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The One Big Thing I Took Away From 2018

Sure, we’re four weeks into 2019, and everyone has already published a year-end recap or a look ahead into the new year. Mine has been simmering for about a month. I don’t like to rush into this stuff.

Plus, most people have shitcanned their New Year’s resolutions by now and need to fill the extra time they planned on spending at the gym, in yoga class, or meditating. This email is that filler.

I’m rushing in to fill the vacuum of failed aspirations. Thank you for sitting there in front of your computer or with a phone in your hand instead of sweating on the elliptical machine.

Keep it Simple

My big takeaway from 2018 isn’t a new concept for me. It’s something I’ve known for a long time but seem to stray away from now and then. Luckily I got a few slaps upside the head last year to remind me about my doctrine, which is: 

Complexity bad. Simplicity good.

I don’t like things to be complicated. 

Whether it’s writing, developing a business plan, or creating a presentation, everything is better if I keep it simple.

I’m not a fan of bells and whistles. I hate fluff and hyperbole. Can’t stand posing. And I don’t like trying to be something I’m not.

Now that doesn’t mean I won’t stretch or try new things. Not at all. I’m willing to put myself in new situations and flex some different muscles. But if something doesn’t feel authentic and natural, then I won’t be my best.

And for me, simple feels authentic.

Not everyone is wired like that. My good buddy Justice Mitchell uses a Swiss army knife as the icon for his personal brand because he wants you to know he does a little bit of everything.

That's perfect for him.

At his core, Justice is a designer and creative director. But he has a deep toolbox and the chops to be your photographer, speak at events, prepare a competitive analysis, develop a brand, or tackle a dozen other marketing-related functions.

I admire the hell out of J-Dawg for being so versatile. However, that ain’t the path for JT.

Justice and I butted heads on this very thing five or six years ago when he was trying to get me to market myself as a jack-of-all-trades. It went something like this:

Me: “I want to go after a specific niche, helping tech startups and growth-stage companies with their written communications.”

Justice: “No.”

Me: “Um. Huh?

Justice: “That’s horseshit! You’ve done events, tradeshow planning, brand development, social media, public relations, audio and video production. You gotta put it ALL out there.”

Me: “But …”

Justice: “NO! You gotta show some versatility, son! Let people know they can lean on you for EVERYTHING.”

Me: “You wanna go get tacos?”

Justice: “YES!”

My brother from another mother eventually let it go, although I think he’s still a little sad that I look at myself as just a writer.

The fact is that I’m not just a writer. But that’s what I call myself when anyone asks what I do.

Or depending on the context, sometimes I say “copywriter.”

What we do at Nash Creek Industries is come up with the right combination of words to tell the right story. It might be on a company’s website, in sales material, or a pitch deck to investors. Sometimes the work is considered content marketing, and other times it’s branding. But it’s always about telling the story.

And it’s always done with simplicity in mind.

Even this email went through the simplification filter. I planned to write about THREE big takeaways from 2018:

  • Simplicity

  • Fit

  • Positivity

Got about a third of the way into the article and realized simplicity stands alone. This thing is already pretty long. It’ll turn into an opus if I try to shoehorn in two more concepts.

So I simplified. Which means I’m already planning a follow-up to cover some of what got chopped.

For now, I’ll leave ya with one tip that will simplify your life.

Here’s what you’re gonna do next time you sit down to write an email to your boss, a customer, or your kid’s teacher, and you want to make three or four critical points.


Just write about one thing. Pick whatever is most important.

Let's say your darling little Zach doesn’t understand the math homework, AND Casey is bothering him in the lunch line, AND you want to know if you can send in a snack for Valentine’s Day. If you try to cover all three issues in one email, then you're diluting the message. Pick one thing to ask the teacher about so you can maintain her focus.

And obviously the snack is what really matters.

You can find YouTube videos to help with math. And the lunch line thing will work out. But make no mistake, those kids will be bummed out if they don’t get cupcakes piled high with frosting on Valentine’s Day.

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John Terry