Archive for the ‘Ignore Everybody’ Category
February 22, 2013
[THOUGHTS ON THE B-BOOK FORMAT]
We have hardback books, we have paperback books, we have Kindle books, we have e-books, we have iBooks…
I’ve had some success with all of those, over the years…
But the format that has given the most joy over time, is the B-book i.e. the blog book.
The B-book is a book that starts life out as a blog post. My first book, “Ignore Everybody” began life that way, as did my friend, Austin Kleon’s delightful classic, “How To Steal Like an Artist”.
Sure, both became mainstream bestsellers later, but only AFTER their magic was already ignited all over the web. In B-book format, both have been seen by literally millions of people. “Ignore Everybody” has been downloaded well over 5 million times over the years, maybe 10 million. That’s an incredible number, really.
Whereas most blog posts get buried and forgotten within days, often hours, B-books keep getting discovered again and again, passed around again and again, forever. The original Ignore Everybody is almost a decade old, and it still gets read by thousands of people, every month. Most conventionally published books can’t say that, not even close.
The disadvantage is, of course, that it’s hard to get people to pay you for B-books. I never tired, frankly. I just assumed if enough people read them, I’d find a way to make a living from it in an indirect way, eventually.
And time proved me correct: a lot of people who first discovered me via Ignore Everybody went on to become gapingvoid art collectors and/or corporate clients. Same is true for the other B-Books I wrote.
“The Art Of Not Sucking” is my latest effort; I’m also currently working on another one about my client, Rackspace.
True, the format may not be for everybody. I’m totally OK with that, to be honest. It’s an exciting medium that, although I’ve been working with it for almost a decade, I still feel like it’s new to me, it still feels like it’s a new world worth conquering. Like I said, it’s exciting.
September 16, 2012
THOUGHTS ON “IGNORE EVERYBODY”, EIGHT YEARS LATER
In 2009, my first book, IGNORE EVERYBODY was published by Penguin Portfolio, the big New York imprint. The work originally began life five years before that, in Autumn, 2004 as an e-book, “How To Be Creative”, first published on ChangeThis.com. The e-book came out of a series of blog post I had written in the preceding months before that.
“When I first lived in Manhattan in December, 1997 I got into the habit of doodling on the backs of business cards, just to give me something to do while sitting at the bar. The format stuck.”
Penguin Portfolio is the same imprint that’s published business-book rockstars like Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki and John Batelle. The book went on to become a Wall Street Journal bestseller, and upped my career by a couple of dozen notches.
The premise of the book was simple enough: “So you want to be more creative, in art, in business, whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for me over the years…”
And then I went down my list for the next couple of hundred pages, ticking off as many boxes as I could. A short book with lots of cartoons, a fun read you could get through easily in one sitting.
I hadn’t intended to write a book at first; it came about because my then-boss told me to stop blogging about stuff related to my marketing day job (and what a crappy day job it was) or else he would fire me.
So, forbidden to blog about marketing or advertising (WTF was my boss thinking?) I had to find something else to write about. As I had spent many years as a cartoonist and an advertising creative, I thought I’d share what I had learned along the way. Simple.
Within a matter of weeks “How To Be Creative” became ChangeThis.com’s most downloaded e-book ever. At last count, it was read by more than five million people and if you add the number of people who have read the blog version, maybe double that. This stat alone pretty much landed me the book deal with Portfolio.
If my career ever had a break-out moment, it was that.
EIGHT YEARS LATER, I’m thinking a lot about how much had changed since 2004, how much I’ve changed, how much in that book still holds true, versus how much I might want to change, now that I’m older and wiser.
“GOOD IDEAS HAVE LONELY CHILDHOODS”
“Good ideas have lonely childhoods” was the main thesis of the book, really.
In other words, quoting the book, “The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you.”
Good ideas take a while to nurture, before the world is ready to accept them. So you might as well “Ignore Everybody”, at least to start with, because for the most part, other people’s opinions won’t be that helpful in the beginning.
Some people thought I was just saying, “Ignore Everybody, just do your own thing and don’t give a damn what other people think.” Well, not really (Although there are times when you have to do that). I was more concerned that people understood the “lonely” part as normal, as something to be expected and embraced.
