Selling WP101: From Solopreneur to Team Player

Today, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve sold my company, WP101®, to join the team at Motivations AI led by my close friend, Chris Lema. Decisions like this are never made lightly, and come with the full range of emotions. But it’s also been a long time coming.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you know me as the creator of the WordPress 101 video tutorial series. Or, it’s possible we met long before, when I ran a freelance graphic design service called LeftLane Designs. Either way, you likely know I’ve been a ‘solopreneur’ for most of my career.

That’s why it’s more than a little surreal to announce that I’ve sold WP101—the company I founded over 14 years ago—to join the team at Motivations AI under the leadership of my close friend, Chris Lema.

To say that I’m thrilled would be an understatement. I could never have imagined a role better suited to my skills, experience, and passions. Still, this was not a decision I made lightly, nor has it been without the full range of emotions. With hindsight, it’s been a long time coming.

The Origins of WP101

For the first 26 years of my career, I worked as a freelance designer creating logos, websites, and branding materials for my clients in and around the Greater Houston Area.

I started building WordPress-powered websites for my clients in 2006 because it was relatively easy to learn and use, especially compared to other options at the time. But it still wasn’t completely intuitive, and even to this day, requires some amount of training to get up to speed.

So I started offering one-on-one, in-person WordPress training for my clients. And soon, I could teach my clients how to use WordPress in about an hour.

Still, in-person WordPress training isn’t practical at scale. After all, there are only so many hours in the day. So, I created a series of video tutorials I could provide to my clients. Then, they could watch the videos at their own pace and return anytime they needed a refresher.

WordPress 101 is Born

In September 2008, I recorded the first WordPress 101 video tutorial series. My clients loved them. So did my friends, many of whom were also WordPress developers. Soon, they began sending their clients to watch the WordPress 101 videos on my site,

In the years that followed, I continued to update and re-record the WordPress 101 videos with every release of the WordPress software. And in 2016, I officially closed LeftLane Designs so I could give my full attention to WP101.

I never dreamed it would become one of the most popular WordPress video tutorial series in the world or that millions of people worldwide would learn how to use WordPress by watching the videos I created.

Today, hundreds of WordPress freelancers, agencies, and hosting companies give their customers access to the WordPress 101 video training via the WP101 Plugin. And over the years, I expanded the library of training videos to include popular WordPress plugins like WooCommerce, WPForms, Elementor, Beaver Builder, and many more.

Over the past 14 years, I’ve produced over 1,500 tutorial videos for WP101 and some of the most notable companies in the WordPress industry, including Automattic, WooCommerce, GoDaddy, Namecheap, and others.

As a result, I’d meet someone at a WordCamp, and they’d remark, “Hey, I recognize your voice!” I still laugh when I think of the first time one of our friends introduced me as “The Voice of WordPress.”

Kay and I at WordCamp Austin in 2013.

And yet, I began to feel like something was missing. The work I once enjoyed had become a grind, and for the first time in my career, I struggled to stay motivated.

“Is this all there is?”

Keeping the WordPress 101 videos up to date with every release of WordPress was an enormous challenge. After updating the series more than 25 times, I’d begun to feel burned out. Several of my friends said they were surprised I didn’t burn out much sooner!

I couldn’t quite pinpoint what was wrong, but I knew something had to change.

After countless late-night conversations with my incredibly supportive (and patient) wife, Kay, and weekly sessions with my wonderfully insightful therapist, I came to the realization that I’d become disconnected from my work. The business I’d built was no longer meaningful, rewarding, or fulfilling.

It was time to move on. But to what, exactly?

If not the ‘Video Tutorial Guy,’ then what?

I’d spent 14 years building a reputation for creating excellent video tutorials, but it was clear that I needed a change.

So it was very interesting timing when one of the largest companies in the WordPress space reached out to ask if I was interested in selling WP101 and going to work for them.

The offer was fair, and the salary was okay. But the job description was not enticing. They just wanted me to make video tutorials. All day. Every day.

I asked if there was an opportunity to expand the role beyond simply creating tutorial videos, but rather than discussing options, they abruptly rescinded their offer.

