Shai Coggins Out of b5media. Tough Times Ahead For All of Us?

Filed as Editorial on January 16, 2009 12:59 am

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I received an email tip via Performancing today about some key b5media personalities having to leave the network–one of the bigger blog/new media networks today, in terms of content and contributorship. Foremost of these is AboutWeblogs.com founder and b5media “co-founder” Shai Coggins. In a blog post today, Shai explains the circumstances behind her leaving b5.

Even with the fresh injection of funding, the economic times aren’t cooperating.

So, it all ended with another Skype chat. Well, sort of. On the 14th of January 2009, I used Skype to pay for the call to the b5 conference line – where the company COO and CEO broke the news to me.

Times are tough.

And that’s how it ends.

I’m not sure I am at liberty to quote or discuss the actual contents of the email, as it appears to be privileged communication between Jeremy Wright and his fellow b5′ers. But it appears that this move was due to some belt-tightening measures that the company has had to do in line with its trimming of costs, refocusing of strategies and exploring of new opportunities.

I know these are tough times, and I guess new media outfits are as vulnerable to the economic downturn as everyone else. Does this signal that monetization that is based on CPM (cost per impression, which is prevalent among big blog networks) models is suffering? Or perhaps this is an all-encompassing phenomenon, after all, which includes other business models like cost-per-click, sponsorship and the like.

Are we facing a “bubble” of sorts, about to burst at a moment’s notice?

For one, I think other business models like subscription and consultancy are still thriving (or surviving?), as is the case with some of the brands I manage for Splashpress Media. There is only so much that you can earn from a “free” mode of content delivery. But premium services, when marketed well, could still do well in an environment like this. Take for instance premium themes and premium theme clubs, which have grown in popularity of late.

One thing’s for sure in these troubled times. Times are surely tough, but people can be tougher, in our ability to change, adapt, and improvise. I’m with Shai in quoting Gregory Peck: Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.

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  1. By Mark posted on January 16, 2009 at 1:05 am
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    It’s a self-perpetuating spiral downwards, as direct advertisers are using the global recession as an excuse to bargain down prices- even when their balance sheets are better than ever. The key, I think, is to be flexible in terms of being able to change one’s business model into what does work in this environment.

    Warren Buffet’s words come to mind as well, I fear: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

    Reply

  2. By Duncan Riley posted on January 16, 2009 at 4:50 am
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    I must say I’m rather surprised by Ms Coggin’s somewhat bitter tone in her post, at least she got a call from the CEO. 2 and a bit years later I’m still waiting for her to respond to my emails when she sharpened her knife on me.

    BTW, don’t be a girl with the memo: if it was leaked to you, it’s fair game. The site was founded on breaking stories, not holding back.

    Duncan
    Founding Editor, The Blog Herald.

    Reply

  3. By Fern posted on January 16, 2009 at 5:07 am
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    Duncan–Am I missing something? I don’t see where she was bitter? But your comment seems kind of petty.

    Reply

  4. By Karl posted on January 16, 2009 at 6:18 am
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    Something’s not adding up here. It has to be more than just a budget thing. b5 advertises every day for bloggers onpro blogger, the various b5 blogs and even internally through the forum, channel emails and chats. So if they’re so tight for cash why not cut out some of the dumb little niche blogs instead of such a beloved partner? Trust me, there are other people who would be better of getting the ax. There’s a lot more here than meets the eye.

    Reply

  5. By James posted on January 16, 2009 at 8:13 am
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    Yeah, that sounds pretty fishy of b5. Something’s definitely not adding up.

    Reply

  6. By Duncan Riley posted on January 16, 2009 at 4:09 pm
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    Fern
    did you even click through and read it? No gushing fond farewells, she even mentions how SHE had to pay for the call to be fired. It reeks of bitterness.

    Karl, I honestly don’t know the answer there, but I can say one thing: the difference between an exec vs blogger is massive in terms of pay. I don’t know their exact rates, but I’d guess that you’d need to get rid of anywhere from 25-100 bloggers to save the same amount of money.

    Reply

  7. By Shai Coggins posted on January 17, 2009 at 9:34 pm
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    Duncan, If you have something to say to me, say it. I never knew you can sink this low, trying to claim things in public without going straight with me.

    I don’t know what emails you’re waiting for that you’re talking about here. Nor what knife.

    Look at what you just wrote here. So, who’s stabbing whom?

    Have I written anything bad or derogatory about you? Have I ever attacked you personally? Or put you down in a public forum?

    Do you even know what I have actually done?

    As I told your wife, there are certain things that even I don’t know about (and didn’t know about). You may be too wrapped up with your own misery to realise what was really going on. What else do you think could I have done under the circumstances?

