Letter #21: Be terrified

Posted on 29. Oct, 2011 by .


Letter #21 – Be terrified.
From: Brett Trapp – Oct 29, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Oct 29, 2001

Dear Brett,

Yo. Like I said yesterday, social life in college is the best. The other thing that makes college awesome is that you get to learn, to be taught. You actually have people in your life who get paid money to make you learn. Teachers! You’ll never have this again. Crazy.

Here’s the thing though: Most people—when they graduate—forget about learning.

College was for learning,” they think. “Life—now—is about earning, consuming, getting.”

And people get busy. The busyness fuses with stress which fuses with meetings which fuses with lots of TV time, and that creates a rusty chain of complacency. That chain is choking, and it will choke out your days. And choked days pile up into choked years. Choked years pile up into a choked life.

The non-learners forget to be curious. They forget to be in awe at creation, life, people.

This is sad.

Brett, be terrified of what you don’t know. Be terrified that there are vast acres of life you were never taught. Be terrified that there are things in your life–odorless, colorless, tasteless–that you just won’t (or can’t) deal with. The carbon monoxide of the soul. Be terrified that, today, there are roots of ignorance and wrong thinking worming into your mind. That’s happening today. Right now.






Kick the tires. Then remove the tires and put them back on again.


Don’t stop digging til you’ve found what you’re looking for. Then dig some more because you’re not there yet.

I’m talking about experiences, books, conversations, note-taking, and sit-downs with people smarter than you. And there are people smarter than you. WAAAAY smarter than you. They’ve got what you need, knowledge & wisdom. Wrest it from them. Gently assault them until your curiosity is satisfied.

Ask questions.

Ask questions.

Shut up and listen.

Then ask more questions.

Don’t stop asking questions until you understand.

Be terrified, Brett.

We’ll talk tomorrow.


P.S. SB: Take the Pats.

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Letter #22 – Your 20s

Posted on 28. Oct, 2011 by .


Letter #22 – Your 20s
From: Brett Trapp – Oct 28, 2011
To: Brett Trapp – Oct 28, 2001

Dear Brett,

Hey buddy. It’s me, your 29-year old self. I’m writing you from the future (don’t ask me how that’s possible). I turn 30 in a few weeks, and you turn 20 in a few weeks. Happy birthday.

We’ve learned a lot in the last ten years. This is my chance to help you out, to give you some pointers on life. I don’t know everything—far, far from it. But I know a few things, and I’ve tried to learn as much as possible. I’m going to write you 22 letters—one per day (unless work gets crazy). I know you’re busy with fraternity stuff but this is important, so listen up.

I hope you’re enjoying your sophomore year of college. Enjoy college. It’s awesome. Other than high school football, it might be the greatest season of life. It’s great, because it’s a social greenhouse. With one phone call or text message (fyi, “texting” will be big one day), your friends will drop what they’re doing and come hang out. Life won’t always be that way, because life gets busier and a touch more complicated.

You begin your 20s in a few weeks. This is big. Up until this point, life has been scripted for you. Parents and society have laid out a track for you to drive on. That’s all going to change in this decade of life. And your 20s are important. In fact it’s the most important decade of your life.

Think about it.

In your 20s, you build a platform, a foundation. Your 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond, sit on the foundation you build in your 20s. Your career sits on that foundation. Your family sits on that foundation. Your health sits on that foundation. Your future sits on that foundation. Your life sits on that foundation.

“All your big decisions of life are made in your 20s.” That’s what Chris, your future boss, will tell you one day. He’s right.

We have another friend named Jim who you’ll meet in a few years. He calls the 20s the “gun barrel years.” He says that life is like a bullet, and the goal is to hit the right target. The goal is to do life right. Hitting the target doesn’t happen at the end of the bullet’s journey. It happens at the beginning. It happens when the gun barrel is pointed in precisely the right direction.

“If you get the gun barrel right, you’ll hit your target.”

This is the beginning, Brett. It starts right here. Get this part right, and you’ll hit the right target. It’s a big deal. Your life depends on it.

Talk to you tomorrow.


P.S. Enron…run.

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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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“The Greatest putt putt shot of all time”: 6 lessons in virality

Posted on 29. Jan, 2011 by .


Viral videos intrigue me. It’s rather amazing, actually. Companies spend billions of dollars trying to get people to care about their thing, trying to capture eyeballs. Yet, viral videos magnetically draw attention and eyeballs with no campaign, no marketing team, and no money spent. They hogtie the attention of millions leaving the suits on Madison Avenue scratching their heads.

