Sock Monkey-ing Around

Posted: November 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Business, General, Technology | No Comments »

I have an un-curable case of the entrepreneurial bug. I love beautiful products. I am addicted to building things. I almost always have my iron in a couple “side-project” fires.

My latest venture is my first foray into a market that is otherwise quite foreign to me. This market is more about design, taste and experience than technology. This venture is an idea that was inspired by my wife Melissa and my son Kingston.

I present PaperCow.com. Paper Cow is an idea that I came up with as I watched my wife Melissa plan and prepare for my son Kingston’s 1 year old birthday party last Spring. Melissa is someone who loves to entertain and loves to create a fun and memorable experience. Our son’s first birthday was the perfect storm of an excuse for her to go all out putting together a sock monkey themed birthday party that would be sure to garner many a Facebook photo album like. While looking around online for fun ideas for decorating a sock monkey themed birthday party, Melissa stumbled onto what appears to be a pretty vibrant community of designers who are building businesses putting together customized party decorations and selling them primarily on Etsy.com. She found a designer who’s work she liked and had her create a set of sock monkey themed party decorations customized with Kingston’s name and age. She paid the designer for PDF files containing the completed designs and we printed and assembled the decorations ourselves. While it was a fairly significant undertaking to print and assemble these decorations it made for a couple fun family nights of “crafting” together.

After watching Melissa go through this whole process, my entrepreneurial curiosity set in and I started wondering what kind of a market there is for high quality, designer, customized party decorations. After a little research clicking around Etsy.com, Pinterest.com, and a handful of Google searches, I concluded that there appears to be a not insignificant market for these types of products. While the product is definitely niche, it is an “experience” culture product that I can only see a growing demand for as sites like Pinterest pummel every female on the planet with a never ending stream of “must-have” cuteness.

So the basic idea of Paper Cow is that I will work with professional designers who’s work I love to create extremely high quality party decoration sets that are easily customizable and then use my technical and entrepreneurial savvy to streamline the marketing, creation and delivery of these completely custom decoration sets to the customers.

I’m somewhat obsessive with customer experience and I long to build a brand that is known for amazing customer experiences (like Zappos). I think this market is a great one to capitalize on providing a great customer experience that will become associated with some of the most precious memories our customers will have. If I can make Paper Cow brand synonomous with fun, memorable, beautiful celebrations of human life, I will have achieved my goal.

To be honest, I am very, very early into this side-project adventure. Probably too early to be talking so openly about it. However, I’m someone who has always had tremendous appreciation for entrepreneurs who operate liberally in the sharing of their experiences as they are experiencing them. It is a goal of mine as an entrepreneur and technologist to share as much as I can possibly afford to with the community even if at times it means sacrificing slight competitive edge.

On that note, I will share my initial three pronged approach to this project where I am testing out three different ways to get my products to customers and seeing how each of them pans out.

Prong 1 is PaperCow.com. I hope to build a primary flagship website that will be the primary way of purchasing my products online. I’ve put together a simple Shopify store that is up at PaperCow.com. So far I have very little organic traffic to this store but I’m experimenting with adwords to send traffic there. I’m hoping that over time I can build up a good base of organic traffic as well and have a extremely solid brand name website where I can provide a great customer experience as well as run various conversion optimization tests to figure out the best possible ways to sell my products. I have yet to make a sale hear but I also have very minimal traffic.

Prong 2 is an Etsy.com shop. Etsy is a fantastic market place and seems to be where a lot my target market is doing their shopping for these types of products. I put together simple Etsy store and I’m experimenting with purchasing traffic through Etsy’s promotion tools which feature your products on the top of Etsy SERP pages. So far this is where all of my sales have come from. I will likely share some numbers in the near future but at this point everything is too early to be meaningful. My conversion rates are all very, very low but so far I am actually turning a profit on Etsy.

Prong 3 is SockMonkeyBirthdayParty.com. This is purely an SEO play. For that reason it may very well be a complete flop. The idea is to build a website around sock monkey themed birthday parties and hope that with enough time/content it will rank for sock monkey birthday party related searches. This is an idea I got from Patrick McKenzie who does something similar with his BingoCardCreator.com product. SockMonkeyBirthdayParty.com is pretty fresh and has very little content at the moment so it is currently getting no traffic. I will slowly add content over the course of the next year, attempt to do a little bit of link building and see where we are a year from now. I suspect with many of Google’s recent changes I may be better off pouring all of my time and energy into the primary PaperCow.com domain but I figure it’s worth a shot to try a couple of super vertically focused sites in order to optimize for search.

