Hey, everybody, how's it going? I'm Chase Jarvis. Welcome to another episode of Chase Jarvis Live here on Creative Lives, specifically, you're tuned into the 30 Days of Geniuses the show where I'm sitting down with the world's top creatives, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders to extract all kinds of valuable information, and not just valuable in that woo sense, but valuable in the actionable sense to help you live your dreams, and career, hobby, and life. If you're new to this series check out CreativeLive.com/30, the number 30, Days of Genius go to that site, and just click that blue button, and you'll get one of these amazing interviews in your inbox everyday for 30 days. When I say amazing it's because we have the most amazing guests personally curated by yours truly, and I hustled to get some of these top folks on the show. This person next to me don't look, don't look yet, is no exception. He is the best-selling author of either six or eight books. I asked him and he even lost tra...
ck, specifically, The Game, is when he came on my radar, but he's also a journalist. He's been with the New York Times for 10 years, Rolling Stone Magazine, and his new book The Truth is out there crushing it. My guest today none other than the Neil Strauss.
Awesome, thank you having me on.
Thank you so much. (dramatic music)
They love you.
Neil, thank you so much for being on the show.
Grateful for your time today. We've been in the same friend circle for some time. We actually haven't sat down like across from one another like this before. I'm looking forward to it, thank you.
You got it, yeah.
So I introduced you, and first of all you can't ever lose track of how many bestselling books you've written.
You got to keep that on, okay, you got to know that, second of all.
You know what because I'm always thinking about the next thing not about where I've been, right? I'm always thinking what is the next book gonna be.
That's Tweetable. The first Tweets to come out happen in the first five seconds. Actually, let's go there. There's a way that can be a double-edged sword, though, right? You're thinking about the next thing, but does that mean you're not maximizing the thing that just happened?
Yes, that's exactly what you should be doing. I remember when I was done with The Truth I was talking to a friend whose kind of mentor he's like, you're done, move onto the next project, you're done because I really think in this world you can spend your whole life maximizing something, right? And really how much control do you really have over it anyway? There are people with the best laid marketing campaigns that still don't do something, so you could spend a year marketing it, or you can spend a year just make the next awesome project. You still want to serve it, but at what point is it time to serve the art?
Well, I think that's a good thing for us to touch base on a little bit later. In the meantime I knew you from The Game, incredibly prolific, six or eight books. I think the folks that I know, or know you the best in our friend circle it's very much journalism that they think of you around, not just your time at The Times, but, also, of course, Rolling Stone, and then the latest best-selling book. How do you think of yourself? How do you describe yourself? I think about this because words matter. I know that we're all becoming a bunch of hyphens. I call myself a photographer, director, entrepreneur. I'm getting tired of it. How do you describe yourself?
If I had to say like one thing it would be a storyteller. I just like to tell really great compelling stories that if it's a book you can't put it down. If it's a movie or TV show you can't turn if off, so to me it's the art of storytelling, which I think is probably one of the oldest human art forms there is.
Yeah, like caveman times. Everybody is sitting around the fire, and even like that's what cave (mumbles) are, right? They're scratching out a story.
I always encourage people, and this is probably true for people listening right now that people love to read non-fiction. They want to get a book that's gonna tell them what to do, and a bulleted list of what they're supposed to do, but I really believe that the mind learns through metaphor, right? That storytelling is how you learn the rules of your tribe or your culture, or the world or about being a human being you learn through metaphor. I really think we undervalue storytelling in this like quick fix culture.
Ooh, but the flip side of storytelling of the quick fix is the folks who actually are great storytellers they have our attention in a world that's so noisy and quick fixing. If you can, actually, tell a story with an arc, and a beginning, middle and an end, and it's compelling in a new and different way, especially, now that it's democratized, you know, we have access to this stuff, so talk more about that.
That's a great point, yeah, look at Serial and Making of a Murderer. You could read a short, you know, you could read that with a PD entry, or you could really enjoy the story and all its nuances.
Did you enjoy them? What is that called when you get pulled in you can't leave?
Right, right, right.
I'm very worried about things like that. The only thing I really allowed myself to go deep in is House of Cards, but my wife like Serial gone, I didn't see her for days. Do you get sucked in by that stuff as a storyteller yourself?
Oh, yes, no, I love watching it. I love the storytelling element. I love to watch the way they narrate it. I love to watch the way they leave you with an open loop for the next week. An open loop is like have you seen like the Batman versus Superman movie?
No, I've haven't, but I've heard all of the reviews.
So an open loop is what I just did, which I said an open loop is, then I changed the subject, and that loop wasn't closed.
He's meta, he's using his own tricks against me in real time.
But it's great to do any type of conversation that if you're trying to kind of create rapport with someone, or build that connection whether you're writing or meeting somebody when there's still stuff left to talk about, still things unanswered makes you want to continue.
My next question is gonna be heavy, but it's gonna be a while from, I'm not gonna get to it 'til later.
Exactly, exactly, that's perfect, right. Stay tuned for the heavy question from Chase Jarvis.
For those of you out in the world I'm gonna say I think part of being a journalist is asking great questions, and as someone who is sitting here as a question asker I'm gonna turn the tables just for a second, and if you were sitting in my shoes, and you were gonna interview Neil Strauss what's your opening line? What's your opening line of questioning, not necessarily line as in like one-liner, but what's your opening line in the questioning?
Yeah, that's funny whenever I'm doing an interview the most important thing to me is the first question because that sets the tone. The first question is important to A, show you know something about this person, but you don't know so much that you're sort of like obsessive, and a little scary, right?
This person is weird they know what color toenail polish you use.
Right, or this person is just like totally disconnected and don't care.
Hasn't done work, yeah.
I always find that first question is important.
Great, well, my first question is about you asking questions.
It feels like a cop-out to me. So my first question for myself would just be like, you know, I don't even know.
Yes, you do, you know what to ask yourself.
I'm so much worse than everybody else, like I really mean it like I don't know I'm not curious about myself because I know myself to some degree.
You know everything about you.
Right, so it would be more like I would ask you if I was interviewing you, and I kind of came in to discuss it, I said like I'm curious about how you balance being an artist yourself with being, you know, a CEO and the thing about being a CEO and running these businesses, and doing this show is that there's always stuff, immediate pressing for your time, whereas, the art can always wait, you know, and are you ever in danger of losing your art to the demands of business?
Great, well that answer I will provide later in the show, keeping the loop open, again.
What do you guys think? Do you think it's a challenge for Chase what I'm talking about? That's a nod, yes. What about you?
You can answer.
Yeah, do you think there's a challenge or no? Do you think he's doing too much? Do you think he should like just relax a little bit, and do a little less?
I think he would get antsy.
Right, right, so it's almost like the way some people have heroin addiction, or like an alcoholic like he's sort of like intensity, work and intensity, and if something's not intense he'll find a new business or a new thing to fill up his time or a new project, right?
I think that's fair, like this particular I once did a ... This is turning in about me, we're gonna flip it back to you.
You just walked right into it.
Fair enough, fair enough. I once did a campaign that was 17 days, literally entirely circumnavigated the world shooting in a different city where the Olympic marathon had been filmed, or had been run, so we did a marathon while creating a campaign about marathons. This particular the last several weeks that we'd been sitting down with you, and other folks like you has been one of the most rewarding in recent memory for me. I think it's some of the best work that Creative Live has ever done, and I've ever done, so it's been very, very rewarding, but I think buried in your question I'm gonna try and extrapolate has that ever been a thing for you? Has the business side ever been a thing for you because whenever we sit down it's very much always about the writing, you're working on a project, you're becoming something in a journalistic sense, so that you can unearth like you live the role is it fair to say would you call yourself an actor in some ways in that way?
I'm not an actor, but I would say I do immerse like I really immerse and embed myself, but I'm never pretending. I want to do it for me. Like when I did The Game with the Pickup Artist I really was lonely, you know, so my life was at stake, but yeah.
Your life was at stake, so there's an urgency behind your work as there is I think with most creative stuff, so the folks on the other side of this camera there are two pools ...
By the way to clarify my life wasn't at stake in the sense that if I don't have sex, or a girlfriend I'm gonna die. It was more like it was important for my life just to clarify.
