Archive for 'Creative Communication'

22 Letters

Posted on 27. Oct, 2011 by .


I’m turning 30 in a few weeks. Been thinking a lot about the last decade of life, and all that I’ve learned. So I’ve decided to write about it. I’m calling it “22 Letters,” and it’s kicking off tomorrow. Feel free to read along.

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“I gotta see that…”

Posted on 25. Jan, 2010 by .


It happens to me every time I go to the theater. It happens to you too. The lights go down and the previews start. And at least one preview will be so good, it will make you want to leap out of your chair. One preview will have just the right balance of explosions and guns and pretty girls. One preview will grab your heart, Last-of-the-Mohicans-style. One preview will tell a mini-story so good that it elicits those four words that movie producers drool over. You lean over to your buddy and say,

“I gotta see that.”

Months before this movie releases, you’ve already decided to see it based off a perfectly crafted two-minute story. You’ve already “bought” the movie, putting it on layaway in your brain. Months before release, James Cameron or Peter Jackson or Quentin Tarrantino has slipped his hand into your wallet, grabbed ten bucks, and tossed it into his bottomless kettle of riches. The I-gotta-see-that-moment fetches an invisible fortune months before the product hits the shelf.

All because of a silly little two-minute story.

In 2010, the best storytellers win. Businesses that tell better stories will outperform the competition. Non-profits that tell the best stories will stick around, while the others will melt away. Hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into Haiti because of the expert communicators–citizen-journalists, photographers, etc–telling her story.

Deep within the Apple labs, master craftsmen have been fashioning their latest creation. For months, we’ve been hearing rumors about the new Apple tablet. Apple is so good, the mysterious pre-story rumors make them millions. On Wednesday, Apple will make millions more when story-master Jobs takes the stage and subsequently takes the breath away of tech-crazed consumers everywhere.

We are creatures of story. If your thing isn’t working, maybe your story about it sucks. Tell a story worth hearing, and you’ll get the response you want…

“I gotta see that.”

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Top 9 tweets of 2009

Posted on 31. Dec, 2009 by .


The Chinese calendar has it wrong. 2009 has been the year of the tweet. I estimate that I’ve read over 108,000 tweets this year. I’ve favorited the best ones along the way and culled that list down to my top 9 tweets of 2009. Some are funny. Some are pure art. Telling a joke, a story, or some revelation in 140 characters is a beautiful thing. These are the best of the best. These are the ones who cleverly pack huge payloads of value into a small space, and our lives are better for it. We salute you master tweet-writers!

(My comments in red)

9. @prodigaljohn Of all the fence options for a new ATL kids’ bike path, barbed wire is an odd choice. Unless a fence made of scorpions was the other option.

Pure comedy from John Acuff, headman over at Stuff Christians Like.

8. @JimmyScroggins Jerry Rankin: A rat-meat eating, Jesus-loving, gospel-preaching field missionary who helped focus the IMB on church pltng. Worthy of honor.

Great tweets use vivid images. This is a great example where Jimmy describes a late missionary as “rat-meat eating.” Simple. Glorious.

7. @taylorbrooks You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank, you’re not the car you drive, you are not your flipping khakis.

I found out later that this is a variation of a quote from the movie Fight Club. I loved it so much, I wrote a whole blog post about it.

6. @mattskeller I just put on a jacket. Its getting colder. The sun has set on this day. One day closer to you.

I remember where I was when I read this tweet from my friend Matt, and for some reason it struck me with its beautiful simplicity. The best tweets prove that less is more.

5. @jacobsjosh My friend just got dumped. Current Facebook status of his ex-girl? “Freedom equals fun!” Wow; at least there’s plenty of fish in the sea…

My favorite tweets are ones where people tell quirky stories from their everyday lives. Thanks to my friend Josh for this fantasticly funny observation.

4. @claytonbell How to get to get rich: 1. Get M size shirt, call it XL. 2. Bedazzle MASSIVE cross/dragon/skull on shirt. 3. Sell shirt for $60 dollars.

