Maximizing Creativity + Navigating the Messy Middle with Scott Belsky
Hey, everybody was up its chase. Welcome to another episode of the Chase Drivers Live show here on Creative Live. You know this show? This is where I sit down with the most amazing humans. And I do everything I can impact their brains with the goal of helping you be more awesome and live your dreams. Anchor and hobby. And in life, my guest today started out as an associate Goldman and then, through a radical transformation, launched his own company called McCants, which is the place if you're creative to have your portfolio online. That has more than 12 million creatives on that platform. He had the company acquired by Adobe. He's an author, He's an investor and he is now the chief product officer at Adobe is my good friend Scott Belski in the house. Do you love you? Appreciate you Before the cameras started rolling, we were just talking Baby Adobe Max. New book, like all in the same day period. Yeah. You can't really look great. Design roll with it. It was great, but I don't know wha...
t's the secret? The, uh you know the book. The book is a five plus year project and two years ago, a pub date was chosen. And then, you know, and I didn't really even know what role I would have at that time. What would be going on? Maybe. I mean, all this stuff just is colliding at once. But, I mean, in some ways it's kind of meta because the book, the messy middle, all about navigating the volatility of a journey of a bold, creative project of a new venture of a product turnaround. And and it's it's about the fact that you want to plan and you should plan. But then you have to realize quickly that nothing goes according to plan. So everything is sort of, ah, messy at this moment, which is just so appropriate, don't you think you just took my That was gonna be My nutshell is like and how meta is this. But it's beautiful. I think great minds think alike that the second time in the show, first time wildly successful 100,000 people loved the material, and I think it's because, well, let's go back to your earlier book called Making Ideas Happen. So many creatives. And I think this is something. The quote that I remember putting out on social? I think it was something like, um, so many great ideas die in the minds on the deaths and on the floors of creatives because they don't get their shit together. And that just hits home with so many people. Did you know the audience really similar audience that you serve at Adobe creators and entrepreneurs. And, uh, And as I was reading the new book, which is again, the messy middle must buy I was. It reminded me that despite how messy stuff is, like having a point of view, being flexible and actually being organized is really key, though. So you put a very interesting layer on the creative industry. How did you come about to look at this? Was it from inside the creative industry when you looked around and said all the stuffs broken? Was it back in your sort of Goldman days with your business had on like, you have a very unique perspective to be a part of the creative industry. Where did you get that? Yeah, well before, before going into the business world after college for a few years, I was both I was studying. I was at Cornell, setting both design and business hasn't undergrad, and I was always kind of thorn between I go this creative direction or do I go the business route and that's always been the epicenter of my interests has been like how business and creativity overlap. I actually think that the greatest company is, and books are inspired by some sense of frustration making ideas happened. My first book and Be Hands was really inspired by my frustration with my friends in the creative world who had some of the most interesting ideas and great creative talents but just seems so disorganized. Yeah, and I realized, Gosh, like one of the most important communities on the planet that makes life literally interesting for all of us and helps us engage in every part of our lives is also the most disorganized community in the planet. What do we do about this? And it was that dose of frustration that inspired, like 10 years of my work and and similarly with the messy middle. I guess the frustration that inspired this book was how much were obsessed with starts and finishes of everything we love. Talking about the romanticism of the start. You know when people believe their job and start something new and take a risk in their careers. Or someone sets off to write the next great American novel or whatever it is that the start the moment of conception is fun and it's exhilarating and everyone wants to tune in for it. And then everyone loves to celebrate. The finish is whether it's a great finish. I'm like an I p o or an acquisition or a launch of a project or a book or a piece of art or whatever or were horrible Finnish people have covering bankruptcies and going out of business and everything else. And with all these sensational headlines and pithy sort of summaries of like 5 to 10 year journeys, you know, we're left kind of confused, scratching our heads, wondering what to make of this. And when people even ask me about my own experience or my career, I'm like, Well, yeah, you know, got you know, founding be hand 2nd 2000 5006 you know, boost shot for five years. Venture back for two years, acquired by a company integrated it. It's like great with like three sentences in a bow, you know, everything's is like, looks perfect. What? In fact, as you know as well as I like, it's anything but, uh and I know this five years of bootstrapping. I mean, there were many times when we thought of throwing in the towel. There were moments where things were working and then things where we felt like you were working in its complete ambiguity, uncertainty and anonymity for years on end. I was on my honeymoon when we had three months left a runway, and I was like, Is this irresponsible? But this is also one of the highlights of my life. Like, What the hell do I do with this? And and then it just continued. So So that's the frustration. Yep, that inspired me to to try to pull out the insights for the middle volatility from a lot of leaders and entrepreneurs and executives and writers and artists that I most admire for their long game. Yeah, there's a there's a handful of interviews in the book, or or snippets. I think what you just talked about. It is a beautiful piece in the book where you actually give your three sentences like you did right here like this is what I've said for the last five years about my previous, you know, 10 years of my life. I summarize it in three sentences, tells you nothing, and it really tells you nothing. And that's what I find about everything that we have you on creativelive and my own personal journey. I built my individual social following years ago in the back of letting people into the photography industry because no one was talking about. It was like, Oh, great, It's like models on the beach and the and And then there's just this great finished ad campaign or starting the film and finishing at the awards. There's no real documentation about the inside, so let's focus in on that just for a second. And there is a great I think the book is largely based on a graph and forgive me for over. Summarize this and it's beautiful. Your design sentiment is very present here, and it's the intersection of design of business because it starts out this start, and then as soon as you are beyond the emotional starting, you basically have a crash, and then it's we're gonna figure this out. Oh, shit. We're going to get better. Were dying. And it's just this this amazing up and down. And now you talked about some, and I'm gonna avoid just glazing over them like you did, like almost round on the money. And I was on my honeymoon, and I'd like to dive into some of those because I think with the goal of helping people understand that even you who is has achieved a lot sitting here, that there's been some very scary moments. So let's go to the one where you were on your honeymoon. I think you captured this beautifully in the book, talking about 20% of your brain not being present, like literally on your honeymoon. Help us feel aligned with you. Help us understand that Scott is improving at this moment in my life. Painful? No, it's It was Ah, it really was about, especially that moment, learning to bear the burden of processing constantly some degree of uncertainty and how any creative brain house to devote some amount of it self toe processing uncertainty in the background. And it's not that you're looking for an