Adam: 1. My first question is to give some background for those reading along tonight who may not already know who you are – So, who are you and what do you do, Todd?
- Todd: I’m a father, husband, writer, thinker, observer, and researcher. My main focus for the past several years has been on creativity and the dynamics of creating for a living. Several years ago, I realized that many of my marketplace peers were ill-equipped for the pressures of having to create on demand each day. I distilled a set of “best practices” over time to help them. That eventually became the foundation for my work with companies and people, and now the focus of my writing.
Adam: 2. Who are your heroes?
- Todd: There are a ton of people. I’ll just list a few key influences. Steve Martin, Thomas Merton, Anne Lamott, Seth Godin, Tom Peters… and a ton of additional writers. Frankly, on the “hero” front, I’m inspired by anyone who is willing to take a risk in the pursuit of great work. They have each – at some point – forgone the expected or comfortable in order to create value for others. I think this is the mindset of a creative pro.
Adam: 3. What is the best advice you have ever received?
- Todd: The thing that moves me more than anything is when someone is willing to forgo comfort to do what’s right. “Get your reps in”. If you want to be good at anything, you have to be willing to do the grunt work and build the basic skills first. No one is born a great writer, speaker, manager, or artist. They are forged over time.
Adam: 4. Who is the one person you would like to collaborate with in the future and why?
- Todd: Besides the obvious (launch a company with Elon Musk) :), I’d love to collaborate on a writing project with any of the living authors on my “admired” list. That would be simply amazing. I would be happy as research asst. 🙂
Adam: 5. What is one topic that you feel needs to be discussed that isn’t being talked about?
- Todd: The plague of peripheral vision. Though it’s great to be able to see what everyone else is doing on the web, it can also create a kind of “expectation escalation”, or a dissatisfaction with the work in front of you. It can slowly rob you of the joy of play, experimentation, and growth because of constant comparison. Creative growth requires incubation, which means taking time to play with ideas away from the pressures of the outside world. While the web gives us many things, it can also be a pressure cooker of expectations. Pay attention to the narratives that play in your head. Learn to hear your own creative intuition apart from the clamor of the crowd. Have a point of view, and have IRL people you get with to sharpen one another. More than anything, give yourself permission to play with ideas, to experiment, to try on styles in private. Not all of your world is meant to be shared with the world. You need to have unnecessary creating as well.
Adam: 6. What is success to you?
- Todd: For years, I’ve said I want my epigraph to be “He created fiercely, he loved well, he died empty.” If I can do these three things each day – create fiercely, love well, and act on my intuitions, that = success.
Adam: 7. I found out about your work through the book Die Empty, which I loved. If you could have people take away 1-3 points from the book, what would those be?
- Todd: 1. Refuse to allow complacency to rob you of your contribution. Don’t succumb to the siren song of mediocrity. 2. The 4 scarce resources you must allocate are Focus (your attention), Assets (resources), Time, and Energy. How you choose to allocate them will play the biggest role in your success or failure. Live and work by design. 3. Attention for your work is not a birthright. Your best work will be in the service of others, adding value. So start with the impact you want to have, and work backward. Your passion = what you’re willing to suffer for.
Adam: 8. I read The Accidental Creative after Die Empty. Another great book. Tell people about this book and the podcast.
- Todd: It’s about life in the “create on demand” world. I tried to distill down the best of what I found prolific, brilliant, and healthy creative pros were doing to remain so. That’s also what we discuss on the podcast.
Adam: 9. What are you currently working on?
- Todd: Wrapping a new book, which will release in August. Will probably speak to about 40-50 groups this year. And most stressful of all… Coaching my 6th grade son’s basketball team.
Adam: 10. What would be your advice to someone wanting to step out and do something big with their lives? What should their next step be?
- Todd: 1. Go big by going small. Create impact in your immediate world first. Build from there. You change the world by changing YOUR world. 2. Set aside time multiple times per week (a few hours) to your project, whatever it is and commit to making progress each week. That’s how my biz launched. 5-7a, 9-11p each day for months/years. Time is rarely a valid excuse. I had 3 kids, more than full-time job, and more commitments than I should have. There are legit excuses, but a lot of people simply don’t want to pay the price. Anything you want to do will cost you something. You have to be willing to make that investment if you want to reap a harvest. The key is committing to regular progress and growth. 3. Find someone who is already doing what you want to do and ask them for their best advice. There are so many ways to learn from the mistakes of others. You will learn from your own anyway, but there’s no excuse not to go to school on others. Don’t live in a bubble. Isolation, when launching something, will drain you dry of inspiration and self-confidence.
You can view the entire dialogue over on twitter at #tenquestions.