I thought this was a really witty way to communicate a universal truth: Bedazzled, sparkly muscle shirts suck and men have no business wearing them…ever.

3. @challies “This is just one of the ways I know you love me,” said Nick when I fixed his Lego for him.

I’m not a parent, but I love it when moms and dads share these tender moments. I see God in this tweet.

2. @MattChandler74 I keep trying to explain we live on less an a 1/4 acre but to no avail

Cute-kid tweet of the year in my opinion. I love how this tweet makes no sense until you look at the pic.

1. @benambuehl Liza: “Why is that man laying down?” Me: “I don’t know baby, I don’t know.” #bellringerfail

Tweet of the year! There is so much right about this tweet it makes me want to breakdance in church! It comes from my friend Ben (Liza is his daughter). What makes this tweet absolutely remarkable are the multiple overlapping elements. It makes use of

1. Something we have all experienced (Salvation Army bellringer)

2. Storytelling

3. Dialogue

4. Humor

5. A fail statement (more humor)

6. And an absolutely hilarious photo

Congrats to Ben Ambuehl, 2009 Tweeter of the Year!

And thanks to all of you who make my life richer through Twitter, Facebook, and this blog! God bless you all, and Happy New Year!

(A while back I wrote “6 Tips for Writing Red Hot Tweets.” Check it out.)

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Nightmare at Hawk’s Nest

Posted on 15. Oct, 2009 by .


A few nights ago I got to live a good story.

I’ve been up in the mountains of north Georgia this week–on a creative sabbatical–clearing my head and working on a few big projects. The story happened on Tuesday night and it had all the trappings of a horror movie.

Me, sitting at the kitchen table in a secluded cabin tucked into a cove on the side of some mountain. The name of the cabin–Hawk’s Nest. Miles away from civilization. It’s night. And it’s raining. Gravel road. Pitch black with no other lights. Strange sounds outside the window near the table.

“Must be wind.”

30 minutes pass. Then 3 sharp knocks on the same window followed by the sound of heavy feet moving on the deck outside. Record scratch in my soul, then my heart takes off like Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby.

Frozen, the thought comes: They were outside my cabin that whole time…watching.

See, usually in this situation, your mind has an “out,” a rational explanation for what you heard. Wildlife. Kids messing around. Friends playing a prank. The only problem is that bears don’t have knuckles to knock, no kids around and they’d all be in bed because it’s a school night anyway, and I didn’t tell any of my friends where I was staying. Panic-time.

I quickly grab my blankie…I mean…my blackberry. My heart hi-jumps into my throat as I slide across the hardwood floor and fumble through a drawer for the biggest baddest knife I can find. I grab my laptop and head for the back bedroom. My adrenaline-drunk brain goes Jack Bauer and I map out a quick schematic of the cabin. I summon every bit of video game combat knowledge I have to draft a quick battle plan. I considered the dishwasher but decided the bedroom was the most defensible position. Helpless, I dial 9-1-1. For 30 minutes I try to describe to Sargent Self where I am.

“I-I’m on this mountain…down this, um, gravel road…in a-a-a cabin.” Perfect. I just described every dwelling within a 50 mile radius.

I want Sargent Self to laugh or make a joke or tell me it’s probably just a bear…nada. She’s cold as ice and is intent on figuring out where I am. This reassures me that my life is indeed, in mortal danger.

I fire off a quick tweet because if I can harness the sympathy of my internet friends, I might feel better…and it’s a lot cooler than sucking your thumb. Sargent Self tells me they think they found my cabin on a map at the precinct and that an officer is on his way up the mountain. Thank God.

Another half hour passes when I see flashing lights in the driveway. My heart slows to a trot. I push past the screen door and meet the officer in the driveway. He’s got one of those flashlights that’s heavy like a light saber, and the light is cutting through the rain, pointed at me. I explain everything. He says he’s going to check out “the perimeter” of the property.

“Ok, I’m going to pack up, not sleeping here tonight.”

I come back through the screen door and notice a piece of paper crumbled on the porch. I bend down to pick it only.