I think this is an important thing to remember, especially for young people just starting out on their career path. It’s easy to get discouraged; it’s easy to quit prematurely; it’s easy to give up on one’s dreams. If I can make quitting slightly harder for someone, I know I’ve done my job.
My other favorite thing to come out of Chapter One was this observation:
“GOOD IDEAS ALTER THE POWER BALANCE IN RELATIONSHIPS, THAT IS WHY GOOD IDEAS ARE ALWAYS INITIALLY RESISTED.”
Very few people willingly give the kind of advice that will compromise their own social advantage over you. Especially good advice. Good ideas change the status quo. People like the status quo. Human beings are messy, even the ones that care about you. Nothing wrong with that, just something to keep in mind.
I’m pretty happy with the book, overall– I wouldn’t change much. What’s more interesting to me is, of course, the stuff I’ve learned SINCE then.
I read last week somewhere that 89% of phone apps are free, and of the few remaining that aren’t, 90% of those are under three dollars. With Amazon Kindle, e-books, blogging and other formats disrupting the traditional publishing model, I expect the book format to go the same way as the phone app i.e. free or dirt cheap for the vast majority.
A few published authors will get decent royalties– the J.K. Rowlings’ and the Malcolm Gladwell’s of the world– but for us mere mortals, we’ll have to find other business models. I’m totally OK with that. With no desire to write a proper sequel to Ignore Everybody, I thought maybe a little blog post or two would suffice. Hence.… this.
[TO BE CONTINUED…]
August 30, 2010
[Buy the “Create Or Die” print here etc.]
I believe that both our economic and spiritual future, good or bad, is directly related to our ability to unlock the latent creativity within us.
There. I’ve said it.
It’s been six years since I first started blogging what would eventually end up being my first book, Ignore Everybody.
The book didn’t really start off with a plan. Like I said at the very beginning,
“So you want to be more creative, in art, in business, whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for me over the years.”
That was it. One person’s ramblings. No big, authoritative volume with lots of practical how-to’s, case studies and academic citations.
Some people didn’t care for that. “I paid $23.00 for a hardback edition and I expect RESULTS, dammit!”
Ah. But I never said anything about results. There was no plan, you see. That’s because there is no plan. There never is.
Writing about creativity is a messy business because creativity is a messy business.
Even using the word “creativity” in conversation is going to get you in trouble from some quarters. Stick your head above the parapet for just a few seconds and watch the arrows start flying at you.
Yet somewhere in the back of our minds, we all know it’s too important a subject to ignore, too important a reality not to confront.
Why? Because when I first started writing Ignore Everybody, I was coming at it from a very personal angle. Confronting one’s existential need to be “creative”, to express oneself etc. Which is why the book did so well with teenagers, college students and young adults just starting out in the working world. That’s the time of life to be thinking about all that.
But now, six years later I’m a bit older and bit more experienced. Maybe a lot more.
And time and experience has led me to conclude that even if we hate the word “creativity”, even if it’s a nasty, annoying, sophomoric, hipster-dipster, New Age gagfest that really should have no place among the serious, results-orientated world of equally serious, result-orientated grownups…
It’s where all meaningful growth is going to come from, both internal and external, whether we like it or not.
I don’t believe creativity can be taught, not really, but I do believe:
- That with a bit of prodding in the right places, individuals can train themselves to be more creative.
- That with a bit of prodding in the right places, individuals working as a team can train themselves to be more creative.
- That with a bit of prodding in the right places, companies and organizations can train themselves to be more creative.
- That with a bit of prodding in the right places, societies can train themselves to be more creative.
And that if they can do this, the value they create will be off the scale.
I’ll say it again: I believe that both our economic and spiritual future, good or bad, is directly related to our ability to unlock the latent creativity within us.
Let the journey begin…
March 21, 2010
Since I got back home from SXSW I’ve been working on finishing EVIL PLANS, my second book.
I think I’m almost there, Folks. A few more days of obsessive tweaking to go, and then off to the publisher’s for the final edit. Hurrah!
Man, what a relief. Ever since I signed the contract last summer, I’ve been feeling the pressure. The first book, IGNORE EVERYBODY did very well– FAR better than I ever could have predicted. Beginner’s luck? Maybe.