So there you have it. I hope to share more as this project unfolds. I have even toyed with the idea of doing a completely open source business where I publish literally every detail and fact I legally can in an effort to share valuable knowledge with others and hopefully solicit feedback and insight from the community in return for sharing that knowledge. That prospect slightly scares me because if it does start to work, it would give any would be competitors the short cut road map to completely copy what I’m doing. Part of me thinks that risk would be worth it but I’m still thinking on that one.

I would appreciate any feedback, thoughts, ideas you may have in the comments.

Please watch my project grow with me:
pinterest.com/PaperCowDesign
facebook.com/PaperCowDesign
twitter.com/PaperCowDesign

- Travis


Why Google+ Will Not Take Down Twitter or Facebook

Posted: August 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Business, General, Technology | 1 Comment »

I’ve been super bullish on Google+. It’s a beautiful product. Google clearly finally understands a lot about social and so much of Google+ is so right. There are areas for improvement but overall they really knocked it out of the park with Google+. I’ve had several discussions over the last month where I defended why I believed that Google+ has a chance at taking out either Facebook or Twitter. My opinion has been based on a bunch of different factors but the root of it has been primarily Google’s built in user base and the wonderful execution of Google+. Google Buzz had the built in user base but was not well executed or planned.

Last night my opinion changed and I’m no longer bullish on Google+. Let me tell you why. I was helping my wife set up a Google+ account because she wanted to be on the cutting edge of technology. As I was watching her add all of her friends to circles, I realized that none of them are actively using Google+. While they signed up and filled out their profiles, literally NONE of them are using it or posting anything to it. I thought to myself, “Why would this be? Why are none of them even trying to use it or enjoy it?” After thinking about it for a few minutes, I think the answer is very clear and a lot of people have been saying it since day one of G+.

I believe the reason that G+ will not be able to take down Facebook or Twitter is because G+ adds nothing unique or must have to the social networking paradigm. Duh! right? It’s a well know fact that in order to steal customers from an entrenched competitor, in any industry, you can’t be just as good as the competition or even twice as good. In order to overcome a long standing competitor’s hold on a particular market you have to either be several orders of magnitude better OR offer something completely unique that the competitor is not currently offering and that the customer “must have.” Google+ accomplishes neither of these things. Both Facebook and Twitter offered something completely unique and compelling when they gained the momentum that has taken them to where they are today. They offered things that caused people to not only use their service but to LOVE their service. To be addicted to and evangelize their service.

Now there are a lot of people in the Tech world who are using G+ heavily because it is a such a well designed product and many of us are sick of Facebook and Twitter for one reason or another. However, after talking to my wife and some of my non-tech friends and watching my wife look through the profiles of her non-tech friends, I have come to the conclusion that G+ doesn’t offer anything that the average Joe wants or needs enough to invest in using it over Facebook and or Twitter.

Many people, notably my boss, Jason Calacanis, are touting the awesomeness of G+ because of the high level of engagement and the amount of referral traffic it generates. While you can’t deny the numbers, I personally believe this can be easily explained by the early adopter effect that is almost always seen near the beginning of a product loved by the tech community. There is much higher signal to noise on G+ right now because it hasn’t hit the masses and that automatically creates a much higher level of engagement. I don’t think this will last for long.

I realize that my evidence for making this conclusion is completely anecdotal but I believe that the theory behind my conclusion is sound and the products speak for themselves in terms of what they offer to consumers.

This observation has also lead me to conclude that whatever eventually takes down Facebook, is going to look nothing like Facebook. Facebook’s power is currently in the fact that it is your photo album, your address book and your Rolodex. What is it going to take to get everyone in your address book to spend their days living in another service? It’s definitely not going to be a knock off or slightly improved version of Facebook but rather a service that is so compelling, appealing and new that literally everyone in your address book will WANT to use it and will WANT to tell all the people in their address books about it. I honestly think Twitter might still have a chance at being the king of social for a variety of reasons I won’t detail here.

