Hey Penguin: Week of August 31
A preview of my conversation with Austin Calvert, thoughts on content vs art, a book I never thought I'd read, and how I get the most value out of my podcast conversations
Welcome to another edition Hey Penguin - a weekly behind-the-scenes look at the ideas and people inspiring my art.
This is a space where I share rough drafts of my ideas.
Because there is no magic lottery ticket. There is only process.
From the community - Favorite reader comment
Here’s a great comment from April on my post “Where does self-worth come from?”
It reveals the stark danger in misunderstanding the point of social media.
“They told me I have to or I won’t gain followers.” A focus on followers turns people into metrics.
And people aren’t metrics. Your audience is your community. Your community is a group of people who want to go where you’re taking them. But first, you need to know where you’re taking them. You’re taking them nowhere if you’re focused solely on raising the amount of followers you have.
The best way to use social media is to connect with people who want to go where you’re going. You could always just buy followers, if all else fails. But you can’t buy honest, good relationships that benefit each person over a long period of time.
Invest in your community. Don’t invest in tricks or gimmicks or hacks to increase the metrics. You’re sacrificing short-term gain for long-term value.
As creators, social media is a place to share our gifts (more on gifts below.)
New from Paul
Here’s a sneak peak at my conversation with Austin Calvert.
Austin Calvert is one of the most driven artists I’ve ever met. Keep a close eye on him - he’s going far. This episode comes out on September 3rd. (Trailer coming soon!)
Blog posts as podcast miniepisodes
I enjoy writing and reading my daily blog posts. Which is why I’m starting this experiment. Each day, I’ll be uploading a reading as a podcast episode to hold you over between the longer conversations. This is another way for me to bridge the main theme of my brand - creativity and self-development - to you. Please enjoy!
A book I never thought I would read
I’ve been reading Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh.
And while I was reading this book last night, I thought, why am I now interested in Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity?
I never would have read this book three years ago. Not because I was opposed to spirituality or religion. I wouldn’t have read this book because I was apathetic about myself, the world, and its people.
And I don’t mean “apathetic” in a dark sense. I didn’t care about myself and the world in the way you don’t care about all the bugs you step on in a day. You’re always unaware of all the bugs you’re stepping on. But if you were to become conscious about how many bugs you kill in a day, you’d never get out of bed. Back then, I didn’t want to bear the responsibility that comes with being a better version of myself. Back then, I didn’t want to get myself out of my bed of psychological comfort.
But now, I care. I care about the world, its people, and myself.
In Living Buddha, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us that “Buddha” comes from the root buddh, which means to wake up. With each step I take toward understanding myself, I wake up. But as I’m a slow riser in the morning, I’m a slow riser in waking up to all the ways I could be a better me.
And that brings me to some questions I started asking myself after speaking to a future podcast guest, Deepu Asok.
Connecting the dots: Content, Art, Gifts
Who are we when we’re not being productive?
What does it mean to make art?
Is there a difference between art and content?
Is there a difference between creativity and productivity?
Is there a difference between productivity as such, and the “narrative” of productivity we see all over Twitter?
As far as I can tell, we’re supposed to make art. We’re beings who have ideas. And we turn those ideas into experiences for other people.
Productivity is for machines. Creativity is for people.
Machines have functions. People have ideas.
Content is for the algorithm. And art is for us.
Content is what we skip. Podcast introductions are content. We skip the podcast introductions because we’ve heard them before. But art? Art is what we repeat. Art is what we come back to time and again. Art is something we wouldn’t miss for the world.
We will always complain about an overabundance of content. But do we ever complain about having too much art? Has anyone said, “there’s too much music to listen to! And there’s too many paintings and books and poetry! enough!”
So, back to Thich Nhat Hanh. In Living Buddha, Living Christ, he tells us:
‘The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence’
What is the ultimate expression of our being?
When we talk about “giving gifts online” in the Seth Godian, ‘Linchpin’ sense, we’re talking about giving ourselves over to the creative process. And I need to be careful with the word “process” - you’re not exactly in a “process” in the productivity sense. Your creative process is the same as as the fish swimming in a tank. The fish has no “tank.” But water is the fish’s natural environment. Fish understand “water” biologically, not intellectually. Fish don’t (and can’t) bother with terms and abstractions about their natural environment. But we like to come up with environments to put people in. “You there! You belong over here. You’re an accountant now.” We understand environments intellectually, not biologically.
This is the danger neglecting your self-awareness. By not deciding who you want to be, what you’re good at, and who you want to surround yourself with, you let other people decide for you. You need to understand which kinds of environments allow you to be your authentic self. Intellectually, it makes sense to become a Wall Street banker because it pays well. But biologically, you’re making a huge mistake if you’re extremely high in introversion and agreeableness and you decide to become a Wall Street banker.
If you’re not cultivating self-awareness, it’s as easy to steal from you as candy from a baby.
How to get the most value out of sharing your gifts online
Salman Ansari, another future podcast guest, told me that what separates my podcast from others is that I extract the most value possible out of each conversation.
How can you do the same?
Below is some advice which won’t help you gain a lot of followers, but it’ll help you gain a sense for what it means to make art.
Be completely yourself in your art. Break the rules. Oh, and do everything Austin Calvert recommends in his upcoming episode on my podcast.
How to not get the most value out of your gifts?
By hiding. By doing what everyone else recommends you do.
Pay attention to the few people who really know you. But ignore the masses. The masses don’t have a clue about how you should use your gifts.
This is how I extract the most value out of the conversations I have with my podcast guests. Sometimes I worry I’m coming off as trying to make a transaction of value. “You talk to me, we both gain a tremendous amount of followers.” Luckily, I haven’t joined the dark side of using social media merely to gain followers (see above comment)
Don’t merely make a podcast. Anyone can slap a podcast together. Here’s how to merely make a podcast: Sit down with someone you know and talk for an hour. Boom. Podcast.
Instead, consider being so interested in your guest it’s almost creepy. Consider being an honest human being. Be curious about your guest. Don’t go in with a bunch of questions. Let the conversation play out in odd directions. Don’t edit out anything that isn’t fitting the status-quo of what’s expected from a podcast.
This advice applies to more than podcasts. It applies to anything you’re creating with the intent of sharing it online.
But the way you’ll do this is going to be different than the way I do it. That’s the tricky part. I create trailers with catchy music to match the personality of my guest and mood of the whole conversation. You’ll do something entirely different than me. Or at least, I hope. Maybe you’ll do exactly what I’m doing, but with your own unique take on the technique.
Whatever you choose to do, remember…
BONUS! My first “viral” tweet
I find it hilarious that this was my most viral tweet so far. (And I find it sad that we sometimes care way too much about our tweets going viral. We care so much that we write guides about this.)
What did I learn from my “first viral tweet?” Zig when they zag. Make art, not content.
Thanks for reading.
And here’s to your good health.