Regardless, to do it a second time felt like a lot to live up to. It feels GREAT to have the hardest part of the process mostly over and done with.
EVIL PLANS will have roughly the same format as IGNORE EVERYBODY: 18,000 words, plus a hundred or so cartoons. Designed to be read easily on the john, or on an airplane. As I’m fond of saying, “This isn’t rocket science”.
Here’s how the Introduction opens:
INTRODUCTION: “EVERYBODY NEEDS AN EVIL PLAN”
Everybody needs an EVIL PLAN. Everybody needs that crazy, out-there idea that allows them to ACTUALLY start doing something they love, doing something that matters. Everybody needs an EVIL PLAN that gets them the hell out of the Rat Race, away from lousy bosses, away from boring, dead-end jobs that they hate. Life is short.
Every person who ever managed to do this, every person who manged to escape the cubical farm and start doing something interesting and meaningful, started off with their own EVIL PLAN. And yeah, pretty much everyone around them– friends, family, colleagues– thought they were nuts.
Thanks to the Internet, it has never been easier to have an EVIL PLAN, to make a great living, doing what you love, doing something that matters. My intention is that by the time you’ve finished reading this book, you will completely concur. More importantly, you’ll actually feel compelled enough to go and do something about it yourself, if you haven’t already.
Last year my friend, David Brain interviewed me:
DAVID: What was the motive behind writing the book [IGNORE EVERYBODY]? I mean, I know how little money these things make, but do you want it to help other people better their lives or is it just another evil plan?
HUGH: I certainly didn’t expect to make any real money from it, and how much it would “help” other people is pretty debatable. But sometimes in your life you have these defining moments, where you draw a line in the sand and declare to the world, “This is who I am, this is what I believe, this is what’s important to me.” I think we all need these moments at some point, to make us better understand who we really are. Writing a book is a good way to force these moments to the surface. That was really the key driver, here.
And “forcing these moments to the surface” was the key driver with EVIL PLANS, as well. The book is not a how-to book; it’s not an instruction manual. It is a personal rant about something I’ve been pursuing all my adult life: to somehow find a way to unify both Work and Love.
i.e. To do what you truly love, and somehow get paid for it. Again, conceptually this may not be rocket science, certainly, yet it’s still something that eludes most of us. Most of us still have to schlep for a living.
Personally, I think most of us would rather not have to schelp. I think most of us would rather have an EVIL PLAN. I think most of us would much rather find a way to unify Work and Love.
Which is why, of course, I wrote the book. Wish me luck with it, anyway. Thanks…
[EVIL PLANS is scheduled to hit the bookstores April, 2011.]
September 23, 2009
[Backstory: About Hugh. E-mail Hugh. Twitter. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. EVIL PLANS. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades.]
The rumors are true. I’ve landed a second book deal. You can go see the details here. Same publisher and editorial team as my first book, IGNORE EVERYBODY. The title of the second book will be called, you guessed it, “EVIL PLANS”.
EVIL PLANS had an interesting genesis. I was just tooling around with some ideas on the blog, which all ended up being collectively piled onto the EVIL PLANS page, just like what happened with the original web version of IGNORE EVERYBODY. Somebody at my publisher’s saw the blog page, got really excited by it, printed it out, and went to show everybody else on the Editorial team. Next thing you know, my agent gets a phone call from them.
Up until that point, I hadn’t submitted any book ideas to anyone– not even my agent– mainly because I didn’t really think I had any to submit. This was only a month or so after IGNORE EVERYBODY had come out in June 2009, and I was planning on giving myself at least another six to twelve months before giving another book idea much thought. Events proved otherwise.
I remember when IGNORE EVERYBODY was just taking shape as a book idea, and me thinking, “Wow, I think I can do this.” It was an exciting feeling. I’m glad it still feels that way.
Thanks to Adrian, Jillian, Will and Maureen over at Penguin/Portfolio for giving me a crack at it. Thanks to my agent, Lisa, for negotiating the deal on my behalf. Rock on.
August 10, 2009
[One of the cartoons from the book etc.…]
After the great success of the “Portfolio Number One” launch, we’ve decided to do another one i.e. Portfolio Number Two.
