You Aren’t an Expert at Everything

I was thinking about what would happen to this blog if I suddenly died.

Currently, it would mean that the only person with the login information necessary to add new content to LifeReboot would be forever silenced. The blog would be devoid of new content for a month or two, causing unsuspecting readers to assume I’ve given up on my blogging adventure. Once my credit card could no longer be charged, my hosting provider would cancel my service. Consequently, my blog would share my fate — by ceasing to exist.

Realizing this is not what I’d like to happen if such a tragic thing were to occur, I thought of an interesting idea.

WP-Mortality: A WordPress plugin that sends a prepared email message after 30 consecutive days with zero logins. Optionally, it can publish a prepared blog post at the time it sends the email.

Translation: A tool that makes it possible for a blog owner to contact someone they trust beyond the grave, and optionally provide his or her readers with a final farewell post.

Real World Example: I am a blogger who doesn’t know how or when I will die. As such, I’ve installed the WP-Mortality plugin to make sure my blog will be appropriately dealt with once I kick the bucket. One day, I get hit by a bus. 30 days later, my friend Mike gets an unexpected email message:

Hello Mike,

If you are reading this, then I have not logged into my blog for 30 days. Chances are, this means that I am dead. This message has been programmed to be sent to you under these conditions.

I’ve chosen to send this information to you because I value our friendship. I appreciate you as a caring, honest, and non-judgmental person. Thanks for all of the advice you have offered during our countless conversations throughout the years. Please know that I trust your judgment fully, which is why I’m entrusting this information to you:

(Login information relating to my blog, my hosting provider, and my DNS registrar would follow.)

At the same time, a new post would be published to my blog’s front page:

Goodbye, Blessed Blogosphere
Dear Readers,

If you are reading this, then I have not logged into my blog for 30 days. Chances are, this means that I am dead. Through the use of the WP-Mortality plugin, this post has been programmed to be published under these conditions.

(A tasteful, heartfelt, and possibly tear-jerking post would follow.)

Naturally, once this interesting idea came to mind, I checked to see if a plugin like this existed. I searched the standard Plugin Repositories, performed a few Google searches, but came up with nothing. I concluded that a plugin for tying up loose ends doesn’t exist.

Considering that the Internet is still relatively young, this comes as no surprise to me. Death is perceived as something that happens later in life. Young people often believe they have another thirty or forty years before they need to start focusing on the morbid subject of death. Since the Internet hasn’t been around thirty or forty years, it hasn’t experienced any significant side-effects from the death of human beings.

Inevitably, people with “Web Presence” will die. Will their Facebook and MySpace profiles live on forever, endlessly receiving friend requests that can do nothing but stay unanswered? Will their Monster resumes continue being listed, occasionally causing headhunters to try and contact someone who is six feet under? Will their blogs become abandoned archives of thoughtful publications where new comments can appear, but new posts can’t?

If a plugin such as WP-Mortality existed, then there would be fewer instances where bloggers dropped off the blogosphere without explanation. If a plugin such as WP-Mortality existed, I would use it — because I would want my readers to know why I suddenly ignored them for a month.

Unfortunately for me, WP-Mortality is only a plugin in theory. As previously mentioned, I searched for a plugin that does what I’ve described above, and came up with nothing. It doesn’t exist at the time of this writing.

[Update 9-30-2007: A website called Deathswitch offers a service that deals with the issue of “bridging mortality.” Deathswitch sends periodic emails, asking you to reply to prove you’re still alive. After a set number of days with no reply, the service assumes you are dead. It will then proceed to “release your secrets” to up to 30 recipients of your choice. The service costs $19.95/year, and could accomplish what WP-Mortality is intended to — but it’s not precisely what I wanted because it’s not freely available as a plugin.]

[Update 1-4-2008:  It appears as if another blogger came up with the same rhetorical question “What would my very last blog post be?” and planned ahead for it.  When he died, his friend honored the request to publish a previously written post  as a final farewell.  His signing off article is one of the most touching entries I’ve ever read.]

My initial reaction, therefore, was to create WP-Mortality myself. I’ve done my fair share of programming, so this was not an unreasonable idea. After giving this some thought, however, I came up with a different solution:

Leave it to the experts.

I am not an expert WordPress plugin programmer. In fact, I am not even a novice WordPress plugin programmer. I have never created a WordPress plugin. Although I believe myself to be a pretty sharp guy, especially in the realm of computers, I understand that it would be unwise to do it myself.

If I were to successfully create WP-Mortality, it would only be after many weeks (or months) of extended frustration. Though it might work, it would be mediocre at best. If people using WP-Mortality wanted me to add features, I would be reluctant to do so because it would require more programming (read: more frustration). When a newer version of the WordPress software is released, I would be reluctant to revise my mediocre plugin to work with the newer version because it would require more programming (or, once again, more frustration). In short, programming is not my area of expertise.

