Monday, January 4, 2010

Hugh MacLeod's "Ignore Everybody"

A few weeks ago I received an email from industry provocateur Derek Sivers with an unusual offer. He would send me a book from either Seth Godin or Hugh MacLeod (Derek loves books on marketing), and if I received any benefit I would write something about it. I'm a big fan of Seth Godin and if you've read my Music 3.0 book, you know that Seth's ideas play a big part of it. But I've never read Hugh MacLeod, until the book from Derek arrived in the mail the other day.

Hugh's book "Ignore Everybody - And 39 Other Keys To Creativity" is a very quick and enjoyable read, and as Derek predicted, really spoke to me.

I think the over-riding theme of the book is, "If you have an idea that you really believe in, don't ask anyone for advice or their thoughts, just go for it." It's too easy to get discouraged by even your friends and family, because they have a vested interest in keeping their relationship with you just as it is. You've got to understand that if you put your time in, you have a chance at success, but those relationships inevitably will change.

I've seen it happen myself several times over the years. When I first got a gig with a successful touring band, I had a friend tell me how much I'd changed. I didn't think my attitude towards him or anyone else was any different, but it was true, my life had changed but not in the way he thought. I was really tired from all the traveling, and under a lot of pressure from recording and not feeling very good about my parts. How can anyone else who hadn't been through the same thing appreciate that? I was a bit aloof because I was feeling depressed about how things were going, but that was interpreted as something else completely.

Then when I started to get a little success working with major and minor music celebrities, I had friends that no longer called me because they thought I was too busy and they didn't want to disturb me. Busy yes, but disturb me - of course not! This still goes on to this day.

This is not an uncommon occurrence unfortunately, and people with far more success than I've had have been going through these things for ages. I think that what surprises you when it happens is the fact that you're not ready for it. Hugh's book points out that you should expect a relationship to change the moment you have an idea that you intend to act on, because your friends like the status quo better than what might happen if you succeed.

Hugh's next point that got to me was "Don't quit your day job" If you're a musician, or anyone in the arts for that matter, you've heard this one forever, but Hugh has slightly different take on it.

Yes, keeping a "day job" doing something other than the thing you love may not be what you want, but that happens even when you have some success and the thing you love to do really does become your day job. Every artist is forced to choose between what's in their heart, and what they have to do to earn a living. Actors take a Hollywood blockbuster with a feeble story so they can still act in independent art films. Painters take commissions from wealthy patrons so that they can spend time on that inspiration that will never go anywhere. Musician's take a high paying gig they hate so they can spend a few weeks working on their own music. This illustrates a point that I'm fond of saying, "Art is something you do for yourself. A craft is something you do for someone else." Hugh just said it another way.

There are at least 5 additional points made in "Ignore Everybody" that I really liked, but I'll leave them for another post. If you're a creative person in just about any artistic or technological discipline, Hugh MacLeod's "Ignore Everybody" is a book that you should check out.


Eve said...

I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for pointing out the highlights. I liked the "Art is something you do for yourself...". I look forward to reading your additional posts on this book.


Anonymous said...

I too like this Thank you, As I am not a Musician, But a Stand Up Comedian.

Anonymous said...

Your fourth paragraph really rang true for me. Great way to put it. I totally identify with what you experienced as it is so similar to what I've been going through.


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