Category: Creativity

Optimise for energy and motivation

While this post has a clickbait-y subtitle (‘Why I quit a $500K job at Amazon to work for myself’) it nevertheless makes an important point:

Last week I left my cushy job at Amazon after 8 years. Despite getting rewarded repeatedly with promotions, compensation, recognition, and praise, I wasn’t motivated enough to do another year.

As author Daniel Pink points out in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, when it comes down to it, neither money nor people saying “good job” is why we go to work. We want to do stuff that’s meaningful.

What kind of work would I do if I had to do it forever? Not something that I did until I reached some milestone (an exit), but something that I would consider satisfactory if I continued to do it until I’m 80. What is out there that I could do that would make me excited waking up every day for the next 45 years that could also earn me enough money to cover my expenses? Is that too unambitious? I don’t think so.

I’m nowhere near this guy’s earnings, but I do earn about twice as much as I did as a senior leader in schools. That would have been a ridiculous amount of money to me a few years ago, but you get used to it. The point is that you have to be doing something sustainable.

The things that don’t wear off are those that I’ve been doing since I was a kid, when nothing was forcing me to do them. Things such as writing code, selling my creations, charting my own path, calling it like I saw it. I know my strengths, and I know what motivates me, so why not do this all the time? I’m lucky to live in a time where I can do something independently in my area of expertise without requiring large amounts of capital or outside investors. So that’s what I’m doing.

A couple of weeks ago I volunteered to be an Assistant Scout Leader. I realised how much I missed interacting with kids of that age (over and above my own, of course) but teaching isn’t the only way of going about doing that.

The interesting thing is that, if you do something you find interesting, something that gets you out of bed in the morning, the money will come at some point. I’m not naive enough to think that “follow your dreams” is good career advice, but you certainly shouldn’t be doing something you hate. Not long-term, anyway.

On that note, it’s been a delight to see how Bryan Mathers is pulling together his artistic chops (which he’s honed from zero this decade) and his coding skills to create The Remixer Machine. It seemed to come from nowhere but, of course, it’s taken skills and interests that he’s combined to make something worthwhile in the world.

So, what can you do practically if you’re reading this? Optimise for energy and motivation. In practice, that means do something that you love at a time you’ve got most energy. If you’re a morning person, do something that inspires you before work. If you’re super-motivated around lunchtime, do something in your lunch break. Night owl? You know what to do…

Source: Daniel Vassallo

Volume of work

This definitely speaks to me:

Quantity has a quality all its own as Lenin said. The sheer volume of your work is what works as a signal of weirdness, because anyone can be do a one-off weird thing, but only volume can signal a consistently weird production sensibility that will inspire people betting on you. The energy evident in a body of work is the most honest signal about it that makes people trust you to do things for them.

Source: Venkatesh Rao (via Tom Critchlow)

Hong Kong shutter art

After never having visited Barcelona before November 2017, in the subsequent 12 months following, I went there five times. One of the things that struck me was the art in the city; some municipal, some architectural, and some more vernacular (i.e. graffiti-based).

When I was in Denver a few months ago, Noah Geisel was kind enough to give me a walking tour of some of the (partly commissioned) street art there. It was incredible.

I’ve never been to Hong Kong, and am unlike to go there any time soon, but this Twitter thread of Hong Kong shutter art makes me want to!

Source: Hong Kong Hermit

Creativity as an ongoing experiment

It’s hard not to be inspired by the career of the Icelandic artist Björk. She really does seem to be single-minded and determined to express herself however she chooses.

This interview with her in The Creative Independent is from 2017 but was brought to my attention recently in their (excellent) newsletter. On being asked whether it’s OK to ever abandon a project, Björk replies:

If there isn’t the next step, and it doesn’t feel right, there will definitely be times where I don’t do it. But in my mind, I don’t look at it that way. It’s more like maybe it could happen in 10 years time. Maybe it could happen in 50 years time. That’s the next step. Or somebody else will take it, somebody else will look at it, and it will inspire them to write a poem. I look at it more like that, like it’s something that I don’t own.


The minute your expectations harden or crystallize, you jinx it. I’m not saying I can always do this, but if I can stay more in the moment and be grateful for every step of the way, then because I’m not expecting anything, nothing was ever abandoned.

Creativity isn’t something that can be forced, she says:

It’s like, the moments that I’ve gone to an island, and I’m supposed to write a whole album in a month, I could never, ever do that. I write one song a month, or two months, whatever happens… If there is a happy period or if there’s a sad period, or I have all the time in the world or no time in the world, it’s just something that’s kind of a bubbling underneath.

Perhaps my favourite part of the interview, however, is where Björk says that she likes leaving things open for growth and new possibilities:

I like things when they’re not completely finished. I like it when albums come out. Maybe it’s got something to do with being in bands. We spent too long… There were at least one or two albums we made all the songs too perfect, and then we overcooked it in the studio, and then we go and play them live and they’re kind of dead. I think there’s something in me, like an instinct, that doesn’t want the final, cooked version on the album. I want to leave ends open or other versions, which is probably why I end up still having people do remixes, and when I play them live, I feel different and the songs can grow.

Well worth reading in full, especially at this time of the year when everything seems full of new possibilities!

Source: The Creative Independent (via their newsletter)

Image by Maddie