I would love to here arguments for why I’m wrong and why Google+ will last. I also would love to here more information on who is really using Google+ and loving it more than they love Facebook or Twitter.


Why I Work for Jason Calacanis (and Freakin’ Love It)

Posted: December 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: General | 6 Comments »

Mark Gayle published a blog post on Friday titled “I would never work for Jason Calacanis” which got a lot of buzz on Hacker News. The post references an interview with Jason in which he describes his managerial style and the kind of people he likes to hire. Mr. Gayle states that he would never want to work for Jason and then goes on to explain why. As someone who is currently working for Jason, I thought the article was misinformed and really kind of silly. However, I don’t believe that Mr. Gayle’s post really warrants a direct response for the following two reasons.

1. The post is his own personal opinion. He is entitled to that, even if it is based on partial or incorrect facts. If he doesn’t want to work for Jason after listening to that interview then I’m guessing he wouldn’t do very well at one of Jason’s companies, and so it’s better for everyone that he doesn’t.

2. The last thing I’m going to do is get in the middle of the HN “Jayter” wars. However, I will say that I have yet to meet a person who can honestly say that they regret having worked for Jason. Even the people that have had personal problems with him have also had their careers massively jump started while working for him.

Rather than responding directly to Mr. Gayle and ripping on his blog post, I would just like to share a few brief thoughts that I have had lately which are related to some of what Mr. Gayle addresses in his post.

So here is my big huge hairy thought: Great performance and great success is (almost) always preceded by tremendous passion, massive commitment, and large sacrifice.

Simply put, in order to achieve greater than average results, you have to give greater than average effort. Duh! This is a dead simple principle that I believe everyone in the Hacker News community can agree with. However, there seems to be a continual tug of war on Hacker News over how much commitment (or imbalance)  should be encouraged in the start-up community. Personally, I think that it is ridiculous to tell another individual what the “right” amount of commitment, sacrifice or balance is in his/her own life. However, I do think this tug of war makes sense when it comes to building company culture. Every CEO has to figure out what level of commitment (or lack of balance) they should expect from their employees. That decision and its practical application can have a massive impact on the overall culture of the company. This “degree of expected sacrifice” is something that is brought into the company culture both deliberately and accidentally. It can be explicitly communicated as well as modeled by senior leadership at the company. Ideally, the “degree of expected sacrifice” is clearly communicated throughout the hiring process so that incoming employees know what they are in for.

So the big question that seems to keep coming up within the start-up community is: What is the best “degree of expected sacrifice” for a start-up? Sometimes the question is phrased: If you only have (small number here) degrees of sacrifice can you still be successful? I also see the reoccurring post: Start-up founder (founder name here) is a terrible person because he requires (really really high number) degrees of expected sacrifice at his company and all of the young start up founders are going to think they have to do the same.

Here is my opinion on the matter, which I believe is really quite revolutionary, and is going to make waves in the start up community. You ready for it??

Let every CEO decide how he wants to run his company, and let the free market decide who the winners and losers are. Ok, so that’s not so revolutionary is it?

You say, “But what about the poor employees that get stuck working at a company where they are never allowed to leave the building, they don’t have time to develop meaningful relationships, and they burn out never wanting to work at a start up again?”

You ready for revolutionary idea number two??

Let prospective start up employees evaluate their own degree of willingness to sacrifice, weigh it against their desire to be at a winning company, and then DECIDE which companies they want to work for. There is this thing called the internet in which you can research the cultures of companies before you apply to work for them. I’m really a visionary, aren’t I?

A recent blog post by Matt Douglas criticized Seth Priebatsch, the CEO of SCVNGR, for not having enough balance in his life. While I personally agree with a lot of Mr. Douglas’ values, I disagree with his criticism of Seth. If Seth wants to run his company at 200 mph, more power to him. Personally, I would probably never want to work for Seth because I think I would burn out. Time will tell if Seth burns out. Personally, I doubt that he will. It is very clear that he gets energized and fulfilled by putting everything he has into his company. Seth will miss out on a lot of what life has to offer, and he is also likely to burn out many of his employees (who are unfortunately also his friends). I think that Seth recognizes both of those possibilities and accepts them because his goal is to be “the worlds greatest.” Olympic athletes have been living this ultimate level of sacrifice for decades in order to achieve the title of “the worlds greatest.” Some of them burn out. Some of them fail. Some of them quit. Some of them become the worlds greatest because they were willing to sacrifice more than anyone else. Whether in athletics or tech, those that have achieved the status of “the worlds greatest” have been those that have wanted it the most and have sacrificed the most for it. History makes this pretty clear.

