January: Conceiving the baby
We are dining in the city, and some wine is included. We get inspired. We get ignited. We get slightly drunk.
And when we are inspired, ignited, and drunk, we naturally come up with the best ideas.
And the idea is: We will create an awesome website where we will help people with their life challenges, and we will save the world!
In the upcoming days, we discuss the idea in more details, and we make an estimation: we should be ready in a couple of weeks, 3 months top. We just need a website and a podcast.
How hard can it be, right?
February: Slightly in denial
We share the idea with the closest friends, and they are totally supportive.
Not much more happens in February. It’s a short month by default, plus it’s when I was born, so due to birthday celebrations, I’m heavily intoxicated for at least 10 days.
If this were an actual pregnancy, this period would be equivalent to “I think something is on, but I’m not sure yet so lets party and don’t think about it!”
/now I realize that “the closest friends” was actually ONE friend only. And she was intoxicated with me during my prolonged birthday celebrations. Looking back, the support we had might have been in large part invented/
March: I think we’re really pregnant?
We are back on track! After all, we are by the end of the first trimester, so it’s time to get serious about this whole pregnancy stuff. We discuss the concept and decide that if we are carrying “this baby” anyway, we should focus on it more.
We get our first Challenge! /well, if we are to be totally honest, we hijack the Challenge from a friend of a friend/. No one really asked us for help, but we don’t see it as a big deal – we will help ANYWAYS! I send around “5 options on how to break up with your girlfriend” to a couple of men I know and ask if our advice is relevant to a guy.
They say it’s relevant.
I feel like a hackerman of a male brain!
/in the meantime, my romantic life looks like a soap opera; I don’t feel like “a hackerman of a male brain” anymore. More like that “One-hit wonder” type of case, when you do something great once, and then you are unable to replicate your success./
I’ve just become “Macarena”.
But there’s no time for an existential crisis, Marta gets really into “You’ve got 5 options” and her drive inspires me. I start to have faith (AGAIN) that we are about to create something AWESOME.
Do you believe in “The Law of Attraction”? Well, I do (go ahead, judge me a little) and what happens in the next couple of days seems like “Law of Attraction in Action” /rhyme not intended/.
We find a native speaker who agrees to be our editor.
Marta’s brother offers that together with his friends who are studying some sort of “web magic” thingy, he will design our website. For free.
We get two more Challenges “from friends of friends” and it really looks like people seek our help.
Things fall into their place naturally, and we are sure we’ll launch “You’ve got 5 options” in May.
April: We are really pregnant!
I’m in Arhus every weekend to work on the concept with Marta. My friends are becoming suspicious, and they ask if I have a secret lover in the city.
But I do appreciate their faith in me and my seduction skills.
We make our first manly decision and buy a domain and web hosting at GoDaddy. Looking back from the perspective of time, that decision will cause us some trouble in the future and will force my “hackerman identity” to re-emerge again. But so far, so good. We are happy, inspired and dedicated.
We obviously don’t know what’s coming.
/it’s almost like in a trailer for B-horror movie from the ’80 – some kids, at the pick of their youth, go camping in the woods to have an adventure of their lifetime. They are happy, inspired and dedicated.
Little do they know that there is a serial killer waiting for them in the forest who will try to kill them with an axe. Or machete.
The only comforting thought is that there are always some survivors by the end. Ready for sequel/
We start recording our first podcast. In a spirit of “It doesn’t matter if you have good equipment or software; the most important is that you have something to share with others” we record on Marta’s iPhone. To be honest, we don’t think that there is anything particularly wrong with the quality of our audio, but we think it would be great if we can at least cut some parts of out.
Little do we know that this “loose observation” is the beginning of “Marta’s high school career as DJ Karp” resurrection.
/Now I’m noticing that in general, we knew very little/
May: Falling Apart. Slowly
At first, we don't notice, but things start to fall apart. Slowly.
We are unable to get any time - estimations from the "Avengers" team (this is how we called our web designers that voluntarily agreed to build our website) on when can they start to work on "You've got 5 options".
Apparently they have year-end exams or something. And a lot of other life challenges at the moment.
Come on guys, if you build us a website, we can solve those challenges for you!
