What Do You Get A Blog For Its First Birthday?

A momentous occasion (to indulge in a little rank hyperbole) would have passed quietly Blog's first birthdaywithout notice today had I not received this congratulatory, albeit terse, note from the folks at WordPress headquarters, (reputed to be located in a bunker buried deep in the Ural mountains).  The message read simply, “Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com.”

It is hard to believe that one year ago today an impoverished world was struggling along without benefit of my accumulated wisdom, wry wit and effervescent charm.  Planet earth must have seemed a very grim and dreary place back then.   Thankfully, one of the seven muses (nine according to some antiquarians . . . nothing is ever straightforward, is it?) arose from a long slumber and showered their inspiration on your humble blogger.  OK, perhaps it was more like a light dusting but let’s not quibble on such an august occasion.

English: United States Postal Service headquar...

United States Postal Service headquarters at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am sure, even as I pen these words, burlap bags full of well wishes, congratulatory cards and letters and even a few modest tangible expressions of appreciation are being sorted and loaded by our friends over at the U.S. Postal Service.  The fact that none have as yet arrived must be attributable to the voluminous increase in mail that always surrounds Father’s Day. (That was sarcasm in case it escaped you.)

To be perfectly frank, I have not achieved all the lofty goals I set for this blog one year ago today.  I am not able to report my 10 millionth visitor nor have I been asked to write the travel blog for USA Today.   What I can report is one of the strangest phenomenons associated with blogging.  To date my blog posts have been read by people in 104 different countries around the world.  Seriously!  When you consider that my quirky sense of humor escapes the appreciation of some people in my own family, you have to wonder how comprehensible it could possibly be to people in Malta, Albania, Senegal, Macao and French Polynesia to name just a few.

I have written 61 posts, each a veritable classic it goes without saying.  If you are doing 40 years to life in San Quentin and need a way to make some time pass (granted very slowly), just jump over to my What Did I Miss? page and you will find a complete listing.

I have somehow managed to persuade several otherwise reasonably sane individuals to let me interview them for this blog such as Vicki Freed, Michael Batt and John Heald.

Royal Caribbean's Vicki Freed        Mike Batt         John Heald Carnival Cruise Senior Cruise Director

Since so far I have not been sued in a court of law or made to do a perp walk through the county courthouse, I suppose I will keep plodding along in my inimitable mind numbing way until either the muses abandon me or my frustrated maker cries “Enough already!”  You are invited to register your reaction to this self-congratulatory epistle by taking the poll below.

Michael Batt Talks Travel

If there is anyone I’ve met across the years who seemed destined to fulfill a successful career in “bidness”, as we like to mangle the term here in Texas, it is truly Michael Batt.  Mike is founder and chairman of Travel Leaders Group and is the latest travel industry expert to visit us here on Backroom Banter.

Mike is the business equivalent of Roy Hobbs, i.e. The Natural, without all the sub-plots.  If you want a quick overview of his immensely successful corporate career click here.  But honestly, that is just part of the story.  At heart, he is a bold entrepreneur with investments in restaurants, publishing, internet marketing, and only he, God and his tax attorney know what else.

Mike possesses that rare package of gifts the rest of us only pine for.  He has a keen analytical mind that enables him to quickly diagnose the financial health of a potential acquisition.  As you will see when you watch the video below, he is an effective communicator whether chatting one-on-one or captivating a large audience on stage.

Without a doubt, however, the single trait I most admire in Mike is his commitment to integrity.  One of the major reasons he has been able to broker the amazing deals he has with other industry giants is the transparent honesty he exudes in business dealings.  People quickly realize when negotiating with Mike that he has zero tolerance for sharp corners or shady deals.   There is a lesson here for all of us.  The word integrity is related to the word integer, meaning whole, as in whole numbers.  When you are just one thing, both without and within, it spares you loads of game playing.  This is the essence of being real.

You would think a guy with Mike’s immense gifts would at least have the decency to be an arrogant jerk so the rest of us could rationalize our jealousy.  But no, on top of everything, Mike has to go and be a genuinely warm, gracious and kindhearted person as well.  It has been my genuine privilege to count Mike a valued friend over more than a dozen years.

I will share one quick anecdote and on to the video interview.

Mike once told me that he was the son of a Welsh coal miner and was the first in his family to have the privilege of attending university.  Fresh out of school, his first job was with M & M Mars candy company.  As Mike tells it, he drove home flush with his new position and immediately dragged his father from his easy chair and out to his car.  He popped open the boot (trunk for you non-Anglophiles) to reveal hundreds of assorted candy bars.  His dad took one look, glanced over at Mike, coughed out a little mine dust and said, “Let me get this straight, I worked thirty years in a coal mine so you could sell candy bars out of the boot of your car?”  From candy merchant to capitalist mogul,  it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Now enjoy a few minutes with one of our industry’s leading lights as he shares his insights on the remarkable growth of Travel Leaders, the overall state of the travel industry and the merger between two New York powerhouse agencies, Tzell Travel Group and Protravel International. You will even get a glimpse into  how Mike likes to spend his own leisure time.  Just click on the image below to view the interview.

Thanks, Mike, for stopping by.  By the way, do you still have any connections over at Mars?  I really like those Twix bars.