Beating People to the Personhood Punch

Wearing a nametag everyday has its advantages.

I’m easy to find in a crowd, strangers are friendlier to me on the subway, I get better service at restaurants and airports, people never forget my name at parties, and I’m statistically less likely to commit violent crimes.

That last one is a fact. Sociologically, there’s a direct correlation between anonymity and accountability. You don’t stab someone when everybody can see your name. That’s just good science.

But the best part about wearing a nametag is, I get to label myself first.

Think about the implications of that for a minute.

Are you making a name for yourself, or is someone making one for you? Are you living other people’s ideas about who you are? How often do you find yourself apologizing for who you are? And, how will you remind yourself who you were before the world told you who you were supposed to be?

Wearing a nametag gives me ownership over my identity. It beats people to the personhood punch. And it refuses to give the world a chance to tell me who I am.

I come pre-labeled, literally and figuratively.

And in a world where people are constantly trying to tell you who you are, who you’re allowed to be, and who you need to be, that seems like a smart move to me.

The Perfect Quietness of Heart

Expecting nothing changes everything.

It creates contentment, since you’re grateful for what you
have. It builds humility, since you’re surrendering control. It invites calmness,
since you’re not meeting some standard. It allows acceptance, since you’re saying
yes to what is.

Expecting nothing changes everything.

It triggers presence, since you’re not obsessing about the
future. It achieves freedom, since you’re liberated from the past. It summons
wonder, since you’re open to whatever happens. And it enables stability, since you’re
never knocked off center.

That’s what happens when we shake off the shackles of


We experience the perfect quietness of heart.

Earn Your Way Into People’s Memories

Anything worth doing is worth doing for a long time.

Because eventually, you’ll start to run into people who have
heard of you. Or remember one of your works. Or talked to their friends about
you. Or saw you perform somewhere. Or listened to you do an interview. Or read
something you wrote. Or did a case study on you in one of their marketing or
psychology or communication classes.

Proving, the shortest distance to someone’s brain is through
your body.

Your body of work,
that is.

Julia Cameron, artist, poet, playwright, novelist,
filmmaker, and composer, has accumulated an astounding body of work in the last
thirty years. Her insights have had a profound influence on my creative life,
from my tactical daily routines to my strategic career decisions. In her book The Sound of Paper, she paints a
powerful picture about the importance of longevity:

“Creators must take the long view and be in it for
the long haul. The ability to see distance is critical to a creative career,
because we’re out to accomplish a body of work, not merely one piece.
so, making great strides in creativity means taking small steps
. We must
always bear in mind that each day’s work is part of a larger body of work, and
that slow, steady output amasses into a work of a lifetime. But unless we are
able to take this long view, we will be derailed by rejection.”

The goal, then, is to leave behind an easily found trail of
accomplishment. And not just any creative output, but work that’s worth
collating and highlighting.

Here’s what that means:

Putting yourself into as many mediums and channels and
expressions as possible, so that over time, the total output of your work becomes
a collection that people can access in many different ways.

Standing for something faithfully, so that you become a living embodiment of
that thing, almost like a placeholder, bookmark, beacon or a reminder, which
allows people to start equating you with the thing itself.

Staying with yourself as the world orbits around you,
knowing that no matter how long it takes before people come back into your
atmosphere, they’ll still find you doing what you do, even if you’re doing it
in new ways.

Generating as many potential brand touches as possible, so
the universe of people you’ve interacted with grows naturally and incrementally
until eventually, the right group of people finds you.

Getting up in the morning, listening to what you’re supposed
to make next and shoveling coal into your creative locomotive, laying down
track as fast as you can, without the fear that your best ideas are behind you.

Establishing themes in your work so your art is less random
and more of a representation of your feelings and ideas and sense of life, like a physical
index of your human value system.

That’s how your body of work, which is everything you create
and contribute and affect and impact, will earn its way into people’s memories.
To get there, here’s the formula:

Small times
long equals big.

That’s the equation for prolificacy. Proving, that
we just have to learn to be incrementalists. To make our art like a mosaic,
adding one small piece at a time.

The writing formula I’ve been using for years was
five hundred words a day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year. Now, for most
professional writers, that isn’t that many words. And yet, the number nets out
to about three books a year. All from one page a day. That’s not mystery,
that’s not mastery. That’s just math. And yet, few artists have hooked into
this way of working. They haven’t committed to a critical number of creative
output. They don’t realize that building a body of work boils down to those
everyday disciplines that contribute to the sheer accumulation of material.

