I had the pleasure of listening to Tim Ferris’s interview with Rick Rubin over the weekend and his insight into the creative process blew me away!
You might not know his name but you definitely know his music. MTV has called him the most important music producer of the last 20 years. He's produced everyone from Adele to ZZ Top and he’s worked in all genres.
Rick shared some of the lessons that he's learned along the way which can be applied to all areas of your life:
1. Only Compete Against Yourself: If you set out to only write songs that are better than The Beatles, it’s gonna be a hard road. But if you only try to write a song that’s better than the one you wrote yesterday, that’s much more realistic. If you do that everyday, you’ll get better. Take small steps.
2. Study The Greats: Competition is only good if you’re looking at the big picture. Don’t try to write a song better than the current hit on the radio. Submerge yourself in the great works from all time and try to learn from them. You can get inspiration from all different kinds of media not just your own. Watch great movies, listen to the best albums of all time, read the classics.
3. Be Extreme: People like extreme things, so don’t water it down. The best art divides the audience: Half love it and half hate it. If everyone says, “That’s pretty good,” why bother making it?!
4. Be Coachable: Rick lost over 100 pounds and part of the reason for Rick’s success is that he made a commitment to do whatever his doctors and trainers told him, no matter how ridiculous. Wake up in the morning and go outside for 20 minutes to soak up the sun. OK. Abandon your vegan diet for a high protein animal based diet. OK.
5. Anything Is Possible If You Break It Down Into Small Steps: Don’t expect to be great at something right away. You’re going to fall down a lot in the beginning. If you can break complicated projects into small, digestible pieces then you can tackle anything.
6. Have A Mentor: Rick mentioned having lunch with his mentor, Mo Ostin, who told him he was getting fat and he was concerned for his health. Having a support system with people you respect and aspire to be like is important to personal growth.
7. Don’t Think Too Much: Creativity is more emotion and heart work than head work. The head work is later for organizing.
8. Hang With The Winners: Rick mentioned hanging with big wave surfer Laird Hamilton, NBA player Jokim Noah, and the magician David Blaine. These guys may not have much in common other than being exceptional at what they do. If you want to be great, you need to hang with the winners
9. Don’t Beat Yourself Up: You can’t expect to be great out of the box, yet a lot of us put unrealistic expectations on ourselves and get down on ourselves when we fail to meet them. .
10. Define Your Success: Rick defined it as being great at what you do, being passionate, and truly enjoying life. He said he knows a lot of people who are successful in business and entertainment and have a lot of money but are miserable. They’re not successful in his eyes. A guy like Don Wildman, founder of the Bally’s fitness chain, who retired in his 50s, and now goes snowboarding and big wave surfing in his 80s is truly successful.
I highly recommend listening to Tim Ferris’s full interview here. As a side note, Rick only agreed to the interview if it could take place in his 200 degree sauna, with breaks for ice water baths, which is pretty awesome in its own right.
The Dos Equis guy has got nothing on Rick...Rick's way more interesting and he's even got a better beard.