    If you thought there was something I could do and could’ve done, then you’re misplacing your own bitterness and anger.

    You can hate me all you want. You can blame me all you want.

    But, seriously, one of these days, you will have to face the fact that you are responsible for your own actions.

    Reply

  8. By Duncan Riley posted on January 18, 2009 at 2:31 am
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    Shai,
    As I said in the earlier comment, I’m surprised to see you so bitter, and your comment proves the point. I guess being on the receiving end isn’t as easy as dishing it out. Think of it as a learning experience; I’m sure you’ll go on to better things, and I wish you well.
    Duncan.

    Reply

  9. By Shai Coggins posted on January 18, 2009 at 4:48 am
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    Duncan,

    What’s the surprise? Even *IF* I were bitter (Change is always difficult when they get thrust upon you, right?) – what kind of person rejoices in a situation like this no matter what? What kind of person says “serves you right!”?

    And, you see, this thing happened just a measly 4 days ago for me. You’re still stewing in your own bitterness for how many *years*?! You’re always putting people and things down every chance you get. For goodness’ sake, take what you’ve got from what happened— and just move on. You have no idea just how lucky you are.

    And, as for dishing and receiving. Well, I never dished anything of that sort out. Especially not to you. Not in a way that you think. You just have absolutely no clue. But, if you choose to believe otherwise, have it your way. I just thought you’re smarter than that.

    You obviously have a way of reading things your own way. And, haven’t learned anything from your own experience.

    I never wished you harm nor ill will. What will I gain from your misfortune? Absolutely nothing. So, you making all these accusations and lies is just ridiculous.

    What I’m writing here isn’t proving anything you’re saying. You just want to believe what you want to believe. You just want to find what you’re looking for.

    If that makes you feel better, then go ahead. You can do it at my expense, if you want. You’re good at kicking people while they’re down, right? So yes, go ahead – kick, punch, spit…

    But, you have to figure out for yourself: What will it take to make you feel better? What needs to happen for you to be able to become happy?

    ‘Cause you see, I can’t be punching bag for too long. I’m not the sort of person who stays down. And angry. And bitter. That’s the sort of thing I strive to be free of no matter what has been done (or not done) to or for me. I can hurt and cry and gnash my teeth for a while. But, I believe in taking responsibility. My life is my own. So yes, as I said in my post, I’ll be just fine. Things have a way of working out.

    Reply

  10. By Shai Coggins posted on January 18, 2009 at 4:59 am
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    To the others who left comments here, my apologies. I wanted to reply earlier, but got carried away. As you can probably imagine, this is not the best of times. Anyway, here you go…

    Fern: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Karl: Beloved partner – wow, thanks. Sometimes, there are just questions that don’t always have answers. I wish I knew too. But, I’m hoping not to spend the rest of my life trying to figure the answers to those questions out. I intend to ask new questions in different directions that will lead to better, brighter things. Again, thank you for thinking and saying that I would’ve been worth keeping. Just knowing and realising that there are so many of you who offered such kind support to me at this time of my life almost makes this experience worth it. :-)

    And, to J. Angelo Racoma – Thanks so much for sharing this story. I really appreciate it.

    Reply

  11. By curious blogger posted on January 18, 2009 at 5:00 am
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    it has been 4 days… now, I am wondering where Jeremy is. Usually, he answers questions pretty fasts. Seems like he has yet to formulate the “explanation” to this recent action.

    another question… this is one of b5media’s reaction to the crisis. why then did they travel and spend so much in late 2008? justify that!

    DUNCAN: guys, you’re both out of b5. there is no need to smirk in your corner because someone else is experiencing what you experienced before.

    Reply

  12. By Duncan Riley posted on January 18, 2009 at 5:35 am
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    Shai
    I have no idea what you’re talking about, I was corresponding with Darren only last week, and had a beer with Jeremy not that long ago, while I can’t change the past I’ve always been positive about the future, even with those I’ve disagreed with a long while ago.

    That’s the attitude I’d encourage you to take, you’ll find that the bitterness isn’t healthy for you going forward, but as you say, 4 days, so I guess you’re still dealing with things, and being on the receiving end is obviously new to you, so perhaps you deserve some more leeway.

    Let me say again though that I do wish you well, and I’m sure you’ll find something new.

    Duncan.

    Reply

  13. By Duncan Riley posted on January 18, 2009 at 5:39 am
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    Curious Blogger
    No one is smirking, it’s always unfortunate when some one gets shafted when they didn’t see it coming. I feel for Shai, from experience.