Death without sex.
But, anyway, before we move on because you left this open loop here, now what I'm more curious about.
I knew this was gonna happen I love it.
You started it.
Yeah-yeah, I did. We want this to be a dynamic show.
This is what I would ask next if I were asking the questions which I'm not. How are your relationships?
Very strong with the people that are very close to me.
But how about your love relationships?
What's your situation now?
I am married with no children, and no plans for children, which the Humans of New York covered, and it was a very controversial thing that I said that we actively didn't want to have children. Apparently, that's a thing that sets people off. You're either for it or against it.
They were angry about the fact you don't want to have children?
Yeah-yeah, there was a lot.
Smart people like yourself should breed, by the way, I mean that's true, but you should also be allowed to make your own choice about it.
Fair enough. I have a very, very close relationship with the people that I'm close with. I think I have a lot of then associates, and not a lot of people like people that I consider my friends that I don't see on a regular basis. The in between there's a yawning gulf between those two circles.
Right, it makes sense. I think a lot of people do that.
Yeah, especially when you're busy I mean I travel 200,000 miles a year.
What I was asking was like a lot of people with work addiction, which I'd say that you have.
There's laughter in the wings here. Some of it's like intimacy avoidance. That's kind of what The Truth is about in a way. Some of it's about intimacy avoidance like if I work so hard like that person is always in the office late even though they really could go home. They don't have to do that stuff they just don't want to go home, and deal with that.
Okay, then, now we're gonna change the subject.
So maybe you and your wife what does your wife do?
My wife Kate she's a producer. She's basically produced previous versions of the show for the five years, and my entire photographic and director career were produced by Kate.
Does she have other people besides you or no? You can cut all this out later, but does she have other people beside you?
In her life?
No-no, in her life who she's producing, or is it just you?
No, it's just for our company.
It's a co-owned company.
Got it, and how much?
How much of your conversations are about the relationship, and how much are about work? I'm curious I think it's a challenge.
For sure, we have addressed this. I feel like reasonably publicly we talked to our close friends about this like in a work dynamic when we're trying to change the world through the art that we're making, and unearth and uncover and create it's a very intense relationship, or it's a very intense space to operate in, and someone's a shot caller. Kate joined, basically, the company after she was a teacher and was, I'm gonna become a photographer. I love it more than anything else in the world. She came on and then just immediately added so much value, but still as the artist like the producer artist the artist is the one saying like I want it taller and more green can you, and the producer is like, okay, I'm gonna call in the green people, or I'm gonna call in the tall building people, so escaping that relationship at work to go home then, and to try and leave that dynamic at work, and have a new dynamic at home is very hard. We spend a lot of time in therapy a lot of time talking really intimately about it, but only after we really recognized that it was a thing. Let's talk about you.
My diagnosis, by the way, not that it matters, but from two seconds of conversation, you know, so I see it. I think it's more about intensity than about work addiction for you because you really obviously dedicated that time to making sure you have a well-rounded connected relationship it sounds like that's awesome. A lot of people, by the way, a lot of people don't do that. I think a lot of people, again, going to the people listening is I think someone is maybe all work, or they have so many unfulfilled ambitions that they can't connect with someone else because they're always in a state of shame. I'm not living up to my potential. I'm not doing enough for myself, and that leaves them disconnected because I think I'm fascinated in what, you know, I think the creative work is important. I think all this stuff we're talking about is important, but I also think to what degree is it creative is creating, and what degree is it disconnecting? What degree is it destructive to your life, and your relationships and your connections?
That's very powerful. Brené Brown has been a guest on this show before. Her talk about shame, and vulnerability around creating, and how, actually, vulnerability is a requirement for making great stuff.
It just is very powerful and resonated. If you haven't seen that one you should check out that episode it's very powerful.
Before I do I've done books with other people like I've done books with rock stars like collaborations, and huge people have asked me to write their book, and I'll sit down with them and I'll ask them like are you willing to show everything in the book even the parts that make you look bad? The things you're not proud of. The things you don't want your wife, or your husband or your children to see? Are you still willing to tell those stories as they were, and not worry about what other people think? If they can't get that vulnerable I won't do it with them because no one will make a connection with them as a human being.
So vulnerability equals connection?
I think honesty equals a book. Like, in other words, like why are you gonna write a book telling your life story if you're not gonna tell your life story, if you're gonna hide probably the best parts, and the most human parts. What I found from really like putting it all out there for myself, and others is the things you're most afraid to share and tell others are probably the things you should be telling and sharing because if you're feeling it other people will feel it too, and they'll find that connection.
So I love that we're getting full circle because this is gonna allow me to pick up the thing that you just set down, and feed it back to you which is what you've just done underscores your wisdom in not just your career path, but certainly what you've chosen to write about. You've already disclosed that it's very personal about you. You wrote The Game because you were very lonely. Take me from being lonely, being a journalist, and saying now what the fuck do I do? How do you arrive at a project like The Game, which will you give us the subtitle of The Game because I think those folks at home who don't know it will be intrigued.
Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.
What does that mean?
It means there was a sort of secret subculture of pickup artists, not so secret anymore I don't think that were trading kind of information online about the tips and tricks and tactics to build attraction with the opposite sex. I kind of joined an editor called me up, and said, hey, you should collect all this into a how-to where you would kind of ghostwrite a how-to book. I said, I have no interest in writing like how-to books, and then I brushed it off, but I secretly joined not for a book, but for myself like I'd like to say it was some grand journalistic scheme play-acting like you said, but it was really just a guy who I was successful, I felt like I was successful in my career, and I had friends, but for some reason like every woman I liked I would just get what they call the LJBF speech, Let's just be friends, time after time. I'd be like why are you dating that jerk? I'm like a nice guy. I'd be like I would like care about you, and I want to be in a relationship with you, and why are you always with that jerk who you're complaining about, you know, so I was just that guy all the time, so I thought maybe they could help me with those problems.
Did you get help?
More than I ever wanted. Yeah-yeah, more than I ever imagined. I think the book is a weird journey, and that's a great thing like what I love about, you know, writing books certain verses say, based on a TV show or a movie, sometimes, is you only have to know the beginning when I do a project like that. I don't have to know where it goes. I don't have to be attached to where it goes. It might change completely, and so what happened was over the course of time I got so obsessed with it, and so into it that eventually I became like voted as like the number one pickup artist in that whole weird world, so that somewhere between the beginning in there I'm like I got to write about this.
Was there a self-diagnosis in there that was not unlike the one you were investigating about me just a second ago where you're asking if I'm working so hard, and what achievement is going to be for me is to become number one because then people can't hate me if I'm in first place?
I don't think I even had a goal to be number one there like that's weird. When I heard the New York Times job was open I didn't apply to it or anything like that like I just got a call from them. I wasn't trying to protect the number one pickup artist that wasn't like a life goal, or anything like that. I think I'm just like, yeah, I don't know, but I will tell I mean later we'll get to the self-diagnosis about my intimacy problems 100%, but I don't know if it's, yeah, but definitely like I think if your life goal is to become the number one pickup artist something is really wrong with you.
So let's talk about the basis for what we talked about a second ago vulnerability as sort of a mechanism, or an avenue rather for creativity, and if there's something that you are uncomfortable with that's probably the thing you would face the most?
Yeah, it's like what are your fears? What are you scared to do? You know, what do you have guilt around? And all these things contingent on them not really hurting another person, so, you know, some people feel guilt about, yeah, I was talking to someone today. Everyday they text their mom I love you, but they do it for her so she can feel good, not for them, like you got to break the bond with your mom so you can grow up, so it's a good kind of guilt, right?
But they're not always that kind, right?
Yeah, but the question is what are you afraid to do? What are you scared of? What do you feel like you're not enough for? And that's what you should be doing, and it's so easy to procrastinate on that. That's my question for you earlier, which is there's all those pressing, you know, demands of the company the CEO, this person is hiring that it's easy to put off some of the tough stuff for yourself, and I think it's true of everybody, especially, if you do another job. The best thing about being a writer as a professional career is you have deadlines, and someone breathing down your neck saying you're going to be fired, I'm going to kill your contract, these consequences are gonna happen if you don't turn it in in time. I would definitely say like one of the most important things for me as far as being creative is like having deadlines. Even at the New York Times, sometimes, your deadline might be, I might write my best piece in like two hours versus the one I had two months to do.
