About

“You’re gonna be okay, Russ, mate. You’re gonna be okay.  Medic's on His Way...”

There was blood EVERYWHERE!

Head injuries bleed a lot and blood was streaming out of my skull.

I didn't know that the hard-hat I'd been wearing before had done its job but had bounced away after the impact.

I didn't k...

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I tried to get up. 

I couldn't.

Didn't know why.

Head was... I don't know what it was....

Spinning. Bewildered. Grey.

A muffled voice…

“Easy, Russ. Stay there a little longer, mate. You’ll get there. You’re gonna be okay. Easy, mate. Medic’s on his way.”

I couldn’t get up. My right arm didn’t move.

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 Why won't my arm work?

WTF! Why are those people staring down at me?

Faces. Blurred.

Who are they?

Voices.

Don't unders...

Need to get back to work...I'll get run-off the rig if they see me laying down.

Voices. Muffled.

What?

Must get up...

Again, I knew head injuries bled. (The First Aid courses I’d done, years before while in the British Army, had taught me that.)

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But with all the mess, pandemonium, and gore, the one thing that no-one could see was the tiny trickle of blood from my right-ear.

That tiny trickle was why I was still alive.

However, at this moment in time, there were slightly more pressing concerns...

Flat out on the cold, wet steel, all I knew was that I couldn't move and people were jostling around.

"It's going to be okay, Russ, it's going to be okay"

Who are you?

Wha...

Blurred...

What's going to be okay?

I couldn't possibly know that in those fleeting seconds before, my life would never be the same again.

"...Take it easy, Russ, you'll get there, mate."

They were right. I did get there.

Eventually.

But not in the manner they intended, of course.

Rather, through my career, my own personal journey, and to helping businesses and organizations master Microsoft Word.

We all know Word is a pain but, as you'll discover shortly, trust me when I say my journey has been just as long and, quite likely, just a little more painful.

For now, though, I'm happy that I can help organization in such a way that, over 2 decades on, clients such as Steve Pinckney, owner of Conceptia, are happy to write: 

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Working with Russ answers once and for all, "what's the difference between working with a professional/specialist vs an amateur/generalist?"

...

And if that's not enough, he provided videos explaining his work and findings that I can refer back to as needed. By using Russ for this project, I feel as if I've made an investment in my project rather than simply conduct a business transaction.

Steve Pinckney, Owner, Conceptia

...or, as Henry Adams, owner of Common Capital wrote:

Five stars isn't enough. I wish all my staff and contractors were as professional and good at what they do as Russ is. Russ helped us develop great looking, versatile, stable, but very complicated macro driven word template.

The quality of his work, time management, efficiency and communication are outstanding. We have learned so much we didn't know we didn't know through working with him.

He also adds value by providing videos explaining what he has done, so we can now easily do ourselves things that seemed too complicated to even consider.

Henry Adams, Common Capital

...and Steve Goldsby, CEO of Integrated Computer SolutionsICS:

Russ is a highly competent expert in technical editing and copywriting. Russ was able to work as a seamless extension to our business analysis and software development team to craft and update detailed design documents and analysis documents.

His experience and expertise improved not only the documents but also our team's skills and capabilities by showing us new and improved ways of crafting and editing documents.

As an added benefit, Russ works/lives in a different time zone which allowed our team to provide him documents at the end of a day and receive them back from Russ when we arrived at the office in the morning. I and our entire team, wholehearted endorse Russ and his excellent work. We will definitely engage him again in the future. Thanks.

Steve Goldsby, CEO, ICS

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. That was a looooong way in the future.

Twenty minutes before, Lefty (Paul Lethbridge, the AD - Assistant Driller), Dolph (one of the roughnecks, so named because he looked like the actor Dolph Lundgren), and me were working off the back of a North Sea drilling rig.

The call came over the VHF radio:

“Chopper's inbound. All crane ops suspended.”

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When helicopters are in-bound, all crane operations cease (chopper pilots and insurance companies don't like it when there's a chance of crane booms side-swiping them!)

The crane 'upped hook' and parked itself.

“Let’s handball them,” said Lefty (as the AD, he was in charge of our small work party).

To this day, 27-years on, those are the last words I remember.

...

Fast forward and we were airborne...

Then we were over land, and then were descending into the heliport...

...except it wasn't.

"Look, nurses …"

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Have you ever been in a situation in which you have zero control over events--your destiny?

Today, 2.5 decades on, and despite all the retraining and courses, that unbridled fear of having lost it is real.

That fear of change -- of the unknown.

When making decisions, we question whether what we're doing, or what we're going to embark on, is the right thing. It's only natural.

But, it's crazy how and where the threads, paths, and events of our lives take us.

