May 10

Advice for Young and Aspiring Artists

Honor Your Commitments: Start by honoring the ones you've made to yourself. Then honor the ones you've made to others. You'll gain trust, enhance your reputation, and increase your credibility. If you're struggling to honor your commitments, make less of them.

Make Something Every Day: The more you make, the better you'll get. The better you get, the more likely you are to be commercially successful. If you want to become a better writer, become a prolific one. That applies to every art form.

Always Carry a Notebook: Notebooks are the best distraction-free writing tools on the planet. They are also fertile soil for creative ideas. Every creative project I've shipped started in the pages of my notebooks.

Focus on the Process: There's nothing that will do more for your career as an artist than to focus on the process. You'll make visible progress, which will increase your motivation. You'll build the skills you need when opportunity knocks. Your name in lights, the book deal with the publisher and the starring role are all byproducts. They are a result of the process.

Stop waiting for Permission. If you're waiting for permission from a publisher to write your book, a record label to make your album or a venture capitalist to build your startup, you'll be waiting for eternity. As Alexis Ohanian says, the future will be built without their permission.

Spend your time and attention wisely: Attention is the currency of achievement. You can spend it on accumulating likes, hearts, and other meaningless metrics. Or you can spend it on deep work, deliberate practice, and mastering your craft. Successful artists spend their attention on the latter.

Don't Confuse an Artist's Life with the Artist's work: My friend Travis jokes that I'm a combination of Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, and Hank Moody. That sounds far more fun than the reality of my life. It's just what Anne Lamott calls a fantasy of the uninitiated.

Compare Less and Create More: The less I know about what my peers are doing, the more prolific and productive I am. I read their books. I interview them on The Unmistakable Creative. But I avoid looking at best-seller lists, reviews rankings, and metrics I can't control. The only way you move the needle on any of those metrics is to compare less and create more.

Don't Follow The Herd: Imitation rarely leads to meaningful innovation. Mimicry usually results in obscurity. Art that resonates is infused with your signature, blood, sweat, and tears. When Mars Dorian's work rolls through my newsfeed, I know he's the only one who could have done it. Only is better than best.

Create for an Audience of One: I have one main criterion for how I chose podcast guests. Does this make ME curious? It's selfish, and it's selfless. It's selfish because I'm putting my interest first. But it's selfless because you can't expect an audience to be excited about your work when you're not.

Draw a Line in the Sand: We have a line in the sand. Our show is an hour. It doesn't matter if your Oprah, Justin Bieber, or Beyonce. Our interviews are for one hour. If you don't have an hour, we'll have to pass.

I've cut interviews in the middle of them, said no to internet celebrity guests, and passed on people others might by dying to have. I'm here to make something unmistakable, so I could care less how famous you are, how many other media outlets you've been on, or how many impressive things are on your resume. I want to know how you'll touch our audience's heart, how you'll leave them different for your having been here.

Every Artist needs a line in the Sand. Compromising your line in the sand is a slippery slope that can lead to mediocrity.

Polarize to Resonate: We've been conditioned our whole lives not to poke the box, question authority, or challenge the status quo. Poking sacred cows is frowned upon. But that's how change happens.

As Justine Musk says "if you have a bold and compelling point of view, you're going to piss some people off." I do at least once a week. People have labeled my work everything from misogynist to leftist propaganda. Don't chase people who are leaving when you could serve those who are waiting for you to make more art.

Choose the Project That Makes Your Heart Sing: Your natural temptation will be to write the book that sells the most copies, make the movie that is a box office smash, or record the song that you know will be a hit. But things that come out of the hit machine rarely become Perennial Sellers. When you choose the project that makes your heart sing, your audience will feel it. There's no point in making your art if it doesn't make them feel something or give them hope.


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