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1. Big Magic
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote Eat, Pray, Love and has one of the most important Ted Talks creatives need to watch. When I found out she wrote a new book I bought it instantly.
It did not disappoint. Each chapter gives the reader a little tidbit of magic to use in your own creative endeavors. It’s like a pick-me-up for creative people. Like a Dilbert comic but not funny, just inspiring. Here are just a few of the things I took away from Big Magic.
Have an affair with your creativity. No matter how busy you are, sneak away, book time off, wake up early, go to bed later than everyone else. Whatever you do, don’t forget about your creativity. People who have affairs seem to find the time, that’s how you have to treat your creativity.
Create. Our ancestors were creators. Think about our ancestors, go back a hundred, two hundred years. People had to create to live. It’s in your genes
Don’t quit your day job. Elizabeth was still working at a job after she published her fourth book. She doesn’t believe in quitting everything just to publish your life’s work. You should be able to still do it off the side of your desk in your free time. The best tasting shit sandwich. This may have been my favourite part. Here’s the quote from the book:
“What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?” What Manson means is that every single pursuit—no matter how wonderful and exciting and glamorous it may initially seem—comes with its own brand of shit sandwich, its own lousy side effects. As Manson writes with profound wisdom: “Everything sucks, some of the time.” You just have to decide what sort of suckage you’re willing to deal with. So the question is not so much “What are you passionate about?” The question is “What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?” Manson explains it this way: “If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands, of times, then you’re done before you start. If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the eighty-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.” Because if you love and want something enough—whatever it is—then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.”
The perfect is not only the enemy of good, it is the enemy of realistic the possible, and the fun. Stop thinking perfection and start thinking production. Keep producing, never perfecting.
Trickster not martyr. Don’t die for your work. In a literal and figurative sense. Being a martyr for something means dying for the cause. Being a trickster is simply having fun with the cause. Never take yourself too seriously. Never put your entire life on the line for the cause. Say it with me, I am no a martyr, I am a trickster.
Curiosity is the key. What are you curious about? Following than generally leads to a creative breakthrough.
“Combinatory play.” -Einstein The belief that you need different experiences and moments to open up your brain to actually think. Combinatory plan is take a trumpet to work and playing it when you feel you’re in a rut. Going for a walk, playing a game, working out, changing where you work, all can help get your mind unstuck from it’s current state.
Ever have a moment where your “big idea” came from driving in the car, riding a bike, or the ever so famous in the shower inspiration? This is combinatory play at work!
2. Skip The Line by James Altuchcer
Mr. Altucher does it again. I LOVED Choose Yourself! so when I found out he wrote another book I bought it without hesitation. What a READ! Wow, James has this style of self-deprecating humor/he’s very open and honest about his life. The result? A down-to-earth read that will inspire you to do more, create more, and ship more. OR if you’re like me, come up with ten ideas about random things regularly. Thanks James!
Skip the line is all about finding the optimal way of doing anything, and it’s packed with examples that inspire you to do more in your day.
Dick Fosbury was a tall, lanky build for a track athlete. Entering in high jump as the only thing he may have been able to compete in. He didn’t like the regular high jump technique of the time, a barrel role type jump over the bar. He tried a different approach.
Running up to the bar at an angle, he would throw his head over first and the rest of his body would oddly follow the flight path. Everyone made fun of him.
He won the high jump competition that year. Then went on to win the 1968 Olympic Gold medal in high jump. No one made fun of him anymore. They ended up calling the jump everyone uses now the “Fosbury Flop”.
Dick skipped the line. He looked at the conventional way of doing something and said, “I can do it better, much better.” The hard part is always dealing with what people may think about you.
10 Ideas every morning he has this technique that’s a way of training your creative mind. Just like going to the gym to get stronger, coming up with 10 ideas a day forces you to be creative. Can’t come up with 10 ideas? Come up with 20. The quality doesn’t matter, you’re looking for quantity. It’s hard at first but after a few times doing the exercise it becomes remarkably easy.
