Fashion Technology and The Future of Expressing Yourself

At times, it feels like technology is leading us toward a future in which our identities start and stop with a designated number. No more birth names, just usernames and passwords that define our entire identity. Realistically, the future of fashion technology may be the only possibility for expressing yourself in this dark future.

Shows like Star Trek and movies like The Giver paint a picture where everyone wears the exact same clothing, with minimal differences in shade or color.

But, I just can’t see this future playing out since most of us will spend a lifetime creating our identity. Naturally, we want to be seen and to restrict clothing is to oppress self-expression.

Ironically, the last company you’d expect to fulfill this expressive future of fashion technology, Google, is helping define digital fashion. With New York Fashion Week in full-swing, Google has launched Coded Couture – an app that’ll help users create a one-of-a-kind dress for a gala, party, or work.

What do Google’s stained sweatshirt-wearing computer programmers know about fashion? Still nothing. But, they teamed up with H&M Group’s digital fashion house Ivyrevel to take care of the aesthetic part of Coded Couture.

Google isn’t showing up empty-handed, though. The app collects data on a user’s location and physical activity to help Ivyrevel create custom designs for every individual. Literally, a user’s weekly routine influences the dress design. Maps cover the dress

Ivyrevel believes that a single article of clothing can weave together a story about someone. With Google’s help, they are creating a future where we visually represent our identities.

What’s next for the future of fashion technology?

Google and Ivyrevel show us how technology empowers fashion. But, soon technology and fashion will be one in the same.

For instance, Kanye West at the 50th Grammy Awards wore a suit jacket with LED panels on the front. The Vixole Matrix shoe, an e-sneaker with built in LED screens, allows the wearer to change the shoe’s outsole display with an app.

LED screens may not be the most reliable or safest way of putting technology in clothing, but designers are beginning to create new technology-infused materials.

We are entering a future where your clothing will be a blank canvas for technology to synchronously change on command.

Expressing yourself: Use it or lose it

A dystopian future like The Giver where expressing yourself is forbidden might be unlikely…unless you choose to stop expressing yourself.

Art of all forms is how we deal with our emotions. Some choose to create artwork, music, or films when their emotions are heightened. But, most of us choose to consume other’s art instead.

Unfortunately, there isn’t always going to be a song to listen to or a TV show to watch that resonates with exactly what you are feeling. But, creating art yourself allows you to target the emotions you are actually feeling and cope with them.

Creativity has no boundaries. It’s not reserved for a select, talented few.

So, next time a friend angers you or you are just feeling sad about your situation, don’t ruminate on the hate. Instead, try expressing yourself.

Go buy a paint brush, paint, and a canvas and see what you can put together (or doodle with some colored pens). Get your electric keyboard out of storage and make a few beats. Personally, I choose to pick up a pen and paper, and write out everything that comes to mind, which is another great option.

You don’t have to be a professional to create art. You just have to start. Don’t pressure yourself with perfection. Nobody ever has to see your work if you don’t want them to.

Pick a form of art you enjoy and LET LOOSE!

Believe it or not, Quick Theories and the article you are reading right now were born out of self-expression. Now, Quick Theories has become a weekly exercise for me in documenting the future of technology. If you enjoyed reading this article and want to receive Quick Theories every week, sign up here:

Computer Vision Changes How We See The World

Tech companies are working on giving us all a second set of eyes and they call it computer vision.

The groundwork has been laid through every connected device with a camera since these will act as the eyes for the computer. But, vision doesn’t happen in the eyes. It happens in the brain. That’s why tech companies are perfecting their image recognition algorithms (brains) that will give sight to computers.

Basically, all of the photos uploaded to the cloud are memories which computers can learn from. Since over 657 billion images were uploaded in 2014 alone, computers have a lot of memories to learn from.

What can they possibly learn from your family photos or your night on the town?

Right now, they are learning to identify things.

For instance, Facebook uses photos to learn our faces. This allows them to suggest who should be tagged in each photo before it even crosses your mind. More broadly, though, Facebook uses photos to recognize all the details of an image, such as a cake or a couch. As of today, you can now search for specific objects in a photo. More practically, companies like Velodyne LiDAR package this is an autonomous car sensor so they can recognize and avoid certain objects on the road.

However, if we compare the visual-cognitive development of humans to computer vision’s progress, their development is equivalent to that of a three or four-year-old.

For instance, when you or I look at an image, we might say that someone is on vacation in Italy. We can tell this based on the architecture in the background and an entire family being present in the photo. But, a computer might only be able to distinguish a church, cement, and four people out of that same photo.

As we know, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, in order for computer vision to be effective, they need to do more than just recognize the details present in an image.

Computer vision has a lot to learn

Computer vision algorithms need to notice patterns, recognize emotions and relations, make inferences, and understand intentions. Then, they will be able to weave together stories from a still frame.

Once this is achieved, cameras will provide massive real-time visual data to be analyzed for various purposes.

Perhaps the most obvious would be smarter security cameras that would sound an alarm before criminals took action by judging their intentions. Or the cameras at a public pool would alert bystanders when it noticed a person drowning.

Now, imagine giving these same algorithms a little bit of time to specialize in a given field, like fashion.

For decades, the next season’s fashion trends were captured on the street by photographers with a trained eye such as Bill Cunningham and Tommy Ton.

However, autonomous cars are the fashion photographers of the future since they capture a 360-degree image of their street view surroundings at all times. With the proper algorithm to recognize trends in color, style, and fit of clothing, the major fashion houses can tap into millions of eyes at once to find the trends of tomorrow.  

Nonetheless, computer vision has a lot of learning before it has the same visual comprehension of a fully-developed adult. But, soon we’ll all have an extra set of eyes watching and making our lives easier…as long as you play by the rules.

The second set of eyes

Having a second set of eyes to help guide you through life is instrumental to your development.

Personally, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my mentors. They taught me the core values of quality, integrity, and creativity. These values act as my root system, providing stability for my growth every day.

I challenge you to reflect on where you are today and the mentors that helped you get there.

  • Do you still practice what they preached?
  • Have you chosen to forget what they told you?
  • Are there values you can pass onto someone else in need?

We take our values with us everywhere we go. But, if you choose to forget what your mentors told you, you’ll find yourself rewriting a chapter they told you to avoid.

Before I put anything into the world I check it against my values. Especially before I write a Quick Theories article like this one.

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Amazon Dash Buttons: The Future of Shopping Online

Amazon Dash is starting a wave in technology that is tearing apart your phone and making the way we interact with devices easier than ever before. Not to mention, they’re influencing your future of shopping online.

They call them Amazon Dash Buttons which are tiny, physical gadgets that allow for one-click reordering of your favorite products with one tap of a finger. For instance, you can stick a Tide Dash Button on your washing machine, so when you pour the last cup of laundry detergent you can refill it with a click.

Finally, some technology even my grandma can get excited for!

Aside from Tide (rhyme unintentional), these physical Dash Buttons are so popular that over 250 brands have signed up. Anything from lotion to Pop-Tarts is easily ordered with the click of a button. Honestly, I’m waiting for Oscar Meyer Bacon to get a button, then I’ll be sold.

Yes, a silly button that makes impulse buying even easier may not seem like much in the way of technological advancements, but trust me this is huge!

Amazon is creating a future of shopping online where computers know exactly what we want. No need to touch a screen. They no longer want you to load up their app, search their marketplace, compare prices, and verify your payment method just to get a box of razors. They want shopping to be seamless.

And by creating experiences that aren’t tied to an app or website, they make the process of online shopping easier. In turn, this gets customers further tied into the Amazon ecosystem.

Think about it.

How often have you walked into a grocery store with three things on your list? Then, ended up with a cart full of food, staring at the towering wall of snacks. Well, this is supposed to happen. Grocery stores purposely put their most common items (milk, eggs, orange juice) in the most inconvenient locations.

With Dash Buttons, Amazon brings a better user experience to an ancient industry – automating the time we spend shopping. In a sense, they are making their own smartphone app obsolete with these physical buttons.

Not to mention, Amazon isn’t the only company envisioning a future where experiences outside of apps or websites are the way to win.

Snapchat has created the Spectacles, which are glasses that can take Snapchats, making the Snapchat experience as easy as putting on some glasses. Apple has created the AirPods, which remove the hassle of plugging in your headphones; they are always on and ready to play.

The next wave of human interaction with technology is one in which our devices are waiting for us, automating our days, and getting rid of unnecessary, time-consuming processes.

Amazon Dash is even competing with themselves…

The funny thing is that the Amazon Dash has a rival within the company, the Amazon Echo — their Artificial Intelligence powered speaker. Amazon Echo is betting that the future of shopping online will involve talking into a speaker to order things.

So, Amazon has effectively given you two options. One uses artificial intelligence to process voice commands, while the other is a button you press.

What type of future do you want?

