Discover more from Musty’s Newsletter
13 creativity lessons from a failing creatorpreneur
Letter to myself
It’s been a while.
Jerry Springer was a successful lawyer and even a Mayor. He talked about serious topics on his show. It did OK.
Then he created the trashiest TV show in history. At one point it even overtook Oprah in ratings. What was his big revelation (his ‘unlock’)?
He stopped making things he thought people might like — and instead gave the audience what they actually wanted:
Fights and infidelity 🥊
😈 Lesson #1: Don’t make things people might like; give them what they actually want
Shortcut: Make something that appeals to at least two of the seven deadly sins. Three is even better. Ignore the seven heavenly virtues at all costs.
I have like five private notes on my phone. When I learn something new, I jot it down. Usually in quite an adversarial tone as a lesson for myself. Here are some unusual things I've learnt about creativity.
😋Lesson #2: The most important thing is to have good taste
If you don’t know what 10 stars looks like, you can’t even make a 4 star product. You’re literally an ant trying to concoct the Hubble Telescope.
The mismatch between your 11 star taste and your 4 star production will drive your creativity.
What would an 11 star version of my podcast look like?
Scene: Elon Musk wants to launch Neuralink V2 on Big Picture Medicine.
So we set up 8K VR cameras in a SpaceX rocket ship. My connect at Shure sends their (in development) SM7B V10 microphones, and my sound engineer masters the audio into Dolby Almost Cinema Sound.
My research team has pulled up uncovered background on Musk, and my producer has interviewed five of his closest friends. I have a TED speaking coach on staff who coached Musk for 30 mins before our conversation.
The podcast is so good that my listeners WhatsApp every single one of their friends telling them to drop everything and listen to it.
It makes its way to Obama, who upon listening breaks down and starts crying. He scraps his annual 2024 reading list and tells his fans that all they should do this year is listen to the BPM podcast.
Further reading: Brian Chesky (AirBnB) on 11 star taste.
So if that’s an 11 star, where am I now? Maybe 3–4 stars.
How do you develop good taste? Shortcut:
Be born with great taste (genetic freak; you were born with Michael Phelps’ wingspan but in your brain. Congrats).
Don’t consume what everyone else does (more on this later).
Be relentlessly critical of your own work and (secretly) of other’s work too.
Every time you consume something, ask: “How would I have done a better job at this?”.
Further reading: Ira Glass on creativity.
👶 Lesson #3: Neophilia will make you an NPC
New stuff is cool. AI. Blockchain. TikTok.
But that’s what everyone else is consuming. If your information diet is bland — your output will be too.
Shortcut: Go one level up the information stack.
If everyone else is watching science TikToks → you read the blog post.
If everyone else is reading blog posts → you read the pop science book.
If everyone else is reading pop science books → you read the paper.
If everyone else is reading papers → you visit the lab.
🐔 Lesson #4: Be cocky
It’s much better than being timid.
If you project confidence in your vision — you’ll get really scared. Because none of it’s happened yet and everyone’s going to judge you. This is good. Because you’ll have to go out and achieve it or risk looking stupid.
Before every interview I do, there’s a 10 minute chitchat before I hit record.
I used to explain that I was a Medical Student making this podcast as a fun side hobby. Because I wasn’t confident and figured they would go easy on me.
Now I explain that I’m a Doctor building the world’s largest health entrepreneurship podcast and media property.
This has unforeseen benefits.
It completely changes our dynamic. I move from curious student to their equal. It makes for more interesting interviews because I’ve elevated myself to the point where I can challenge them.
When I ask for introductions to people they know, they stop recommending people ‘beneath’ them and start introing me to their own mentors.
Game recognises game. It’s much easier for them to get excited about the vision, and they bring a different energy.
☄️ Lesson #5: Quality is an emergent property
Quality is not buying an expensive microphone.
Quality is an emergent property that results from 1000s of micro-decisions.
At 41:12 of the recording, there’s a quiet beep in the guest’s audio. Spend five minutes removing it. Then make 1000 similar decisions. Congratulations you are now quality.
⚡️ Lesson #6: Balance consistency and iteration
Producing consistently is important. It’s what separates posers from professionals. But be careful—
You’ll eventually become so consistent that you’re barely treading water. You have no time to think.
Then you’ll turn up every week and produce the same garbage.
Shortcut: Ask yourself, is what I produced this week better than last week? If no, slow down.
The night before my med school finals, I released a podcast. On my birthday I released a podcast. When I was sick, I released a podcast. You get the gist.
This was a huge point of pride for me.
But then I stagnated. By the time I’d reached out to guests, organised a slot, researched, recorded, edited and then released — it was time for the next podcast.
I’ve recently started working on a news/analysis series of BPM, which means I only need to put out 1 or 2 interviews a month.
This has cascaded into lots of quality benefits:
I only interview people I really really want to talk to.
I buy every guest a microphone (if they don’t have one) so the sound is always pretty good.