answer to a problem you're trying to solve It's actually your processing the problems you don't know you have yet and what those might be and how you might solve them. It's just like kind of existential crisis in the back of your mind at all times, because in truth, you're you're going against the the headwinds of society, right? I mean, every everything about the concert we live in, it's an immune system that kills off anything that's new. And that's actually how we keep the water running. That's also how we keep our teams productive is we kill off anything that's new, anybody that's new, by the way, and in order to sort of break that out breakthrough that you have to be constantly processing what's going on. And that's just sort of the burden right that we all carry if you're creating something new. So so I talk a little bit of that in the beginning and as well as how to brace herself for the long game and in some ways, short circuit, the reward system that governs you. Yeah, I feel like we, uh, we're so used to things like the weekly salary and and the gratification from bosses or parents or colleagues or customers. But when you have none of that yet when you have no customers yet and no revenue and what do you what do you do to supplement that? I don't think that the long term vision of what maybe five years from now is actually sufficient. That might be enough to get you toe jump in and start. Yes, not enough to get you to continue and endure over time. So you're on your honeymoon and you have this going in your back your mind, like we've got three months where the cash left. And do you just keep going like, what's the solution? Because right now there's 1000. Whoever's watching this, they are doing the same thing. They're having a child there, you know, trying to leave a job. They're trying to put food on the table, and they've got rial commitments. Yeah, you know, in another part of their life, that is a compartmentalization. Is it endurance? Is it, uh, you know, is this ah, muscle that we can strengthen. So give us get tactical for a second. Well, I think first of all, it's about accepting this burden as part of the creative is dilemma if you will, uh, and not necessarily fighting it because it is just par for the course, right? I think obviously compartmentalization is part of it. Can you Can you do something to kind of tend Teoh the, um you know, the sort of uncertainty, But also can you limit to the amount of energy you spend on what I like to call insecurity work? There's a lot of stuff that we do that we do just to assure ourselves that everything is OK but doesn't move the ball forward a particular way. Brilliant in the book. Well, I mean, it's looking at analytics, looking at Twitter social feeds, looking at just consistently looking at things to assure yourself that it's OK, even though what you're doing is not moving anything forward, we have to become aware. Oh, what am I doing right now? I'm doing in security work. I'm doing stuff that just toe keep me at bay in this period of uncertainty, and when you identify work as such, then then it's easier to actually compartmentalize it to a period of time. So actually, what I would do is I would look at a period every day you know, from 4 to 5 PM or something where I would say this is the time where I can just, like, do all that stuff that really is just for my own self. Let's put some things in that bucket. What is insecurity? It's like checking your social feeds to see if you're trending up or down. Or let's just Google analytics. How many people came to be hints today? You know how many new portfolios were actually published? How much, you know, what's RS CEO in this area that we're focusing on? What our revenues in this, what all these little things you could consistently look at searching be hands on Twitter. My goodness, like how much How many times I hit that AP I would like Beyonce began, began to be handsome. Yes, I wanted to see that was the source of truth for what people thought of our brand, whether people liked it or didn't like it or struggling. If there was a bug out there like all this stuff surfaced from community, and I could do that all day, every day just to make myself assured and never do anything productive in the business so I had to compartmentalize all of that stuff to a small period of time. He's talking to you just in case you're listening. Right now. He's talking to you and me and the rest of them myself. Yes, and I try to be a player as well as a coach of this department. You You did a nice job of walking that line in the book, Um, and so if we're compartmentalizing that work, then is there a Is there a, um, Is there an anecdote and a dope to that? Like, when is there a realization process? Or is it just up to each of us to identify that for ourselves and put in a bucket like, What are the list of things that are not the one of the list of things that are moving us forward is it is anything that's not in that category. Well, it's, I think, it's It's down to the list of things that that can make an impact in overtime, a material impact. So most of the things you do to assure yourself are actually they could be done monthly weekly. They could be done by somebody else and reported to if there's something off plan. Otherwise, just assume everything's great, but reaching out to customers and asking them how they're doing. Are you struggling? What can we do to better serve you? That's that's meaningful, uh, going over all of the to do's and making sure that things are prioritised properly sitting down and having one on ones with people recruiting like always finding more and more candidates. What can you do to channel that that tendency towards and security work towards kind of productive action is the kind of thing we always have to hold ourselves to? The hard part is that that stuff that we're doing that action isn't giving us the assurance that everything is okay, like the insecurity work we just discussed. So this is part of the, you know, the mental challenge that we all have to play, and people I find that people like me lie to myself about No, this is, If I don't have this information, then I'm actually not going to be effective because I need to know if the last to be posts I'm just trying to think like our listeners thinking that, right? Yeah. Then I need to change my game. So this is actually really critical data. How do we That's a slippery standby way. You're right. I mean, we should know. It's just a matter of compartmentalizing that stuff that doesn't seep out into our into our life. Like, for example, the time limits at the new, uh, apple IOS 12 imposes on us. I wish I could impose that on stuff that I just do out of my own kind of self assurance needs. And it would be great if you had it. You have an hour every day where you can just feed yourself with everything you need to know to make, you know, to feel like you're on the right track. But then at that point, like it stops you and that would be hopefully the next generation of our self discipline software. How are you doing with that, By the way? I am constantly. Well, it came out right before book week. Yeah, so I am just, like, 15 minutes, 15 minutes, 15 minutes. But it's but I love you. Put a governor on exit, put a governor on your heaviest. It's did. Yeah, I did. And, uh, because I just want to be means, Like, just I want to be aware of what I'm doing. Yeah, I feel like that's probably the first step towards a better outcome. Kevin Rose hacked it on enough. You know Kevin Durant, of course. Put a rubber band on his phone just as a reminder around. So you could feel it. When you touch it, you can see it. You like, Do I actually want to pick up my phone? Right now? It's like the red little bracelet from, you know, exactly stuff or whatever. So, anyway, I've been experimenting with that. I did it last week, and I found I found it really interesting because it signaled to me before you actually touched my right. How much Me Pick it out. And I put that in the in the bucket with distractions. And you think you get insecure. I would have more time in state security working here to work. Um, all right. So if the start is beautiful and emotional and spirited and the end is a great story, either good or bad in the middle is endurance and used the word optimization. Yes. So I think optimization is pretty self explanatory. You want to get better in small, incremental steps. I want to talk about endurance because that is the thing that when I the more I talked to people in our community, they believe falsely, that these are overnight successes