FortySeven Media

Nate Croft

Nate Croft

May 13, 2014

Vanilla To The Grave

If you could design your perfect life, what would it look like? That's not a rhetorical question. Take a moment and let it sink in. What would you do everyday? What would your scedule be like? Where would you live?

People at conferences and seminars, authors, and “lifestyle business bloggers” often talk about this kind of thing to get you motivated about your dreams. And while sometimes a little cheesy, I think they are on to something in that “you can't hit a goal you don't have” kind of way.

The thing they don't mention is the hard and awkward work that lays before to take action on those dreams. Why? Because you have to change. You can say you like change all you want, but what you really mean is you like change you have control over. 

I'm currently working towards this and I'll be transparent here as I relate my adventures in dream chasing and change. Ready? Here goes.

Life Explodes

I've just signed divorce papers ending a 5 year marriage. It breaks my heart. Please don't ever do this. I'll keep the details under wraps because some of you have known us and I want to be respectful and kind.

As this process began last year, I was in pieces, shut down and checked out. I didn't care about anything. While FortySeven Media was doing great, I wasn't. But that was about to change.

Last October on the way back from a conference in Portland, I read that a friend of mine that I haven't seen in ten years was going to be in Nashville for a day or two. So right after a six hour flight I got off the plane and drove 3 hours to Nashville. 

I no longer lived in a box…

Then next morning we met at a coffee shop and did our best to do 10 years worth of catching up. And over the course of the conversation, I found out that she was there to see some other friends who were driving across the country making a documentary. “I would love to do something like that!” I said. Her reply? “What's stopping you?”

Normally, this is where I would cough up some lame excuses and change the topic. But today, I had no excuses. None. I just sat there for a few moments before I acutally managed to say “Nothing.” 

All the garbage that I'd normally offer up was gone. It was gone because I wasn't as afraid of change anymore. The thing I'd feared most had happened, and you know, what? It didn't kill me. 

Wonderful Messy Advenutres

Over the course of the next few months, I packed up, sold off, gave away, and otherwise rid myself of the stuff I didn't want or need. Some friends needed a place to stay and I had a house I wasn't going to be living in, so that worked out perfectly thank The Lord. Everything I need to live and work from the road was crammed into my 4 Runner like a game of 3D Tetris and I no longer lived in a box.

Vanilla To The Grave

So guess what I did? I made a website. Surprise, surprise, huh? I'm documenting my adventures at I'd love to have you along not just to share in the fun, but hopefully to set a fire that makes you want to live a life that's full of stories that YOU lived. Give Downton Abbey and Dr. Who some time off, You have some adventures already, ok?

See you on the road.


Oh, and about that name.. 

Fear will let you rock Vanilla to the grave.; 
- Jon Acuff


Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

March 27, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie Sneak Peak - And our Culture of Complaining

Leonardo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie
Leo's always been my favorite. Dang.

There's something you may not know about me. I'm a huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. I loved it when I was a kid, and have rediscovered how much I love them as an adult as my kids have become fans over the past couple of years.

We've watched the 1980's cartoons, plowed through the 2003 version on YouTube (it's really good, you should check it out!), watched Turtles Forever, the original live-action movies, the CGI one from 5 years ago and are currently breathlessly waiting for the next episode on the Nickelodeon animated series that started in 2012. Which might just be the best of the bunch so far. It's pretty rad.

All four of my kids are crazy about the Turtles. It's all my 2 year old wants to watch. I have to keep up with toy fair announcements to let them know what figures are coming out next because we have them all. I considered posting a picture of the massive pile in our TMNT drawer upstairs, but it's a little embarrasing. I think we have a problem.

And so that brings us to what came out today - a for real, official sneak peak at the upcoming live action/motion capture movie coming out in August of this year. I'll give you a minute to watch it. Try not to pee your pants. Just come back and finish the article.

