I’ve always been a bit of an odd duck.
The long and short of it.
We’ll be using the podcast to talk to people about stuff we’re trying to figure out. Currently, I’m reflecting on lessons learned with Gearbox Magazine to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes twice as we move forward with The Gearhead Project.
My guest today is Danny Brown, an old blogging buddy from the Marketing industry who’s still a full-time influence marketing expert, but has decided to stop blogging about it in order to focus on life, being a better person, and appreciating the here and now.
We talk about walking away from the thing that everyone knew us for in order to do something completely different.
Here’s the long version:
I’m the chubby, shy kid you never talked to in school. I spent a lot of time out at the edge of the playground by myself, watching cars go by—and imagining life outside the chain link fence.
Back in class, I’d pay attention here and there. Most of the time, it seemed like the teachers were repeating themselves. Maybe, if everyone who didn’t talk to me would shut the fuck up for a minute, they would have understood things the first time through like I did.
Whatever. It gave me more time to draw cars and spaceships and plan my escape.
Fast forward 20 years and I was still an odd duck.
I’d spent enough time on automotive discussion forums like 2GNT, DSMtuners, and such to both have a pretty good idea how to rebuild my own engine and who I could count on to help me do it. I ate, slept, and breathed all things automotive.
I was—and remain, for the record—a dyed-in-the-wool Mitsubishi fan. Full stop.
I was into cars, trucks, bikes, boats, and airplanes. I was, for all intents and purposes, a proper gearhead. But I was also into other things. Other things in which I’ve found most of my gearhead brothers and sisters have little to no interest.
My initial foray into marketing was odd duck as well. I was almost belligerent in my approach. “Products worth owning market themselves,” I’d say. “Maybe if you weren’t peddling another also-ran, me-too gimmick that didn’t actually deliver any value, you wouldn’t need marketing.”
The internet did wonders for us quiet ones.
And yet, education is a major piece of the marketing puzzle. Products worth owning DO market themselves—but somebody’s got to be on the record as being the resident expert, the authority, right? Shouldn’t that be the brand behind the product?
This led me to discover marketing is probably the greatest superpower ever invented.
I mean, think about it. Have you driven a Ford lately? Shared a Coke with The Most Interesting Man in the World? Got milk? Absolut-ly.
Imagine if they put as much time, money, science, and effort into convincing you to pay attention in school and remember all the information presented in 30-minute classes as they did using animated frogs to get you to want a can of piss wrapped in stars and stripes in 30 seconds.
The point is, I’m a gearhead—but I’m also a marketer. Before I started writing about cars, I was reading and commenting on marketing blogs. I’ve never gone to school for marketing, but I’ve been a Marketing Manager, worked in one of best damn account-based marketing automation agencies in the country, and spend my days consulting other marketers on how to use content to sell products and services.
Playing with cars changed my life. Talking to marketers amplified that change.
Introducing Danny Brown (finally)
One of the marketers I engaged with most was Danny Brown.
I forget when, exactly, we first engaged, but I remember neither of us being particularly fond with the way the Klout had taken it upon themselves to scrape our names, pictures, and more from Twitter, assign us some bullshit influencer score, and then position us on their website in ways that made it look like we somehow endorsed their service.
Over the years, both Danny and I found ourselves less interested in reading and writing about marketing. And so we sort of drifted apart.
Occasionally, our paths would cross. Facebook would let something Danny did or said bubble up where I’d see it in my feed, we’d chit chat back and forth a bit, and then go back to whatever else we had vying for our attention at the time.
I noticed he had shifted his focus more to family and community. He got involved with a brewery. He started a podcast about whisky. All interesting subjects, but nothing that immediately clicked with me.
Until The Gearhead Project clicked with me.
I want TGP to help people like us figure out what we want from life, explore different ways of getting where we want to go, discover new opportunities, act on them, and document our journeys so others can do likewise.
But how do you market an idea like that?
Simple. You demonstrate it yourself.
It’s critical I learn from the mistakes of my past. After nine years of drifting all over the place with Gearbox Magazine, I need this to work. It’s not that I don’t have good ideas, it’s just that I struggle with focus and follow-through.
I decided to use The Gearhead Project podcast to talk to people who had done what I’ve just done—walk away from everything they’d been doing in order to focus on something new.
Danny’s made such a radical change, himself.
Remember, when we first met, he was blogging about marketing and social media. We engaged around influencer marketing and sketchy business practices that pissed us off.
Today, Danny blogs mostly about life, family, and community. That whisky podcast I mentioned? Turns out it’s not so much about the fine single malt whisky as it is the kind of thoughts you have at the end of the day whilst sipping on one.
I wanted to hear about his experience walking away. There’s a lot more demand for marketing content out there than there is random blokes’ “take on life, being a better person, and appreciating the here and now.” Or is there?
You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.
In an early episode of Life Through a Dram, Danny mentioned a desire to “just talk about life, people, and the good things. It feels like the world is on a downward spiral.”
Amen to that, Danny. I wanted to explore that angle further, because feeling the world’s in a downward spiral is a sign we need to pause, take a good look around, and make sure we’re surrounding ourselves with the right people, attitudes, and activities.
It can seem the things that PAY the bills don’t always FIT the bill. Something excites us, we go all-in, and somewhere along the line we lose interest. We burn out. We find ourselves going through the motions, doing work we no longer particularly care about.
I wanted to know—What drives such fundamental changes? And what lessons have we learned making these pivots? And how do we keep them in mind as we move forward?
In another episode of Through a Dram, Danny touched on Done vs. Perfect—“Maybe I’m late for a good reason.” You know, I wish I’d made the move to TGP years ago—but I wasn’t ready for it then, was I?
Affinity, Attitude, Action.
I’ve come to realize how much comes down to the three As—affinity, attitude, action.
Affinity being the people we surround ourselves with on a daily basis. Are they lifting us up? Are they pushing us to grow and improve? Or are they holding us back and down with their indifference or bad junbies?
Attitude is everything. I know it sounds corny, but if you think you can or can’t you really are right. Attitude is contagious. Good or bad, your attitude—your energy—is reflected back at you everywhere you go.
And action. Talk is cheap. Ideas are even cheaper. You’ve got to take action. No matter how small.
Live in the now, man!
Regret is looking backward. You can’t change the past—only how you feel about it.
Fear is looking forward. You CAN change the future—but you have to work for it.
Lately I’ve felt like there’s incredible value in slowing down and being more present in the moment. On top of everything else, I wanted to find out from Danny how making such a monumental shift—from the firehose of social media marketing to a slow, deliberate pour of life, the Universe, everything—impacted his life.
I gotta tell ya, it was totally worth getting up at 5AM to record a 6AM podcast on a workday.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope one day you’ll join us.
Thanks again, Danny.
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