And like last time, all images chosen will be taken from my book, IGNORE EVERYBODY.
So if you’ve read the book already, I’d love to hear your feedback. Which cartoon(s) from the book do you think would make good “cube grenades”? Please feel free to leave a comment below, Thanks!
[Visit my print gallery here.]
[Backstory: About Hugh. Twitter. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. EVIL PLANS. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades.]
August 5, 2009
[Click on image to enlarge etc.]
A couple of people emailed us, saying they were having trouble their PayPals, and needed some extra time to sort it out.
Besides that, as the original Monday night deadline came an went, people were still trickling in. It seemed a bit mean just to cut them off arbitrarily.
So with that in mind, we’re keeping the the IGNORE EVERYBODY print offer open for a while yet. We’ll see what happens.
Thanks to EVERYBODY for THE MOST SUCCESSFUL pre-order we’ve ever done! Seriously. Rock on.
[Backstory: About Hugh. Twitter. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades.]
June 16, 2009
Well, Day Six into becoming a “published author”, and according to Google, a lot of people are already talking about my book. Here are some of my favorite reviews so far:
Seth Godin: “Should Hugh swear so much?” This post re-visits a conversation Seth and I had a year ago, when I was first wondering whether or not to keep the “potty mouth” cartoons out of the book.
David Armano: “The title says it all. You have to decide if what you believe in is good enough to fight for, to pursue, to risk everything for. Only you can decide this.“
Rick Segal: “Hugh’s advice and commentary should be required reading for everybody doing a start-up, coming up with a earth changing idea or dreaming of the day they punch out of that Dilbert-like cubicle.“
Sex On The Beach: “Hugh’s not coming from some lofty ivory tower, but from a real process of hard work and grit. He’s not preachy; he’s simply sharing what he has learned along his path.“
The CRM Blog- One of my longest (and best) interviews ever:
CRM magazine: Do you think creativity is a kind of currency now?
Hugh MacLeod: It’s always been a currency, more so right now because if you’re creating a lot of stuff that’s interesting, valuable, meaningful, that’s a lot safer to me than just pushing paper around a desk all day. Those kinds of jobs are being replaced by computers every day.
We want to be creative. We want to be more useful and tap into something deeper and more meaningful. We don’t want to sit around and be a schmuck our whole lives; what I’m hoping the book will do is get people to start a dialogue with themselves and with other people. It’s an interesting dialogue because [creativity] is such a primal need.
Jerimiah Owyang: “You see, his book Ignore Everybody, really isn’t a book. Instead, you should think of it as as that friend in high school who never followed the rules, but achieved his goals took you out for a beer 20 years later and shakes your shoulders and wakes you up.”
Well, that’s enough SHAMELESS book-pimping for now. I’m going back to SHAMELESSLY PIMPING my latest batch of Cube Grenades. Rock on.
June 11, 2009
[The printer’s proofs. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
Last week I blogged about a series of small prints I was working on, based on the cartoons in the new book, “IGNORE EVERYBODY”, which as y’all know, launched today.
These cartoons above are some of the most viewed, and have collectively been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. I know they adorn lots of cube walls, been made into stickers and of course, blogcards.
These four reflect a lot about what I was feeling at the time I drew them, three or four years ago. How we all have a need to find “purpose”, and the stuff we do and the people we interact with each day, in order to find “it”.
So today, being a day that for me is a lot about finding my own purpose, I’ve decided that it would be a poignant moment to make these available for people to own. You can throw away your yellow’d download and own the real thing instead, signed and numbered by me. An edition of 100, sold as a set in a portfolio, for $300 [Plus Shipping & Handling]. In a few days we’ll be offering the individual prints for about $100 each.
These are smaller versions of what we have been doing up until now. They measure 11“x14”, and can be framed and hung, or kept in a portfolio to view or use for meetings and then put away etc.
They are all hand-pulled serigraphs, and printed on Rives-Arches paper. For those of you thinking about collecting the work long-term, this is a good, affordable, and fun place to start. I hope to be making lots more of these portfolio editions in the future. Thanks.
