Make it Meaningful
Offline Lessons for Online Etiquette
In 1986 my dad and 15 of his friends spent months building a cabin deep in the North Georgia foothills. They built it among a stand of trees, and as young boy it did not cross my mind that other kids might not have an army of tree trunks at their disposal for forts and games, or dreaming how high they could go.
I knew we lived in the woods, but I never thought of our own town as one simply driven through. It always surprised me how long it took my friends to find our house, maybe the “middle of nowhere” was a rite of passage.
It was my mother’s dream. A dream my dad built with his hands.
My days were filled exploring the woods behind our home. Amusement parks, Olympic games, and animal rescue all happened in my backyard. We had creeks and mud pits. Lightning bugs and crickets. Motocross tracks and vines we could swing on. I even directed and starred in a James Bond parody film entitled, The Yard Is Not Enough. It will never be released to the public.
While in school I would create blueprints of the mountain bike trail I’d rake when I arrived home. Other days I would build towns made of sticks and create political structures for neighborhood friends to follow.
This was the birthplace of my creativity.
The place that sparked a relentless desire to keep exploring. To never see the same things the same way. Everyday I would try something new.
In the woods was where I learned how to take risks, but my values were shaped by mother.
My mother is the selfless type. She gave everything to raising me and my little sister. As a father, I find myself doing the little things she taught me. Rituals like saying “I love you” always and singing my daughter to sleep. Whether handpicking the perfect card for a special occasion or getting my camera out to capture a memory. These actions are simple reminders that I am my mother’s son. Her legacy at work.
Growing up, mom would set high precedence on our family traditions. No matter how busy we all were the kitchen table remained sacred. Mom would have dinner ready when dad arrived home from a long day at work. As a family we would discuss our days. We would share stories, laugh, and address any challenges faced. The television was off and our cell phones weren’t allowed at the dinner table. Mom demanded our presence and for us to have a few minutes to be present with one another.
I’m really not sure how we made it work with our schedules, but mom made it happen.
Every morning before all of us ran out the door for school my dad would stop us to pray for the day ahead. I remember his words of protection and purpose. His trust for peace and prosperity in our lives.
Every Summer we’d go on family vacation.
During the Christmas season mom and dad set 25 days aside to journey through Scripture together as a family
These rituals were non-negotiable.
Year after year, these moments engrained themselves in my heart and mind. Moments I took for granted, but heirlooms I treasure today.
No tradition quite measures up to hosting friends and family at our home.
Preparing to host people at the Brown’s was a weeklong ritual. Mom would negotiate what would she would cook for dinner. I always hoped it’d always be her manicotti.
Throughout the week there would be a daily checklist of chores.
The moment a visitor would arrive at our home is the second they never wanted to leave. Everyone who would come to the Brown’s would be welcomed and celebrated.
After a delicious meal we’d end the night under the stars next to a bonfire. Every person who ever visited our home in the woods always wanted to come back.
And they did.
“Branding is the process of meaning manufacture that begins with the biggest, boldest gestures of the corporation and works its ways down to the tiniest gestures.” — Grant McCracken
My obsession for branding was cultivated by my mother.
She has a knack for making others feel welcomed and taken care of. Everything had been thought through and planned for the people we would host at our home. Being at the Brown’s was an experience; both meaningful and memorable.
Today the odds are in your favor that you’re going to look at a screen and type, “www…”. Once you press enter you’ll travel through hyperspace and land in a room made of pixels, code, and words.
Imagine this website is your home and in a few milliseconds you will be judged. Actual people (not robots) will peruse elements stating who you are, what you do, and why you do it.
How have your guests been treated? Do they see ulterior motives? Have they been influenced? Are the gestures you demonstrate consistent? Do they want to come back? Have you created an experience worthwhile?
Meaning is made in every detail.
Because, at the end of the day, we want people to know they’ve been taken care of. We want them to come back knowing they’ll get the same treatment. With intention and care, we want this moment to mean something. We want it to matter.
For all of life, both online and offline, should be made meaningful.