Book Launch Interview with Srinivas Rao
I'm Chase Jarvis. I'm your host for the An Audience of One book launch by my man Sri Rao. Welcome to Srini, please. (applause) So, the guy's got a handful of books under his belt. I know him originally not for his books but as the creator of the podcast Unmistakable Creative, an amazing show. How many episodes?
At this point, more than 700. I think I've lost count.
That's crazy. But what we're here to do today to talk about your new book and this little collab between CreativeLive and Penguin Random House, Audience of One. It's near and dear to my heart, so I wanna say welcome.
Thank you for having me. It's been a long time coming. I'm excited to have you here in the CreativeLive studios. Tell me a little bit about how you kicked this book off.
So this book is interesting because I had developed this habit of writing 1000 words a day after a conversation with a guy named Julian Smith.
Who is an author, and at the time had one of the most popular blogs on the In...
ternet and has now gone on to co-found, or is the founder, of a startup called Breather, which is like Airbnb for office space. And he had been a best-selling author and he had a wildly popular blog and he mentioned this habit of writing 1000 words a day to me. And I, for some reason at that time, had a unusually high demand on my content production. I was writing for a startup that I was advising. I was writing three blog posts a week for my own blog. I was writing one article a week for a website called Search Engine Journal and then we were writing a weekly newsletter for what is now the Unmistakable Creative podcast. So it was a lot of writing and I knew that there was no way that I could do that consistently based solely on inspiration so when Julian mentioned this idea of 1000 words a day I thought, well, if I do 1000 words a day and at the end of the week I have 7000 words, some of it will be good. 90% of it will probably be crap, which it still is to this day, but when you do it that often you don't need that much of it to be good. And so that kicked off this habit and in the six months that followed I ended up self-publishing a book called The Art of Being Unmistakable, which, as you and I were talking about earlier, ended up becoming a Wall Street Journal best seller, courtesy of Glenn Beck and a bunch of very freakish coincidences.
That's a story for a different day.
Yeah, so after that happened, I just kept up this habit for about two years and I was writing quite regularly. And I wrote a piece on Medium titled How Writing 1000 Words A Day Changed My Life. That piece went viral in 2013. Two years after that happened, an editor at Penguin Portfolio found it online and she had been working on Skillshare and had returned to publishing. She had been working in publishing before and she sends me an email and says, "I found this piece and I'm making a list of authors that I wanna talk to about a book and you're first on my list." And so we ended up talking for about two or three months and what ended up happening was I remember I was about to get in the water, I'm an avid surfer, so I had showed up at Tressels, my surf spot, and I get a call from my agent and says, "There's been a development. Do you have a few minute to talk?" And I'm looking at the clock thinking, there's about 15 minutes left before the wind comes up. Can you please make this quick? And she said, "Well, it turns out it's not gonna be a one book deal. They wanna make an offer for two books. They wanted to buy my self-published book and have me revise and expand it, and then the basis for Audience of One was the idea of 1000 words a day. So instead of revising and expanding the self-published book I ended up writing a whole new book from scratch and finished that book in six months. That was the book that came out before this. And then fast forward to two years later, we start work on what was supposed to be 1000 words a day, but the more we thought about it, we thought that this was relevant to far more people than writers. It's relevant to anybody who wants to do creative work. And the funny thing about this book is we didn't actually have a title until it was done and nobody knew what the title was. The Google Doc basically said Book Two/Creative Practice. So I finished writing the entire book, and then Vivianne, my editor, came to us with a title, An Audience of One, and every one of us had this sort of moment of yeah, that's the title. And that's how it came to be.
Alright, well we're gonna traverse the journey of the book, but now we're gonna go way back because there's a myth that creativity is this thing, it's a lightning rod, that it strikes a few of us in culture and other of us are somehow untouched by this. I know from your work that, unlike that, you believe that creativity is a daily habit. It's in everyone. So what was your point, way back in your childhood, where you realized, wait a minute, this is something that's inevitable, it's in all of us? And what was your personal realization?
I think that the earliest inklings of desire to express creativity, believe it or not, started right around seventh grade. I had a seventh grade band director, who for some reason decided to make it his personal mission to take me on as his project. And I also was playing on the football team, and as you might imagine, being Indian, I wasn't genetically predisposed for football, given that I lived in Texas where there's seventh graders the size of grown men. (laughter) And so it turned out that there was one way that you could get out of football practice, and that was if you needed to be tutored for a particular subject. I was a really good student, so that wasn't an option, but then the band director told me if I switch instruments from the trombone to the tuba I would be able to ditch football practice to be able to be tutored for the tuba. And he kind of laid it out in front of me. He said, "Here are your two options. You can go out and you can be a really average athlete or you can be an extraordinary musician." And I didn't have any natural musical aptitude, per se, but from the time I was in seventh grade to the time I was in ninth grade, in seventh grade I missed all region band by one chair for the junior high region that I was in in Texas. The next year I was first chair in that same region. And Texas has probably the most phenomenal high school music programs in the country, because if you have high school football you have marching band, hence the reason Austin is the hotbed of music that it is. A lot of people don't know that. And because of that you also have a very competitive musical environment, which you have all state band, and so when I was in ninth grade I had a private lessons teacher who said, "We want you to try out for the all state band that's for sophomores, juniors, and seniors. You're not gonna try out for the freshman band because it'll be completely pointless. You're not gonna challenge yourself and you're not gonna learn anything." And I got the lesson at that point that if you didn't possess any natural aptitude for something, which I didn't, you could actually get really really good at it. I missed all state band by one chair as a freshman in Texas and we came to California and I made all state band all three years I was in high school. And almost all the foundation of it came from that time in Texas. But this desire to express creativity, it was somewhat stifled when I got to college. I kind of fell into the trap of do something practical that will lead to a job, because when I was at Berkeley, typically the way that career options were put in front of you, and this is really what it comes down to, is these are the options in front of you. These are the only options. Either go to med school, go to law school. If not, go find a job and then eventually go to business school. Those are really kind of your options, or become a management consultant. Literally those were the options. These are the majors. These are the options that they lead to. And so the idea that I could do something else really wasn't part of my reality at that point. So I got a job at a startup, which was one of many jobs that I got fired from in the entire time that I worked, which is, we were talking about this earlier, the funniest thing about the fact that we're talking in this building is that the only job that I didn't get fired from was actually in this very building. And that was the one job where I actually got a proper goodbye lunch, whereas every other job was like don't let the door hit your ass on the way out. But through it all, what has happened, in probably the last 15 to 20 years is that the gap between creativity and technology became a lot more narrow because when I was in college, even when you were in college, something as simple as building a website used to take hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. So if you had an idea but you didn't have the technical skills to execute that idea, that idea was basically an afterthought. Now we've gotten to a point now where that's not the case. And so I was always tinkering with technology. So when we had the first sort of version of Blogger I remember just trying things with it. I had a friend who had started a summer newsletter when I was at my very first day job about, we would write about our summers and mine were pretty much about my drunken antics in San Francisco. And for some reason everybody would read my ridiculous stories, and it was my way of navigating a day job that I absolutely hated. That habit kind of stayed with me but the thing is that there was nowhere to publish stuff until Blogger came along, and it was always somewhat sporadic. And then fast forward to graduating from business school. I had been a social media intern at Intuit between my first and second year of business school and that's when I got exposed to all this stuff. And it started to occur to me that you really could use technology to make things. And that became my default question any time I saw a piece of technology. And to this day that's still my default response when I see something new is to say okay, this is really cool. What can I make using this? Because I had a mentor once who told me, he asked people, do you know how to use the Internet, which sounds like the most ridiculous question, right? Because most people would say yes. And his response to that would say great, show me something that you've made using the Internet. And that, to me, was the default way in which I viewed the Internet and technology. And it's still the way I view it to this day.