[Books arriving at my office for signing. It’s a lousy job, but hey, somebody has to do it…]
Fourteen months since I went public with the news, my first book, “Ignore Everybody” finally launches today.
Now available at:Amazon.
Barnes & Noble.
800-CEO-READ. (great for bulk buys)
IndieBound. [to find an independent store]
[The book jacket– click on image to see enlarged PDF version etc.]
Here are some brief notes:
1. Big thanks to my agent, Lisa, to Jeffrey and Jillian, my editors over at Penguin/Portfolio, to Maureen Cole, who does my marketing over at Portfolio, to my friend and mentor, Seth Godin, for introducing me to Portfolio.
2. Big thanks to all the bloggers and blog readers who inspired and encouraged me all along the way… You know who you are.
3. The book only took me a couple for months to write. It took me four years to find the right publisher. I feel fortunate that it wasn’t the other way around…
4. Some of my favorite cartoons in the book were drawn at this very small, funky West Village Bar in Manhattan, during my New York days. Probably the proudest moment with getting the book published for me so far, was being able to send an advance copy to the bar’s owner, along with the following note:
Remember that crazy guy with the tweed jacket who used to sit at the end of your bar every night, drawing those weird cartoons on the back of business cards?
I’m happy to report, he ended up alright…”
5. Yes. I am insanely happy, excited and grateful about all this. Thanks and God Bless to you all. Rock on.
[etc: About Hugh. Interview. Newsletter. Book. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades. Hughtrain.]
April 13, 2009
[The book jacket– click on image to enlarge etc.]
It’s less than 2 months till my book, “Ignore Everybody” comes out. June 11th it hits the bookstores.
[You can download two PDF sample chapters here etc.]
Amazon. Barnes & Noble. Borders. 800-CEO-READ. IndieBound.
To keep up-to-date with it all, please subscribe to my “Crazy, Deranged Fools” newsletter. I send something out about once a month. Thanks.
[UPDATE: The Official Publisher’s Blurb for the book:]
When Hugh MacLeod was a struggling young copywriter, living in a YMCA, he started to doodle on the backs of business cards while sitting at a bar. Those cartoons eventually led to a popular blog – gapingvoid.com – and a reputation for pithy insight and humor, in both words and pictures.
MacLeod has opinions on everything from marketing to the meaning of life, but one of his main subjects is creativity. How do new ideas emerge in a cynical, risk-averse world? Where does inspiration come from? What does it take to make a living as a creative person?
Now his first book, Ignore Everyone, expands on his sharpest insights, wittiest cartoons, and most useful advice. A sample:
* Selling out is harder than it looks. Diluting your product to make it more commercial will just make people like it less.
* If your plan depends on you suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail. Nobody suddenly discovers anything. Things are made slowly and in pain.
* Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether. There’s no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one.
* The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours. The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.
After learning MacLeod’s 40 keys to creativity, you will be ready to unlock your own brilliance and unleash it on the world.
About the Author
Hugh MacLeod worked as an advertising copywriter for more than a decade, while developing his skills as a cartoonist and pundit. His blog is Gaping Void, and more than a million people have downloaded the original post that inspired this book, “How To Be Creative.” He also lectures and consults on Web 2.0 and its impact on business.
January 26, 2009
[Click on image to enlarge etc.]
[UPDATE– about 3 minutes later: Sorry, the twelve emails arrived quickly. Wow. No more galleys to give away, for now. Sorry.]
I’ve got twelve galley copies of my upcoming book, “Ignore Everybody”, to give away. Here’s the deal:
1. You have to have been active on Twitter for at least three months.
2. You have to have been following me on Twitter for at least one month.
3. You need to send me an email with the word, “Galley” in the subject header. In your email I need your your name, your shipping address, and your Twitter ID.
4. The email you send needs to be, in some way, interesting, amusing, or both.
5. I’ll mail a galley to the first twelve folk whose email fits this criteria.
6. Thanks for everything!
[UPDATE @:] Even though I closed down the competition after 3 minutes, I still got about 100 e-mails after from people, trying their luck. Rock on.
September 25, 2008
1. Since I got back from the road trip I’ve basically been locked up in my office, putting the finishing touches on my final edit for the book. It has to be at the publisher’s by Monday morning.
