Chris will be joining us for WPSession #2: Building a WordPress Busness on July 13th, 2013.
Where can we find you on the internet?
Well, it’s pretty easy to find me if you know my name. I tweet using the handle @chrislema and I write a daily blog over at chrislema.com. So those are the two places to hear what I’m thinking on a regular basis. Of course you can also get my thoughts in your email (daily at 7 am PST) if you subscribe using this link.
When and how did you get started with WordPress?
I started using WordPress around 1.5 – when it introduced Pages. Once WordPress had pages and posts, it had everything I needed (at the time) to use it as more than a blog, but as a simple CMS for customers who needed quick sites that they could manage. Until that point, I’d been using a .NET open source product called DotNetNuke and it was painful. So I was glad to make the switch. Sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s been eight years, but it has.
What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?
My approach to learning is pretty specific. The first thing I do is try to do things on my own without any instruction whatsoever. I do this on purpose to fail. But what I’m actually doing is creating experiences that real knowledge can then hang on. Without it, the real info won’t have any way to “stick” in my brain. So from there, I move to online resources where people write tutorials. I’m able to better understand them because they’re showing me where my ways were wrong, and what I didn’t understand (contextually) the first time. As for the actual tutorials, I’ve read Smashing magazine and wptuts+, along with links I get from sites like wpdaily.co.
What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?
When done right, I think my favorite feature is the ability to easily change themes. I’ve not made substantial changes to my site in a year, but before that, for several years, I would change it at least once a year. I don’t love the feature for aesthetic reasons, so I love great design like anyone else. Instead, what I love about changing the theme is that you can adjust the interface as you increase the content. I now have 300 or 400 posts, which makes navigating thru them very different than when I had 30. I have several ebooks to sell, plus presentations and videos of my public speaking that ought to be easy to get to. So from an information architecture perspective, having an easy facility to adjust the interface as content and experiences need to change – without tons of additional migration work – is pretty amazing.
What is your favorite business-related book and why?
Roger L. Martin is an incredible individual who writes and currently is the dean of the Rotman school of management. He’s single-handedly trying to change how MBA programs are run. His book, The Opposable Mind, is one of my all-time favorites because it challenges how we think. I don’t mean it challenges us to change our position. Instead, it challenges the approach we take when thinking about competing tensions. It’s an introduction to integrative thinking that I think everyone should read.
What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?
First, I think if someone seriously wants to become an expert at anything, they ought to be very clear that it will take time, discipline and energy. To be a student of anything is neither simple nor quick. So I’d tell them to prepare themselves.
Now, with that said, I find that a lot of people don’t want to become WordPress experts, but instead simply want to leverage WordPress to earn a living. That’s a very, very different thing. You can do that in a matter of weeks or months, I suspect.
In that case, what I recommend is simply this:
If you want to learn WordPress well enough to make a living, look to those who are already doing it. Find ways to engage them and learn from them – be it reading their blogs, buying and reviewing their products, or helping them out.
Bonus Question: What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?
I was born in 1970. In those days, a child born three months early was given little chance to live. I was one of those children and I was lucky – because we happened to be living near a research university that had the equipment to keep me alive. I spent the first several years of my life going to a doctor weekly to see if I was brain-damaged, which they predicted and prepped my parents for. I didn’t fully grasp all of it then, but I sensed I was being evaluated. I have lived an entire life with the “impostor syndrome” and for the most part, it’s worked out for me. So I’ve worked hard every day. Proving to myself (before anyone else) that I could learn, work, and deliver. I still work hard, though I take time to play hard too.