All right, there's so many things in there I'm trying to put a pin in all of them. Specifically, let's go back. One of the things a question that I get when I ask for questions on the show a lot of people talk about how do I stand out? I encourage people to be different not just better. I feel like there is I'll call it an epidemic of creatives in our country that don't know what to create because what I hear, and see is this gap between their personal experience, and their belief that that experience is worthy to talk about or share. Can you talk about that gap for me, and how you view?
I think those questions get in the way of the creativity if you're just thinking about, oh, has someone done this before, or what new do I have to add, like all those questions get in the way of just being, doing, noticing, you know, paying attention, even the idea of what creativity is. I got to be creative is this creative? I think all those questions interfere with whatever it is you're trying to do, and any attachment to an outcome massively interferes.
So what do you do, you just make something, and just don't know if it's good, or just like throw it out there?
You don't know if it's good. You really don't know if it's good. You just know that you made it, right?
Yeah, the market is gonna decide if it's good, probably.
The market has no clue whether it's good or not. Right? I mean for sure we know popularity is not equivalent to quality, so my thought is there are few kinds of people either they're someone who like knows that they want to do music, or knows they want to do artwork, or cooking. I think, honestly, I think everything is creative. I think being a parent is creative. I think everything is creative.
Thank you. That's underscoring our mission right there. There's a creator in all of us for sure.
That's great and can you be present in the moment while you're doing it? I really think a lot of creativity is not the doing, but the listening and the noticing, and the paying attention just slow things down. What is this that I'm noticing, pay attention and then share, you know.
I love that you said share. There's all this sort of paying attention, noticing, even making around that stuff, but I find it interesting that you said that sharing was a piece of that process.
Talk to me about that.
I remember reading this about Marcel Duchamp who said like that's when the art begins is when it's shared. It can be shared with one person, it can be shared with many people, but it's like, okay, we all have our individual perception the way we're seeing, and experiencing the world, and, sometimes, we're struck by like a sense of awe or excitement, you know, maybe that was was it when I found the pickup artist community, or the stuff I discovered in The Truth, or Emergency or any of my books like there's something that excited me about that, or even as a journalist every article I wrote I'm excited to share this, so that excitement or that sense of awe how can I fill you with what I was filled with, or how can I explain that perception to you, and, also, how can I let you have your own judgment of it, and not try and control you to perceive it exactly that way because, again, some great works of art are totally different than what the creator intended, and that's okay because you have your own perception around it, so we're like starting a dialogue.
I go on record regularly saying that the answers aren't out there they're in here.
But yet I'm not trying to usurp the sharing part of it, I'm talking about the looking, so I'm gonna like turn that on you now. You wrote The Game because you were lonely.
And curious like what's the other part of lonely because lonely can translate in a lot of things?
I mean not just lonely and curious, but as much as that is like, oh, I found something really unique like a story that hadn't been told before about a group of, you know, tragically, wonderfully flawed characters that hadn't been shared before either, and I just started, you know, telling it.
So if you had to tell that story in the answer to one question how would you put a bow around The Game because you should definitely read the book. I made a very clear disclosure to my wife like Dear Honey, I love you to death. I'm reading this because I'm fascinated by this work of art by my friend Neil. There's no subtext here, Babe.
I went to someone's house once, and his wife had torn it in half, but other weird things have happened like that.
She's very strong.
Do not mess with that woman. She can tear a phone book in half.
But I've also gotten calls from like a certain government intelligence agency that gives it to all their agents to read, and they brought me over to train them, so it's a weird thing, and it's the awesome thing like you throw a pebble on the culture, and you don't know where the ripples are gonna go, but the question is, you know, are you gonna throw it, you know, and people get so attached to being precious. Here's some things here's some traps I see happen.
Bring it, like I'm taking notes.
I see a lot of artists get trapped they get so much worry about something they spend so much time. If you spend too much time doing a single work let's say, and not releasing it into the world what happens is you change, right? So The Game is 10 years old now, I think about 10 years old. Not only would I not write it today, but if I read it I would probably be embarrassed by it because it's not who I am today, right? I've seen artists who are recording an album, and then later they'll keep working on it, working on it and they'll start to change, and they'll start redoing all the songs because they've changed. Just release it because it's a testament of who I was at that time, so am I embarrassed by The Game? Well, no, but I wouldn't write it now, you know, I can see the immaturities in it, so to me in some ways I like see some of my books as they're just records of who I am at that moment in time, and they're right with the way I was thinking then, though now I could criticize The Game probably all day if I reread it.
So that's a pretty aggressive schedule because we're dynamic creatures. We're changing all the time. Is there some sort of timeline like everyday, or like we're trying to drop interviews everyday here.
Right, and it's 100% true that if you interviewed me three years from now there might be something else that you're like excited about, a different facet of creativity, or maybe it's not creativity. Maybe we'd be talking about entrepreneurship, or business, who knows, but think about the ways you've changed. You have different demarcation points in your life, but, no, the point is to release it before the inspiration, before that inspiration that excitement phase. It can change it evolves over time, but there's a point where you change too much when you start throwing away stuff that was perfectly good, and then the other thing that happens is the people who I think, yeah, who just can't get off the starting block because they're just too precious about it they're so worried about being judged, and criticized that they can't put it out there to be judged and criticized. Let me tell you something the worst affect is not being judged and criticized it's people having no opinion whatsoever on what you do that's death. You know, that's creative death is if you put it out and no one, welcome judgment, welcome criticism because you're pushing buttons. Everyone I talk who starts to get successful at something they're like, oh, man, I'm getting like, look at this Twitter message I got, or look at this review I got. They start getting like really hung up on it. It means you're growing that's part of the growing pains is when you start to take off in your creative life, or your business life, or whatever it is, people who feel threatened will start to pull you down, and can you still keep taking off?
There's an author that I consider a dear friend a guy named Austin Kleon. He wrote a book called Steal Like an Artist, and another follow-up to that book called Show Your Work. He says very eloquently that haters are not your problem, obscurity is your problem. To me it parallels like people not having an opinion, or being indifferent. Would you say that's a thing that people grasp when they're being precious are they trying to perfect their work such that they will not get criticized because that's not really having a point of view that's a non-point of view.
I think there's a million horrible internal dialogues, you know, the inner critic is a monster. By the way, the inner critic is not you. The inner critic is dad, or mom, or the sibling, you know, it's not you. That voice if you stop to think about it that voice was programmed into you, and it's not you so the inner critic, and the people who succeed are the ones whose ... We all have the inner critic. Again, I've interviewed all these people for Rolling Stone. I know all their fears, I know all their insecurities, but are you strong enough to silence the voice, and overcome it and just do it anyway? But for sure, but there's a million different voices. It's I'm not good enough, you know, no one's gonna like me, I'm not enough. I'm too good, and they're not gonna get me, right? Sometimes, we'll flip to that other side, right? No one's gonna understand this, so there's a million of those voices, and that's usually, you know, critical mom, critical dad, or absent parent because that can lead to the feeling I'm not enough why is that parent not around, so, again, I really believe that a lot of that's early programming that has to be overcome.
How do you overcome it?
I mean there's two ways. One is you just keep proving it wrong, right? The other and like I think that's a lot of what the truth is about it's like one is you recognize it. First of all you recognize what your limiting beliefs are, right? So what are those limiting beliefs? What are those fears? A lot of people work with that, and that becomes their creative métier. I know a lot of artists feel like they're not good enough, or their work is not good enough, and they keep crafting and crafting until it gets great, but they eventually reach a point where they say it's good enough. Can you reach that point?
Yeah, you're just tired.
Get that thing out of here.
That's the worse reason to release it, but I love the creative process. There's so many elements to it, but we'll get to that in a second. Anyway, first is can you identify the limiting beliefs? Second is can you recognize that they're not true and sort of disprove them? If you think you're not enough can you really recognize that's not your voice in your head that was the parent who just never gave you the time of day because either they weren't around they were always working, which is probably you're not having kids because the kids would, no, I'm just kidding.