So my attention was peaked last Saturday night when I got an email from JT, a friend who I also happen to work with:

“Thought you’d get a kick out of this. 24 hours and we already have 40,000 hits from my putt. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ess9bRJ0bPw&feature=youtube_gdata_player

The video is pretty cool. My friend JT and a couple of his buddies were out putt-putting that Friday in Orlando. They noticed a little jet on one of the water hazards and thought it’d be cool to put the ball on it to see if it would lift up.

Sure enough, that’s what happened.

The guy filming the video goofily shouts, “It’s a ghost ball!“. Suspended in mid-air, JT takes a whack at it. Amazingly, the ball doinks off the wall and zips right into the hole. The guys explode in disbelief, and the video ends.

When I watched the video I had the same feeling I had when a friend from Huntsville, Ala., emailed me a video of this sensational guy named Antoine Dodson (I first watched that one when it only had 400 views). When I watched the now infamous “Bed Intruder” video I just had that feeling that it would go viral. Sure enough, it did, and the video became the most watched viral video of 2010. So I had the same feeling when I watched this video, aptly titled “Greatest putt putt shot of all time.”

The video took off. Dozens of major websites like Break, The Awesomer, and College Humor reposted the video. That led to traction in the social-sphere through sites like Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and others. Uber-popular viral video commentator Ray William Johnson reviewed the video in his bi-weekly youtube episode. From there the mainstream media picked it, as the video was featured on ESPN, E!, Fox & Friends, and several others. The views began to pile up. 40,000 turned into 200,000, then half a million, then it crossed the pivotal million views mark mid-week. As I write this post, it has been viewed more than 2 million times.

Two million people found the 30-second clip interesting enough to watch. All in all, human beings have spent more than 16,000 hours watching this video!

So naturally, I ask:

WHY? Of the millions of trick golf shots on the internet, why did this one take flight?

Since I have a personal connection to this particular video, I’ve spent some time trying to figure that out. As I see it, there are six reasons this video went viral:

1. Perfect title – Note how they titled the video, the “Greatest putt putt shot of all time.” Not “Awesome putt-putt shot!“. Not “Really cool putt-putt shot!“. No, no. It was “THE GREATEST!” Human beings are intrigued with the concept of “the best.” The Guinness Book of World Records has built an empire around this fascination. Tell me something’s cool, and I’ll pass over it; tell me it’s the best of all time and it’s a must-click. (Of course delivering on that claim is another issue entirely.)

2. It’s short – This video is exactly 30 seconds. Rarely does anything go viral that’s more than a minute or two. The internet has nuked our attention spans, so this brevity is a requirement.

3. Not one, but two surprises – When I watched the video, I was genuinely amazed the jet lifted and balanced the ball. It was surprising because I’m used to seeing golfballs move forward or out. You never see a golfball go directly up. That’s surprising. Then when JT hits the ball in the hole, I was surprised again. Two surprises in 30 seconds. As explained by the Heath brothers in their best-selling book Made to Stick, surprise is a powerful marketing tool. This video has it not once, but twice.

4. The meme – A meme has been defined as “a unit of cultural transmission.” Cultural memes often grow out of viral videos. Ever heard of these?

  • “Don’t tase me bro”
  • “Charley bit maaay”
  • “Hide ya kids, hide ya wife…”
  • “Double rainbow!”

These phrases are verbal canisters for the videos they represent–“units of cultural transmission.” They help us communicate quickly and easily. I would never ask someone, “Have you seen the video of the guy who freaks out about those multiple rainbows he saw?” No. I say, “Have you seen the ‘Double Rainbow’ guy?”.

The meme here is, “It’s a ghost ball!“. That goofy comment gave people an easy way to share the video. In offices all across America this week, people were asking each other, “Have you seen the ghost ball video?“. I’m not sure this video would have gotten the same viral traction without the ghost ball comment.

5. Authenticity – The grainy footage and the terrible camera angles towards the end of this video show that it’s authentic. If this was staged, the cameraman would have been sure to capture more faces. The guys would have stayed in frame more. And who could stage that ridiculous celebration? The guys were clearly shocked, and that shows in the mayhem that follows the shot.

Humans are well-wired to sniff out a fake. And this clearly isn’t one. It’s real.

6. Celebration – People love watching celebrations. Heck, sometimes I’ll watch the end of some national title of some sport I don’t care about like division 3 football or the NHL, just to watch the celebration by the winning team. I don’t know why; it’s just…special. Our earliest memories are of birthday parties and Christmases. We engineer celebrations into our calendar in the form of holidays, and we stop working to gather around tables, trees, and buckets of candy.