I’m pretty much done. Just going over it again and again and again, micro-tweaking the hell out of it.
2. I’ve been told that the official launch date is June 9th, 2009. Yes, for us Internet types used to immediate electronic gratification, that seems like a long way’s away. But hey, this is books, not blogging. I’m told designing a book properly takes forever. Ditto with getting the sales team up to speed. Marketing, ditto. I’m told that if you want your book featured in a magazine article for one of the majors, say, Forbes or Businessweek, they need to see galleys at least four months prior to the launch.
3. And then there’s the psychological pressure. You make a mistake on a blog post, it’s easy to go back and fix it, or at least, try better next time. But once a book is in print, the mistake is there, in hardback, on paper, forever. If you make a mistake on a blog, well, it’s your blog, so nobody really cares besides yourself. If you make a mistake with a book, suddenly there’s a whole list of people you’re letting down– editors, agents, sales people, retailers. As the deadline approaches, I feel this more and more acutely. It wasn’t something I ever really thought too much about before, until it became real.
4. I remember a decade or two ago, Woody Allen telling a journalist that he never, ever watches his movies ever again, once the final edit is in the can. At the time I thought that was rather odd. What? Don’t you want to occasionally visit your baby? Your masterpiece?
But having lived with this book in various manifestations for over four years, I can now totally relate to what Woody Allen was talking about. As my film director friend, Dave Mackenzie once told me, by the time you’re done with a large project, you are so bloody sick of it– all the pressure, all the meetings, all the changes, all the keeping the thousands of balls up in the air– that you never want to see it again. Though writing this book wasn’t nearly as much work as making a feature film, this feeling does permeate. This book is “me” four years ago. This book is not “me” now. I feel that in spades at the moment.
5. In one of the final chapters of the book, I tell how I never really set out to be a professional cartoonist. Nor did I set out to be an Internet consultant. They just kinda-sorta happened. I feel the same way about becoming an “author”.
6. A few months back I tracked down a very dear friend of mine, Mark O’Donnell and sent him an e-mail, congratulating him. Mark is pretty much my oldest “creative hero”, ever. I’ve known him since I was nine years old. Mark is the consumate, old school, New York humorist. He wrote for the Harvard Lampoon back in college. Later he wrote for The New Yorker. He wrote for Saturday Night Live. He wrote for Spy magazine. He published comic novels and wrote off-Broadway plays. He still lives in the same Upper West Side, rent-controlled apartment he moved into in 1976, the year he graduated from college.
Why was I congratulating him? Because after struggling away for all those decades– lots of highbrow, critical acclaim, but zero money– he FINALLY landed his first bit of massive worldly success. He wrote the words and lyrics to the Tony-Award winning musical [and later, the movie], “Hairspray”. It was huge for him.
So I write him an e-mail, sending him big kudos. The guy’s a genius, no one deserves a massive hit more than he. I just wanted to let him know that.
He wrote back: “And Hairspray is like only one per cent of what I’m proud of.” A-ha! Bingo. That pretty much is how I feel about the book. Just one small step in a very long march.
[PS: Mark also wrote the lyrics to John Water’s next musical, “Crybaby”, based on the movie with Johnny Depp. Rock on.]
7. I’m not worried about book sales per se. Having a bestseller would be lovely, sure, but no-one has any control over these things, especially not a first-time author. I’m sure as hell not relying on it financially. What concerns me far more is how the book will affect the rest of what I’m up to. For the better? For the worse? Again, I feel a lot of that is well beyond my control.
8. I wonder what my second book is going to be about…
[UPDATE] Mark left a comment below: “I’m happy for the ancillary coverage. You know more about me than my agent. Congrats on the bouncing baby book! It is a challenge to enjoy it and to keep perspective at the same time. — Mark O’Donnell“
[Note to Newbies: The book is based on a 10,000 word blog post I did back in 2004, called “How To Be Creative”. So far it’s been downloaded & read well over a million times etc.]
September 12, 2008
The first chapter of my upcoming book is called “Ignore Everybody”.