and that once you have a success, that equals success in the long term. Um, talk to me about your own journey in as concrete a set of terms as possible and how endurance played the role in your success. Sure. Well, uh, well, I think when you think about the volatilities right, the lows are where you have a need to obviously endure the pain that comes along with them. And the highs are the things you're doing, whether it's in your product, your team or just your own intuition and and approach to leadership, you should continue doing as well. What's strange is that we have this saying of you don't fix it if it ain't broken, which suggest that anything that's working you should not focus on, But we both know that that's the opposite, literally. To make a great organization and product and their related, you have to be doing more anything that actually working. And that's what optimization is all about. But but the other realization with this graph and they will go to the endurance question is that we're not our best Selves. Whether we were in the valleys or the peaks, when we're at those lows, we started making decisions out of fear. Yeah, it's like, Oh, my goodness, something's not going well. That taints our judgment And and it starts. We start to a copy of competitors and make an inferior product, or we just start to churn our own roadmap and disappoint or confuse our team. And it's we're really on. Our best Selves were also not our best Selves at the Peaks. Yeah, because when we're at the Peaks, first of all, we start to get high on ourselves. The ego gets in the way and we start to falsely attribute the things that we did to the things that work. And that's when companies lose their sense of self awareness or people lose their sense of self awareness. So I think that that's you know, that's some concept of why the volatility is so tricky, right, because we're not our best at either the bulls or the eyes. Now let's talk about endurance for a little bit. Endurance is really about bracing herself for the long game. And, uh, and when it comes to your team narrating your team through this journey, the analogy I used in the book is it's like driving a 10 day road trip with your team in the back seat with the windows blacked out. They can't see where they are or if they're sitting in traffic or if they're making any progress. And you and your narration of the journey were crossing state lines. There's a monument on the left, were making progress where 1/3 of the way anything you tell them actually makes them stick it out and not go stir crazy in the back seat on that narration is extraordinarily important. It means that we have to merchandise progress to our teams. Like the merchandising. It's not let your hiding or showing or flaunting or not. You have to merchants to package it for them to consume it right, and I think the the assumption that people will just see the progress for making is wrong, and I know a lot of great founders who I think are really great leaders, but they're so efficient and they're not promoters at all. And as a result they fail to merchandise to the team that progress that we're making. And in the book I talk about this research by a professor at Harvard Business School named Theresa Mah Ballet, who had thousands of people do these journals on journal entries every day, talking about how motivated they feel and kind of what you know and what feedback they got that and basically found this correlation with progress being in the best kind of motivated for future progress. And so it's just like chicken and egg thing. I need to feel you're making progress to make more progress. And when you're enduring those lows, nothing is more powerful than being told. Like we our we are making progress now. That being said, you can't celebrate fake wins. Yeah, and I also talk in the book about how a lot about that how dangerous it is, right? We look for we look for things to motivate our teens, and sometimes we actually manufacture fake wins or celebrate the wrong things. So with the wrong things, like everything you are celebrating and you should make up all sorts of celebratory moments, but they should all be towards the end, right? They should all be things that condone the right behavior as opposed to paying for an award, you know? And then you think you said in the book, you say pay for press and then celebrating the press that you got? Yeah, that is actually incentivizing. Exactly. Wrong behavior, right? We don't want to get fake press and then celebrate it. But you should make up your own milestones, by all means. I mean, I talk about in the book the you know, the fact that even in the early days, Behan said it was a made up word and we would type it into Google and would always say, Do you mean enhanced? Do you mean enhanced? Do you mean enhanced? Really ambience? Yeah, right. And we're like, Do you do? Why can't we just not be a mistake? No. And so lo and behold, like that was one of our first goals that motivated RS CEO efforts and also motivated, more importantly, has to get more creatives work on the platform so that we would have more links and more link backs and will behold like six months later, be Hance was, ah, recognized term in Google's index. So there are all kinds of fun things we did that motivated us in the right way. Got it? So if we're thinking about, um, you talked about me just frame that really elegantly in terms of a company and a founder. But when you are on your own road trip and you're a solo preneurs on independent artist, it can still feel like you're on a road trip with the windows blacked out. Totally. So help me map that same sort of narrative onto an independent. How does an independent cause? What you just talked about is merchandising for some people in the back seat when you can see where you're going. So what about the independent Creator? Because we're scared. We don't know where we're going, and we're gonna get glimpses out the windshield, but we'll listen me. In some ways, I can relate to that in this process of writing the book because I was doing it amidst a full time job and everything else in my life. It's a solo project, and what I had to do is hack my own reward system to stay up to the beat of where needed to be. Part of that is finding some folks who are advisers to you, who you can look to for some accountability. And I heard a woman named Georgia to be an editor in the process, and I kind of said to her when we first had coffee, One of your biggest jobs is just toe. Hold me accountable to a schedule like Nag me, please Me nagging from other folks is a form of natural selection. It just gets you to start paying attention to the thing that you're being poked about, and I recognize that I needed some dose of that. And I think anyone who's working on their own benefits from community to some extent, even if you don't have a team, yeah, the other thing is to just make those milestones for yourself and your own rewards for them. So if you are planning on going to Europe in three months, what do you promise yourself you'll get done before you get on that plane? Or otherwise, you can have no pasta while you're in Europe. There was a woman and that who Ah, an independent illustrator who was talking about putting up her own kind of website and like, kind of making herself official as an independent illustrator for hire. And she told me that she promised herself that in some period of months she would have that up. This is a woman in her late twenties. Or she would force herself to write a letter to her high school guidance counselor saying that she ultimately became a failure. And she said that that was such an awkward concept. Like what would she say? How would she find his address? Like the thing in her mind? The story was so strange that she became extremely scared of not getting her website and launching her sort of her shingle up on time, you know, and and so that was a mental hack, right that we used to keep ourselves on track. That's beautiful. You've got this, uh, endurance metaphor. I don't want to leave that alone yet because you haven't given me some of your personal endure ings that you talked about being scared about running out of money. But one of the best things we think in the book you actually references, but one of my favorite books as an entrepreneur is the hard thing about hard things. But by something about Ben Horowitz in recent Horowitz and what I Loved About It is every other book business book. It tells you a story of what it's like when it's perfect. Yeah, like when you start out, do it like this. Of course you