The flip side of that coin is that you can “win” in a start-up without delivering an Olympic level performance. Some winners in the start-up space win by coming up with a sport no one else is playing. Some win by looking for a sport only one or two other people are playing and sacrificing just enough to be better than those other two. Some win by accident because the rules of the game suddenly change making them the winner. Ok, so the analogy isn’t perfect but the point is that there are WAY more winners in start-ups than in the Olympics. Being “the worlds greatest” in a given start-up space may not always require Olympic level sacrifice. I think this is huge reason that so many people are attracted to start-ups. An ordinary person can have massive success under the right circumstances. Seth Priebatsch is someone who is building his start-up like he is training for the Olympics. He isn’t just trying to win on a personal or financial level. Seth wants to win on the international stage of technology by building something that will impact billions of people.

This brings me back to the title of this post, “Why I work for Jason Calacanis (and Freakin’ Love It).” Jason is someone who also wants to win at the Olympic level. He has tasted the sweetness of victory, and he wants it again, only bigger this time. Jason realizes that building Olympic level success requires massive sacrifice and focus, but he also realizes there is more to it than that. Building a team of talented, motivated, focused and committed engineers and product visionaries is a huge challenge in today’s competitive environment. This is exactly why Jason has very deliberately made Mahalo an amazing place for engineers to work.

In Mr. Gayles blog he stated, “I am yet to hear of anyone ‘brag’ that they work at Mahalo.” Well Mr. Gayles, I’m here to brag that I work at Mahalo, and I freakin’ love it!

Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • As a junior engineer I have direct input and say in the product. Jason is very good about asking all of us for input, and he listens to what we have to say.
  • Mahalo is the ultimate place to work if you value your health. Here are a couple of articles that detail a few of the reasons why this is the case:

  • The team at Mahalo is fantastic! The people I work with are smart, talented, committed, driven and passionate.
  • We work REALLY hard AND we play REALLY hard. We take afternoons off to play at the beach, play ultimate Frisbee in the park, go to the movies as a company, have Starcraft 2 nights, etc…
  • We are building a product that I believe in. Mahalo has had several pivots during it’s 3 years. While I can’t say I have personally loved every iteration of the product, I can say that I am sincerely excited about and proud of the products we will be shipping during the next 12 months.
  • Despite popular mythology, all of us do actually have lives outside of work. We all have deep and meaningful relationships in the real world. For example, I am happily married. While my wife isn’t always a fan of the weeks I put in “Olympic level” hours at Mahalo, she loves that I am doing what I am passionate about. I think she would also tell you that I’m completely able to give everything that is expected of me at Mahalo AND be a good husband that consistently spends quality time with her.

Working at Mahalo is absolutely not for everyone. There have been several people that have not been able to handle either Jason’s intensity or Mahalo’s “degree of expected sacrifice.” Those people do not survive at Mahalo. Unfortunately, some of those situations have ended in an ugly fashion.

I’m certain that any of the 19 engineers I work with at Mahalo would also love to stand up and brag about their job at Mahalo. The reason that you don’t hear much from us is because we are engineers. We would rather keep our heads down and enjoy our jobs by building awesome product than brag about how fun it is.

I would like to leave you with these charges.

Founders:

You have the freedom to build your company however the heck you want. Think about what level of success you want to achieve, what level of sacrifice you can afford to give in your own life, and what kind of people you want to surround yourself with. If you are the Seth Priebatsch type, I can’t wait to see what amazing things you build. Just be sure that people know what they are in for before you bring them into the company, or you might have some ugly breakups.

Engineers:

You have the freedom to work at whatever company you want. Think about what level of success you want to achieve, what level of sacrifice you can afford to give in your own life, and what kind of people you want to surround yourself with. Do your research and find the companies and founders that have a culture that will fit you.

Ultimately, my charge to everyone in the start-up community is to be passionate about what is most important to you. Be careful to balance (or imbalance) your life in a way that reflects these passions or else you will miss out on some of joy life has to offer you.

