Reflections on the Past Few Years

I have really neglected this blog over the past few years. I’d really like to post more often but I’ve been dealing with some personal issues that haven’t helped. The end of the year is a time that many people reflect over the past year. I’m going to extend that a little bit. I’m going to reflect on the past few years and you a little bit about my personal struggles. I’m not sure who really still reads my blog but this is going to be deeply personal so I hope not to get trolled.

The Struggle: Bipolar Disorder

That’s right. I’m just going to flat out say it. I discovered that I have Bipolar I disorder and anxiety. I’m starting to believe that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed about, so I wanted to talk about it a little bit. I’m glad to see that the public sentiment is shifting towards more acceptance of mental health issues also.

For years I have struggled with mood disorder symptoms. I am now able to look back to about the time I was 12 years old to now, 32 years old, and see that I was battling a monster that I couldn’t even see at the time. I wish this is something me, my parents, or my doctors could have recognized early on. I mean this is something that has been holding me back for 20 freaking years.

For people who don’t understand what Bipolar Disorder is, it’s a disease that causes bouts of depression and mania. It’s an up and down cycle that never stops. Everyone knows what depression is in general. At least they understand the sad feelings and lack of energy. I was mostly depressed for the past 20 years. I struggled to find the energy to get out of bed in the morning. I had a hard time staying awake. In school I would sleep through most of my classes. I still managed to get A’s though #humblebrag.

There were points in my life that I can honestly say that I thought I wanted to die. It sounds silly now when I look back but it was dead serious. I have pictures on my phone that I thought would be the last pictures I would ever take. They were just the pure emptiness of the building I worked in. Kind of symbolizing how I felt. I can remember one of my lowest points where I was in such a depressive rage that if someone handed me a gun I was sure I could pull the trigger. That’s the other thing, the rage. I associate that with a combination of depression and anxiety acting out. My entire life I’ve been pretty introverted and I avoided interacting with people because of my anxiety. That’s another reason I wasted high school sleeping. I had several bouts of rage where I acted out in ways that could have gotten me into trouble. Due to that, I won’t mention specifics. Let’s just say that depressive episodes are an absolute bitch.

The thing that is not as well known are the bouts of mania. Mania is the high part of the bipolar curve. You fell really good. Like superman level good. Like you can do anything and conquer the world type of good. You might be thinking “what’s so bad about that”. Well for one it’s always short-lived and followed by longer depressive streaks. It’s also not healthy to feel invincible all of the time. Mania can lead you to make irrational decisions.

During a bout of mania, I wrote my most popular blog post ever: Make Money Online: Documenting 10 Years of Failure. That post hit #1 on Hacker News and was also pretty popular on Reddit. Although I wrote this in a manic state it IS factual. I’m not proud of everything in that post but some of it I may have did because I was manic at the times. I’m not an outgoing person so writing and releasing that blog post was a bit out of character for me. Mania can lead you to making bad decisions like spending excess money on credit cards (been there) or taking on too much responsibility at work. It can lead to a lack of sleep. I remember staying up all night working on my affiliate business or just playing games with no tiredness during the manic episodes. I also abused caffeine but that’s another story.

So today, 20 years later, I’m on the right track to getting my bipolar disorder under control. The healthcare system in my area is pretty abysmal. I worked with my primary care doctor and tried several antidepressants but I always had mood swings. I finally got in with a psychiatrist. He was tried to help me but was very “old school”. He really only had a handful of medical regimens that he would follow and wouldn’t alter. They didn’t work for me. Then I found a new doctor. He wasn’t accepting new patients but I was able to get in through a friend who works there. After several years of trials and error, we have finally found a combination of medicine that seems to keep me stable. I’ve been feeling fine, mood-wise, for most of 2019. I’m still extremely tired and trying to work on that.

It’s crazy for me to see how awesome my life is but how miserable I was. I had absolutely no reason to feel the way I did other than my brain chemistry was just messed up. I even tried therapy which had no effect what so ever. I’m hoping that part of my life is over and I can move on to better things.

Welcome Weston

On February 24, 2016, my wife and I had our first child, Weston. He’s almost 4 now. I can’t believe how much having a child has changed my life. I don’t want to be “one of those parents” but I’m going to. He brings me so much joy and reason to live. I love watching him learn and helping to teach him things. He’s very smart and he’s becoming an excellent swimmer thanks to the wonderful teachers at his swim class. He’s in preschool and doing very well. It’s also great that we have both sets of grandparents very close and they help us out tremendously. I understand that having children isn’t for everyone but I have learned that it was definitely for me.

