Well folks, as a new page of the calendar turns to reveal the month of September (and a whole new bunch of cute puppy photos—or whatever images your calendar features), it's time to announce SitePoint's latest Member of the Month!
Congratulations to EricWatson for being this month's winner! [Cue thunderous applause]
The Member of the Month award recognizes outstanding contributions to the forums. Both over the last month, and over the past several years, EricWatson has posted many fascinating and challenging questions, and has also spent many hours helping other members with their questions and problems. Anyone familiar with his contributions will recognize how deserving he is of this award.
As members of these forums, we all share a common interest in topics related to the web. But we are far from being a monoculture of square-eyed computer geeks. A special feature of the MOTM interviews is the amazingly diverse and interesting life stories they reveal. EricWatson's story is no exception to this, as you will discover below.
Here is an interview I conducted with him last week...
Eric: Hello, thank you for nominating me—I really appreciate it!
Ralph: You have a very interesting background that stretches far beyond a computer screen. What other work-related activities have you been / are you still involved in? (For example, one of your websites provides a long list of areas you've been involved in, such as daycare provider, model, landlord, income property investor, handyman, waiter, nutritionist, personal trainer, bodybuilder, father to two little boys, and husband to a beautiful wife...)
Eric: Ha—I forgot I had that listed. Many of those listed I no longer partake in. I just listed off everything (now and in the past) I’ve given 100% too. Make that three little boys now! 6 year, 4 year, and 2 months old. All three are healthy happy boys. Based on my lengthy list above, you can probably gather that I bore quickly. Currently, what puts food on our table is our daycare (where I work 10 hours each day), my income property (a triplex) that I purchased when I was Twenty (fifteen years ago), and comparatively a smaller portion comes from my continued modeling and web design.
I pulled this from a little blog-of-sort of mine called “little about alot.com”. This quote probably explains it best…
Hello, my name is Eric Watson. I started this little website because I wanted to share my learned knowledge with those that may be in need of it. Let’s just get it out on the table right now—I am a perfectionist! What ever it may be, from buying shoes to picking a family doctor, I don’t just arbitrarily make a decision; however easy that decision may appear to be! I will usually extensively research what ever it is beforehand, in order to know that I am making the best and most educated decision possible. This is in no way the easiest way to live, but it is the way that I have reluctantly embraced.
One of the major reasons being you see, I had a brain-stem stroke via a skiing accident at the age of thirteen, completely paralyzing the right side of my body. I won’t go into the details of the recovery process (let's just say it wasn’t very much fun), but in order to make a full recovery I had to learn to constantly push my body and mind to their highest level possible each and every day. Therefore, from an early age I was always pushing and seeking the most “perfect” level of return from my body. So let’s just assume that “this” may have something to do with the personality type that I have grown into today. So... instead of letting all my hard work go to waste, I offer it to you!
I am sort of a jack-of-all-trades if you will. Each and every one of these jobs listed below I have done with 100% passion! Some I continue to do to this day, some I do not, and still others aren’t even jobs to begin with, but By-God at the time I sure treated them like they were: website designer, daycare provider, EMT, model, landlord, income property investor, party animal, womanizer, contractor, handyman, waiter, nutritionist, personal trainer, bodybuilder, father to two little boys, and husband to a beautiful wife. Basically, aside from two in particular, the only jobs that I don’t have today are the ones where I had a boss—I don’t do too well with being told what to do!
Ralph: Web development is quite different from the other things you've been involved in. How did you come to it?
Eric: Good question. A few years ago I needed a website built for our (wife and I) daycare. At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about code or the design process (I had only gotten my first computer ever in 2004 and it’s been a love affair ever since).
I was very hands on—basically a nightmare client! I designed every aspect of the site and wrote every word. I sent him a Word doc with an updated checklist just about every day. The designer only coded it. On the exterior the website was a model of perfection. The code (handed down to me) not so much. After which, I expressed interest in the ability to make small edits to the site myself.
The designer suggested I purchase Dreamweaver (which I did). He came over and installed a FTP program on my computer and walked me through the steps involved in making said edits. At the time it was all very much over my head. So I hit the books and watched some of the tutorials on lyndia.com about DW. Try as I may, it was all very confusing to me.
Having never learned HTML/CSS, I really had no idea where the program (DW) began and the code ended or vice versa. So I made a very good decision. Since I seemed to be getting no where with DW I decided I might as well learn the code instead. At first it was much of the same—very confusing. Then one day things started to click. LOL—I remember almost each day I would run to my wife and say “yes, it clicked!” I watched all of the lyndia.com tuts on HTML/CSS and only thought, talked, and dreamed about “code” for over a year (my wife was very tired of listening to it). And the rest was history as they say.
Ralph: How do you feel working as a web developer compares with the other roles you've had—both from a financial point of view and in terms of fulfilment?