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Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

March 17, 2014

Starting Over is Hard

Last Night Ago - Shirts Made by Hand. Block Printing Rocks
How we make our shirts at Last Night Ago

This past year my wife and I ventured into the apparel world with Last Night Ago, making awesome hand-designed shirts and jackets. It was shortly thereafter that I realized something very quickly: It had been a long time since I started over in business.

You see, all I've ever known was FortySeven Media. The whole “work nights and weekends till you get enough clients to make the jump” sort of thing. Or, “there's virtually no startup cost or ongoing expenses” kind of thing.

Guys, did you know there are completely different types of businesses? Because - well - there are. And Last Night Ago is absolutely nothing like FortySeven Media. Maybe I was naive, or maybe I was stupid. (Probably all of the above) But I jumped in trying to apply a services mentality to a retail reality. Physical product inventory is really difficult. It's expensive and nearly impossible to predict what people will actually buy.

Not only that, but I forgot how hard it is to start over. New logo, website, brand, accounting, billing - really every single process is unfamiliar and different.

Last Night Ago You're Worth it Hoodie
You're Worth It - one of our MirrorImage designs

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Nate Croft

Nate Croft

February 20, 2014

Do It For Good, For Friends, and Because You Love It

Long before I did photography professionally, I lugged around this old DSLR I had and tried to snap fun pictures of the people and places around me. I loved it! And I shared those pictures with family and friends. They liked them and I did too. There wasn't much more to it. One day someone asked me, “How much do you charge to shoot an event?” and my brain melted a little. You mean you want to pay me for having fun?

They did. Which began a string of adventures that I'm still riding. And after all these years I still enjoy it, and am always looking for ways to do more.

While on one of these adventures my friend Leslie told me about a project she was working on. It was pretty ambitious. What was it? A design school for UX Designers. A real diploma granting university. A place to learn the craft and when you graduate, companies would fight over you because you had real world experience. It sounded crazy. I love crazy.

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Nate Croft

Nate Croft

January 30, 2014

Finished, A Long Lost Song

Loose ends, I've got em! We all do. It seems everyone I know has that thing they have been working on for ages. Things half built, paintings that are almost there, and for me, songs left to years past.

Here's the tale of a song that has bothered me for the better part of ten years. Why? Well, it wasn't quite perfect and there wasn't anything I could do about it. You see, the multi-track files for this and many other songs went missing. One night they were there, the next day they were gone. 

Some of them even knew the words. Someone liked that song. And I don't know if they will ever hear this 10 year old new version, but it's for them. The ones who sang along and liked that thing we made.

All I had left of this song was one mp3 mix with scratch (place holder) vocals, and a not so in-tune guitar part I laid down quickly to get the idea before it left. It was 80% at best, and 20% pure frustration that I'd never get it the way I wanted. Not with the performances of friends that are seldom seen and one that I don't think even plays anymore. 

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Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

January 07, 2014

Why You Should Include Your Husband or Wife in Your Yearly Planning

Knoxville Skyline
A view from our planning getaway

January, or Planuary as we've called it before, is that magical time of year when you take a step back, reflect on the past and make big plans for the future. There's just something about the new year - as cliched as it might be - that lends itself to fresh starts, resolutions, resets and power-ups. 

Last year we put together a nice little planning sheet and video on Kicktastic and we'll be using that for 47m as we move into 2014. But that's not what I'm here to talk about. Nope. I want to ask you if you're doing any of this planning, prepping and polishing at home, too. 

The truth is, when you have your own company many of those dreams, goals and plans directly affect your personal life, too. Are you including your husband or wife in that planning? If not, you should be.

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Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

November 04, 2013

Simplify Experiment: Part 3 - Email

Simplify Experiment Part 3

Oh email. You of the world changing, panic inducing little numbered badge. You of the mentally overwhelming and exhausting distraction. You of the I do actually need you to get work done and get paid. Your false sense of urgency is both nerve wracking and soothing at the same time. “I'm answering emails so I'm being productive, right!!!?!”


