A Conversation with Phil Desforges “The goal is not uniqueness, it’s not originality, it’s to be you. That’s the only goal”

Hi all. Welcome to another conversation about the pursuit of creative excellence. I’m so happy that I finally get to share this episode with you! What follows is an intimate, insightful, and entertaining conversation with a true artist — Phil Desforges. I highly recommend you browse through Phil’s portfolio while you listen to this episode.

Talking Points

  • How Phil developed his color palette
  • The art of building a world in your art
  • How photography saved Phil’s life
  • Why men should open up about their feelings
  • Sensitivities to music
  • Why Stoicism is important to Phil
  • Phil’s favorite movies and directors
  • On Casey Neistat
  • Following your gut vs your reasoning
  • The comfort zone and consistency conundrum
  • On Beeple
  • The nuances of creating on certain mediums, thoughts on Tik Tok
  • Getting inspired by the right creators
  • The flaw of originality
  • A message from Pakistan
  • Spending a week without creating
  • Phil’s favorite coffee and tea
  • Memento Mori
  • “The output doesn’t matter; it’s the outcome.”
  • On being bored productively
  • “Less counting, more doing.”
  • The necessary constraint of mortality
  • Sonder and This Is Water
  • We are all living in our own bubble
  • On current world conflicts, and feeling helpless
  • Honing in on the skills you can’t teach
  • On the beauty of flow
  • Why it’s so tough to be natural on camera
  • What modern people are afraid of
  • On geeking out about the things you love, and creating around that
  • Phil’s message for stuck creatives

Mentions in this episode

Salvadar Dali

Casey Neistat


This Is Water by David Foster Wallace

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Memento Mori

Symbols of Transformation by Carl Jung

Essentialism by Greg McKeown


Everything Is Fucked by Mark Manson

John Daub and OnlyinJapan

David Perell

My checking problem

I have a checking problem.

I’m checking to see if the numbers have gone up.

I’m checking to see if anyone’s left a comment.

I’m checking to see if anyone’s shared my work.

And I’m checking to see if all my links lead to the right pages.

All this checking is like looking up at the sky to see if it’s still blue (or orange, if you live in Los Angeles).

Why am I doing this? Because we’re rewarded for checking. Not by our peers, but by our brains. When someone leaves us a nice comment or a red heart, our brains reward us with a dose of good feelings.

Relax. The sky’s still blue, your pages still work, your art is out there and people are going to see it.

Make your art, put it in the world, and forget about it until tomorrow. And if you have a serious case of checking (I call it “doom checking”), make time in your calendar for deliberate checking. Don’t make it too long, because then you won’t have enough time to do your work. Just long enough so that you can check all the important boxes.

The Penguin Latte Podcast #4 Chris Jordan on Staying Accountable, Fighting Perfectionism, and Freelancing

Don’t build everything up front if you haven’t started talking to people about your service.

This ended up being a special episode for me, personally. I spent the first half hour asking Chris questions about how I could position myself as a personal brand consultant. And he was generous enough to answer every question. I’ll be listening to the first half of this episode a lot as I push myself and my brand further. Even while I listen to this episode to list the talking points below, I’m taking notes on what Chris says about packaging something concrete for your clients.

Later on in the episode, we Chris explores why it’s so hard to keep ourselves accountable with our creative projects.

So, please enjoy! This is one of my favorite episodes so far, and I hope it moves you to take action on your ideas. It’s definitely inspired me to grow my brand in new directions.

Talking Points

  • Distinctions between Chris’s work as a personal brand consultant and a freelance videographer and editor (3:20)
  • Chris answers my questions about how I could become a personal brand consultant. (5:00)
  • How Chris gets clients without having a website, the power of the network (12:00)
  • Preparing yourself to get lucky, starting off as a freelancer (14:30)
  • Starting projects, and stopping projects (18:00)
  • “Sub 4 Subbing” (27:00)
  • What it means to engage in a thoughtful way (30:00)
  • The “why” behind the work (33:00)
  • Packaging yourself and your services (39:00)
  • Figuring out what problems you want to solve as a consultant (40:00)
  • On overthinking (42:00)
  • On authenticity, not trying to sound smart (45:00)
  • Being yourself on camera (48:00)
  • “You are the medium” (50:00)
  • On perfectionism (59:00)
  • Handling uncertainty (1:03:00)
  • What type of people are you trying to help? (1:06:00)
  • The power of saying no, and pricing your services (1:10:00)
  • Going to the clients who care (1:13:00)
  • Fearing not being able to deliver what’s promised (1:19:00)
  • “If you could help one person, you could help a thousand” (1:20:00)
  • Chris’s message to my listeners about outsmarting yourself to avoid regret (1:33:00)

Books Mentioned

The War of Art


The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

The Michelle Obama of Plumbing

The day that Michelle Obama became a podcaster was the day that a girl in Kansas became insecure. “I can’t do a podcast. I’m no Michelle Obama.”

There are more than 850,000 podcasts. Only a few household names have started podcasts. But apparently, unless we want nobody to listen to our podcast, then we need to become Michelle Obama. We don’t. If we do need to become Michelle Obama, then where are all the “Becoming Michelle Obama So That More People Will Listen To Your Podcast” Udemy courses?

In California, we have 47,600 plumbers. There must be a few household name plumbers who get the job done quicker and better than all the other plumbers.