But there is a little light in a tunnel; after we've lost our first graphician, Marta's brother finds us a suitable replacement. The girl is super talented and looks like she is very much into helping us.
This is gonna be awesome!
On a different note, our “business meetings” are fuelled with more and more alcohol. Not only we are trying to bribe people with drinks to work with us but I also consume a suspiciously huge amount of wine and Aperol Spritz.
Maybe I am trying to recreate the joyful spirit of our January meeting when we came up with “You’ve got 5 options”?
Or maybe – like in any typical relationship that faces difficult moments – I decide “not to talk about it” and drown my sorrows in alcohol?
Well, at least we are one of those “strong couples”.
We do it together.
Me drinking. And Marta watching my consumption
June: Total breakdown
WTF is happening.
We lost the Avengers.
We lost the second graphic designer who is apparently travelling through Eastern Europe and doesn’t reply to our messages.
We lost the fire, the drive and we are on a brink of losing hope.
Additionally, I go through some personal storms which only makes it worse.
Law of Attraction sucks because it works. Dark thoughts come upon us and they materialize in an instant.
/How about materializing in an instant that Lottery Jackpot that I wish to hit for a decade now, huh?/
Everything sucks and I want to stay under the blanket and pretend I’m a unicorn /I even have an outfit for that/.
We end our second trimester by thinking why the hell did we decide to have this baby in the first place. Maybe if we pretend that this never happens, the pregnancy will just terminate itself?
July: F*ck it, let’s rock it!
I love Marta. She is a freaking force of nature. She drags me out from under the blanket /and my “living in denial” unicorn outfit/ and simply gets hers, mine and “You’ve got 5 options” shit together.
We make a couple of manly decisions. For starters, we hire an actual web designer who has quite good reviews.
/let pause here for a second/
We set up the launch date for 1st of September – sound very reasonable, especially that now we have actual professional support.
/again, let’s pause here for a second/
We are in a period of a heavy brainstorm but we feel hopeful and excited again! This will work, we can feel it!
We start to build our website and design its entire functionality on a piece of paper. As we don’t have that much of website experience to begin with, we let our imagination running wild and invent solutions that in practice are almost impossible to implement.
But we don’t know that… yet
/this will bite our asses very, very soon/
Our web designer doesn’t want to have a phone conversation with us because “his English NOT SO GOOD”.
Should that be any warning to us? Noooo… We will explain everything in writing! Google translate was invented for something, right? He’s perfect anyway because he agrees with everything and claims he can fulfil our wildest dreams regarding the website.
We just found THE God of the Website Design! And HE WORKS FOR US!
/I guess you know what to do by now – just pause here for a second/
In the meantime we discovered that there is high quality and free of charge software we can use, to cut out some of the annoying moments we had in our podcasts. Audacity. What a welcoming, beautiful name!
“Let’s just install it to check it out”
What more can I say…
Curiosity killed the cat. Audacity killed Marta.
August: It’s the final countdown!
Something very interesting is happening with Marta.
Before she had that “let’s just go with it – lean startup – let’s do it” type of attitude but now it looks like her so-far-sleeping “perfectionist gene” got awaken. She spends hours and hours on Audacity, trying to make our audio “acceptable”.
Probably I should not worry about it, right?
We meet up every weekend to work on our podcasts and it’s getting worse and worse. One evening we try to record again and we sound so stiff and unnatural that we are almost ready to call the entire thing off.
But stiffness is only one of our problems.
I’ve tried everything: recording on different software, using different devices, sitting on the left, right, in front and at the back of the mic. In a moment of immense creativity (and desperation) I have even put 8 socks on the microphone to check if this helps.
But in my case, nothing works. It official. I have to accept that I will always sound like a hamster who records from the bathroom.
Soon, my “hamster-syndrome” is getting overshadowed by the “bad audio quality” problem. Marta gets highly educated on podcasting and is becoming more and more sensitive about all imperfections in our recordings.
I suspect I’m getting deaf because after some time I literally don’t hear any difference. I start to miss those days when we recorded on the mobile and we were very happy with crappy audio…
Very soon the inevitable comes. I’m being asked for yet another feedback on the podcast and something goes terribly wrong because next morning I receive a Whatsapp voice mail /with – I have to admit – high audio quality/ that boils down to one question:
“Do you really want to do this with me?
