Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I have retired from blogging

This will be the farewell post of my blogging venture that has lasted well over six years. It has been a fun ride, but now it's time to bring it to a close.

I started blogging on this very site in June of 2010 for two reasons: 1. I had a lot of opinions I wanted to share and 2. work (as a contractor) was scarce so I had a fair amount of free time. I was 26 years old at the time, married but without any children.

I wrote on this blog every day for several months with maybe two or three readers a day. In October of 2010, my college roommate (Mikey Burrows) invited me to help him launch a Mississippi State sports website. He knew I had a degree in Sports Communication and that I had been writing on this blog for several months.

The Mississippi State sports website was Maroon and White Nation. Little did I know what it would become.

Back then, M&WN was an attempt to create an alternative to Six Pack Speak. There was a message board, blog, and archive of Mikey's highlight videos. In original concept, it was a failed attempt at what Elite Dawgs would one day become. In finality, it is perhaps the most successful Mississippi State blog ever to start from scratch.

My writing on M&WN in 2010 and through 2011 was pretty sporadic. I tried to write 3-5 articles a week during the 2011 football season, but in total I only posted roughly 100 articles during the entire calendar year. We were receiving very little readership - only about 20 people per day - but obviously it was more than my previous non-MSU specific blogging.

What really set M&WN off was an invitation to join Bulldog Sports Radio just prior to the start of 2012. I was offered my own radio show, accompanied by another one of my college roommates - Will Duckworth.

Bulldog Sports Radio itself did very little if anything to launch the success of M&WN. What really did it was the improvement in my own self-image which came from having someone else believe in my abilities to analyze MSU sports.

From that point forward, I began to work hard at producing daily content. In January of 2012, we went from having 500 page views in one month to having 20,000. It was very exciting as I saw people discuss the articles which I had written. I also discovered that trolling Ole Miss was a very easy way to bring people in.

In February of 2012, Mikey produced a video about Ole Miss' past racial troubles which upset those in charge of Bulldog Sports Radio. We lost the show as a result, and I was somewhat disillusioned about the future of M&WN. So at that time I accepted a writing position at For Whom the Cowbell tolls, as they had reached out to me a month prior.

That would have been the end of M&WN, however, two things kept it alive: 1. Mikey invited Coach 34 and Todd 4 State to join the website as writers and to host a weekly podcast and 2. as a condition at FWtCT, I was asked not to write about Ole Miss. With Todd and Coach keeping things lively on M&WN combined with my enjoyment needling Ole Miss, M&WN was able to float along - steadily gaining readership month by month.

Meanwhile, FWtCT was my main focus. I very much enjoyed my time there, writing alongside cristilmethod. He was in charge, but took me in and made me his co-pilot as we aimed our goals high. The month before I came aboard, the site had only received 12,000 views. As we continued to build the site, we hoped to eventually achieve 100,000 page views in one month - which we did accomplish in September of 2012.

That goal of 100,000 page views seems like so little now, but at the time it was huge. I was receiving no payment for my time blogging, only the intrinsic rewards of a job well done and the knowledge that other people were reading my opinions about Mississippi State.

I never intended to make blogging an indefinite hobby of mine. In fact, I very much intended to slow down immensely upon the arrival of my daughter in February of 2013. But what brought me back to a daily blogging regimen was the run to the College World Series final that June. Once I got back into the grind, I blogged doubly hard through football season.

It was at that time I discovered FanSided when their Atlanta Braves blog asked me to join them. When I saw FanSided did not have a Mississippi State site, I sought to bring M&WN to their network. I had never made a penny off M&WN, and the yearly domain fee was due around that time. The thought of having Mikey pay another domain fee to keep the site open while we could not make enough money to break even was ridiculous. What's more, we had no legal right to use any photos on the site while we were operating independently.

FanSided agreed to take M&WN on, but of course, Mikey and I had to relinquish all rights to the website. Mikey had very little involvement in the site anymore and considered it to be mine anyway, so I was the editor under contract with FanSided.

Once I found out how much money I could make with FanSided, I decided to leave FWtCT and focus on building M&WN. When I made the move, MW&N was receiving roughly 50,000 page views per month. Upon the first month with my full focus, we had 94,000. The second month was 112,000, and it continued to grow from there.