- Curt Vonnegut wrote every day for 25 years.
- Coolio wrote rap lyrics every day for 17 years.
- Piccaso created two pieces of art a day. Over 50000 pieces of art in his lifetime! Working hard isn’t easy, but generally leads to a better life.
Skipping the line is all about bettering one’s self, in the most efficient manner possible.
3. The Ride of a Lifetime
Bob starts the book off by telling the story about the child that was taken and eaten by an alligator at one of their Florida Disney parks. This “memoir” from a very successful person starts off by telling the story about the worst day on the job. You can tell what people care about by what they include in their introduction in their book.
Not only being honest on how to deal with emergencies, but Bob also talks about how coloured and female leads in movies didn’t sell to international audiences. After Disney bought Marvel, Bob was adamant he wanted a person of colour AND a female in lead rolls. He didn’t believe what he had been told to believe about international audiences.
The movies he championed? The Black Panther and Captain Marvel. Two of the most popular movies in the MCU.
Doing the right thing IS good for business.
“You have to ask the questions you need to ask, admit without apology what you don’t understand, and do the work to learn what you need to learn as quickly as you can. There’s nothing less confidence-inspiring than a person faking a knowledge they don’t possess. True authority and true leadership come from knowing who you are and not pretending to be anything else.”
4. Antifragile: things that gain from disorder
Want to prepare yourself for the next pandemic? (Substitute pandemic for any major emergency). Then This book is for you! What’s the opposite of fragile? What gains from destruction? Taleb didn’t have a word for it so he named the book “anti-fragile” as the epitome of the precise opposite of fragile.
This is an important book to read. Throughout life we are going to experience hardship after hardship, it’s how you deal with them that matters. If you can convince yourself to be benefited from bad things you’ll have nothing to fear in this world.
I feel every high school student needs to read this or at least understand the concept. Would help grow more resilient minds in the up-and-coming generation.
Here are some of the quotes that stay with you months after you’ve read the book.
“It is only when you don’t care about your reputation that you tend to have a good one.”
A good point when making major decisions, don’t ask people’s opinions, ask what they would do in your situation.
“The psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has a simple heuristic. Never ask the doctor what you should do. Ask him what he would do if he were in your place. You would be surprised at the difference.”
Thinking about what causes wealth…
“For if you think that education causes wealth, rather than being a result of wealth, or that intelligent actions and discoveries are the result of intelligent ideas, you will be in for a surprise. Let us see what kind of surprise.”
Worried about the pandemic? Or results from a test? Or what someone might say?
“Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos: you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind. This summarizes this author’s nonmeek attitude to randomness and uncertainty.
5. The Algebra of Happiness
Scott Galloway had a wonderful way of giving you his opinion which is largely based on his research. He has a great presentation on this same topic. If you like the presentation you’ll love the book.
Scott makes you realize that happiness isn’t this unattainable place to be achieved one day “if you play your cards right”. No, happiness is working on things you care about and making sure you still have time in your life for the things that matter. Family, yourself, friends, hobbies. No not necessarily in that order.
“Balance when establishing your career, in my view, is largely a myth. “Struggle porn” will tell you that you must be miserable before you can be successful. This isn’t true: you can experience a lot of reward along the way to success. But if balance is your priority in your youth, then you need to accept that, unless you are a genius, you may not reach the upper rungs of economic security.”
I really like this point on finding your happiness thing.
Pay special attention to things that bring you joy that don’t involve mind-altering substances or a lot of money. Whether it’s cooking, capoeira, the guitar, or mountain biking, interests and hobbies add texture to your personality. Being “in the zone” is happiness. You lose the sense of time, forget yourself, and feel part of something larger.
6. The Catalyst
Want to change someone’s mind? Arguing with them on social media is pretty much the last way to do that. In Jonah Berger’s entertaining read, The Catalyst is relevant in 2022 and beyond.