Do you like the science-fiction track we are on where we interact with computers as if they were our equal? Or would you prefer the simplistic future where the computer is an omnipresent button? (Your answer probably says a lot about your thoughts on technology.)

Either way, these technologies get rid of wasted time, giving you more time to do what you love. I, for one, will spend this extra time writing additional Quick Theories. 

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Digital Health: Incredible Innovation Nobody Knows

When you hear the word digital health, there’s a chance that you either conjure up dark memories of visiting the hospital, quickly reach for your wallet to protect it from unnecessary costs, or just think of the word “boring”.

Unless you work in healthcare, it’s not too thrilling. And I’ll be the first one to admit that I thought it was extremely boring too. Honestly, I didn’t have health insurance until last year and still get queasy every time I enter a hospital.

But, then I started working at Redox, the behind-the-scenes startup that sends nearly a million messages a day between digital health applications and electronic health records. Redox was the preacher that converted my lost soul into a believer of digital health.

They showed me that everyone is a patient, no matter how many times you visit your doctor and that healthcare reform does, in fact, affect me—young and newly insured.

Every day at work feels like a day at summer camp – hearing about new impacts technology has on healthcare.

For example, researchers working on prosthetics have taken it upon themselves to push each other to greater limits. They created the Cyborg Olympics which brings an element of friendly competition among them.

Or the “soft-robot” sleeve that wraps externally around the heart to assist in cardiovascular function. For people at high-risk for cardiac arrest, this robots pumps and twists may someday restore their quality of life.

And there’s Adhesys, which is a polyurethane-based surgical sealant that seals arteries and blood vessels to minimize blood loss during surgery. I like to think of it as Elmer’s glue for serious situations.

All of this innovation and more has converted me into a digital health believer.

Until recently, most healthcare processes were stuck in the 80s. Think about it, there’s a good chance one of your doctors still uses a pager.

Not to mention, the quality of medical treatment you receive is dependent upon your geographic location. But, with the widespread adoption of technology-enabled healthcare, high-quality care will become more prevalent.

For instance, doctors in the states are now using Whatsapp to communicate with physicians in Syria, helping them through difficult medical procedures.  We aren’t too far away from Skyping our primary care physician or FaceTiming our dermatologist.

We are at the precipice of digital health innovation and many of these questions are being solved:

  1. Why isn’t there an Uber for medicine delivery?
  2. Why is WebMD (the Wikipedia of healthcare) so unreliable?
  3. How can visiting the doctor become as enjoyable as a trip to the Apple Store?

I joined Redox because I believed in their vision: to accelerate technology adoption in healthcare. (If you’re more of a visual learner, join our webinar next week.)

Finding the beauty among the boredom of digital health

Had I gotten caught up in the expectation that healthcare is boring, I never would’ve taken a job at Redox and gotten the opportunity to be a part of such a big impact.

My message to you is to find something interesting in the boring things. Most likely you are bored of it because you just don’t understand it. If you take the time to learn a little about what’s going on, you’ll find something that grabs your attention and then something else will capture your interest and now you have a new hobby, a nugget of knowledge, or maybe even a profession.

You don’t want to look back and wish you had tried playing golf or took the time to learn the history of art motifs.

Think about how boring the potato must’ve looked to Central American inhabitants. But, they cultivated it anyway and now we have french fries to thank them for.

To only ever pay attention to what’s interesting today will drastically stunt your personal growth. You’ll find joy in making an event out of the uneventful. I promise.

One of my favorite things to do is help people understand the rapid advancements in technology. That’s why I started Quick Theories–a brief, weekly newsletter with my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. So, if this sounds like something you could benefit from, you can sign-up here:

Autonomous Vehicles Follow Progress of Cell Phones

There’s always a trial period that occurs when you make a change to your lifestyle. Imagine jumping behind the wheel of one of Tesla’s autonomous vehicles right now. It would probably be quite frightening and I’m guessing that trial period would end quite quickly. 

Lifestyle changes alter what is familiar to you forcing you to learn a whole new routine. Because we are creatures of nature, we naturally don’t want to learn something new unless it interests us. 

Remember your first cellphone? I’m guessing a Nokia or a Motorola that could call, text, set an alarm, and maybe play Snake. Those features were all you needed…until someone sold you on more features. 

Competition for the cell phone market quickly became a feature phones race, turning cell phones into productivity tools – adding a calendar, email, music player, etc… The Blackberry was in the lead because you could conduct your entire business day through that sucker. Productivity sold phones. But, where is Blackberry today? Who remembers their BBM PIN? Eventually, the features became overwhelming and too much to learn. Ease of use then became important, which Apple gave us with the iPhone. 

No different than phones in the early 2000s, car manufacturers are in a features race right now. From the blind spot monitor to automatic parallel parking to brake assist, and everything else new cars now offer, manufacturers are in a race to give us features that will make us feel safe and relaxed. These features are supposed to segue us into autonomous vehicles. Unfortunately, we have to learn how to use these features.

In a study published last year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that of 265 Hondas brought in for servicing at dealerships in and around Washington, DC, less than a third still had their lane departure warnings turned on. They flat out gave up on the feature because nobody taught them how to use it. On the other hand, all but one had their forward collision systems up and running. Why? Well, it was much more intuitive to use.

While this isn’t a huge sample size, it is indicative that car dealers are selling features, but are doing a horrible job teaching users how to use them.

Sensor Fusion Is The Answer To Autonomous Vehicles

Currently, there is a sensor specific to each notification. We need Sensor Fusion which is a computer that collects input across multiple sensors and relays it to you in a unified manner. Instead of learning what the 16 different flashing lights on your dashboard mean, a computer using sensor fusion will better relay what’s going on and make the correction for you – not suggest it.

Sensor Fusion is a critical component to autonomous vehicles and getting us away from the feature car era. The user experience of iPhones allowed us to escape the feature phone era. And user experience is what will bring on autonomous vehicles.

The best way to win over the trust of the public is to incrementally add these features, warming us up to autonomous vehicles. 

Car manufacturers need to realize that this is a problem of human nature.

Changing Your Routine

Think about the cycle of New Year’s Resolutions. New Year, New Me. Usually, two weeks into the year, you are back to the Old Me.

The mistake we make when giving up chocolate, going to the gym, tackling more responsibility at work, or getting back into artwork, is that we don’t take the time to learn these new features.

We only implement what easily fits our routine. You quit going to the gym because you have to travel an extra ten minutes to get there. You don’t work on your artwork because it eats into your relaxing TV time.

The only way to fight this cycle of overambitious lifestyle change is to redefine how we make changes.

Personally, I’ve always stayed away from New Year’s Resolutions. Trying to change your lifestyle during one of the most unproductive months is dooming yourself to fail. Think about it. January is the cold month following an exciting holiday season.

Instead, you need to change your lifestyle as it becomes necessary and exchange it for what you don’t need.

Let me clarify.

Last year, I started documenting and spreading my opinions to interested listeners. Twice a week for eight months, I created opinionated vlogs about technology. 

Instead of adding this into my schedule, I replaced it. I found something that wasn’t as important to me – watching YouTube videos – and cut it out of my routine.

After eight months of methodical growth, I realized that vlogs weren’t the best platform to spread my ideas. The week following this realization, I switched to written content and now you are reading my Quick Theories instead of watching them.

Build your routine around your goals and incrementally adopt lifestyle changes in rhythm with everything else you do.

Naturally, we are attracted to familiarity, so you need to disguise these changes as a familiar activity to create a routine.

Honestly, I had to disguise writing for playing video games when I started Quick Theories. If you enjoyed this article, then sign-up for a weekly Quick Theories here:

Perception Is Reality For Black Founders

Perception is reality…it creates the outcome. As one of the few black founders in technology, I found it hard to stay motivated because of these perceptions. Here’s why:

Every time we meet someone new, our mental impression decides whether we want to “keep them around” or ditch them. But, it’s not an even playing field, since history and experience influence perception.

Prior to starting Quick Theories, my friend Ryan and I founded a digital art startup known as 23VIVI. As broke college-dropouts, we needed to raise money from angel investors and venture capitalists. We found ourselves pitching 23VIVI every day for about a month straight.

During those 30 days, we really noticed the power of stereotypes and reinforces the saying: perception is reality.  You could see the tattoo across their foreheads as we entered rooms, “Wow! These guys are young. I can’t imagine giving them my hard earned money.”

Then we would get into our pitch. Given the startlingly low numbers of black founders in tech, they always expected and looked to Ryan for the pitch.

But, those weren’t our roles. I was the tech and business development guy, while Ryan was the art guy. So, I always spoke on the business model with Ryan’s help sprinkling in all of the art knowledge.

From December 2015 to April 2016, 23VIVI sold $8,935 in digital art, helped 17 artists sell their digital art, and was at the precipice for digital file ownership. Because we ran out of cash and didn’t see eye to eye with our potential investors, we had to turn down seed money and shut down 23VIVI.