Oh, he brought it back.
So can you recognize that A, it was something was programmed into you that's not about you, and B can you really just at least intellectually say that it's not true. Then C is either can you accept, make friends with it, and still do it anyway, or can you reprogram yourself which you can, there's a lot of incredible intense therapy processes out there. Something called post induction therapy, EMDR, somatic experiencing. They're really cool intense therapeutic processes. They're like an exorcism for your childhood demons.
Wow, you said a second ago the creative process, but we'll get there in a second.
What was I saying? Oh, yeah, the fascinating stages to the creative process.
Yeah, I'm dying to, again, you've said so many things that are like just I know that you're hitting the target with our audience. There's a whole pile of people who are trying to go from zero to one get started it's a big deal, and they're trying to live their hopes and dreams, but it's challenging and scary, and, you know, they have a mortgage, and blah, blah, blah.
There are so many amazing procrastination techniques people use. I honestly wish like you have a great job I wish I could like go to each person who has that and like shake them up, and be like, this is what, you know. I was just talking to someone the other day what they'll do is they'll chose 13 projects, and try and do them all at once, and then they'll get none of them done, so they're always beginning something, and never finishing anything, right? Then there's the person like you mentioned whose always like I'm too busy, but if you really look at them they just watched The Making of a Murderer, binge-watched it, you know, that weekend it's like I just don't buy too busy, I think you just are not managing your time.
It's a lack of priority.
Yeah, correctly, it's like putting first things first. People have so many good unconscious strategies for not doing what they're maybe put on this planet to do.
Yeah, that is literally one of I look at it as a core mission of my life, a core for Creative Live is sort of unlocking that potential that's in every person. One group is it's not getting started zero to one all the fear mechanism, but the other one is the people who started, but like how do they really flourish, and for that these folks it's taking all the things that we just talked about like how can we remove these excuses and get started? Then for the one to 10 folks who are trying to grow it's basically what is your inner truth? How do I have a voice? How do I recognize that voice? How do I have a style? How do I recognize style? Those are huge existential questions for creatives, and there really isn't resources out there. Isn't, aren't, there is not.
There ain't no resources for that. I'm sitting with a writer I'm having writer training.
I just don't believe you can say this is gonna be my style I'm gonna do that because you're already limiting yourself, that very you're already limiting yourself. so to me you're already in a negative way. You know, it's fascinating, it's fascinating, but I think that the process begins with it really begins like just what am I excited about? Like what do I get excited about if I'm talking, we're talking about creativity, and now we're both really excited. We're excited about creativity that's cool. Like this made me think, oh, how can I write a book that would maybe like shake some people up, and make them like do the things that they're scared to do, but I think there's a type who procrastinate. By the way, I'm drumming back a little bit.
There's a type of procrastination called perfect preparation. I would guess a lot of people are watching this not to be like the hour you spent watching this like think of what you could have written, or painted, or taken photographs.
Turn this off right now the show is now over.
So I guess a lot of people who watch this this is perfect preparation. Well, before I do that I want to get all the information about that, and often, sometimes, the best artists are the ones that have the most limited means, and that naiveté and almost have a childlike approach.
There's a word that childlike approach it's a Japanese word I think, this is wearing.
Something to put in the comments, or something.
Yes, show notes, there's a childlike wonder it's one word, anyway. So there's the procrastinator perfect?
Perfect preparest, I got to perfectly prepare before I start and to know everything. I need to research everything before I start, and it's like a wonderful procrastination technique because you're very, very busy, but you're not really doing it.
I find that commentary comes up in myself, but actually that is one of my I don't have a lot of weaknesses that I play through, have learned to play around, or bring other people into my life to help with that, but sort of the bullish like start, and then you'll figure it out thing, and I think it's actually that's one of my it's a strength. I feel like it actually comes out of ignorance like I'll tell myself a story that, oh, yeah, it will be easy just so we can get going, and then when you're in the mix like even with this show like we're gonna do some crazy shit such that it's like, oh, my God, it took five years to do 50, and we're gonna do 30 in 30 days. Frankly, it's nuts. Should people cultivate that thing?
I think that's awesome if you already know then maybe you shouldn't be doing it because you already know like, you know, so you not knowing saying we're gonna do these 30 shows, you know, I'm just gonna commit to this, I'm gonna like state it, and then I'm gonna follow through on it, and it just feels good it's kind of fun like doing things, making things, producing it matters. Then, again, like here's the other thing. I'm trying to think of the best way to explain it. Here's my advice. Just choose anything it doesn't even matter just choose anything, so here's an example. I wish I could almost draw it, but I'll tell you what, like let's see what can I use? We'll use the back of this couch here. This is you, are we filming that? I don't even know if this is going to be worthwhile, but we'll try it. This is you, right? And you're like I don't know what to do. I'm not sure what to do, and you're just sort of sitting here doing nothing, right? This little white stain I even know what it is. It's LeVar Burton's back sweat. Is that his name?
LeVar Burton, it could be anyone's sweat right there. So that's the other little piece of sweat toiling and trying to decide what to do, but then choose fricking anything, let's just say, oh, I want to be an actor, just who cares maybe you don't. I don't know just choose one thing. So you choose one thing and now you have a goal, right? Just choose a goal it doesn't matter. Now maybe you're gonna start going to auditions, you're going to auditions, and then wait, you got a job, but it's a voiceover work, or maybe it's on radio you got a little radio gig, right? So now you're like, oh, radio is fun. I'm gonna be a radio host, and that's your next goal, and then you get a call to do like a voiceover on a cartoon or something, and you're, okay, I'll be a cartoon voice, and guess what now you're actually moving, and maybe you will end up being, you know, the voice of whatever, you know, on the next Pixar movie or something like that.
Eugene Mirman, he's a friend, he's a voice in Bob's Burgers.
Yeah, yeah, exactly, along with, yeah, there's somebody good Jon Benjamin is that his name? He was also in Home Movies he's great, anyway, but the point is like just choose one thing to move toward, and then just go with the path, and you'll end up somewhere, but if you stay in here trying to decide what to do you'll still be here in a year, two years, three years, four years, just choose something you kind of like and don't hate, and then start moving toward it, and you'll find that the course, and path of life will bring you exactly where you're supposed to be. Did that work on the back of the couch?
It worked beautifully.
Okay, maybe I should put a coffee stain right there to show your destination.
There's something I feel I have never explained the belief that I have around that as eloquently as your couch drawing was, but I feel validated because there's this just think of when you are exited to pursue something, and you pursue it that energy is required for propulsion, and it's okay if that changes because you still have propulsion. While you're in that moment propelling towards the thing there is intention. Intention plus propulsion is to me that's what feels like to be alive specifically as a creator.
Yeah-yeah, and as an intensity addict.
What do you mean intensity addict?
I do not buy this.
But no I agree it's intention, it's propulsion, and also, you know, not being, you know, because, again, you might be be propelled by the back of the couch drawing, but you're being propelled over there, but you're like, no, I'm supposed to be an actor, and then you're gonna be in resistance to where the propulsion might be leading you is be willing to let go of what you think your outcome is to end up where you're supposed to be. I think you'll find if you talk to a lot of people who've made it in amazing ways that maybe it wasn't their intention. Maybe it was, but who knows? But get started and don't be attached to it.
The truth was clearly intentional for you was it not?
Everyone of my books start out with a different idea.
Take me on this ride.
So even The Game we were talking about earlier my intention I wasn't gonna be in the book. It was just gonna be about profiles of the different pickup artists, and as I started writing I'm like, oh, my story might be more interesting, is kind of interesting, and that's the best vehicle through which I could explain the bizarreness of that whole world, and the things that are interesting about it, so The Truth was gonna begin as a book, and it's great you start with one idea, and you're open to changing it, so The Truth began as it was gonna be about like the institution of marriage is broken, you know, monogamy is anachronism that was instituted by like, you know, turned into law by the Catholic church, and the 9th century and what have you, and why are we still doing this? It doesn't make sense, nothing in evolution backs it up very little even animals thought to be monogamous are really like slipping around like, you know.