    As for the reasons why, we have the memo up on The Inquisitr (the blog herald wouldn’t publish it…and I’ve stayed away fom the editorial side), the reasons are fairly simple: tough economic times, and let me say even if I have no involvement in the company today that I fully back Jeremy’s decisions. Smart people don’t leave cuts until you run out of money.

    Reply

  14. By Shai Coggins posted on January 18, 2009 at 5:45 am
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    Duncan: Don’t make it appear that you’re taking the high road here. I think everyone else can see right through it. It’s not your comment about my feelings (of bitterness?!) – and my post that bother me. It’s your accusation of me sharpening a knife and never answering your emails. And, me ‘dishing things out’ to you.

    I don’t know what school of communication you’re coming from, but in my book, someone who *really* wishes another well doesn’t make unfounded accusations – they do not say any of those things at all.

    Reply

  15. By Shai Coggins posted on January 18, 2009 at 5:47 am
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    Curious Blogger: Thank you.

    Reply

  16. By Shai Coggins posted on January 18, 2009 at 5:51 am
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    That’s a funny comment you just left for Curious Blogger, Duncan. After all your accusations and innuendos of knife sharpening… Seriously?

    Reply

  17. By curious blogger posted on January 18, 2009 at 5:52 am
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    Shai: you brought in several blogs… and you were part-owner when AW merged with b5media. I hope, for your sake, that you at least received a good severance package.

    Reply

  18. By Duncan Riley posted on January 18, 2009 at 5:58 am
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    Shai,
    for over one week prior to my departure from b5media you stopped responding to my emails, and you’ve never emailed me once since, despite our once close working relationship. You were very much complicit in my departure. These are simple and very much true facts that are verifiable and would pass legal muster in court. That you seek to rewrite history really demonstrates how bitter and angry you may be, and that’s very sad. I’ve moved past it and accepted what happened, it’s a shame you’re still in some sort of denial of the truth.

    I do honestly wish you well, and I hope you feel better soon.

    Reply

  19. By Shai Coggins posted on January 18, 2009 at 6:47 am
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    Duncan – I do not know what emails you’re talking about. My memory may be hazy – but, during that time period that you mentioned, I was going through a difficult pregnancy and was very sick. I wasn’t working with b5 full time during that time – and had many other commitments. That’s partly why I didn’t even make it to that first trip to North America, remember? What history am I re-writing? Call it what you will, but if you’ve really moved on and accepted things – why are you dragging it all right now? Why do you even need to name what I’m feeling, when you don’t even know who I am? Or, what really happened?

    I have not made contact with you since for many reasons. Including the fact that I respected your stand to stay away – when you ‘disconnected’ me from your contacts lists in many avenues. Besides, it’s not like you’ve never made contact with me since either. And, our paths never really crossed personally. So, what’s the deal here?

    You’re still trying to bend things in the direction that you want it. Truth of the matter is, you’ve made horrid accusations here that are defamatory in nature. I think any court of law will probably listen more to defamation claims than that of “unanswered emails”.

    Reply

  20. By Shai Coggins posted on January 18, 2009 at 6:56 am
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    Curious Blogger: Thank you for your support. I don’t consider myself as the “corporate type”. I started a blog network, out of passion to do something that I loved – and to be able to work closely with some of the best bloggers I have had the honour of knowing online. My biggest reward through the merge and such – is knowing that many of the bloggers I worked with have gone on to becoming real rockin’ bloggers. And, the wonderful knowledge that they are able to make some money doing something that they love. I hope, for their sakes, that they will always be able to do so. And, I hope one day, that whatever project I get started again, that I will be able to help other people to do something just as amazing. Or more.

    Reply

  21. By Karl posted on January 18, 2009 at 11:13 am
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    This is all so lord of the flies. I still think b5 could have found a way to keep Shai around. Here’s one: how about cutting out all the conference hopping? Everyone knows who b5 is and what it does so why go to all the conferences? It’s not as if he has anything of substance to say anyway. He’s where he is because of the people he underpays he doesn’t need to go to conference to teach anyone how to do that.
    Cut out Jeremy’s traveling and there you go. Sending him to Las Vegas for karaoke and poker just before dropping the axe is very telling.

    Reply

  22. By Karl posted on January 18, 2009 at 11:23 am
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    Hey wait a minute – didn’t b5 just receive another couple of mil in funding?

    Someone isn’t budgeting properly.

    Reply

  23. By Mark posted on January 18, 2009 at 11:23 am
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    Shai- I don’t know you personally, but I do have admiration for you. Well…maybe I have to say that as I’m married to a Filipina :-) I do know what it’s like to put your heart and soul into something and then have the carpet ripped from under your feet. All I can say would be clichés that I happen to believe in, like: “things always happen for a reason”, “time heals” and so on. I join the many people who have given you support and truly wish wonderful things to come your way.

