Love Your Work is the intellectual playground of David Kadavy, bestselling author of three books – including Mind Management, Not Time Management – and former design advisor to Timeful – a Google-acquired productivity app.
Love Your Work is where David shows you how to be productive when creativity matters, and make big breakthroughs happen in your career as a creator. Dig into the archives for insightful conversations with Dan Ariely, David Allen, Seth Godin, James Altucher, and many more.
"David is an underrated writer and thinker. In an age of instant publication, he puts time, effort and great thought into the content and work he shares with the world." —Jeff Goins, bestselling author of Real Artists Don’t Starve
Summary: Old Masters and Young Geniuses, by David W. Galenson
The book, Old Masters and Young Geniuses shows there are two types of creators: experimental, and conceptual. Experimental and conceptual creators differ in their approaches to their work, and follow two distinct career paths. Experimental creators grow to become old masters. Conceptual creators shine as young geniuses.
University of Chicago economist, and author of Old Masters and Young Geniuses, David Galenson – who I interviewed on episode 105 – wanted to know how the ages of artists affected the prices of their paintings. He isolated the ages of artists from other factors that affect price, such as canvas size, sale date, and support type (whether it’s on canvas, paper, or other).
He expected to find a neat effect, such as “paintings from younger/older artists sell for more.” But instead, he found two distinct patterns: Some artists’ paintings from their younger years sold for more. Other artists’ paintings from their older years sold for more. He then found this same pattern in the historical significance of artists’ work: The rate at which paintings were included in art history books or retrospective exhibitions – both indicators of significance – peaked at the same ages as the values of paintings.
When he looked closely at how painters who followed these two trajectories differed, he found that the ones who peaked early took a conceptual approach, while those who peaked late took an experimental approach.
Cézanne vs. Picasso The perfect examples of contrasting experimental and conceptual painters are Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso. Paintings from Cézanne’s final year of life, when he was sixty-seven, are his most valuable. Paintings from early in Picasso’s career, when he was twenty-six, are his most valuable. A painting done when Picasso was twenty-six is worth four times as much as one done when he was sixty-seven (he lived to be ninety-one, and his biographer and friend called the dearth of his influential work later in life “a sad end”). A painting done when Cézanne was sixty-seven – the year he died – is worth fifteen times as much as one done when he was twenty-six.
Cézanne, the experimenter Cézanne took an experimental approach to painting, which explains why it took so long for his career to peak. Picasso took a conceptual approach, which explains why he peaked early.
Cézanne left the conceptual debates of Paris cafés to live in the south of France, in his thirties. He spent the next three decades struggling to paint what he truly saw in landscapes. He felt limited by the fact that, as he was looking at a canvas, he could only paint the memory of what he had just seen.
He did few preparatory sketches early in his career, but grew to paint straight from nature. He treated his paintings as process work, and seemed to have no use for them when he was finished: He only signed about ten percent of his paintings, and sometimes threw them into bushes or left them in fields.
Picasso, the conceptual genius Picasso, instead, executed one concept after another. He had early success with his Blue period and Rose period, then dove into Cubism. He often planned paintings carefully, in advance: He did more than four-hundred studies for his most valuable and influential painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. One model described how he simply stared at her for an hour, apparently planning a series of paintings in his head, which he began painting the next day, without her assistance.
Cézanne said, “I seek in painting.” Picasso said, “I don’t seek; I find.” Cézanne struggled to paint what he saw, and Picasso said, “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.”
Experimental vs. conceptual artists Here are some qualities that differ between experimental and conceptual artists:
Experimental artists work inductively. Through the process of creation, they arrive at their solution. Conceptual artists work deductively. They begin with a solution in mind, then
David Perell: Being a Hedgehog When You're a Fox, Living With the Twitter Algorithm, Learning from Tyler Cowen, and Building Mass for Leverage
Do you want to build an audience online, but have such a wide variety of interests, you don’t know what to focus on? I think you’ll like this interview with David Perell.
David Perell (@david_perell) calls himself “The Writing Guy.” He runs the cohort-based online writing school, Write of Passage (I love that name). His marketing is very specific, but he has incredibly diverse interests, and enthusiastically shares content related to those interests online.
I went through his links on his website (no longer posted) to prepare for this conversation, and just my highlights of his links were over 6,000 words long! The topics included economics, art, urban planning, golf, music, and much more.
I’ve been really impressed watching David’s online presence, so I brought him on the podcast for my first interview episode in more than two years!
We’ll talk about:
The four grants David has gotten from Tyler Cowen’s Emergent Ventures. How did he get those grants, and for what projects? Have all the opportunities to grow your audience online passed? David will share what he thinks is the biggest growth opportunity right now. We’ll talk about how to please the Twitter algorithm. What about it is “so brutal,” as David says? Topics mentioned Write of Passage David Perell Twitter David Perell's podcast “The Hedgehog and the Fox” by Isaiah Berlin David’s viral logo thread Tyler Cowen Tim Ferriss Joe Rogan David Galenson Old Masters and Young Geniuses Pablo Picasso Paul Cézanne Andy Warhol Leonardo da Vinci Raphael Michelangelo Cézanne’s studio Claude Monet Impressionism Cubism Space X Mark Manson Tim Urban on Tim Ferriss Hacker News Patrick Mackenzie Quantitative Easing Dodgeball Foursquare Mark Manson Twitter James Clear Twitter "Fake Take" Don't hate the player, hate the game Emergent Ventures Renee Girard lectures Naval Ravikant on leverage The Age of Leverage Nat Eliason on speed versus mass Warren Buffett spends one year deciding The Barbell Strategy for content marketing – Alex Birkett Matthew Fitzpatrick Mark Broadie Strokes Gained Trackman Titlelist Performance Institute About Your Host, David Kadavy David Kadavy is author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, The Heart to Start and Design for Hackers. Through the Love Your Work podcast, his Love Mondays newsletter, and self-publishing coaching David helps you make it as a creative.
