Dumb mistakes I’ve made as a podcaster: polished is better than perfect

Done isn’t better than perfect. Done isn’t good enough.

Polished is better than perfect. Polished means you’re paying attention. Polished means you’re not rushing it. Polished means no multitasking* because if you do, you’ll let too many oversights through the gate of the publish button.

By all means, ship your work. Publish something. Start talking to us and show us what you know. But don’t keep us waiting while you wait for perfection to arrive from Amazon.

Here’s a few mistakes I’ve made as a podcaster. I’ve made these mistakes because I worked too fast on too many tasks at the same time.

  • I uploaded today’s episode of the podcast to YouTube with a clip of my screen recording a song I wanted to use for the intro.
  • A guest told me not to publish the video version of our conversation. A week later, I made a trailer for Twitter, Instagram, and my newsletter, using clips from the video version of our conversation. (So sorry, U.)
  • Episodes 19, 20, and 21 have/will have sloppy audio quality on my end. I’ve forgotten to run test recordings of me and my guest before starting the show. (Some have told me that audacity could help with this, but I’ve yet to look into it.)
  • I want to use this Blockhead beat as my podcast intro, but copyright exists. Thinking I could get away with it, I uploaded today’s episode with the song at the beginning. The episode isn’t on Apple yet, and I’m thinking it’s because I’ve used the beat without permission. I’m stubborn and I don’t like using stock music for anything I make, so I’ve sent Blockhead a cold email asking if I can use the track.
  • I’ve dwelt on mistakes longer than it took for me to see and fix the mistake. This is the worst mistake a creator can make. There’s few mishaps that take more than 5 minutes to fix. But you’re not careful, you could spend hours sulking over something you forgot to do. Don’t sulk. Fix it and move on.

Make stuff. Break stuff.

Fix the stuff you broke.

But don’t dwell on it. You wouldn’t cry over spilt milk, nor should you cry over a misplaced apostrophe, a broken hyperlink, or equipment left unplugged.

Because here you are, making stuff instead of not making stuff.

So please, go make stuff.


*I’m writing this while waiting for today’s episode to re-render. I don’t listen to my own advice that often.

On the bright side, I’ve yet to forget to press RECORD an hour into an episode. I shudder to imagine what I would do if that happened. I wouldn’t get out of bed for weeks if that happened. So, let’s make sure that never happens.

Easy, difficult

These things are easy:

  • Doing homework
  • Studying for an exam
  • Lifting weights
  • Running
  • Recording a podcast
  • Writing a blog

Everyone knows how to run (it’s like walking, but faster). Everyone can look at a book. Everyone can pick up some weights. If you can talk, you can host a podcast. And if you know how to type, you know how to start a blog.

These things are hard:

  • Discipline
  • Resilience
  • Patience
  • Attention management
  • Saying no
  • Choosing what to work on
  • Humility
  • Perseverance

Homework is easy. You sit down with a book and a piece of paper, and you do the homework.

Discipline is hard. By ‘doing’ discipline, you fight back against your primal desires to watch television instead of practicing long division. And fair enough; there’s no such thing as a long division problem more exciting than an episode of Breaking Bad.

We can choose to embody these qualities. We can be the kind of person who says no to a night out at the bar when they’ve got a newsletter to ship the next morning. We can be the kind of person who has the discipline to do their homework. But instead, we choose not to. We choose to say yes to stuff we don’t want to do, to please people we don’t like. And we do that because it’s easier than running laps around the park.

Someone with all the above qualities is a rare sight to behold. But when we see someone embodying these qualities, we take their hard work for granted. We become like the guy at the museum, staring at a Mondrian, saying, “I could have painted this.”

Well, you didn’t paint this. Pier Mondrian painted this. And if it looks so easy, so simple, so rudimentary that you could have done it in your sleep, then why didn’t you paint this?

They had the discipline to get better everyday. They had the resilience to deal with rejection. They had the patience to deal with setbacks. ‘No’ became their favorite word. They had the humility to improve. And they had the perseverance to show up everyday despite how nice it would feel to stay in bed.

The Penguin Latte Podcast #11: Deepu Asok on Meditation, Yoga, Drawing, and Happiness

Meditation is that state where you are no more. Your sense of Self is gone.

If you ask an artist where his work comes from, if he’s a generous artist, he’ll say, ‘I don’t know where it comes.’