So music, critical to your formative years as a creator.
Which I didn't realize until now.
I think that's the point that I'm trying to make, is that when you're doing something it's really only by looking backwards that we can connect the dots. And so you said two things that I wanted to focus on. One was that you didn't think that you had any aptitude, but lo and behold, through the process of practice you went from not being, not considering yourself a musician overtly to being first chair. So one, that practice mattered, and then two, that someone gave you that spark.
Absolutely. I mean teachers played such a critical role in it. I even said it in this book. I said that my ninth grade band director deserves far more credit than he will ever get for where I am today.
And isn't it, I wanna just like pause for a moment. I think it's a little bit tragic that right now, culturally, and that's why this book is so relevant, that right now culturally there's a creative, creativity or the creative world is having a massive surge right now because we're realizing that creativity, as we talk around here at CreativeLive, is creativity is literacy, if we invest in creativity. But what, I'm curious, what would you say to someone who does not, 'cause this book, it's very very broad, it's made for a wide swath of people. But there are people at home right now like I'm not sure if that's for me. So tell me about how you thought about that as a younger person and now why this book is more relevant now than ever before.
I mean to the answer of why this is not for me, after 700 interviews and thousands of conversations with people who listen to the work that I do and even readers, what I've realized is there's only one difference between people who are creative or who consider themselves creative and people who think they're not and that's that people who consider themselves creative are in the habit of expressing their creativity on a regular basis. That's the only difference between those two groups of people. So the this is not for me argument, maybe not. If it's not I'm not gonna try to convince somebody to do something they don't wanna do, but I do think the notion that anybody is not creative is absolute nonsense. I think everybody is creative. I think the difference is that there are certain people who are in the habit, much like the people who work here at CreativeLive, all they have to do is walk around the office and that becomes very clear, that are in the habit of expressing this creativity on a regular basis. As far as where we're at as a culture and where we were before, and part of what has been really interesting about this book is that I've had a really unusual view into the world of creativity and success, and it's much like the view that you get, in that I get to see the world through the lens of outliers. But one of the challenges that comes with that is that that becomes the standard by which we measure our lives. So what we've done is we've effectively created this artificial pecking order, using social media, with fan and follower accounts. We've created the illusion of status and the result of that is that that becomes the standard by which people measure their lives. And the default narrative then suddenly becomes if I can't put this on my resume, if I can't monetize this, and if I can't build an audience around it it's not worth doing, which is ridiculous because if that was the question that people like Frank Warren who started Postsecret asked themselves, the world would've missed out on an amazing gift. If Brandon, who started Humans of New York, had asked himself that question, the world would've missed out on an amazing gift. Frank Warren has gone on to do things like raise awareness for suicide prevention because of Postsecret. I can't imagine the amount of people who have gotten a tremendous amount of healing just from being able to share their secrets on that project. And what I started to see, because of the fact that we have this sort of artificial pecking order and this illusion was that actually creativity was being stifled. Despite the fact that we have all this technology and all these tools, paradoxically, it's inhibited our creativity because there's this almost status anxiety and this question of this isn't worth doing unless a million people see it, even though when you look at the great creative people throughout history, they did their work largely out of view of an audience. In fact, that's where the majority of creative work happens. I get to sit here and talk to you today for two hours. I spent two years working on that book. So, and that's the thing with any piece of music. Or you look at even Michael Jackson, This is It documentary. If you've ever seen that it's--
Incredible. Yeah and you think about the amount of work that goes into a career like that, for what, a year of being on tour? And I don't think people really appreciate that there's so much joy to be found if we can get back to that place.
Well that's the subtitle, right? Reclaiming Creativity for its Own Sake. So let's go back. Now we're, again we're traversing the journey of your life. At what point, because creativity, at that point was getting you out of football practice, so at what point did you understand that you had this power that was innate in you that separated you from other species on the planet and gave you the faculty, the ability to put two unlikely things together to create something new and useful, IE, being creative?
I think where it really started to become apparent was when I graduated from business school in April 2009. So I graduated twice in recessions. I graduated from Berkeley in December 2000, which, the joke then was it was kind of like watching the most amazing party happening in San Francisco from across the bay, and then we got here and the party was over. And then I graduated business school April 2009. You could not have timed, you could not have planned such bad timing.
On both of those.
There's no way that you could have planned such bad timing. I said if we had all been in college from 1992 to we'd all be millionaires right now, or if we had been at Berkeley between 2004 and it would have been a much better situation for all my friends who were there. But when I got out of school, there were literally no jobs. Nobody was hiring because it was April 2009. You were getting MBAs trying to get jobs that paid $10 an hour. I remember somebody telling me once that a recruiter at some company got 1000 applications for a job. She literally printed all of them, took the first 500, threw them in the garbage, because there's no way anybody in their right mind could go through that. Knowing that that was happening I knew that this was a losing battle. So the first thing that I did on the Internet that had a public presence was this ridiculous product called 100 Reasons You Should Hire Me. And the funny thing was I saw a project that had been really successful by this girl Jamie Verone, who started something called Twitter Should Hire Me, which was really popular, got all sorts of national media attention. She got dozens of job offers and that was when I was in my second year of business school. I thought well, that's genius so I'm gonna do my version of that. The only problem was I couldn't come up with 100 reasons why anybody should hire me. (laughter)
Nineteen, and you're like, gah.
