I think that if someone were to document every breakthrough moment, genius idea and significant advancement in the human race, I think they would find a disproportionate amount of those ideas occurred while someone was taking a dump.
This is one of those insights.
The following are four things I absolutely think you will need if you want to be successful in anything. (And yes... success, in this case, refers to something that not only you love but also something that makes you money. Sometimes lots of it.)
The first is that you need to be a creator.
And I hate the word creativity. Because it has all these implications of people who are the “creative type” -- which is bullshit.
Think of creativity as a skill -- the skill of creating things. And like any skill, you can learn it and get better at it.
If you create things, you’re creative.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
I’m not only writing this blog post as I’m typing this, I’m creating something. Something went from a seed of an idea which occurred in the bathroom, to something real. If I print this post, I can touch my own thoughts.
That’s creating. So is building a bridge, for example. Someone comes up with the idea that they want to put a bridge somewhere. That’s the thought. The thought then goes from inside the head to outside the head in the form of rough sketches. The sketch goes from rough sketch to precise drawings and blueprints. Blueprints become scale models... and eventually, the whole thing has gone from a tiny idea in someone’s head, to a real thing in the real world that thousands of people plant their feet on, drive their cars over, take pictures of and tell their families about.
That’s the creative process at work. You need to master the creative process.
CREATE EVERY DAY
On the surface, it may seem that some successful people do fine just by aggregating, curating or collecting things by other people. Like a newspaper. But someone created that newspaper. The guy who built Madison Square Garden didn’t and doesn’t come up with every single thing being done in Madison square garden... he built the platform.
There’s a lot of different ways to create things, but I don’t know any successful person who isn’t a creator at all.
So you need to be a creator. The best way to learn to create things, and become more creative, is to start creating more things. I write every day, for instance. That’s kind of what I do.
Another thing to pay very close attention to is the GIGO principle -- Garbage In, Garbage Out.
The creative process usually works like this: You hear something interesting from someone else... that gets mixed up and paired together with all your previous knowledge... and the new thing and the old thing make a baby and you get a new idea.
New things, new ideas, are usually not very original. And they don’t need to be. But if it’s a good idea, it’s unique and distinctly useful for someone, somewhere. Unique doesn’t mean original. Not much in terms of truly original things have been created in the past century.
Even the Wright brothers, who invented the first airplane, didn’t come up with a unique idea. They spent a whole lotta time studying birds. Birds got the idea first. They just combined two things: Flying and people. And a new idea was born... and most important: executed.
The conclusion is: The better your input, the better your output. A quick way to know whether or not your input is any good is to check how long it’s been around. For example, in marketing, almost everything we do today was pioneered by people like Claude Hopkins more than a hundred years ago.
So read Scientific Advertising, not the latest flash-in-the-pan, trick-of-the-month special offer on the Warrior forum. Read Lord of The Rings, not 50 Shades of Gray. And so on.
If you want to create things that last forever, you learn how to do that by studying other things which have lasted a long time.
I often listen to classical music while writing. Johann Sebastian Bach died in 1750, and people are still listening the shit out of his music. As much as I love Jay-Z, I don’t think people will be listening to “Empire State of Mind” 250 years from now.
What’s the difference between timeless things and things that go out of style? Immerse yourself in great things. As a quick example, I used to watch a ton of TV shows. Now, I only watch an extremely limited number of TV shows. Only those which are absolutely world-class, such as Dexter. That’s the only show I watch now.
The second thing is that you need to be an entrepreneur. Or, a strategist, which depending how you think of it, is sort of the same thing.
A lot of people are creators, but haven’t learned how to be an entrepreneur. Which, by the way, is also a skill you can learn and get better at.
The reason this is important is because if you aren’t an entrepreneur, you don’t know how to get paid for the things you create. Maybe you’re a big fan of the “starving artist” stereotype... but I think that no matter how you twist, turn or romanticize something, starving still sucks.
Your income is always in direct proportion to the value you bring to the world (unless you’re working in some false and arbitrary value structure, such as the government). Your value is determined not only by the quality of what you create, but by the people you created it for.
Entrepreneurship is all about creating things and bringing them to the world. It’s about creating value from ordinary things. Like words on paper. Or sand in the desert.
Intel makes computer chips, one of the most valuable commodities on earth, out of sand in the desert.
Being an entrepreneur also means you can spot opportunity. Combine being a creator with being an entrepreneur, you can create the right things for the right people at the right time. And that’s how you make an impact.
Another way to think of this second principle is as being a strategist. Being strategic in everything you do. This is more along the lines of how I think of it. It doesn’t matter how good your thing is, how good a story you can tell, how well you tell it, to whom you tell it, or how well you can execute your idea if you don’t have an underlying strategy that keeps you moving in the right direction. So you need to be a strategist.
The third thing you need to be is a storyteller.
Stories are how we as humans have passed on critical information to each other for thousands of years before the written language. In the tribal languages of Papua New Guinea, the word for “to speak” literally translates as “to story.” Bottom line: Humans are biologically hardwired to pay attention and listen to stories.
Bottom line for you: If you don’t know how to tell a good story, nobody will listen to you or even pay attention to you, much less buy your shit.
Stories are how we connect. It doesn’t matter how good your thing is, or even if you created the perfect thing for the right person at the right time... if you can’t connect with that person.
You can also think of this as being a good marketer, which is mostly about storytelling.
Every world class marketer has a “core story” or a “signature story” that they will tell you at every opportunity. And you gladly listen to it again and again, because your ancestors have programmed you to listen to stories.
If you really want to gain impact and influence in the world, you need to be able to tell a good story. And it’s why I often recommend reading fiction, as well as books about screenwriting as much as you read books about marketing.
The reason for screenwriting, as opposed to novel-writing or whatever else, is because screenwriting is the tightest form of storytelling. Since what a screenwriter writes has to be shown, not told, they have to be extremely clear in their writing.
For example, in a novel you might read about what a character is thinking. For example, I read the Lee Child novels about the ex-military cop Jack Reacher. Frequently there are segments where you’re walked through Jack’s thought process. A bad guy might be pointing a gun at him, and he thinks about what type of gun it is, how good aim it has, his next moves and how he’s gonna make it out of there alive. You can’t do any of that in a screenplay, because all of that needs to be expressed visually on the screen. That's why screenwriters are forced to be much clearer and tighter in their writing.
Finally, start paying attention to your own life in the context of a story that is continually unfolding. Nothing bad can ever happen to me, because on some level I know it will make a good story I can tell to someone else. Right now is a scene in the movie of your life. (Btw, most people’s movies are boring as fuuuck. Is yours? If the answer is yes, you know you gotta do something.)
The fourth thing you need to be is a hustler.
The defining trait of a hustler is execution. This sort of speaks for itself. It’s so obvious you want to punch yourself in the face. But everybody’s got ideas. Everybody thinks they know what they gotta do. Some people even have strategy, though it’s more rare. And even fewer know how to express it all with the right story.
All that, without execution, is about as useful as a glass of warm spit, with a hair in it.
As Steve Jobs famously said: Real artists ship.
For any creator, there’s a dynamic between inspiration and perspiration. Input and output. But for most people, there’s a whole lot of input and not a whole lot of output going on.
My suggestion: Ship something every day. If you have the strategy in place, that means you’re always making progress and that eventually, success is inevitable.