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Fireside Chat with Tim Stoddart (Copyblogger, Stodzy)

Fireside Chat with Tim Stoddart (Copyblogger, Stodzy)

Tim Stoddart, the owner of both Tim Stodz Enterprises and Sober Nation, is a writer, an entrepreneur, and a leader. 

Tim’s experience of addiction and recovery has shaped and influenced his career path in many ways. It’s what inspired him to create Sober Nation, a blog and community resource for people struggling with addiction, as well as his marketing agency Stodz Enterprises. 

For Tim, his personal journey and professional career go hand in hand. 

In this episode, you can find out how Tim learned to reconcile his personal and professional online personas, why he relies so heavily on documented systems, and why it’s okay to be bad at sales.

Show Topics

  • Control what you can, and let go of what you can’t
  • Get rid of labels
  • The power of sharing yourself
  • It’s courageous to publish
  • Protect your core values
  • How to be credible and authentic
  • Scaling yourself through documented systems
  • Be bad at sales. And do it anyway.
  • The power and limits of social media
  • Make it to midnight 

Show Links 

Listen to the podcast:

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Key Takeaways:

07:20 – Control what you can, and let go of what you can’t

You can’t control every element of your life, but controlling the decisions you can make helps you deal with the ones you can’t. 

“It’s counterintuitive in that you would think that freedom is being like a leaf in the wind. ‘I can go where I want to go, when I want to go. I have absolute utility of my time.’ But in life when you actually try to apply freedom to life, because there’s a difference between theory and reality, and the reality is that anytime I’ve lived that kind of way, the utility of my own decision making eroded a bit because I was always just at the whim of the circumstances around me that I couldn’t control. So when I control the things that I can control, I think it gives me more, use the word utility again, utility over the things that I don’t have control over because they don’t affect me as much. So it took me a long time to learn that lesson, but I got there.”

08:59 – Get rid of labels

Don’t let yourself be controlled by your labels. Your personal and professional lives may intertwine sometimes, and that’s okay.

“So much of what I learned and what I do comes from my experience from addiction and recovery, and so many of the lessons I’ve learned in my life come from that. And so it’s only been natural that as I’ve become more involved with running my own companies and been successful, that I’ve had to talk about these lessons because it’s just how I learned how to do all the stuff I know how to do. It’s a strange mix where sometimes I don’t know if I’m speaking to sober Tim who’s out to help other people that are still struggling. Or if I’m talking to entrepreneurial Tim, that is telling like, ‘Hey, this is how I did it and this is how I run my own businesses.’ Over time, there was never an aha moment where it just clicked for me. I just started thinking a lot about what labels mean because there was a lot of my career, where I felt like either I have to put on the sober guy Tim label, or I have to put on the entrepreneur Tim label. I think it happens when you get older. I’m 36 now. I stopped caring so much about what other people think of me, because that was really crippling for me for a lot of my life. I just started realizing this is completely irrelevant and none of it actually matters. I’m actually a combination of all of the things that I am.”

13:56 – The power of sharing yourself

When you publish your writing or share your artwork, you’re sharing a piece of yourself with the world.

“The power of sharing yourself is much more than what we think of it on Twitter. When you share your writing or anything really, this idea of hitting publish is something that I’m having a hard time defining because it’s really just a metaphor for sharing yourself. Some people hit publish by lifting weights, and that’s just their way of expressing who they are. Some people hit publish by painting or the ones that are more literal, they’re like, we totally understand. Some people hit publish by, I told you I train Muay Thai a lot. I see a lot of people who find ways to express their ideas through violence in a weird way, and it’s really beautiful. Writing has just been my personal way that I’ve fallen into that. My mom was a writer. I read Harriet the Spy when I was really little. That was an important thing for me, because I just thought it was so cool that she carried a notebook around with her everywhere, and you can’t actually see on my camera, but there’s a bookshelf right there where I keep all my notebooks. So I’ve got all the notebooks that I’ve written throughout my life, stacks and stacks of them, and it’s been a really important professional but also spiritual process for me to just remind myself that it’s not an obligation to anybody else. It’s an obligation to myself to shed who I am continuously, because then it’s a process of revealing more and more of yourself and I’ve learned who I am through doing that. And it’s a cool byproduct that cool shit happens to me through the process of trying to be better.”