Yeah, I think I got to like 15 and I looked at it and I remember I got hate mail from strangers on the Internet. And not only that, when I looked back at the reasons, I said, okay, these are just the bullet points on my resume in blog form. But what I started to realize in that moment was that wow, my resume is basically a bunch of things I claim to know how to do but none of it is tangible evidence of the things I say I know how to do. And so I started the very first blog that I ever started and I started writing and I think 13, I think a couple weeks into writing I enrolled in this online course that my dad paid for. And I think there were 13 lessons. It was like 22 lessons. You got one lesson every week and the 13th lesson was, 13th or 11th lesson was to interview someone as a way to get traffic to your blog. So I interviewed one guy and he ended up referring me to another person. So I built it as a weekly series until I got to the 13th interview. And the guy who was my 13th interview basically said, I don't think you're a very good writer, which he was right. At the time I wasn't. But he said I think you do have a talent with interviews so I think you should take this and spin it on a separate site. And so that was kind of the start of it all. I just saw that I could go from idea to execution faster than I could at any other time. And at the same time I learned the lesson of wow, this is gonna take way longer than I thought it was, because when I saw that I could do that quickly I thought well, I'm gonna interview all these really famous people. They're gonna tweet all my interviews and every interview will go viral. As you have probably learned first hand, that's not true.
So in that story you are creating for not yourself.
You're creating 'cause there was a purpose. And is that, at what point did you realize that it's sort of the creativity in and of itself was the thing that you were chasing? Because at some point, and what I'm trying to sort of extract here, is that there's a thousand paths to get to the thing and your path doesn't, you don't have to be a troubled youth and you have to find that you have the story to tell that because of x, y, z in your past. You have some unique privilege. We all stumble and trip and find our way into where we are through a thousand paths. And your path, to me, again, you've created an amazing book here, long legacy, already you have 700 podcasts and a bunch of books, and you basically stumbled into your success.
Absolutely. This was far from planned. There's no way I could've planned this.
Yeah but when did you shift gears? Because at the beginning you're like I need to get a job, and I'm looking at these other people. What I like that you were noticing is that they hacked culture, which that's an element of creativity in and of itself to find an interesting and new and different way to get a job. What was it that finally tripped you into realizing that you know what, creativity is good in and of itself, not even if it's just to get a job?
So it was really right around 2013. Somebody sent me this collection of essays called The Life and Times of A Remarkable Misfit by my friend AJ Leon, who runs a design agency called Misfitting. There's a good chance you've probably met him. Really interesting guy, left a high profile investment banking job four days before his wedding. It's just a super inspiring story but a really interesting guy. You can't talk to him and not be inspired. So somebody put this collection of essays on my Facebook page and said Srini, have you talked to this guy yet? You really should. And I remember sitting down on a Friday afternoon, I poured a glass of scotch, and I read through it in one sitting and I just had to go back and read it again. What struck me most about that ebook in particular is that it completely shattered my expectation of what a free ebook should look like. It was beautifully designed. It had all this really nice artwork. It had just all this stuff in it and you looked at it and you're like wow, you gave this away for free? And the funny story about that was that that book was actually supposed to be a traditionally published book and he didn't like what the publisher was doing with it so he handed back his advance, redid it, and published it as a free collection of essays on the Internet. And then it got downloaded 100,000 times and he ended up basically, he actually went to Kickstarter and ended up raising all the money in four hours for physical copies of the book because he did not like what the publisher was doing. And in that moment it became very clear to me that okay, this was not about money, this was not about an audience. It was you wanted to create something beautiful because beautiful things is what the world deserves. And that was so inspiring to me and I ended up speaking at his first conference and I saw that something even at a conference could be done totally differently where every name tag was custom illustrated, where you walked into the room and it shattered your expectation of what this thing could be like. That was inspiring to me. And from that point forward, I think that rather than looking at myself as a marketer, a blogger, I really started to see that I could approach this as an artist instead and you end up getting the visual aesthetic of The Unmistakable Creative, a event that we did where we used movies and music and we borrowed from every art form and embedded all of those into a conference. Basically we wanted to create a theatrical experience and underlay the business content underneath. And so as a result you now have this body of work that doesn't look anything like it used to and I think that my aim with everything I do is to create things that I'm proud to put my signature on.
It's a really interesting measure. And you talked about the measure in followers. You talked about the measure of money, monetization, success, all the lists. But when you wake up every morning, how do you measure your own success? 'Cause it's clearly not the carrots. How do you wake up? What's your gut check that says that you're doing, what's your North Star?
I think that it would be irresponsible and it would be nonsense to tell you that I care less how this book does. Of course I want it to sell. Of course I care about the results. I don't want it to linger in obscurity.
I'm doing your part.
But that being said, I think that we tend to put a lot of emphasis and a lot of effort into things that are largely out of our control, particularly in terms of results, where the process is where you have a great deal of control. And if we took that same effort that we put into results that we have no control over and we put it into the process which we have complete control over, we would create much better work and paradoxically end up with much better results. So I think for me, the biggest thing that I, my litmus test is, have I honored the commitment that I've made to do my creative work? But more than that, I think where you start to really get the good stuff is when you start to experience those deep sort of states of flow in which the world disappears, the kinds of things that Steven Cottler and you have talked about, where you don't do this thing because it's some external reward. You do this thing for the work itself, because that is what is so rewarding. If you can get to that point you start to get all these other benefits that pretty much outweigh the moments in the spotlight. Because all the things that we look at as accolades, all those achievements, every one of them is temporary. And what is actually sustainable is the joy that you get from immersing yourself in this process. So if I get to experience flow, that's a good day.
So, why now? I think I was trying to put some words in your mouth earlier. And just here at CreativeLive we've got tens of millions of people paying attention to what it is that we're doing. I've seen and you can feel the Internet is an amazing tool for giving people a platform. We've talked about the democratization of creativity and its processes. But why you, first of all, and why now? Why not five years ago, and why not in five years? Why you, and why now?
So why me I think is the fact that I have been really fortunate in that I've been the beneficiary of a really bizarre sort of education from this project because I never limited myself to just interviewing entrepreneurs. That was very much the impetus for why we rebranded as Unmistakable Creative. In fact, one of the very first things we did when we rebranded was Mars Dorian, our visual artist, who is this amazingly skilled artist, who's in Berlin, Germany, he was doing all the visual branding and we had a tagline that said Candid Conversations with Creative Entrepreneurs and Insanely Interesting People. And the whole thing was in black and my mentor at the time said, "Email that back to Mars and tell him to change the insanely interesting people part to red." And he said, "By the way, that's the most important part of the entire tagline." And I said why? He said, "Because if you wanna have presidential candidate on the show in 2016, you'll be able to." And funny enough, we are gonna have a presidential candidate, a 2020 presidential candidate, on the show to talk about universal based income in a few weeks. But as a result of that I've had the opportunity to talk to everybody from bank robbers to drug dealers to performance psychologists to authors to entrepreneurs.
That's quite a list right there.