But as it's been discussed so many times before, we often turn email into a psuedo-drug - waiting for that little badge to show something new so we can respond as quickly as possible. I noticed, too that scanning through my emails was just plain stressing me out. There were so many of them - and even if I caught a glimpse of one it would occupy a bit of space in my brain until I dealt with it.

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Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

September 27, 2013

Brace Uses Dropbox to Easily Serve Up Static Sites

This looks like a really interesting idea. Brace hooks up to your Dropbox account and lets you serve your static HTML/CSS/JS files as a website. This means you just update your files in your Dropbox folder and things get updated automatically. Even cooler, though - Brace actually creates a production version of your site that won't push those changes live until you're ready. Add to that Dropbox's simple file versioning and it sounds like a really simple, safe way to create static sites.

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Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

September 13, 2013

Unused Domain Names? Free Yourself with Namebox

Namebox Homepage Screenshot

One of our recent tips over on Kicktastic was about Keeping Your Overhead Low - making sure you really need all those expenses you may have piled up. And one that piles up quickly for most of us are domain names. You know the one you bought because you had a great a idea but never got around to it -x 20? Twenty extra domain names and you're losing at least $200 a year. Not to mention the time sifting through renewal and registration emails.

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Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

September 05, 2013

Simplify Experiment: Part 2 - iPhones

Simplify Experiment Pt2

I was forced into my phone simplification because I ran out of memory. You see, the kids and I like to make little mini-movies. Our most recent one involved all their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys and - well let's just say it's going to be epic. Because it took up most of my phone's space.

At least I thought it did. 'Till I loaded up iTunes and saw that my Apps were taking up more space than my HD video. Bleh. So since I was over capacity it was time to free up some space.

I've had an iPhone since the first version way back in 2007 so there was definitely some cruft laying around. 

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Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

September 03, 2013

New Old Stock


Have you ever thought, “Hey, I wish I could find super cool old photographs that are free of licensing restrictions and have been hand curated with love?” Me too.

Well look no further, because New Old Stock has your back. The photos are awesome, the site is easy to use and you can use the photos for whatever you like.

Here's some of my favorites:

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Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

August 29, 2013

FlowType.JS - Makin’ Responsive Type Easy

If you do a lot of Responsive Web Design you know how much of a pain it can be to change font sizes and line heights at all your different breakpoints. Thankfully the guys at SimpleFocus have come up with a really cool solution: FlowType.JS

According to them: “FlowType.JS eases this difficulty by changing the font-size—and subsequently the line-height—based on a specific element's width. This allows for a perfect character count per line at any screen width.”

The performance is good, it's easy to setup and it works just fine with whatever font service you're already using like Typekit, Cloud.Typography or Google Webfonts.

If you want to give a spin you can download on GitHub.

Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

August 27, 2013

What’s a Bullet Journal?

The Bullet Journal system is a really well thought out setup for using an analog notebook in really cool, useful ways. The table of contents tip alone made me say, “Holy crap why I have I never done this? I can't find anything in my notebooks!” 

There's lots more than just this video. Check out the site where Ryder Carrol, the creator has documented every tip and trick imaginable. 

Nate Croft

Nate Croft

August 23, 2013

Thoughts On Being A Generalist

There's been some talk lately about the benefits of being a generalist versus being a specialist. The idea being that you are more valuable as a generalist working at a certain level of skill, as opposed to a specialist in a particular realm of endeavor. And in some ways I can see that. I mean, if I wanted to hire someone to work at FortySeven Media, I'd be pretty drawn to the person who could do it all.

So, why do we want a person who can do it all anyway? For companies, it means a smaller team. And that smaller team can mean bigger profits and agility. It is a very tempting proposition. For individuals, it means you are more valuable as a potential hire or contractor.

To an extent, even Jon and I have run with this thinking, and for the most part, it's been good to us. However, I'm finding out that it might not be the best thing in the long run. Let's have a look the cost of being a skilled generalist.

