33 years in 6 minutes
From mixtapes to Shakespeare, TheFacebook to Substack, here are a few stories, technology shifts, and lessons I've picked up along the way.
During the 1990s, I went from using a typewriter(!) and recording songs off the radio onto blank cassette tapes… to websites, Napster, mobile phones with Snake, and AIM. Just ten years.
In the middle of that decade, I went to college and my freshman class was the FIRST where everyone got an email address. Prior to that, you had to ask for one (it was for the nerds).
I taught myself website design and Photoshop from a few books (there were no classes for this) and made websites for $500 each. I even got myself a job at an “internet company” in the final months before the dotcom bubble burst.
The lesson of this decade was that there was something new and no one really knew what to do about it. (Jeff Bezos knew.)
During the 2000s, I went from designing websites and sending “blast emails” to writing one-liners on photos and posting them on TheFacebook for clients - the very beginning of social media marketing.
In 2001, I was the first of my friends to have a digital camera. No film? No dropping off at Costco or CVS? You’re a wild man! My earliest photo sets are full of the weirdest selfies. I could take 30… they were free!
Throughout this decade, I lived two concurrent lives. A digital marketer by day, but at night I studied acting, improv comedy, Shakespeare, and screenwriting. It was a lot. I said cringey things like “I’m sacrificing my 20s to get what I want in my 30s” to keep me going. GROSS.
In the middle of that decade, I wrote and produced short videos with my friend Bob Gustafson and posted them on the new website (checks notes) YouTube.com. We got meetings and opportunities from just six videos. We even got a pilot production deal from ABC (in retrospect, the bad news: we were being courted as potential non-union solutions for the forthcoming 2007 Writer’s Strike…).
Also in 2007, I got married, so it was a great decade.
In 2009, Alan Beard and I made Historical Tweets, a history joke blog using the (then-relatively unknown) platform “Twitter” as the setup. 3.5 million people visited our site over the 4th of July weekend, and we got a book deal from Random House.
The lesson of this decade was that if you make something online, people can and will find it.
During the 2010s, I went from a three-person team creating Facebook posts for movie campaigns to growing a creative agency and finished the decade as a marketing executive in the middle of WarnerMedia.
In the middle of that decade, Fullscreen acquired my social media agency McBeard, when I was first introduced to the idea of YouTube influencers. Honestly, I didn’t get it, even though I should have, with my background making things and putting them online. Most of the influencers that we promoted seemed too niche, too confessional-ish (I don’t care about your breakfast!), and often too strange for me to understand.
In retrospect, I was on a different path for that decade: focused on growing a business and achieving results for clients, not growing a following.
During this decade, I became a father and had three kids, so this was a great decade.
The lesson of the 2010s was one that I think I missed. It is the idea that “I can make a living on my own terms.” You can work freelance. You can work from anywhere. You don’t need to follow the formal paths of previous generations. College, entry-level jobs, career trajectories, retirement, home ownership, put your nose down and work. All radical departures from what came before.
The 2020s have been THE WORST so far.
From COVID to George Floyd to Aliens(?) to Hurriquakes in LA. My only hope is that I’ll start this decade with a pandemic and end this decade with incredible peace and joy.
In 2023, right in the middle of this decade, I’m learning a few lessons:
“Don’t try to be the best. Be the only.” (Kevin Kelly)
“Art creates a profound connection between the artist and the audience. Through that connection, both can heal.” (Rick Rubin)
“I have plans for you. Plans to give you hope. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” (God)
“Originality is fragile. A new thing is hard to define; it’s not attractive, and it requires protection.” (Ed Catmull)
Despite everything that’s coming at me — coming at us all — it’s going to be a great decade. Here we go.
Shout out to Alan Beard, Darnell Brisco, and Bob Gustafson (and many, many, many, many more) for being my partners in crime for many of these events and lessons.
Thanks so much for reading. Like, A LOT. x1000
I feel like each one of these events in my life could be a full post. Maybe they will be. You’ll never know if you don’t subscribe.