Fourteen summers ago I was on my way to Ocean City on a late July morning.
Convertible top was down.
Along the way I stopped for a coffee and picked up a copy of The Sun, hoping to discover a few new things about Ravens training camp.
Not a single word!
I crumpled up the paper, threw it away and got back in the car and continued my eastward bound journey.
As the summer breeze whipped around me with songs that I know by heart playing on a homegrown CD, I was lost in thought. Windshield time somehow gets the brain firing on all cylinders.
How could I create an alternative to The Sun for Ravens fans?
While in thought a shadow distracted me. There, just 20 feet above the ragtop was a beautiful bald eagle gliding across Route 50, seemingly sent as a message from above. The bald eagle is prominent in The Sun’s logo.
Thoughts raced through my head until I landed on one that would stick – a website named Ravens24x7.
Once I arrived in Ocean City I felt this uncontrollable need to invest my energy in this new idea. So I politely excused myself from the beach gathering and retreated to be alone in thought.
I’m not sure how or why but I ended up at the Dough Roller on 3rd Street and the Boardwalk.
There, upon a napkin (which I so wish I had kept) I mapped out my initial plans for what would become Ravens24x7.com. The next summer on July 3, 2003 we launched the site.
I didn’t really have a long-term plan at the time because I wasn’t sure if anyone really wanted to hear what I had to say. But I plowed away, and worked on 24×7 like it was my second full-time job, seemingly 24/7.
People started to notice.
One guy sent me an email and said he was interested in advertising on the site, a brilliant idea that never occurred to me behind that windshield or back at the Dough Roller the previous summer. Not long after that, I connected with Bob Haynie who was then with WNST. He invited me into their studio to talk Ravens for an hour.
I will always remember him coaching me up just before going on the air: “You know this stuff. Just talk about what you know and everything will be cool.”
Thanks to Bob the deer-in-headlights radio that was likely to ensue left the building.
The radio exposure had a very positive affect on our site traffic (thank you Bob!), so much so that I soon thereafter sought to have a show of our own. By March of 2004 we did exactly that and traffic continued to grow. However, between the website, the radio show and my full-time job it was all-consuming and I knew that at some point something had to give.
I recruited new writers (they weren’t even called bloggers then) to relieve some of the pressure and provide new content from a different perspective. But that did little to remove the burden on my time. While the new content expanded our offerings it also added “editor” to my growing list of responsibilities.
This dilemma continued to mount until February 2005 when I reached a crossroads. I was working for a San Francisco Bay Area based finance company that decided to close its offices outside of the parent company’s footprint – and of course that meant the Baltimore office.
Should I find a new job?
Could I afford to try 24×7 full-time?
Since the days my kids were old enough to complain about homework I’ve drilled into their heads, “Your education gives you options but when you are finished with your education, do something you love so much you’d almost do it for free. For if you do, you’ll never feel like you’ve worked a day in your life.”
So there I was at this crossroad – take a new job or a big leap of faith.
Is a 44-year-old man with two kids and financial responsibilities seriously considering the same advice that he so often suggested to his kids?
Could I make this happen?
I decided to give it a try concluding that I’d rather try and fail then never try at all. Plus I thought that maybe I could show my kids that it could be done. I wanted to practice what I had preached.
Today as RussellStreetReport.com we celebrate our 14-year anniversary. I feel a sense of accomplishment yet at the same time I’m humbled by the journey – it’s far from complete. I’ve learned but there’s so much more to absorb.
But as I look back, more than anything else I’m just thankful.
I’m thankful for those who supported and encouraged me when I took that leap of faith to pursue a vision; to the fans who have supported not only us but our wonderful customers who make this all happen; to the Ravens Roosts and Nests, the heartbeat of Ravens Nation; to D3 Corp, our web company – our partner without which we could never be what we are.
I’m thankful for our employees and our writers who collectively help us to deliver a product that is unique, innovative and apparently worthy of your time; to the Ravens for their support of our efforts; and to all those in the media who appreciate what we do – thank you!
My gratitude knows no end.
But today as I reflect on 13 years, the message I really hope to deliver isn’t one about me or us. Instead it’s about being happy and how to achieve happiness.
As you get older, these things become clearer. Maybe that’s just part of the trial and error process and you simply have had more time to weed out the things that aren’t as important as you once thought.
Being happy means doing what you love.
Maybe you think it’s too late for you because being an accountant pays more than being a blogger or a musician so you’ve opted to keep your nose on the balance sheet instead of the sheet music.
I get it. I’ve been there.
But where there’s a will there’s a way.
Some can’t embrace that way of thinking or they are afraid or think they can’t afford to. But even if that shoe fits, at least allow your children to see it, feel it, live it.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” ~ John Lennon
I’m with John.
I’m sure all of you out there are too!
Do what you love, love what you do!