Listen on Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Watch on YouTube

Deepu Asok is the author and illustrator of the wonderful and enlightening Visual Wisdom newsletter. He’s also the host of a podcast called The Happiness Hypothesis. He’s got a serious eye for designs that pop.

Deepu and I were dming over meditation and spirituality. But he had to get going, and asked to continue our talk over zoom some time. I said sure. And of course, I asked if he wanted to record our talk for the podcast. He said yes. And so, here we are.

Please enjoy my conversation with the wonderful and wise Deepu Asok!

Talking Points

  • On different schools of meditation and yoga (3:00)
  • The benefits of doing yoga before meditation (11:00)
  • Why meditate? (14:00)
  • “Philosophy doesn’t transform you. Practice transform you” (21:00)
  • “The lion is trying to help you, but it doesn’t know how.” (28:00)
  • On Happiness and work (37:00)
  • Three types of work (43:00)
  • Selling on Gumroad (50:00)
  • The differences between drawing and writing (55:00)
  • “You’re paying for the organization of the ideas” / Constraints (1:00:00)
  • Art vs Content (1:07:00)
  • On books and reading (1:16:00)
  • Wishful thinking (1:23:00)
  • Flow in drawing (1:35:00)
  • Constraints (1:40:00)
  • Final questions (1:46:00)

Mentions

Books and articles

Civilized to Death

The Art of Learning

Living Buddha Living Christ

Flow

Linchpin

This Is Marketing

Atomic Habits

Show Your Work!

Getting Things Done

Thinking Fast and Slow

Mind in Motion

Autobiography of a Yogi

Ladders of Wealth Creation

People

Inner Engineering

Thich Nhat Hanh

Carl Jung

Alan Watts

Naval Ravikant

Seth Godin

Nathan Barry

Austin Kleon

Derek Sivers

David Perell

Tiago Forte

Other

Indie Hackers

The Penguin Latte Podcast #10: Salman Ansari on The Lost Art of Having Fun

Every idea you have, every concept, every word, every utterance, every tone…all of that is influenced by those around you anyway. You’ve got to acknowledge that and embrace that and ask, ‘how can I mix those together?’ Each of us is a completely different combination.

Listen on Spotify | Apple Podcasts | YouTube

Salman Ansari (Salman.io) is an illustrator, animator, and author of The Quick Brown Fox Newsletter.

Salman has a heart of gold. I promise that you’ll finish this podcast with more inspiration than you had when you started. He’s one of those rare souls who knows how to do what matters in life without taking himself so seriously. Every time I interact with him, I feel a radiant golden energy enveloping me in a reassurance that it’s okay to be myself. I hope you feel the same way after listening to our conversation. Please enjoy!

Talking Points

  • Giving advice on Twitter (3:00)
  • “Insecurity work” (5:00)
  • Layers in writing (8:00)
  • “The hardest part of writing is talking about myself” (13:00)
  • Aren’t we all polymaths? (20:00)
  • “Being yourself isn’t the most effective growth strategy” (26:00)
  • Salman’s experience with teaching (31:00)
  • Monetization for content creators (35:00)
  • Platforms, communities (41:00)
  • DJ Salman (44:00)
  • “What am I doing right now that would be fun to explore in a new way?” (49:00)
  • Getting inspiration from animation teams and comics (51:00)
  • On web-comics (55:00)
  • Creative constraints (58:00)
  • The benefits of reading older books instead of newer books (1:01:00)
  • Influential video games (1:05:00)
  • Authenticity as a buzzword/ Permission to be yourself (1:10:00)
  • Learning to be comfortable with questions, not answers (1:17:00)
  • Using tools in the right context (1:25:00)
  • Play (1:28:00)
  • Is it irrational to make art? (1:32:00)
  • “What do you mean why?” (1:38:00)
  • Leisure: The Basis of Culture (1:40:00)
  • Meditation (1:45:00)
  • Start with “I don’t know” (1:55:00)
  • Parting thoughts (2:07:00)

Mentions

The Courage to Be Disliked

Don Hertzfeldt

The Polymath Playbook

Status Regulation and Anxious Underconfidence

Spirited Away

Teenage Engineering

Studio MDHR

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

SHEN COMIX

Studio Rare and The Making of Goldeneye 64

Undertale

VVVVVV

Intimations by Zadie Smith

Elizabeth Gilbert

Aldous Huxley

Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Carl Jung

For our amusement

Why should we make anything at all?