I began to wonder if my years as a ‘solopreneur’ had rendered me completely unemployable. But deep down, I felt that something better was on the way. Something had to be.

The ‘Aha’ Moment: Discovering My MCode

In October this past year, my friend, Chris Lema, invited me to take a personality assessment. At first, I was skeptical. After all, I’d taken plenty of personality profiles over the years, and they all left me feeling the same way: a few interesting insights, but ultimately not much I could put to use in my day-to-day life.

In other words, “So what. Now what?”

But over the past decade, I’ve learned to trust my friend, Chris. And when he suggests something, it’s always necessary, relevant, and highly applicable.

Chris explained that the Motivation Code assessment wasn’t just another personality profile. Instead, MCode helps you understand what motivates you… what causes you to get out of bed each morning, what inspires you to give your all. And once you know what intrinsically motivates you, you’ll also know how to engage the people around you and do work that causes you to come alive… work that truly matters.

So, I went to and took the assessment.

It was unlike any other personality profile I’d taken before.

First, it began by asking me to identify a few achievement stories from my life: moments when I performed at my best, and—more importantly—felt most satisfied and deeply fulfilled.

Then, the assessment asked a series of questions about each story. When I finished about an hour later, I received my report, with a ranked list of 32 different motivations. And… whoa. It was the most accurate assessment I’ve ever seen.

Instantly, reflected in my top five motivations, I realized why I felt so unfulfilled in my work.

My top five motivations are to:

  1. Meet Needs
  2. Comprehend and Express
  3. Make an Impact
  4. Master
  5. Persuade

And as I read the detailed descriptions of each motivation, I felt truly seen, perhaps for the first time in my life.

1. I live to serve.

I feel compelled to act when people need advice, information, or emotional support. My greatest joy comes from helping people identify where they need to go and then determine the best path to get there. Looking back, this is the common thread that runs through every career choice I’ve made. From my graphic design service to teaching people how to use WordPress, my motivation has always been to serve others.

2. I enjoy making complicated things easier to understand.

For years, my personal mantra has been, “Never stop learning.” I’m intrinsically motivated to explore, research, and sort out complex subjects. But for me, it doesn’t stop there. I don’t learn things for the sake of acquiring knowledge. For me, the process isn’t complete until I can put it into simple terms for others. That’s why I’m drawn to education.

3. I am driven to make an impact.

It’s never been about the money for me. Every day, people all around the world purchase my training videos. But that’s not enough. I also need to know that those videos are impacting their lives for the better.

Perhaps no other moment better illustrates this than when my friend, Mary Job, sent me these photos and shared how she was using the WordPress 101 videos to teach a classroom of young women in Nigeria how to use WordPress so they could return to their villages to build their own companies, and achieve financial freedom for themselves and their families.

It’s humbling to realize that something as seemingly insignificant as a series of WordPress tutorial videos can positively impact someone’s life half a world away. That moment brought tears to my eyes.

And yet, those moments were incredibly few and far between. I can count them on one hand. And without that critical feedback, I was left to wonder what impact my work had on people’s lives. My work had become detached from my WHY.

And that’s why WP101 was no longer satisfying.

4. I love mastering new skills, subjects, procedures, techniques, or processes.

This connects with my desire to fully comprehend a subject to the point of being able to teach it to others. But out of balance, being driven to master an area also leads to being overly meticulous and slow, or worse: perfectionism.

Boom! I realized I’d become paralyzed by perfectionism.

Every time I created a new tutorial video, I found something to improve, some tiny way to improve every video. And after years of continually raising the bar for myself, it had reached a point where sitting down to create a new tutorial video had become a daunting task.

5. For me, the most rewarding work results in a reaction or response from people that indicates I’ve influenced their thinking, feelings, and behavior.

Without the feedback from my audience, I had no way of knowing if the work I was doing was worthwhile. Did my efforts actually influence anyone’s thinking or their actions? Did it make their lives better?

Seeing my core motivations reflected like this helped me clearly see why I felt detached and unfulfilled in my work.

