I’m not a crier. Genuinely. Everyone who knows me, knows this.
So, I sat at a hotel round table in Rydges South Bank today, and I cried in front of Pat Flynn. Well, let’s get accurate. I sobbed. He hugged me- you’d have needed a cold dead lizard heart not to at that point, because we all know I tell a good back story.
Pat Flynn is a highly successful podcaster and course creator, who is open and transparent in sharing his strategies, income and revenue. He makes mistakes, he’s always honest and real, and he’s built his success as he supports and builds those around him.
He is my favourite person in the world. When he released his last book, Will It Fly, I bought two.
I told Pat I’d only come to this Mastermind session at Problogger in Brisbane, to meet him. But I missed his keynote yesterday, and the entire conference day- even though I ALMOST MET HIM.
(watch before continuing, because otherwise the blog won’t make sense.)
Want to know why I cried, and had an entire table throwing tissues at me while I pushed valiantly on?
I’ll start with the back story. Stay with me- it’s a rollercoaster. But one of the fun ones, where you want to hear more.
In late 2012, I found myself very unexpectedly, at 7 months pregnant, a single mother.
And in January 2013, my son Parker was born- a beautiful little boy with Down syndrome.
I was so terrified to tell people- even worse, have them reassure me about him. I loved him so much the second I met him. I knew everything would be OK- I would find a way.
I wouldn’t change him for the world.
But what would they SEE? Would they see the clever, beautiful little boy in front of them? Or would they be too busy reassuring me everything would be OK (in my mind, implying it wasn’t OK..)
I needed to change the world for him.
I’d spent months researching everything about Down syndrome and special needs parenting by now, and I was on my way to knowing more than I’d never need to, or use.
As my friends met him and I bombarded them with all of this information, I knew I needed to share everything I was learning.
I started a blog, named after him. Parkermyles.com.
I just told my story. It’s all I wanted to do- help people see my truth, my reality. For them to know it’s nothing like the words ‘D0wn syndrome’ sound.
Parker was the first child with Down syndrome I ever met. For the first few weeks and months, I had nothing to base my reality on, apart from media and the internet. Beyond inspiration porn talking about ‘You’ve got it easy, look what THIS poor kid goes through!’, and beyond the odd exception to the rule, there wasn’t a whole lot out there in my Google searches to inspire new parents like me.
And now, I can hand on heart say, I’ve helped some other parents understand that when they hear that news and their world spins sideways on an axis- it WILL be ok. And they believe it. They’ve told me.
After he was born, I learned everything I could about websites, marketing and building communities.
I did guest podcasts and morning breakfast television, published guest posts and learned more and more as I followed Pat Flynn and Darren Rowse in their matter-of-fact story retelling and transparency that I admire so much.
I attended courses like the Problogger event I attended today- but when people asked what I did, I never had an answer beyond, ‘Oh.. my son has a Facebook page.’ (seriously, government social media does NOT bring the same reaction as ‘my son has Down syndrome, he’s a beautiful boy and he is also a model.’)
Over the next 3 years, content I touched or wrote, posts, blogs and republishes and stories started to go through a journey. Content trended on Facebook, it got featured in every mainstream media outlet in the world. Backlinks flowed in and despite me rarely posting on my site, the organic traffic began to increase month on month.
That day I lay in a hospital bed, frantically googling Down syndrome as my son lay in a hospital crib on oxygen floors below me, I scoured through the results in Google Images. I saw child after child in medical images and strange cartoonish graphics and tutorials, instead of beautiful children and adults on their best day.
That’s all I wanted to change.
Now I get messages from new mums who told me they sobbed as they scanned through Parker’s Facebook page the day or week their child was born and diagnosed, and knew their son or daughter would live a similar life- their best life.
My son, now 4 years old, has been one of the faces of Baby Bonds. He’s had his face in the $300,000 Oscars gift bags as a brand ambassador for Attipas, been in newspapers for his birthday, had modelling shoots for various companies, and his videos have gone viral on the odd occasion or two.
On the day Donald Tump was elected as President, Parker’s video of him getting a haircut was picked up by Jukin Media as ‘The Good News Story’.
I watched my beautiful little man with his fresh mohawk fill my Facebook newsfeed as news site after news site shared Parker, right alongside Trump’s election results.
Thank god for the internet.
The day he was born and I started Googling?
I jotted down a few things I remembered searching for, and kept adding to my list. I learned about SEO from Pat Flynn & Darren Rowse.