would never do it like this to like this. If you like this, it works perfect and do it like this, and it works perfect. But the reality is appropriately titled. The messy metal is 99% of things don't go as planned. And you're always adjusting. And what Ben did well in that book, and I recommend it for anyone who's in that sort of world is he talked about things like how to fire a friend. Yep. What to do when you have no money? What to do when you you know there's like a just a list of stories. So can you give us, like, two or three of your personal anecdotes around what you found that you had to endure and the lesson that you learned from it? Yeah, and, you know, include some points from about in the book because he he brought to the surface some of these, you know, extraordinarily awkward get critical moments, right? Yeah. One of the things that I talk about in the book is when I did have to let someone go or kill a product that was working. Yeah, there were a number of moments where there were very difficult decisions to be made because they in some ways weren't obvious. Or, uh, we're always easier to kick down the road. And when you when you failed to make a decision, you create, you know what I talk about in the book as organizational debt? It's the accumulation of decisions that should have been made but weren't you? And your job is the leader is to just make them So there were instances where I had to let someone go. We had a problem. We're the popular products called action method back in the day, which is a task management tool for creatives. And and we had, I think was like 16,000 paid customers was growing at a decent rate and we were using it ourselves. But it wasn't the the promise of the Ba Hansen network. It wasn't this notion of, ah, single place for creatives to showcase and discover creative work in our team. The energy was divided. Everything that we were doing on one of those products was 50% of what it could have been, right? Yeah. And I kept feeling this in cling of people thinking we just need a pick one pick one, we need to pick one. And everyone kind of knew which that what that one was. We knew it was big hence, and the thought of disappointing our customers and giving up a revenue stream that we so desperately needed at the time was impossible to come Reconcile. I kept putting it off like another month, another month, another month and finally, with a lot of candid discussions with the team, became clear. Like, Scott, you just have to make the call. And, uh, it was around that time where I would start whispering to myself on frequent occasions. Uh, Scott, do your fucking job. Beautiful. A f Yeah, I g y f j d. J. And I've said that to myself over the course of my career many times. And it's really what I say when I know what needs to be done. I know that a great leader would do this, and I know that my own either sensitivities or desire toe wait for whatever reason is all that's getting in the way from doing what needs to be done. And I will just whisper that to myself, and then I will do it. And, uh, and I think that's an important trade that we all have for ourselves and our own self discipline. Yeah, it's to recognize those moments because a lot of careers get hung up with this cognitive load of I know what needs to be done, but I'm not going to it because of a 1,000,000 excuses just D Y f j. And if you're an independent like that, it's exactly the same, but just applied to your own universe. And you know, you need to finish your mouth, son, before you go to Europe 100% de y f j. Where you have to fire that client. Yeah, a lot of independent creatives that I know we'll talk about a sort of a lifeline of support from a client that just takes them off their game or makes them do work. They don't want to do. But they feel that they just can't sort of cut the umbilical cord, so to speak. Yet when they do their creative, they creatively open up. They become more permeable by other opportunities. It becomes one of the most important things they have done. And, uh and it's like, Just do it. I mean, really, you sure do the mental math of whether this is ready. This this is something you should be doing. But if you know it's something that ultimately will will happen. You're like, Yes, we will no longer do action with it or this client is on the right client for me or whatever. Why are you holding up your career in your life like, do it? Yeah, that's organization with that. Is this Yeah, it's accumulation of decisions that should have been made that weren't. What's one of the hardest things that you did not expect in your journey? One NBA hands. You didn't see it coming one of the hardest. And I know like any as someone who gets into a lot like superlatives drive you crazy like your favorite book, like so but just like one that was very unexpected because I'm trying to, like, help people understand. You can be a smart and prepared and all the stuff and every we all feel like we get ambushed. Yeah, and I'm tryingto there were if there were a few themes, right, that or things that didn't that weren't expected, that were very difficult to manage me. One was just 2000 and eight. You're a small technology company in New York in 2008. That was which is a time of, ah, brief kind of hiatus of growth and investment and everything else in the world. Um, we the revenues we were making on talent, recruiting and other parts of the Behan's business lines sponsorship of our annual conference, which were ticket proceeds that we used to fund ourselves because we were bootstrapped, dried up. And suddenly I had to realize well, like we have to make do with what we have. We can hire those three new Dev ops people in the one new designer. Like everyone, we all need to do what we're doing it. That more with less. And that was a, uh first of all the negative messages ended the team because I thought we were growing. What's going on, people? How do you get people to, like stick it out long enough to figure it out? And I think it was during this period of time where I learned to value resourcefulness over resource is resourcefulness being this muscle memory of how to just manage any situation versus resource is which are like carbs. You know, you just like you can blow through him any amount that you have, you can just throw that problems and they go away for a moment. So true. And so I think that going through a period of time like that, which is why if companies that I advise are not bootstrapped at all actually encourage them to give themselves a slightly constrained budget, give your team the opportunity to develop the muscles of resourcefulness because they will always, always serve you over time. And I don't know anybody who doesn't ask for or want more. Resource is, I'm worse. We all want to have the easier way, right? You know, we all want a little sugar and we all want to do that. But the reality is just like constraints drive creativity. It's the same thing as against yachts, framing a lot of this and a company of setting. But the same is true for you. What can you do with limited time? Limited budget? Only. Make it purple. Make it less than five feet tall. Make a week. What are some constraints? And by the way, I remember when I was interviewed, a lot of creators for making ideas happen, and I would always ask them in the interviews. What what give me, like a sense of what your worst project ever. Waas. What what just was one of the hardest, you know, set up to fail type of projects you've ever had. A number of people talked about a brief that was limit unlimited from a client like a client base. So he said, Listen, at this point, no budget, no constraints like where do you want to go with this big open brief and that often times was the answer, and my take away from that was the power of constraints. As you said, Chance for creativity. All right, nice job throwing us some like That's a hard thing. I get it. Let's foot over to the optimization side and I don't want to talk about optimization of business processes and products for a second. I want to go to a point you made in the book about optimizing your person. Course you, Harkin, Our good friend Tim Ferriss, is the ultimate, ultimate optimum optimizer body hacker, um, and shares a little bit about first of all the concept because I think optimizing yourself and I just I expect people to be able to layer on this answer to with their own problems. I don't go specific to a spot Scott saying, But what did you mean by self optimizing? And then I want to get a couple of examples of what you specifically dio. Yeah, sure. Well, the the self