I believe there are a handful of events that occur in a person’s life that changes them forever. We’re pretty confidant we’d recognize these events the movement they happen. In some cases we will, but more often than not we won’t. In fact, we may not fully understand how one of these events has changed our life until long after the event occurs. These events often camouflage themselves in the routine. In the normal everyday things we do, day in and day out.
It was during the course of one of these normal, everyday, activities that I was blindsided by an event that changed my life, and the life’s of thousands of others. Forever.
Let me tell you about….
The Target Post That Changed Everything
I remember it like it was yesterday.
I was sitting at the same wobbly table, in the same uncomfortable wooden chair, at the same local Starbucks I always go to when I like to write blog posts and drink coffee.
I had just came across a Target ad that featured a young child model (Ryan Langston) that just so happened to have been born with Down syndrome, like our son, Noah. I thought it was pretty cool so I decided to write a blog post about it before heading home.
I titled the post, “Target Is ‘Down’ With Down Syndrome: 5 Things Target Said By Saying Nothing At All” and wrote about a few things about the ad that really stood out to me as a father raising a child with special needs, specifically Down syndrome.
Nothing Fancy. Nothing special. It was just a quick blog post I wrote while sipping on some Pike Place (I’m a house coffee kind of guy.) It certainly wasn’t going to win a Pulitzer Prize. In fact, just a few months prior I had written an Open Letter To GQ Magazine which didn’t generate anywhere near the same kind of attention of this blog post.
Another day, another post.
At this point in time (back in January of 2012) I was publishing a new blog post pretty much every day, and had been for months. Our site had a growing community behind it, as did Noah’s Dad Facebook page, and I enjoyed getting to meet so many new and seasoned parents raising children with Down syndrome. All of that to say there was nothing particularly special about this particular blog post.
Before I pushed the publish button on this post I had been blogging for months on this very website. I had been blogging for years before becoming Noah’s Dad on my personal site. And I’ve been a tech geek every since I first heard those three magical words, “You’ve got mail.”
I mention all of that just to say I didn’t feel anything different when I wrote this post. I didn’t think there was anything special about this blog post, or that it was soon to go viral. In fact, by the time I had finished writing it, I was already thinking about what I was going to write the next day. It seriously felt just like blog post. Nothing super-duper.
Now I will say I try to spend a lot of time and effort on each and every post I publish, so that it brings value to those of you who take the time to read them. So while it still took some time to write, it didn’t necessarily take any more time. It was all in a day’s work. Another day, another post, so to speak.
I hit the publish button. Closed my laptop. Finished up my coffee. And headed home. Blog post written. Mission accomplished. Looking forward to having some family time, some dinner, and some fun with my wife and son.
I checked my stats at the end of the day and noticed a huge traffic spike from the time I published that blog post to the time I was crawling in to bed. In fact, here’s what I saw:
Wow! That’s a lot of web traffic for one day! But we had gotten large traffic spikes in the past, and figured it would go back down to normal the next day.
Boy was I wrong…
Day 2 (or) The day my website almost blew up!
I woke up the next morning to an inbox full of messages from reporters, notes from people all over the world that had read the blog post….and from the company that hosted our website saying that I had greatly exceeded my web hosting bandwidth….ooops.. In fact, it hadn’t even been 24 hours since I hit the publish button and I already had millions of hits! I thought my website was going to blow up! Thankfully they upgraded me to a private server fairly quick, and my site was only down for a few hours.
As you can the page views jumped quite a bit on day 2, especially with my site being down for several hours through out the day, and at other times running extremely slow as it tried to keep up with the traffic it was receiving.
(Side note: For those of you who may not be as geeky, or why it looks like I only had a few hundred thousand views instead of millions, let me explain. Page impressions are the number of pages on a website that are viewed in a single day. A website hit is the number or requests made to a web-sever in a single day. Each time a person views a single page on a website multiple requests are being made to the server that runs that website in order to load the page. In other words every image, style sheet, video, java script file, etc a page contains would require a request to the server (a hit) for that particular file. This, by the way, is why our then current web host wasn’t very happy when this post went viral. Our server wasn’t equipped to handle millions of hits a day (nor did it need to be) however this site now runs on a much more sophisticated server that works well for our sites unique needs.)