I am most alive when I have the opportunity to serve people. How? By fully immersing myself into a problem space, deeply understanding it to the point of mastery, and then being able to share or express that knowledge with others. Why? So that it impacts their lives and influences their behavior in a positive way.

Instant clarity.

Sure, teaching WordPress enabled me to make sense of a complicated topic and then communicate it to others via tutorial videos. But without the ability to directly see the impact on people’s lives, it had become a tedious exercise rather than a richly rewarding and worthwhile endeavor.

Joining Motivations AI

Learning my top motivations was an eye-opening experience. I immediately saw the potential to transform people’s lives for the better.

I thought about my coaching clients and how many struggled because they felt out of alignment with their innate sense of purpose.

I thought about my daughter and her college friends, and how they could benefit from knowing what career path would most light them up in the long term.

And imagine how companies could benefit from knowing every team member’s core motivation and what drove them to contribute at their best.

What would it look like if every person knew—with certainty—the type of work that resonated with them deeply? What a world that would be!

Before the holidays, Chris hired me to conduct a review of the training materials the company had used to certify practitioners before they could offer the MCode™ assessment to their clients. After an in-depth review of the course, I proposed a new learning experience that would be even more effective in training coaches to leverage the MCode™ assessment in their coaching practices.

The project was so intriguing that I was energized in a way I hadn’t been in years. Even after delivering my report, I kept thinking about the project and how we could improve the training.

So, when Chris invited me to join him as the Vice President of Learning Strategy and Design, I didn’t hesitate. How could I turn down a role so perfectly suited to my experience, strengths, motivations, and lifelong passions? It was a no-brainer.

The compensation was generous—much more than I’d been offered before. But far more compelling was the opportunity to join a team of incredibly talented people who were motivated like me… to help people better understand themselves, find more satisfaction in their work, and live happier, more fulfilled lives.

Best of all, I get to work alongside Chris and our dear friend, Jennifer Bourn, who also recently joined Motivations AI as the CMO. Over the past decade, these two have become as close as family. We’ve traveled together, shared our business challenges, and encouraged one another through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

I couldn’t be more excited by the opportunity to partner with Chris and Jen in this endeavor!

The Future of WP101

When Chris hired me, he didn’t ask me to shut down WP101. Instead, he acknowledged what I’d built and made allowances for the time required to continue running WP101 as a side hustle.

Still, I knew it was time to move on and commit fully to this new venture. And there was only one person in my mind who could not only take over WP101 but could also take it to the next level—beyond anything I could do as a one-person shop.

I met Syed Balkhi, the Founder of WPBeginner and CEO of Awesome Motive, more than a decade ago. WP101 and WPBeginner started around the same time with a similar mission: making it easy for people to learn WordPress.

I watched with great admiration as Syed grew WPBeginner to become the largest repository of easy-to-understand written tutorials for WordPress—while at WP101, our goal was to provide the best video training available for WordPress. We’ve each described our relationship within the WordPress community as something beyond competition, perhaps better described as “co-opetition.”

Syed has gone on to build and curate a family of best-in-class products and services for WordPress. I greatly respect the incredible impact Syed’s had on the WordPress community’s growth and the vision we share.

So, when Syed messaged me out of the blue, “Hey, it’s been a while. I wondered if now might be a good time to talk about selling WP101,” I laughed and replied, “Man, you have no idea how great your timing is!”

The next day, we talked for a couple of hours. First, I shared about my journey with WP101 and the burnout I’d experienced. Then, Syed shared his vision for bringing WordPress training to enterprises, government agencies—and perhaps most significantly—the school and collegiate level as part of the mission of the Balkhi Foundation.

We spoke candidly about the mutual respect we’ve had for each other over the years, and I was deeply moved when Syed offered to not only acquire WP101, but also preserve and extend the legacy of the brand that I’d built.

WordPress is an open-source platform, and it has the power to transform the lives of so many people around the world. So, I’m excited about the future of WP101 as a training platform under Syed’s leadership, coupled with his vision to create even more opportunities to shape the future of the web for billions of people worldwide.