So a really interesting perspective on how you could channel your creativity in all sorts of ways. But the other part of that is I went and applied it to my own life. I've taken everything that these people have taught me. So really in a lot of ways this book is a blueprint for applying all the things that you've heard, whether it be on a podcast, whether it be the things that they've heard on platforms like CreativeLive. Many of the people in the book are people who have been guests on your own platform. As far as why now, I think we're at a really interesting inflection point with technology and culture, particularly with social media, largely because of what you and I were talking about earlier in terms of social status and pecking order and the fact that these things are actually leading us to a great deal of unhappiness. I think that people like Cal Newport are making a really strong case for why we should stop. Jaron Lanier just wrote a book called 10 Reasons You Should Delete All of Your Social Media Accounts. And I thought it was really funny because Danielle LaPorte shared that book on Instagram, and of course she has a massive following. I said, how is it that nobody commented on the irony of the fact that you just shared this book on Instagram? But the fact that she shared it on Instagram, somebody who has that big of a following, that big of an audience on that platform is talking about the potential of why this is destructive, that means we've arrived at a major inflection point where we have to really re-evaluate what it is that we value. I think that we've done a great disservice to our culture by creating this artificial sense of celebrity, when in reality, when people like you and I walk down the street probably people have no idea who we are.
There's a concept of why would you compare your own life, all of the things you know, all your laundry, with everybody else's highlight reel? Because that's really what's going on when you think about it. Everything else is a curated version and you get to see your very uncurated life right front and center. But in a way that's an opportunity, because what you've said in the book is you've talked about basically take the things and as James Victore wrote on one of your blurbs on the back, the things that made you weird as a kid make you a great creator. Take those things that are your weirdness and flaunt them. And so when you go to the title of the book, An Audience of One, that's about individuality and it's about being different, not just better. So talk to me a little bit about that.
Well it's funny because I think the entire ethos of the Unmistakable Brand was this notion of different, not better. And where that came from was watching how people would respond to figures of authority on the Internet, especially because I was interviewing so many people. And I think the thing that made it just crystal clear was this really hilarious sketch. And I don't know how old this sketch is but it was with Demetri Martin and John Stewart. It's about life coaching. And this woman goes in to see a life coach and Demetri Martin does the sketch and it was like trend breakdown. And he sits in on all these different sessions where he has this woman explain what a life coach does and then he talks to the woman who was actually the client of the life coach and he says, "Have you seen a difference in your life since going to a life coach?" And she said, "Yeah, I'm now a life coach." (laughter) But the funny thing is that I saw that same pattern where somebody would basically start an online course about how to make money from a blog and then the person who would sign up for the online course would then become a blogger who talked about how to make money from a blog. I just kept seeing this over and over and over. Or if you saw, you'd see this in so many different versions. You'd see people with coaching programs, with fitness bloggers. Across the board I kept seeing this. And I just, I couldn't help but think that people are basically just pale imitations of the people they look up to, when in all reality, they don't have to do that. And they shouldn't do that. They're basically hiding the things that make them unique. I remember talking to a web designer, a guy named Paul Jarvis. He designed some of Danielle LaPorte's initial websites. And he would tell me that people would come to him and they would say I want you to make a website that looks like that. And he would say, "Well, I don't want to do that for you and it's not going to work for you because you're not Danielle LaPorte. And I saw this so many times that it just drove me crazy. And so I went out of my way to talk about the fact that this is not how we should work. I think that we should highlight what makes us unique and different and abandon. You know, it's funny, there's things about our website, when you look at our about page for example, it violates every best practice that anybody in their right mind would follow for SEO. It's all pictures. It's an illustrated about page. It's a cartoon. But it is probably one of the coolest pages on our site. And I realized so often what we do is we look to figures of authority to give us approval to try the things we wanna try, and as a result we don't try what's unique or distinctive. We try what has already been vetted or approved, and so as a result we miss out on very unique things. And that just became the ethos of how we did things at The Unmistakable Creative. So we have this free ebook called The Compass, which you can get at UnmistakableCreative.com/compass. And it looks nothing like what you would expect a free ebook to look like. I think we spent like $1000 on it to design a free ebook. That's a really bad use of resources, by the way. I don't recommend anybody do that. But, it's really cool. The artwork is beautiful. It was one of those things that I just had such a blast doing and I wish more people would allow that to come through in their work.
So I was, I loved the book, because you haven't seen it yet. What we're talking about is big ideas here. We're talking about creativity, and finding your path, and deciding who or what you're making for. But there's a lot of tactics in here. To me, I think that's a really valuable thing and that's, I saw the syllabus for your class tomorrow on CreativeLive, very tactical. So I wanna shift gears and give a little bit of a sense for some of those things. So in the book it's also, the structure is beautiful. I love it. So there's four parts and they're all, they start with listening. So how important is listening in finding out who you are, finding how to be different, not just better, and ultimately toward creating your own art for an audience of one?
The listening thing is interesting because it goes back as early as my childhood. Now you and I are kind of close in age. You remember there was a time in history where we used to have these things called cassette tapes and when you played them too many times they stopped playing well. So my dad handed me a copy of Michael Jackson's Thriller, my first tape.
Nice, quality, quality.
I remember I had the Sony walkman and I would literally just play that thing over and over and over until it stopped sounding good. That's why I remember when CDs first came out I was just absolutely thrilled. It was like finally I can play this thing 2000 times and it won't sound bad after I play it 2000 times. So that kind of planted this early seed of listening. And obviously, when you interview people, that is largely a process of listening. And so that kind of came out as the theme. But what is even more relevant as far as sort of the tactical aspects of this, in the culture that we live in today we consume a lot of information. We have a lot of noise and a lot of things competing for our attention. So if you've got all these different things competing for your attention how the hell are you gonna hear the sound of your own voice? And that's where we really have to start with this idea of listening, is looking at the inputs that are coming into our lives and saying okay, is this adding value to my life? Is it carrying me to the person that I wanna be? Is it indicative of the person that I want to become or is it tying me to my past, who I used to be? And I think that the way we consume information is actually not deliberate, which is harmful in numerous ways, not just in terms of social media. So if you think about it this way, right? If you were to over consume in terms of food, like if you ate tons of junk food, you would barely be able to move. If you over consume in terms of information you're gonna barely be able to think. And I think that as you reduce the amount of input into your life, you start to hear your creativity speak a lot louder.
That's beautiful. Give me some examples. I know this about you 'cause we know one another, but you write instead of use devices. The first drafts are always hand written, which to me is crazy and amazing, but you also talked about and have talked about not using devices in the morning. So let's get, speaking of tactics that are gonna be in your CreativeLive class and in here, what are some tactics that you specifically do that folks who are listening might say wow, that's interesting, I might wanna try that, or just give us a little bit of your own personal nuance. 'Cause to me, that's why humans are fascinating, so what is your, what are some of your practices that we should know about?
So I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is I brush my teeth and then I go and I set some coffee to brew. And the reason I set the coffee to brew is because I figured out, inside that habit loop that Charles Duhigg came up with, you need a cue, you need a routine, and a reward. I had a really hard time developing the meditation habit until I figured out that if I put the coffee at the end of the meditation habit I've taken care of the reward. So I go and I meditate for 10 minutes. And believe it or not, it was your interview with Steven that got me completely hooked on the meditation habit. Now I'm solid with it. I very rarely miss it.