17:03 – It’s courageous to publish

Years of evolution have ingrained in us the desire to blend in, so it’s bold to try and stand out and make your ideas heard.

“It was through that shedding experience of publishing my work that you learn two things. One, you learn that nobody actually cares that much. It’s not actually a big deal. And then you also learn that, worst case scenario, people really, really care and something bad happens, you learn that you’re not going to die and you’re totally fine. It’s a survival mechanism really. It sounds dramatic when I talk about it this way, but it is the core mechanism in your brain that is screaming at you, ‘No, no, no. Don’t stand out from the crowd. Don’t isolate yourself. Don’t put your ideas out there.’ Because we’re not wired to live in the way that we live now. We’re wired to be cooped up in a cave, and if you speak out you might offend the chief and then the chief might fucking chop your head off or throw you out of the cave to fend for yourself in the wilderness. I don’t take it lightly. It is hundreds of thousands of years of evolution that is forcing you not to publish what you think and what you truly feel and what you want to express. It’s a real courageous act to do that routinely.”

26:45 – Protect your core values

Everyone is always looking for newer and better things for their company. But make sure those newer and better things don’t unintentionally hamper your company’s goals and mission.

“The thing that keeps happening that makes me realize that not doing anything is actually the best method is that sometimes, especially for SEOs, you get lost in the graphs and the traffic and the keywords, and you forget that there’s real people reading it. But the messages that I get every day from people that are either, ‘Hey, thank you, this helped me so much.’ Or, ‘Hey, this article helped me have a conversation with my mom.’ Or, ‘I got sober.’ It just happened to me the other day. Someone found me on Twitter. They sent me a DM. It just happened to me. Someone said, ‘Hey, I read this article. And it was the inspiration I needed, and I’m reaching out to you now to let you know that I just got a year sober.’ It really happens, and it’s tough to just pass that by as no big deal. And so there’s a weird side of me that feels very responsible to protect the architecture of the website because even though it’s imperfect, and even though it may not fit this grand division that I have of what I want the brand to be and the new styling and the new logo and all of that guru market stuff, there’s a side of me that feels really, really protective of what it is, which was always a way for me to do what we were just talking about. I was helping people just by expressing myself.”

38:12 – How to be credible and authentic

If you want clients to believe in your credibility, you need to be able to say, “Don’t listen to what I’m saying. Look at what I’ve done.”

“One of the challenges for people that want to start an agency is that you have to fake your credibility because how’s anybody else going to know unless you just put yourself out there. It’s part of the process, you’ve got to do it. But I’m always weary in SEO in particular, where you go to someone’s website, it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re an SEO agency.’ Well, how do you get your clients? It’s not SEO. It’s been really advantageous for me to be able to say, quite frankly, and just point blank, ‘Look, you don’t have to believe me. I actually don’t care if you believe me or not. Just look at what I’ve already built and call me back if you want. And if not, that’s fine too, because it’s your money. Do whatever you want to do.’ But being able to just show people, ‘Don’t listen to what I say, watch what I’ve done,’ has been very, very powerful in terms of a marketing standpoint, but also a sales standpoint, because I don’t have that initial hurdle to get over. It gives me leverage in conversations a lot, which is helpful.”

40:40 – Scaling yourself through documented systems

It’s important to document your systems. If you put in the work upfront, you’ll save time and brainpower on the back end.