That’s all I have to say for now. Now back to spending quality time with my wife and building a killer product at Mahalo.

Thanks for reading,

Travis Fischer

Email me: trav.fischer@gmail.com

Follow me on Twiiter: @travisfischer


“Something Special”

Posted: July 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: General | 3 Comments »

Christmas break 2005-2006 was an extremely important time in my life. It was during those few weeks of break from freshman year at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, that a girl I had a really great friendship with suddenly became something a lot more special to me. While I had a moment of epiphany in our relationship during the summer of 2005, we had chosen to go to college in different cities and so our blossoming friendship didn’t become a budding romance until that fateful Christmas break.

I really can’t explain what changed or how it happened. I guess it was just that first little slip that quickly turns into a head over heals fall into love. While all the pieces had been in place for months, it was the first time I let myself acknowledge that there was something really special about this particular girl. I’m hard pressed to think of a more wonderful and overwhelming feeling then the recognition of that “something special” and the excitement of pursuing it.

Five years later, I’m two years into an amazing marriage with the girl of my dreams and we have never been happier. While I could write a book about our fairy tale romance, that is not the reason I’m writing this post. Instead, I bring up that Christmas break to make an analogy to another feeling that I experienced this weekend.

Before I get to my point I need to make a quick disclaimer. I believe that few feelings will ever come close to the feeling of falling in love with the woman of my dreams. I will never ever have that same feeling for another human being as long as Melissa and I both live on this earth. I’m very thankful for that fact and I expect many greater and richer moments lie ahead of us in our marriage and life together. Now back to the point…

My wife and I have had an amazing time in our new home of Los Angeles, CA during the last two days and I’m starting to realize that there is “something special” about this city. It’s not the glitz and glam of Hollywood. It’s not the crazy madness of Venice Beach. It’s definitely not the pomp and consumer-stance of Beverly Hills. It’s not even that West Coast “chill” that you feel cruising down the PCH. I don’t know how to describe the feeling so instead I will just describe the circumstances surrounding it and let you fill in rest.

Friday evening I got off work a little early and we rented and watched a movie (Valentines Day) together in our cozy living room. It’s a pretty lame movie, but it’s set in L.A. and features various neighborhoods around the city.

Then Saturday morning, I had to take my car in for some exhaust work and ended up at a beat down muffler shop that doesn’t seem to see much traffic. However, the owner was an extremely kind older gentlemen clearly working hard to make a living. He got my car patched up and sent me on my way 20 minutes later.

Saturday afternoon we spent hanging out on beautiful Santa Monica beach taking in the beauty of the ocean, the sun and the pier. We relaxed and enjoyed observing the various families and groups of people around us enjoying that famous west coast lifestyle.

Saturday evening we ventured up to the Getty Center in northern Los Angeles to see the band Dawes play a live set in the museum courtyard. While traffic and parking were, stereotypically, a nightmare, the experience was amazing. The weather, the art, the architecture, the view, the energy, the music and the crowd all came together to make the evening a magical experience. The band Dawes is from California and calls Los Angeles their home. In many ways the show was a home-coming of types for them and that was very apparent in their performance.

Sunday morning we decided to try out a new church. We are still in the process of finding a church home here in LA and someone had recommended we check out this new church. We got up early so we could make the first service at 9am. We have visited several churches since we’ve been here and so far we have really liked all of them. However, this church was just something really special. Melissa and both come out of the service completely uplifted, challenged and encouraged. It was a beautiful thing to be a part of the work God is doing in this city and to fellowship with others who have been called to bear witness to the Gospel in Los Angeles.

All of these experiences have culminated together and have left me feeling like there is something really special about this city. It is a feeling of discovery and excitement. It’s also a feeling of compassion and angst. It’s a beautiful mix of feelings and that is what brought to mind the Christmas break story.