Can you imagine life, yeah, it's amazingly powerful.
It's so easy. He made it, that was so easy. And so I do 10 minutes using the calm app and that's the only thing I use my phone for in the morning. So I don't turn on my computer for the first hour and a half of the day. After that what I'll do is I'll put on a pair of noise cancellation headphones. I will go and I'll leave my phone in the closet. It's kind of amazing to me that we have all these different things that we do to try and avoid distraction and try to avoid using our phones. It's like, why don't you just leave the damn thing out of the room? That seems so simple. So I go and I put it in a closet so I can't see it. I put it on do not disturb mode so nobody can call me. So I don't get calls from anybody before 10 a.m. I don't do interviews with anybody before 10 a.m. Because I know myself well enough to know that my attention span will pretty much be done by about noon. It's pretty useless after about noon. I don't really do anything of value after 12 o'clock. So with the noise cancellation headphones you get to basically tune out all the other noise, and I think this is really largely about reducing input. Part of the reason I don't use devices is because that's another way of reducing input. So I read physical books 'cause I think it forces you to read a lot more. So I read anywhere between 40 to 50 pages. As you do this more consistently you can easily start to increase volume, but what I always tell people is start small. James Claire says you reduce the scope but stick to the schedule. So you could say okay, you know what, I'm gonna read 15 pages. If most people read 15 pages a day they would be amazed by how many books they would read. There's this really hilarious line in Trevor Noah's book where he said between Facebook, Twitter, I don't remember the exact words, but it was like you've read all these things. He said you've read a shit ton over the course of the year but in all reality you've read no books at all or read nothing at all. (laughter) Yeah, so I do that 50 pages then I will break open a moleskine journal. I will write three pages. Sometimes it's good. Most of the time it's bad. But the thing is that if you get through 30, 45 minutes, usually right around that mark is when you'll get the seed of an idea. And what's interesting is that that is usually the point where you go from focus into flow and suddenly what took you 45 minutes you can do in 15 minutes. So I can go to 1000 words. That might take 45 minutes. And then I'll write a 1500 word piece in 30 to 45 minutes just because of the fact that I've now entered a completely different state of consciousness. So if I can maintain that for about an hour or two each day, so I turn on the computer after about three pages when I look, okay, I can barely read what I'm writing. At least I know what the sentence says. Now I can transfer it and basically do that. But I'll give you a few other actionable things here that I use for your audience. So one of the things that Shawn Achor, happiness researcher, found is that there's a principle called activation energy, which is the number of steps that are between you and the thing that you wanna do. So what most people don't realize is that those number of steps are really small for most people. So something as simple as getting out a pen, getting a notebook, and getting a book off my shelf are three steps. Just by eliminating those three steps and setting all that stuff out the night before you increase the likelihood that you'll do it dramatically. So that's one component of this. The other piece of this that, I don't have to do this anymore but I found that was really beneficial in the beginning. So when you're looking at a blank page it's really frustrating because it's like what am I gonna write here on this blank page? Well it turns out that your brain makes progress towards a goal based on the perceived distance to that goal. And what I realized was that well, if that's the case, what I can do is I can use a quote from somebody else or two or three sentences from somebody else and I'm no longer looking at a blank page. 1000 words suddenly is, the perceived distance has now changed and the progress towards the goal accelerates.
Wow, give me one more line of detail there. So you're using a quote for inspiration to get started?
And you choose those randomly?
No, they're usually chosen from something that I'm reading. If I happen to stumble upon something I'm reading, like if you look at most of my books there's literally tons of underlines in passages. There's two books that I'm horrified that if I'm dating somebody and they pick those books up they're gonna see what I've underlined and that's The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction. (laughter)
Well said. Well speaking of quotes, you've got a bunch of great quotes throughout the book here. So I'm gonna read one now from Madeleine L'Engle and I'd like you to respond. But unless we are creators, we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint, or clay, or words. Creativity is a way of living life. No matter our vocation or how we learn our living, creativity is not limited to the arts or having some kind of important career.
Yeah, I mean it shows up in so many different ways in all of our lives. And I think the interesting thing was that I got to go back and look at the history of my own family as a part of this book. And I didn't realize that I actually come from a very creative family. I thought for the longest time that on the surface, these are not creative people. But my dad is a prolific photographer. Our house is filled with photos of us growing up. And I asked him once why he stopped taking photos. He's like, well, you guys grew up. Which, it's like, basically we're not cute anymore. And my mom has been cooking for the last 30 years, and it's funny 'cause there's literally no recipes anywhere in our house and you try to stand next to her on the stove and replicate it. I had a friend who did this with his mom. Apparently this is common to all Indian moms. Nobody can replicate their recipes. You literally sit next to her on the stove and his food still tasted worse. But what I saw was, wait a minute, these are all creative acts. I have a cousin. She actually is a software engineer but she also happens to be a fashion designer and a really talented visual artist and a musician. And so I started to see that wait a minute, these are all people who are doing creative things even though their job has nothing to do with it, even though we may not necessarily think of them as art. My younger sister, who is a doctor, is an incredible pastry chef, for lack of a better word. She bakes. In fact, when she was interviewing for residency, she said one of the things that somebody asked her was how do you make a cookie, 'cause she had been a, she was a hostess at this cafe in Berkeley called (foreign language). And so she makes these incredible desserts. That is her art form. That is her therapy, and that's an act of creativity.
Yeah, I think also what people miss is that, what I was taking, sort of my layer on Madeleine L'Engle's quote is there's the creativity with a small c, which is art, design, and photography, and all the things, but that's just a subset of the Creativity with a capital C, right? There's so many things that we do, whether it's the things that you've listed, but, writing code, wildly creative. And if you think about it, the solution to every problem that we will ever know has an element of creativity to it. And if you think about it, that creativity, even back to something as simple as these chairs, this table, everything in this room, was designed. It has to be, it has to come into the mind of an artist or inventor before it's, and be drawn or be sketched, before it is ever a thing. So in reality, creativity literally creates everything. And to me there's this unlock, as I'm reading your book, when you start to think about, okay, clearly everyone's creative. We all have these capacities. Whether we do them overtly or whether it's through cooking or creating our own life, that's capital C creating, but what I love so much about your book, and what I wanna go back to just for a second if we could, is how do you stay true to an audience of one? Because to me there's something, there's something very very important in there and that's what hinges on your main idea here, and ultimately that's what makes things successful. It's sort of like if you try and make something for everyone you end up making nothing for no one because there is nothing that everybody loves. So help me understand. How do you stay true to this audience of one concept?