Plumbers become plumbers because they like tinkering. They like fixing people’s problems. They get satisfaction out of doing the work that nobody else wants to do. (Do plumbers face the resistance? “I can’t be a plumber. There’s too many plumbers. And I have to compete with the Michelle Obama of plumbing? Mom and Dad were right. I should go back to art school.”)

Podcasters start podcasts because they get joy out of having conversations. Podcasters see the value in giving other people a space to share their messages. And by sharing the podcast, they change the culture. They might even change the course of someone’s life.

Being a professional doesn’t necessarily mean remodeling your identity. Being a professional means showing up despite all the Michelle Obamas of your craft.

Perhaps that girl in Kansas thought, “It’s always guys starting podcasts. But Michelle Obama started a podcast. So if she can do it…”

“But I don’t have any original ideas”

Right. Neither do I. Neither does anyone.

The idea doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to us.

Steven Pressfield pointed out that resistance is what gets us stuck. But resistance wasn’t his idea. He didn’t invent what it feels like to be stuck. Stuck creatives invented what it feels like to be stuck by feeling stuck. Then Steven Pressfield came along and used one word to express what it’s like to feel stuck. Resistance was only the word. The idea of being stuck belonged to the stuck creative.

Mark Zuckerberg didn’t invent the social creature. He didn’t invent a need to connect to other people. Facebook was his invention. A need for connection wasn’t his idea. It was our idea. We were social creatures before Zuckerberg came along. So Facebook worked.

We use Facebook because we want to feel connected.

We call it resistance because that’s what it feels like to be stuck.

We drink coffee because we don’t want to feel tired.

Original ideas are words and images that resonate with ancient feelings. Too often, the stuck creative focuses on the original idea first.

Humans have been around for a long time. You and I don’t have the omnipotence to invent a new need, personality trait, or desire. Nobody needs a $500 purse. Ancient nobility didn’t need a $500 purse, either. But what modern people and ancient nobility share in common is a need to feel luxurious. They need what the $500 purse will make them feel. The need to feel luxurious has been around since the age of kings and queens.

Is uniqueness dead? Are there no more final frontiers? Have The Simpsons claimed sovereignty over every new idea?

Of course not. You’re the final frontier. Nobody has expressed ideas in the way that only you can. Your idiosyncrasies are unique to you. Your personality is yours – nobody else’s.

The need to be original is why there’s more stuck creatives than unstuck creatives. The need to be original is a trap. We don’t have any original ideas. Opening up a gym so that people can get fit isn’t a new idea. We’ve been opening up gyms and getting fit since ancient Rome.

Instead of trying to come up with original ideas, let’s come up with unoriginal ideas instead.

Here’s some questions that’ll help with that:

What do you see that we don’t see?

What can you offer that nobody else can?

What’s your take on this?

What are your assertions?

Why is this so important to you?

What can you articulate that we find hard to express?

What would happen if you walked up to someone on the street and said, “Hey here’s my original idea”? What would they say? “Thanks, but what’s in it for me?” They’re not being selfish. You’d say the same thing. People want unoriginal feelings. Connection, luxury, status, alliance, anger, tension – those aren’t new feelings. They’ve been around forever. To disregard these essential elements of human nature is to be negligent of how people work.

You’re a person. You know how people work. Getting in your way means that you’re focusing too much on what you need.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Instant messaging and hiking

Instant messaging: you send a message, they respond. Instantly.

That’s not what happens when we publish an 800 word essay about a new self-help practice. Or a 16 minute video about a new meditation technique.

A good reader isn’t done reading after they’ve read the last word. The reading continues while the reader considers what they’ve read.

And if they try to apply what they’ve read? Expect to wait even longer to hear their feedback. Finding out if your advice actually works takes longer than reading your essay. Because of this, it takes longer than we think for our messages to spread.

But that doesn’t stop us from checking to see if anyone has liked our 800 word essay that we published 2 minutes ago. (If anybody has, your readers must be very good at speed-reading.)

So here’s a rule that might help ease any post-publishing nerves.

After you click publish, go take a hike.


Clubs and cohorts

A club is where people have meetings about when to have the next meeting. But you cant join the next meeting unless you know the secret handshake.

A cohort is like a club, only better.

A cohort is where people support people who want to support people. It’s more productive and less exclusive than a club. And there’s no secret handshake.

Because there’s no secrets here. All the tricks and tools, they’re all on the table. We’re figuring this out as we go. And wherever it is we go, we’d love to have you come with us.

It doesn’t matter how big a cohort gets, either. In-groups and cliques form because people prefer to be around specific people. But in a cohort, cliques form because certain projects and ideas resonate with specific people. There’s always going to be a sense of connection, no matter how big the cohort.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the privilege to be a part of Writers Bloc.

writers bloc

It’s a cohort of 21st century writers supporting writers. But it’s more than just about writing. It’s about showing up. Writing is just what we do to practice the art of showing up. We do it when it’s hard, when we don’t want to, when the conditions aren’t perfect, when we feel like we’re not good enough yet.

The art of showing up is about acceptance. Accepting that it’s going to be hard. Accepting that there’s going to be a lot of days when you’d rather take the day off. And most important, accepting the fact that conditions are never going to be perfect.

The most important lesson I’ve learned from Writer’s Bloc is that you’re only as good as you are today. You can’t be as good as you were yesterday because yesterday is over. And how good you’re going to be tomorrow depends on what you do today.

Whatever it is you do, find the others that want to see you do it. There’s no better way to be held accountable.