In 2014, I vigorously worked to build a staff of writers. At one point in the summer of 2014, we had 13 people on staff. It was a perfect storm as the work I had put in for the last year paid off as MSU ascended to #1. We finished 2014 by averaging over 200,000 page views per month, with as many as 660,000. M&WN was the top grossing college site on the network and I was named "Editor of the Year".

My son arrived three days before Christmas in 2014, and my intentions were to slow my blogging down significantly. During the fall of 2014, I was writing 70-80 posts per month. That is a tremendous amount when you consider having a full time job and a family at home. It all paid off, however, as the money I made from such a great year enabled my wife to take a full 12 weeks of maternity leave without us missing a beat financially.

I did slow down in 2015. Justin Strawn came on as a co-editor and I only wrote 25-30 posts per month. M&WN still did very well despite extremely lackluster results on the court and field. We finished 3rd in FanSided's college division for the year.

In early 2016, I was ready to let Justin take the reigns of the site, however, my wife and I had discovered Dave Ramsey's baby steps. As we were determined to get out of debt, I felt I couldn't get rid of any income - so I kept blogging. I'm proud to say that we are just two months away from being debt free.

Unfortunately, Justin left for FWtCT in August of 2016, so there is no one to leave my legacy at Maroon and White Nation to that is willing and able to take on the efforts required to run the site. Throughout the 2016 year, it remained among the top 10 in the FanSided college division. We have averaged well over 200,000 page views per month for three years.

I have gone by many names during my time as a blogger. From "JoshDawg07" to "The Ghost of Hank Flick" to "The Croom Diaries" to simply, "Josh Barnhill". I have always tried to provide interesting and informative content, and do it my way.

Over the years, FanSided has steadily invoked more and more rules for their sites to go by. I largely ignored those rules because I not only felt my way was better but I simply did not want to do it in their cookie-cutter way. What's more, I struggle to follow any rule at any time just because I have a defiant personality which works for and against me at times. FanSided put up with this for a long time because of the results I produced, but finally had enough and let me go.

The truth of the matter is that I've been wanting to retire for a while. With two young children at home and a business that is only getting stronger (particularly now that we have Washington D.C. straighten out), I really should not be blogging at all. Too many times I've let my hobby get out of line in my list of priorities with my work or my family. I'm now 32 years old and way older than I thought I'd be to still be blogging.

My advice to any future or current bloggers out there is to strictly adhere to the priorities of 1. God 2. Family 3. Work 4. Blogging. It is essential to you quality of life to keep those in order.

I'm happy to say I actually used my college major to earn some money. For almost six and a half years, I've worked at it and established myself. I've set goals and achieved most of them. So I consider this run to have been a success.

Thank you all who have supported my writing over the years. I appreciate you reading, your feedback and providing me with a voice not every fan has. I am content to give up my seat and let the next generation take over.

Hail State!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Why is it so difficult to trust God?

(A lot of this was taken from Bryant Wright)

Isn’t it amazing all the people we entrust our lives to every week? We trust pharmacists to give us the right pills from a prescription we can’t read. We trust pilots we don’t know to fly us to the right destination, believing that they know how to fly that baby exactly where we need to go. We drive down a two lane road with a person we don't know trucking towards us at 65 mph, and we trust our lives to engineers and road construction crews, believing the bridges will hold.

Yet, people have trouble trusting God.

They often say, “I can’t see Him.” Do we see the engineers who designed the bridge? Do we know the pilots? Not usually. Yet God, our Creator who loves us more than anyone, who even sacrificed His Son for us to have forgiveness of sin and eternal life, we find Him difficult to trust.
It’s amazing. It doesn’t make sense to trust imperfect men and not to trust a perfect God.

"I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" - Psalm 91:2

Friday, April 18, 2014

John 15:4

"Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."

I read John 13-17 this week. It recounts Jesus' last supper with the Disciples.

John 15:4 stuck out to me. Jesus asks that we remain with him - loyal, true, faithful to him as he is those things to us. How can we expect to be blessed and have his help if we do not reciprocate the love he has shown to us?

Letting go, and giving God full control of your life is the hardest thing to do. And even once you reach the level of being able to let go, it's also hard to continue to do it because the temptation/human nature is to want to do things ourselves. You may just forget to seek God.