optimized section of the book is about crafting. Your own instincts are and evolving them is about recognizing. When you become less permeable to your colleagues into the industry you're in or to the movements. It's very, uh, very easy. There something's going well to kind of shut ourselves off to all the all the new opportunities. And, uh, I I like to say that I think in any craft or business or project, self awareness is the ultimate competitive advantage because It's understanding how people see you and how that's changing over time. And whatever you think again worked because of what you did before versus timing and good luck and other people. It's amazing. We think that we think we're so self reliant in the beginning. And then we realize just how much how much more we rely on that we are on others around us. We, uh we think that it's the when things work well, it's because of us when things don't work well because of the timing market. Customers are other people. It's other people's problems. So the self optimization side of this is really about recognizing that that's wrong and asking yourself at every turn, you know, what is it that could have done differently? How do you get that feedback as a form of compensation? I mean, how often do you are folks who are listening who have clients? Even if you're an independent, creative professional, how often are you asking your clients for feedback and not just on the finish product? But hey, did my cadence of communication work really well with you? Is there anything that that I didn't set up properly in terms of expectations in the beginning. What are the things you can ask for and get some gold that you can leverage to make yourself the ultimate person to work with? We often times leave that on the table for sure, So obvious that to two things that would have thrown that my personal experience is one. When you ask someone for feedback, you have to ask it in a different way because normally you say, How was the experience? People in that moment when they're just about to walk out the door would say they'll just say fine. It was awesome. Still good, thank you. Because they just want to get out of there, right, versus if you frame the question on like, can you give me one piece of feedback, 21 or whatever but one piece of feedback that if we could do anything different in this project, what nugget? Yeah, just give me one good people. I find that that just completely flips the script and they're like, awesome, because I want to give you this nugget and is usually something again. This is I'm thinking of the independent creative here, but it's usually something that is not related to the to the creativity into the art. It's usually process related. Yep, for most people who are starting their own businesses or a cell open or whatever. And to me, that is how I shaped my career as a photographer and all of that I was able to carry forward into creativelive and ask every instructor who's ever been in here like, What's one thing that you would change That sort of like their exit interview? Yeah, and it to me, it's been radically successful. Builds a relationship. Yeah, there's trust. You do talk a little bit about trust in the book and about being able to connect with your customers, your peers and especially the people you work with. Can you talk about that a little bit? Yeah, I think it's also related to the himself. Piece's just the and it's also lead to the product. Section of optimization is just continually gaining more and more empathy with your customer. I get frustrated when people go off and build a company or a product based on their passion for a solution to a problem which actually seems like the most people would do. The problem with that is that you can, through your passion, be so you know, thrusted into one particular direction that you end up with something that's degrees off of what the customer actually needs. And that's actually what gets in the way of that most coming product market fit conundrum. Whereas if you are seeking empathy with the customer suffering the problem, we're constantly trying to understand what their struggle is. Shoulder to shoulder. You will always have a product that is more in line right with what they really need, and so getting more and more empathy. And how do you prioritize the time you spend with customers and the questions you're asking? And how do you reconcile passion versus empathy? Because, in truth, a lot of us as entrepreneurs, especially in creative professionals, we're passionate about our work. Um, another thing is around conviction versus consensus, you know, how do you make sure that we do want everyone's feedback? And we just talked about soliciting feedback and at the same time, some of most important decisions you ever make is ignoring that right? It's like ramping up the volume of your own intuition on how do you reconcile those two things we talk about in the book. Also a conviction over consensus and knowing the difference between cynicism and criticism, knowing when to gain confidence from being doubted, as opposed to recognizing that you're just on the wrong track and everyone else is right. And that's part of the, you know, the crafting of intuition. Self awareness is all about it. And optimization s. So let's keep on this this self self awareness tip you mentioned several times just in the last minutes. Intuition or intuitions? Privates at five times I. To me, it's the most powerful thing that we have. And when you go against that, you pay. And, um, the question that I get a loud advocate of this and the question that I most often get asked in response, It is like, How do you know when that's intuition or something else? Yeah, what's your answer? That question. Well, it's a good question, because I actually feel like there's a There's a common argument against intuition these days. There's so much data right everywhere and and there. There is a common set of beliefs that that ah, these days, that intuition is simply bias and ah, and that bias is bad. Having any bias is just Ah, it's an emotional flaw, if you will, and and it it also is the kind of thing that creates a lot of prejudice and, like a lot of bad decisions that people make come out of bias, which, inherently, is intuition. This goes down to the art of business in the signs of business, or the art of the Crawfords is a science of the craft. And, um, and I actually think that in most cases we should be focusing on the data. We should be really scientific. And in most instances, for example, when you're building a product or anything used familiar patterns don't try to be creative. Just use whatever's out there that people will recognize me not so that's a that's a guidebook for 90% of the journey. However, the art is seeing an edge that will someday become a center. The art is recognizing something that others don't notice or value yet, and where does that come from? It comes from the bias issues that we carry generated from our past experiences, the things that fascinate you because of the unique shape of the kitchen cupboard around you growing up that don't captivate me. You know the mistake of the eye that I see that you fail to see, like it's those things that we carry that that make us notice and invest in things that aren't rational. And when, when, When people are irrational or unreasonable about something, you know, that is that is how innovation happens. You're pounding the table. That's something that I just don't think is logical. And then you see something that I don't and that become that new center. So this is that This is the conundrum here. We should be scientific. We should be data driven. Yet we should be curious about the things that fascinate us that others overlook because sometimes that is, you know, the edge beautiful was super well said. And continue on this threat of the self awareness. Your reference the Zen a lot. What's your connection does end. Why is it a pillar in the book and is it is a pill in your life? Are you just looking for great quotes like, what's what role is this play in your life and is it something you know? Um, I just only been at that. What's what. What role playing and how is it useful? I think I am fascinated by you know how forces balance each other out, and you just use that right. Art and science, data and intuition It's all about It's all about this kind of war, constantly between different forces within us and around us. And I think I don't like the notion of quelling this stuff. I like the notion of letting at a rage but have a balance within us. I think that that's