In The Heart to Start David Kadavy, bestselling author of Design for Hackers, shows you how to overcome fear, self-doubt, and distractions to win the inner war and finally let your art shine.
Through the stories of great creators, from Picasso to Maya Angelou, interwoven with David's rise from cubicle-dweller to bestselling author, and from the guests of David's podcast, Love Your Work, you'll learn:
- What "inner war" keeps your art inside you? You'll learn from Steven Pressfield, Ryan Holiday, and Sean Stephenson.
- Where can you find explosive ideas worth following? Learn about the magic of your inner voice from Maya Angelou, the Impressionist painters, and J. K. Rowling.
- Why is perfectionism the most dangerous form of procrastination, and what can you do about it? You'll hear from Ira Glass and Ed Sheeran.
- How can your big dreams actually hold you back? You'll learn from daredevil Evel Knievel and cartoonist Hugh MacLeod.
- What motivational martial art can knock your ego on its back and propel your project forward? Learn from behavioral scientist Dan Ariely, and a U.S. submarine captain.
If you're a writer, artist, filmmaker, musician, or entrepreneur, you'll find the inspiration and mindset to bust through fear, self-doubt, and procrastination to show your work to the world.
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Read an Excerpt
The first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. ... To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.
— Chuck Palahniuk
I'LL START OFF by introducing the elephant in the room: You don't need this book to get started. If you can put this book down and start creating your art, then that's exactly what you should do. Write your first novel, record your first album, or build your first company. If you're capable of starting now, I hope you're flipping through the first few pages of this book, and haven't spent your hard-earned cash. It was nice talking to you, and I'd love to see what you make.
For me, it's never been that simple. I've been an independent creator for ten years now, making a living from writing, podcasting, and teaching what I learn along the way. I still remember the first time I met a real "starter." He was an older neighborhood kid who was running a snow removal business. As he sipped on a Coca Cola at my high school graduation party, I couldn't stop drilling him with questions. How did you rebuild the engine on that truck? How did you install the snow plow? How did you find your customers? He kept shrugging his shoulders and giving me the same frustrating answer: "I just did it."
As I started working for myself more than a decade ago, I was hearing this story, in the form of advice, over and over again. It seemed to be all anyone in Silicon Valley could tell me. There was no end to the number of books I could read, speeches I could watch, or podcasts I could listen to that all told me the same thing: Just get started. It's good advice if you can follow it, but I was always left wondering: "Yeah, but how do I start?"
* * *
In the fall of 2016 I settled into my sound studio and logged onto Skype. As I waited for the call to connect, I took a deep breath to calm my racing heart. I was about to interview one of my heroes for my podcast, Love Your Work. Like the neighbor kid, James Altucher is a real starter. He's started more than twenty companies. He's written eighteen books, including the Wall Street Journal bestseller Choose Yourself. He hosts a top-ranked podcast, on which he has interviewed Coolio, Sir Richard Branson, and Sara Blakely.
I go into each interview hoping to get a superpower from my guest. I wanted to find out how James became so prolific. He seemed like the best person I could ask about starting.
Yet as I talked to James, I grew frustrated. It seemed as if he never struggled with starting. He talked about starting one of his many businesses. He said he simply wrote a short business plan and emailed it to people. I asked him about finding the courage to share his embarrassing stories online – did he ever worry about what other people would think? He said he didn't. I asked him about whittling his possessions down to fifteen things, throwing away even his college diploma. Did he ever wonder if he was going crazy? "No, never."
I wasn't finding what I was looking for, so I lost my patience. "This is something I want to figure out about you, James," I interrupted. "I think what holds a lot of people back a lot of times is they don't think big. And if they do start thinking big, they start to question themselves. So I'm wondering: Is this an inherent thing to you, or was there any particular period of time where you didn't think that way and you started to?"
James paused for a moment. "I always thought I could do anything," he said. "I was in second grade, writing books that I thought were going to get published and be bestsellers. I always thought that nothing stood in my way."
It didn't look like I would be getting James's superpower. If he always thought he could do anything, what could he teach someone like me? I still had another forty-five minutes with him, so I resolved to dig deeper. "I feel like ... a lot of people," I said, "have these little glimpses of ideas or dreams or fantasies in their heads and then it just goes right over them. They don't realize that the thing that they just fantasized about is something that they could actually go ahead and do."
Then James pointed out something that should have been obvious. "You follow a lot of ideas. You said you're from Omaha, Nebraska. But now you're sitting in Colombia ... doing a podcast with me and I'm six-thousand miles from you. ... You're doing this amazing science-fiction thing right now. ... So let me ask you a question: Did you just suddenly quit your job and move from Omaha to Colombia? Like, what happened?"