I ask guests for two references I can email before the interview. Amongst other things, I ask these references for any interesting stories/topics I should ask about.
🏛 Lesson #7: Be careful studying the greats
Sometimes people are successful despite doing something, not because of it. And it’s really easy to over index on these peculiarities.
Steve Jobs was successful despite being an a**hole. Not because of it.
In podcast land, this is the ‘wannabe Joe Rogan’.
They rock up totally unprepared and are just there to have an ‘authentic’ conversation.
Except there’s nothing authentic about recording a conversation, editing it, and then releasing it on the internet. That’s literally the least authentic thing you can do.
Moreover, you’re not Joe Rogan.
Moreover, Joe Rogan does a lot wrong:
Most of his conversations are too long. If he cut 50% it would be 75% more interesting.
He is ridiculously underprepared and misses out on interesting topics.
He has some really ill informed opinions because he doesn't read.
He sits exclusively on a platform which most people don’t have access to.
But Joe Rogan is the 🐐
Should you imitate everything he does?
😳 Lesson #8: Inclusivity is mostly, garbage
Making something for everyone and it’ll actually appeal to no one.
When building your tribe, it’s more important to clarify who you are not for, than who you are for.
Claiming you are for everyone screams disingenuousness (see any corporate mission statement).
I tell everyone about this restaurant.
I like it because it doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. The seating isn’t nice. It’s not on Deliveroo/Uber Eats. It’s usually cold and a bit uncomfortable. I don’t really like the other diners.
But the food is really good.
It doesn’t appeal to bland palates. It doesn’t appeal to pretentiousness. It doesn’t look good on Instagram. Good. F*ck those people. They’ve got no taste.
Jaffa is a purple cow. So you want to talk about it. You love it, you hate it — but you’re never indifferent to it.
Be a purple cow, not a McDonalds. No one tells their friends about McDonalds.
🧳 Lesson #9: Are you a professional or an amateur?
Being an amateur is great. You only do stuff when you feel like it. You’re in la la land. Everything is fun.
You should be an amateur in most things you do. Or else you become unhinged.
But careful. You become miserable when you apply an amateur work ethic but expect professional results.
🤖 Lesson #10: The Algorithm is your best friend
When your intellectual thirsttraps stopped killing it — you blamed the algorithm.
But this was a gift.
20 years ago, you would spend three years writing a book. Then another three trying to get it published. Only after eight years would you know if it was a success or failure.
Algorithms achieve this in minutes. They are free focus groups for your art.
Modern algorithms are the greatest data mining opportunity in history. Every time you release something, the algorithm presents it to a small audience and gauges their response. Based on this, it kills or knights it.
Congratulations, your iterative creative loop just shrunk from eight years to eight minutes.
Stop blaming the algorithm and get better at what you do.
Further reading: Nicolas Cole.
😭 Lesson #11: Never, ever, quit
Instead, course correct.
You will quit when you hit the dip. This is fine. Maybe you’re genuinely bored of doing the same thing every week.
But you’ve built up years of creative tinder prior to the dip. It’s ready to be set alight.
Instead of zeroing it all, think about how you can leverage it to do something new.
After 130 episodes, I’ve become bored of doing interviews. How many times can you ask someone for their story?
Instead of binning it all, I’ve pivoted towards posting news/analysis regularly — and doing the odd interview.
This is way more fun. And it leverages everything I’ve already built.
Smart pivot, don’t quit.
Further reading: Seth Godin.
🎁 Lesson #12: Packaging is an OP life hack
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe”
Abraham Lincoln (apparently)
Correction: I’d spend the first three hours sharpening the axe, and the remainder deciding how to package up the story.
All of the delta is often in the last mile of a project.
You could pitch an incredible idea, but the typo in the presentation just ruins it. Humans overvalue packaging. An implied halo effect; we assume that something well packaged is better in every domain.
I’m still learning how to do this.
Here’s an interview I did with a great guest. It was a lot of work to get this guest. But it hasn’t really performed. My packaging wasn’t up to scratch.
Here’s a conversation I had with two of my friends. We basically talked sh*t about what we think Apple might do in healthcare. It performed much better.
Even before the conversation had happened, I’d started thinking about how I’m going to package this casual chat into something engaging.
🚀 Lesson #13: Hustle culture is your best friend
The biggest PSYOP in recent history just happened and no one is talking about it.
Psychological operations (PSYOP) are operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their motives and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and large foreign powers.
Whilst Western TikTok promotes sipping mimosas and degeneracy — China’s TikTok algorithm is rumoured to push content promoting working hard and academic achievement.
In a pendulum swing against hustle culture — it became cool not to do any work.
How do you make something great?
Work harder than everyone else (under your control).
Be born with freakish talent (not under your control).
Blind luck (not under your control).
Although it’s difficult to remember, the only lever that matters is: “Am I working harder than every other creator in my niche?”.
> > > if True:
Hit reply and let me know your thoughts 📧
With warmest wishes,
P.S. if you want to make my day, leave a review on iTunes.