The connotations of spur of the moment decisions.

That Butterfly Effect.

Ripples

"The Butterfly Effect"

Tiny ripples causing much larger, more significant results elsewhere.

After 27 months serving in Northern Island, Gibraltar was meant to be 'easy'. (It wasn't, but that's a story for another day.)

However, at that point, I never even knew of, nor cared about, technical copywriting.

But while there, in 1987, I took my BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club) Novice Diver course.

How could any of us then know that this would lead to me helping Nick Miller, owner of Australian, Broome-based, Blue Water Shell, a pearl diving company, so many years later?

Nick phoned me and told me that, following a diving fatality in the industry the previous year, the Health & Safety executive were hounding the Pearl Diving industry operators.

He asked if I could help:

Russ is a consummate professional and has assisted me in completing an Occupational Health and Safety system that was not only accepted by the regulators but also recommended to other companies by the regulator as an example of good practice. It doesn't get better than that!

Nick Miller, Owner, Blue Water Shell
Ripples

Like I say, this wasn't even a blip on the radar back then.

(As a matter of interest, I did carry this diving education on. Later switching codes to PADI, and qualifying as a PADI Open Water Dive Instructor in 2004.)

Ripples

Later, maybe achieving my lifelong dream of being able to sail on the open sea and obtaining the qualifications to boot, was another Butterfly ripple...

Ian Mayo asked me to help him with Debrief, his maritime analysis SaaS software:

Russ worked hard to thoroughly understand my application, then wrote top quality tutorials, a user guide, and blog articles. He then went on to produce (and narrate) high quality getting started video screen-casts to help newbies. These efforts gave my application (and my company) a great credibility boost.

Ian Mayo, Owner, Debrief
Ripples

(FYI, I'm RYA/MCA Ocean Yachtmaster qualified with <65,000 nm sailed, including 7 transatlantic crossings, North and South, both ways.)

Perhaps that was also a significant factor in the decision with BoatIm.com and the UX/UI design of their online boat marketplace that I helped with.

Really good experience. Looking forward to work again with Russ.

Yyves, Co-owner, BoatIM
Ripples

But, at this point in time, the nurses have trolleyed me from the helipad and into the hospital. I've been processed, I'm flat out and being prepped for a CT scan, and whatever is happening is happening.

A lot happened in that hospital (and so much afterwards).

Ripples

But after being discharged, in the state that I was in and with a list of injuries longer than 1 single person would ever want, one thing was certain...

My Old Life Was Over and I Had to Retrain.

Rational ol' me decided that night college and re-education was step 1. It was then that I made another, yet more momentous, decision...

One to eclipse the previous...

A Decision That, 2 Decades On, Still Haunts Me Even Today! 

I'd had a computer for a while (a little 386 MHz pc with 4 MB RAM) and I'd toyed with Microsoft Word. I'd also got nowhere with it.

But it was time:

“I know, I’ll write all my notes, assignments, etc., in Word.”

It was 1995, pre-Internet, and the only ‘help’ was Word’s built-in help (and that's a misnomer if ever I heard one).

What an idiot!

Ripples

Let me tell you that there's no calculator or Excel spreadsheet on this planet that can quantify the number of hours I wasted. The hassles, the lost work, the frustrations...

But, let's be fair, apart from popping the pills to stave off the pain (as soon as I could safely do so), it’s not like I was doing much else.

Now, though, I had the pain of recovery and the pain of Microsoft Word. (I'm positive the pills helped with both!)

I persevered.

I got there.

Albeit slowly.

So much so that, now, previous clients like Todd, Nina, and Erin wrote:

Russ was fantastic! Very knowledgeable and professional, he's experienced enough to understand just what our needs were. He went above and beyond by producing instructional videos for my staff. I wouldn't hesitate to hire Russ; in fact I intend to if I need any miscellaneous follow-up work as we implement the templates and documents he developed for us.

Todd Mobley, Owner, Lancaster Mobley
Ripples

I have used multiple book formatters in the past, but none of them came even close to the expertise and skill of Russ. I am 110% certain I will be hiring him again in the future. I know when I give Russ a job, it will be done correctly without my having to double check everything. I was also blown away by his shooting videos to explain some things to me. He deserves stars well beyond 5!

Nina Hershberger, Megabucks Marketing
Ripples

As we launched a new brand, we needed a Microsoft Word consultant to create a new proposal document and delivery document template.

Russ was extremely professional, communicating timelines and best practices via video - so we could be a part of his process and learn from it.

He was also very patient and informative as we worked with him to figure out which word styles we needed in our proposal/delivery document templates.

I would recommend Russ to anyone in need of a detail oriented, passionate word specialist.

Erin T., Confidential Client
Ripples

(I have many more on my testimonials page.)

