Recently our team has been talking to a lot of clients about "their why" - see Simon Sinek, etc.

Clients have wanted to start with their "why," ask their employees about their "why," and really dig in from that core in order to tell the story behind their brand.

I get it. It's the human connection that a brand needs, so kudos to those doing that - it will most definitely make for great content that target audiences can truly connect with. But while most people we've interviewed have listed "family, kids and providing for family and kids" as their why - for brands, companies and organizations, that answer has to look a lot different, otherwise they'll fold.

Finding My Why

Ironically, as I've started to retroactively reflect on the "why" of Data Driven Design, I've noticed that ever since I started my own company, I've been behaving a lot differently.

For one, while working at / running previous digital agencies that I didn't own - I NEVER put out multiple pieces of content every single day.

I spent money on "gut feel," and I certainly never stood up and performed rap songs in business meetings. What the heck is up with me? Why am I doing this?

While Sinek says "START with why," I've sort of done it backwards.

I've just sprinted a marathon my entire career, and now, as I'm acting differently, I'm realizing what "my why" is.

And why I'm sporting Detroit Tigers hats regularly and using hip hop music constantly to get my point across.

Worlds Collide Theory

What's happening is actually quite simple. My two worlds are colliding and I'm truly becoming my authentic self.

You see, previous to Data Driven Design, I was like George Costanza. There was "work Paul" and "personal Paul." You know, like "Relationship George" and "Independent George." 🙂

You remember the episode.

I think this is how most people operate on a daily basis in their lives. For the first 16 years of my career, I thought I was happy, but I was only half happy. You see, "personal Paul" could drastically affect the company and co-workers that were associated with "work Paul."

Clients of "work Paul's" company could get put off by "personal Paul" and it would upset "work Paul's" boss! Then what would happen? "Personal Paul" would be pissed! Excuse me, I mean less happy, for those of you offended by language.

It was only until AFTER I realized I wasn't truly happy with this situation, that I realized I needed to make a change, and move myself into a situation where I could be my authentic self.

Did I know that I'd rap in presentations or business meetings at that time? Hell no. But did I know I'd be able to fully be myself at some point and make my own micro-decisions that would show my personality in a way that would be authentic? Yes. Enter "Damn, It Feels Good To Use Data" and "Ain't Nuthin' But A Data Party."

Origin Story

Why hip hop? When I was five, six and seven years old, my dad - single at the time after my mom passed - was a high school basketball coach in Rochester, Michigan, and I basically lived in the gym with him. I was a tiny gym rat, desperately trying to heave the ball into the 10-foot hoop at Rochester Adams.

Those were the days, man. Hours and hours of basketball practices. The players were like superstar older brothers to me. Everything they did, I thought was cool.

Around this time, Run-DMC released an album called Raising Hell. The next summer, my dad, soon-to-be step mom (now my mom of 28+ years) and I took a road trip to Philly to visit my uncle, aunt and cousins. My cousin Pat, "dubbed a tape" - now not even a phrase that makes sense - of the Raising Hell album for me. I played it in my Sony Walkman for hours, days, weeks, months straight until the tape itself actually ripped and broke.

I was freaking hooked on hip hop from there. Run-DMC was just the start. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, LL Cool J and Beastie Boys, and eventually Rakim, NWA, Dr. Drew, 2Pac, Snoop, Biggie, Nas, Big L and into today with Russ, Big Sean and Logic.

I saved all my money in high school to buy turntables, a mixer and speakers and an amp and made money dj'ing parties through college, carrying around crates of records.

Why Data?

Spending hours and hours in vinyl record stores putting records onto the turntable, listening and finding hooks that audiences would love to dance to, beats I could loop and verses I could mix together - that practice allowed me to perform at a level that others couldn't. I was paid to play music three nights a weekend due to that digging that happened before and after the show.

That's data to me now.

Anyone can build a website. Wix, Squarespace, WordPress Themes, GoDaddy Website Builder tools,, the list goes on and on.

High school kids can build professional websites for you instead of dj'ing your parties. 🙂

But the ability to dig through the data is the differentiator. The ability to apply it both pre and post website and campaign launch is the most important thing.

While a lot of athletes and hip hop artists have had to focus and hone their craft for years - often times while telling their stories of struggle and adversity along the way - to achieve success, they've also had chips on their shoulders due to those doubting them during various parts of their journey.

The Swagger

I like the contradiction. I like that guys like Richard Sherman can go to Stanford (achieve success); get drafted in the fifth round (get overlooked by all 32 NFL teams 4.5 times), then use that chip on his shoulder to become the best cornerback in the league and win a Super Bowl.

I like that I can sit behind a computer most days working on projects, sometimes getting beat up by challenges of growing other people's businesses, then rise out and speak publicly in front of an audience.

I want to take advantage of every opportunity I have to show my why - to execute on my why.

My why is to be myself. If I'm not myself, I'm not happy. If I'm not happy, my work is no good. To by myself, I have to go back to my origin story, and examine the relationships and experiences that have made me who I am. The cool thing is that keeps changing, which also makes me happy.

So why rapping about data? Well, you probably get the "rapping" part now! And you get the data part too, right?

Data is different because it takes the opinions and feelings out of decision making. Data gets things done. Data is special because you have to know how to apply it to drive results.

Anyone can build websites and digital marketing strategies. Not everyone can analyze web data and apply it to build the most effective ones.

Thanks for reading /watching and have a great day!

Paul Hickey has created and grown businesses via digital strategy and internet marketing for more than 10 years. His sweet spot is using analytics to design and build websites and grow the audience and revenue of businesses via SEO/Blogging, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Social Media Content Marketing and Email Marketing. The part that he’s most passionate about is quantifying next marketing actions based on real data.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.