Small times
long equals big.

understands this formula. As a comedian and writer, he has an estimated net
worth of eight hundred million dollars. And so, it’s no surprise that he
famously said that the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes, and
the way to create better jokes was to write every day. He suggested getting a
big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hanging it on a
prominent wall. And for each day that you hit your quota, you get to put a big
red x over that day. Then, after a few days you’ll have a chain. And if you
just keep at it, the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that
chain as a visual reminder of progress, especially when you get a few weeks
under your belt. And at that point, your only job is to not break the chain.

Small times
long equals big.

Schultz understood
this formula
. In his biography, he famously said cartooning was a job
where you’re doing the same thing over and over, but you’re never allowed to
repeat yourself. And yet, he explained that the secret of his success was
focusing on drawing one good comic strip every day. Not making millions. Not
achieving fame. Not changing the world. Not advancing his personal agenda. Not
making publishers and newspapers happy. Just the art. Just the work. Just one
good strip, every day. That single goal, that incrementalist approach, governed
Schultz’s work for more than fifty years, and it made him the most influential,
popular and profitable cartoonist in the history of the medium. The strip was
his mission piece. That one chunk of art he committed to, focused on and
obsessed over, each day, until it was done, no exceptions; trusting that
everything else, from the television specials to the merchandising to the
books, would flow from that.

Small times
long equals big.

Proving, that consistency is the ultimate shortcut. That the
shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That small times long
equals big.
And as a
result, he forever put his body into our memories.

And so, whatever you’re creating, don’t just do it
well, do it for a long time.

If Commitment Isn’t the Answer, Rephrase the Question

Productivity is not a science.

We just tell ourselves it is. 

That’s the human tendency. 

To seek out systems and structures and seven step equations for getting things done. We just love any construct that satisfies our sense of order, offers security, conserves cognitive effort and gives us reassurance that some outside agent is absorbing the responsibility and doing the work for us.

But the reality is, when it comes to taking initiative and chasing your dreams and managing your time and juggling multiple projects simultaneously, the best technique is commitment.

Which isn’t exactly a sexy answer.

Saying to someone, look, if you would just freaking commit, everything would start to fall in place, rarely lights a fire under their ass.

All I know is, when we are willing to bleed for it, amazing things happen.

Momentum Hinges on the Power of One

I have a friend who’s a perfectionist.

She would rather show nothing than show work that’s less
than her best.

And I tell her all the time, look, I understand you want to put your best foot
forward, but you’ll never impress anyone by putting no foot forward.

The reality is, being amazing is nice, but it’s not always
necessary. What’s most important––at least, for now––is having something,
anything, that you can point to. Something that gets you on the runway. Something you can hold up and say, this is me, this is what I do.

Even if it’s not a ten.

My first book wasn’t exactly a literary masterpiece. Considering
all the typos and adverbs poor grammar and rambling stories, I can’t even bring
myself to flip through the pages anymore. It’s just too painful.

And yet, that book brought me here. I wouldn’t be where I am
without it.

The point is, momentum hinges on the power of one. Sometimes
you have to put work out there that’s less than amazing today, to motivate yourself to make something even better tomorrow.

Otherwise the curse of perfection trumps the commitment to progress.

Scott Ginsberg, aka, “The Nametag Guy,” Full Keynote Speech: The Power of Approachability (2012)

Thanks to everyone at The Smart Show for making this possible!

I Should Be The One Drawing Pictures On The Cave Walls

Nobody can sell you better than you.

I bought into that lie for a long time.

Like many artists, I made the proclamation that I was my own
best salesman. That only I can do my own head. And that I don’t need anyone’s
help hawking my wares, thank you very much.

Which is really just a stubborn way of saying I’m a control
freak about my work, I insist on doing everything myself, I don’t want anyone
making money off of me and nobody knows my brand as well as I do, so back off.

God I was immature.

Turns out, there is
someone who can sell me better than me.

And I don’t know who
this person is, but I do know how
this person is:


It’s someone whose ego isn’t invested in the sale and
doesn’t take rejection personally. An objective party who’s all business, all
the time. Someone who isn’t so close to the product that he’s inhaling
his own fumes
. Someone who cares less about being an artist and more
about impressing my accountant. A
real closer who doesn’t get claustrophobic worrying about money.
person who doesn’t have a bunch of biases floating around in his head that he
pretends aren’t there.

That’s who can sell me better than me.

And maybe it’s a salesperson or an agent or a manager or a
business development director, but whatever the title is, if I had to start my
company from scratch tomorrow, that’s the exact job description I would write.

