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Lessons

Lessons
March 27, 2017

Choose Your Friends Wisely

There are about 9 million punk/hardcore documentaries now, and even though I think most of them are pretty lame I watch every one - and ditto for any any graffiti-related thing I come across on YouTube. Why? Because although easily 80%+ of it is total shit, when there's something good it's GOOD - it connects with me in the way that leaves you thinking about it for days. Such is the case for a movie I stumbled across called "Quality Of Life," which tells the story of two friends in the San Francisco graffiti scene (watch the full movie here, I highly recommend it). To make a long story short, after getting in some trouble with the law, one of them gets scared straight and becomes a graphic designer while the other one continues down the path of self-destruction and spirals out of control - the point of the movie…
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Lessons
September 19, 2016

“Los Punks” and a lesson on lifestyle marketing from Vans

"Los Punks" is a new documentary which documents the LA backyard punk scene. It's an incredibly inspiring, if sometimes sad, look at a scene that rarely gets any attention from outsiders-- a lot of poor, largely Latino kids who grew up in fucked up circumstances and built their scene out of what basically amounts to scraps. It really struck a chord with me because I spent a lot of my teens and early 20s in shows like these (not in LA, but other equally depressing parts of the country) and I really relate to these kids. They may not always know what the right path is, but they're doing the best with what they have just like I was at that time in my life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9lXBKbEMwM Watching this really made me wish I could take some of these kids under my wing and give them a little direction, because I…
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Lessons
May 10, 2016

Moving will NOT solve your problems

When I was 18 years old, I moved from Seattle to Cleveland. WTF would I do that, you ask? Because like every other hardcore kid, I decided (for no particular reason) that my hometown sucked and that the answer was to move across the country without any real plan and about $800 to my name. And yes, of course a girl was part of the equation too. OF COURSE. Sounds like a bulletproof plan, right?? It went just as badly as you would guess: I spent the next few years broke, directionless, and mostly very very miserable until I was finally able to find my way back to Seattle with my tail between my legs where I had to start my life over again. My friends were about to graduate from college, and all I had to show for the last 3 years were a bunch of stories about shows, graffiti, and…
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Lessons
April 26, 2016

How 90s skateboarding taught me that business is art

As a kid, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you "an artist." Why? Because I was "creative," and "creative" people should be artists because "creativity" means drawing pictures, taking photographs, or maybe if you're little more pragmatic, being a graphic designer... right? But the truth is, that's bullshit. Certainly visual art is one facet of creativity, but it's only one-- and it's sometimes a pretty limiting one (as anyone who has designed for a client will tell you). We need to think bigger about what "creativity" means. To be super literal, "creativity" is the act of bringing something into existence: where there was nothing, now there is something. And the highest form of creativity is entrepreneurship-- it's the ultimate medium, where the only limits are how big you can dream and how hard you can work to make the dream come true. It's the…
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Lessons
January 25, 2016

Lesson 8: How Mixtapes Taught Me Content Marketing

Before I started playing in terrible pop-punk bands, I was very much a fixture of the Seattle Hip-Hop scene. I was fortunate to have grown up in a time when skateboarding videos featured both rappers and hardcore bands (usually of the Christian music variety, but I digress), so both genres were allowed to coexist, even if only a small handful of my friends understood this appreciation. Since I was 13, I wanted to be a DJ and when I entered high school, after inheriting two very crappy Sony turntables and a Realistic brand mixer, I was making mixtapes and selling them to fellow students. Little did I know that selling homemade tapes, with songs by other people, would help me in developing key skills for content marketing and strategy. How? Understanding your audience It was 1996 and I packed my mixtapes full of popular rap songs from 2Pac and tha…
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Lessons
January 18, 2016

LESSON 7: Small teams = big ideas

Every few years, a new movement comes along that ends up being a "sea change," completely changing the face of youth culture forever. They always start small, as a few kids going against the grain because they see the world a little differently than everyone else. Then before you know it, these little pockets of cultural rebellion snowball into global phenomena that leave their fingerprint on a whole generation. And while they might seem like giant movements from the outside, if you look deeper you'll see that they were really driven by no more than a handful of key people. Exhibit A: LA graffiti The Los Angeles graffiti style, once found exclusively in Southern California, is now found on walls all over the world, on clothing, album covers, and packaging in on the shelves of malls everywhere, and corporate giants like Nike are doing collaborations with street legends like BIG SLEEPS. While there…
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Lessons
December 6, 2015

Lesson 6: Help your competitors & welcome copycats

In theory, bands compete with each other to get on shows, sign to labels, and for the attention of fans. Competition is part of the DNA of skateboarding, where athletes face each other in contests, push to outdo each other in video parts, and for a very limited number of sponsors-- even people who ride for the same team compete for the attention of their sponsor. Clothing companies and brands in both spaces all compete for marketshare, retail space, and so forth. Yet despite so much rivalry over extremely scare dollars, you'll find that DIY bands, brands, and athletes collaborate far more often than they compete. What people and brands with roots in DIY culture understand is that there is often more to be gained from working together and helping each other than there is from trying to keep you "competitors" down. Instead of fighting over pieces of the pie, they work together to…
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Lessons
July 13, 2015

LESSON 4: Take a stand

Punx (left); Youth Of Today (right) I got into punk back in 1989 after discovering The Sex Pistols and some random local bands who fell into the "mohawks, leather jackets and Anarchy signs" camp. In other words, classic "punk rock by the numbers." Being a weird kid who felt like I didn't belong in the "normal" world, I definitely responded to their aggression and anger, but something didn't feel right. Their anger felt directionless and inarticulate, there was an undercurrent of self-destructiveness that I definitely did not respond to (coming from a family of fuckups, that was the LAST thing I wanted more of), and if I'm being honest, I thought they looked stupid with their ridiculous haircuts and spiky jackets. Punk was a start, but I was looking for something more-- something that could channel my anger and alienation in a positive direction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfFdqXImxIU The line "living fast and dying young was…
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Lessons
June 22, 2015

LESSON 3: The Art of Getting Up

When I was 12, I had my first foray into graffiti, which largely included me sloppily writing my name with a Mean Streak marker in McDonald’s bathrooms and bus benches. Overtime, some of my other terrible graffiti friends showed me that you can also “get up” (getting your name up everywhere) by using postal labels from the USPS and “My Name is” badges from any random office and sticking them on as many visible surfaces as possible. Years later, when I began playing in bands, I found this practice to be useful when we would order much better-looking stickers and put them all over whichever neighborhood we were playing in. Yes, this is vandalism, but it did make our band visible which, in turn, put us on several good shows for our two-year run. For my current social marketing consultation company, I took a very similar approach, minus the outright…
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Lessons
June 15, 2015

LESSON 2: Pay your dues

At one point, even the most seasoned skateboarding veterans were the new kid. We all had that moment when we showed up at the local spot for the first time, wanting desperately to fit in and be accepted by the cool older kids. Which of course never happens right off the bat: instead they vibe you for sucking, having a dumb haircut, and anything else they can think of. But if you really love skateboarding, you keep coming back, paying your dues until you've earned your place. https://youtu.be/pUc4xZX2194?t=24m27s Footage from "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography," which you should definitely check out in full My favorite example of this is Tony Hawk. While today he's an icon who is all but universally respected, that was definitely not always the case. At the beginning of his career, he was the new kid. In stark contrast to the super cool punk rock guys of the previous generation who…
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