    Duncan- you really are the absolute pits. I have witnessed your whining and backbiting for some time now and thought better of getting involved. Life is too short, after all, and I suspect that a reaction is really what you are usually after anyway. However, I can talk from experience, as ever since we bought this blog in 2006, we’ve had to deal with your constant venom- delivered in a particularly nasty, petty way- mostly to Tony Hung, our former editor. Of course you are entitled to your opinions and you have every right to express your views openly (especially as regards feedback on BH) but it is the manner of such criticisms and the way you put them across that is just plain mean-spirited. You often falsely accuse and make mountains out of molehills. Sure- we have made mistakes and certainly not done as good a job as you might have, but like the way you call J. Angelo a “girl” in your comment (when he is just being responsible and respecting privacy) is a small peak into the Scrooge blogging world of Duncan Riley.

    Picking on Shai publically at this time, whatever your history, is just one step too far, mate. She is absolutely right to see through your comments, as do I. You are clearly enjoying her misfortune and I can think of no lower level that one can sink to. Go and get a life, man, and stop spreading misery….we have enough of it already in this world.

    Reply

  24. By Duncan Riley posted on January 18, 2009 at 2:05 pm
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    Shai
    feel free to consult a lawyer, the truth isn’t defamation, and nothing I’ve said isn’t true. Why mention it now: it was contextual given how you left the company, nothing more, nothing less. As I’ve already repeated, I’m sorry your so bitter, and I wish you well.

    Mark
    I disagreed with Tony a long time ago, and I don’t even recall what it was, although I’m pretty sure I settled what ever it was about. That you, and your organization can’t handle disagreement doesn’t bide you well. Not running the memo was pissweak and you know it. You don’t know all the facts, but if you want to bring it on, please let me know. As for “spreading misery” your poor, sad little man: your site broke the story, remember. If you were SOOOOO sensitive to Shai, you wouldn’t have run it, but hey, lets not let facts get in the way, you obviously don’t.

    Reply

  25. By Jeremy Wright posted on January 18, 2009 at 2:31 pm
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    For obvious reasons I’m not going to get in between Shai and Duncan, however since it was directly asked why I wasn’t answering “the big question”, per Duncan: I did, we did, b5 did. Going through a prolonged downturn, the only responsible thing to do is to adjust all costs – and headcount was part of that (as was canceling planned hires, moving folk around internally, canceling bonuses and a slew of other items – per the memo).

    Trying to trivialize the current situation to say “oh, they could have just done X” isn’t helpful to anyone.

    As far as “Karl”, the reason we go to conferences is very simple: business development deals. In all of b5′s history, there has only ever been one (ONE) conference that didn’t turn a profit for b5. Which means we should be doing more conferences, not less. Oh, and I *hate* travelling. I hate schmoozing. I hate the social obligations of going to parties. So everytime you think I’m having fun, I assure you, I’m sucking it up wishing I was home with my family.

    And that’s all the comment I’m going to make, because this thread has already become disjointed enough as it is. Ultimately everyone in here has already made up their mind (and most who are against b5 have never actually asked for the truth of anyone AT b5). The reasons for this (incredibly difficult) decision are transparent. There is clearly a global crisis going on. It is clearly our primary responsibility to make sure the company survives and thrives. So while I wish we could have kept on all the great people we’ve recently had to let go, we couldn’t do that *and* have the company survive. If we could have, come on, we would have. In a heartbeat.

    Reply

  26. By Jeremy Wright posted on January 18, 2009 at 2:32 pm
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    I’d also like to publicly wish Shai all the best, and just like in the last year Duncan and I have revived our relationship I can only hope that eventually Shai and I can share a drink and be thankful for the experiences we shared.

    Shai is an incredible person, an incredible community leader, an incredible blogger and deserves every bit of the respect she is receiving (and then some!).

    Reply

  27. By Duncan Riley posted on January 18, 2009 at 3:43 pm
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    Mark
    In retrospect my comment towards you, and name calling was a little harsh, I should wait to get out of bed before writing comments, and I apologize, I was simply surprised by your venom towards me, as I still am.

    Jeremy
    exceedingly well said and you continue to impress me with your management of such issues. I fully understand the why, and I don’t know any blogging concern that hasn’t seen a downturn yet, so your step, as hard is it undoubtedly was, is a wise one.