But, perception isn’t the only reason we failed. We failed to stay motivated.

Perception is reality for black founders that don’t stay motivated

In startup culture, everyone believes revolutionizing an industry is only for the “first with the idea”.

This is wrong.

You see, we were the first digital art marketplace powered by blockchain. We no longer exist because we weren’t the “first to stay motivated”.

Black founders (all founders for that matter) succeed if and only if they are the first to stay motivated.

Would Michael Phelps have had as big of an impact if he had lost motivation after not medaling in the 2000 Olympics or after winning six gold medals in the 2004 Olympics? Probably not. But, he stayed motivated and is the most decorated Olympian of all-time.

Google was the 9th search engine to be founded. And what are they 9th at now? They were definitely the first to stay motivated.

Don’t get me wrong, original ideas are great and we should all continue pursuing them. However, the idea isn’t the whole story.

For five months my team and I endured failure in signing artists, selling artwork, and gaining recognition from the art industry. Overall, we failed at raising money.

The main point here is that success isn’t on some island. It’s not a destination we discover or an idea we have one day. And it’s not served on a silver platter because of our race, gender, or socioeconomic status.

Every winner fails at some point. Every winner must face the perception of doubters. True success lies in being the first to stay motivated no matter the failure you encounter.

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Power Rangers Costume: I Get Paid To Wear One

Somehow, I get paid to wear a Power Rangers costume and this is the story of how it happened.

There is an excitement that comes along with pursuing a side project because it’s the risk-free way of trying out a new idea. We pursue them to escape daily routine in the hopes it will hit big and become full-time.

Unfortunately, side projects aren’t held against any time frame because they are lottery tickets. An indefinite dream. This habit can stagnate our success because we never know when to quit one project and start a new one.

Wearing A Power Rangers Costume For A Few Months

About a year ago, I realized the effect of this problem when I was working on Startup Rangers, an advertising campaign in which I dressed up in a Power Rangers costume and charged companies to run around with their logo on my chest. I had put every minute of time outside of school into writing up proposals, cold-emailing prospects, and reaching out to press.

After three weeks of this, I had no clients and no press. Of course, this didn’t stop me and I continued pouring myself over Startup Rangers. Throughout the entire Fall, I generated about $1,750 in sales and landed one nice piece of press–nowhere near what I imagined Startup Rangers could’ve been.

Around the same time, I was working on self-publishing a book. But, because I put so much time into Startup Rangers, I didn’t devote a fraction of the time I needed toward the book and it failed. Startup Rangers stayed in a perpetual loop of optimism. I was always thinking, “I just need to put in a couple more days and I’ll hit it big.”

Looking back, I realized one fatal mistake that kept me from success: I never defined what a successful Startup Rangers campaign meant. Caught up in the excitement of living my childhood dream, I never defined the side project’s end. I had no idea what constituted success, didn’t understand where I was on that spectrum, and couldn’t let go.

The Only Way To Get Paid Is By Defining Your Side Project

Side projects are easy to start and hard to finish because they are there to fill your free time.

In order to be satisfied with a side project, you must set a specific time frame with goals. One goal might be to work on _______ for at most 3 months unless you have 10 paying customers by then. By defining your side project’s time frame, you can measure your progress objectively. That way, you can better decide when it’s time to move onto the next side project.

So, next time you are about to dip your toes into a new side project, set a time frame and a goal. Better define the project’s end. Otherwise, like your in-laws during the holidays, the project will overstay its welcome.

Previously, I set the time frame for Quick Theories – the weekly newsletter you are reading – at four months. But, I exceeded the goal I had set at 5,000 subscribers. Now, I am phasing it into a more full-time project.

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How A Pro Gamer Taught Me The Productivity Formula

In 2016, I left Facebook to put more emphasis on my personal relationships and figure out a better productivity formula. This decision couldn’t have come at a better time because one of my closest friendships was tested this year. I never thought my roommate and best friend would become a pro gamer – getting paid to play video games all day.

Upon first glance, I thought this would be an awesome opportunity for him, and it was. But, like any new opportunity, it came with a tremendous amount of stress. The life of a pro gamer consists of playing video games for 8-12 hours, mostly in the middle of the night. As a result, many of his relationships became strained (especially ours). If I wanted to hang out with him, I had to stay up late and find short windows of time between games to converse with him.

The flow of communication began sputtering and naturally, we stopped talking for extended periods of time. And when we were able to catch up for more than 10 minutes, we generally argued over simple issues blown out of proportion because I was angry over the pro gamer lifestyle.

For months, every conversation had a negative narrative and I knew I’d have to make a change before we snapped.

But, how could I change my routine to support my roommate without compromising my goals?

My new daily schedule:

5:00 – Hop out of bed

5:15 – Walk

6:00 – Write

8:00 – Grab breakfast

8:30 – Arrive at Redox

5:00 – Leave Redox

5:30 – Eat dinner

6:30 – FREE BLOCK (hang with roommate)

7:30 – Answer emails and work on Quick Theories

9:30 – Go to bed and read

Right around the time my roommate’s work day ends, I wake up to get my day started. My new schedule allows me a lot of free time in the mornings to pursue my creative outlets. Around my lunchtime I can catch the pro gamer at breakfast and in the evenings I can hang with him before he has to hop back on the games.

We’ve already seen a massive improvement in our relationship, restoring what we had before. This schedule is far from perfect, but I’m tweaking it along the way to make it impeccable.

Coming into a new year, I’m sure many of you are setting goals for personal achievement, your social life, or career aspirations. To achieve these goals, you must change your routine to better accommodate this level of productivity. You might work longer hours or change the hours you work.

Pursuing your goals is designed to mess up the relationships you have with others because you are focusing on bettering yourself.

But, what fun is it to achieve your goals and have no one to celebrate with?

Crafting Your Productivity Formula

As you set out to achieve your goals, your main focus should revolve around balance. Balance means you don’t have to turn water into wine overnight, but you can begin stepping on grapes a little bit every day. The irony is that there is no singular productivity formula; there’s just balance in your schedule that helps you be productive.  

To help you balance your day, you should write down your current daily schedule. Then make two lists:

  1. One list containing the goals/ improvements you want to make
    1. Write a book
    2. Build a website
    3. Workout three times a week
  2. One list containing all of the entertainment/ leisure activities you want to maintain
    1. 1 hour of daily TV
    2. Dinners with family
    3. Friday nights with the guys

Then, you can begin building your new schedule. But, don’t start from scratch. Instead, take your old schedule and mark it up like an elementary English teacher would.

In crafting your new day, you’ll begin to mold a routine that puts what’s most important to you on a pedestal–keeping it safe from extraction.

Productivity isn’t about maximizing the work hours in your day. Your ideal productivity formula is a result of finding time for your goals while balancing the relationships you hold dearly.

Your goals should be at the top of your To-Do List. Personally, a lot of my goals revolve around growing Quick Theories–a brief, weekly newsletter of my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. So, my schedule is crafted around creating these. If you feel overwhelmed by the rapid advance in technology, you can sign-up here:

Creative Environment: The Gate To Creative Inspiration

Learn from my mistake, that limiting your creative environment severely stagnates your ability to tap into creative inspiration. This is how I learned:

My first piece of writing (by choice, not assignment) was a closure email I wrote to potential investors. It included the analogy: “We’re so broke, we’re using melted vanilla ice cream as milk for our cereal.” Not only did it get the highest open and response rate of all our emails, but a lady offered to take us to Costco for groceries.

Before that day, I had never referred to myself as a writer, but I had found a streak of luck. I decided I would sit down and do some creative writing once a week. For three straight weeks, I recreated the exact scenario I was in when I wrote my prized email: ate half of a Chipotle burrito (a full one would put me to sleep), waited until 3 pm to start writing, went to my local library, and sat at the table which overlooked the lake.

For those three weeks, my superstition for creative inspiration worked. As soon as I sat down, the floodgates opened up and I’d pour out all of my ideas. After a while, I decided to ramp up my writing to once a day, since I was having so much fun seeing my growth.

However, I quickly found out this process was not sustainable. The burritos began tasting like tree bark after the fourth day. Visiting my bank of ideas at exactly 3 pm every day quickly drained my account to zero. And I realized blocking off two hours during peak afternoon time wasn’t conducive to business.

By setting up this ideal creative environment in my head, I was limiting my creative inspiration to a very small window of opportunity in the day. Not to mention, I was missing what made my prized email so unique: the originality that came from the spontaneity.

In reality, creative inspiration doesn’t wait for a convenient time and there is never only one scenario in which you can be creative.

Eventually, I broke down the barrier of thinking which had stifled my creativity and became more perceptive to creative inspiration–willing to listen to it and take the time to craft its story.