Well I think it really comes down to values and standards. What your standards are, but more importantly, what your values are. I think that there are a lot of people who, again, it kind of takes us back to looking at something they think that works, and they say, well I wanna do that because it produced that result, even though it's completely out of alignment with what they do. So here's a perfect example from my own life. One of the things that I made a commitment to do was to never choose podcast guests based on how popular I thought they would be because I learned that lesson very early on. And so I will never make a decision about who to interview based on how many downloads I think it will get, how big their audience is. If people tell me, oh, we'll promote it to our audience, it's like well, that's of very little interest to me. I could care less if you promote it to your audience. I'm much more interested in creating something that I'm going to enjoy creating and that, coincidentally, my audience happens to enjoy. And so as a result, my curiosity has been the primary filter by which I make a lot of the decisions I make. I've said no to some very well known people, people who have actually been guests on your show. And I've done that because my values are different than theirs. And I think that what's interesting is that if you actually looked at sort of some of the iconic creators throughout history, Oprah being probably the most perfect example that we included in this book. There's a really great podcast that WEBZ in Chicago did, which was my research for this section of the book, where when Oprah first started becoming somewhat popular, it was basically her, Jerry Springer, Donna Hewett, and whoever else.
Donna Hew, remember that skinny microphone?
I mean you're talking about sort of daytime trash TV. And she intentionally decided not to stoop down to that level, even though it cost her in the ratings in the short term, and I think the results speak for themselves. And I knew that by making some of the decisions I did in terms of the way we chose to build this platform, moving away from being a platform about how to make money online and do all those things, that we were gonna slow down our growth. There are people who started after we did who have much bigger audiences, who have made more money. But I wasn't interested in creating something that was going to be relevant for a moment in time. I wanted to create something that was going to be timeless and have an impact on people's lives long after I'm gone. And the cool thing is that we've seen outcomes with our work that you could have never predicted in a million years. We have parents who homeschool their children using content from The Unmistakable Creative. We have therapists who counsel their patients, educators who incorporate it into their curriculum. Those are outcomes that you can't put a price on. You can't measure those. And none of those are worth compromising, to me, just so we can potentially have a bigger audience. So I've made values and standards the filter through which I make all of my choices. And I think that's how you stay loyal to an audience of one.
And if you missed it, that is the catapult. It's making something for one over and over. I think that's the, the way that I like to think about it, again having recently digested the book, is in the particular lies the universal. Brene Brown, who's also quoted in your book, good friend, also talks about, it's in vulnerability that we actually see ourselves in others. So when you come to me, you think you're being all strong, it's actually when you're soft and you can show a different side of you that I realize that we're the same. And so by telling your individual story, in a way, you get to tell a very very universal. 'Cause let's face it, we're all human, right?
So you talk about daily creative habit. And I think creativity, if you think about it as a habit, not necessarily a skill, you talk about that's how you get started, that's how people can tap into theirs. Talk to me about how you think and give me a little detail how you talk about here in the book.
Well we talk about habit, because habit is really the foundation. Habit is the building block of virtually every creative endeavor. It starts by doing something on a consistent basis. I started to see that very quickly with that 1000 word a day idea. I thought wow, if you can do something consistently, you're better off doing a small thing consistently than this big thing inconsistently. And I saw this a lot with a lot of friends, people who would have these moments of inspiration on a Saturday afternoon to build an empire and they think that I'm gonna spend six hours on a Saturday, when in all reality, if they did that thing for 30 minutes every day for the next sixth months, they would make a hell of a lot more progress. But the other thing that happens, I think as a result of habit and doing something consistently is that you develop skill. That is the inevitable byproduct. So I think that after 700 interviews I'd like to think that I've become somewhat skilled as an interviewer. I still think I have a lot of work to do. I go back and I listen to everything that I do. I look for things that I could have done better. Sometimes listeners will send me feedback and I'll actually look at what they're saying and say wow, you're right, I totally do that. And I try to fix that. And I look and I'll even go and listen to everything and say well what questions did I not ask that I wish I would have asked that would have taken us down a different thread, that would have led to a deeper conversation. So that's how you get from habit to skill. And the when you get to skill, skill is interesting because you get to a certain point where eventually you plateau. You've kind of reached where you're going to reach on your own and this is kind of one of the cool things about the course that we're teaching tomorrow, is that we're bringing in Anders Ericsson, who is the expert on deliberate practice. But I think my music teacher's a perfect example of that. There's only so far you're gonna get if you can't find somebody who is better than you are at what you do. Fortunately we live in a world in which you have access to endless amounts of teachers through a platform like yours, through books. I think that, I've said this to a handful of people, I have friends who I think are far more skilled writers naturally than I am, and people like Amber Ray, people like Sarah Peck, people like Danielle LaPorte, and people like Danny Shapiro. I find that they have a sort of lyric gift, like the way they write,
Their words sound like music. And I think, in my mind, I don't possess that but I think what I've been able to do is I've been able to learn from reading their writing and immersing myself in it, and at least translate some of that into my work. But I think that the bigger thing that came from this, there's another name on the cover of this book, a woman named Robin Dellabough, and Robin has been a very critical part of my ability to write books, because my book deal was contingent upon working with her. And I'm really glad. My editor said, "I'm not concerned about your ability to finish a book. I'm concerned about your ability to structure things in a linear fashion." I said, well, that's a valid concern, given how ADD I am. But I chose Robin specifically because she said she was gonna be tough on me and she wouldn't sugarcoat any of her feedback. And as a result she has made me a much better writer. I don't think that we're able to see our own limits and we're often blind to the fact that we've plateaued. And that's where teachers come in to get you from habit, to skill, to deliberate practice, to mastery.
That's part of why CreativeLive exists, because you literally have the opportunity to learn from people who are further along in that journey than you are. And even folks like Roger Federer, they have coaches. These are the best tennis players in the world, for example.
So I'm a weirdo who plays sports video games but I don't watch sports. I play Madden and NBA 2018 religiously, literally every day, even though I couldn't tell you anything about what's going on in either sport.
So all my knowledge of sports comes from video games but I'm sitting here playing a game with the Spurs, and they're talking about Kawhi Leonard and Kawhi Leonard, who's like this light style three point shooter has a shooting coach. And I thought, wow, this guy uses a shooting coach. That's amazing.
We're gonna go back to habits, okay? So I would like to know a few more of your habits. You talked about the creative habits and how you thought about them in the book. Give us some of your specific habits. We know about your morning routine. I'm dying to know what other habits, do you have some bedtime habits? What do you always do or always try to do on a daily basis?