Do you really want to?
WTF has just happened?
I have literally no idea what’s up.
I just woke up in a state of blissful ignorance that everything’s ok and on track and suddenly I found myself in the middle of a shitstorm.
First I get shocked and speechless.
Then I re-listen to the entire voicemail again and get a tiny bit defensive. I start to gently strike back with some of my own concerns and sorrows.
Things are really on pins and needles here, people. Especially when I realise that most of Marta’s perfectionism is a result of me sounding constantly unhappy with what she has done. For some reason, my “feedback” put her on a vicious circle of never-ending improvement.
I feel like shit.
I feel like I failed as a friend and as a Partner in Crime.
Thank god we “kiss and makeup” within next couple of hours.
It’s almost unreal how fast we “shitstormed”, then exchanged constructive feedback, apologies and got back to being normal again. I realise how cool it would be to marry Marta but then I park that though as I am pretty sure I’m still attracted to men. Plus she’s already married.
All in all, we’re back on track. We both agree it was a healthy experience as we really needed to release some steam.
Plus there was a Full Moon, so you know…
/Now when I look back, I think that one of the reasons why we were solving our problems so quickly was the fact that we had to stay strong to fight with everything else. One of those “everything” was our “GOD OF THE WEBSITE DESIGN” who was very responsive and service-minded yet the work he has done had nothing to do with what we requested./
I’m spending countless hours communicating with our web developer, preparing documentation and presentations, sending detailed explanations and examples…Against all of my efforts, by the very end of August, our website looks like a Frankenstein’s monster.
I am repulsed and almost depressed each time I’m logging in to check the progress.
/Here, I have two Lessons Learned that I would like to share with you:
Never trust a web designer who says that everything is possible
And choose the one that speaks the language you both understand/
In the meantime, we have another “podcaster crisis”. Marta proposes to try vlogging instead. I am very sceptical – since I was a kid I always avoided camera – but I agree to give it a go /things you do for friendship/.
We are shocked and flabbergasted. If I really look like this on a daily basis, I feel like putting a paper bag on my head from now. My naturally high confidence and self-esteem are shattered. I wonder how I ever got laid looking like that.
Bottom line is: If you want to start a vlog, make sure you have at least ONE good profile. And straight teeth.
I guess we are back to podcasting. We just need to record something decent as so far everything we do, eventually ends up in a trash.
We know by now that 1st of September ain’t gonna happen.
We move “the go-live date” to 8th of September and decide to heavily babysit our web developer and lead him "step by step" in his designing process. Straight to a happy ending.
This is precisely the moment when my fate of becoming “the hackerman” is sealed. Because just a couple of days later, on the night of 6th of September I will be forced to create our website.
And pretty much Celine Dion’s style: All by myself.
September: It’s the final countdown… again!
It’s the 1st of September and I am in Poland. A couple of months ago I got inspired to change my surname back to the maiden and “this is the second-best idea I have ever had” this year (suppressed only by “You’ve got 5 options”). For some strange reason I have to execute all the paperwork in person and this is my fourth round trip to Poland and back since July.
/In all my honesty, both ideas turned out to be fantastic; but if I knew how much struggle, time and effort it would take, I might have reconsidered/
I’m spending half of my days in trains so I try to use this time constructively, by working on the website. Everything goes wrong. Not only I truly hate the way the website looks, but on a top of that, each time I travel through a remote area, I’m being kicked out from the Internet and I lose everything I’ve worked on.
Let’s just say, there is a lot of “remote areas” in Poland
I suspect a curse. As I have no one to blame, I start to blame all my exes. After 10 minutes I turn off the victim mode as I realize that I cannot find any connection between my former partners and problems with launching “You’ve got 5 options”. Damn.
I’m back in Denmark with a pretty shitty cold. On Sunday I still hope for sudden and miraculous healing but on Monday morning I know I’m screwed. I’m totally sick.
I am unable to work and write but as “the launch date” is still scheduled for 8th of September, I am trying to at least answer dozens of questions issued by our web designer and check the progress on the website.
There is no progress. In fact, there is an anti-progress.
Not only the visual appeal of the website is horrible but now it suddenly starts to work so slowly that I can easily go to the kitchen and make myself a ginger tea while it loads.