Canadian geese are monogamous-ish.
Right, they're socially monogamous, but not sexually monogamous as we previously believed, so I thought why not just be true to our nature, and find the type of relationship that's natural to me, so that's how it began, but somehow it ended up with me in sex addiction rehab, and really realizing that my fear that I had like a massive fear of intimacy as I was saying earlier, right? So that's where that came from. I had a massive fear of intimacy based on having it's called enmeshment.
Enmeshment, so whatever sex you're attracted to, generally if your parent of that same sex, if your parent of that same sex growing up, and it's really hard to diagnose, but if they were either smothering, anxious, and for some reason you grew up taking care of their needs instead of them taking care of your needs you'll tend to be relationship avoidant, so that became like the first of a clue that set me off in this sort of like journey, so what began as a book about this, and it's all in there all the crazy stories of experimenting with that stuff I was talking about like non-monogamy ended up being really about trauma healing, like heal yourself, fix yourself, and then you'll know what you want, you know, and just like working hard is great, I mean passion is good, but are you working to get away from, or to move toward?
Wow, so that's how it started, and then when did you like here's the work mode, and then when did you like look up, and say, oh, my gosh, I'm gone, and this has gone off the rails?
It's great, here the great thing about art is you learn so much from your art, so what it was is I was writing the book from the perspective I just said, this like thing against, you know, the traditional institutions, and then I read it. I would read myself on the paper, I'd be like, well, this guy's an idiot, like I'd really be like this guy thinks he's right, but he is so messed up like he doesn't even see himself, so actually by reading what I was writing, and reading it on the page I was able to get a better perspective on myself, and move it forward.
How important is community in that process that you just talked about because you've talked about recognizing this on your own page. Are other people that are close to you recognizing this, or you're having friends read your early drafts, and they're saying dude like ...
Yeah, good, good question what I'll do is, and I think I kind of see at least for writing I see that as a process one is just you spitting it all out there, so with the book I'll just write everything down. Maybe it's 1,000 pages, who knows, I'll get everything down with no attachment. Again, I think another problem people make is they start trying to make it perfect from the first word, or the first stroke, or the first photograph, or the first whatever it is, stir up the pot whatever it is, but I'll just get it all down there, and then somewhere in that stack of pages, or bytes, or whatever it is, somewhere in there is the book. Somewhere in there can be shaved. The book can be shaved out of it. I just know that in there somewhere is a book, and I need to get it out of that vomit of words and pages, so then what I'll do is I'll start crafting.
Is this the career process that you?
This is my process, yeah.
Okay, so we're in the process, and there's a community aspect of it. Sorry, I'm just gonna contextualize. Step one, get it out there, get it out, put it out there.
Yeah, step one is just get it all down.
Are we sharing while we're putting it out? We're getting it down are we still sharing?
You're not, but some people do, but you're not.
I'm not, I might be excited about something, and be like, oh, my God, read this paragraph. I might be exited to share it, but I'm not that's just, but, no, I'll tell you why because if you really know it's really imperfect you're wasting an opportunity for good feedback. What I mean by that is get it to the best you feel it can possibly be and then share it because you learn something you don't know about it. I'm like, well, this kind of sucks, and I wrote it really quickly, I'm still in the middle of it let me know what you think? Now you can never read it fresh again. You're most likely gonna tell me A, what I already know, or, B, just make me feel remind me that it's shitty when I know it's shitty, right?
Interesting, yeah, this is interesting.
So the process kind of is I'll get that there, and then the next draft I'll think about the reader. The first one is just to get my experience down there. The next draft I think about the reader, and I think what are they experiencing? How can I make this work from the first word, or the first sentence they can't put it down? How can I grab their attention with the first sentence and start a story where they're not gonna want to put it down until it's over, so then I'm really crafting it for the reader. I'm thinking this is boring, this is slow. Does is not make sense? You know, all those kinds of things, and cutting out. Maybe that was really important to me, really important to me to communicate, but really like it has no place in that book, like there are lines, paragraphs, chapters that I love they feel like they're really important to share, but they just don't work in the totality of the work. I think that's one of the hardest parts is to, you know.
Yeah, or to kill your babies as they say, right? You're like there are paragraphs I have that are so important to communicate I will try and shove them in each nook and cranny of the book, and they just don't fit. You feel like when I'm reading it I feel just a bump, and I just want it to be smooth, so I have to as much as I love it just park it. You always have the story I tell myself I'll be like this will be good in the bonuses for the paperback, so you can convince yourself, tell yourself some lie that will allow yourself to part with it.
Part for now.
Yeah, exactly, it will be an online bonus for people, so that's the second draft, and that's when I might start sharing it. Then I always kind of say like the third draft is for the haters in a sense that I want to make the argument bulletproof, you know, in other words, someone may have a critique of that. Great, I want to acknowledge your critique in there, and take the wind out of it almost like Eminem and his raps like he already has every perspective like nailed down whatever you can critique about him he's already done your perspective, and like made fun of you for it, so I want to do that, and fact checking, make sure all my facts are really tight, and, also, say hey, so it doesn't mean I'm compromising with the haters. I might say something, and say you know what, people are going to have a strong reaction against this they're really gonna disagree with it if I've done my best here am I good with it? Yes, that may happen I'm gonna take that risk.
Because you don't want to please everybody.
You're not pleasing everybody you're being aware. You're being aware of everybody.
Is this journalism or art?
This is art I'm talking about when I'm writing a book.
I love this, this is all right.
So, for example, let's just say it could be a political point of view, let's just say, I don't write political books, but let's just say you're making a strong political stance on something, but you know that the people who have the opposite stance are gonna read it, so you're not gonna compromise to them, and say you have that stance, but you are gonna say is all your arguments are nailed down shut in here, and it's impenetrable like this is the word, so you're taking that into account, or you might say they're gonna have that argument. I know they're gonna have that argument, and I don't care, but you're in it you're in a dialogue, so it really is the art of empathy.
That is I think the next draft is for the haters, but it's empathetic to consider the readers both readers that are fans are neutral, and there's an empathetic there's power in that. That resonated with me exactly when you said that.
Yeah, I call it 360 degree thinking. You're thinking what's the media gonna think. Again, whether they like it or not doesn't matter. I'm thinking what's a journalist do in this? What's somebody whose read my other books gonna think? What's someone whose never read my work gonna think? What's someone who might be reading it just to tear it apart? You're just sort of like getting their perspectives. It doesn't mean you have to change anything, but you just know it, and then you really feel complete. You asked about community, so quickly the answer on that is, so I do a few things. Again, I'm talking specifically about books, but you can translate it to anything. One is at that point I'll show, I'll make a number of copies, and let anybody read it. They don't have to be a professional or know anything. I'll let a bunch of people read it, and this is a great process for interesting note for feedback. Then they'll all give you their feedback, right? There's a few kinds of feedback you're gonna get. We'll count it afterwards, right? One is I like those parts. I want to know what people lik, too, because that will help me be attached to it if maybe, and you'll show it to your editor, of course, and to the other people involved. I want to know what people like, so maybe if a bunch of people like it I'll be less inclined to cut it out. I want to know what people didn't like. If somebody doesn't like it you can make a choice. Well, I like it I'm gonna leave it in, or, yeah, I get that I had doubts about it, but the best feedback comes let's say you give it to 20 people, and 10 people come back, one person comes back, and says I didn't like that passage, or I don't like that thing. I'm like, well, I like it I'm gonna keep it in. Then when three, four, five or six other people say the same thing you're like, oh, maybe I really got to rethink that, and the best feedback comes when you disagree with someone's feedback, but you're getting it from so many people, and you think maybe there's a blind spot there, so the four things are, yes, you're right, but, no, I don't agree. Maybe, let me do some further research, or, no, you're wrong, but, wait, everybody can't be wrong, so those are the four styles of feedback, and the final thing that I'll do is when I'm all done I'll read it out loud to some people and just see like where, see if it really holds together, so like the overall point is this that actually making something out of nothing is the easy part, but the crafting it into something that you really feel great about to share is to me where a lot of the art comes in.