James had a point. Here I was grilling him about starting, but I had clearly made many starts myself. I had started companies, written a bestselling book, and started my podcast. Several weeks prior to our conversation, like James, I had also sold all of my possessions. I moved to South America.
* * *
Unlike James, I did not always believe I could do anything. In fact, it was as if "anything" didn't exist. Growing up, each book I read, each movie I watched, and each Nintendo game I played may as well have been one of the crab apples growing on the tree in the backyard. It was part of the natural environment. It grew from another species. It never dawned on me that these things were made by mortal humans like me. I never imagined that my work could be less like the bleary-eyed, early-morning processions to school and more like the summers I passed drawing or reading in my room. As far as I could tell, it never dawned on anyone in the quiet cul-de-sac where I grew up – except maybe for the kid with the snow plow.
By the time I did realize it was an option to make my art – whether it was a painting, a website, or a snow removal business – I had decades of mental programming to undo. I had never considered doing anything other than what I was told. It was assumed that I would do my homework and not talk in class and fill out the proper standardized-test bubbles with a No. 2 pencil. Just what all of this would get me was unclear. It wasn't until I found myself sitting in a beige cubicle that I ever thought to ask.
When I did finally start following my own ideas, this mental programming served as walls of a labyrinth of fears and mental distortions. I feared the judgment of others. I doubted my abilities. I struggled with motivation. I escaped into distractions.
I'm sure James has faced these same obstacles to starting, but somehow he has made overcoming them look easy. It reminds me of the motivation for writing my first book, Design for Hackers. A friend told me that every time he asked a designer how to make a beautiful website or logo design, he always got a shoulder shrug, and an unsatisfying response: "I guess you have it, or you don't."
If there's something that comes naturally to me, it's being skeptical of "you have it, or you don't." New research in psychology has shown that I'm right. People who believe they can learn, actually can ("growth mindset"). People who don't believe they can learn, struggle to learn ("fixed mindset"). We used to believe that the brain stopped changing at a certain age, but now we know it never stops changing.
I've seen firsthand that people can do things they don't seem naturally inclined to do. Since writing my first book, I've gotten emails from many self-proclaimed "programmer-types," thrilled that they can finally make beautiful designs. One of these emails was even from a color-blind software developer. He had physical limitations to distinguishing colors, but he simply needed to be shown a new way of understanding color. He now makes money on the side from website themes he designed.
* * *
In this book, I will deconstruct starting for those who struggle with the advice, just get started. Whether you dream of writing a novel, starting a company, or jumping a motorcycle across the Grand Canyon, I'll show you how to find the heart to start.
The first section of the book will introduce you to the laws of art. You feel a force that compels you to make your art, but what forces keep it inside you?
The second section will help you find the fuel. Where can you search for ideas with enough power to keep you moving, even when things get tough?
The third and final section will help you win by beginning. How do you hold yourself back from starting, and how can you overcome those mental barriers to make a start that will propel you through the finish line?
The main thread of this book is my own story. Through a series of short vignettes, I'll take you through how I've overcome my own fears, doubts, perfectionism, and distractions to start over and over again. I'll take you from Nebraska, to Silicon Valley, to Chicago and Costa Rica, and to where I sit right now, in Colombia. I'll take you through my journey as a cubicle-dweller, to a blogger, to a designer-turned-bestselling-author. Though I've made many starts over the years, the story revolves around what I still believe to be my simplest yet most important start.
Each chapter shows you how other creators and entrepreneurs have used the same phenomena to start. From Evel Knievel to Maya Angelou, from Ed Sheeran to J. K. Rowling, they've all started many times, and they've all overcome the same barriers you and I face. You'll also hear from the podcast guests I've interviewed in more than one hundred episodes of Love Your Work, from Seth Godin, from behavioral scientist Dan Ariely, from a Hollywood screenwriter, from a chef, from a creator of a hit board game, and from many others.
With each beginning, there is an end in mind. If you're going to find the heart to start, you need some sense of what it is you're going to start. It might as well be some special thing that nobody else can offer. That's what we'll find in the next chapter.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Heart To Start"
Copyright © 2017 Kadavy, Inc..
Excerpted by permission of Kadavy, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
- I: The Laws of Art
- There is Art Inside You
- Art is Self-Actualization
- Your Ego Fears Your Art
- II: Finding the Fuel
- Curiosity First
- The Voice
- Go for "The Pump"
- That Which Pulls You Through
- III: Winning by Beginning
- The Fortress Fallacy
- Inflating the Investment
- The Linear Work Distortion
- Permission to Suck
- Motivational Judo
- Crack the Whip
- About the Author