Even watching strangers celebrate on Youtube is fun. It reminds us that though our life may be hard, some guys somewhere on some mini-golf course are going crazy with joy. It’s fun watching people celebrate because it gives us hope that one day maybe we’ll get to witness a magical moment like that as well.

So here’s to you, JT. May you and your ghost ball live forever in viral Internet glory.

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How lunatic sports fans are made: The “jumping dad” theory

Posted on 10. Jan, 2011 by .


Tonight the Auburn University Tigers will be playing the University of Oregon Ducks in the BCS National Championship game. Several dramatic storylines and two napalm offenses have made this one of the most anticipated BCS championship games ever.

As a big time Alabama Crimson Tide fan, I have to admit that I’m pumped to watch the game tonight. I’ll be pulling for the Ducks, and I’ll be pulling for Auburn. The Crimson in me wants to see Bama’s longtime rival fall. The SEC in me wants to see Auburn embarrass the Ducks, tightening the conference’s 5-year death-grip on the rest of the college football world. Doesn’t really matter who wins; I’m a fan of college football and I’m looking forward to a good game.

What I’m not looking forward to is the social media blitzkrieg that will follow the game.

I’ve seen it all before: lunatic fans using Twitter, Facebook, and message boards as their personal attack platforms. Arrogance, anger, and jealousy fuel the carnage as words become hand grenades. I’m not talking about your standard trash talk–that’s part of rivalries and sports in general. I’m talking about irrational, emotionally-fueled nonsense. Fans going back and forth with comments stacking up in little steaming clumps for all the world to see on Facebook or Twitter.  The fireworks go late into the night until everyone falls asleep. Then everyone wakes up the next morning and tweets about going to church.

But it leaves me asking…


Why are people so emotional over “their” team? Why will people alienate friends and family over a sports team? Why do people who are calm and sensible in everyday life become crazy instigators online? With all the important issues in our world, why are people so dang passionate about sports?

My buddy/Auburn-superfan Wes Howard wrote a blog post this morning that got me thinking about this. You can read the full article here, but here’s an excerpt…

“Fans can argue (and will) all day long about who is better and it can get ugly, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. I think it’s important that we keep that in mind, but there is something special about a father and son connecting over a sport. Some of my favorite memories are from watching Auburn games with my dad. We would jump up and down and scream at the TV.”

What’s ironic about this is that I grew up one street over from Wes in Florence, Alabama. While he and his dad were “jumping up and down” cheering for Auburn, my dad and I were doing the same thing, only we were cheering for Bama. Two little boys with two dads leaping out of their recliners cheering for their team.

I’ve thought about this before, but Wes’s post clarified it for me. I think lunatic sports fans become that way because that is precisely what dad was. Of course kids imitating their parents isn’t a new revelation, but think about it: As a child, when did you see your dad get truly happy? When did you see dad get visibly giddy? For many people, the only time they saw their dad so full of life was when his team was scoring a touchdown.

I had a great dad–loving in every way–but there was a different kind of joy that would come out of him when he cheered for Bama. It didn’t matter what else was going on. It didn’t matter what was happening with his job. It didn’t matter what other stresses of life were bearing down on our family.

In that moment, a father’s joy reigned supreme. It filled our living room like an intoxicating fog, putting smiles on the faces of me, mom, my two brothers, and probably even the dog.

Forget the thermostat; I believe a father’s emotional state truly determines the atmosphere of a home. And when that atmosphere is electrified by a dad cheering for a sports team, it tattoos a child’s soul with a message that says, “This brings joy. This is who we are.” And a little piece of that child’s identity gets permanently tethered to that object of joy.

Sports are great. I think they serve a purpose in society. I think they teach us about teamwork and leadership. I think they tell great little stories that bring us happiness in this life. This is not a sports-bashing post. I just wonder what would happen…

If Christian dads allowed their kids to see them get excited about things that really matter.

If Christian dads strategically planned their enthusiasm in the direction of things that matter, knowing that little eyes are watching.

If Christian dads allowed themselves to jump out of the recliner…

for things that really matter.

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6 Influencers you don’t know but should

Posted on 28. Oct, 2010 by .


I’m always amazed at the intersections God gives me–moments when my line of life crosses with someone else’s. Sometimes it’s just a bump, and other times it grows into a friendship. Here are some great influencers I’ve met at those intersections lately (all worth a Twitter follow FYI)…

1. Jeremie Kubicek – Jeremie is the owner of GiANT Impact, a leader development company here in Atlanta. Among many other things, they own the Catalyst Conference. I’ve known Jeremy for almost two years, and let me tell you that he is one of these rare leaders that holds world-changing confidence in one hand and humility in the other. He balances business-savvy and passion for God like none I’ve ever seen. Though he’s started, led, and sold businesses, you’d never know it. Personable and real, he’s one to keep an eye on. He’s releasing his first book this spring, True Influence. I’ve had the privilege of previewing it, and it’s a game-changer!