Designing Your Creative Environment

Many of us are guilty of believing in our ideal creative environment; this magical land where no matter the circumstances, we can tap into our most creative ideas. It might include a chair with great back support, a large window overlooking a lake, and maybe warm lighting.

Our creative environment becomes a safe space. Free from the harsh realities of feedback and optimal for imagination. It’s like hiding in the deepest part of a cave where no one can bother us.

Without our creative environment, we might lack the motivation to get inspired.

However, confining our creativity to a singular setting sets boundaries that limit our ability to find inspiration in other places.

Limiting creativity to one location is like a middle-aged man’s relationship with his favorite seat on the couch. Instead of enjoying the company that has visited, he dwells on Aunt Susie sitting in his favorite seat.

Limiting ourselves to one creative environment has side-effects. It tricks our brain into thinking there is only one place in the world where we can be creative. And it sets us up for failure when we may need to quickly call on our creativity to solve a problem…”Oh, lemme run home so I can rewrite my sales pitch.”

There’s nothing wrong with having a favorite, reliable creative environment. But, we must train our ourselves to be perceptive to inspiration wherever and willing to create whenever.

Personally, being a tech nerd, I find inspiration in the latest advancements in technology. That’s why I created Quick Theories – a brief, weekly newsletter of my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. If you ever feel overwhelmed by the rapid advance in technology, you can sign up for Quick Theories here:

Getting Noticed By Creative Communities Isn’t Worth It

We seek creative communities (and other communities) for identity validation and protection. As far back as childhood, kids try getting noticed by the popular crowd. Acceptance is a warm feeling.

But, there are always barriers to keep the unworthy out. It’s these barriers that motivate some and crumble others.

Creative communities are some of the hardest to break into because numeric test scores or personality don’t dictate acceptance. Creative communities test you on your originality and your ability to evoke emotion. “Does this person add something meaningful to our ongoing narrative?”

For this reason, it’s hard getting noticed for your creative efforts because you are doing something in a new way. And if you conform to the group then you are a fraud, a copier, or unoriginal.

So, every Creative faces this dilemma of staying original. It takes a lot of time to get noticed for doing things “your way”. But, when they accept you, they are accepting your identity and not a manufactured one.

The only way to break into creative communities is to stay consistent, be persistent, and always work towards improving.

Getting Noticed by Reddit’s Creative Communities

Reddit, coined “the internet’s comments section”, is a great example. Reddit boasts over 600,000 communities, having a chat room for anything you can imagine.

You’d expect it to be easy to join one of these communities since there are so many of them. But it’s not. Each community is tight-knit and governed by its own set of rules. This makes them very hard to break into. Before you can even post in a Reddit community, you have to spend a tremendous amount of time interacting there. Even after accepted you still face the possibility of your peers outcasting you. Reddit is easily the hardest social media to “crack”.

We can hope and pray to get into the communities we desire. Although, it comes down to the decision of the people that “own” them – the gatekeepers. Seeking the approval of these gatekeepers can be distracting and depressing. So, the best thing you can do is to continue honing your craft and not worrying about acceptance.

Personally, I haven’t always liked my writing. Teachers never chose my work to read aloud. I hated even the thought of putting pen to paper. But, I wanted (still want) to change that and become a more eloquent writer.

So, every day for the past year, I wrote. I wrote descriptions about art, sales emails, and a firsthand account of our failed startup. Now, I write articles about technology and creativity.

To my disbelief, LinkedIn recognized me as a Top 10 Technology Writer of 2016.

While I’m proud to have achieved my goal, I still want to improve. Michael Jordan didn’t stop after winning his first championship in 1991. You shouldn’t stop after you achieve your first goal.

Have more goals lined up, so when you achieve one, there is another star to shoot for.  

The best thing a Creative can do is continue their path towards improvement, always following their compass of originality.

Growing Quick Theories – my weekly technology newsletter – has tested me many times. But, I’ve always stayed the course because I want the best for my readers. If Quick Theories sounds interesting, I’d love it if you signed-up here:

Social Entrepreneurship Companies, Always Relevant

You never have to decide between devoting your life to working for yourself or “giving back”. The difference between social entrepreneurship ideas, social entrepreneurship companies, and just entrepreneurs is action.

Entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs are cut from the same cloth. The only difference is a mindset shift from wanting to change the bottom line in your bank account to changing a social, cultural, or environmental issue.

That’s the beauty of social entrepreneurship ideas; it’s literally as easy as a mindset shift (and some hard work, as well). In fact, many social entrepreneurship companies founded on that principle of changing your business mindset.

The TOMS business model is very popular: You buy a pair of TOMS shoes, and they’ll donate a pair to someone in need. WeWood is another example, which plants a tree for every wood watch that is purchased. Also, Skyline Socks donates a pair of socks to someone in your city after you purchase a pair. There are tons of other social entrepreneurship companies that thrive on this one-for-one charitable business principle.

As entrepreneurs and creatives, we want to invoke change in people’s lives.

We want to change the way people shop, the way people travel, the way people interact with one another.

But, often times, when thinking of who we can help, our thoughts automatically go to the circle of people we know best. “What tool can I create to help my friends close more sales at work? What service can I provide to other women in business to make their lives easier?”

However, looking outside of the people we know fosters a mindset of global care that plants seeds of change everywhere.

Realistically, you don’t have to commit to creating social entrepreneurship companies revolving around a singular change.

For example, Adidas has recently chosen to run a campaign surrounding the declining state of our oceans. They’ve collaborated with an environmental company, Parley for the Oceans, to create a line of shoes made from the plastic floating in our oceans.

Yes, Adidas is a billion-dollar, multinational company with lots of resources to pursue social entrepreneurship ideas. But, your impact doesn’t have to be global.

Social Entrepreneurship Ideas Are Ingrained In Your Values

An entrepreneur’s duty is to the communities they care about and want to see improved.

The reason I bring this up is because after reflecting on 2016, I realized that my team and I did nothing to give back. All of our goals were focused on MY company, MY bank account, and MY way.

So, we briefly shifted our mindset and created a social entrepreneurship campaign: Grind To Giveback. It’s a training program for creative professionals on how to effectively use Facebook Advertising to test your ideas, optimize your advertising, and scale your website traffic on a minimal budget. All the proceeds from the paid course will be donated to two charities to help disadvantaged youth in Wisconsin.

Will this campaign revolutionize the world? Probably not. But, it’s the best we could do with our current resources and feel it is our unique way of not only helping the youth but also giving back to our fellow entrepreneurs (two communities we feel passionate about).

Thus, my message to you is: find a few hours every week to work on a campaign with social entrepreneurship companies. Just in our small city of Madison, there are over 3,000 nonprofits that could use an entrepreneur’s creative mind to think up new avenues of revenue. Find a nonprofit in your area or abroad that could use your help.

And, if you are:

  1. Tired of wasting time, money, and stress on complex marketing tools?
  2. Serious about expanding the message of your idea or business?
  3. Interested in increasing your web traffic, leads, and/or sales by spending just $10 per day?

Then the Grind To Giveback training program is for you!

Your “ticket” will cost you just $7 and we’ll donate 100% of that to providing positive resources to the disadvantaged youth in Wisconsin. We’d love to teach you our marketing secrets, so sign up here:

Paradox Of Choice: Too Many Options, Too Little Time

Life is a choose your own adventure book with too many choices. When deciding your path and investing in your 20s, we have too many options to spend our time. Options are great, but this has caused a huge problem known as the Paradox of Choice. 

In college, you are told you can pursue any of the 1,000+ careers you desire. At Walgreens, a stroll down the candy aisle means choosing between 45 different chocolate-covered treats and 75 different sugar-coated goodies.

With so many choices, we have become paralyzed with the process of weighing options. Once we have made a choice we dwell on imagining “What if I made a different choice?”

It’s no big deal to choose the wrong salad dressing at dinner. But, the Paradox of Choice hurts us the most when investing time in ourselves, especially when investing in your 20s.

At any given time, we can learn to code on Codecademy, we can publish a book on Amazon, we can perfect our photo taking abilities. The list goes on. However, before we invest enough time to see progress, we are on to the next skill.

For this reason, to circumvent the Paradox of Choice we must realize the compounding interest involved in learning new skills.

We’ve all heard the financial breakdown that saving $1,000 a month starting at 22 will make you a millionaire by 50 because of the compounding interest. And it’s true. But, only if you start investing in your 20s and are consistent.

Learning to invest in yourself little by little every day is the most important thing you can do to boost your creativity. And if you currently aren’t investing some of your spare time into learning a new creative skill, then I’d advise you to stop keeping your money under your mattress and invest.

Consistency doesn’t have to be daunting. Setting aside a manageable percentage of every day towards your interests will show returns. A good start is 10% of your free-time or 25-30 minutes a day towards creativity.

Don’t fall prey to the Paradox of Choice and horizontally invest–investing time across multiple skills at once. It makes no sense to have 12 different bank accounts, so you shouldn’t split your time between skills. Instead, invest vertically in one skill, because the compounding interest will be much more fruitful.