Now before you object, let me address the obvious. It’s one of the most notoriously infamous cities in the world. It’s known as the epicenter of western culture and the source of so much of what is wrong with that culture. It’s known for bad traffic, high crime rates, high cost of living, high taxes and so many other negative things. Personally, I did not come to LA with any star-struck notions of “living the dream” on the “boulevard of dreams.”  Quite honestly, I expected to hate this city. My Midwest upbringing had given me a 23-year long running prejudice against Los Angeles. I can’t even count the number of people that said negative things about the city in response to hearing that we were moving here. I don’t blame them either, I was in the same boat. I still completely understand why so many people talk negatively about this city. All the bad press is not just hype and its not just mid-westerners who smack talk about L.A. I’ve encountered more than a few natives who have expressed disdain for this place they call home. As I speak, there is a news story on TV about a gang shooting at a church in long beach that took place last night. It really is in every way a VERY broken city. Yet, I think that’s part of what I find special about it.

All this to say, I’m starting to understand that there really is “something special” about Los Angeles and for however long we are here, I’m going to take it in and enjoy all that it has to offer. I have no idea where life will take us in the future. I do know that I feel very blessed to be spending this season of our lives amongst the people of Los Angeles, CA.

As I end this post, I feel compelled to express that I will always have mad love for my hometown of La Crosse, WI. I truly believe it is one of the best cities in the entire world to grow up in and I have yet to find a more beautiful, comfortable, friendly, safe, fun place on this earth. I’m not dumping La Crosse. I guess I am just not a one-city man.


MyFavoritePodcast := TWiST;

Posted: December 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Business, General, Podcasts, Technology | No Comments »

During the last year I have started spending more and more of my discretionary time listening to podcasts. There are several that I listen to regularly but I have to say that my favorite podcast is currently TWiST (This Week in Start Ups) hosted by Jason Calacanis. Jason is currently the CEO of human-powered search engine Mahalo.com and has an impressive track record of work in the web industry.

TWiST is a show dedicated to the subject of start-up companies. It focuses primarily on companies connected to the web industry. Jason is a very entertaining host and a tremendous source of knowledge and opinion, both of which he shares enthusiastically.

There are several regular segments on TWiST including “Ask Jason” (a listener call-in segment), “Shark Tank” (a caller pitches their business idea to Jason and a guest and receives feedback), “Guest Interview” (Jason interviews someone prominent from the start-up world) and “The News” (the latest news in tech and start-ups is discussed).

As an aspiring entrepreneur, I get a lot of value from the advice that Jason gives during the “Ask Jason” segment. The subject matter covered by the questions is often centered on real-world issues that most entrepreneurs will face at some point in their career. Jason always finds a way to give answers to the question that tie in a lot of great insight and fundamental advice any entrepreneur can learn from.

The quality of guests that Jason has on the show is always fantastic. The wealth of knowledge shared during the “Guest Interview” segments is extremely valuable. Listening to TWiST every week makes me feel like I get to sit down with two start-up rock stars and pick their brain for a couple hours. The stories shared on the show are also a great source of inspiration.

One thing that makes the show so valuable is the opportunity to listen to how Jason handles producing and promoting the show. There is lot that can be learned from studying the mastery with which Jason communicates, promotes the show, engages the audience, builds community and shapes his own public image. He is clearly an expert at self-promotion, leveraging social media and building his own buzz/momentum. These skills/traits are things that I think every entrepreneur should learn from.

I would strongly recommend TWiST to anyone who has a start-up company. It is well worth your time!


A Great Worship Leader’s Resource

Posted: December 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Faith, General, Music, Podcasts | 1 Comment »

A little over a year ago I was blessed with the opportunity to take over the reigns of a Sunday morning worship ministry called Video Café which is held at Bethany Evangelical Free Church in Onalaska, WI. My primary responsibility as Ministry Director is to plan, organize and direct the weekly Sunday morning worship service. The service consists of around 30 minutes of praise and worship music and a recorded video feed of the sermon from the “main”  service that happens earlier that morning in the primary sanctuary of the church.

My two brothers and I have been involved on the worship teams at Bethany for around a decade and when the opportunity arose to take ownership and leadership of the “contemporary” Video Cafe service at Bethany I jumped at the opportunity.

Every day of leading this ministry has been both a huge blessing and a huge challenge in my life. Learning how to effectively put together a worship service and to lead a worship team has definitely been a great learning experience for me personally.

About 6 months ago, a friend and mentor of mine recommended that I listen to the “All About Worship” podcast. My life as a worship ministry leader has been greatly improved through the education, inspiration and encouragement given by this podcast.