Wow, that's awesome, so the process of writing a novel is a reasonably long process or can be. Maybe I associate with long because writing isn't my primary vehicle for addressing myself. How is it for you is it a long process to do something like that?
It totally depends on the work. By the way, it's not all fun, right? Sometimes, it's like horrible, and you're saying this sucks, it's the worse thing ever, no one's gonna read it, like that's part of the process, right? You love it, then you hate it, then you love it, then you hate it, then you're not sure, and then you feel like it's good, you know, like you've done your best and you let it go, so there's all that and it depends, some things I can write in a month, some might take me like a few years. The Truth because it was so, so personal, and it was so close to myself took like a couple years, 2-1/2 years maybe. Probably all together like five years including research and writing, whereas, I did a book with like Marilyn Manson, and it took three months.
Wow, let's go I'd say personal, but maybe speed round like let's do some like fast-paced Q&A here. Can you tell us who you've worked with in sort of the book writing or article, or this sort of litany of names that we can familiarize?
Just like literally any, just about anyone in the music world you can imagine. A lot of people in the film world just name it. I mean I worked for Rolling Stone for like 20 years.
I was earlier, yesterday listening to super early glam rock, super early Mötley Crüe.
Yeah-yeah, so I did, yeah, the Mötley Crüe.
'Cause I'm alive.
So Mötley Crüe, Marilyn Manson, like you said literally anybody, so it would be a boring exercise for you to name some folks. Actually, let me put a filter on it. Work that was intriguing to you in the music world.
I mean I loved like interviewing Chuck Berry because he just kind of invented rock and roll, so to really talk to Chuck Berry like he doesn't see that he invented rock and roll. I mean Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard were the three guys the cornerstone of rock. Again, and he's like, oh, I didn't know what people are talking about when they say that, like here's how he invented it. It goes back to our story about creativity. He would play to these segregated venues, so like the white audience liked hillbilly was on one side music. Sorry, so he said the white audience was actually into hearing the R&B, and like the African American audience was into actually hearing some of the hillbilly music, and he had to try and please them both. They both wanted to hear what each other wanted to hear, so he was trying to like make a combination to make everything happy, and that turned into rock and roll.
Wow, that's literally listening to your lovers and your haters. It's, basically, if you look to the creative process you just described there's putting yourself in the shoes of the audience, and trying to create something that is valuable.
Yeah, and he see's what he did as being no different than what came before him. He didn't even realize he invented it at the time. It wasn't like we need a new sound, let me think about it, watch some videos on YouTube, or whatever, let me think about it, let me think about it, let me plan it out, let me make notes, let me discuss it with people. He was just like I'm out here making music to these audiences I'm experiencing how could I make a connection with them? Then rock and roll was born.
So years and years writing in music a book for Marilyn Manson you can write in three months.
A book about yourself five years.
Which was more valuable to you?
I mean they both were like equally valuable, I learned a lot from Manson was my first book, so we'd talk a lot about storytelling, and keeping it interesting, so I learned a ton about both. Definitely, Marilyn Manson was more hazardous to my health.
Then going and living your own like therapy?
Yeah, I would say like being on the road with a rock band that just got famous.
That would be scary.
Do it at your own risk.
Yeah, we don't want to over ...
That's a different show.
Yeah, it's a different show I'm sure, so let's plug into The Truth then because The Truth would you call it a follow-up to The Game? How do you relate the two, and talk to me about like go there on The Truth help me understand it.
I think, again, the way I just see it was some of my books I just to have the cool job where there's a problem in my life, and I get to solve it and then it became my job.
Publicly, very publicly.
The Game was dating problems, and The Truth was relationship problems. In between I did a book called Emergency about what's a dangerous world, and it can be scary when you think about their countries, and people who literally would love to kill you because you're you and you're from this country, or of whatever it is there are people who want to kill you even though you've done nothing to them, and we live with that, right? Like North Korea has nuclear weapons, right? Like you're an American you're fair game, right? So I wrote a book about dealing with that living in this very anxious period where a small amount of people can cause a great amount of harm, and how do you keep yourself safe, how do you get off the grid, and all that kind of stuff, so all my books are dealing with fear. They really begin in fear, right? Fear of women, fear of death, fear of intimacy. Only the fear of intimacy one was the hardest one to get over.
Why is that funny, actually, you tell me why that's funny?
Oh, because death seems like a little more absolute.
Is it the same adage that more people are scared of public speaking than death?
Yeah-yeah, they're scared of public humiliation, or just the irony that like we want to be around people, we want to be connected with people why is it so hard to really connect in a vulnerable authentic?
Do you plan the answer to that question in relationships and childhood and youth?
100% I mean the answer to everything is in those years because that's the operating system you're running on. It was programmed, you had your predispositions and everything. I even talked to geneticists. They said nothing is purely genetic everything is turned on and off, and we're talking about behavioral stuff by the environment, so, of course, that's the programming that's the operating system you're running on, and, especially, through intimacy because those are your first love and experiences, your first experience of dependence, of having a caregiver. For sure, like you can you name if I find out about someone's relationship I can usually guess how they were raised.
Do you make a habit like can you go to a dinner party, and not dissect somebody? I realize that I do it all the time like I struggle sometimes, to watch films because I see cords and I see edits and I see bad CG or CGI, and I see not literally green screens, but I just know too much about the process, and, sometimes, I have a hard time getting through that. I'm also anytime I walk up to a sunset, oh, great I'll take a picture it's like I'm actually trying to like live in the moment because my brain goes to like what's the F stop that I need to be at right here. Dinner party you spent a whole career dissecting humans.
I'm totally like figuring everything out like that person likes that person. My favorite thing at a dinner party is if like someone makes, or, especially, if it's you if you make a bad joke and no one laughs, but that one person over there laughs you kind of know they're into you, right? I'm always looking at like what's happening, who's into who, what's going on, like what makes that person tick, but it's fun and fascinating to me. It's nice like I don't know if that's I guess I don't see it as a problem because it is about connection and understanding.
Humanity, yes, and I find it fascinating. Once you start to understand these things things aren't a mystery. James Hollis, whose this incredible Jungian psychoanalyst said there's nothing in human behavior that's unexplainable if you know the complex, and what's at the root of it nothing is unexplainable you just have to understand where it's coming from. There's always a logical reason behind it.
Did you set out on this path to learn about yourself, or to tap into your creativity like what was there's like a huge history of introspection that I don't think, or maybe rephrase that. That so many of us may be afraid to go there, or if it's not a fear, or maybe it is a fear, but we mask it as something else like a lack of interest, but interest in other people that's what you said earlier.
Right, and by the way, I'll give people a few clues, so they can find out their own stuff if you want, but, yeah, for me like I think it came from A, having like a mom who'd always tell me all her problems in her life when I was really young, so I'd have to really empathize and understand, like, oh, what did dad do, like, you know, so that empathy and loss of self there. You know, always being the black sheep in the family, you know, trying to figure out what did I do wrong now like, you know, so those might be the roots of it, but it's weird even in like when I was 11 years old I wrote a book and tried to get it published, and sent it to publishers like I always wanted to be a writer. I think, also, maybe the black sheep never feeling understood, and maybe writing was my way to have my dialogue where someone could tell me I was wrong.
As an adult you still uncovered you included in a lot of work, a lot personal work are you still uncovering things, or do you feel like you?
Go ahead, feel like what?
You know where I'm going.
Yeah, but it only feels like we're done solely is really self deluded, you know, like whenever someone says I know all that. I know everything about that. I don't want to learn anything more. I'm like, oh, man, you're clearly a beginner, right? There's a great quote from Bob Dylan that's "I'm never arriving I'm always becoming."
I bet you could drop a few music quotes on us.
Yeah, a few.
You got anything else on the tip of your tongue?
That one seems appropriate to the moment.
It's very, very appropriate.