Realizing small returns of creativity will defeat the Paradox of Choice

Because seeing huge returns on a new skill takes a lot of time we often forget to recognize the small returns along the way. People say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, which is a very daunting number (unless you begin investing in your 20s). But, there are benchmark returns you’ll experience along the way which will motivate you on your path to mastery. 

The first benchmark return occurs at 10 hours of time investment and you’ll earn habitual creating. After about one month of consistent, daily investing you have created a habit which will seed your future growth. 

The second benchmark occurs at 100 hours of time investment and you’ll earn improvements in your technique. For instance, a writer may experience more fluency in their writing, a graphic designer may see more cohesive designs that others understand, and a marketer may be able to map out campaigns.

This benchmark is like laying the concrete of your foundation. It may not look pretty, but once it is finished you can begin focusing on making the house look nice.

The third benchmark occurs at 1,000 hours and the returns will come as solidified techniques and increased output of your creativity. Essentially, the time you invest will compound a lot quicker because your productivity is higher.

Naturally, you will develop your signature style during this time and you’ll probably increase your daily investment because you’ll have fun watching your skills evolve. Make sure to set a time cap on your daily investment, though because you don’t want to exhaust your muscle. For instance, the famous author Anthony Trollope would write for exactly 2.5 hours every morning, even if he had to stop mid-sentence. While you don’t need to be that extreme, it is good to set a general time limit.

The fourth benchmark is ongoing from 1,000 to 10,000 hours and the return is personal mastery. During this time you’ll be able to take your ideas and execute them in one session. You’ll have a vast portfolio to see your growth, which will drive you to become even better. You may even be able to turn your output into profit and commit to it full-time.

Your skill will develop into an engulfing passion that has you twiddling your fingers, waiting until you can leave “work” and get to your creative space. Ideas will float in your head all day long that you’ll want to execute. Everything around you will become an inspiration, finding its way into your work. This is when you will really begin to see what that skill means to you as a person.

This skill will become your fifth limb, so deeply attached that you couldn’t escape it even if you wanted to. Kobe Bryant says not being able to play pro basketball is like a death, Clint Eastwood says he’ll never stop shooting movies, and Jerry Seinfeld still writes a joke every day.

The Real Lesson

We all want to reach that expert level of 10,000 hours and it’s easier if you begin investing in your 20s. But, remember it starts today with 10 minutes. The time you spend is compounding, as long as you don’t dip into that bank account and spend your time elsewhere. There may not always be obvious data behind your decisions. But, it’s better to stay true to your creative process than to always make data driven decisions

Becoming a millionaire of creativity requires daily investment. The bottom line will grow slowly but continue to stay motivated by the small returns.

I realized the importance of staying motivated by small returns growing Quick Theories. Even gaining one new reader is now a huge success for me because I changed how I view benchmark returns. 

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend it to a friend. If you want to receive a weekly Quick Theories article, you can sign up here:

Creative Process vs. Data Driven Decisions

“Follow your heart and everything else will fall into place.” But, what happens when data driven decision are contradictory to your heart’s creative process?

Big Data has unleashed a whole new world of capabilities pertaining to optimization and personalization. With Big Data, Amazon can predict the exact price point to maximize profits and Google can consistently rank the best information in their search engine.

However, when Big Data gets too involved in the creative process, your vision is blurred and your execution is skewed.

Let’s take Netflix as an example. Their humble beginnings started as a DVD delivery service. They quickly realized the potential of streaming content. So, they decided to split the entities, calling the DVD rental, Qwikster. Eventually, they cut Qwikster out of their business model. While their core audience clearly wanted DVDs, they went against their customer data, stayed true to their creative process, and brought their vision of Netflix to life. In hindsight, this was a great decision to not follow the data.

Fast forward to 2016 and Netflix is slowly falling into the trap of data driven creativity.

Netflix felt in order to disrupt the industry even further, they needed to produce their own content (shows, movies, documentaries, etc…). This year they have produced 126 pieces of original content. With 54 Emmy nominations, it is clear they are having a lot of success in giving the customers what they want.

However, I, along with much of Hollywood, sees them falling down a rabbit-hole of data driven decisions quickly. They have collected massive amounts of user data which they use to determine what genres, actors/actresses, and plots are trending among their consumers. This may seem great, and it is, but only for a few years. If they continue giving people what they think they want, tastes will never change or grow.

I mean, imagine if your mom never pushed you to try those green beans or carrots on your plate. You’d be 45 years old eating PB&J’s and chicken nuggets.

The point here is that if Netflix begins relying too heavily on data driven decisions based on their customers, they will never push the boundaries of the creative process which make the film industry so amazing.

The creative process relies on your vision

Netflix (and you) can learn a lot from Kanye West in this area.

Mr. West is known for his spontaneity. You truly never know what to expect him to drop creatively. For instance, I went to his fashion show (Yeezy Season 3) where he also debuted his latest album (The Life of Pablo) and then out of nowhere showcased a video game he had been developing called Only One. Unpredictable.

Also, if we scroll back in Kanye’s timeline to 2009, he was a rapper and a jerk – for embarrassing Taylor Swift at the VMAs. Later that year, he released his shoe collaboration with Nike, called the Air Yeezy. Now, Yeezys are the second most sought after sneakers on the market.

Customer data wouldn’t have ranked fashion among Kanye’s potential data driven decisions. Although, now he is a common name in the industry and has attracted a wider audience.

But, following his own vision doesn’t always end up positive in the eyes of his audience.

Recently, Kanye made the news for going on a rant in front of a packed stadium – bringing light to the politics which run the music industry. Kanye said Beyonce told the VMAs she wouldn’t perform unless she won. He also said that radio is very bias towards trending music. Kanye then canceled the remaining 21 concert venues in his tour.

Obviously, fans are angrier than before. But, to Kanye, it was necessary to call out the changes the music industry needs to make.

The fine line of data driven decisions

On one side, you can ride the wave of customer-centric work, but you’ll never push yourself to try new things. On the other hand, you can never listen to your audience, which in turn will anger the people that want to support you.

The healthy option is for a creative to find the balance of customer needs and personal creation. Realizing what makes your audience tick is important. But, also realizing the reason they loved your work in the first place was because you offered something new that resonated with them.

Take that initial burst of energy you got (get) from people talking highly of your work and strive for that same emotional response. But, continue to look in yourself for the next creation that will push your own creative boundaries.

Naturally, you are going to lose some people when you take creative risks. But, you’ll attract a whole new set of interested people. Your true fans believe in “You”, your creative vision, and every step you take to execute it.

I’m a huge tech nerd, but only follow the companies with visions I believe in. That’s why I create Quick Theories like these – to better explain the confluence of technology and creativity.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive a weekly Quick Theories, you can sign up here:

Why Patents Are Bad For The Creative Mind

A creative mind doesn’t exist without the freedom to use tools and ideas, which is why patents are bad. Limiting either of these only hurts the creative output of talented creatives.

Don’t get me wrong, in certain scenarios like technological advancements, it is very important to protect your innovations. But, the same laws which allow the “little guy” to compete with the “big guy” are taken advantage of by the select few for a creative edge.

A couple of years ago, scientists invented Vantablack – the darkest color ever created – which absorbs an astonishing 99.965% of light. The color literally tricks your brain into witnessing nothing. It’s as close as we can get to the illusion of empty space.

Upon its creation, artists and others with a creative mind began salivating at the thought of incorporating the color into their next work.

Then, a man bought the exclusive rights for the use of Vantablack in art. Anish Kapoor, the sculptor behind Chicago’s Cloud Gate, which you probably know as “The Bean”, owns Vantablack. He claimed the color to be his and hoards it for his own creations.

In Anish’s defense, he has a close relationship with the scientists who created Vantablack. Because it is a lengthy process to manufacture it, Anish felt it was best to limit its use in art, and work with the scientists closely to push Vantablack’s use cases elsewhere.

Many artists felt handicapped by this action, though and decided to push back against Anish Kapoor. When the pinkest paint was developed the owner of it, Stuart Semple, decided to grant the exclusive rights to everyone…except Anish Kapoor. You know how the saying goes: revenge is a dish best served cold.

Art isn’t the only area where this “legal dibs” obscures the creative mind, though.

For instance, during the third presidential debate this year, Trump referred to Clinton as a “Nasty Woman”. Like getting your first gray hair, this comment stood out. In fact, it stood out so much that a man named Mike Lin filed a trademark for the exclusive rights to that phrase for online retail purposes. No big deal, right?! I’m sure Trump wasn’t planning on creating t-shirts with that phrase on it anyway.

This isn’t the first time he’s done this, though. Mike filed the trademark to Jay Z’s “99 Problems”, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Prince of Darkness”, Disney’s “House of Mouse”, Beyonce’s “Poison Ivy Park”, Kobe and Nike’s “The Black Mamba”, among 70 other prominent phrases.