interesting. The greatest creative partnerships I've had in my past are with people that are very different in my co founder from the hands Matias Craft from Barcelona, you know, was a typographer by background and a graphic designer and and he and I were so different and Ah, and he was on one some extremes, and I was on other extremes. And from that partnership, I really learned the benefit of having to very, very like kind of powerful forces opposed one another respecting one another. But in some ways I think that that is, uh, when you think of gin yang and just sort of the different uh, kind of Eastern philosophies of of the forces dictating life and movement and everything else. There's a lot there to mine into relate with. And I think there's a quote that you pull that something is somewhere in the 1st 3rd of the book about in order to sort of be on the path, you have to become the path. Can you reorient me of that? Is that right? It was something along the lines of It was something along the lines of the you know that everything we make is the DNA of that final product or service or creation is a reflection of the of the path taken to create it. When you use a product and it doesn't make the software, hardware just don't seem to take itself each other into account. You know, it was done by internal factions at a company that don't talk to one another, that a different processes and whatever else when you see creative collaborations between a brand and creative, and you know that it was for money and not for like passion, uh, or purpose like you, Comptel. Yeah, you're like, Oh, that brand just wanted to look cool. and paid this woman to do something really interesting for it. You can kind of you can. You can distill from things we use what, actually with chemistry behind it. And so in some ways, what I was trying to say is that the how we choose to navigate this path, how we choose to navigate the volatility and develop the the make the tough decisions and develop the you know, the self awareness and everything along the way actually impacts the product on its We typically think that that's not true. For some reason. Thank you for that. There's, uh, going back to our our friend Tim. Time I find is something that I've written a lot about and how important it is to manage it and how graceful it is when you get some and that it's a requirement for so many creative processes. Use a little story in the book about Tim on how to say no and ranking like How important is this for you on a 1 to 10? And Tim Ferriss is the master. He's the master, so but I would like to hear your explication and just a signal. I think about what the contents of the book. You don't have to go. You don't do the whole thing, but just signal for us your view on time, The management of it that the defending of it, Um, because I think the first book was very much about getting shit done. It's like managing and it's like But there's another part of time which you have to allow space for creativity. And so talk to me about time you can reference to him. I was just targeting. No, I think it's a and I don't. I'm not an expert on this one. I'm fascinated by. How do we better protect our time? How do we Yeah, I talk in the book about how interesting it is that we'll trade time for money when we're young and then money for time and we're older. And how this kind of shift happens at some point in people's lives, often times because of how precious it is and how will never, you know it will never get back. The calendar is the ultimate reflection of your values. If you go back and see how you spent your time this week, time and money, yeah. I mean, that is ultimately the source of truth. And if you're gonna audit yourself, which is a somewhat painful into dio, well you'll find is that some percentage of your time is spent doing things as favors for others because you couldn't say no even though you wanted Teoh and I do talk in the book also about the types of things we do that we did because he wanted to. Or because we felt compelled Teoh and how to kind of navigate or balance the two, Um and you know, and when those trades are worth it and when they're when they're not. And I'm still trying to figure this out. I've also been thinking recently and not in the book, but I've been having a few conversations. Including one friend was like a very famous YouTuber and ah, and video artists who is considering taking a major sabbatical. And I think about some, like Stephan Sag Meister, for examples every seven years, takes a year off right and just totally unplugs. And that is his well of creativity for the next seven year period of his life. How do we What's the benefit of time for creativity? We think we can just output. We think we're just chemistry, and it can kind of trick ourselves into staying with it. But in fact, there is some replenishment that happens, and it's it's a reality, and I'm just I'm still trying to figure out Oh, man, is that in my life as well. I said, What do you wear? Something you do do like, How do you out of your calendar? And when you out of your counter, what do you typically find that you want to change? Well, I think I am. I think it's hard to say no to people who you care about, and, uh and so everyone always wants more time, and it's like a You know, I have a family now I have kids and there's never enough time, right? And so it's Ah, and then I have my own interest. I want to feed and I have my work commitments to my team. And there's just some time you spend one on one with somebody that can't be economize do. And so how do you say notam? Or how do you say no to Maurin? And I do think these days about um and Tim talks a little bit in the book about how you can explain to someone I am. This is where I am right now. I'm underwater. If you really, really need this me because you're a friend, I will be there for you. Otherwise, like it's just a bad time and just put people on that in that in that position. And he says, like his close friends understand, and if they really, really need it of him, like he'll do it for them. That's called clarity, right? I think because we all ask so many things, their culture is very social, We're social people, special with someone that you like and respect and admire. And But those are also the people who, if they're really those people, will understand that if it's a 10 I will. I'll be all in. I'll do all of this for you. But if it's like a four and you just need a new direction, this person and it's a like I don't I don't have it. Yeah, And I think and we both probably struggled with this where people reach out and say, I love 10 minutes of this matter You know how many coffees of the right and you In the one hand, I want to be generous because there were certain people that were generous to me when I was getting started. Of course, I've established some of my own filters in my life. Teoh. Make sure that I still do spend some time with people that I want a mentor or whatever, but that it's a little bit higher touch and we're and it's a little bit more sacred and thoughtful. Um, but it's, I think it's something that we all are working on. You know, I wish I was an expert in this front because I do, though, find that the calendar audit is a very interesting exercise, and I try to do it usually every few weeks, offline myself on a plane, and I literally just go through the last few weeks and just try to understand, What did I do? Why do I have that meeting? Did I get anything out of it that I give anything during it should have ever happened, And how do I start toe? I actually have my A do that because I found that I couldn't honestly audit my own stuff because I would credit right that meeting that one on one with on then I think you know that. Help me unlock this. And so I would credit that to productivity and having somebody else who objectively. No, not everyone has. Maybe it's a teammate or something like that, but I think it is a super healthy exercise. So instead insisting that we share this obsession with time. Um, what is something that you spend a disproportionate amount of time on that either you surprise yourself or other people would be surprised to know, like, What do you over index on like, What do you spend? Is it reading or meditation or, uh, consuming product briefs from your team? Or what is something that you way over index on relative to your peers or that surprises you or other people? Well, I think there's different parts of my life where they're different answers to that question. Okay, uh, if you ask the teams that I work with, they would probably