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December 22, 2013 AsktheBuilder Newsletter & Tips

Are you a new subscriber in the past week or so? If so, you're about to get very confused.

You thought you signed up for a home-improvement newsletter and what you're about to read has nothing to do with fixing up your home. Be patient. That's just around the corner in 2014.

It's all about timing. You subscribed at the end of the year when it's time to reflect back and look ahead. That's what today is about.

My Friend Jeff Walker

I met Jeff Walker online back in the late 1990's. He and I were part of an Internet mastermind group. I was one of the charter founding members of the group.

I met many good friends there, all of which I still stay in contact. Most of us had never met face to face as the group communicated via email. Jeff finally pulled off a two-day conference for the group in Las Vegas in 2002. It was fantastic to meet the guy in the unbuttoned shirt-tail-out denim shirt, gray t--shirt and faded blue jeans.

Jeff is one smart guy and understands the question you may have heard in the movie Conan the Barbarian. In that movie, Arnold is up on his throne and one of his minions asks, "Conan, what is best in life?" If you can't remember Conan's answer, it's pretty intimidating. I never saw the movie, so it's out of context for me.

Jeff knows what is best in life for him, and it has to do with his family, his personal innermost ambitions and his close friends. Each year he spends the week between Christmas and New Years Day reflecting on the year that just marched by and planning out what he wants to do in the upcoming year.

I always seemed too busy to do that, but now have tried it the past two years. While I've not accomplished all I set out to do, I must say it's given me a clearer focus. I have accomplished more. Thanks Jeff!

Part of the exercise is using some psychology on yourself. A powerful psychological trigger or button is Commitment. Jeff thinks about what he's wants to do, then creates a written list.

By writing down what he wants to do, he creates a contract with himself. Believe me, nothing is more powerful than writing down a promise, videotaping it or recording it. There's no question about what was said.

Do you do the lite version of what Jeff does? Do you make *mental* New Year's resolutions in your head, ponder them for about two minutes then get back to what you were doing? That's not commitment. Those resolutions often disappear into space like the smoke from a fire on a breezy winter day here in New England.

This year, consider doing what Jeff does.

You don't have to spend a week. Spend just thirty minutes in some peaceful setting. Concentrate on what you really want. WRITE IT DOWN. Seriously, write it down. If you want to really make it imprint in your brain, write the list three or four times and then pin it up in a place where you see it everyday.

Do me a huge favor. During the year as you hit some of your goals, email me and let me know if writing it down helped you achieve them.

Some of My Reflections

Two days ago in the hustle and bustle of my own life - this past week was out of control - I received a random email.

Subject Line:  Worried About You

At first, I thought "Dang Spammers! That's a catchy subject line pulling on one's heartstrings!"

I could have trashed it NOT OPENING it. Fortunately I didn't. Here's all the email said:

"We have not seen an email in several days, hope you are ok....."

It was from Tom. I recognized his email address. Over the years Tom and I have had a few email exchanges.

Gulp.

What can you say when someone you've NEVER met face-to-face is truly worried about you? I was touched and immediately shared the email with my family. It meant more to me than it did to them, but I get that.

My mind drifted off to thinking about you.

How lucky I am to have you as a subscriber.

I don't think I've told you this, but it's time.

You're responsible for keeping me in business the past three years. Yes, you.

A little less than three years ago I lost 80 percent of the traffic (and ad revenue) that came to my AsktheBuilder.com website.

Overnight, I lost 50%. The other 30% drifted away in just six months. My website traffic is NEVER going to come back.

I finally figured out the reason eighteen months ago. You may find this hard to believe, but the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission said I was the first person he knew of that solved the mystery. I was sitting across a conference table with him in his Washington DC office in the fall of 2012.

If you have 30 minutes, you can read all about it at a blog post I created over a year ago. The subject is the disappearance of high-quality content from the Internet.

WARNING: It's a LONG blog post.

Each week in my newsletter, you've listened to me gritch and complain. You've invoked the patience of Job as I share my personal life and not more home improvement information like some robot.

You came through for me when I asked you to play a silly modified game of Where's Waldo. Remember that last year with the pocket door contest?

You have no idea how that helped me. It was a random idea I came up with, yet it was a huge success.

Guess what? We're doing it again in about six weeks and it's now transformed into a Treasure Hunt. More about that soon.

(SIDEBAR COMMENT - then back to Reflections)

NOTE TO COMPANIES, PR FOLKS, MARKETING MANAGERS: If you want to experience a huge burst of traffic to your website or a client's website, you better get in touch with me right now.

(SIDEBAR IS OVER)

Most importantly you've invested in my products, including my flagship product Stain Solver.

Here's something you need to know right now. Stain Solver is a big part of my future. Google, or any other search engine, can't take Stain Solver away from me.

When you have real customers that love your product, you have their home addresses and email, you can bypass search engines. But I digress.

AsktheBuilder.com is moving forward with you too. You and I are now partners. All I want you to know is I thank you, as does my family, for helping us survive the past tough three years. The future looks brighter all because of you.

Meghan - My Oldest

You may know my oldest daughter, Meghan. She's very talented. Just go look at her AsktheDecorator.com website. That detailed design was created out of her head. Brent, her husband, did all the magic coding to make it work.

Then she created MeghanCarter.com website to support her book, The Meghan Method.

Months ago in a conversation, Meghan said, "Dad, you LOVE doing your newsletter. You don't realize how much you talk about it during the week. You're always sharing what this or that subscriber writes back to you."

Out of the mouths of babes indeed. But Meghan is no small child, she's married!

The truth is I do enjoy producing this newsletter. Some weeks it's tougher to do than others, but I do enjoy it and it's because I get your feedback.

I plan, in 2014, to try to do a better job of listening to you and give you more of what you want to help save you time and money.