Or you know what here's another I'll drop one more music quote I was gonna say earlier because we were talking about that process, and I interviewed so we're gonna go from Bob Dylan to Lionel Richie. I interviewed him and he said, you know, I had this year, and like everything happened. It was like I performed at the Olympics for like billions of people, like we did the USA for Africa, which is like the biggest single ever, like I performed at the Grammy's like I got an Oscar like everything happened, and I finally got to the top like the very top of the mountain I was there. He goes, you know what was at the top? I'm like, no, no, what was at the top? He's like there was nothing, absolutely nothing at the top. All that was there was all the experiences you had on the way to get there, so it goes back to our couch drawing, which is like that's in there is where it all is. It's not at the destination.
That's kind of a strong visual. You've been climbing the mountain with your ice axe, and then you get to the top, and it's literally there's no party waiting for you, there's no group of cool people.
Yeah, it's true I never thought about it if you could just take a helicopter to the top it really wouldn't count would it?
Let's get into you personally a little bit if we can. Tactics, writing you shared your process what about are you a daily writer? Are you a spirited binge writer when you get something you're like, or do you sit down in front of the computer everyday? Do you like to write at home, on the road, at a coffee shop, on the beach? Just paint a picture of like I want people to leave this interview thinking like, oh, this is how Neil works.
I'm big on time management, so, for example, can I say what day it is?
Sure, yeah, we'll date ourselves, sure.
Is that all right?
Not the exact date but today's a Monday, right? Is it Monday?
Okay, so basically here's how I do it. Monday's I do every meeting, every interview, every appointment, everything I have to do is all on a Monday. Today I started like 7am I'll be done like at midnight. Then Tuesday to Sunday nothing. My schedule is just there for writing. So I'm always blocked out, and I'll just go there and I will do it, but what's important I think is the compartmentalization because if you just don't have any it's easy for stuff to bleed in and leak in, and I have to do that, so I really am strict about those Monday's, so one is compartmentalizing my time. The second thing and this is good for anyone who has to be creative like the phone and the Internet like will kill you. They will kill your creativity because you're right there, and you got something going, and wait, oh, I got a text, right? Or you might do it yourself. oh, let me check my Twitter, and see if anyone responded to that funny.
Funny Tweet, it's so cute and funny. Let's see if I really am cute and funny.
Oh, good, I got a like I feel validated, right? So you have to create systems to protect you from your worst self, so what I do is if I'm gonna write I give my phone to my wife.
She checks your texts for you.
Yeah, exactly, there's nothing important coming, but she can she has the password, or you could actually buy a cage to put your phone in and put a timer on it. You can put your phone in there if you don't have a loved one, or a loved one you trust with your phone, you know, someone around you. There's a program called Freedom for the computer. Do you know about this?
I just know of it I have not used it, I'm aware of it.
It's fantastic it just says how many minutes of freedom do you want, so my ritual is it's Tuesday I wake up, spend some time with the baby, surf.
Congratulations, by the way.
Thank you, it's the best thing ever.
Yeah, speaking of creativity, right? So I'll surf, eat breakfast, and then bam, then it's uninterrupted writing time. No one's allowed to come in that room. In fact, usually where I'm creative I don't even want anyone's energy in that space like I don't even like anyone coming in that room. I think Joseph Campbell talked about having like a sacred space, or something like that, so I just like it's really for me if the door is closed no one can kind of interrupt. My phone is in the cage, or my wife has the phone then I start up freedom for however many minutes. Freedom says how many minutes of freedom do you want? You type in whatever it is 320 minutes, and then you cannot get on the Internet for that amount of time. You might think, oh, I may be writing something, and it requires research. Well, make a list of what you have to research, and then when you get online just knock it all out. The other program that's good, is this useful?
Yeah, this is super useful. Matt is a freak about that stuff. He's behind the camera, and he's like, oh, yeah, keep it coming, keep it coming. He's taking notes.
So Intego Family Protector, and what it is, so someone you may not even have the discipline to start Freedom on your computer because you might get to your computer, and be like let me check my email before I start Freedom, let me just search this, and see what's happening on Google News, and then suddenly you've caught on the link parade, so Intego Family Protector takes the control. That's not what it's made for, but it's what I use it for. It takes the control out of your hands. In other words, when I'm really on a deadline I'll give it to my wife. I'll set it so that the only times I can get online are one hour in the morning, one hour in the evening, and she sets a password for it and locks it. I don't even have the password, so no matter what I can do I can only get you'll be amazed.
Using a child protective device to protect yourself from yourself.
You'll be amazed by how you can get everything done in one hour all those emails answered you could actually do it in one hour like whenever if it's 11pm, and you're gonna be offline you're gonna get it all done.
This is an amazing endorsement of these products I love it. It's clearly coming from a real place.
Right, and the real place is this. What distracts you, and what is your willpower not strong enough always to overcome, and if your willpower isn't strong enough then what's gonna be stronger than that?
Right, the cage, you know, like literally I'd be willing to do anything in a room with the door locked on a timed lock, you know, with just my whatever, my supplies to create in there. Great, like literally maybe there's a message for what you're saying is like lock yourself in the room with the tools you need to create your art, and nothing else. Either you'll fall asleep and hate yourself, or you'll actually create something.
How important is that process to non-professional creators? We believe there's a creator in all of us.
It makes no difference.
It makes no difference.
Yeah, it makes no difference. The point is choose the block of time you want to create. If you're a professional maybe it's five days a week. If you're not a professional maybe it's still five days a week, or maybe it's just a day, but just commit to some block of time that's just for you and your art no matter who you are, and you'll be a happier better person for it.
There is a program that we built at Creative Live called 28 To Make. You sign up and we basically put a creative prompt in your inbox every morning, and it's a 90 second video, something maybe around that. The creating can actually take as little as that amount of time. You can go as long as you want, but it was so powerful to just give people a prompt. We weren't telling them to lock themselves in a room with their cell phone in a different room, or whatever, but just the act of intentionally saying I'm gonna create something. I do 10 habits everyday and that's one of them. Make something everyday even if it's just the act of intention it is such a powerful vehicle it's so powerful.
Yeah, it's great, it really gets that thing going.
It makes me feel human, it makes me feel humble, it makes me like, hey, all of that other shit that's going on right now is, and it maybe has its place in this world, but come on let's bring it back to basics, which is you're here, you're on this planet, you have some agency what are you going to do with this agency?
Right, that's awesome. What did you create today?
I haven't created, well, this is my thing for today, but I haven't checked my box. I look at this as a super creative act. I mean we spent, might not look like it, but we spent a lot of time setting this little place up here.
Yes, I can tell, there's all the signs over there, and there's like the welcoming committee. They clearly spent a lot of time on that macaroni art right there. It's actually, guys, it's an empty room with like one light, two lights, and three cameras, and like a mysterious person in the corner. I can only see, actually, his legs, and, oh, and like some water.
I look at this as a creative act for sure sitting down with someone and trying to uncover.
And we started with nothing, and now we have something.
Now we have something for sure. So those are some of the tactics by which you write. How do you decide what to write on any given day?
This sounds kind of macabre but it's like the thing that if I die tomorrow I would regret not having gotten out of me. I was talking with a friend of mine Robert Greene who wrote The Art of Seduction.
Yeah, Robert's been on the show too, he's incredible.
He's great, we were talking about how when we start a book we get excited like we get scared like if we're in a plane wreck, oh, I just don't want to die before like I at least get my draft to someone where the book can come out, so you know you're excited about what you're doing because you think, oh, I just don't want to die, and not have this come out, I know it's this macabre thing dead.
No, but the flip side of that is it's also very intimating, I'm not gonna lie, like, wow, everyday you sit down you're doing your life's work.
Right, but you don't think about it like that.
Okay, how do you think about it?
I think about it's more like I think more like if you're not maybe doing a physical activity everyday you just don't feel good or centered. I know like I'm happy if I'm doing my writing even if the writing itself may not make me happy while I'm doing it, you know, I know that I'm happy.
The act of writing.
The act of writing.
An aggregate then.
Right, so I'll surf everyday, and I might have a horrible day, and not get waves, but happy I got in the water, and got in the ocean with the sun shining on my face just like you with this like did you sit down, and whatever your medium is. Your medium can change. Your passion can change. Like maybe today it's writing, you know, maybe it's another form of storytelling, TV or film it doesn't have to be writing.
What about something for the folks you're pretty public what about are there some things that people don't know about you? Is there anything that you would care to share that you haven't shared before?