Conversely, an expert WordPress plugin programmer could likely create this plugin with ease. It would look professional. It would have adequate error checking, additional functionality, and flexible customization. If users requested features to be added, the expert programmer would take on the new challenge with enthusiasm. Similarly, the expert programmer would keep the plugin current, making sure it worked with the latest version of the WordPress software flawlessly.

My point, as indicated in the title of this article, is that it’s best to admit when you’re not an expert at something. More specifically, it’s best to admit when you’re not an expert at something and you have no desire to be.

I have no desire to be an expert programmer, just as I have no desire to retile my bathroom floor. I have no desire to be a politician, or to master the culinary art of cooking. I’ve learned to leave all of these things to their respective experts, and to focus only on the areas in which I desire expertise.

So if you’re an expert programmer that likes the concept of WP-Mortality, then I encourage you to steal this idea. Just be sure to let me know when you succeed, because I’d like to use the plugin.

For us non-expert programmers, remember that you aren’t an expert at everything. You can’t be, because it’s not possible — and if you try to be, you end up being an expert in only one thing: Mediocrity.

Don’t be the wannabe know-it-all who everyone thinks is full of it. Don’t be the jack-of-all-trades who is an expert at nothing. Learn to let go.

Be an expert at what you want to be. Leave everything else to everyone else.

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9 Responses to “You Aren’t an Expert at Everything”

#1 Jonesy on 30, Sep, 2007 at 1:36 am

Nice post, I had this same idea about a year ago, when I was starting my site. But I too reached that same conclusion (leave it to the experts).

By the way, that email feature would creep the living daylights out of Mike.

#2 Kathy on 30, Sep, 2007 at 9:34 am

I have thought about what to do about my blog in the event I cease to exist. At the very least I’m keeping a list of all my logins and passwords for my husband, and instructions for whoever wants to post my last post, explaining my permanent absence.

#3 Reginald Drake on 30, Sep, 2007 at 2:22 pm

A ‘chances are I am dead’ post might create some unnecessary consternation in case you just, say, lost your memory, or suddenly decided to move to Tibet and live a contemplative life, or got spirited off to Guantanamo Bay.

Maybe a social solution is more appropriate than a technical one here — you could give your mother, sibling, or whoever you trust your login information *before* dying, and instruct them what you’d want done.

#4 Gerhi Janse van Vuuren on 01, Oct, 2007 at 8:04 am

I have thought about the same thing. Let’s say I live for another twenty years and blog for all of them. In terms of cyberspace real estate I will own a significant portion that can provide residual income for my dependants.

The only way I can see to deal with that is the old fashioned way – a last will and testament.

But then again, writing a widget that goes out when you die can actually be that last will and testament. Just imagine your last wishes being read by thousands of people. Then again maybe not such a good idea.

#5 BQ on 01, Oct, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Shaun, I love your articles. Your writing has been greatly motivational for me in the past few months since I discovered your website.
I agree with your sentiment that one cannot be a “jack of all trades”. Having superficial knowledge of a variety of things is useful for conversation but not much else. However, I find it hard to tell the difference between admitting that I’m not going to be an expert on everything and simply giving up a handful of dreams. My problem is overcoming the prejudices I’ve forced on myself. Like you, I’ve dreamed of being a writer for years. It’s the one thing that I know I genuinely want to be good at. But it has been very hard for me to convince myself I CAN write. The greatest boost to my confidence in that regard has come from the friends that support and encourage me, but I still don’t quite believe in myself.

#6 B on 02, Oct, 2007 at 11:30 pm

Shaun, I wanted to commend you on a great blog. You usually offer good advice, but I thought this particular post was trite and poorly argued. How can a person know what they want to be an expert in without first trying a bunch of things?

#7 » Blog Archive » Jack of All Trades, Master of None? on 02, Oct, 2007 at 11:34 pm

[…] author of LifeReboot (, a great self-help blog, recently admonished his readers, “Remember that […]

#8 Gen on 26, Oct, 2007 at 3:37 am

I loved this, thank you. Motivating articles in all their glory, this worked the other way around, motivating me from the backdoor so to speak. Just what I needed. One bookmark later, I’m a regular. Keep it up, I’m glad you’ve learnt to let it go and please keep enjoying doing this 🙂

#9 paul58 on 15, Mar, 2009 at 4:05 pm

thank you for thiis interesting tickeet, if only people understaand what you say 🙂 it s nice to visit thhis nteresting blog 🙂

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