From 5 minutes procrastination to global media hub in one email

Faye Graham
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January 2, 2020

Buzzfeed. It started as a whimsical way to pass time during your morning coffee break, and fast became one of the world's leading independent digital media companies.


Once best known for relentless online listicles and irreverent viral content (50 puppies to help you get through work today, anyone?) these days it leverages data and innovation to reach hundreds of millions of people and is a source of news and entertainment, globally. It’s also rumoured to be worth $1.5 billion to date.

So how did they do it?

Founded in 2006 by non-profit arts guys Jonah Peretti and John Johnson, the intent of Buzzfeed was initially to focus on tracking viral content.


One day while procrastinating from his college studies, self-confessed ‘smart ass’ Peretti emailed Nike a request to customize a pair of sneakers with the word “Sweatshop” printed on the side. Clearly aimed as a cheeky jab towards the company’s questionable history of alleged immoral labour practices, Nike denied the request, claiming it was a slur.

Soon enough, Peretti was in the midst of a game of email ping pong with Nike reps. He forwarded the email string to twelve of his friends who each pushed it out to their networks too.


Little did Peretti know, this was the start of something much bigger than he’d imagined. Before he knew it, he began getting responses and invites from all over the world. Soon, the media got wind of this, and in a crazy turn of events he ended up on The Today Show discussing labour practices with the head of corporate PR for Nike. 

What started as a tiny act of procrastination went on to land this American internet entrepreneur his career and his fortune, and he currently has a net worth of $200 million dollars.

Experimentation of big ideas has always been Peretti’s drive and focus. By embracing a growth mindset mentality, this now-CEO has never been one to shy away from disruption, continuing to change, grow, and progress with the times, whenever necessary. 

In an ever-changing industry, he now plans on continuing to balance hard news with the light-hearted content Buzzfeed is renowned for, and to this day remains enamoured with the power of viral content.

Jolt. Teaching start up business.

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?

Because almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.

Charles Darwin took long walks around London. Kurt Vonnegut made listening to jazz a daily priority. Fiona Apple disappeared for 6 years after the release of her third album.

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?
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I ask because I can often be found agonising over the "more". If only I posted on Instagram more, I'll think in the bath. I'd have more followers if I pitched to more publications. I need to post 2 more times a week, minimum. I could go on...

Between you and me, I've got frustrated with myself for browsing Facebook or watching too much TV more times than I can remember.

And I'm not alone. So many of us are terrified of taking a break, creatively speaking. We won't let a moment pass without listening to a podcast, consuming an article or sharing something.

The cognitive load is real, y'all.

But like Vitamin D, sleep and good food, it's not only ok to take a break, it's essential.

Living a successful life is also about knowing when not to work. For your best output, you need to focus on your input, too.

The world won't end if you disappear from the internet for a week or so. Your creativity won't suddenly stop. Your time is now, but your time was also then and it will be again.

Your dreams don't have an expiration date.

Many of us confuse being "busy" with being constructive. But you can only do your best work by taking breaks.

And science backs it up, too. The brain requires substantial downtime to do its most innovative thinking. The ideas you have while driving or in the shower aren't coincidental. They're a result of you taking a step back, whether you're aware of it or not.

Here's a challenge for you

Let yourself take a wonderful and indulgent break. Several breaks. Hell, get downright bored.

Put airplane mode on for a while. Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it.

Wallow in it. Don't be afraid of it. Push it as far as you can.

When you leave your laptop behind, something always happens. A new idea or a fresh perspective appears.

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"A spark of inspiration needs an empty cave."

Take proper breaks, often. Completely clear your mind. Your next best idea depends on it.

Are you a keeper?

Empower your team to go and shine.