Sometimes change doesn’t require more horsepower. Sometimes we just need to unlock the parking brake.
Instead of trying to persuade other people of your opinion, why not ask why they haven’t already adopted it? Jonah takes a new approach to change minds, by not trying to persuade people but by removing the roadblocks that stand in their way.
In our hyper polarized society, understanding how we go about changing our minds is a smart practice. Also, understanding when we’re being a “stick in the mud” and should probably listen to someone on the other side.
The ways in which we are persuaded:
- logos – the logical appeal – your message makes clear sense; is logical.
- pathos – the emotional appeal – your appeal stirs the emotions of your audience, is emotional.
- ethos – the ethical appeal – you come across as credible; you know your stuff; is trustworthy.
- mythos – the narrative appeal. The use of stories, your inclusion of the audience into the ongoing story is a very persuasive tool.
But here’s the catch. Rarely are we persuaded by one and only one appeal. Generally it’s a masterful combination of two or more that captivate our attention and later our memory.
I find this book becomes more relevant as I get older. I don’t want new things in my life, change is stressful and our default setting is to remain the same. But that’s not a smart strategy going forward. The only thing you can ever guarantee is change so you better get used to it.
7. The Practice
Seth does it again. Short, to the point, but just what you need to hear. The Practice is for artists, creatives, business owners, salespeople, and well anyone really that depends on using their brain to work. The Practice slaps you in the face with honesty. I could see this being the basis for a class in the future. How To Be Productive in a digitally dominated world.
Here are a couple chapters that stood out to me:
Creativity is an act of leadership
It’s not easy being a creative. And leadership is one of those things that’s hard. Taking a leap of faith to try a new design, a new colour scheme, or new splash page takes guts. But as we’ve learned before, no one is born with courage, we have to earn it.
Perfectionism has nothing to do with being perfect
Think about it. It has to do with that voice inside your head saying you need to make it “the best”. When the best has no definition in the real world. Stop looking for perfection and start focusing on progress.
Skill is not talent
I love Seth’s attitude about skill. Skill is something you had to hone. You had to practice to acquire it. People are born with talent but talent without practice is wasted potential. Talent with practice creates skill. What are you practicing?
Attitudes are skills
A positive attitude is a skill. Learning how to control your attitude especially in difficult situations is a superpower. The person who loses their cool first always loses. So to keep your attitude in check you must practice keeping a positive attitude. The best leaders figure out ways to always have a positive attitude.
Hubris is the opposite of trust
We gain trust by giving it away. By helping others, by putting them first. If you want to undermine your trustworthiness then start being overconfident. Want to become a trusting source? Always put others first
Leaders are imposters
If you’re leading you are doing something that no one else is doing. You are an imposter. If you’re helping people, creating a vision, and working like crazy to achieve the said vision, you are a leader. You are also an imposter. We need to start redefining the word “imposter”. If you feel like one you’re probably doing something that matters.
Good taste is a skill
Like so many skills, good taste is developed over time. Good taste comes from being an editor for decades, having people pitch you idea after idea, and knowing which to choose and which to ignore. That is good taste. Refusing to choose, refusing to publically get called out for a choice is a way to never develop your taste. Just like anything, you need to practice having good taste.
Passion is a choice
You don’t have to care. You don’t have to smile. You don’t have to hold doors open for others. You don’t have to sign emails off in a fun way. You don’t have to answer the phone with a cheery tone of voice. You don’t have to be passionate. But when you are people will notice. You will notice.
Flow is a symptom of the work you do
Stop searching for the magical job that will grant you flow. You only get into it when you’re working on something really care about. It’s hard to explain, it’s a moment where everything falls away and nothing matters except what you’re currently working on. It has happened to me several times, writing, performing, competing. Every now and then I get into the state of flow and it’s lovely. A reminder of why I do what I do. Seeking out moments of flow is good practice.