Jeremie blogs

2. Jason Young – Jason must be a triplet because this guy is everywhere! He’s a consultant here in Atlanta who skates in different spheres–leadership, creativity, social media, events, you name it. He’s done some big stuff with some big organizations. Jason is an uber-connector who has taken the freelance thing full-time which impresses me. Oh yeah, and he also tried to play match-maker for me at a blogger event last month (there’s a story there).

Jason blogs

Jason tweets

3. Toby Bloomberg – Met Toby through a mutual friend a few weeks ago. He described her as a “social media guru” which is a term I despise. But after spending some time with her and reading her stuff, I’ve learned that she is the real deal! I love her tweets the most. If you’re looking for second-level wisdom in social media, Toby’s content is where it’s at. (For an appetizer, check out this post I wrote after we met).

Toby blogs

Toby tweets

4. Chris Ediger – Chris also works for GiANT Impact. He was first described to me as the “digerati” of their organization. Chris is a wizard at all things web, but specializes in content and innovation. He’s one of these guys with dump trucks of knowledge and years of experience but strangely lacks the pride you see in most. We’ve been meeting monthly for quite a while now, and he is basically discipling me in all things innovation. I was recently sharing with Chris a challenge we’d been having. About a week later, he sends me web solution he custom-created! He carved time out of his schedule to help me with a problem! This is 2010: that isn’t supposed to happen.

Chris tweets

5. Holly Moore – Holly is the vice-president of Growing Leaders, a phenomenal leadership development organization here in Atlanta. Growing Leaders is fronted by Tim Elmore, but Holly plays a key role there as well. She’s been instrumental in promoting their new book, Gen iY. She has an electric joy you can feel and is always smiling! The world needs more leaders like this.

Holly tweets

6. Jon Smith – Jon leads the social media team at a $66 billion company. The name of that company is Home Depot. I worked with Jon’s brother in 2006, which somehow led to our paths crossing on Twitter earlier this year. We went out to lunch, and I quickly found out this guy is a gold mine of knowledge. His team is setting the pace in many ways in the corporate social media space.

Jon tweets

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Good questions

Posted on 23. Oct, 2010 by .


“How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?

Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?

Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?

Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?

Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?

Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?

Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?

Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?

When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?

Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?

Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?”

–Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder, commencement speech to Princeton class of 2010, given on May 30, 2010

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The 7 worst words you can say to me (and thoughts for idea people)

Posted on 11. Oct, 2010 by .


I am an idea man.

I’ve always taken pride in my creative ideas. In high school I started a turkey-themed fundraiser called “Feathers for Food.” In college I started a reading program for kids called “Reading Partner Mentors” (RPM). I’m even proud of my ideas that didn’t work and those that were little more successful. I’ve never done drugs; I don’t need to….new ideas do it for me. I think God made me this way.

Thankfully, I have a job where I get to hatch and nurture new ideas. And I have a boss that encourages me to do so and an innovative company culture that would make Steve Jobs jealous.

But last week a good friend I work with said something that sat on my chest like a gorilla in a baby pool…

“You haven’t had many big ideas lately.”

Ouch. Burn.

Knife, meet back.

Mountain of dynamite, meet mountain of pride.

7 words that went kamikaze on my very identity. As a Myers-Briggs INFP, I don’t process things cerebrally as much as I feel them guturally. And I felt that.

After I had a little time to lick my wounds, I realized that he was kind of right. In the last 12 months, I haven’t thought of a ton of new, innovative ideas (compared to previous years). But I also realized that I’ve gotten to come alongside some other people with really good ideas and help execute them:

Each of these people allowed me to step into their idea and help make it become a reality. I got to help them execute their idea.

And this truly is a better way to hash out new ideas. While great ideas may be sparked in the mind of an individual, it takes a team to refine it, develop it, execute it, and launch it. The spark of an idea is worthless without the fuel of follow up and follow through.

As an ideator, I’m finally coming to value execution as highly as ideation.

In every industry, great ideas are as common as dirt. Unfortunately, most people lack the discipline and strategy to execute them well. Our society celebrates and applauds innovators. Not quite so much glam for the gritty executors who add the bite to the bark though.

I’ve had a couple good ideas in the past year, but I’m more proud that I’ve been able to invest in the great ideas of others.

I’ve learned in the past year that if all I ever do is invest in my own ideas, I’m a narcissist. If I believe that time is the most valuable asset I have–which I do–and I’m shoveling heaps of it only on my thing, then I’ve really got to question my motives. Am I building the organization, or am I just building my own creative capital?