tell you that I have an obsession with what I would call the first smile of experience. Customers go through, I think, and whether it's a retail brand or a store was on the board of upcoming called Sweetgreen for some period of time. Just different. It doesn't matter. I really am obsessed with that initial experience. The customers haven't anything, and I think that it's largely overlooked what what that is, because people are so focused on the core experience that they don't think about kind of the biases. People come into any experience with What, what are the defaults, what people see first, where they told first, How are they told that? Are they are they given something to make them feel successful front or they trained? You have to be trained Or do they have to be just, You know, I find I probably over index in my professional life in that area because I just have a strong conviction and that that's something that's really special. Yeah, and, um, I also, um, I think I also look for unexpected experiences. I don't house a frame mint every now and then I will get invited toe, you know, give a talk in some place I've never been or whatever, and I do find that if you don't build like one or two opportunities for adventure every year, that they just won't happen. Yeah, and the more established her life becomes and family and every other responsibility. Weird on those things, just like they just They crop up and you will you search and you start to limit the opportunity for something to surprise you. It's almost like everything becomes like, you know, scheduled and planned. And I try toe preserve those those periods and and it gets increasingly hard. But it's, ah, it's important. It's part of the It's part of the the inputs of creativity, and it also keeps me on my toes a little bit. Can you give me an example? Yeah, I mean, a few years ago, I accept an invitation to speak at this school called Chaos Pilots. That is in Belgium, believe and just, you know, a small little town in middle of nowhere. And it was a group of students who were all into studying creativity, and I, first of all, want to understand what that meant. What does it mean to say, even in high school and college age, like I want to study creativity? And it wasn't designed, it wasn't art. Specifically, it was just creativity. It also went against kind of my believes that it's less about the ideas. It's more about the execution. And so I kind of wanted to challenge myself with what an environment the other are the under other end of the spectrum would look like and feel like. And I land in this, you know, town that I've never heard of with signs I couldn't recognize, you know, it was solely reliant on maps, you know, to like, figure out where am I supposed to go here? It was just one of those, you know, external experiences did expect it a lot of stuff. It me that I didn't, you know already. And it was one example. So that's in the macro now. It's like about in the micro in your personal life, not professional. Everything gets one of reasons. I'm probably here because I love that. I think knowing that you're obsessed over the first mile think that's something that people want to know. And then it's nice to know that you want these big adventure moments. But what about in your day to day like, what do you disproportionately spend time on? And I'm sorry to keep pushing trolleys, and this is The only answer is pretty easy cooking. Yeah, you know, I do like toe. I like the the the sort of meditative X aspects of like making something. And it's not always the most efficient thing from a time perspective, because it is easy to press the button. Yeah, they're so show up. Right? But And these days, you know, with all these different services that deliver the ingredients are obviously delivery services and whatever else, but I just enjoy the process of making stuff. And cooking is an excuse to do that whenever I could. All right, if we talked about the beginning is Joy. The middle is messy titled The Book. Obviously we've got work, you know, we've got endurance and we're optimizing we're fixing The end, as you said, is always It's just even if it was a horror story or if it was this. We're standing on the mountain. Everything is great. So went about these end stories. Should we keep in mind to keep us going in the middle? Because there were just waiting for a good story like you talked about being in the middle, the massive metal and trying toe like what are the things that are keeping you going to that end state, be it fiery death. Or we would all like to be successful. But like when your tunnel vision like are you is that I am the prize? Is it the greatest good for the like? What's what keeps us going? Do the story finish? Sure. And, uh, there are few things. Me first on the in the book I talk about. I call it the Final mile, and there is a period towards an end, and it's not always the end in my just be a n n n right. It's a different sport altogether. A lot of stuff changes. One of those things that you have to do is stay in the early innings and Facebook. When you go around their stickers that say, like we're still in the first inning, we're still in the first inning. There's a mentality at a lot of companies and for a lot of creatives that we have to kind of stay grounded with stuff. We don't know what the questions as opposed all the answers we've learned. There's a sense of killing off the work you have done in order to enable new work to take hold. And I think a lot of artists and designers know exactly what I'm talking about. A soon as you become well known for something and it becomes almost like, uh, a constraint that you feel you have to do more of and stay imprisoned by and I think a lot of weird stuff starts to happen towards the finish line. There is a sense of, ah of, uh, identity crisis. As you associate yourself with your work and it they become 11 thing, not stuff. Because how can you then ever hope to do something better if you feel like what you've done is you and you just kind of get stuck a little bit, So this notion of recognizing you are not your work and separating is very hard. After 5 to 10 year journey, self sabotage there is a lot of, ah, weird stuff that happens with people wanting Teoh obstruct their own success because they feel subconsciously, that they don't deserve it. And I talk in the book about some stories of employees who, towards the finish line of our journey, started to really act out and do weird things in there personal lives or in the workplace. And I became convinced that they were doing this because they were in some ways uncomfortable with the outcome that they were about to have. And what is that? Why does that happen? Um, so that's that's some of the final mile analysis. But the truth is, is we want to stay in the messy middle. I mean, to be done is to die, to quote Umberto eco growing and ice. Exactly. And, uh and I think, part of the part of the challenges Teoh, stay in the thick of it as much as you can. All right, One more section and it's just gonna be a speed round about Scott Belski. But before we dio, I was I would like to ask the favor. You look into this camera or for the folks who are listening, just keep doing what you're doing right now and give the nugget of advice that was not in the book. Give the nugget that you, because afterwards, when you're you're promoting the book, now you've written it. You actually finished it? Probably if I'm guessing based on book publishing about a year ago. So there's some things that didn't make it in. There are one thing. It doesn't have to be the superlative again, but, like, what's the thing that's not in there? That if you could snap your fingers and put it back in, there would be There is a good question we've had I got a hold up couple water here. We've got time. Don't feel yeah, I think. Of what? What? What Didn't make the cut or what? What kind of? Because you've learned some, presumably this. I'm gonna give you that, Miss. It might help narrow it. Something's happened in your life since then. Sure, maybe it's your new role at Adobe. Maybe it's you have a new child slavery, new sort of vision on. I don't know what it is, but maybe it's something. It's happened. Well, thing have, I think that I think that one of the things that I have learned recently in my life, through the process of being an investor and then writing this book and then I'm looking at the camera, Sure, yeah, deliver One of the things that I've learned more recently in my life is the desire to feel full utilized and how In some ways, maybe happiness is not about