“All About Worship” is podcast for worship leaders and worship team members hosted by worship leaders Ben Abu Saada and Wisdom Moon who currently reside in the state of Kansas. Each month they interview someone of note from the worship leading community and tackle topics ranging from the philosophy and theology of worship leading to the nitty gritty details that are required to make a worship ministry tick. The caliber of guests that they have on the show are top notch. I have found the interviews to be of tremendous value as both a source of education and inspiration. Some of the guests that they have had on the show inlcude Bethany Dillon, Tim Hughes,  Shane Barnard, Tommy Walker,  Kim Walker, Kari Jobe as well as many others. Every single episode has impacted me in some significant way. I have found All About Worship to be a continual source of inspiration, encouragement and practical advice. I would definitely recommend it to anyone involved in a worship ministry and would suggest subscribing to the podcast in iTunes.

You can also check them out at allaboutworship.com or find them on twitter with the handle @allaboutworship.


Black Friday, 2009

Posted: November 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: General | 3 Comments »

My wife Melissa and I spent the morning putting up our Christmas tree in our tiny little apartment. We ended up rearranging the whole place the make room for the Christmas tree and we still had to leave off some of the branches against the wall in order to fit it snuggly into our cozy little living room. It was a very relaxing and enjoyable way to spend the day after thanksgiving. This is a tradition I wouldn’t mind keeping for the day after thanksgiving as opposed to our national tradition of pushing all of our beloved box retailers into the black.

I realized today that I am a huge sucker for both traditions and holidays. I cherish all of the little things that make certain days or times of the year different from all of the rest. As we were putting up our tree today, I suddenly came to this realization. Every little thing that we do during these “special” moments of the year causes me to ask myself, “could this be the beginning of a lifelong tradition?” The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how important little traditions have been to me during the course of my life. After spending a little time thinking about it, I have come up with a theory as to why this is. Let me share it with you briefly.  I would love to hear feedback and comments from anyone who has two cents to put in.

I think that when we are growing up, our family is the most important thing to us. That small group of people closest to us becomes our home, our identity and our security. I think this creates a built-in desire to continually define ourselves in terms of our membership in this thing we call family. I view traditions as unspoken promises that exist between all of the members of a family. These promises say that we will always be family and that there are certain things we can always count on in this family.

Growing up, the little traditions, like knowing that we would go to church on Christmas Eve and then go home and open presents immediately afterwords, were extremely important to me. The more I think about it, the more I believe this was not just because of the excitement that I got from opening presents but more so because it was something that we all knew would happen. It was something we did because we were the Fischers and the Fischers did things a certain way.

I think every tradition a family keeps is a little extra bit of glue in the emotional bond that a family has. For children in particular, I believe this creates the extremely important feeling of security that gives a child the confidence to be exactly who they are and know that they are loved.

Now obviously, I do not think that a load of traditions can replace cultivating healthy parent/child relationships. I do however think that a healthy family can benefit a lot from these little unspoken promises. Whether these promises are major traditions tied to a Holiday or just little parts of the daily routine that are “our family’s thing”, these promises are important.

The T+M Fischer Christmas Tree 2009

The T+M Fischer Christmas Tree 2009


A Good Blog

Posted: November 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Faith, General | No Comments »

If you are looking for a good blog to read that is entertaining and spiritually challanging check out my friend Cullen Teska’s blog at cullenteska.blogspot.com.

Cullen is a good friend of mine from way back in time. I think that he is a good writer and he definitely likes to share fun stories, links, videos, etc…  He is currently an intern Young Adults ministry leader at Elmbrook Church in Milwaukee, WI.

His blog is fairly new but I hope that he continues to write it. He’s usually either giving a humorous perspective on some part of everyday life or he’s dishing out some deep spiritual insights and challenges.

If you are looking for an uplifting read take a few minutes and check it out.


Welcome

Posted: November 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: General | No Comments »

Welcome to TravisFischer.com, a blog about all of my favorite subjects as well as whatever else I deem significant or inspiring. This will include material on music, technology/the web, software engineering/programming, faith/beliefs and running small businesses/startups. I will attempt to keep things organized into logical sections, since the topics I’m interested in tend to be quite diverse. I hope that you find something here that challenges, encourages, entertains or inspires you. Thanks for visiting.