What Would You Do If No One Was Looking? And Oh By The Way They Aren’t!

I woke up thinking about:

‘What would you do if no one was looking?’


‘What would you say if no one was listening?’

The answer for me is the same as if someone was looking and was listening. It’s about staying true to your values and having integrity.

About making the things that you want to make because those are the things that you need to make.

There’s freedom and opportunity in such a space. No constraints resulting from the expectations of others. No ties or obligations to what’s gone before preventing you from striking out in a new direction.

Certainly something to think about as we get going this week.

How about you? What you you do if no one was watching or so say if no one was listening?

Amanda Palmer’s – The Art of Asking


I was supposed to be getting on with organizing my life this weekend. Instead I inhaled Amanda Palmer‘s new book ‘The Art of Asking‘. It’s a compelling read for any ‘maker’, anyone who’s interested in connecting and making a difference with what they do.

I was vaguely aware of The Dresden Dolls, Palmers early 2000’s band but it wasn’t until I heard Seth Godin’s Domino Project speak about her enormously successful Kickstarter campaign that I started paying attention. The kickstarter campaign let to a TED talk which led to the book. The TED talk is a good place to start – check it out below and let’s talk some more.

The book covers the story in the video and so much more. It charts Palmer’s career arc, her intersection with Neil Gaiman and then life beyond. From the 8 foot bride in Harvard Square to Kickstarter sensation. Through it all you get the sense that she hasn’t really changed much, grown and matured most certainly, but the thread of wanting to connect at a deep level seems to be a constant.

I’m looking forward to rereading the book to see what I get out of it on a second run through but from the first reading what stuck with me were a couple of things. First it’s amazing to me how someone who appears to be really extroverted can be so wracked with insecurity. Perhaps everyone creating things that are important to them and putting them out in the world have these doubts, but I was shocked.

Of course the big theme for the book is asking, the exchange that occurs between artist and community or audience. Why is it so difficult for some of us to ask for things – help, money etc. and equally why is it so hard for some to accept help, money etc. when it’s offered? If you follow Palmer’s career she’s spent almost her entire professional life participating in this exchange – asking, giving and receiving. Putting herself out there, being vulnerable and trusting. By doing this time and time again, being authentic and showing up, she’s built an enormous following.

A role model for anyone who wants to develop a supportive community who could sustain their creative work? I think so.

Get the book here and follow Amanda and Neil on twitter they are very active and there’s always something interesting in their twitter fields. Finally check out the interview of Amanda by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings below. It’s excellent.

Friday Inspiration: Press Pause Play

I stumbled upon the documentary ‘Press Pause Play‘ this week. I’ve mentioned here a few times that this is an amazing time that we are living through in terms of the ability to create and get things out into the world and to do that on your on terms. Press Pause Play asks the question ‘Does democratized culture mean better art or is true talent instead drowned out?’ While heavily weighted towards the music industry I think that the comments from people like Moby and Seth Godin are relevant to anyone involved in the creative arts. Check out the full documentary below.

PressPausePlay from House of Radon on Vimeo.

The Future of the Book – Part 2

I continue to be interested by the possibilities that the future holds for the book.  Seth Godin had this to say recently on his Domino Project Blog:

‘Cleaning out a moldy corner of my basement, I ended up with a stack of about 400 paperback books.

Looking at each cover, I remember what was inside. Each contained a notion or an adventure or an idea. It adds up. (With some, I even remember where I was when I read them).

The magic of books, something I haven’t found in blog posts, jewel boxes, tweets or old TV Guides, is that they perfectly encapsulate an idea. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. And they have a cover, something that wraps it all together.

Maybe I’m a fogie, but I have trouble visualizing a pile (or a wallful) of Kindle ebooks. I’m going to miss that.’

I’m not sure why we have to visualize a pile of ebooks.  Seth’s Domino Project, which is an attempt to shake up the traditional publishing model is format agnostic which makes sense to me.  There are going to be people like me who enjoy the portability of eBooks but who still crave for the actual book, particularly when the book is something special.

Blurb are also evolving their idea of publishing from a traditional model

to one that is more supportive of the author in today’s environment.

The images above are from a recent article on the ‘Future of the Book Blog‘ in which Ben Clemens suggests that ‘eBooks will save the book‘ in part because ‘e-books re-focus books around their essence: words and images, assembled and carefully edited.’

I’m not sure how or why this is true because with the advent of digital it is so much easier for everyone to generate an eBook.  What is true is that exceptionally prepared eBooks, iPad apps etc. will set the bar for everyone and while it will be easy to convert pages of text into eBooks we will come to expect a high quality product.  Jim Goldstein‘s iPad photo books that he prepared for himself and for William Neill caught my eye as an example of what we might come to expect as normal, with more multimedia offerings to come.

So what about the physical artifact – the traditional book?  Is there still a place for it?  I’d like to think so – what about you?

Watching the Weather

As a photographer and a sailor the weather has a major impact on my activities. As a photographer I look for weather that suits the style of photographs that I’m currently working towards and plan appropriately. As a sailor I’m watching the weather and modifying the sails to match changes in wind and changing plans to account for storms.

We need to be equally skilled at looking for and responding to the winds of change in our careers and personal lives. We must change and continue to innovate if the hope is to build and sustain our business and career. Being creative, looking beyond the obvious, offering something more than just what the camera is able to bring seems to be the way to succeed. Opportunities abound for those willing to try small experiments, review the feedback from those experiments and try again until something is found that works.

Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation was coined by Clay Christensen in 1995. Clay Christensen’s website says that disruptive innovation ‘describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves ‘up market’, eventually displacing established competitors.’  Really we’re talking about those game changing innovations that spur a revolution in how we think, behave and do things.  The development of the automobile wasn’t a disruptive innovation – it was a toy for the super rich – Henry Ford’s model T – a car for everyone – was.  I haven’t done a comprehensive analysis but it’s hard to imagine a time in history where there has been so many disruptive innovations in such as short space of time.

In the last 10 years digital technology has changed the game across a variety of industries and has had a hugely impact on how we create and deliver our art.  I first took notice of this in the music industry.  Purchasing habits have changed dramatically, most of us rarely buy a physical artifact – the CD – any more.  I bought a CD for the first time in probably a year recently, it was an album from one of my friend’s bands and I could get it before it made it to the iTunes site.   This is a rare exception for me, but a typical lack of restraint, most of my music purchases are now digital downloads.  Even the CDs that I buy will be imported into the digital music library that I have on my computer.  In addition to changing how music is delivered to the consumer, digital technologies have changed how music is created.  Musicians now have access to technology that makes it possible to record their work at home, with the production quality that a previous generation would have had to go into a big budget studio to achieve.  They can upload their newly recorded songs to their website for their audience to download without the need for a record label.  How cool is that!

The book industry, in denial for a while, is staring at the same kind of revolution that has swept over the music industry.  The growth in the number of books that are being downloaded is remarkable.  Take a look at how much real estate your local Barnes and Noble gives to their Nook reader – there’s a reason for this.  Digital books are here to stay!  The technology is available to make it very easy to write, edit and publish an e-book without the need for a book deal.  It seems to me that Seth Godin is at the leading edge of this revolution with the Domino Project.  Essentially he is throwing out the rules of how things were done in the past and reinventing the book publishing game.  This is something that just about anyone can do, perhaps not on the same grand scale, but the technology makes it quite possible.

Photography has been hugely disrupted.  I can imagine how it must feel to have been a photographer for 20 years and have the game change so dramatically in a few short years.  The advent of digital has led to the demise of film companies, radically reduced offerings from others, specialty printers are feeling the pinch, stock sales are off and yet this is a great time to be a photographer.  We’re in the middle of a revolution, the old rules don’t apply, which means we’re free to make it up and make it happen.  Try some things, run with what works.  Chase Jarvis appears to be the poster child for the new generation of photographers who are exploiting new technologies and new ways of doing things.  He was taking photos with his iPhone before it was a very good camera, his photos became a book and an app. He regularly lifts the curtain on the inner workings of Chase Jarvis Inc. on his blog – from how he packs his bag for a shoot to a the occasional daily diary of a shoot.  With the huge number of people taking up photography, there’s an incredible demand for photography education. What’s the most disruptive thing that you could do to the photographic education market?  Give it away for free! With Craig Swanson, Chase started CreativeLive, a website that hosts and streams workshops with some of the best working photographers today – Jeremy Cowart, Zach Arias and Tamara Lackey to name but a few.  While our projects may not have the same reach that Chase’s do, there are opportunities to be had, so let’s go be disruptive!

Poke the Box Workbook

On the heels of the Poke the Box book comes the Poke the Box Workbook (click here to download it).  There’s lots of encouragement in this short (23 pages) workbook to start something and to help you develop the habit of starting.  You aren’t told that you need to jump right in and try to take over the world.  Instead there are a number of examples of small things that you can do today, such as picking the restaurant for dinner if you don’t normally do that or speaking up in a group, that will get you into the habit of starting something, of Poking the Box.

Poke the Box and the Art of Shipping

I’m a huge Seth Godin fan.  My first intersection with Seth was around 2000 when I came across his ‘Bootstrappers Bible‘.  It was around the time that he was ‘Unleashing the Ideavirus’, the marketing book that he gave away for free as a pdf.  For a cash strapped book fiend like myself this was awesome but at the time I missed the point totally.

With 10 more years on the tires I’m finally getting the point and even more so now that I am taking photographs and writing about that process here.  I think that many of us worry about having our work ‘stolen’.  For some this is more of a concern than it is for others.  I may be a contrarian but it seems that the worst thing that anyone who creates anything to share or sell to the world is not having their work stolen but not having an audience.  For no one to care what you’re doing.  Why not instead figure out how you can reach the broadest audience possible and do that?

Seth’s new book is called ‘Poke the Box‘ and is a riff on some of the themes and ideas that he has been pushing for the last few years.  Namely you have to get your product out of the door.  Starting is not enough, you have to finish too.  You have to ship!

For many this involves overcoming what Steven Pressfield calls in The War of Art ‘The Resistance’.  That overwhelming fear of failure, of being rejected, of humiliation after putting your heart and soul into a project.  Seth Godin refers to this a the lizard brain.  Our instinctive response to danger or fear.  One way of course if listening to what the lizard brain is saying to do and then doing the exact opposite.  It requires practice but becomes easier with time.

Seth was interviewed by Dane Sanders this week and the video can be found here.  As always, a provacative conversation.

Get ‘Poke the Box’.  Read it.  Read it again.  Figure out how you are going to make a difference and go do it!