Basically, if someone uses a phrase he owns he can take them to court for millions of dollars. Also, Mike can legally create a t-shirt that says, “I got 99 Problems, but a Nasty Woman ain’t one”.

In terms of a creative mind, Mike is at the low-end of the totem pole, along with hundreds of other patent buyers. In terms of business strategy, he is brilliant.

Buying the patent to someone else’s work, just like buying the rights to Vantablack, is completely legal despite a few governmental attempts to kill it. In Mike’s defense, much of the proceeds he gets from legal action on the patents goes toward charitable causes.

Quite frankly, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to protect your intellectual property and I wouldn’t blame you for protecting yourself.

Use your creative mind to develop your own trademark

In my opinion, ideas are just figments of the imagination, until execution occurs. There were probably a million other people with the idea to create an electric car before Elon Musk (Nicola Tesla being one of the first). But, he had the guts and ability to execute it. The irony here is that Elon doesn’t even patent his technology, allowing anyone to use his innovations.

Worrying about legally protecting ideas takes valuable time. Instead, spend your time executing the idea, and in the process, mark your work with a creative trademark.

Basically, a creative trademark is the centuries-old concept that allows you to brand your creativity, without limiting the creativity of others.  

For instance, the film director Quentin Tarantino mixes comedy, gore, and non-linear stories to create Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Bastards, etc... His technique is very recognizable and you can tell when someone is influenced by a Tarantino film. But, you can’t help but notice the influence from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver or Brian De Palma’s Carrie. Film directors don’t trademark their techniques because it allows for other directors to sample and create their own artistic identities, pushing film to greater extents.

One day, the artist Jackson Pollock decided to put his canvas on the ground and drip paint onto it. This gave rise to an entire art motif known as abstract expressionism. As a result, he’s given credit for starting this motif with his unique style. But, he didn’t trademark the technique.

I’m sure you are wondering: “Well, these people are famous. Why should I have a creative trademark?”

Because they were once in the same spot you are now. Most likely, you already have a creative trademark and don’t realize it. There are techniques, styles, and themes that make your creations uniquely yours. Identifying those and get in the habit of incorporating them across all your creations.

Being a creative and a businessman, I understand both sides of the argument over patenting creativity. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Anish Kapoor and Mike Lin’s actions, maybe an experience you’ve had on the subject, or simply your thoughts after reading the article.

If you feel compelled to free those thoughts locked in your head, please leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Along with writing Quick Theories, I do freelance growth strategy consulting. Whether you are at a loss for campaign ideas or are struggling to determine the best way to execute your marketing strategy, I can be of great assistance. If you feel you can benefit from a monthly growth call, let’s set up a time to chat here.

Sneaker Con Uncovered A Hidden Sneaker Market

You know what’s about as believable as an underground toothbrush market? Telling you the resale market for sneakers is worth $1.2 billion annually and was launched by a sneaker convention called Sneaker Con.

But, it’s true. Well, the sneaker part. Not sure about the toothbrushes. Although, 2 Chainz did brush his teeth with a $5,000 toothbrush, so maybe there is an underground market for them.

Anyways, the roots of the sneaker culture are very blurry, but some point to Tinker Hatfield’s designs of the Air Jordan series. You know, those iconic shoes, which people fight over at malls on Christmas day.

For much of the late 1990s and early 2000s, you either waited in line for hours to get your hands on an anticipated sneaker release, or you shopped on eBay and craigslist (risking robbery or buying fakes).

However, in the past five years, we’ve seen sneaker culture blossom into a secure industry filled with legitimate businesses making it easier for people to indulge in the culture.

For instance, the venture-backed app startup, GOAT has created a platform for secure, sneaker trading–similar to an E-Trade.

Sneakerheads read the Bloomberg of sneaker trading daily: Hypebeast and Complex, to stay up to date on trending sneakers.

But, best of all is StockX, which tracks sales data across numerous sites to provide the value of every stock real-time. No joke, this is actually the NYSE for sneakers; you’d get a “kick” out of seeing it live.

As a result of the systematization and increased hype around sneakers like Yeezys, LeBrons, Kobes, even Asics, people are treating sneakers more and more like investments. One of the most notable sneaker suppliers clears upwards of $1 million annual profit and is 16 years-old. They refer to him as The Sneaker Don and his client list includes DJ Khaled, Odell Beckham Jr., and many A-list actors.

But, what spurred all of this growth and creative inspiration?

Sneaker Con. Prior to 2006, sneakerheads acknowledged each other by a simple look down at each other’s sneakers and then a nod in their direction, showing the mutual appreciation.

Starting in 2006, but gaining its widespread popularity in 2009, Sneaker Con created a convention for sneakerheads to come together and geek out over shoes, with around 25 vendors selling their loot.

Fast forward to 2016 and the convention has become a full blown experience. Occurring monthly, over 150 vendors set up shop in the largest convention centers across the US to buy and sell commodities. There is even a pit where visitors can trade their shoes.

So, it’s a big event. What makes Sneaker Con so important?

It made people aware of a culture they were a part of but had no idea existed.

For instance, you wouldn’t realize how many other people bird watch in your area until you join a bird watching club.

Sneaker Con showed fellow sneakerheads just how many people had the same passion as them. Aside from all the technology that enables this culture to exist, Sneaker Con was the creative inspiration that influenced others to capitalize and create subcultures.

Companies like Reshoevn8r and Crep Protect create products to clean, restore, and protect shoes. Paint manufacturers like Angelus create paint products specific to sneakers, which spurred an entire subculture of sneaker customizations. An artist like FREEHAND PROFIT created sneaker rendition gas masks.

Upon entering Sneaker Con today, you are instantly engulfed in the passion that exudes from everyone’s eager intentions. Some enter with a dozen shoes to trade, while others go to meet with other sneakerheads. But, overall the sneaker culture has entered a rocket ship of influence that isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Sneaker Con: Bridging Dreams and Reality

Without Sneaker Con, none of those other companies would’ve been possible at their current scale. Creativity isn’t about thinking up the next big idea out of thin air. It’s not about seeing into the future.

Creativity is about bridging the gap between what can exist and what currently exists, so people can easily transition. Creative inspiration is often sitting right in front of you, just with a different purpose. 

StockX, the NYSE of sneakers, needed a SneakerCon to make people believe in the size of sneaker culture.

Leonardo da Vinci was known to have outlandish inventions such as the flying machine…but this was in the 1400s. They didn’t have the means to power something like that, so people looked at him like a lunatic. His transition to reality–the internal combustion engine–wouldn’t be invented for another 400 years. Then 50 years later the Wright Brothers would take flight at Kitty Hawk.

People need to be able to clearly see your idea impacting their current life. We are creatures of habit that don’t change just to change.

Don’t stop dreaming and looking to the future, though. By all means, this is an important part of the creative process. You need to realize, however, that the creativity lies in being able to bridge the gap between their reality and your vision in the easiest way.

That’s one of the reasons I write with many analogies. There’s a better chance that what I’m trying to convey will hit someone where it matters. 

Find the analogies that allow people to resonate with your ideas, and your visions will come to life.

I’ve found that a lot of the latest advancements in technology struggle to resonate with their audience, even though they are very beneficial. That’s why I created Quick Theories–a brief, weekly newsletter of my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. I write Quick Theories so that you can better understand new technology and not feel overwhelmed. So, if that sounds up your alley, you can sign-up here:

Excessive yawning actually starts the creative process

The common view of sleep is we merely need it to restore our energy after a long day. But, what about its role in the creative process. The Matrix believes that our electrochemically-run minds are just batteries in a big computer. And when excessive yawning starts, that is the computer telling us to recharge their batteries. 

What fascinates me, though, is how the creative process works with our sleep cycle.

Throughout the day creativity comes to me in random spurts. But, during the hour leading up to sleep and the hour after waking up, I can consistently enter a flow in my creative process.

When you have that first lion’s roar of a yawn or hit a spurt of excessive yawning, your brain realizes your energy is at 10% and is entering its power-saving mode. In this power-saving mode, your mind begins clearing all the clutter from your head. Naturally, you’ll begin thinking about things pertaining to sleep such as: when you plan to go to sleep, what you’ll do before you go to sleep, etc…

It’s simply a singular focus on sleep.

But, what if next time you excessive yawning started you didn’t begin your winding-down routine? What if you capitalized on your mind’s natural clearing of all distractions?

In fact, this is the perfect time to jump into your creative process. You don’t even need to be in your “ideal creative setting” to start.

Take something from the news you wanted to write about earlier in the day, and throw down all of your ideas and emotions. Revisit that business idea you had and hash out a roadmap for the first year. Refocus the last hour of your day–a rare, distraction-less moment–on a prior vision letting your creativity run free.