retiring and having time off or just being able to bask in your creativity or having the life you think you aspire for, because it would be less tens, less anxiety and more relaxing. What if, in fact, happiness comes down to the sensation of feeling fully utilized? Were skills are being put to the test where you're being continually challenged? And that's one of things I thought about a lot more recently because during the book I was fretting the idea of writing more and more while having a full time job. I didn't. I feel too overwhelmed. And actually, what I realize now is that I was happier feeling fully utilized that I am feeling partially utilized. And maybe that's the whole notion of a side hustle and of people investing and side side interests and making sure that your life is full and full. And then when you're when it's full, you feel like you want Teoh. Take it easy. And maybe, uh, we think we dio that maybe we don't beautiful speed round. This is about you. You're very good at answering these existential questions. I like to know that you like to cook. What do you cooking? Well, I'm a lifelong vegetarian. Yes. And so and so I have heard you also were like you're you One of the prizes that you hung out there for your team was that if we get this thing accomplish, if we ship this product, I'll try this strange meat. Is that true? That is it. Yeah. I mean, it's kind of pack in the short term reward system. And for some reason, the team felt especially motivated me eating meat back. I thought that was hilarious line in the book. Um, yeah. I know. I I I love Ah. All kinds of all kinds of vegetarian creations. Members trying to make food tasty. So, uh, so stir fries and Beijing rock extravaganzas, Asian fusion type things. Great Italian meals, making pasta. You make your own pasta. I have nice. You talk about both outcomes. What's a bold outcome from your career? Well, I think a bold outcome means making something that exceeds your own expectations. What exceeded your expectations and the reach of Beyonce exceed my exceeded my own expectations. I think the, uh, the reach of my first book making it has happened certainly exceeded my expectations and also the people that I brought on the team and the people they've now become as leaders, whether they're still working with me or in other companies or of started companies. Um, whether it's people like Marco Michael Currency Capricorn you started skill share and then, you know, is on to something you know, or whether it's, um, people in my team who have become really well known designers and their industry or have become leaders in the engineering organization at Adobe. Uh, I never anticipated what type of team would come out of this and Endeavour and what these people would end up. You know, doing and contributing through that zit was also like an exciting thing of this journey is to see the people that it would develop. What did you There's a line in the book I love about. Don't optimize for the short term deal optimized for the long term. What did you What is that thing that Scott Belsky gave up in the short term to have a long term success? The hardest part, I think, was the five or so years of explaining to people what I was doing and they had never heard of it. And just them being like, Yeah, cool, you know, and me thinking that they were thinking a good luck. Good luck, man. Uh, and Ah, and also being asked. Oh, well, like, who's your VC is like, Oh, no, we're bootstrap. Oh, you know, and having the implication behind that be, you must not be able to raise capital. Um, having to put up with that five years or so, Especially the bootstrapping phase hiring people, going to events, you know, meeting people. I think that that was it built Cem sense of, ah, so sort of internal confidence to balance out kind of the external sort of cynicism. And I think that was that was tough, but an important part of my journey. A lot of the book is focused on creators, entrepreneurs, people, starting businesses. And yet right now, you're the chief product Officer Adobe, you have thousands and thousands of appointees who report to you $128,000,000,930 million market cap company. What is different for you in this world? Yeah, the other one. Well, im I'm always tryingto find Ah away to be challenging the areas interest me most. I find that that makes me feel utilized. That makes me feel that sense of happiness from feeling full utilized. I've always loved building for creative people. I feel like that's one of the things I felt I was made to Dio, and I think I can do that in the context of a startup and as an advisor, especially on the product side. I think that being in a company like Adobe building all these creative tools for the creators of the world, I felt like there was a chapter that I was the right person to lead, and that was what kind of brought me back and made me excited about it. And that's, you know, that it's also a new suite of challenges like, I want to learn how to manage a very large organization. I want to. I want to think about what culture change and product, you know. Innovation means in a large contact. So in some ways my learning curve is now steep again, and I think that's where I'm happiest. What's next? Why hasn't products that ship that's actually good about that for a second. So we're for those. This is you could be listening this in 2025 or it's right now. It's the fall of 2018 and we're a week out from Max. I will see you there. You look for to seeing stage. Uh, is there any preview? Can you give us anything? Which is what's in the news? Sure, Yeah, I think that I think that the theme for this year is going to be and this is my version. My version of the theme for this year is that we're really delivering on the promise of this thing called Creative Cloud, which was the subscription offering of all of the desktop tools that creatives no one using love. But, um, so far, creativity is very much been bound to the desktop. And, uh, and also I think these desktop products still function as individual kind of products. You download, install and use, and it's taken years to redo the architecture er and to rethink what the customer experience should be not only for creative professionals, but also for enthusiasts. Anyone that wants to learn new products in this everything would be fine. Is that a photographer will want toe, you know, get his or her hands dirty with a product like Adobe X'd or our premiere pro or whatever, but they're just, like, so daunted by learning a new framework. So that's yeah, that's one of the things we're trying Teoh change that we're gonna announce next week. It's a really exciting changes there. And I think what we are going to do now is just lay a new foundation of what people should expect from us for the next few years. And this is the first kind of step of the inflection for for the for all of the products. And I'm excited about it. Congratulations. That's huge. Huge, huge step for you. He's done for the company. I'm super excited to hear some things that are coming out. Um, Messi. Middle Congratulations. Beautiful extreme. Like I it's I was looking forward to this. I love what you've built. I just the inventory of knowledge the creative life has become on what people turn to it for and why, um, it's nothing short of amazing. I mean, you've been in a messy, volatile journey yourself, building something you help me any time. I've tried, but it's but I just, you know, admire it and it's just it's so cool. And also what I love about the content is it does really apply. The leaders are different, a different situations, whether you're leading yourself through creative journey or where you're leading a small team or a large organization. So it's Ah, it's really a pleasure. Well, something that you said in the book resonated with me as I'm applying it to my own life, and that is so many things. It's like it's it's not really just the tactics or it's not specifically the craft. It's so much of the other stuff. That's why we're seeing just went with the data of what people are, you know, emotion, intelligence by language, having tough conversations, all of the things that we think. It's just the craft. And it's not, I think the same, Mr. And it really comes out in the book. That's why they call it messy, right? It's not just about like the pixels and the design and its managing so many other things. Hey, listen, the mass is meant to be mined. They're appreciate it. Uh, just your at Belski, right? That's got Belski at Scott, both skin, everything. Awesome. Thanks so much for the show, but really appreciate it