When we ask our “God of website design” to fix it, he is not really sure what the problem is.
In my life, I always strive to practice “kill them with kindness ” approach but now I just want to kill him. Martin Luther King would be totally disappointed.
By Wednesday I have a total breakdown.
I am totally sick – both from the cold and from our horrendously looking website.
I have enough.
My social life is dead; I ditched most of my friends a long time ago as I spend all my free time working on “You’ve got 5 Options”. I don’t go to the cinema. I don’t read books. I haven’t shaved my legs for weeks. I just got shit scared as I’ve bumped on some girl in my apartment; only after some seconds, I realized that’s my own daughter but she grew so much in the meantime, I hardly recognized her.
I’m sick and tired and instead of recovering in peace I have to keep on answering all bizarre questions from The Frankenstein.
And I just blew my nose in a sock.
Seriously, I’m OUT.
I see that Marta is still trying to communicate with the website designer and save the day;
She’s definitely “The Superman” here.
I’m Batman; very depressed and “sad” Ben Affleck’s edition.
I collapse on a couch and doze off for hours. When I finally talk to Marta in the evening, she can clearly see what’s up.
“Let’s just take it slow. No deadline. Let’s see how it goes, ok?”
Thank you, Marta. You have always been my Superman.
It’s Thursday – “New day, New me" kind of bullshit
I wake up and I feel much better, both physically and mentally. As the deadline for launching 5 Options is gone, I suddenly feel more relaxed and prone to work on our website issues.
We are making yet another manly decision; we are moving our domain to a Bluehost server to check if the website will work faster. Frankenstein says it’s worth a try but I’m reluctant to give him my Bluehost password. So I decide to do it by myself.
Most of the time I feel like a frog behind the steering wheel – I have no idea what the fuck am I doing. I spend the late afternoon and the entire evening on the live chat with Bluehost customer service.
All I can say is, never trust a guy whose name is Kevan.
By the end of the day, I have managed to assign “You’ve got 5 options” domain to my primary domain on Bluehost, change the servers, download the entire “Frankenstein’s baby” to my desktop, start an FTP transfer via FileZilla and upload all files into Bluehost to a newly-created directory.
You don’t know what any of this means? ME NEITHER!
Against all odds, I succeed. Even Frankenstein says I did a good job; I kind of want to kill him a little less now. But for some reason, I am very reluctant to extract the files with our website to the server.
“Marta, would you mind if I try out some New Options first (pun not intended)?”
And she answers:
What happens in the next 3 hours is now regarded as “The return of the hackerman”:
I go on YouTube and find a movie “Top 10 Free and Responsive WordPress Themes 2017”.
I make a quick decision and go for Britt – looks good and is considered very easy to handle.
I install WordPress on our domain, download Britt Theme. I somehow skip the step when I should install free SSL certificate but I’m pretty sure I can do it later /this one mistake will cost me 4 days of my life/
I start to create a website and I’m totally inspired. Everything goes fast and smooth; I’m in a trans. It’s like all the hackermen in the world took over my brain (and hands) and are guiding me into the light.
I feel like Neo from Matrix. I know KungFu.
I’m done after midnight. Before I collapse, I manage to send Marta a message: “Check out our site. Hope you like it”
In the morning I get a reply: “It looks ok, but what does it mean that ‘the connection is not secure’?”
Buckle up your seat belts people; we are in for a bumpy ride.
The weekend, also known as “Where the F*** is our SSL”
We meet up on Friday afternoon and we are trying to figure out what to do with the SSL certificate. I try to install it. Twice. None of the attempts is successful.
We harras the entire Bluehost Customer Service and now everyone from live chat is claiming to “work on it”. Each consultant gives us a different version of the story and we start to suspect they are simply fucking with us.
Now we are certain. The entire Bluehost is trying to destroy “You’ve got 5 Options” and we think it’s some kind of conspiracy.
On a positive note, everything else starts to magically work. We record the 117th version of our podcast and this time we’re kind of happy with the result. Marta abuses Audacity like there’s no tomorrow and we finally have a content to release. We are tired and our brains are clearly overheated but we have never reached a productivity level like this before. If not the SSL (or rather lack of it) we could easily launch the Beta version of You’ve Got 5 Options.
