seminary experience.
  2. We said goodbye to my nephew.
  3. I discussed my most memorable travel experiences. This list was written in 2006. There are several more memories I can add (like two trips to Florida and a life-changing trip to Ethiopia to bring Mihret home). I’m all about making memories with my family!
  4. When we left Tennessee and returned to Indiana, I shared a few more memorable goodbyes I’ve had along the way.
  5. I’ve shared quite a bit about coaching instructional baseball.
  6. For the second time in less than a year, I had to say goodbye to colleagues at work thanks to layoffs. The day after the second layoff, my father in law died. Man, I still miss him.
  7. Philmont Scout Ranch always manages  to show up in a post or two a year. I think this one about leadership lessons is my favorite.
  8. I’ve shared some fun stories, too. Like the time I had to break into my parents’ house. And how I proposed to Christy.
  9. Of course, our lives were changed when we brought Mihret home. I wrote about that. A lot.
  10. And there’s always Star Wars. Give me that Star Wars. Nothing but Star Wars.

OK. That was actually more than 10 posts. But how can you pick just ten out of two thousand? I’ll tell you how…

You can’t.

Thanks for looking back at the last 10 years with me. I can’t wait to discover what happens next!

My notes from Mixwest 2014

Mixwest Notes
I had a great time at Mixwest 2014. I got to meet some new people, catch up with some old friends, and learn some pretty amazing stuff from the fabulous collection of speakers and presenters.

It’s always hard going to a conference like this and deciding what workshops to attend – especially when you want to go to all of them. But you can only go to one at a time, unless you’ve managed to figure out a way to be in three places at the same time. If you have, please contact me! I want to learn your secrets.

My friend, Leah, calls this the Mixwest Struggle. And let me tell you, the struggle is real, y’all. Since many of you might have shared in The Struggle this year, I’ve decided to share my notes from this year’s conference. Now, I’m not the most amazing note taker on the planet, but I did try to get down as much relevant information as possible. Here are my notes from Mixwest 2014.

And in case you’re interested, here are my notes from Blog Indiana 2012 – the precursor to Mixwest.

I should mention that because of The Struggle, I tried to avoid sessions that I knew were going to be recorded. Once those are available, I will have figured out how to be in two places at the same time! Still gotta unravel the mystery of being in three places at once. But that’ll happen. Some day.

I hope these notes are helpful. If you have any technical difficulties, please let me know and I’ll get that fixed ASAP. And if you have any notes or insight from any of the sessions that you attended at Mixwest 2014, I’d love to learn from your experience!

Keep being awesome, Mixwesterners! Hopefully, we’ll see each other again next year. Because I love what you do.

What’s up, #Mixwest14?

image

What’s up, Mixwesterners?

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy what you find here on my humble little site.

Feel free to find me while you’re here and I’ll sign you up do a giveaway.

Oh, who am I kidding? I don’t have any prizes to give away. But if you do say hi to me and take my business card, I’ll gladly shake your hand. Or give you a hug. Whichever you choose.

Anyway, I hope you have a great day.

Finishing sentences

A few days ago, I asked this question on the Life in the Fishbowl facebook page:

“Pick a number between 1 and 449.”

I know. I know. An odd request. But here’s the results – 303, 52, 225, 322, 352, and pi. I know. I know. Everyone’s a comedian.

And now you’re asking, “So what?”

I know. I would be, too. In fact, I probably would’ve stopped reading this post by now because it really isn’t making any sense. Fortunately, I’m going to change that right about…now.

The method to my madness

Back when I was doing youth ministry full-time, one of my favorite games to play was “Would you rather…” Someone would pick a number and I’d read the number’s corresponding question. Stuff like, “Would you rather fly or read minds?” People who would rather fly would go to the left side of the room and people who would rather read minds would gather in the right side of the room. It was a great way to learn how other people in our ministry thought. What was important to them? What made their minds tick? It also opened the door to some more important questions later down the road.

I also had a list of unfinished sentences. I used it on occasion, but not nearly as often. I probably should’ve used it as my go-to tool because there’s a lot of potential in those questions.

Sentences

I rediscovered the unfinished sentences and thought it would be an interesting exercise for this blog. Each week for the next several weeks, I’m going to finish one of the unfinished sentences that everyone picked when they chose their numbers.

You’re invited

This could be a fun writing exercise and should help force me to stretch a little out of my comfort zone. But it doesn’t have to be limited to me. You’re invited to join in the process. Each Monday, I’ll post the unfinished sentence for the week. If the unfinished sentence inspires you to write something, I’d love to share it. Feel free to send it to me and I’ll publish it here. I’m also going to encourage my family to write their thoughts, too.

I’m looking forward to doing this and I hope you are too. This could be pretty fun.

And just to make life easier for you, here’s the list of unfinished sentences that were chosen. That way, if you read one that sparks your interest, you have time to write it ahead of time.

The Schedule

  • June 30 “It’s difficult for me to have disciplined, consistent time with God because…” (#303)
  • July 7 “Next year looks better to me because…” (#52)
  • July 14 “If I could change one thing about the way I was raised, it would be…” (#225)
  • July 21 “The roadblocks that keep me from having greater faith in God are…” (#322)
  • July 28 “My friends pressure me to…” (#352)
  • August 4 “When I need to go somewhere to think, I will most often…”
    – or –
    “The one think I could do this week to strengthen the spiritual foundation of my life is…” (#3 or #314 – aka pi)

Are you ready? Let’s do this!

Update (July 16, 2014)

Did I mention that those dates weren’t set in stone? I’m going to follow the sequence of questions, but don’t expect one every Monday. That original schedule might have been a bit ambitious for the middle of the summer with all of the family activities that have been happening.

This is a test. Please click here.

like and dislike

 

This is a test. It is only a test. And I need your help with this test. I’m testing stuff like reach and visibility and engagement. To be completely transparent, this is a direct result of this event.

If you came to this post because of twitter, tumblr, or some other form of social network, please comment on this post.

If you saw this post because of my facebook group, please like that post on the group.

If you saw this post because of the Life in the Fishbowl fan page on facebook, please like that post on the page.

If you saw this post because of both the fan page and the group, please like both posts.

I promise this isn’t a convoluted ploy to get more likes or shares or readership. I’m testing out a few things. Thanks, everyone, for your help!

 

I missed my anniversary. Again.

Sad Clown
No, not that anniversary. That one’s pretty much embedded into my brain. And that’s as it should be. This anniversary is not nearly as big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still worth noting because it will make 2014 a rather significant year in the life of this humble little blog.

Because I misread this post, I was thinking I had started blogging on November 26, which would be tomorrow. But I was wrong. I started on the 22nd of November, 2004. So I missed my blogs blogiversary. Again.

This one’s kind of significant because it’s #9. That means that we’re close to celebrating ten….yes, TEN years of Life in the Fishbowl! To mark this momentous occasion, I have some pretty fun stuff lined up for 2014. We might as well make a big deal about it all year long. Why not?

And hopefully, I’ll remember to celebrate the blogiversary on the actual date next year.