Wilderness Dave joins Trail Sherpa…

Trail Sherpa Logo

I doubt anyone has really noticed, but it’s been pretty quiet around here lately and now you know why.

I’ve been in talks with Tim over at Trail Sherpa about getting WildernessDave.com on the Trail Sherpa Network.  It didn’t take a lot of convincing, I think Trail Sherpa has a good thing going.

So after some clean up and a little redesign by Jessica, the Trail Sherpa/Vestor Logic design wiz, we’re back in business.

I’ve been working on a few new stories, a couple of trail reports (including my summit of Humphrey’s Peak) and plenty of gear reviews!

 

So, after a short break, we’re back to our regularly scheduled program…

5 Lessons about Blogging I Learned from Watching The Next Food Network Star…

….borrowed from The Food Network.

I have to admit that I’m a huge fan of the Food Network.  It’s no secret that I love to cook, I always have, and I’ve learned a lot about food and cooking from watching guys like Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Aarón Sanchez.  I really love the creativity that comes out of the challenge type shows like Chopped.  I’ve watched several seasons of The Next Food Network Star over the last few years, but this year was different.  For one, this was the first time seasoned Food Network pros were brought in as Mentors and the contestants competed as teams.  Also different this year was my perspective, for the first time I was watching The Next Food Network Star as a blogger.

It occurred to me that the critiques and advice that these Food Network hopefuls were getting from their mentors and the judges made a lot of sense in the blogging world as well as TV.  Each time the contestants got in front of that camera and gave their presentation, they were offering a sample of themselves and what they had to offer.  They had to prove that they could be informative, entertaining, charming and establish a real connection with their audience.  All of those are qualities most of us strive for in writing our articles.  In fact, many food bloggers have made the leap to television because of the similarities between blogging and TV shows like those on the Food Network.

So as I watched this season of The Next Food Network Star I paid attention to why some contestants failed while others excelled.  And as, one by one, they narrowed the field I took away lessons that could be applied to my writing.  In true blogging style, I have broken it down in to five main lessons…

Lessons Learned from The Food Network Star-

1. Have a POV

This was one of the biggest questions through the entire show.  What’s your point of view?  What is your focus?  What makes you different from everyone else out there doing what you do?  Some people have a POV built-in from the start and others struggle to find their focus.  It’s important for your audience to know what your passion is and be drawn in by it.  If one day you’re talking about horticulture and the next day scrap booking, there better be an underlying theme that connects the two or you are just confusing your audience.  The most successful bloggers find their niche, their unique perspective in a broader category.  Your audience will come back again and again because they value your point of view.

2. Tell a story

One of the strongest contestants this season was eliminated, finally, because she failed to be able to connect a personal story to her presentation.  Over and over again she was coached to “tell us a story” and create some unique personal connection to her recipes.  She would get so caught up in delivering the information that she failed to make it personal.  The point is, if all you can do is deliver raw information to your audience they will have no real reason to come back.  Most casual readers/viewers want to be entertained, they want to be told a story.  Even when writing something as seemingly dry as a gear review it’s important to give it context and bring the story of the review to the reader.

3. Give your audience something they can take away

This is a personal lesson I took to heart.  I feel like I can tell a story, and I write my gear reviews and trail reports from a personal perspective of sharing the journey with my readers.  What I’ve been weak on is offering tips, or tricks that my readers can walk away with after taking the time to read my blog.  As I watched several of the Next Food Network Star contestants receive criticism for not offering a cooking tip along with their presentation I realized that I am guilty of that as well.  Adding a little piece of trail advice, a gear suggestion or a simple tip or trick relevant to the article should be an easy thing to accomplish with a little thought and effort.  This is something I plan to work on.

4. Be consistent

To have a show on the Food Network (or any channel for that matter) you’ve got to be able to deliver.  A network can’t build an audience around a personality that changes every week.  When it comes down to it, they are creating a BRAND that has to be able to deliver every time the cameras turn on.  Just like any brand in any market, product inconsistency will fracture and damage your brand’s reputation.  Some contestants were eliminated from the show because they could not offer a consistent personality or smooth delivery in front of the camera.  As a writer I feel it is important to have a consistent personality, POV and writing style as a basic foundation for your blog’s “brand”.  If the foundation is solid, you can be as creative as you want with the rest of your content.

