The Penguin Latte Podcast #15 – John Daub on Hard Work, Happiness, and The Spirit of Fun

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Watch on YouTube

I’ve never watched Fight Club.

But I have seen so many episodes of Only In Japan with John Daub that it’s worrying my family.

John Daub (@OnlyinJAPANtv) is the producer, writer, designer, marketer, director, set designer, orchestrator and mastermind behind my all-time favorite YouTube series — Only in Japan with John Daub. He’s one of the hardest working creative people that I’ve ever met. Seriously, he fills all the roles I listed above. Watch eight seconds of one of his videos and you’ll soon see how much work this guy pours into his craft.

But what’s more important than John’s work ethic is his mission to bring smiles to the faces of his audience. As dramatic as this sounds, this episode changed me. The more I listen to it, the more I understand that what matters more than your own happiness is the happiness of the people you serve with your work. The way that John intonates his words when he’s telling his stories, or while speaking in normal conversation, is so magical and brilliant. John is raising the spiritual bar high for all creative people. If your work isn’t bringing you a sense of meaning, then you need to find something else to do. Make something that excites you as much as John gets excited about Japan.

If you can tell a good story, you will always have a job.

John Daub

Show us something strange or weird or something beyond all comprehension! And don’t be shy! Use as many exclamation marks as you want. Learn the tricks of the trade, the rules, the restrictions. And then break them. Break them down because you’ve mastered the art of self-expression.

But know that it’s going to be work. A lot of work. John works full-time on OnlyinJapan. Choosing what to work on matters more than hard work for hard work’s sake. Doing what you love might seem like fun and games, but more often than not, it’s a lot of flailing around in the dark. The cure? Have fun with it! Be silly, express yourself, and don’t be afraid to come up with material on the spot. You don’t need to have everything planned out beforehand. John Daub’s massive collection of videos is a living playbook on how to create content that delights an audience. The secret ingredient? It’s all in the story.

Please enjoy!


This episode is brought to you by The Hey Penguin Newsletter. Hey Penguin includes tips for improving yourself through creativity, plus a bunch of extra goodies like drafts of blog posts, art I’m digging, letters from my audience, and previews of podcast episodes. Sounds good? Click here to subscribe and get the next issue delivered straight to your inbox.

Wabi Sabi and Essentialism – Two Approaches to Quality

Everything and everybody is calling out for our attention. Respond to this email, take this job offering, apply to this college, read this book instead of that one, start a blog; no, don’t start a blog, don’t make another podcast, don’t get a regular job because freelancing is in vogue.

We no longer listen with our ears. We listen with our attention. And our attention is tone-deaf because of the incessant noise of everything and everybody demanding it. What and who should we listen to?

Ourselves. Our voice. The voice that we know best. The voice that’s drowned out by all the other voices.

Okay –  but how? How can we tell which demands for our attention – inner and outer – are worth ignoring? And when doing our work, how can we know what to keep and what to discard? How can we know what we’re trying to say? How can we know what our message really is?

Authors Beth Kempton and Greg McKeown know how.

In Wabi-Sabi, Beth Kempton approaches these questions from a more spiritual and poetic perspective, tying in stories from her life in Japan with rich observations on what it means to live a life of ‘imperfect imperfection.’ Her book reminds me how important it is to be okay with imperfections, especially when it comes to personal branding. (Emphasis should always be placed on the word ‘personal’) Though, the personal brings the imperfections – but that’s exactly what makes your work standout.

In Essentialism, Greg McKeown approaches these questions from the world of business and productivity. Essentialism is a framework that challenges us to be okay with cutting out the fluff from our work, to say no to many of the demands for our atrention.

Essentialism is a timeless book. No matter what project I start, I face the same problems as the last project: what should I keep, what should I discard? Should I make this? Who should I connect with? What if I’m not good enough? Why am I hindering my progress by ruminating on these questions?

These two books taught me that ‘enough’ is something I get to decide.

Have you read these books? Drop a comment. I’d love to hear from you.