You may cut a corner to finish the project but turns out that was the connection you were missing all along. You may hit a creative flow, get a boost of energy, and become engrossed in the task.  

And when it feels like you sucked every last drop of chocolate milkshake out of the bottom of the glass, go to sleep.

When you wake up, get in your normal routine of hopping in the shower, eating cereal, and brushing your teeth. But, instead of flipping on the TV or checking your phone, revisit the creative splurge from the night before.

Let your clear-minded cleanup crew come through – clarifying the connections made, eliminating all the unnecessary parts, and polishing the idea. Your mind is a blank slate in the morning. So, addressing your creative splurge of the night before allows you to view the work objectively.

Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t think creatively throughout the day. But, there is a very special relationship I formed with the hours leading up to sleep and after waking up that have allowed me to capitalize on the natural tendencies of my mind.

You might be so busy you can’t even spare an hour before bed or after waking. This made me think: Can you bring creativity into sleep?

Truthfully, dreams may be an untapped area of creativity. For instance, Paul McCartney came up with the song Yesterday during a dream, woke up, and recorded the song. Fearing this was just a copy of something he heard before, he played it for his friends. It turned out to be original and a pretty damn good original, since over 4,000 artists went on to do a rendition of it making it one of the most covered songs of all-time.

Excessive yawning just signals our most creative time

We might have our most creative experiences when we are sleeping and we just can’t harness it yet.

By 2040, we will have technology allowing us to induce dream states to amplify learning and experiences. People predict that sleep will be our most productive time because of the lack of distractions.  

Imagine as you begin getting tired, having your creative splurge. Then you enter a dream where that creative splurge can become a reality. Only to wake up to a fully hashed out idea, and know whether to pursue it or not. Now that would be the ultimate creative flow.

I wouldn’t suggest holding out until then, though. Whether you have a creative process or not, try the creative splurge before bed and the clean-up crew after waking up. You might develop some great ideas with that process.

Your excessive yawning is a wake-up call for you to start now.

Personally, I like to use this technique when I write about the latest advancements in technology. I then condense those into Quick Theories – a brief, weekly newsletter of my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. If you enjoyed this article, you should sign-up here:

Developing creativity starts with knowing your toolkit

While it’s often hard to admit, we all get the shiny object syndrome when developing creativity.

Constantly looking for the tool that will make our lives so much easier and our jobs feel like a breeze. When that product comes to us we are mesmerized by how “shiny” it is and can’t wait to start using it.

And yet, the best glass of orange juice I ever had was fresh-squeezed by hand, not made in a factory by a million-dollar machine.

My favorite form of travel is walking, not taking a private jet (although I’ve yet to try it).

There are always going to be new tools with the proposition of “revolutionizing” the way you work. Some of them will live up to that lofty goal, while most will fall short.

So, how do you decide what tools are necessary to developing creativity? How do you know it is time to change your process?

The short answer is: don’t get caught up in what tools you need but focus on mastering the ones you already have.

While new tools can increase productivity, they can also be huge limiting factors. There’s a learning curve to every tool that holds you back from working.

Healthcare took its time developing creativity and adopting telemedicine

Creatives can learn from the healthcare industry, which notoriously takes its time embracing new technology.

Imagine hopping on a Skype call with your doctor. In essence, that’s telemedicine–diagnosing and treating patients from remote locations with video or text messaging. Every day, a group of surgeons here in the U.S. coach-general practitioners in Syria through procedures via phone, and it’s making a huge difference. There’s no reason this form of assisted healthcare can’t grow, breaking the formal, elongated process of visiting a hospital.

Remember making macaroni portraits with Elmer’s glue in Kindergarten? Well, some doctors and researchers in Germany realized how much they missed playing with glue, so they created surgical glue known as Adhesys. This polyurethane-based surgical sealant, used during surgery to seal arteries and blood vessels to minimize blood loss, has doctors and surgeons antsy to relive their childhood. In all seriousness, though, this is a huge breakthrough in medical procedures and will be a great surgical aid.

Both telemedicine and Adhesys are exciting tools that to the outsider seem to be widely implementable today. But, each is going through an intense vetting process right now. In fact,  we might not see either of these technologies commonly used by doctors until 2026 or even 2036!

I’m not encouraging you to stick to the same tools forever – don’t be the guy/gal that still sneezes in their hands instead of using a tissue.

But, when you see a new tool be a skeptic first. Read the reviews. Talk with other users before you spend a bunch of time learning and implementing it into your regimen.

The best surgeons aren’t amazing because of the tools they have. Instead, they’ve developed a relationship of mastery with their tools that is unparalleled.

Don’t let your tools define you.

If you feel at a loss for what amount of tools is a good amount, then you should follow Quick Theories, which is a brief, weekly email of my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. You can sign up here:

Robotic Arms And The Cyborg Olympics (Cybathlon)

Samsung TVs haven’t changed in 5 years. Cameras look the same as they did in the times of Ansel Adams. Hardware hasn’t progressed at all in comparison to the exponential growth of software, except for the hardware of robotic arms – which a competition called the Cybathlon is fueling. 

It’s not just robotic arms either. All prosthetics are making crazy advancements.

For many years, the choice was between leaving the residual limb or something along the lines of a hook or non-moving hand. No longer, though. Now there are robotic arms that sense muscle twitches in the residual limb allowing a wide range of functions. Once, the thought of grasping a water bottle was absurd. But, now one can cut their own steak, type on the computer, and perform a normal handshake.

Much of the prosthetic advancements were initially to aid paraplegic veterans. But, now a larger driving force is competition within the industry. And not a competition like Apple vs. Microsoft of the 80s. Literally their prosthetics face-off against one another in the Cybathlon, also known as the Cyborg Olympics.

The Cybathlon is a beautiful confluence of man and machine in a way you’ve never seen before, which had me thinking about cyborg sports.

How long before someone with robotic arms or other prosthetics reaches the professional level? Would administrators restrict them to only the Cybathlon? Can a “cyborg” train their body to be a greater athlete than the professionals of today? Would a “cyborg baller” do LeBron’s pre-game ritual of rubbing chalk on his hands and throwing it in the air?

I can already sense a major pushback of fans and administrators complaining of the robotic way a cyborg would play sports. But, they fail to realize that robotic arms don’t make you a perfect shooter.

Robotic Arms Don’t Give You A Competitive Mindset

When you are shooting a free throw, it is just you and the basket; the only thing in your way of making that shot is your mindset. Creating is no different than shooting a free throw – just you and your goal.

There are two distractions that will create mental barriers and prevent us from making shots: the crowd and the situation.

The minute you put something out in the world some people will cheer, while others will jeer. Many creatives will make the mistake of focusing on the what these people say and either feel hurt or become full of themselves. There’s a time and a place for feedback, but it’s not during the process of creating.

Instead, you should do one of two things. One, drown out all of the noise and focus on only your goal. Two, harness all of this energy and redirect it into your shot. Either way, don’t let the crowd itself influence your shot.

Another external distraction is the situation. Whether you are down 1 point with 10 seconds left or in the middle of the game, don’t let the situation get the best of you.

You must develop a routine to get mentally focused. Every basketball player gets up to the free-throw line and has a routine. One might spin the ball twice or dribble with their right hand or take a deep breath, but they all repeat the routine exactly the same every time.

As a creative, find your routine that helps you get into your creative zone. When your rhythm stops, take a break, and go back to your routine. This is how you cloud out all those distractions and narrow your focus.

Personally, my routine revolves around catching up on the latest advancements in technology, which I then put into a Quick Theories–my brief, weekly newsletter of thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. If you feel overwhelmed by the rapid advancement in technology, you can sign up here:

Facebook Ads: A Guide to Spending Your First $100 on Facebook Advertising

I remember the first time I spent over $100 on a pair of shoes. I was in 6th grade, pooled together all of my lawn mowing money and bought a $114.99 pair of white and red Nike Shox NZ.

No one else had shoes nearly as fresh as mine and I knew it. Compliments and stares fueled my confidence level. Everywhere I went for the next week my Shox came with me.

Unfortunately, because I didn’t want them to ever leave my feet, I wore them to school on a very rainy day. After lunch, we got to walk around outside for a bit, which normally turned into a game of chase someone around the building.

Then it happened. I took a sharp turn around a corner to grab our captor, and splash. Rain puddle? No, worse. Half a leg’s worth of mud.

That was the end of the shoes and $114.99. The right shoe was no longer white and red, but rather brown and beige.

Just like my shoes, your first $100 on Facebook Ads is probably only going to last you 1-2 weeks. Are you gonna make the most out of that time and get a great confidence boost? Or are you going to waste it and just dip your shoes in mud?

When done properly, you can learn a lot from your first $100 of Facebook Ad spend. To forewarn you, the chance that you’ll hit a homerun, go viral, and not have to spend any more money is very slim. Expect it to be a learning experience.