I reached out and asked for help. Jim from Stewart Media dedicated his entire lunch break at a conference one day to helping me identify keywords and resetting my Google Search Console, to help me change what appeared when other new parents Google the same things I did.
Now, I get to help provide quality backlinks for sites with correct information, to ensure up to date resources are presented on the front page of Google. It’s a big puzzle… I’m only a tiny part of the internet and I love seeing things change as a direct result of my toiling in the background.
While I created our new lives, and learned on my journey, going back and using Pat and Darren’s blogs and podcasts as my personal resource library, I could never quite figure it out. There was something stopping me from serving my audience in a real way- helping people who wanted to learn skills I’ve developed, and learned over my career inside and outside of social media.
I’d never monetised our audience beyond the occasional review and some Adsense- but since Parker’s birth, I felt my purpose had shifted and it wasn’t even all about him. He is a big part of my (now our) life journey, but as he grew older I started to realise there was more work to be done to live my most authentic life.
I had finally figured out how to do online what I’d always done offline- told a good back story, and helped break down concepts for people and make them simple and bite size. In order to do that on a larger scale, I needed to level up and learn how to make a living so I could dedicate more of my life to helping people serve their own communities in their best way.
I wanted to forge on- a podcast, just a simple website to help build an audience and serve those listeners who came across me by word of mouth. I’d already produced real results over and over- for friends, clients, in my previous roles.
But I couldnt leap that chasm. It was me. I stopped me every time, because I didn’t want to be vulnerable and tell people I’m ‘less than’. To show them my complete and entire learning journey, so they can grow alongside me and learn from my mistakes.
I always felt like, if they weren’t a parent of a kid with Down syndrome, they wouldn’t want to hear from me.
I can pump out prose on Parker’s page – (see) but how on earth would I reveal and expose my ickiest, messiest parts and document the journey of improvement?
Because I always thought I needed a higher purpose.
Who can just be real with their audience FOR NO REASON? Who can even do that??
Well, Pat Flynn does it every day. And it works for him.
So, today, I sat across the table looking at him, and he asked me what I’d like to know.
And I started crying.
I told him I’d come just to meet him.
I told him his authenticity, vulnerability and sharing with his audience had inspired me to do the same – to create one, and serve it in a way which felt authentic.
I couldn’t even talk much, to be honest.. I’d actually even filmed him a video introduction to thank him for serving his community and tell him how much I was looking forward to meeting him, but I never sent it to him.
I’ve never, in my life, cried when I met someone.
But I’ve had many, many parents cry when meeting me as they explain how much they valued having the resources I’d created.
So, as I stared at him across the table and teared up, I finally understood the true power of authenticity, transparency, and serving your community.
I finally understood what Pat Flynn had ACTUALLY taught me. It wasn’t how to start a website.
Pat was so truly successful for reasons beyond SEO and his podcasting technique. It wasn’t daily emails, segmenting, automation, or anything else he could ever schedule in a content calendar. It was his ability to serve his community. And it was his next words.
“If I can help you in any way, let me know.”
It took physically meeting him to show me the secret to Pat Flynn’s success, and to realise what he’d taught me. All Pat does, is show up and be himself- in every moment. He lives to improve the lives of those around him, and he genuinely gets excited when others succeed in doing what they’re passionate about.
It’s all any of us have to do. Serve others while remaining authentic to yourself. It’s far more complicated than it sounds.
But as of today, I’m just going to show up and share my story. Whatever comes of it.
Because that’s all I did for Parker. And I helped change his world for him, changed the experience he lives every day.
Now, Parker is 4. He’s a happy, healthy little boy and theres no burning urge to change his immediate world any further (yet. That’ll come again later- stay tuned.)
It’s time to build my own path, and help build something as a legacy of my very own. As a mother, a friend, as a story teller and a content creator. A strategist, as a woman who has written pieces collectively clicked on millions of times, that have absolutely nothing to do with special needs parenting.
It’s time to share my skills and knowledge and those of others I know, and support my community by sharing authentically- instead of constantly fearing looking like it’s self promotional to even discuss my own achievements. I plan to break down my success for others to replicate parts they may like to try.
I’m building my own path, as someone who can take anyone’s complicated back story, make it simple, and make sure people will always understand who you truly are and what you’re about.
So, that’s the story of what finally broke me out of my own comfort zone.
Thank you Pat, for being part of my back story.
(PS- the next time I got in that lift, it was with Pat Flynn on our way to dinner.)