I believe the best thing I can do for the growth of WP101 and my customers is to put it into the best hands in the market. I’m confident there’s no one better suited to be the custodian of WP101 moving forward and to take it to the next level!

What’s Next?

Over the next few months, I’ll continue to consult and support Syed’s team during this transition, and then I’ll be rooting for the Awesome Motive team from the sidelines.

Meanwhile, as part of the Motivations AI leadership team, I’ll be taking on an exciting new challenge—helping build one of the largest online resource sites for coaches.

I’m thrilled by the opportunity to leverage all of my skills, history, and expertise to transform the world of coaching and make a real impact on people’s lives.

But I’m even more excited that this new role taps into my strongest motivations. I get to serve people and make an lasting impact on their lives as I create education and training initiatives for coaches. What could be more perfect?

Stay tuned for updates on my journey with Motivations AI, and if you’re interested in taking the Motivation Code assessment for yourself, you can do so at:

On a personal note…

When I look back over the years Kay and I have enjoyed alongside our many friends in the WordPress community, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I’m grateful for our customers, particularly the ‘die-hards’ who helped spread the word about WP101 in those early days. Your encouragement kept me going and eventually opened doors so we could make the WordPress 101 videos available to people everywhere.

I’m grateful for the wealth of counsel and timely advice so many of you freely provided over the years—without which WP101 would not be what it is today. Unfortunately, there’s not enough room in this post to list you all here, but I look forward to thanking you each in person. Suffice it to say… the WordPress community is truly like no other.

I’m also grateful that my three kids have met so many of you at the dozens of WordCamps we’ve attended as a family over the years. As a result, they’ve grown up hearing about WP101 and its role within the global WordPress community. And that’s a legacy they’ll continue to enjoy for years, especially with Syed and the Awesome Motive team at the helm.

I’m grateful that WP101 has outgrown me. As a founder, I can’t think of a better legacy. So thank you, Syed, for stepping in as the steward of WP101’s future. I can’t wait to see it grow under your care.

I’m grateful to Chris for being my business mentor, advisor, travel companion, and closest friend over the past decade. You’ve encouraged and challenged me like no one else, and I look forward to working alongside you for years to come.

And finally, thank YOU for your support, for being part of our extended family, and for reading this. I’m excited about what the future holds, and I can’t wait to share it with you!


What a wonderful read, Shawn. It’s been awesome seeing what you did with WP101 over the years. I’m very happy for you to have landed in such a meaningful and fitting role. Many congratulations!

I think you’ve answered those questions you were throwing around in your head on that evening we camped out outside WooConf in Austin, in 2016, Shawn. Congratulations to you! I love this and am smiling so big for ya!

Thank you, Pat! It’s certainly been a long time coming, hasn’t it? I appreciate your friendship through it all, and look forward to raising a glass together.

Congratulations Shawn. You could have gone on for another 14 years but I bet you’re relieved :D. Good luck with your future endeavors and thank you for educating so many people on how to get the most out of WordPress.

Thanks, Jeff! Grateful for your support since the beginning. I’m happy Syed and his awesome team will be the ones to take WP101 down the road the next 14 years!

An overwhelming sense of gratitude indeed. There is no doubt you’ve affected the lives of countless people making something complicated easier. Not just the people, but their dreams… their lives. Amazing work my friend. Super excited to watch your next journey.

Thank you, Jay! Can’t tell you how much it’s meant to have your friendship and support through all the ups and downs. You’ve seen it all! As always, your encouraging words remind me of my WHY.

Shawn, it’s really wonderful to hear that you’ve found something exciting and rewarding for your next chapter. I’ve enjoyed all of your content, generous contribution and updates over the years. Best wishes to you and yours for health, happiness and success!

Having worked in the WordPress world since 2004, I had only begun to scratch the surface of the WP Community around 2020. I wish I would have jumped in a decade earlier. I loved reading your post about the journey and the excitement of moving forward. Congratulations.

Thank you for dropping by, Kurt! The WordPress community really is something special. We’ve made so many lifelong friends along the way, and I can honestly say it’s been life changing.