    Reply

  28. By Shai Coggins posted on January 18, 2009 at 6:03 pm
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    Mark: Thank you. You sound like a fine man. I wish you all the best in everything that you do in your company. I appreciate your words and your thoughts. Even though we may not know each other that well, I can sense the sincerity in what you have to say. I believe that you can readily look people in the eye when you have something to say to them. They’re not well-rehearsed lines that you wield just when the occasion asks for it. And, I really appreciate and respect that.

    I’ve never defined myself with the work I do – or the company I associate with. So, I’ll be just fine even when these things end. Sure, it’ll be a bit crazy for a bit. But, it’ll be fine.

    When I get all these support and wonderful encouragement from all the unexpected places and people – like yours – I can only be grateful and humbled. It reminds me why I got here in the first place – and how I can stand proud with the work I’ve done and how I’ve conducted myself online over the years.

    You guys show where the real power online comes from. It shows that it’s not about “big boys’ clubs” or things like that, even though it may appear to be. It’s really all about PEOPLE.

    So, again, I thank you.

    Reply

  29. By Mark posted on January 18, 2009 at 11:48 pm
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    Shai- you make me blush! Please do email me ([email protected]) if ever you would like to chat about whatever. After you’ve caught your breath that is…

    Duncan- thanks for the apology- very noble of you. For all I know, you’re a top bloke. Certainly on a professional basis, I have enormous respect for you. The problem with these cybernetic disputes are that one says things that you’d never say in a million years in person, especially a self-deprecating Pom like myself (who happens to be rather happy and large!). I got angry reading your comments to Shai, as I really don’t think it’s about “facts” at all. It’s about common human decency and compassion. I hope you can find it in your heart to show Shai the same graciousness that you showed me and apologize for acting like a jerk. If nothing else, your timing stinks and if you can’t see that, you really do need to gain some perspective.

    Reply

  30. By Terry Ng posted on January 19, 2009 at 1:16 am
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    Well that made for some fun Sunday night reading. :D

    Reply

  31. By J. Angelo Racoma posted on January 19, 2009 at 5:39 am
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    Wow. I take a weekend break and look what the comment thread has turned into. Am I too late to contribute a response? :)

    I’m glad that the dust has settled. And whatever had been said had been said already, and that’s that. One thing I can say here is that one person’s truth might not necessarily be another person’s truth, but that doesn’t make it untrue. It’s a matter of perspective. And sometimes it’s a matter of circumstances.

    Mark – thanks for standing by me on the leaked memo issue. It was more difficult for me not to post it rather than just go ahead and quote the whole thing. Restraint takes much more effort, but in the end, I chose to be more responsible and careful. For all I know, leaked memos could be fabricated or false and it would take a hit on the Blog Herald’s credibility and also my own. If it’s breaking a story that’s the issue, I summarized the gist of the memo from what I understood, and I do think that’s enough.

    (If anyone wants a copy of the memo, it is, indeed, posted on the Inquisitr here.)

    Shai – I don’t personally know you yet, but I must say I do have much respect for you, as I do most (if not all) good bloggers out there. I have been on the receiving end of a simliar treatment myself, but not so much publicized (I’m not a blogging rockstar after all), and so I know how it feels. But after a while, the folks who gave me the boot–so to speak–still became friends, clients and even business partners.

    Duncan – What can I say? Duncan is Duncan, like it or not! I know the Blog Herald might not have the same rate of success in breaking stories as it was in your time, but I must say things are different now. And I guess we make up for this in other ways.

    Jeremy – Being a family man myself, I’m not fond of travelling much, especially if it meant time away from the wife and kids. And so in that respect, I admire your dedication to your craft (if we may call it that). And I’m with you in your view that things are changing, and we all have a responsibility to make sure our respective businesses and endeavors not only survive but thrive in this kind of environment.

    Thanks, all, for pitching in!

    Reply

  32. By Mike Abundo posted on January 20, 2009 at 6:05 am
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    Jeremy’s a coward. Cowards can’t lead people through tough times.

    Reply

  33. By Shai Coggins posted on January 20, 2009 at 7:18 am
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    Thanks, Mark. One of these days, a good chat will probably work wonders… :-) I really, really appreciate you and your kindness.

    J. Angelo – Thank you very much for that. Incredible what happens in just a matter of days, hey? Anyway, yes, we really should change that ‘yet’ part some time. :-) And, I really am very grateful for your words of encouragement. I do not know what the future will bring, but no matter what, I intend not to be the type who gets chained by the past. I take with me the parts that (and the people who) are worth taking. Then, I look forward and just move on. :-)

    Reply

  34. By Mike Abundo posted on January 20, 2009 at 8:12 am
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    Rage can either chain you or fuel you, Shai. I choose the latter.

    Reply

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