Just after the New Year I'm going to try something new to make this newsletter even better. I'm looking for your help in going a new direction, so watch for that in January too! I'll NEED your feedback to move forward.

The PayPal Button

It was brought to my attention in the past ten days the PayPal button I've had at the bottom of each newsletter doesn't work, or it doesn't work for everyone.

I want you to know I did receive generous donations in the past ten days and I sincerely thank you for them. You have no idea how it helps and what it means to me. I'm trying to send a private thank you, but the madness of Christmas has gotten in the way. Please be patient.

If you want to make a donation to help sustain this newsletter and you use PayPal, all you really need is my special secret PayPal email address. You'll then know what to do. Here it is:

paytim@askthebuilder.com

If you decide to make a donation to keep the newsletter going, believe me it will help.

Kelly - My Youngest

This is from the You-Had-To-Be-There department. 

Kelly's a senior at Johnson and Wales in her last year of hospitality. This past year she did a full-blown internship at the Hyatt resort in blistering hot San Antonio, TX. It was a vivid learning experience for her, including arriving in a strange town alone sitting on the curb locked out of a gated community.

Two nights ago at the dinner table she uttered one of her favorite phrases, "Settle down!" I forget why she said it. There was silence at the table for a second and I responded:

"I would, but I'm not settled up so I can't settle down." I just shrugged my shoulders and stared at her.

All you heard were crickets.

Two seconds later everyone burst out laughing.

"You're a dork dad."

It was funny. You had to be there.

I've often told the family we should tape our dinner conversations and put them out as a podcast. People would possibly pay.

Kathy says absolutely NOT - it will NEVER happen. I've threatened to hide a microphone in the light fixture over the table, but I know how uncomfortable it is to sleep on the couch.

Tristan - My Middle Child

I don't want Tristan to feel left out, but he got a special call out in a recent newsletter. Remember son? Our September Little-Man-Self-Discovery-Trip to the WW II re-enactment?

Activism

I'm going to end this newsletter with a very personal story. I'm hoping this will help you in some way.

You may know that for the past five years, I've been fairly politically active. Nope, we're not going there.

I've learned much in that journey and focused all of my attention to state and local issues. I've discovered I can make a difference doing that. I get results.

One of the things I did in the past few months is teach a course on writing powerful letters to the editor. Here in New Hampshire those letters really do sway opinion.

I've also made some very good friends along the way. That's been a blessing. Friends and family are what it's all about at the end of the day or the end of the game.

When it comes to activism, it's black and white. There's absolutely no gray in between. 

None. Nada.

You're either active or you're passive. Don't confuse what I'm saying with pacifism.

You're either in the game, or you're on the sidelines. 

That's what I'm talking about.

There are all sorts of reasons why you may decide to be on the sidelines. You could be shy. You could not care about an issue. You could be sick. You could be old and tired. There are hundreds of reasons.

In the past three months something happened in the community where I live. It's a private community here in NH with about 60 lots. Many who live here are seasonal residents. They come up for the summer to enjoy the beauty of New Hampshire and the crystal clear waters of Lake Winnisquam.

Well, one of our residents in the community upset the ecosystem by cutting down trees on common land. Our association bylaws state that's forbidden.

I moved to this community because I liked the protection the bylaws offered. The bylaws help preserve property values. The bylaws are important to me.

Drive down just about any rural New Hampshire road and you'll know why this is true. Quintessential New Hampshire is coming around a bend looking at a mobile home with junk, toys, detritus scattered all over the lot. Seriously...... right down the road from a gorgeous home.

I decided to take a stand. I decided to get in the game.

I was on the Board of Directors when this came up, but quickly discovered I was in a minority position with respect to solving the problem.

The only way to expose what was going on was to publish the facts. It's what I do professionally.

Our little community is no different than a small town or big city. There's politics involved and there are secret cabals.

It gets even more interesting when a flatlander like me from far away Ohio moves into a New England environment. I think it's the same all over the world when an outsider tries to fit in.

What does this have to do with you?

Sometimes you come to a fork in the road and you must make a decision. The roads are often one way. You can't always turn back.

I was at such a fork in the past few months. I took the tough road because I had to follow my convictions.

I could have taken the easy road. I could have just let the Board give the resident a hall pass. In the end, that just may happen, but I'll always know I gave my all to protect what's important to me.

That decision has had a secondary effect. Secondary effects are often more powerful than primary effects.

Even though I was not the one who peed in the pool here in my community, I'm now the pariah because I'm exposing all of the undisclosed facts about what happened. Some in the community want the facts to disappear.

I can live with being an outcast because, in my heart, I had to do the right thing. I just couldn't lay down and let others in the community weaken the bylaws.

Bottom Line: What's your legacy going to be when you pass on? Will people (children, friends, co-workers) say you were milquetoast or will they say you fought for what you believed in? 

There's not much space on a headstone to inscribe what you might want to say. What's more, when was the last time you saw crowds of people in graveyards reading headstone inscriptions?

Think about that as you plan for 2014.

You'll not hear from me next week. I'll be reflecting and planning. Please do the same. Spend time with your family and friends.

Try to turn around if you're on a roadway that let's you make a u-turn and say "I'm sorry." if that will help you move forward in 2014.

My best friend Richard Anderson told me years ago, "The strongest person is the one who has to say 'I'm sorry.' first." Yes, Richard, you're so right.

Are you the strong one? Do you have what it takes to say I'm sorry? Just do it. Be sincere.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

It's what I say. If you celebrate another religious holiday, you know my sentiments are the same.

I'll be back in January, and hope you're ready to be dipped in the magic waters of home improvement via AsktheBuilder.com!

P.S. I found out last week I'll be traveling to the LA area in the middle of February. We'll do a meet up for sure.

Tim Carter

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