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Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

August 22, 2013

Simplify Experiment: Part 1

Simplify Experiment Pt 1

Nate and I have been thinking a lot lately about simplifying our lives, both personally and professionally. Not that we have crazy lives, really. Unless you call crazy taking your 4 kids who are 7 and under out to eat by yourself crazy. Like I did last night. And it was a little crazy.

But seriously, we've been pondering how all the things we've placed in our lives might actually be keeping us from staying focused. Apparently decision fatigue is a real thing. You know those people who scream about how important it is to have unlimited choices? Yeah I'm not so sure it's such a good idea.

Maybe the reason we find it so hard to even have the brain space to deal with big picture stuff is because we've spent all day knee deep in inconsequential decisions?

Turns out you can only make so many decisions in a day, and if we're wasting them on low level tasks like what to eat, what to wear or even what item to do right now then we don't have the same amount of mental prowess when it comes time for the big, important decisions. 

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Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

August 20, 2013

NeverWet - Liquid Becomes Powerless

This isn't web related at all, but it's a superhydrophobic spray-on coating that repels water, mud, ice and other liquids. Say what? Yeah it's as crazy as it sounds. Just watch. It's like science fiction!

Even crazier? You can buy it on Amazon right now.

Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

August 15, 2013

Making Kicktastic Free

For those of you keeping track, we started Kicktastic back in June of 2012. The idea was to take what we learned using the Kick Awesome Show to make more money and have more fun, turn it into a product and sell it. That plan morphed into a subscription based model where we would keep creating content each week, interview other awesome business owners and share the knowledge.

With people paying us each month we really felt obligated to crunch out the content—nearly 100 videos and 50 blog posts in a little over a year. I'm getting tired just thinking about that.

And though we made a bit of money, we just felt like something was missing. After lots of conversations, feedback from people we trust, and some inspiring talks at World Domination Summit 2013, we finally figured it out:

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Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

August 01, 2013

How We Build Our Own Quotes With ExpressionEngine

For a small web shop, creating estimates and quotes can be a joy killer. I just want to make stuff, man - not write out endless spec documents! It's true. Being old school print designers let me tell you how this process went for years:

  1. Open up our quote InDesign document
  2. Save it as a new file
  3. Pour over every legal aspect to make sure it was right
  4. Do the whole spec part of the job in the middle
  5. Make sure all the styles were right so it would look awesome
  6. Do all the math (arghhh)
  7. Save as a PDF
  8. Email it

And. We. Hated. It.

When we rebuilt and re-designed the site last year we knew some things had to change. First of all, we didn't want to go through that huge document and re-do all the styles. Bleh. Second of all, it had become a huge bottleneck and we wanted to fix that.

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Nate Croft

Nate Croft

July 23, 2013

Get Your Ideas Out of Your Head

I've started illustrating my thoughts. This is one from today.

Inside your head, everything is a good idea. It's a magical place where you are always doing awesome things, having awesome ideas, and generally high fiving yourself all the time at how awesome you are.

Outside your head is the awesome crushing or confirming world of reality. 

The only way an idea is going to do anything, is when it gets out of your head and into the heads of other people. Those other people will then confirm your awesomeness, or crush it with the multi-smashular sledgehammer known as honest criticism. Which is a very kind thing even though it is super painful.

Jon does this for me all the time. My brain is a fountain of crazy vision. He stands by with said sledgehammer, helping me weed them down through survival of the fittest. It is then that I can tell others about this or begin making whatever it was.

Got an idea? Let it enter the ring below in the comments.


Jonathan Longnecker

Jonathan Longnecker

July 02, 2013

Adrift: Fog Like You’ve Never Seen

I've only been to San Francisco once, but it left a huge impression on me. The landscape and fog were pretty magical. But this. This video take it to another level. I've never seen fog swell and crash like the ocean. Pull this up full screen, turn up the sound and get ready to be amazed.

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