Articles in Personal

Introducing DesignHope 2016!

by Jonathan Longnecker in Design, Business, Design Hope, Personal


Eight years ago we launched DesignHope - the economy had tanked, people were getting laid off and starting their own projects and we wanted to help. We promised a logo and website for the winner. Hundreds of people applied and sponsors jumped in to help. It was one of my favorite moments at FortySeven Media - for real.

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A Tale of Two Restaurants

by Jonathan Longnecker in Business, Personal

A Tale of Two Restaurants
Obligatory Soap Opera Title Card

Did I mention my family and I are traveling full time now? In case you missed it, check out our blog here. Let's just say that in the past 6 months I've run across a ton of brands in bunch of different places. This is one story of a lesson I learned when dining in the Adirondacks.

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Big Changes at FortySeven Media

by Jonathan Longnecker in Business, Personal

Nate and Jon Having Fun

Friends, I have a lot to tell you. So sit down, pull up a chair, grab some milk and cookies and get ready. It's story time!

The Discontent

It all started several years ago - a slow, subtle gnawing in the pit of my stomach. Our business was great, my kids were healthy and happy, and my relationship with my wife was better than ever. But I couldn't shake this feeling that most of our day-to-day lives seemed - empty.

I was asked to give a talk at a gathering of guys who were trying to be better husbands and fathers - and before I knew it I had an entire presentation of why I was discontented. I dug into books like “Linchpin,” researched all kinds of statistics about home ownership and global income, and realized that I was having trouble reconciling all the time and money our big beautiful house was costing us.

In fact, I was having trouble reconciling what the American Dream was necessitating on multiple fronts - from debt to consumerism to education and beyond. The things everyone else seemed to care about and spend so much time and money on were slowly losing their meaning for me.

My wife felt this, too and had talked many times of traveling more. Exposing ourselves to people and situations outside our comfort zone. Maybe even of traveling full-time, ditching the house and mortgage and exploring the US on our own terms. We knew a few people who had done it. Could we do it, too? With 4 kids?

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A Surefire Way to Build a Business That Lasts a Decade

by Jonathan Longnecker in Design, Business, Personal

A Surefire way to build a business that lasts 10 years.

Guys, did you know that 2015 marks 10 years of 47m? I'm having trouble computing that statement. Hold on. Cleansing breath. Ace Ventura face. Forehead wipe. Ok - better.

It also happens that 2015 is bringing about some ginormous changes, and I've been thinking back to how we got here. Needless to say there were lots of things that were thought, and the thinking gave me a few nuggets that I'd like to start sharing with you.

First up? Perspective.

When we start out we do it for the love of the craft. Mine was art and design - and soon became clean, standards based front-end markup that evolved into a full stack process from branding all the way to a finished content-managed site.

My drive was to do an excellent job artistically and technically, making a truly awesome brand and website for my clients.

While this obviously still exists, I've come to realize it's not the most important thing. (You may be having trouble computing this statement. Bear with me, keep reading. I'll get there.)

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Don’t Give Up

by Jonathan Longnecker in Business, Personal

Don't Give Up

Overnight successes rarely happen overnight. It's easy to look at those around us that have “made it” or “arrived.” It's easy to imagine them with their perfect lives, enjoying every aspect of their success, rolling in piles of money while genuinely enjoying every single thing they do all day.

The truth is rarely that simple, though. Hard work is hard. It's not always fun. And you'll probably have to do a lot of it before you finally see your passion project catch and take flight.

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Vanilla To The Grave

by Nate Croft in Personal

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.

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

by Jonathan Longnecker in Personal

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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Starting Over is Hard

by Jonathan Longnecker in Business, Personal

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

by Nate Croft in Personal

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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Finished, A Long Lost Song

by Nate Croft in Music, Personal

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

by Jonathan Longnecker in Business, Kicktastic, Personal

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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Simplify Experiment: Part 3 - Email

by Jonathan Longnecker in Business, Personal

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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Brace Uses Dropbox to Easily Serve Up Static Sites

by Jonathan Longnecker in Personal

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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Simplify Experiment: Part 2 - iPhones

by Jonathan Longnecker in Business, Personal

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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What’s a Bullet Journal?

by Jonathan Longnecker in Design, Business, Personal

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.

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Thoughts On Being A Generalist

by Nate Croft in Business, Personal

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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Simplify Experiment: Part 1

by Jonathan Longnecker in Business, Personal

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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