So for all the other idea people out there who work in teams:

Learn to collaborate on someone else’s idea. Learn to develop someone else’s creation. Learn to rally the troops in your organization behind someone else’s innovation. Sure, they get all the credit, but that’s not the point.

And yeah I know we all have different talents, but I become skeptical when the only direction you seem to be able to point those talents is towards yourself.

In my own life I’m looking for the balance of ideas vs. execution. It’s definitely more art than science.

I got to spend a day with Seth Godin last week here in Atlanta. Heard him speak three times–once at a private lunch, once for an interview, and once on stage in front of 13,000 people. He’s arguably the greatest marketing mind of our generation, and no less than ten times I heard him promote…

Someone else’s idea.

It’s okay to work on your own projects, but every now and then, come up for air, look around, and find someone else’s idea to invest in.

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Coffee with social media consultant Toby Bloomberg

Posted on 06. Oct, 2010 by .


A friend recently connected me with local social media expert Toby Bloomberg. Toby is probably most well-known for her phenomenal marketing & social media blog called Diva Marketing which was listed by Forbes.com as a “Top 20 Best Marketing and Social Media Blogs by Women.” Toby now consults with companies, non-profits, and individuals regarding marketing and social media.

I met with Toby over coffee to discuss SM & marketing from a corporate perspective. It was super informal but I took a page of notes and thought some of you might find them interesting. Toby said I could share them with you guys…

  • Find ways to take one piece of content and format it for many different channels (ie a blog post could be spun into a Youtube video, Facebook contest, etc.)
  • Your social media goals and objectives should inform everything you do.
  • “It’s not social media first; it’s goals first.”
  • Your online presence is an asset. It must be promoted! “They will not come unless they know you’re there.”
  • Ask customers what they want re social media.
  • Blogging is still incredibly relevant. The value of blogging is that it’s YOURS.
  • “You can’t really position yourself as a thought leader on Facebook/Twitter.” Blogging is much better.
  • Email lists are still important.
  • “Dell is currently the poster child for corporate social media use.”
  • Relevant voices in the SM space: Shel Israel (Naked Conversations), BL Ochman (whatsblognext.com), Scott Monty (Ford Motor Company).

I also must recommend an unbelievable FREE resource that Toby has produced called Social Media Marketing GPS. It’s a free 91 page pdf composed of interviews with 40 thought leaders in the SM/marketing space. It’s jammed full of good content so be sure to check it out.


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Grass and dirt and fence

Posted on 04. Oct, 2010 by .


“Keep your eye on the ball!”

Though it seems like the most common sense, intuitive bit of advice around, it’s pretty important to a 4 year old.

Even one playing tee ball.

A white ball sits motionless on a stick. How hard can it be? Yet still, dads and coaches from Key West to Portland have to remind the little guys…

“Keep your eye on the ball!”

We get a little older and the ball starts moving. Slung from the hand of some gangly kid on a pitcher’s mound, it is now legitimately good advice. A 3-inch diameter sphere traveling 46 feet in 360 degrees of space hurtles towards a 45 pound little boy. It becomes much more important to filter out the blur of grass and dirt and fence and focus on that white ball. Focus becomes the crucial component to success. And if the eye is locked on that one point in space, the bat swings, contact is made, and we scamper off to first base and beyond

“Keep your eye on the ball!”

But we outgrow little league and we outgrow baseball as we discover girls are much cooler. We press on through life–high school, college, first job, etc.

And we find ourselves as slightly balding, increasingly round 28-year-old men in 2010. Nearly a quarter century has passed us by and we find ourselves in grave need of some old advice. The blur of grass and dirt and fence has been replaced with the blur of Blackberries, obese social calendars, and countless priorities that stack up in one big tangled and inscrutable pile. Distractions are no longer events, they are a way of life. Just managing all our digital inboxes could be a full-time job. Twitter and Facebook and events and a gazillion relationships have made us crazy-busy. But mixed in with this fervor of busyness is tons of opportunity, and opportunity is the premium grade petrol of our American souls. After all, it was opportunity that launched Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Rick Warren.

But the problem with that is that a landscape littered with opportunities is just that…littered. When faced with so many options, good opportunities are merely grass and dirt and fence. Good opportunities have become distractions for many of us.

Identifying the best opportunity–that has become our ball.

But even that’s only half the battle. Once we figure out the best opportunity/ies, we then must have the self-discipline to…

“Keep our eye on the ball!”

(just something I’ve been learning lately).

(what’s your ball?)

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