GOOD LUCK TONIGHT” written in black marker.

At that moment I got the same feeling I got on 9/11–that I was a character in a movie. Of course, in this movie, my character gets killed by the psycho after I find the cop lying dead in the driveway. I race back outside and dangle the note in the officer’s face like a 3rd grader finished with a spelling test. He reads it and his expression changes from elementary-school-fire-drill to oh-my-gosh-there’s-a-fire-in-the-cafeteria. He grabs his radio and begins barking stuff I don’t remember. I burst back into the cabin and begin grabbing clothes and Pringles cans and tennis shoes, slinging everything into my suitcase.

It was time to get out of this story and back to my boring life in Atlanta.

My phone buzzes. It’s my roommate, Collin. He must be calling to check on me. I answer without even saying hello, launching into a panicked rant, “Dude, I am so freaked out right now……”. He stops me.

“Brett, no, no, no, don’t leave. It was us, me and Chris. It was just a prank.”


“Are you kidding?”

“No,” he said.

I hang up. Anger fills the hole where the fear was. And anger’s better than fear so I laid down the welcome mat. I walk back out to the porch and tell the police officer it was all a big joke and that my roommate was a loser. He gives a laugh, partially amused and partially relieved. And then he drives away, back into town. The end.

I’ve been reading Don Miller’s new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It’s all about life as a story and how the best stories are scripted with purpose and intention.

“If story is just life without the meaningless scenes–I wondered if life could be lived more like a good story in the first place. I wondered whether a person could plan a story for his life and live it intentionally.” – Miller, AMMIATY, p39

That’s something to think about.

I have another friend who says, Live life in such a way that you have great stories to tell.Love that.

So thanks Collin and Chris for giving me another great story to add to my treasure chest. Just remember what they say about payback ;).

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Catalyst 09

Posted on 07. Oct, 2009 by .


Over the next couple of days I’ll be at the Catalyst conference here in Atlanta with 12,000 other young leaders. This will be my second time to attend. I went one other time in 2004.

Catalyst has exploded in the past few years and has become one of the top leadership conferences for church leaders. Speakers this year (red names = the TRAPPSTR is super-pumped about):

  • Andy Stanley – Pastor Northpoint Community Church
  • Chuck Swindoll  – Author, Founder of Insight for Living
  • Louie Giglio – Director, Passion Conferences
  • Malcolm Gladwell – Author of the Tipping Point, Outliers, etc.
  • Tony Dungy – former coach of Indianapolis Colts
  • Matt Chandler – Pastor, Village Church
  • Rob Bell – Pastor, Mars Hill Bible Church
  • Priscilla Shirer – Founder, Going Beyond Ministries
  • Dave Ramsey – financial guru
  • Jessica Jackley – Founder, KIVA
  • Shane Hipps – Author of “Flickering Pixels”
  • Josh Hamilton – MLB Player, Texas Rangers
  • Reggie Joiner – Founder, the reThink Group
  • Margaret Feinberg – Author
  • Francis Chan  – Pastor, Cornerstone Church

Quite the lineup. I’m probably most excited about hearing Matt Chandler, Malcolm Gladwell, and Louie Giglio.


The Catalyst crew has courted a broad sampling of leaders from the evangelical world. Most of them are great and a few of them I have questions about (theologically), but either way, they’ve done a great job of getting lots of influential voices around the table. These folks have a good idea of what God is doing around the globe and where the church is heading.

Aside from the quality teaching, Catalyst is RIDICULOUSLY creative! No one in the evangelical world does it better. No one. They are masters of staging a jaw-dropping, 360 degree, technicolor experience that is overwhelming. The technology is over-the-top and in the past they’ve done things such as a having a 12,000 person pillow fight and an on-stage professional dodgeball game.


  1. Come back to each day as I’ll be posting my thoughts.
  2. Check out the official website Dig around some there…awesome content from previous conferences.
  3. You can actually see some live content as it’s happening at Pretty cool.
  4. Of course, I’ll be tweeting the whole experience. So be sure to follow along here.
  5. For real-time updates from all the Twitter folks at the conference, search for the official Catalyst hashtag #cat09 here. People are already tweeting like crazy from the conference.
  6. And if you’re at the conference, hit me up! Would love to hang out.