Because I should be the one drawing pictures on the cave

Somebody else should go out and hunt. 

Something That Shows People How We See Life

What counts as work these days?

Conceptualizing our next big idea, taking productivity seminars
and going to the coffee shop to organize all of our material?That’s not work, that’s hiding.

Learning in public, doing book reports of other people’s
research and dissecting our creative process? That’s not work, that’s studying.

Telling strangers they’re wrong for being who they are and
prolifically sharing our thoughts about what other people are making? That’s not work, that’s trolling.

Basking in an echo chamber of adoration, playing inside
baseball in a private hall of flattering mirrors? That’s not work, that’s narcissism.

Spending all afternoon perfecting our online profile, getting
sucked into an ego vortex of google alerts and social media mentions? That’s not work, that’s dopamine.

Going back in time and reimagining, revising and relaunching
something we made ten years ago? That’s
not work, that’s jacking off.

The point is, all of these activities are wastes of creative
energy. Addictions of the self. Spectator sports. Shadow careers devoid of blood
and hunger and risk and daring and originality.

If we want to get on with the real work of making real art
in the real world, we need to create something from whole cloth.

Something that’s ours. Something that shows people how we
see life.

Otherwise, what we are doing?

It’s Only a Matter of Time

Time is the great thickener of things.

When it comes to your art, time is the strongest agent for
making your work robust enough to find its audience and make a difference. More
than talent, more than connections, more than money, more than anything, time
is the invisible hand that always has your back.

Because no matter how many romantic stories you hear about
innovators and artists and computer geniuses who found success early and often,
the reality is, that’s rarely the case.

Colonial Sanders didn’t come up with his secret recipe until
he was fifty. Momofuku didn’t create instant ramen until he was sixty. Roget didn’t
invent the thesaurus until he was seventy. Darwin didn’t publish his theory of
evolution until he was fifty. Dostoyevsky didn’t write his greatest novel until
he was sixty.

And those guys were in the top one percent of one percent.

For us normies, it will probably be a long time before what
we do catches on.

But in the interim, we can hustle while we wait. And we can respect
and leverage time in several strategic ways:

From a mindset
perspective, we believe there is something waiting for us and trust our ability
to sit down and respond to something.

From a mundane
perspective, we fall in love with the unsexy reality of our work, achieving greatness
by doing what is repetitive and dull.

From a movement
perspective, it’s about finding ways to stay in the game so you can outlive the
critics and still be around when the world is ready for you.

From a momentum perspective,
we build an undeniable body of work that
grows stronger, brick by brick, and know that we’re better because it
took longer.

From a moxie
perspective, we keep our hand raised until it’s our turn, and then say yes when
luck finds us.

From a motivation
perspective, we chase inspiration until it gets winded enough for us to catch
it, and don’t let it leave until we pick its pocket.

And the good news is, when we combine the mindset, the
mundane, the movement, the momentum, the moxie and the motivation, whatever art
we feel called to create, whatever dreams we feel compelled to follow, and
whatever change we feel commissioned to make, one thing’s for sure.

It’s only a matter of time.

Pressing the Holy Buttons of Now

For many years, I existed in one of two modes:

Rewind or fast

Watching the trailer for my imagined future or studying the
game tape from my imperfect past. Rehearsing what I was about to say or
revising what I should have said. Learning from yesterday or lusting for

Which left me little time to exist in any of the other,
better, healthier modes:

Play and pause and
stop and slow.

Sorry. Too busy checking off goals and chasing dreams and making
plans to press any of those buttons. 

Which seemed romantic and commendable and productive at the
time. Besides, I liked who I was in those two modes. Hiding inside my head was
an integral part of my identity.

But here’s what I didn’t realize.

When dwelling on yesterday and dreaming about tomorrow takes
up too much of today, you lose the ability to be present. When you’re always
focused on becoming and achieving and attaining, trying to get somewhere other
than where you already are, you experience stress. And when you’re so busy
getting to the future that the present is reduced to a means of getting there, you
miss out on life.

I always loved what Eckhart Tolle said about this:

“To be identified with
your mind is to be trapped in time. It’s the compulsion to live almost
exclusively through memory and anticipation. And this compulsion arises because
the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation,
of fulfillment in whatever form. But this creates an endless preoccupation with
past and future and an unwillingness to honor and acknowledge the present
moment and allow it to be.”

Truth is, I read that passage seven years ago.

But it wasn’t until recently that I started applying it.

And it turns out, he was right.

On the remote control of life, rewind and fast forward aren’t
the only buttons worth pressing.

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