On Death and Dying

Filed Under (Life) by Mike Wilton on 26-05-2015

My Grandma passed away tonight.  She had lived a full life of 91 years, but these last few months had not been good to her.  Complications from a condition, which caused pressure on her brain and ultimately kidney failure would lead her to take her last breath at 5:50p.m. this evening.  I’ve been fortunate, if death can ever be “fortunate,” in the fact that I haven’t had to face a lot of it in my lifetime.  A small family and a limited number of funerals, which came later in my life, has made death somewhat of a stranger to me.  A stranger that I have come to struggle with time and again.

My first real bout with death came as a teenager when my Uncle Jack died.  He wound up in the hospital suddenly, and me being a naive teenager avoided visiting the hospital.  On one hand I was telling myself he would be ok, on the other, I was afraid of what I’d see.  That the image of him in a hospital bed would be permanently burned into my mind as my only lasting memory of him.  He would ultimately pass away in the hospital and I never got the opportunity to say goodbye.  He was the closest thing I ever had to a grandfather and more than just family, he was always a friend.  Whenever we were together we were inseparable, and the fact I never told him goodbye haunted me until a year or so ago when I finally made peace with it.

That first experience with death made me fear it.  I got away with not having the painful memory of my Uncle Jack on his death bed, but I now lived with the haunting regret of never really saying goodbye.  Was this what every death was going to be like?

My next major bout with death came when my Grandma Norma, or “Granny,” as most people called her,  died.  This time I was an adult, married, with kids, and I knew I had to face it.  I visited her a few times during her final days and was fortunate enough to see her one last time just hours before she passed.  The memory still lives with me, but I suppose that’s natural when you’re watching someone you love slowly fade away and give into death, but it’s not burned into my mind the way I pictured it would when my Uncle Jack died.  Perhaps that’s because I knew she had accepted death, that she had already accepted that she lived a full life and more or less welcomed it, or perhaps it’s because my fear as a teenager was simply nothing more than the irrational fear of an adolescent.

When I got the news tonight that my Grandma Helen had passed I was sitting on the toilet.  My wife told me through the door after receiving a text from my parents.  Not because she doesn’t have tact, but because she knew that after she had asked if I had received a text from my parents that I would likely worry.  At first I ignored it, tried to tell myself I heard her wrong.  I went numb.  When I came out of the bathroom I said some things completely incomprehensible to my wife as a way to try and make sense of it and then began to cry.

I had told myself that this time I was ready for death.  Though her quick decline was just over the last few months, I had spent the last two years constantly facing the idea that each passing Christmas, birthday, etc. might be her last.  I was ready for it.  I had made my peace and said my goodbyes as soon as her mental health had reached the point where she could no longer hold a conversation with me.  I was ready to face death head on this time, and accept it for what it was.

It was one of the hardest battles I have faced thus far, not because I was particularly close to my Grandma, or because the death was a hard one to watch, but because it brought with it so many memories of those who had passed before her and left me second guessing the way I was handling her death.  I didn’t completely remove myself from the picture like with my Uncle Jack, but I also hadn’t been there by her side to necessarily say my goodbye’s as she was dying like with my Grandma Norma.  I had made my peace and said my goodbye’s in my own way a few months prior and had opted not to watch her slowly die.

The whole time I worried that other family members would judge me, that my dad would be disappointed in me, and of course part of me worried that I might come to regret it the way aI did with my choice regarding my Uncle Jack.  My entire grieving process has been tied to being afraid I was handling death wrong, or that my feelings about death were wrong.

What I learned is that there is no right way to deal with death and that no matter what you tell yourself you’re never ready for death.  When you brace yourself, the blow might not hurt as much, but it still hits you.  We all have to handle death in our own ways.  I know that now, but it still doesn’t make it any easier.

In Looking For A Mentor

Filed Under (Life) by Mike Wilton on 19-06-2011

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Interestingly enough I have opted to write a post about my search for a mentor on the night of Fathers Day.  When I think of people I have looked up to in life, no one stands out more than my father. A hard worker, an honest man, and a man dedicated to his trade.  All things I would love to find in a professional mentor at this point in my career.

If you follow me in the social realm you’ve probably noticed that I have been a busy bee as of late.  I am working on a number of ventures at the moment, some old and some new and I realized I have hit a point in my professional life where I feel that while I can continue to grow through self education, I might finally be better of with a mentor.