However, knowing the struggles I battled with when learning Word, and with what I've encountered since, there are 2 key points:

1. I get why you struggle with Word.

2. I don’t get why the same struggles I was having 20-odd years ago still haven’t been addressed by Microsoft.

With that, I'm gobsmacked. Seriously.

Even when Microsoft hired me to help them improve their own Word templates (the ones you download from within Word itself) and I advised where they’re going wrong, it still hasn’t been addressed.

When you, your team, and your business are struggling with Word and haemorrhaging time and money, trust me when I say I know where you’re coming from.

This is the 2nd time I've hired Russ and his skill, professionalism and expert communication was genuinely appreciated and respected. I hope we get to work together again!

Hannah Baron, Impact International

Microsoft Should Be Ashamed of Themselves!

They have been, and still are, leading you down the garden path.

To this day.

And is why, despite the best efforts of you and your team, you struggle with it.

For me, it took 3-years before I even got anywhere competent with Word.

Sure, I knew the basics, but it was only when I secured a new job as technical writer (in 1997)–my first job back after my accident–that something triggered!

A guy there designed the company’s Word templates.

I was intrigued.

Despite struggling for years, I’d never even heard of templates, let alone knew their purpose.

I asked questions. Lots of them. And I applied what I knew.

In 1999, I left that company, studied and passed my Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSE) courses and went freelance.

Ripples

I then discovered something that shocked me...

These Weren’t Isolated Incidents

The crazy thing was that every single Word document at every single company I contracted at was appalling.

At Infobank, CDC Capital Partners, Vizzavi, Barclays, Norwich Union/Aviva, etc.

The lot.

Ripples

At Norwich Union, when I was seconded to the QA team, their manager said to me,

“Russ, we hear you’re good with Word. It’d be great if, with our documents, we don’t have to type in the Table of Contents and change the page numbers manually.”

This was the level of Word knowledge and ability and indicative of the sheer amount of wasted time.

Companies just do not know how to use Word.

What did I do?

I Started Redesigning the Word Templates. For ALL of Them
(and their document procedures)

Every single one.

My fellow authors had never seen Word used in the way that I did it.

Ripples

However, I was still learning.  I was exploring, digging deeper, and learning more with each project.

Now, though, my clients get the benefit:

The bottom line is...

If Word is Causing You Problems, I Can Fix Them

I’ll be blunt… you think your problem’s unique. My experience is otherwise.

You think that your problem can’t be fixed. I disagree.

You probably think there’s little benefit to doing so. But, if you’ve got more than a couple of people using Word, I can assure you it is.

Check out how much Word is costing your organization here.

Yet another job done, on time and well within budget and to a high standard. Russ, you are a joy to work with.

Jan Kampman, Partner, Mulder-Kampman
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My Guarantee to You

I'm that confident that I can solve your Word problem that I guarantee that if I can't fix your Word problem then you won't pay a dime.

"Russ is an exceptional contractor in all regards. Clearly exceptionally skilled, professional, prompt, and an exceptional communicator.

Do yourself a favour and skip the rest on the list. Russ is your​ guy."

Simon Collins, Managing Partner, Visory

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With that in mind...

What Actually Happened on That Fateful Day?

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I was an Assistant Derrickman working on the Santa Fe Monarch, a jack-up drilling rig. At this point, I'd been on this same rig, the Monarch, for 4-years. Our contract was to drill a series of  wildcat wells for Shell in the Barque field, Southern sector of the North Sea.

After 18-months or so, we'd finished the final well the previous day. Now we were rigging down from the Barque to get ready to move to the next location and contract.

Once the weather was favourable, the rig would be then be lowered into the water and be towed to the Clipper platform. We would then rig-up there for an estimated 2-years drilling program.

It wasn't until a couple of years later that I found out exactly what did happen. I got Lefty's telephone number and gave him a call.

This is what happened...

Soon after we'd started moving the equipment by hand, one of them dislodged a scaffold board that hadn't been tied down.

The board was going to smash into my leg, so I tried to dodge it...

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In doing so, I tripped, and fell...

Unfortunately, rather than just falling on my backside and then being the butt of jokes for the rest of the day, that scaffold board happened to be covering the very same hole in the deck that we were drilling through previously.

Admittedly, falling 10’ isn’t too far. (I'm sure I jumped from higher when in the army and when we used to scrump as kids).

However, this one was decidedly different...

It was headfirst!

I can only imagine the crunch as my hard-hat-covered-head slammed into the steel deck.

Given this man versus that material, it was only going to end in tears.

Make no mistake, working on drilling rigs is hard, physical work.

Physically, it's far harder than anything I'd ever done.