1. Ignore everybody.
The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you. When I first started with the biz card format, people thought I was nuts. Why wasn’t I trying to do something more easy for markets to digest i.e. cutey-pie greeting cards or whatever?
You don’t know if your idea is any good the moment it’s created. Neither does anyone else. The most you can hope for is a strong gut feeling that it is. And trusting your feelings is not as easy as the optimists say it is. There’s a reason why feelings scare us.
I wrote that chapter over four years ago. As I’m currently working through my final edit before publication, I’ve been thinking about some of the stuff I’ve learned the hard way, since first writing this post. Here are some random notes:
1. “Good ideas have lonely childhoods”. When I say, “Ignore Everybody”, I don’t mean, “Ignore all people, at all times, forever”. No, other people’s feedback plays a very important role. Of course it does. It’s more like, the better the idea, the more “out there” it initially will seem to other people, even people you like and respect. So there’ll be a time in the beginning when you have to press on, alone, without one tenth the support you probably need. This is normal. This is to be expected. Ten years later, drawing my “cartoons on the back of business cards” seems a no-brainer, in terms of what it has brought me, both emotionally and to my career. But I can also clearly remember when I first started drawing them, the default reaction was “people scratching their heads”. Sure, a few people thought they were kinda interesting and whatnot, but even with my closest friends, they seemed a complete, non-commercial exercise in futility for the New York world I was currently living in. Happily, time proved otherwise.
2. “GOOD IDEAS ALTER THE POWER BALANCE IN RELATIONSHIPS, THAT IS WHY GOOD IDEAS ARE ALWAYS INITIALLY RESISTED.” The older I get, the truer this sentence seems to be. Especially in industries that are more relationship-driven, than idea-driven.
3. “Fight The Power”. The good news is, creating an idea or brand that fights the powers that be can be a lot of fun, and very rewarding. The bad news is, they’re called The-Powers-That-Be for a reason i.e. they’re the ones calling the shots, they have the Power. Which is why the problem of selling a new idea to the general public can sometimes be a piece of cake, compared to selling a new idea internally to your team. This is to be expected: having your boss or biggest client not liking your idea and firing you, hits one at a much more immediate and primal level, than some abstract housewife in rural Kansas hypothetically not liking your idea, after randomly seeing it advertised somewhere. Which is why most team members in any industry are far more concerned with the power relationships inside their immediate professional circle, than what may actually be interesting and useful for the customer.
4. Idea-Driven vs Socially-Driven businesses; which one are you in? The answer is, of course, both. “What you know” determines what kind of access you’re given to people. “Who you know” informs what kind of access to ideas you’re given, and when. Though all businesses tend to skew differently in either direction. My experience in the wine trade is a good example of an industry that’s primarily socially-driven, at the expense of being idea-driven. I’ve heard a lot of wine trade folk over the years yakking endlessly on about “Innovation!” Why? Not because they necessarily had any actual new ideas worth talking about, let alone acting on, but because “Innovation” seemed to be a word that their big customers [the supermarkets] liked hearing. So they used the word whenever possible, gratuitously or otherwise. In other words, they were acting in a socially-driven manner. Primarily, they just wanted to be liked.
5. “I want to be part of something! Oh, wait, no I don’t!” I’ve seen this before so many times, both first-hand and with other people. Your idea seems to be working, seems to be getting all sorts of traction, and all of a sudden you got all these swarms of people trying to join the team, wanting to get a piece of the action. And then as as soon as they get a foothold inside the inner circle, you soon realize they don’t really understand your idea in the first place, they just want to be on the winning team. And the weirdest bit is, they don’t seem to mind sabotaging the original idea that got them interested in the first place, in order to maintain their newfound social status. It’s probably the most bizarre bit of human behavior I’ve ever witnessed first-hand in business, and it’s AMAZINGLY common. [AFTERTHOUGHT: “People are not primarily governed by their own self-interest. People are primarily governed by their own self-delusion.”]
6. Human beings are messy creatures. I suppose the main thesis to this post is; the hard bit of having a “good idea” is not the invention of it, nor the selling of it to the end-user, but managing the myriad of politics and egos of the people who are supposedly on the same team as yourself. Managing the vast oceans of human chaos that all enterprises ultimately are, underneath the thin veneer of human order.