It will act as your litmus test for Facebook Ads.

  • Can I create ads that entice my audience?
  • Can I put to together the right audience that will benefit from my business?
  • Is my business even cut out for Facebook Advertising?

These are all questions that you’ll be able to answer after your first $100 of Facebook Ads. Not a “well maybe if I put a little more money in they’ll come around to my ads”.

If it goes great and you reach your goals then put together a spending plan. If it doesn’t go that well, then you need to either rethink your ads and audience, cut out Facebook Ads, or hire some experts to run it for you.

As experts ourselves, I’d like to outline campaigns that we would run if we were in your shoes. While we may not cover every industry, we’ve broken it down into local business, product campaign, SaaS company.

Local Business

Goal: Get people in your door.

Precautions: As a local business advertising on Facebook, your target audience will be limited to a certain radius of your business. This means there is a small, fixed number of people you can advertise to. So, first impressions are very important here.

Whether you own a restaurant, boutique, movie theatre or anything in between, you have to stand out in your ads and show someone why they NEED to come in. Not to worry, it is easier than you think.

Ads to Use:

  • Video – Use this to raise awareness
    1. The purpose of this video is to intrigue people in a memorable way.
    2. Highlight something unique about your business.
    3. Keep it under 90 seconds.
    4. The voice over should be funny and memorable.
    5. The footage should show where you are located and a few unique things about your business.
    6. Finish off with a deal.
  • Boosted Post – Use this to promote a crazy deal.
    1. Your deal should stand out from the coupons that give $1 Off when you spend $100.
    2. Highly suggest a one-time FREE giveaway to all participants.
    3. Ask them to share, like, or comment on the post to receive the coupon.
    4. Create virality in your target area so that it gets organically shared.

Example: Glaze Teriyaki


Glaze Teriyaki just opened up in Madison, Wisconsin. They are creating two advertisements, spending $10 / day on each ad and running it for 5 days. One 60-second video ad and one promotional post.

For the video, they make a jingle, “Treat your taste buds right, eat at Glaze Teriyaki tonight”, and say it 5 times throughout the video to get the name stuck in people’s heads. They take a tour of the space, first showing where it’s located, then heading inside and taking a look at their rotisserie ovens and their cafeteria-style seating, which their voice over calls their state-of-the-art chicken machine and the “get to know your neighbors” seating. The last thing they say is: “Share this video, and we’ll message you with a coupon for a free teriyaki plate.”screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-1-30-20-pm

Their promotional deal is for a free teriyaki plate, no strings attached.

Product Campaign

Goal: Sell your product or at least get them to come to your website.

Precautions: This is essentially your sales call which you’ll present over and over to new people so it should be succinct (under 120 seconds) and effective. I’d highly suggest using a video because they perform extremely well on Facebook and you can pack a lot of information in an easily digestible format.

Ads to Use: Video for clicks to a product page.

Your video and voice over should cover these topics, in this order to make a sale:

  1. Address a change / shift in the world. Don’t flat out say the problem your customer has as this will make them defensive.
  2. Show that those who adapt to this change will win, while those that stick to the status quo will lose.
  3. Paint the picture of what a winner looks like that adapted to the change. (interchangeable with 4)
  4. Introduce your product as a tool to easily adapt to this change. (interchangeable with 3)
  5. Present evidence or testimonials of someone that used your product.

Example: Fidget Cube


Solving all of your fidgeting needs with this one small cube. They do a phenomenal job of going through this flow in their product video, and they do it in a very unique and almost disguised way.

Video flow:

  1. Address the world of fidgeters by putting all the burden on one person.
  2. He embodies what it means to be a “loser” that continues to fidget and annoy people. Foreshadows a solution by saying his Kickstarter community helped.
  3. Introduces the product as the solution and goes off the specifications that solve the problem.
  4. Explains what you can accomplish if you have the fidget cube to satisfy your fidgeting needs: “Sudden ability to cope with boring meetings. Pay attention in class. Power through Netflix marathons…discrete fidgeting in any setting.”
  5. Scientific evidence of “floating attention” which makes it hard to focus in certain settings. Studies showing that students perform better on tests when they use Fidget Cube.

Obviously, their video is very informal and pokes fun at pharmaceutical videos, but it kept you interested, it was abnormal, and you probably went to check out how much it cost.

If they were making this video for Facebook Ads, then I would suggest they cut down the length of the video.

Your video doesn’t have to be high-budget or anything, it can be shot on an iPhone and still be great. Just make sure it is steady and the sound quality is high.

SaaS Company

Goal: Educate, raise awareness, and generate leads.

Precautions: It can be very tempting to try and sell your software in an ad, but try to refrain from doing this as you are asking a lot out of someone to buy / download your software the first time they hear from you.

Over time you’ll see better results by educating the first time you speak with a potential customer and sell by the 3rd or 4th touch point.

Sending traffic to a white paper, webinar, email newsletter, etc… where they need to provide their email to “obtain this knowledge” will allow you to collect these warm leads, while not pressing them for a sale. Obviously, if you don’t have any of this free knowledge to give away, then your focus should be on creating some timeless content that you can use to attract leads.

Example: Tableau


Tableau is an analytics company that creates tools which make it easier to present data. Their software costs, at the minimum, $999. For this reason, their customer’s buying cycle is going to be elongated, since they will probably need to see a lot of value and weigh options before purchasing.

They could break down this barrier by advertising their White Paper on trends in Big Data:

Now they can appeal to their audience on industry-relevant topics while capturing their information. Not to mention they are positioning themselves as thought leaders at the same time.

A Digital Notebook Actually Hurts The Creative Process

Organizing your ideas should be like making an abstract expressionist painting…messy. Unfortunately, organizing your ideas in a digital notebook is only hurting your creative process. Let me explain. 

Have you ever seen Jackson Pollack creating one of his masterpieces? It’s brilliant. With his brush already in hand, loaded with paint, he takes his inspiration and throws it on the canvas. He doesn’t contemplate each move; he simply does it.

When an idea pops into your head, write it down. And that’s as far as your organization efforts should go.

Don’t catalog each idea in alphabetical order, based on subject, and where you were when you got the idea. You know why? Because that will actually kill your ability to connect ideas down the road.

Einstein was famous for his messy desk. Most might look at this as hoarding, but it was his brilliant creative process. This forced him to look through each idea snippet every time he needed to solve something. In the process of looking for a specific piece of the puzzle, he might’ve found a completely irrelevant piece that sparked a new idea or solved the problem in a different way.

Finding your ideal creative setting doesn’t have to be hard and you definitely don’t need an Einstein desk. But, your creative process needs Einstein’s metaphorical puke of ideas.

Let your head feel free of constraints by writing down your ideas as they come. Then, you can revisit and recollect what you previously thought while allowing your mind to find the next idea.

A creative’s organization includes a clear head and a piled-up mess of ideas.

What is the future of the digital notebook?

It can be a hassle carrying around a notebook designated for ideas.

We’ve seen digital journals such as note-taking apps and even the Neo smartpen N2 where you can write on paper and it shows up digitally. But, they’re just digital versions of the physical note-taking form.

We’ve yet to see a smart digital notebook which will empower the creative journal of the future.

Apple’s iPad Pro took a PB&J and simply made it a double decker when they should’ve changed the game and deep-fried that sucker. In other words, it merely digitized traditional note-taking, keeping the same creative process.

I want a smart digital notebook that can take what I highlight across any app or website and add it to a favorites folder.

Often times I find myself spending 10 minutes trying to make the perfect box around an idea when creating an idea map. Why can’t my notebook perfect my imperfect shapes and arrows?

Have you ever created a whole grid of data (by hand) and wanted to convert it to an Excel spreadsheet version? I know, it’s harder than putting toothpaste back in the tube. There’s no reason that a smart digital notebook can’t convert this.

Those are low-hanging fruit that honestly notes apps should already do.

Ideally, a smart digital notebook should be like William Shatner’s captain’s log in Star Trek. But, I’ll settle for one that can analyze what I write and treat them as commands.

Like if I realized that I needed to grocery shopping while writing this article, I could’ve written: Grocery Shopping Tonight, and it would’ve been added to my To-Do List. Or if I wanted John Cena to offer up some of his thoughts on this article, I could’ve written: Invite John Cena to Collaborate, and he would’ve been able to collaborate on the document with me.

In essence, a smart digital notebook understands what I’m writing and will act according to the content that I write. The technology for a smart notebook is here, it’s just a matter of someone making it.

However, as smart notebooks come to fruition, are we taking a step further from Einstein’s creative mess?

While I still keep most of my ideas in a notebook, I do like to transfer them into digital form. All of the insights I have on modern technology get put into a weekly email newsletter, Quick Theories, so that you can better understand how new technology affects your life. If you occasionally feel overwhelmed by the advancements in technology, you can sign-up here: