2×4 With Danny Brown

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.

Without further ado, here is a look at how and why Danny Brown, the founder of 12for12k, a partner in Bonsai Interactive and blogger at DannyBrown.me does what he does.


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.

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53 Responses to 2×4 With Danny Brown

  1. Invaluable insights as always. Great questions and some unexpected answers. I especially am in favor of writing things down physically. Definitely going to add that exercise tonight, though I’ll start with 15 minutes rather than an hour – already doing another exercise and if I keep adding them I’ll be up all night. :)

    • I wish pen and paper worked for me, sadly I can barely read my own damn handwriting once I get going :)  I’ve had to lean on tech for similar prioritization and thankfully Omnifocus has definitely helped me separate the want to do from the need to do. I just try to do it on the front end and the back end. Set everything up in the morning and then review what actually happened at the end of the day. Helps me get a better feeling of my own bandwidth for 24 hours.

      What’s the other exercise? 

    • I wish pen and paper worked for me, sadly I can barely read my own damn handwriting once I get going :)  I’ve had to lean on tech for similar prioritization and thankfully Omnifocus has definitely helped me separate the want to do from the need to do. I just try to do it on the front end and the back end. Set everything up in the morning and then review what actually happened at the end of the day. Helps me get a better feeling of my own bandwidth for 24 hours.

      What’s the other exercise? 

  2. Great interview. I like the series, Michael.  Danny is a good egg, and I like how focuses on presence in the different parts of his life.

    • I envy his approach (read: I struggle with this). Putting up those kinds of walls are easy in theory and near impossible (at least they are for me) in execution. Thinking about trying a shock collar… He does seem to do an unbelievable time of taking a limited amount of time and doing an exceptional amount of stuff in it.

      Glad you are enjoying my little experiment. And beware, Danny recommended you to participate, so be on the lookout.

      • If it makes you feel any better, the whole private versus public spheres continues to be an ongoing debate in almost every circle. It was frequently discussed in grad school, and I’m running into it again as someone who has to have a public presence.

        This is a great post; I’ll have to follow your blog more closely in the future.

        • I’ve never really struggled with the public vs private part. I’ve pretty much convinced they are now one and the same. It’s the balancing time spent in each arena that kills me. Work, hobby, family, it’s a lot. I want to do it all, yet there never seems to be enough hours in the day.

          BTW, if you liked Danny’s you should also check out our mutual buddy Yuvi’s answers: http://michaelschechter.me/2×4-with-yuvi-zalkow/ very different take on the same questions (Gini Dietrich’s answers didn’t suck either :) )

  3. Holy cow – you two talked without killing each other – we call that progress :)

    I’m with @geofflivingston:disqus – great series and great interview. 

    I too would not be blogging today without the influence of Danny. He’s just top notch all the way around.

    And I hear he can tear it down whilst wearing a kilt.

  4. Wow, I do admire this guy. He has had a great influence on so many things I do as a blogger, wish he could do the same for my productivity! Thanks, Michael, for the series, they are priceless. Have a good day, Barbara

  5. Like you Michael, I tend to be silly or sarcastic more times than not so sometimes it is hard to get to the core of the point I’m trying to make. However, I will concur with the accolades you have bestowed on Mr Brown. 

    Unlike you, once I got in this, I kind of new Danny had some stature in this arena but it never held me back from taking some jabs and he responded in kind and really made me feel like I fit in.

    Behind the curtain huh? Is he really 6′ 3″, 235 lbs and mistaken for the middle linebacker on the Montreal Alouettes?

    Good post Michael, I enjoyed it.  

  6. Danny is one of the coolest people ever. He doesn’t come across as full of himself. When we met, we just talked. He is very knowledgeable and approachable. He also raises awareness of issues with his 12X12 project (which I would love to help with) and is humble enough to poke fun at himself like in the epic “sheep expert” video. People like that are really rare.

    I too, did not know who Danny was when I met him. Sometimes not knowing is better. I love his blog, and reading him has pushed me to think differently and that is always a good thing.

  7. @MSchechter:disqus I was seriously expecting some bombshell expose here. I mean you didn’t ask him about the night out with Lindsay Lohan that led to a crashed ferrari and a night in jail? Nevermind when @dannybrown:disqus rode his Harley onto the stage at Blogworld then popped a wheelie into the podium causing it to catch on fire and force an evacuation. Or that time Danny and @ginidietrich:disqus pounded 12 Bloody Mary’s each before the big meeting with P&G to win their Old Spice account and almost got the account!

    Blown opportunity here Michael!

    Well the creativity angle is nice and great insight into the Mythical Giant himself. When do we get the Danny Brown notepads?

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