5. Take chances

This season’s The Next Food Network Star winner was Justin Warner.  Justin is a young Chef and restaurant owner from New York who is always thinking outside the box.  His creations on the show this season were always surprising, edgy, creative and different.  With nearly every recipe he put together to present to the judges he took chances with unexpected ingredients and flavor combinations.  What he proved was that he was smart about how food works and could be creative in it’s execution.  He consistently offered something the judges had never seen before and it paid off.  Now, it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel or make every endeavor an exercise in stretching the imagination.  However, Justin proved that taking risks and delivering the unexpected once in a while can really pay off.

The bonus lesson, which got a few people eliminated this season, is simply be genuine.  Don’t try to be a character, or salesman.  Ultimately, people will recognize when you are not being yourself and they will tire of the deception quickly.

So be yourself, find your voice, tell us a story and every once in a while…give us something we never expected.

 

For me, the Food Network was an unexpected place to find lessons I could apply to writing my blog.  What unexpected sources have given you some of your most valuable lessons?

A Thankful Year…

Well, it appears to be that time of year again…  Winter heavily lumbers in, the frantic holidays quickly approach and our minds instinctually seem to review and quantify the accomplishments of the previous year.  Most of us take special time each year to focus on the happy successes, the wonderful gifts and the hard won accomplishments that make up the highlight reel of our lives over the last 12 months.  It’s a time to give special attention to the things that are so easily taken for granted throughout our hectic, time-crunched day-to-day existence.  Each Winter season, if we are doing something right, the list of things we are truly Thankful for gets longer, stronger and more meaningful.

This year especially, has been a year filled with things to be thankful for.  Even though the year has not been easy and I still struggle in many ways to improve many aspects of my life, I find myself feeling happier and more accomplished than ever.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve struggled with some health issues over the past several years.  I went from a very healthy, active athletic man to lethargic, sedentary and overweight suffering from pain and mobility issues.  Over the last couple of years I’ve managed to get my health problems identified and under enough control for me to take my life back.  I am now back to being healthy and active and feel like I’ve got control of my life again.  This has allowed me to get back to enjoying a life in the outdoors as much as possible.  It’s allowed me to recover a part of myself I felt I had lost and would potentially never find again.  It’s incredibly satisfying to feel like myself again.

For many years, growing up, my family and I had enjoyed and active lifestyle.  As a family, we traveled and spent time outdoors being active and finding adventure.  I took this enjoyment of the outdoors into my adult life after I left California and spent a lot of time exploring the wilderness here in Arizona.  Losing this part of my life was devastating and now that I have it back I am amazingly thankful for being back in to an outdoor lifestyle (I’m sure REI is thankful for this as well!).

This blog is a testament to my renewed excitement at being a part of the outdoor community again.  In rebuilding my sense of self and my attachment to the outdoors I’ve stumbled across an amazing local and on-line community of outdoors enthusiasts and wilderness athletics that share my passion.  Through this blog I’ve been able to share myself with this community and it has served to reinforce and strengthen my relationship with, and passion for, the outdoors.  I’m thankful to ALL of you for visiting, reading, sharing and collaborating on this part of my life.

As thankful as I am about all my new friends this year, I can not be more thankful for old friends who have stood by me through the years.  I’m thankful for the friends and family that have helped as I struggle through maintaining a business in a weak economy, for the friends that have been there for me as I bounce in and out of town and for the friends who have given me a reason to smile and laugh when it seems too hard to do so on my own.  For the rounds of drinks, the trips to and from the airport, Sundays watching football, making sure the dogs get fed when I’m gone, Tuesday Steak Night, the encouragement to get back in shape, for making sure I don’t always hike alone, for help fixing the house, help fixing the truck and a thousand other things that make you guys great…..thank you.

Most of all, I am thankful to have the most amazing, beautiful, fun, energetic and exciting woman in my life.  Though our time together these days is limited, we make the most of it.  And this summer she gave me yet another wonderful thing to be thankful for when I asked her to marry me and she said ‘YES’.  So this year, I am very thankful for an amazing relationship with an incredible woman who, by this time next year, will be my beautiful wife.

Hardships and challenges aside, this has been a great year and is hopefully just a hint of the happiness to come.  I wish EVERYONE a happy, healthy and successful Holiday Season.