The value of a random “Thank You” and paying it forward.

There are few things in life that are more fulfilling in life than an unsolicited "Thank You" from someone else – notably when what you do to receive that "Thank You" is something you enjoy doing in the first place.

Where am I coming from?  

Well, I just returned from a party at the Los Angeles Film Festival to announce 40 people that were included in this year’s Indiewire "Influencers" group that I was invited to be a part of.   I was included in a group of "early adopters" that included Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seed &Spark, The Kickstarter film program, Cinereach, Vimeo, The Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, Slated, and none other than "Veronica Mars" – definitely good company indeed.   I’m not sure how I made it on that list to be very honest.  

IndiewireOne of the coolest things that happened tonight though, was that two of my fellow influencers came to thank me for what I’ve shared over the years on this blog and what it had done to help them.   I was taken aback as I often am, because this blog has always been something I’ve done for the pure pleasure of it.    I come from a background of Photojournalism which is a very small and tight-knit community where you are encouraged to give back and share with colleagues and budding photographers alike.  A lot of what we do in that world is passed down through mentors or by word of mouth…  Without it – the art and craft would simply be lost.

This blog was never started as part of a marketing plan, or part of any plan for that matter.   In fact, even though I was listed as an "early adopter" I have more often than not been a late adopter.   I didn’t start to blog until 2008, didn’t tweet for several years, and joined Instagram just a few months ago… If anything I’m a cautious adopter!

The best part of this blog has been the people that I’ve met and the relationships and friendships that have come as a result of it.  

In fact I wanted to take this opportunity to say something to all of this blog’s readers as genuinely as I can in written blog form:

I wanted to say Thank YOU.

Thank you for reading the blog, for commenting within its pages, and for contributing to it on many fronts.    I very much appreciate it. 

Simply put, I’ve tried to follow one simple rule on this blog:  write only about what I’d want to read about myself, and only when I found that something was important or relevant for this blog’s readers.    I value the readers of this blog quite a bit – and have always tried to stay as true to them (to you) as I could.

The best part of this process for me is that it’s been fun.   Sometimes cathartic.  I enjoy writing blog posts (links suck but the rest is fun:)   More often than not it’s a release of sorts – of ideas, frustrations and equally of idealism and dreams.    It’s a wonderful way to get the discussion started.

Sure – there are a few low points where I’ve wanted to shut this blog down or been über frustrated with certain details or comments.   But mostly – It’s been pretty amazing and fulfilling.   I think that if any one of us writes something of value and puts it out there – good things tend to come of it. It’s really pretty simple.   I also wanted to say another thank you to Rob Haggart and the blog hosting team that have helped keep this blog up through the occasional wave of hits.

People often ask me what the "trick" of a successful blog is, or how to make something go "viral."   My answer is always the same:   "Good content begets good results" just in the same way that a good film is all about the STORY and the proper telling of said story – not the gear it was shot with.

You make something go viral simply by doing something that excites YOU.   If that passion resonates with people – it will take off on its own.   If you TRY to make something go viral for the simple sake of going viral… it will seldom, if ever, happen.     I have always believed that readers can very very quickly sniff out any ulterior motives that others have.

Put yourself and your opinions (good or bad) out there and people will react.    It’s actually remarkably straightforward and should NEVER be a part of a marketing plan.    

Quite simply:  it has a lot to do with sharing and giving back.

Why?  Well because I don’t know about you, but I certainly didn’t get to where I am today without the help of others.   Many were mentors or teachers, others were influencers, some were competitors – but I gained a lot from the generosity of others in their time and knowledge – and even by being challenged by them.    And I guess that’s a part of why this blog exists.

I don’t quite believe that true "altruism" can exist – but if you put something out there with no expectation of ANYTHING in return:  then I can tell you that when those random "thank yous" come back to you – they mean a heck of a lot more than anything that you may actively have been seeking out.  And that’s the impetus behind this post… I’ve been meaning to write it for quite awhile actually.

There have been some bumps in the road of course.    At one point I got an angry message from a blog reader when I hadn’t responded to a question from her husband… I’ll never forget the following comment she wrote: "I’m a brain surgeon and I found the time to write you.   Why can’t you find the time to write back to my husband!"   Well it turns out my son was born that week and needless to say she never got a response.

Then there are the random thank yous and those do mean a lot.    A few months ago I was leaving the Ace Hotel  in NYC with a couple of friends and someone ran out, shook my hand and said "thank you for what you do" and as the words "you’re very welcome" were coming out of my mouth, he literally ran back to what I believe was his job at the hotel.   Those moments stick with me.   I welcome you to give this blogging thing a try.   "Giving is always better than receiving" the saying goes…   And I believe that every single one of you has something to contribute to the community at large. 

You may have noticed that at the end of 2012 I had 17 blog supporters…  Last year I did my best to have 3 posts up every week and to nourish this blog as much as possible.   I also put up a lot more "gear" reviews because that’s what people seemed to be reading when I followed the stats.   And that took a few people to help me shoot and edit videos, as well as to create links etc. and that cost me quite a bit in terms of time, energy and of course money.    Luckily I found 17 wonderful companies to help sponsor that but in the end it became a bit of a production – and I found myself working for "the man" a bit.   The irony was:  I was "the man."  

So at the end of last year, I called 13 of those 17 supporters/sponsors and let them know that while I still wanted to keep a close relationship with all of them – that I would not be soliciting their sponsorship for the blog this year.   It was simply too much work and I felt like I might be taking this blog thing in the wrong direction.  Simply put:  the blog became "work."

I still stay in touch with all of them very regularly, but I’m now much happier, and I’ve gone back to writing when I feel like it – as opposed to a self-imposed schedule.   There are a lot of things I am focusing on already, and several "big" ideas that I’m working on now that relate to improving the indie film community in small and one can dream: big ways – and I’ve never been quite as happy.  More to come on that at some point.

Another thing you’ll see a bit more of in the upcoming months:  I’ve started to "make" stuff.   I’ve been working with others to invent or to help create tools that I need for myself in the film or photography world, and that I want to make available to others out there because I’m pretty sure they will fill important voids.    As some of you know, I’ve worked with several large companies over the years as a consultant and/or advisor.    Now I’m moving into making my own gadgets and cutting through a lot of the red tape that comes with working with large multi-national corporations.   This allows me to be much more nimble.

I’ve always been pretty trepidatious about putting my name behind products – but when you see what these things are, I know you’ll like many of them.   These are simply things that I need for myself – to do my job better.   Some are just wonderful silly little gadgets that we all need, while others are a bit more interesting… kind of like MōVI interesting…

Others are products that I have found out there in the market that for some reason are under the radar – even though they are incredibly useful products.  So I hope you’ll welcome these new "things" as they come to this blog.  

I will make one promise to you on that front:   I will only put stuff out there that I myself need and use and would buy – and only quality products that I can stand behind.   I’ll also be making short and sweet disclaimers on the site about products that I’m involved in so that there’s no confusion out there.

Well that’s it for tonight – I appreciate it if you made it this far.   As I said I’ve been meaning to write this for awhile.

Thank you again for reading this blog and for contributing to it in the comments section and the nearly 13 million visits.   I hope to be doing this for years to come no matter where this crazy business leads us.   And if you’ve been on the fence about starting a blog… or making a contribution to the community in some way, I say: go for it!   You never know where it might lead you to…  I certainly didn’t.   

I’ll leave you with a quote from an old favorite book of mine:

“The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” 

― Mitch AlbomTuesdays With Morrie