“One of the things that I really dove into, I think Covid helped me with this a lot, was just the importance of documented systems. I don’t mean, ‘Just do it this way.’ I mean doing the awful, painful, shitty work of sitting at your computer for hours and painstakingly create the systems that run your operations and writing them down. It’s the most important part course. Really it’s the worst. It’s terrible. But I’ve gotten really into it the last couple years because I just saw the effects of it. People ask me all the time, ‘You must work all the time.’ And I work hard for sure, but I do have a life. I work out with my wife every morning. We go to the Y and we work out every morning. I do Muay Thai two to three times a week. I sit down to eat dinner every night, and I have a life. And the reason why it might appear like I’m doing so much is because I’ve really made it a point to make the systems the important and not urgent things in my life. If there’s other stuff going on, no matter how urgent that stuff is, I actually ignore it, and it might turn into a problem, but I just keep ignoring my problems. I keep thinking about important not urgent, important not urgent. And then over time the things that really matter come to the surface.”

44:57 – Be bad at sales. And do it anyway.

Sales is terrifying, and sometimes your strategies will fail. But the important thing to do is pick yourself up and move on.

“Everybody would be 10 times more successful if they swallowed their pride, they admitted that sales is really terrifying, and just went for it and stumbled over it and got hung up on and had those awful fall on your face moments where you want to cry in a corner because of how bad a pitch went. Unless you figure that out, you’re always going to be chasing the next retweet or the next like, or whatever the modern thing is. But sales and communicating with people and exchanging value, that’s always going to be there. And I think everybody gets that wrong.”

46:52 – The power and limits of social media

Social media is only useful if your client base is also on social media. But if that’s where your customers are, social media can be a powerful tool.

“Ironically, I have changed my mind about the power of social media. So this is completely a juxtaposition against what I just said. But I’ve grown all my companies through long form writing. If I had to pick one, I would still choose that for sure. But I went for it with Twitter especially, and it has done wonders to grow my email list, especially my personal thing with the Bootstrapper, because that’s my product attached to my personal blog. Here’s also what I’ve learned about it, which I think is very dangerous. Social media only works if you talk about social media, and most people aren’t in that world. They have a coffee shop, or they’re a plumber, or anything else except some Twitter tech boy that wants to use Twitter to talk about why you should use Twitter to help you use Twitter. And so if you’re not in that game, then I still think social media is a waste of time. But now that I’m dipping my toe in that game a little bit, as cringy as sometimes it may be, I’m enjoying it a lot, and the value that I’ve gotten from social media has been immense, so I’ve changed my mind about that.”

49:31 – Make it to midnight 

Sometimes, it’s better to focus on your short-term goals rather than your long-term ones. Whether you’re battling addiction or dealing with a work issue, focus only on the next 24 hours.

“One of my tattoos says, ‘Make it to midnight,’ and it’s a clock that is just before midnight. The idea behind it is that all you ever have to do is get to midnight, no matter what’s going on in your life. So, from a recovery standpoint, it’s, ‘Oh, you feel like doing some dope? You can do it, but just get to midnight first,’ and then get to midnight again the next day. And so it breaks down these really big, audacious fears into, actually the only thing I have to do is get through the day. And if that problem is still around tomorrow, then I guess I can succumb to my fear, or maybe I’ll just get to midnight again that next day. And so from that example, the fears are always, ‘What do I do at my sister’s wedding?’ Or, ‘My family’s Scottish. And so every Thanksgiving we would take shots of McCullum. It’s a scotch, and say what we’re grateful for. What do I do at Thanksgiving?’ And it’s like, ‘I actually don’t even have to think about that right now. All I have to do is get to midnight.’ I’m a very anxious person and I’m super high strung and have a lot of energy, and so sometimes my thoughts can just take over. And without a doubt, the most important piece of advice I’ve ever gotten has been that, because no matter what’s going on in my life, anything, you know what? That’s pretty tough, but I’m just going to get to midnight, and then that’s all I’ve got to do.”

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Allie Decker

Allie is co-founder and Head of Client Success at Omniscient Digital. She previously led content initiatives at HubSpot and Shopify.