One of the things I miss most about my career with the Walt Disney Company was easy access to professional mentors.  From direct managers, to ops managers, and up the company was full of innovative, influential people to learn from.  But sadly, outside of their corporate culture, you don’t find a lot of mentoring opportunities of that caliber.

I have tossed the idea around a lot in the past and even posted a bit about it on the SEO Training Dojo, but at the time it was mainly from an internet marketing perspective. However now, as I continue to strive to better myself and my career both as an internet marketer and an entrepreneur, I recognize now, more than ever, that I need a mentor.

I’ve thought about it a lot over the last few weeks and have outlined the qualities I would like to find in a mentor, and hope that perhaps there is someone out there who might be willing to take me under their wing and help me on my way through this next stage in my career.

  • Willingness to share – I don’t want all the answers, but I also don’t want to feel like I am constantly left to fend for myself when I am struggling for insight.
  • Personal interest in mentoring me – There are a lot of people out there who offer to help, but I need someone who wants to actually invest in me a bit and build a strong mentoring relationship.
  • Loves what they do – There are a lot of people out there who are good at what they do, but I want someone who loves what they do.
  • Provides honest feedback – I want to know when I’m doing well, but I also want to know when I am messing up. I’m a grown man, I can take it.
  • Motivates – I don’t need a cheerleader on the sidelines everyday, but I definitely want someone who is going to check in on me and continue to push me beyond my own motivation.

These sum up the core values I hope to find in a mentor. On top of these I am looking for someone who is not only strong in internet marketing, but also in business.  My latest venture, Foodskout, is unlike any other venture I have attempted and unlike a blog or an internet marketing company there are plenty of opportunities to mess up early on.  Ideally I want to find a mentor who has experience with startups or has their own successful startup that may offer some insight and guidance along the way.

When I first started seriously thinking about looking for a mentor a few names came to mind.  They are people I respect in my industry, and folks who have not only shown strength in the internet marketing trade, but also in building successful online businesses.

  • Jon Henshaw – Co-Founder and Director of Product Innovation for Raven SEO Tools, Jon has been at the forefront of developing the Swiss Army Knife of SEO tools with Raven SEO Tools.  Being with Raven from day one, he has shown that he not only understands startups, but also internet marketing and has helped create a stellar product and brand. He is someone I look up to, and definitely someone I would love to learn more from.
  • Taylor Pratt – Another member of the Raven SEO Tools team, Taylor is the VP of Product Marketing. He has done a number of guest posts on SEO and the industry over the years that I have read and learned from. His background in internet marketing, much like mine, stems from an accidental involvement that has turned into a passion. An integral part of Raven’s marketing team and an internet marketer with valuable hands on experience he was another name that quickly came to mind.
  • David Harry – The closest thing to a mentor that I have had up until this point in my career is David. He has taught me a wealth about internet marketing through his blogging, community, and chats that we used to have via Skype. I hold a high regard for David as he is highly skilled in his craft and has built an SEO community unlike any other.  David has a wealth of knowledge to share, but at times he makes you dig a lot harder for it than some might prefer.

These are just a handful of the many names that come to mind that I would love to learn more from in a mentor-like relationship.  There are many talented people in my industry that I look up to, sadly there are also many talentless hacks looking to help you “succeed online” that would jump at the chance to tell me how to be a better marketer and businessman.  So as I start on this journey to look for a mentor, someone to help me succeed at this next stage in my career, I hope that I can find someone who will hep me to not only build upon my strengths, but help shed some light on the areas that I need to grow in order to be a successful entrepreneur and internet marketer.

What are you experiences with professional mentors?  How did the relationship come to be? What are some traits you have found in a mentor that I should also look for as I embark on this journey? I’d love your feedback in the comments below!

5 Things An 8 Year Relationship Has Taught Me About Love, Life and Relationships

Filed Under (Life) by Mike Wilton on 07-07-2010

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Nearly 8 years ago this month I met my now wife Misty.  We met at a party my buddy Eddy was throwing and in the beginning didn’t really hit it off.  I was drunk, she was stubborn, and ultimately she left that night with another guy.  The two of them dated casually for a while and then a few months later her and I reunited through the same friend that had introduced us. 2 years later we would marry, 3 years after that she would give birth to our twins Aiden and Cambria, and a year after that we would separate and up until early 2010 nearly end in divorce.  In the last 8 years I have learned a lot, about myself as well as about love, life, and relationships.