Work Update

I worked for IBM for almost 7 years as an IBM Watson Explorer Consultant. I basically am one of the most experienced developers in the world with that highly specialized search engine software. During my time at IBM, I had a new manager almost every year. Eventually, I was put under an excellent manager. She was the absolute best manager I have ever had in my career. She had empathy, stood up for her employees, and put me into a position to succeed. I was giving many opportunities to advance my skills and my career path. Under this manager, I was received many accolades and was seen as a leader in my field. She was eventually promoted to be a director at IBM. After that, I was assigned a new manager. I have nothing against her personally but I didn’t feel that I was succeeding anymore. So I decided to make a change. Funny enough she left shortly after me.

I left IBM in April to start a new position with a small consulting firm called NewGen Technologies. The funny part is that I became an IBM subcontractor. I make more money as a subcontractor than I probably would have ever made as an IBM employee. The corporate world just puzzles me. So I’m doing basically the same thing but for a US government organization instead of flying all over the country for different projects. I work out of my home office 99% of the time. I only occasionally travel to DC now. This new project put me back in touch with another consultant that I used to work with at a startup called Vivisimo. Together we might have more experience with IBM Watson Explorer than the IBM professional services team currently does. Work things are going pretty well but I still seek more.

Business Updates

As far as my businesses go I haven’t made a lot of progress over the past few years. Battling the bipolar thing took most of my energy. I’ve tried getting back into affiliate marketing without much luck. I created a few content based websites in the hopes of generating organic search traffic. One of those sites is ranking fairly well but I’ve not been able to monetize the traffic. The other one is fairly new. I’ve taken the steps I think are necessary for it to generate a decent monthly income but only time will tell. I’m not that optimistic about this market anymore.

One thing I keep coming back to is my tutorial site Team Tutorials. I’ve neglected it even worse than this blog but it still brings in thousands of visitors a month. It doesn’t really make any money but I think that maybe there is something that I can do around development tutorials that might be lucrative.

About 7 years ago I took this expensive course on building a product business call 30×500. The name comes from the fact that if you have 500 people (out of millions on the web) paying you $30 per month you can have a very lucrative business. This course changed my entire mindset. I really recommend it. Amy Hoy is a master of marketing and product usability. She’s so good that I’m certain the emails and posts she writes are written specifically for me. Seriously, they are that good. This course gave me all the tools I need to research, develop, and market a product. Again, I highly recommend anything Amy and Alex do.

If the course was so good then why am I not raking in the dough with a product of my own? Because I can’t get over the mental block that I’m not good enough. Why would people want to learn anything from me? I’m no famous developer. What could I really do to help people? Well, that’s the main reason I posted the Google Analytics screenshot above. I’m trying to give my self some validation using actual evidence. If 3 million people visited my site over the past few years then at least someone had to have learned a thing or two. Right?

What The Future Holds

First off, I’m not religious, but the saying “if you want to see God laugh tell him your plans” comes to mind here. I’m hoping to continue my current medications and keep my bipolar disease under control.  I’m also hoping that my doctors will figure out why I’m so tired all the time. I can’t even stay up past 8pm. I’m going to keep working as a subcontractor for the time being and I’d still like to explore business ideas.

One of my newer passions is making wine. I like to do it and I’ve produced a few wines that aren’t bad. I have a friend that I used to work with at IBM that runs his own winery now full time. It’s call Black Dog Wine Company and it’s delicious. My wife, brother, and I are thinking about following in his footsteps and trying to open our own winery. There are actually very few wineries in my area and I think it would do well. A neighboring beer brewery is doing tremendously well and the two wineries I can think of are always packed. This would be my first real try at an offline business.

As for online business I need to figure out a direction. I think I need to completely stop focusing on affiliate sites and start to build a product that I own and sell. I feel like I know everything I need to know about the product creation process thanks to 30×500 and I just need to put what I learned into action. I have to get over my mental blocks and put myself out there. So my plan is to focus on finding some type of product that I can sell online that will be profitable but most importantly helpful to people.

Leave a Comment

I can’t believe anyone has read this far. No really, I’m serious. I would be surprised if anyone even reads this blog anymore. If you made it this far I hope you leave a comment and let me know if you can relate to anything I wrote and what your past year and future look like.

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John Ward

Hi, I'm John. By day I'm an IBM Watson Explorer Consultant with several years of experience deploying and customizing Watson Explorer solutions. I'm also a pretty experienced web developer and like to write tutorials and about other things like business and life experiences.