Excited to see what God’s gonna do this week! Stay tuned!


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Random post explained! (pt 3 of 3)

Posted on 17. Sep, 2009 by .


Earlier this week, I posted a list of 30 random words. They were…

Dinosaur   Snowman   Faithfulness   Etch-a-sketch   Integrity   Air   Engineering   Ketchup   Reproduction   King Kong   Cobra   Email   Recliner   Safety   Nipple   Taj Mahal   General   Strait   Grid   Religion   White House   Apple   Simplicity   Palm Tree   Guillotine   Atmosphere   Moon   Accuracy   Rodeo   Atonement

The day after I posted the list, I removed it and asked people to send me an email and recall as many words as they could remember from the list. I also offered $30 cash to whoever could remember the most words from the list. The responses were interesting. Most people could only remember a few words. One person didn’t see the first post, so he made up his own list of 30 words (thanks CG). One person (who shall remain unnamed) could only remember one word, nipple (haha). We did have a winner however! Huge congrats to Emily Lacy in Dallas, Texas, who remembered the most words and won the first ever contest! Her check is in the mail!

NOW, on to the point of this whole fiasco….

Look back at the list, and you’ll notice that every word is a noun. You’ll also notice that there are two types of words on the list–vivid images and abstract concepts–and there are 15 of each. I went ahead and bolded all the vivid images on the list above so you can quickly see the difference.

This whole thing was designed as an experiment to prove a point. I was interested to see which words “stuck” in people’s minds 24 hours after the list was pulled down. I had a feeling that the vivid image words would be remembered and the abstract words would not.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Of the people who emailed in, not one person remembered one of the abstract words. Every single recalled word was from the vivid image list. Why? When you read the list, your mind instantly paints a picture of the vivid images. With the abstract concepts, not so much. Our minds crave vivid images and have a tough time digesting abstract concepts. A message embedded with an image comes alive and stakes a bright red flag in the soil of our memory. A message heavy with abstractions gets lost in the dusty basement of our minds.

Why the heck does this matter?

This matters because it’s a key principle of communication that everyone ignores!  I hate hearing someone behind a pulpit or a lectern or at a conference spewing abstractions like Niagra Falls! Eyes begin to glaze over in the audience and people start looking at their watches. Our brains aren’t built for that! It’s like pumping Kool-aid into the engine of a Corvette! It doesn’t work! In fact, we learned at an early age to completely ignore people who speak abstractly (cough cough boring teachers cough cough). That’s how daydreaming came about. Our brain got bored so it started “dreaming” up images and stories to stay awake. Whether you’re a business owner communicating to your customers, a preacher communicating spiritual truths, or a mom communicating to a four year old, it matters.

There is a reason Jesus often resorted to parables to explain a tough truth. “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…” (Matt 17:20)

If you want to instantly be a better communicator, do NOT start with great content. Start with a bright, vivid, eye-popping image. Wrap your message around that, and watch your words burst into flames, lighting up your audience with the message you want them to hear.

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Random post (pt 2 of 3) and a contest!

Posted on 15. Sep, 2009 by .


All right. Yesterday, if you read TRAPPSTR, you saw that I posted a list of 30 words. I’ll give $30 to whoever can recall the most words on that list. If there is a tie, I’ll split the cash. Send me an email at before midnight tonight (Sep 15). I’ll wrap all this up tomorrow.

What do you have to lose? Send me an email asap!

(And yes, I know you guys who subscribe via RSS/email might still have the word list, but to win you have to recall these from memory. We’re on the honor system here at :) ).

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Random post (pt 1 of 3)

Posted on 14. Sep, 2009 by .


Check out the list of words below. Look for relationships. I’ll explain more tomorrow. Hang with me, friends…










King Kong






Taj Mahal





White House



Palm Tree







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