1. The Honeymoon Ends

The early years of a relationship are easy.  It’s new, it’s fun, everything seems perfect.  You’re inseparable, you have a ton of similar interests, you share the same circle of friends, etc.  But as the years pass by things change.  The newness wears off and ultimately you have to face the reality that sometimes the person will drive you up a wall, sometimes you simply don’t want the person around and ultimately you might need a few reminders that you are still your own person.

When Misty and I were first together we had a number of similar interests, shared the exact same circle of friends, and did nearly everything together.  This is completely fine…for a while.  As we grew in our relationship a lot changed in our lives.  My career, our friends, and even many of our interests.  At the end of the day it became harder and harder to relate, and the couple that was inseparable became the couple that was unbearable.  In the end we were forced to rediscover one another, find our individuality again and build off of the things we still had in common and find new ground that we shared in order to rekindle the marriage.

2. In Sickness and In Health…

Is a serious statement.  When you hear it in your vows it doesn’t really hit you, that is until a loved one winds up in the hospital or in need of some extra TLC due to an ailment or injury.  In 8 years of being together, Misty and I have probably seen sides of each other that we probably wouldn’t even want our own parents to see us in, but ultimately our commitment to each other has forced us to do things for one another we probably never thought we would have to.  Marriage changes the playing field big time.  You are a support unit and ultimately if you are the only one there to help a person in certain facets of life you might have to deal with the good, the bad, AND the ugly.  And just think…I’m only 29. I’m sure there is tons of fun to be had in my later years.

3. Something Better Will Come Along

Before you stone me to death, hear me out.  Every day we spend on this earth we cross paths with new people, some good and some bad.  In many instances we find people that we are mesmerized by.  People who share our interests, our dreams, our wants and in those moments you may think to yourself, “Oh my God I want this.  This is so much better than what I have.”  In that moment you are probably right, it is.  But only because it is still in that early honeymoon phase that I mentioned before.  This person is just as amazing and wonderful as the person you dedicated your life to, and as time passes they too will lose its luster and you will be forced to go through all the motions again, but you have no way of knowing if those motions will produce the same results.  It’s ok to love, it’s ok to share your life with people, and if you’re fortunate enough to find someone like this in your life, embrace them.  Said person does not need to take the place of the one you love to make a difference in your life and make your life magical.  Make the most of your time with that person and know that if it is written in the stars for them to be a part of your life, they will be.  That doesn’t make the person you go home to any less important, it just means you are that much more blessed for having more amazing people who love you in your life.

4. The Good Always Outweighs the Bad

If I created a list of all the things Misty has done over the years to piss me off I’d need a completely separate blog post for it, as would Misty for me.  However, at the end of the day there is an extensive list of things Misty does for me on a day to day basis that I take for granted.  Furthermore there are a ton of moments and memories that no person, place or thing could ever replace.

It’s easy to focus on the bad.  We all do it.  The media thrives off of it.  That being said, if you can look past some of the things that anger you most you’ll discover that most of them are petty in comparison to the larger picture.  When you get wrapped up in something that upsets you take a step back and look at the whole picture.  You might be surprised at what you find.

5. Time Is Precious

When you think of 2 years it doesn’t seem that long.  When you take that same 2 years and press it up against the timeline of your marriage or the life of your children you realize just how precious that time is.  Every moment we spend on this earth is valuable.  None of us know when we’ll leave this place and once time is gone we can’t get it back.

In the 2 years I was separated from Misty I missed my 5 year wedding anniversary, and a significant portion of the first years of Aiden and Cambria’s life and while I have zero regrets about the time I spent away sorting out my demons I recognize that I could have gone about it differently.  Even when life is at its darkest and you don’t know where to turn, or what direction you are going, make sure that you are still focused on those things that matter most during that time.  Life doesn’t have a rewind button and once it’s gone, its gone.

It’s hard to believe that 8 years ago I was spending my days lounging in my friends pool while his parents were out of town and he was at work without a care in the world.  Now 8 years later I’m writing a post on life lessons and relationships.  This has been a long, hard 8 years that I wouldn’t trade for the world, but I would be destined to repeat my past had I not learned from life over the years.  Don’t live life with regrets, learn from your past to ensure you don’t keep reliving it.