To say I was surprised that the blog post was receiving so much traffic and attention would be an understatement. But for some reason this particular blog post seemed to really resonate with people. However, I figured the almost 80 thousand page views I had on January 3rd would pretty much be the end of it.
Boy was I wrong….again….
Day 3 (or) The day my life changed. Seriously.
I woke up on January 4th seriously thinking everything was going to calm down. That my site traffic would dip back down to normal, and everything would level off.
Well, it didn’t. I had even more emails and phone calls from the press wanting to talk to me about our site, our story the target ad, why we were so passionate about helping the world learn about Down syndrome. It was unbelievable. We talked with Time, Headline News, ABC, and various other news outlets; all of which wanted to help us spread the message that Down syndrome is ok!
And the traffic didn’t die down:
In fact we ended up with over 40 million hits for the month of January. Unbelievable!
(Good thing we upgraded our server!)
This is the point where everything changes.
This Target blog post is the point in our story where everything went into full speed ahead mode for us. It’s the point in our story where everything changed, and I wanted to be sure I talked about since it is such a huge part of story.
Throughout the course of all of this media blitz friendships were being formed between people all over the world. Some met in the comments section of our blog, others on our fast growing, and very active Facebook page. But it was happening and it hasn’t stopped. I’m not sure where it will all lead, but we are just honored to be a part in it. To join with the thousands of other amazing families who are telling their stories as well.
Thanks for your friendship, support, encouragement, and most of all for letting us be a part of your life. It truly is an honor.
If you’ve been following our blog, you may have noticed we’re just a tiny bit behind (Heck, we just got around to posting about Christmas!) The reason for this is we are telling the story of Noah’s life via one minute videos (in the order they happened.) You’ll be able to keep track of where we are in his story via the data that appears quickly before each video. We are trying to get caught up as fast as we can, so we can blog at “real time.” Thanks for being patient with us, and for following (and sharing) our story.
Keep telling your story! It’s powerful, and next time it could be you!
I meet so many people who tell me they either a.) want to start a blog but don’t know how, or b.) feel disappointed because not many people read their blog. I’m going to elaborate on these in an upcoming blog series, but i wanted to just touch on them real quick.
Anyone can start a blog. Yes, even you!
If you don’t already have a blog, don’t know how, think it’s confusing, etc…it’s not! There are seriously so many tools available to help you get started that creating your own blog is seriously grandma-proof (no offense to all the tech-savy grandmothers out there!)
If you have every thought about starting a blog, but ended up not because you thought it would be to hard, think again! Now is the time.
I’m going to be writing an upcoming series on blogging including why I think every parent of a child with special needs should have a blog, some step by step tutorials on how to get started, etc. If you’d be interested in me writing something like this, or any any suggestions of a topic you’d like me to write on relating to blogging, please let me know in the comments.
As I’ve said a million times, you have a story to tell, and if I can play any role in helping you tell it, I want to to do it!
Want more blog readers? Be sure you’re paying attention to these 5 blog essentials!
I’m often asked by people how they can get more traffic to their blog. I mean heck, writing a blog takes a lot of time, and if you didn’t want anyone reading what you wrote you’d start a diary, not a blog, right?
I’ll be honest I don’t have a magical formula, but there are 5 characteristics I’ve noticed about blogs that have a high level of readership. I’ll elaborate on each of these when I write my blogging series, but briefly here they are:
This one is simple. Blog about what you are passionate about. For me, I blog about my experience as a new parent raising a boy born with Down syndrome. I’m head over hills in love with my son, so it’s easy for me to write about that “topic.” I could never write a blog about Tupperware for instance because it’s not my passion. But to each his own.
This one can be a bit challenging, but it’s a simple concept. If you want to have a blog that people read, you actually have to add new content on a consistent basis for them to read. I’ve seen a lot of blogs that haven’t been updated in months (sometimes years!) You can’t do that and expect to have a lot of readers. I mean why would they keep coming back to your blog if there is nothing new for them to read?
You should be telling a story through your blog and it’s important that you don’t just leave your readers hanging. I tell most people starting out to try to write a new blog post at least once a week. Which should be easy since you’re writing about what your passionate about, right?