The only way to live John 15:4 is to put God as #1 in your life. Focus on him every day and truly make Him the most important priority. Do that and everything else falls into place. It's a lot easier said than done, and that's the challenge. The good news is the Holy Spirit is there to help.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Being Content with God Providing Our Basic Needs

A Right From the Heart message by Bryant Wright...

"If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." - 1 Timothy 6:8

In spite of the recent financial troubles that have run rampant in so many of our lives, somehow we still find the need to have more "things." In our rush to acquire wealth and possessions, shouldn't we be asking ourselves, "Just how much is enough?" Simply put, God's Word tells us: When you see that God is meeting the basic necessities of your life, be content. Be thankful. The apostle Paul says, "Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need."

In other words, the apostle Paul understood. He could be content with little. He could be content with much! Let's learn to follow his example. Because Christianity is most of all a relationship, when we are in a right relationship with God through Christ, one of the many by-products is contentment.

So, as long as the basic necessities of life are being met, be thankful. Everything over and above is just extra blessings!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

God is Always There

One thing I've learned is God is always there. Once you ask the Holy Spirit into your heart, that only makes sense, right?

So that's bad news and good news. On one hand, when you think about the fact that the Holy Spirit is with you while you sin it makes it that much worse. But on the other hand, the Holy Spirit is always there even when you're down and out - you are never doing it alone.

Sometimes it feels like, how am I going to make it? How can we afford to do this? How will we survive that? It feels like we are going through some trial in our lives and it's obvious we have to find a way out ourselves because God is busy with something else - if he was around this bad thing wouldn't be happening, right?

But that's not it at all. God is there. Why do we go through bad things? I think there are several reasons, but here's the biggest two I know of:

1. to make our faith grow stronger and recognize how powerful God is

2. to create experiences that benefit others

Number one is pretty self-explanatory...maybe you are in a dire situation and God opens doors to pull you out of it and you see His hand in it.

I'll expound on number two. Say you are diagnosed with cancer, but you trust God and lean on Him. Then you survive cancer. There may have been someone watching you, maybe (probably) multiple people taking cues from how you acted, and were inspired by your faith. What's more, you now have a connection with anyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer...something you didn't have before. God put you through that for the benefit of other people.

God is always there. Even in the little things in life. Instances we come across at work or interactions with people - in all of God's planning he puts people before you, and you can either have a positive influence or a negative one. God is always at work so we have to be at work to seek God's best. It's hard to do, but remembering that he is always there helps remind us to do our best.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Five Blues

I'm into stuff with 'Blue'.

Blue cheese
Blue crab
Blue Moom
The Blues

I'll eat anything with these ingredients. I can't eat Blues music, but it's fun to listen to while eating the blues.

Blue cheese butter - melted butter and blue cheese. That's it. It's is REALLY good on some buffalo wings. I typically make my own blue cheese dressing which is really good, but this is just as good and much easier.

Blue crab - lump crab meat is so good. Crab soup, crab over steak, just eating the crab plain. Whatever, it's so good.

Blueberries are the perfect breakfast treat. Absolutely anything with blueberries in them is where I want to be. Bagels, muffins, coffee, casserole, waffles, syrup, etc. etc. I love blueberries. Blueberry jam is excellent too - having it instead of jelly on a PB&J is delicious.

Blue Moon has always been one of my favorite beers. But they have such a great collection of beers. Spring, summer, fall and winter seasonal beers plus special brews as well. I've had about 10 different kinds and they're all good. The original is still the best, but I've enjoyed them all. I'm hoping for a blueberry Blue Moon soon - I've had their blackberry so I know it's possible!

Blue Cheese & Spinach Bake

This is so good it's unbelievable.

I use a small black skillet....which is about half the size of a regular cast iron skillet.

Blue cheese, spinach and butter - that's all you need.

Heat up some spinach in the skillet over medium heat - about two handfuls. The leaves will wrinkle over the heat (should only take a minute or two), and once they have add 1/2 stick of butter. Then add 1/2 of a container of blue cheese crumbles. Let it mix together and stir it for about two minutes over medium heat...then remove from the heat.

Next, put it into the oven for about 10 minutes - 400 will do.

If you want to, you can put a little sprinkle of cheddar over the top.

It's a great side dish.