So bedtime habits, for the most part I try to abide by this. There are days when I screw it up. I'm not immune to any of the things I'm suggest people avoid. I'm just like everybody else. But my default rule generally is to turn off devices after eight o'clock, because otherwise I have trouble sleeping. Sleep deprivation aggravates depression which I've had issues with, and so I've started to become much more mindful about how I was handling the night before. And not only that, after conversations with people Cal Newport and even people like Steven Cotler, I was really aware that how you end the day has a big impact on how you start the next one. And so usually after eight o'clock I try not to use my phone or my computer. I try to only read physical books. So no screens after 8:00 p.m. Because I just find that you sleep better and you wake up in a much more zen like state. I do play video games for about an hour before I go to bed, depending on if I have a friend to play with, or if I just wanna get a game in. But the other ones I think that are big in this situation are exercising habits. So if it's snowboarding season I will actually take entire weeks off. I remember part of why I designed my schedule the way I did was there was a period some time a few years ago, and we were running the podcast, and I was like man, these interviews are really getting in the way of my surfing time. This is becoming problematic. I need to figure out how to change this. Because unfortunately, when you're a surfer, you're not on your own schedule. You're on the schedule of mother nature. And I thought, man, every time there's a swell, and it still happens to me now, I'm stuck doing an interview. So I finally decided to do one week on, one week off so that I could get water time in during the weeks that I had off. So exercise is a really big one. I'm convinced that physical activity is critical to creativity. I think that it's not a coincidence that many of the people who have been guests here on CreativeLive, action sports athletes. It's not a coincidence in my mind that my surfing and writing journeys are parallel almost to the day, that my most significant career accomplishments came after I developed these action sports habits.
And I think it's also good to underscore, it doesn't require risking your life.
No, not at all.
But it's important. But putting yourself out of your comfort zone, that's part of creativity, is like taking two things that are not necessarily supposed to be together, or haven't been historically put together. You put those two things together and put them out in the world, and ideally they're new and useful. There's risk in that, right? There's culture risk. There's social risk. And as soon as you can sort of get happy and comfortable with that small daily risk, that allows you to take sort of bigger risks and those bigger risks are the things that tend to unlock into, whether it's the new podcast, the new book, or in many ways, that could be a new career. So you mentioned podcasts a lot. In this process of interviewing, you've probably seen patterns. We talked about your habits. We talked about exercise, we talked about writing, journaling, screen time. You certainly have seen through threads with your 700 guests. Give me a couple of 'em.
Well I think that the biggest one is that everybody who I've ever talked to who has accomplished something of significance is incredibly deliberate about how they spend their time. Everything in their life is a deliberate choice. None of it is by default. And so much of our life is set on default. Most people never change the ring on their iPhone. Most people don't change the home screen on their iPhone.
You're making me uncomfortable. (laughter)
These are really small things. These are minor things but they're perfect examples of the fact that our lives are largely set on default. And the people that I talk to, every aspect of their life is a deliberate choice, from where they live, from the clothes they wear, to the people they surround themselves with. That has always been a consistent theme. I think work ethic is another one. And it's not a work ethic of oh I work 120 hours a week, sleep deprived, but it's a consistent work ethic of I'm committed to this thing that I wanna get good at and I wanna be world class at and I'm gonna do what it takes to get good at it. That has, across the board, the people that I've talked to have that in droves. In a lot of cases I also think that they possess, in a lot of ways, which is somewhat necessary, an almost irrational sense of optimism, which is required. It's an irrational sense of optimism balanced with reality and practicality. They're not delusional but they're, I talked to this Harvard neuroscientist named Srini Pillay. One of the things that he told me earlier this year is that, "If you wanna make a lot of money," he said, "don't be realistic." He said, "You want to think in terms of possibility, not in terms of reality." So I remember teasing that apart, and if you think about it, so much of the world that we live in today was impossible 10 years ago. The idea that you push a button and a car shows up was impossible 10 years ago. The idea that you could build a website for $ and be done with it and have it look beautiful in an hour was impossible. And if all those people had sat up and said, you know what, I'm only gonna do what is currently possible, think about all the innovation and all the creativity that would not exist in the world today.
Speaking of, I got one more question, and then I wanna take a few minutes and take some of your questions. So now would be a good time to formulate some of those such that when I come back to you in about 90 seconds you got a couple of questions for Srini. Talk to me about, there's an interesting relationship with technology. So you've personally said, you haven't eschewed it completely. You've talked about how it's required. It helps scale. You used all these words. A lot of your previous episodes of Unmistakable Creative, when you're talking about a blog. So technology is a thing, right? It helps scale the work that you're doing. What's the balance? Because I'm listening to you say no screen time after eight but I really wanna publish my blog after eight. I really wanna polish that Instagram post after eight. So what role, how can we have a sort of safe and healthy relationship with technology, and of course with the underpinning of trying to promote innovation?
It's a good question, and I think what it comes down to is to have a deliberate and mindful relationship with technology, as opposed to letting it be the thing controls us. It should be something that facilitates our creativity and expands our creative capacity. But it shouldn't be something that controls us. Largely, for many people, their relationship with technology is just a default behavior that's driven by addiction. And from everything we know, from all the best behavioral scientists in the world, these tools are designed to do exactly that, to keep us coming back for more. Even when there's nothing there, we keep going back and thinking we're gonna find something there. And what you find maybe is a notification or a comment, and you kind of wonder if I added all these things together in my life, have they really accumulated real value? Have I produced anything of value because I've accumulated all these notifications and comments? So I think really what it comes down to is having a very mindful and deliberate relationship. That is why things like a schedule in which you say, okay, I'm gonna have this set time every day when I'm gonna use these things, or I'm gonna have set times every day when I'm not gonna use these things. Again, I'm, I'm not immune to any of these things. For some reason, particularly when I'm traveling, I have a tendency to use them a lot because I have my phone and I usually don't have my laptop in front of me. But when I'm at home I try to have a relationship with technology that is on a schedule. I don't want it in my life at a certain point. Part of why I like surfing is it forces a complete un-plug. You don't have to, you can't bring technology into the water.
You make a plan when you don't actually, you're not trying to make a plan under duress. You make the plan when you're of sound mind and body, (Srinivas laughing) like I'm gonna use my phone in these times. Not, should I use my phone now or not? Because it's--
You're making a decision in the moment, and often you're making that decision after having made hundreds of other decisions, which, based on what we know about willpower, there's no way you're gonna make a good decision after that.
Based on what we know about willpower. I love it. It's awesome. We're all human, right?
Speaking of humans, we've got some in the audience here and I'm presuming that there might be a question or two and you were fast on the draw there. We're gonna pass the mic. Please tell us who you are and then feel free to ask a question of Srini.
My name is Melissa Dinwiddie.
Hi. I'm a creativity instigator and I'm so excited to read this book, because I've been evangelizing about this stuff for a long time. So the subtitle of your book is Reclaiming Creativity for Its Own Sake. And you've also talked about making art for the pleasure of creating something beautiful and there's a tension between those two things, right? There's reclaiming creativity for its own sake, what I would call playing in the creative sandbox, following your curiosity and just making messes. And it's pure process where it's not about the outcome. It's not about impressing anybody, including yourself. So, and then there's making something that you're proud of, that you'd be proud to put your name on and share with the world, right? So can you talk about dancing with those two things and then tension between those two things and how you dance with them?