For our amusement.

And if we’re making things for our amusement, does that mean we shouldn’t share anything we make?

Of course not. Experiencing art we enjoy is like looking at a mirror. And as creators, we’re making mirrors for people to look at and see something we can’t see.

Some of us look at the mirror and notice technical finesse (or error). Some of us look and see emotions we can’t put into words. And some of us hear the subtle tempo changes.

The artist knows more about their art than the audience does. That is, until the artist shares their work. It’d be overwhelming for the artist to know all the ways the audience might experience the art.

When your work is out there, it’s out there. It’s impossible to control how the audience appreciates your art. To be upset that your art wasn’t well received is to be the mother who’s upset their kid didn’t want to live the way mother wanted them to.

The Problem of Worshiping What We Pursue

An Essay On How to Be Ambitious Without Turning Into a Jerk

Last week, in a Twitter thread by Naval Ravikant, I wrote a tweet with a misplaced apostrophe. Someone in the thread decided (because these things are always decisions) that it was worth his time and attention, above everything happening in his world, to point to the error that I had made.

It’s as if the world revolves around me. It’s as if everyone is waiting to be the first to point to my mistakes. But that kind of thinking is the mistake that leads to a problem more dangerous than a misused apostrophe. It’s the problem of worshiping what we pursue.

Consider this piece from David Foster Wallace’s speech, This Is Water.

“…there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.”

Now keep what you just read in consideration while we make another leap. This is a passage from Carl Jung’s Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. There is a connection between these two lines of thought. It’s actually the same line of thought, articulated with a different sequence of words.

“The Idea of God is an absolutely necessary psychological function of an irrational nature, which has nothing whatever to do with the question of God’s existence.

I therefore consider it wiser to acknowledge the idea of God consciously; for, if we do not, something else is made God, usually something quite inappropriate and stupid such as only an “enlightened” intellect could hatch forth.”

(Naval Ravikant attracts a lot of “enlightened” intellects on Twitter.)

This connection is key to understanding how someone smart enough to follow Naval Ravikant could consider it worth their time and attention to point to my misused apostrophe instead of doing anything else. And it’s key to understanding how we can be ambitious without worshiping what we pursue.

What Carl Jung meant when he suggested that we “acknowledge the idea of God consciously,” is what David Foster Wallace meant when he said, “pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.” The idea that they’re putting forth is that it’s wise to worship something irrational – something akin to art. To worship anything else is to become a marionette who’s strings are pulled by a desire to signal to everyone that you know a thing or two about apostrophes.

What is Art?

Art is work that we do because we want to. The paradox of art is that it looks like work to other people but it feels like play to the artist. That’s why we call it artwork. We are here to make art. We are here to do artwork. We are not here to nitpick. Nitpicking is easy. It doesn’t take any effort to nitpick. So it isn’t art. Nitpicking doesn’t fall within the idea of God. It’s trite. Art isn’t trite. Art is long. Life is short. And anyone who has time to nitpick has time to make art.

To construe your reality around the worship of anything that isn’t the idea of God is to transform everything and everyone around you into an obstacle in your path; or an opportunity to signal that you worship wealth, intellect, and business. To worship is to lay everything that matters to you at the feet of whatever you worship. What Jung and Wallace are positing is not the existence of a great being in the sky. They’re suggesting that we adopt a mindset that transforms reality into something tolerable, beautiful, bottomless and profound.

There is nothing dangerous about being ambitious. It’s a fine way to live and it’s likely going to bring you and your family a lot of prosperity.

But there is danger in worshiping what you pursue. 

It’s okay to pursue wealth.

It’s okay to pursue knowledge.

Worship them at your peril.

What to worship, then?

By all means, get as wealthy as you can. Read as many books as you want. Be as busy with work as you can manage. There’s nothing wrong with pursuit. There’s nothing wrong with having dreams and aspirations. But there’s nothing wise and productive about using people’s mistakes to raise your intellectual standing a little bit higher. There’s nothing useful in believing that you’re the center of the world, that you are the idea of God.

I don’t mean to tell you this to finger wag or to posit that I sit on a higher intellectual throne than anyone else. I’m pursuing wealth and knowledge, but if I worship these pursuits, then I fall into the trap that’s also described in these passages from The Tao Te Ching. 