Eric: I love—love—love coding things for myself—either for my websites or my tools page. It is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done and gives me great fulfillment. I wish I could say the same for being a web developer. I don’t know… maybe I’m being a fickle-pickle, or maybe it’s the fact that all my clients to date have been lazy, flaky procrastinators. Waiting on them has been one of the most frustrating things I’ve done. I’ve coded a few really nice PS Templates for another designer—that was more fulfilling (no clients to deal with).
Admittedly, I haven’t pushed the advertising side of it very far and that may have something to do with the fact that from a financial point of view it has not been very rewarding. But I’m OK with that. Web design has always mainly been a fun hobby for me—a fun way to keep my brain sharp. Watching kids all day keeps me very busy but does not offer much intellectual stimulation. So I make a little money on the side and I’m able to make my websites exactly how I see fit. I can live with that.
Ralph: You seem to fit a lot into your life, including a range of work interests, helping with your wife's business, and raising a family. What are your thoughts on work-life balance? How do you manage all these interests?
Eric: Common assumption, but contrary to what others (mainly parents) like to believe, it’s actually my business that my wife helps me out with. Well… more like 50/50 partners actually. I got licensed, I bought the house, I built the 1000 sq. ft addition (the daycare), I designed the interior, I built the website, I handle the advertising, and I SEO the crap out of it. Sorry—sore subject for me. But in the interest of positive cash flow, we let them believe whatever makes them feel comfortable. But in all honesty, I couldn't do it—nor would we have ever succeeded—without my wife’s unwavering contribution and support.
I do fit a lot in. I am a good father and husband and I do try my hardest. But marriage with children is the hardest thing I have ever done. I constantly battle with this every day. Each and every day I try to be more patient and a more loving husband and father to my wife and boys. Some days it feels like I failed and others I rise to the challenge.
Each day I wake at 4 am to pursue computer related activities. I work out from 6 am to 7 am. I work from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. Enjoy my kids from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm. And go to sleep at 10 pm. Lack of sleep is how I fit it all in. And as far as work-life balance goes… I’ll take another quote from my blog…
The secret of happiness is feeling content with the grass that you are currently on (you know the saying—"the grass is always greener"). That's not to say that you shouldn't push yourself to higher plateaus, or seek out greater things in life. It just means that while you're reaching for these higher places, to be fulfilled, and at peace with where you currently are in life. However, not complacent, otherwise what's to push you to that next life long goal. I believe it's all about striking a nice balance between the two. I personally have not, nor will I most likely ever, truly accomplished this myself. However, be that as it may, that's the secret.
Ralph: What are some of your frustrations with web development, and what are some of your hopes for the future of the web?
Eric: I already complained about my web development frustrations. I don’t really have any hopes for the web. Aside from the google-verizon thing, I think it’s chugging away quite nicely.
Ralph: Do you have any web design heroes, and if so, why do you look up to them?
That would have to be Paul O’B! He’s a stud!
Ralph: What are your favorite design tools?
Eric: DW and PS. I only hand code in DW. Although I cut and paste a lot. I couldn’t for the life of me hand code a doctype.
Ralph: Apart from the work-related interests, do you have any hobbies, passions or obsessions that you'd like to admit to?
I work out almost everyday of my life. I hit the gym weights, run, run and/or walk stairs with 80 lbs on my back and with my 50 lb son on my shoulders. I’ve been doing a lot of hiking lately. Last year I, two friends, my mom and dad hiked Mt Whitney (tallest mountain in the US at 14,500 ft). In 2011 my wife is going to attempt to hike Whitney with me again. Last weekend my son and I and my parents hiked Mt Baldy near LA (very steep!). And in 2012 myself, my parents, and a buddy are going to hike Mt Kilimanjaro (tallest walkable mountain in the world at 19,000 ft).
We just bought a trailer! A most awesome trailer! 34 ft long with three rooms separated by solid doors—a really nice floor plan. We can’t really afford it, but I figure why buy it when the kids are 18 years old and I have to force them to come along? Now’s the fun time when they want to come. We drive to pick it up in two weeks. With three kids we are driving from SD to Ohio and back to pick it up (saves me about ten grand picking it up in Ohio). That’s a 5000 mile round trip—should prove to be fun or at least memorable.
Ralph: You sometimes have music playing on your sites. What sorts of music, books, films etc. do you like?
Eric: Don’t really listen to music much. I am a movie buff though. I’ve pretty much watched every worthy movie made in the last ten years. I’m really into Dexter at the moment—great show!
Ralph: Given this moment in the spotlight, is there anything (such as a website or a worthy cause of some kind) that you'd like us to be aware of?
Eric: Nah… I won’t throw any links around for once.
Ralph: Finally, what are your thoughts on the state of the world? Is the world 'going to hell in a handbasket', or are you hopeful for the future?
Eric: That’s more my brother's line of interest. He posts some depressing state of affairs just about everyday on Facebook. Me, never been too much into politics. But I tell you what, now that it’s starting to hit me in my pocketbook, I’m definitely starting to watch more closely.
Ralph: Thanks for your really interesting replies, Eric. It was great to get to know you better. Once again, congratulations on a well deserved award.
Okay everyone, now it's over to you. Three cheers for EricWatson!