Why I Follow The Work Of Very Few People

While I can totally appreciate a good one-liner, I live for deep explanations.

If the explainer is someone I admire, give me a 3-hour podcast over a 10-min radio interview any day. I’ll take a 500-page book over a 4-sentence social media post with every chance I get.

I want to learn about their process. This way I can try it on, see how it feels, keep what I like, and move on. This feedback loop of mimicking work and curating it for my personal taste is far more useful to me than simply accepting advice “because someone said so”.

I don’t follow people for prescriptions. I don’t need someone to tell me what to do. I need them to set examples, tell stories, and open mental doors.

I don’t want the quick and dirty “answer” to any question, because there rarely is one. It’s far more important to observe HOW answers come about in the brains of my mentors than what those answers actually are.

And because it takes a lifetime to develop their experiences and abilities, I listen/read the same people repeatedly for years. It’s a joy learning about how they view the world through their specific lens, and how that lens evolves throughout their career.

I tend not to risk my attention span on new people who have not yet proven their worth to me as a thinker. I don’t have much time, and I find people-hopping to be way too risky a way to spend it. So unless a new influencer or book comes highly recommended by someone I already admire, it’s unlikely I’ll take that chance.

(This is one of the reasons why I have repeat guests on my podcast. I feel the same way about strategically picking the people I choose to have deep conversations with as well.)

Because whether you know it or not, the information you consume has a huge effect on how you think and what you produce. We are all remixed copies of our influencers’ brains, and thus I am terrified of having shitty ones enter mine.

The author Austin Kleon says it best in one of my favorite books Steal Like an Artist“:

You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes. The reason to copy your heroes and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds. That’s what you really want—to internalize their way of looking at the world. If you just mimic the surface of somebody’s work without understanding where they are coming from, your work will never be anything more than a knockoff.”

P.S. – Austin’s book is a super short MUST READ for anyone who wants to create a body of work they love. His follow-up book “Show Your Work!” is even more useful for anyone trying to get this work seen and heard in the world. Austin is one of the few brains in this world that I cannot recommend enough, regardless of your profession or hobby.

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