Yeah, I think that's a really great question. So I think that part of what comes from this freedom to create in private is that you're liberated from all those expectations and standards, is that you actually do get to play in that mess. I think that what a lot of people probably don't know, at this point, hopefully they don't know, even though you can find it on Instagram, is that the visual aspect of Unmistakable Creative was largely an accident. I, for some strange reason, decided to embark on this 30 day project where I taught myself how to draw. And ironically, despite the message of this book, I documented the whole thing on Instagram. And my dad, to this day, makes fun of this project, because he looks at it and he's like this doesn't look like you know how to draw. (laughter) 'Cause I had a picture, literally I started the project with a picture of an apple and the very last thing I drew on day was a picture of Steve Jobs. I was like, that kinda looks like Steve Jobs, even though it doesn't. But the thing is that that really sparked this whole idea of using visuals in my work and finding people who could bring those things to life. If that hadn't happened I still don't think we would have the look and feel that we do today. So I think that if you give yourself that freedom to play in private without the pressure of it being good, inevitably you're going to end up with ideas that lead to something good. I can't draw but I figured out that wow, I can collaborate with people who can and what a world that opened up to me.
I'm Dr. Gladys Ato and I'm a psychologist and a leadership mentor. So I'm just fascinated around this whole concept of creativity. And what's popping up for me is the fear around it. So creativity has taken on, I think Chase you mentioned this, it has taken on this big thing, this big energy, of having to be an artist or a dancer or a musician. And you mentioned how you can be creative writing code. So my question is, how could you redefine even what creativity means in its simplest form so that that fear element within ourselves kind of gets diminished and we don't think we have to be creating masterpieces? Just to start doing something that is really of our true essence?
Well I think the fear thing is something we have to address first, because I think that people who wrestle with this fear, they look at people who have done really significant creative work and they assume that those people don't wrestle with those same things. But I look at 90% of what I write and think wow, if somebody thought it was a good idea to pay me to write books, what the hell were they thinking? But the thing is that I know if I can get past that, I will produce something good. And I'm convinced that that is the same case for anybody. But as far as how it comes out, I think that acting on an impulse of any sort that seems out of the ordinary, that can be applied to your life or your work is an act of creativity. So I love the idea of Postsecret because we would never think of--
Postsecret, it's a website that you submit secrets to and then they publish them and it feels good to get that secret out there and a lot of other people are healed. Sorry, I thought that just in case.
Yeah, absolutely. So I love that idea because it kind of, there's nothing that, it doesn't fall within the boundaries of creativity. It was just an impulse that this guy acted on. You don't wanna hand out 3000 self-addressed stamped post cards and say share an anonymous secret. There's literally no creativity book or rule book or guide that would have said this is a creative project that's going to lead to millions of people. It's a desire to act on an impulse that he gave into. And I think that's really where it comes from.
I think there's also some power in realizing that we're all just making it up.
Isn't that like, you mentioned Brandon Stanton, also friend, on the show, Humans of New York. If you're not familiar with Brandon personally, his website Humans of New York. He quit being a bond trader, moved to New York, lived in an apartment that just had a mattress on the floor with the mission to photograph 10,000 strangers on the streets of New York and put 'em on a map. Random? That's a very crazy idea, to be a bond trader and to quit and to then go do that. That is the creative impulse. And if you realize that we can all be driven by those impulses and what makes you weird as a kid, again, citing James Victore, who is one of your book blurbs, that's the thing that can make you stand out as an independent creator. Awesome question. We got time for one more question. Alright.
Hi, I'm Dr. Reva Robinson. So I was just wondering who has been your greatest creative inspiration in your life?
Wow, okay, so this is a tough question for me just because of the sheer volume of interesting and creative people I have been exposed to. In fact, three of them are actually sitting right by you. The two next to you were actually guests on the podcast. So that's a tough question. But as far as writers who I think have had a big impact on me, Steven Pressfield has been a really big one. I've really always loved his work. I think it has definitely been one of those things I return to on a regular basis. Danny Shapiro's work that she's done, and particularly in her book stall writing, that book is one of those that I've underlined and highlighted tons of and it's the most torn up book on my desk and I return to it at least once a week. So that's from a writing standpoint. From a music standpoint I think Michael Jackson. When I saw the documentary This Is It, my thought was wow, how could I do that with a conference? It turns out that pyrotechnics at a conference are really expensive, so I didn't get to pull that part off. But another thing that I saw recently that I was really just baffled by, was so blown away by it was, there's a Chinese pyrotechnics artist named Cai Guo-Qiang. I don't know if you've ever heard of this guy.
So basically there's a documentary on Netflix about him called Skylighter. The guy literally wanted to use fireworks to build a ladder into the sky because he wanted to connect earth to God. In his eyes this was the artistic equivalent of connecting with God. He spent 20 years working on this project and it failed numerous times. In those 20 years, the kinds of things that this guy did with pyrotechnics were, I was really disappointed that I didn't find this story before the book went to print, because I thought to myself, damnit, I think this is such a good story. I would have absolutely included it. And it was watching somebody like that push the boundaries of an art form and exceeding the limitations of a medium. We typically think of fireworks as something that only occurs at night time. This guy literally has used the sky as his canvas. And he did something, he did the Apec conference in China and then he did another thing in Beijing in the middle of the day where he used colored powders and fireworks and all this stuff. I've never seen anything like it and I thought, damn, I gotta track this guy down. That, to me, was inspiring.
And I bet you could go on and on because that's part of what I love about this book, about creativity, about the CreativeLive platform. It's like, there literally is something for everyone. And if you stand up in front of a sixth grade classroom, let's go back a few years, second grade classroom, who wants to come to the front of the room and draw me a picture? Every hand goes up, right? That's just a little reminder, and if you ask that same question at 18, one or two hands go up, right? So let that be a reminder that for all the work that our culture can do to train that out of you, that it's innate in you. And I think the important part, to bring this back to the book, is it's in you, it's in one, right? An Audience of One, Reclaiming Creativity For Its Own Sake. Srini, it's been a super treat to have you on the show. Before we let folks go, be sure to check out Unmistakable Creative. Where else can they find you?
Podcast is in iTunes. And that's primarily the place where it is and then unmistakablecreative.com. And then the book is pretty much available where, anywhere where books are sold.
And how about, well congratulations to you, and to Penguin of course.
Thank you. Also, where else can people find you on the Internet? Social Handles?
Social Handles, Unmistakable CEO on Instagram and Twitter and then Facebook is just Facebook.com/SriniRao.
Round of applause for Srini. (applause) Thanks so much for being with us.
Thanks for having me.