2×4: One series that examines two topics, creativity and productivity, by asking those who make things on the web the same four questions on both subjects.
When I first started my foray into the world of Social Media, I was blessed with that certain breed of ignorance in which you don’t realize you are talking to someone who is kind of a big deal. Such was the case when I met and began treating Danny Brown with a disregard that can only lead to a fistfight or a friendship.
While every instinct in me wants to be as sarcastic as I always am when it comes to Danny, I’m going to go against my own grain for a moment and tell you what I really think. Danny is a rare and special kind of person, one whom I feel fortunate to have met online and to have cultivated a friendship with over the years. He is never afraid of taking a strong stance and has this amazing balance of logic and emotion that puts him at the top of my “must read” list. Beyond being insightful, he is also extremely gracious. I can attest as I never would have started this blog or even known how to get it up and running without his endless patience for my inane questions.
Much like you saw in my first interview with Gini Dietrich, Danny doesn’t quite know just how creative he is. You can especially see this in his shorter posts (I actually really miss his Posterous site which was made up exclusively of these brief but impacting insights. For those who may have missed these, they are still available in this convenient eBook.
Have you always considered yourself to be a creative person?
I’m not sure. I think it depends on how you’re defining creativity. If a kid makes a mess, is that creativity? Because it wasn’t there before, and the kid had to take actions and bring them to the fore to make the mess, so is that a creative process? I’ve always been passionate about writing and storytelling, and how that can impact on someone’s mindset. But then, that just kinda came natural, so I’m not sure if that counts. Sorry for the lame answer!
What mediums and inspirations do you gravitate towards to realize your creative goals?
Well, blogging is probably my number one medium, both from a writing angle and a reading angle. Some of the best, most outright and questioning content today is coming from blogs. People like Gini Dietrich, Adam Singer, Marcus Sheridan, Geoff Livingston, Olivier Blanchard and others like them are writing stuff that everyone should read. I’m also a big TED fan – if you can’t find inspiration from their channel on YouTube, you’re probably a zombie.
If you had to point to one thing, what specific posts or creation are you most proud of and why?
From a creation, it’d have to be the12for12k project. To see what started out as a simple idea to use social media to raise funds and awareness for charities turn into the community it has, has been pretty inspiring. I love the fact that people truly want to be involved – it’s a real team effort, and the fact that everyone donates their time for free is just amazing. From a blog post angle, I’d say the one where I talk about my attempted suicide is the one I’m most proud of, because it helped others open up about their demons and understand they’re not alone. To me, that’s what blogging is all about – the human connection.
Any suggestions for those who feel they may not be creative take to unlock their inner artist?
Practice doing it. It doesn’t matter if that’s blogging, painting, making movies, taking picture or whatever. Make time every day – even if it’s just five minutes – and take a picture, or write a blog post, or shoot something on your video camera. You don’t have to publish it – just get into the habit of doing it, and learning your trade. You’ll be surprised at how you grow, both in creativity and the strength to actually make your creation public.
Can you describe your current personal and professional responsibilities?
Personally, I’m a father and husband, so my main responsibility is making sure they have food on the table and a roof over their heads, and that they feel secure in my ability to look after them. This leads to my professional responsibility – I’m the CEO of Bonsai Interactive Marketing, and my responsibilities there see me making sure we look after our clients and our business, to ensure we’re still here in 12 months time.
How do you go about balancing the personal, professional and digital?
Easy – I keep them separate, and dedicate the time solely to each one when I’m “there”. During the day, I’m in professional mode, so you’ll rarely see me online. In the evenings and at weekends, that’s my family time. Once my son and wife have gone to bed, that’s my digital playtime, to catch up on all I’ve missed. You might get the occasional crossover, but generally I keep all three separate. It’s why I don’t do a lot of conferences or speaking – I like putting my son to bed, and waking up under the same roof as him and my wife. I wouldn’t swap that for the world.
What tools and techniques do you find yourself counting on to get through your workload?
I simply use a lot of Google’s tools – Docs, chat, calendar, etc. They’re good enough for what I need. I’m also a big fan of Hootsuite and I’m test running SocialBase, which I think has some great solutions for managing the day-to-day stuff I need to do online.
What is the best starting point for the unproductive amongst us, who are looking to get more organized?
A notepad and pen. Seriously. Take an hour out of your day, and sit down with a notepad and pen, and divide a page into two columns – Must Have and Optional. Then write down all the stuff you do during the day – personally and professionally – and separate them into these two lists. Then prioritize what you need to do every single day to make your life easier/better, whatever, and begin to work from that. If you don’t recognize what’s really important versus what you can do if you want to, you’re never going to be more productive.