Don’t make your blog all about you. Get to know people through your blog. Respond to comments. Ask questions about their family, etc. As your blog grows and you get more and more comments you may not be able to respond to each and everyone, but I think it’s important to reply to as many as you can. Not because it’s some unfun blog chore that you have to do, but because it’s genuinely fun to get to know and build relationships with other people. We think it’s an honor when someone takes time to leave a comment on our blog. We love getting to know people, and comments is a great way for us to do that. We don’t always get to reply to each one, but we try, and we always read every single one.
One of the great side benefits of building a community around your blog is that as your readers get to know and trust you more they will tell others about you (word of mouth.) Treat your blog readers well, get to know them, become their friends, and genuinely care about them and they will send more and more readers your way.
I mean why wouldn’t they? They want their friends and family to experience the same great community they are. It’s a win-win!
When I pushed the publish button on this Target blog post I would have never guessed in a million years it was going to go viral, and have an impact on millions of people across the globe. It was seriously just a little luck, and a lot of God (but that’s a different story.)
You can’t know when something like that is going to happen, but if you are writing about what you are passionate about, and creating a community around your blog, you are certainly putting yourself in a good position for luck to find you.
I think kindness may be the most important awesome blog characteristic of them all. You know, The Golden Rule. Treating others as you would like to be treated. Not being a meany. I think this one sort of takes care of itself if you following the first characteristic and blogging about what you are passionate about. I don’t know to many people that are passionate about being unkind to others, if you know what I mean.
Of course, it’s your blog, and you can write about whatever you choose to write about, but in the long run I’ve found that being kind goes a long way in building an online community around your blog, and ultimately increasing your website traffic.
People aren’t huge fans of negativity. They are drawn to things that are positive. Things that inspire them. Things that help them solve a problem. Things that teach them something new. People are drawn to powerful stories. And if you are a parent trust me, you have a powerful story.
Sure you can use your blog to write about a bad experience you had at a local restaurant, or about a grudge you have with a family member, but why? Life’s to short, and let’s be honest it doesn’t really help anyone. And if you do this often enough people may start to get confused on what your actually passionate about. So my advice is to focus your time (and writing) on things that help and encourage, not tear down and destroy. I have found that that simply works best.
Changing the world doesn’t always feel “magical.”
So that’s the story behind my most popular blog post of all time. It could happen to any of you, and it should. Just remember you don’t always recognize life changing events the moments they happen. They camouflage themselves in the routine. In daily blog posts. In walks to the park with your children. In creating family traditions. In Celebrating wins. And in all the other wonderful things we so often we take for granted. But never forget that its typically in the course of these daily routine run-of-the-mill non-events where we find find ourself being blindsided by something that changes our life for ever. A wow moment. A game changing moment. So stay faithful, stay at it, and most of all keep telling your story. You never know how many people your story could impact, and even if it only impacts one person, you succeeded in changing that person’s world forever.
Changing the world doesn’t always feel magical. Most of the time it feels pretty routine. Never forget that.
As for me, my world is changed forever. We’ve joined with the many others you are working so hard to show the world that Down syndrome is ok. We’ve given millions of people a window into the life of a family raising a child with Down syndrome and showed them that it’s ok. We don’t live in a sad story. We live in a great one. We have met many new friends who are helping to change the world as well. We’ve seen the need for more and more people to tell their stories, and to keep getting these stories in front of the world. To help them exchange inaccurate and false assumptions about people with Down syndrome with accurate and true ones. The almost 20 thousand families on our Facebook page help us to this. Every time you post a pictures, share a story, or give someone a word of encouragement, the world see that, and they take notice. They see stories about our kids and our families and they see we are ok. Sure there are challenges, but so what?! The joy we get in return makes all the challenges worth it. We are ok. And we are showing the world we are ok. And the world is changing. Slowly, but it’s changing.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to each and everyone of you. It’s an honor to be on this journey with you. Collectively we are making a difference.
I also want to thank Tim Nudd who mentioned the Target post an article he wrote for AdWeek that I believe played a huge role in the mainstream media picking up the story. I’m not sure he even knew just how wide this story was going to spread, but I appreciate the attention he gave to this issue, and helping the eyes of the world see that children with Down syndrome are our co-equals. They aren’t less than. They are fully worthy of life just like us. Just like every person on this planet. Thank you Tim.
Have you ever thought about starting a blog to tell your story? If you have a blog now, why did you start it? What’s the biggest challenge in keeping up with it. And what do you like most about blogging? Take a minute to leave a comment and tell us about it.