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But, at the time, I was very fit: I ran 30 miles per week, did weight-training, played sports (mainly rugby), etc.

I'm pleased I did, because...

The tri-factor combination of my physical condition, my wearing a hardhat, and my ear-drum perforating saved my life.

Messed up, but still alive.

In 2005, as part of my sailing qualifications, we took a Medical First Aid Aboard Ship course.

The instructor, Andy, told me that in those circumstances my ear-drum perforating was the best thing that could have happened.

Given that fall, the distance, and that head-first impact, the perforation was the 'safety valve' that released the skull-pressure.

Without it, my brain would've been forced down the only possible route out - the spinal column.

And that, as we used to say in the army, would've been Endex! 

Squooosh... bye-bye Mr. Crowley, thanks for coming, but don't forget to close the door on your way out.

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The recovery was slow. The pain was agony.

Now, thankfully, that is all confined to memory (apart from the aches and pains, that is). The body is a fantastic instrument and mine is proven to heal well.

But I did need help. And lots of it.

To this day, I'm eternally grateful to all those that unreservedly helped.

We All Need Help

I'm not ashamed to admit that there were times that I despaired and thought nothing could be done. The pain, though escapable for a short period only, was unlike anything I'd experienced (before or since).

On top of that, I knew my rig days were over. No more army, rig work, rugby, football, or any of the physical sports I did.

In an instant, my life had been, quite literally, turned upside down (pun not intended).

Worse was, I didn't believe I could change.

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I didn't know how to.

There was, seemingly, for me, no way forward.

That and, deep-down, I felt no-one really understood what I was going through. (Not their fault, but that's how I felt.)

No bones about it, and it wasn't self-pity, but I was petrified about the future.

I didn't know what to do or who could help. It was virgin territory for me.

Thankfully, I was wrong -- on all counts. But...

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It Would’ve Been Impossible Without The Support of Others

Friends and family helped, of course. More than they will ever know.

But, even with their best wishes at heart, there was always something missing. (It's also hard for those close to you to remain objective.)

That's why it helps to look further afield.

To find someone who is experienced enough to not only understand what's going on, but also has proven results of having helped others with similar problems.

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At times, we all need direction, advice, and reassurance. But often, we have no idea where to look or even if such help is available.

On top of that, we also need results. Results DO matter.

And that's how I came to get here today.

That's My Journey

I truly appreciate you reading this far, but before I close, I'd just like to post these words from Hannah of Impact International.

For me, this is the crux of it all:

Russ has been a pleasure to work with, he is extremely knowledgeable and has taught me a lot during our time working together.

His communication is excellent, I really appreciated the walk though videos - it made a complex job very easy to understand and digest at my own pace. 

Thank you so much for all your amazing work, you have made a lot of peoples' lives a lot easier!

Hope to work with you again soon.

Hannah, Head of Design and Development, Impact International
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(This was the first of several Word-related projects I did for Hannah and her organization. This was a complex Word project for which I also created custom video training so they could use it to teach all their staff in 17 countries how to use Word and these templates).

It's not only a great testimonial (and I wrote a case study about this job), but it was that penultimate line that struck me...

Thank you so much for all your amazing work, you have made a lot of peoples' lives a lot easier!

And that, dear reader, is what it's all about.

Best wishes,

Russ

  • Even us power users curse Word sometimes, especially when for some unknown reason, one of our styles displays a black box instead of the number that it should show, corrupting the Table of Contents in the process. Or we fix a paragraph multiple times and it keeps insisting on changing back. Or we inherit a one-hundred page document that needs totally reformatting, one paragraph at a time. Enter Mr. Crowley’s course, Microsoft Word 2016 for Beginners*. 

    The one thing I liked best about the course was Mr. Crowley’s teaching style, clear, concise and reasonably paced. The material is thoughtfully laid out, one lesson flowing smoothly into the next.  Don’t let the course name fool you. After covering the basics, this course shows you how to do virtually anything that you might need. Document gotten so big that it could use a Table of Contents? Module 10. Need an index? Module 16. Want a numbered list and it needs sorted? Module 13. 

    These are just a few of the items taught in this course. You’ll definitely be scratching your head, thinking, “wow, I didn’t know Word could do that.

    Mr. Crowley could be called a “style and section evangelist”. He never misses an opportunity to emphasize that any misbehaving document probably has its roots in poorly-applied or unused styles and sections. I suspect this may be the root cause of my black squares for numbers identified earlier. After completing the course, the main benefit I have a better appreciation of Word’s bells and whistles, along with a resource for how to do things. I would recommend this course to users of all skill levels.  

    Rick Robertson Van Horn

    Sr. Systems Analyst & Sr. Programmer, & Word Power User

    *Note: this was the original name for this course.