Somewhere between "live chatting" with Bluehost and editing the content, we decide to take a break and go for a walk.
And we get philosophical.
Marta points out something very smart: We got so much into those technical things that at one point we have forgotten why the hell did we decided to create 5 options in the first place.
We just wanted to help others – to provide them with a bit of support when they feel lost. To make them feel like they have a “safe place” to go to (not having SSL at this point becomes even more ironic). To put a smile on their faces when they feel down (most of the time unintentionally, just check out our podcasts to understand what I mean).
And for some reason, we have ended up here. Exhausted and anxious, doing things we have never imagined and jeopardizing our friendship in a process.
From now on we agree to take it easy. What’s meant to be, meant to be. If we are indeed supposed to make it happen, it will happen.
Marta asks me if I considered that all the problems we have faced in the past 9 months could be signs that the Universe is against us, we are on the wrong path and we should have quitted a long time ago.
If I’m to be honest, I feel like the Universe is banging us with the ceramic frying pan over the head daily; those are not signs, this is Sparta.
But then I reply with something that Marta herself told me once: “Closer you are to your true life purpose, more afraid you’ll become and more obstacles you will encounter”.
“But how can you tell the difference? How can you know if it’s a sign to resign and let go or to continue and not to give up?”
Well, that’s a tough one. But the answer is simple.
You feel it in your gut.
Our “guts” tell us the same. We still want to do it. And we ain’t quitting.
Our guts also tell us that we’re hungry, so we call it a night and go get something to eat.
All night long I dream about plugins, widgets and SSL certificate. I have a nightmare where I try to offer my body to Bluehost Customer Service so they will install the SSL faster, but everyone refuses. I wake up slightly down and confused and decide to finally shave my legs.
On Sunday evening I have my last live chat with Bluehost. Usually, I am a polite person but this time I am losing it. I tell them that this is simply ridiculous. By the very end, I just close the chat without even saying Good Bye.
I have a feeling I just got blacklisted or at least labelled as a “difficult customer” and we will never get that SSL.
I guess there’s nothing more to do than to grab a glass of wine and catch up with the season finale of Game of Thrones.
While watching, I wonder how Cersei would handle this situation. The fantasies that come into my head, somehow give me a little bit of a relief and comfort.
I completely let go and manage to go to sleep in peace.
It’s Monday and the Miracle Happens
I wake up in the morning to a picture message from Marta. At first, I think she’s pranking me but then I check it and cannot believe my own eyes.
We have the fucking SSL certificate!
I’m not sure if I’m more shocked or happy but at this point, it doesn’t matter. All I can say is, Universe awards those who don’t give up.
And those who are having “an angry talk” with a Customer Service.
We spend the entire Monday evening at polishing the last details. Marta arranges hosting @seriouslysimplepodcasting and manages to connect our podcasts to the website. I’m so freaking proud of her! She also has a fantastic customer experience with a consultant from SSP who makes everything works.
At one point she sends me a message “I love Craig!” and I start to wonder what’s up and when is Marta’s husband coming back from his business trip. But after a quick recall of what has happened to us through this entire “journey”, I totally get it. We would love anyone who shows us a bit of interest and offers support in solving our problems. I am ready to carry Craig’s baby if necessary.
Tuesday, 12th of September
Thank God it’s Tuesday! Mainly because it’s not Monday…
…but also because we are ready to launch “You’ve Got 5 Options“. I cannot believe that in the last seven days we have managed to do more than in the past 9 months. I almost feel like that time when I was writing my Master Thesis all over again.
It’s Tuesday evening and we make the final checks. Everything works and there’s nothing more to do then just to send our baby into the world.
Marta asks if we are ready and I simply cannot believe I am saying this but I AM SAYING THIS nevertheless:
Marta, we are ready to go
And so we go.
“You’ve got 5 Options” emerged online in all its hardship and glory on 12th of September 2017.
We’ve sent out the info to all of our Facebook friends and received a lot of wonderful comments and warm “Good luck” messages. You guys made it totally worth it and for that we are – and always will be – truly and deeply grateful,
I was enjoying this moment like any other mother: with overwhelming pride, blissful joy and almost narcotic high.
Until a couple of minutes later, when I get a message:
“Anna, do we have a plugin on a website that connects the Comments section with Facebook?”