“When the ruler is dull

The folk are happy

When the ruler is busy and alert

They are discontented” – Passage 58

(John Minford Translation)

Consider “the ruler” to be your Self. “The ruler” is your soul, which can also be called your psyche. Consider “the folk” to be everyone around you. Your family, friends, coworkers.

To decide not to worship greed or business or knowledge is to dull your mind. It’s a practice in not fretting over the small stuff. Maybe dull seems like the wrong word. Dull implies stupid. Stupid implies happy. Happiness gets in the way of efficiency. The less efficient, the longer it’ll take to succeed.

Naval Ravikant says that, “it’s inefficient to be unhappy.” It’s inefficient because being unhappy is draining. Unhappiness is what David Foster Wallace meant when he talked about our “default” way of thinking. We default to thinking that the world revolves around us because every experience happens before our eyes. Isn’t it ironic that it makes us unhappy to think that the world revolves around us? Shouldn’t that make us happy? It doesn’t. It doesn’t benefit us to believe that the world revolves around us.

So instead…

What if we believed that we revolve around the world? What if we believed that we can treat each day as an opportunity to serve people? To share our gifts?

Now consider another passage from The Tao Te Ching.

“The Taoist never

Deals with Greatness

And So

Achieves Greatness.” – Passage 63

(John Minford Translation)

To worship what you pursue is to meddle with grandiosity. This is what happens when people latch onto self-proclaimed gurus. This is what happens when we consider ourselves smart, yet we decide it’s worth our time and attention to nitpick on Twitter.

So, on cosmic scale, this rant is about our work. Why are we doing it? That’s easy to answer, but like any answer spawned in a matter of seconds, it isn’t backed up by a lot of thought. So our answer defaults to: because we’re ambitious and we want to be successful.

David Foster Wallace and Carl Jung suggest that we worship the idea of God so that we can do our work without annoying (or hurting) anyone. Not merely because we’re ambitious.

A Call to Action at the End of an Essay

For a few weeks, try worshiping what you pursue. Construe everything and everyone around you towards the pursuit of wealth and success. I guarantee that you’ll be ignoring calls from grandma. Mother will miss you dearly. You will miss your child’s (virtual) dance rehearsal. You will be a very unhappy clam. And then you’ll say, well, my goal wasn’t to be happy. My goal was wealth and success. And then I would say, okay, that’s fine. You can have your stupid goal, but just be aware of the consequences of this choice, do whatever makes you happy. And then you’ll say, well, you’re not listening – I don’t want to be happy. And then I’ll realize that we’re going to be stuck here for a long time and so this conversation is over. You can learn the lesson on your own for all I care. 

Ultimately, I’m raising these concerns to you so that you can ask yourself what exactly is pulling your strings. It’s fine to pursue success. But success is only a word. A word that needs your definition.

Why do you want to be successful? What does that mean to you, exactly? Can you work towards your definition of success without suffering stupidly? Better yet, can you do so without making other people suffer stupidly?

Can you succeed in a way so that other people want you to be successful?

I’m no fucking buddhist, but this is enlightenment.

-Björk


Thanks to Ben Greenman for helping me make this essay better.

 

Two kinds of ruts

  1. Everyday is a new challenge, but you’re plateauing. “I’m working my butt off, so why aren’t the numbers going up?”
  2. Everyday is the same, but you’re losing your mind. “I have my routine and safety, and yet…”

In the first kind of rut, there’s a creeping temptation to settle back into the old routine. You’re not getting any better at your craft. You’re getting standing ovations from crickets. Your podcast downloads are the same as last week’s. “Is that accounting firm still hiring?” The way out of this rut is to accept that this is what you signed up for. You signed up for a life of unpredictability. You signed up to make things that might not work. Take the job at the accounting firm if this is too much for you. You’ll survive, but you won’t live.

In the second kind of rut, the “and yet…” is the lingering feeling that there’s something more to life than this. There’s not. Not to this kind of life. There’s nothing more to a life of routine and safety than more routine and safety.

If you’re stuck in the second kind of rut, the way out is to live a different kind of life. I’m not suggesting that you change your name, move to a new city, and start a claymation studio. But you need to drop your reliance on predictability. You need to understand that a paycheck is not the only thing that guarantees next week’s dinner and running water.

Gradual exposure is the best way to adapt to any environment that won’t kill you. You can learn to swim in the pool of unpredictability by wading through shallow waters. No need to dive headfirst into the deep end.