Such as what like my boxers or briefs like what?
Ideally, it would have a little more weight behind it, but like something that people would be surprised if they knew about you?
By the way I'm an open book because everything really I put the things I'm most scared to say in my book, so the things that I've never told anyone I somehow can put in my books, but I think a cool thing is like I won the President's Volunteer Services Award. I was writing Emergency, and I joined a search and rescue team. There was a train disaster in Chatsworth a train was derailed a lot of injuries, so with the search and rescue team we went, and like helped the survivors, and helped the rescue team there, so I got a President's Volunteer Service Award for that. That's probably something people wouldn't expect.
For sure, yeah, I would have no, not that I disconnect you from things like that.
Or that after this I'm going to a meeting to like help I don't know.
Context, I love context.
That's all right, you know what's weird is I after every book's success I make a donation that's related to that book, but I never say what it is publicly. I don't know why it feels like it takes away from, sometimes, the service by using it for your own glory, so it's interesting after every book I donate a certain part to an associated charity.
The Game was as we know your exploration of that underworld of pickup artists. The Truth is about uncovering things in relationships. Rather than going into your particular relationship with your wife because that's not something that I ...
Care about, no, I'm just kidding.
I care deeply about it, I care about you as a person. Is this exploring two sides of something is that a theme like you go one way, and then you understand that you were wrong all along, and go the other way? I'm interested in tension and opposites, and dichotomies. We've had other folks in the show say I'll just use LeVar as an example, LeVar Burton. Yesterday was Easter, and one of the things that he learned yesterday was that he has some very different viewpoints than other people and that his just being open to those, and he's held this like, oh, man, I don't want to talk about this, this, and this, and then yesterday it was like a light bulb. Oh, my gosh, there's so much value in actually hearing the other side, so this opposite thing, you clearly have swung 180 degrees from The Game to The Truth. Is that a theme for you?
Yeah, again, I will say it's the opposite. As soon as I say anything is a theme I'll usually start doing something else. For example, I said earlier all my books are about I'll find a problem in my life, and try and solve it. My next book is not about that, you know, I feel like if it's something that's supposed to be a theme then maybe it's time.
To keep moving.
Yeah, time to keep moving if you say this is what I do maybe it's time to do something else. That's just the way I do my stuff, but, no, I see The Truth as an extension of the journey of the same person. I think that at a certain age you want to date and meet people, and another time of your life you want to be committed, and have a healthy relationship, so the idea that maybe meeting and dating, and hooking up would be the opposite of a relationship. Maybe it's only true if you're asking questions, but in anyone's life that's how it starts, and then you are in a relationship, so that to me seems part of the authentic journey of life.
Do you use travel to escape or to learn?
Yeah, to learn and experience for sure. Like there's that saying that, you know, they say that money can't buy happiness. A Harvard professor was talking about this, and he probably has a TED talk about it. Every Harvard professor who has something to say does, right? So I think it's about how money can't buy happiness, but experiences can lead to happiness, and whatever money you can have I always invested in experiences.
Liz Gilbert talked about Eat, Pray, Love is the book she wrote, and then she gave a great talk immediately following it about she's perhaps already put the best work of her life out, and how would you ever follow that up? Did you have that same fear when you put something good out, and you put The Game out it gets you so much notoriety?
See, I think so I think that what she meant, and, again, I don't know, but what I think she meant to say is I'm scared this will be my most popular work. If she didn't think she's making better work I bet she still thinks she'll make better work.
I think it is popular. She's written some incredible books since then, but I really appreciated that fear, and there's a lot of she talked about it, or I don't remember if it was her, or it was derivative of that, but just the context of how we treat, or think about artists in our culture that there's so much pressure on them. My point is she was looking at the best work as maybe already have happened, and how do you go to work everyday creating something that's maybe second best, but your point if I'm understanding correctly is the work is not necessarily popularity and success, or quality of the work are different things.
Yeah, I hear that, and I don't know I didn't see the talk, but I hear that as her saying I'm afraid I just got lucky here, and this was my most popular work, and that's how I hear it.
What do you do in that case?
It's all thoughts and beliefs that you can change or control at any point, right? It's just a thought, right? So her saying I've already done my best work. Is that what she said my best work?
I don't remember.
Let's say it's that it's the same as somebody else saying like I'm not good enough. It's the same as somebody else saying no one's gonna like what I have to do. It's just a bullshit nonsense lie you tell yourself that's not healthy for you or the work, right? You have no idea what's gonna happen tomorrow. No idea, you have no idea that this thing you're writing or doing or creating that you think is the best thing ever. You have no idea whether anyone is gonna like you. You operate I'd like to say like uncertainty is a very confident place to be. You know, really the more you can sort of let go of you have no idea about what's gonna happen in the future. You have no idea of whether people are gonna connect with it or not, and just do it and try to make it your best, and put all your heart and love and care into it, and then be unattached.
How important is recreation and rejuvenation? Are those things to being a powerful creator or human?
Yeah, I really think the secret to live is balance. Something social, something intellectual, something creative, I think being in balance, and you know when you feel like you're in balance. You know when something is off, so I think that balance is important. There are times when you're out of balance, right? That's okay and eventually you'll get back. I know when my book is almost due I might be spending 18 hour days, and I'm working really hard, and not pleasant to be around, and not shower or anything.
I can't imagine what the not pleasant to be around Neil Strauss is I can't imagine this.
Its this when I'm really busy it's like a porcupine I'll have like little things.
Like don't come close because I'm gonna like bristle because I got to work, and I want to stay in the head space because when you're like near the end of a project especially a book where it's 100,000 words you want to keep straight in your head like I really want to keep that. I don't want any noise in there. You know, they said if you're interrupted while doing something creative I'm big on no interruptions it takes you 20 minutes to get back to your flow state, or whatever you're in when you're created.
Flow states, do you believe in those flow states?
Some people say no, some people say yes. All I know is like, yeah, I could see it for sure being in flow. When I'm writing like the best stuff might just come out of my fingers that I didn't plan to write, and it's just like that's the most amazing stuff.
I believe so deeply in the flow state. I personally experienced things that will get me in there and keep me in there, but just those times when the work is effortless, and time moves scary fast. Do you do anything is all these things that we've been talking about like locking your phone up all that stuff is it creating?
That's it that's what it's all about it's creating that space where you can like struggle against that resistance, and then start going. I think the hardest parts are starting something and finishing it. Those are probably what the creative challenges are.
Gosh, what am I not asking that I should?
We've covered so much haven't we?
We have covered a lot like I'm tired, man, it's foot up on the table time. As someone who is a master interviewer yourself journalism it clearly plays a big role researching your book. Can you do a quick dissection of what's left here to talk about with Neil Strauss.
Have you not scratched the surface of the mystery that is, no, I don't know. There's so much, but I guess the thing that I want to say is more and more over time I've learned that the art is and I kind of said earlier is really in listening like it really is. We focus on the creation of what we're gonna output, but it really is in like the listening, and the paying attention with your own unique perspective on things, so it really is like I feel like you talk about it all coming from here it's true, but it's also the unique way you perceive, and see the world, and can you really listen, and hear what someone's saying? Can you really pay attention to something happening, and then can you bring it into your cauldron, and spit it out in a unique way like I do feel like if I had to write a book about this carpet that we're on like I could write an interesting book about that carpet, and find a million questions to ask about it, and follow it to where it came from like was it a factory where they reproduced it? What was the pattern based on? Like I know nothing about carpets, but we could choose anything, and we can make it interesting, so that's it I mean I guess like I assume people watch this because they're struggling or they need some inspiration.
Inspiration and guidance, yeah.
With something and I guess my inspiration is like embrace your fears, accept them and do it anyway.
There is no better way to end an interview than that. I'm super grateful for your time. Thank you so much for sitting down, spilling the beans you're a master at it, and we're grateful.
Awesome, I'm gonna lean back against everyone's career right there. There goes your ambitions.
Well, I'm gonna lean back too, and soak all that in, and say thank you for watching. There is gonna be another one of these interviews tomorrow.
Thank you for tuning in I appreciate it.