Follow David on:
Twitter Instagram Facebook YouTube Subscribe to Love Your Work Apple Podcasts Overcast Spotify Stitcher YouTube RSS Email Support the show on Patreon Put your money where your mind is. Patreon lets you support independent creators like me. Support now on Patreon »
Show notes: http://kadavy.net/blog/posts/david-perell-podcast
[NOTE] Ask Me Anything Livestream (kdv.co/ama)
Submit your questions and mark your calendars for my upcoming AMA/Livestream.
Nobody Knows Anything
In 1977, Richard Bachman published his first novel. In an unusual move for a first-time author, Bachman made his publisher promise to release his books with hardly any marketing.
Bachman stacked the dice against himself Bachman’s books were to skip the hardcover format and go straight to bargain-bin paperback – the kind you’d find mixed in with other nobody-authors, at a truck stop on I-80, somewhere near Grand Island. He also insisted he was unavailable for interviews, which cut his books off from a key marketing channel. Most publishers wouldn’t agree to such bizarre terms, but they were especially excited to release Bachman’s books.
But he still did pretty well Today, forty-five years later, most people have unsurprisingly never heard of Richard Bachman. His books did alright, though: His fourth was optioned for film rights, his fifth sold 28,000 copies, and he got a couple letters a month from fans of his writing.
Bachman wasn’t Bachman But his books were so good, one Washington D.C. bookstore clerk was suspicious. Steve Brown dug through the Library of Congress copyright records, and confirmed his suspicion: Richard Bachman was Stephen King.
Why did one of the world’s hottest authors publish – in the same genre – under a pen name? At the time, King’s publisher had an almost-superstitious belief that if they published more than one of his books in a year, they would distract readers from This Year’s Book (that they let King publish Bachman books with so little fanfare speaks to their conviction in this belief). King later described it as like being married to someone with a drastically-smaller sexual appetite: He had to find an outlet somewhere else.
“Either find an audience or disappear quietly” While he was publishing under a pen name, he figured he’d conduct an experiment. He wondered, to what degree was his massive success due to luck? So, as he has said, Stephen King “stacked the dice” against Richard Bachman. He wanted Bachman’s books “to go out there and either find an audience or just disappear quietly.”
After word got out that Richard Bachman was Stephen King, his books sold even better. That book that sold 28,000 copies for Richard Bachman – Thinner – quickly sold ten times that as a King title.
Is seven years & five books long enough? At first glance, King’s Bachman experiment is an open-and-shut case: Bachman’s books sold way more copies with Stephen King’s name on their covers. But King himself feels his experiment got cut short. He said of Bachman, who he killed off in a press release by “cancer of the pseudonym,” “He died with that question – is it work that takes you to the top or is it all just a lottery? – still unanswered.” Bachman worked in anonymity for seven years, and released five books – how is that not enough?
Even the pros don’t know William Goldman was a two-time Academy-Award-Winning screenwriter. He wrote the screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride, and Misery (which was supposed to be Richard Bachman’s sixth book, but instead was released by Stephen King). In Goldman’s book, Adventures in the Screen Trade, he pointed out that in one typical movie season, sixteen major films were released by the major studios. One was a runaway success, and ten of those sixteen lost more than ten million dollars.
Why did those studios bother making the stinkers? Because, as Goldman said:
Nobody knows anything...... Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.
Nobody knowing anything takes the appeal out of King’s Bachman story. It sounded like the perfect story for aspiring creatives to point to and say, “Look, the universe is conspiring against me. If you don’t have a big name already, you’re screwed.”
Nothing guarantees creative success But really, nothing can
“Crumb time” is the little pieces of time that get lost throughout the day. Instead of giving away your crumb time to unproductive distractions, build systems that complete big projects with small actions. Today, I’ll tell you how.
Crumb time is everywhere throughout our days. Whenever we do something substantial with our time, little chunks of time of various sizes and shapes fall to the floor.
What is crumb time? Crumb time has a combination of the following qualities:
Short amounts of time. Crumb time can be less than a minute, or several minutes. Unknown lengths of time. You often don’t know when your crumb time will be over. It could end in a few seconds, or a few minutes. Distracting environments. It’s hard enough to focus when you don’t know when you’ll be interrupted, but the environments in which crumb time take place are often noisy, with lots of activity. Some examples of crumb time:
Standing in line at an airport: Lots is going on, you’re waiting for your boarding call. Riding in a cab: The scenery is changing, but you might have a good idea how much time you have. Waiting for a friend to meet you for lunch: They could come in the door in two seconds, or twenty minutes. Why do we give away crumb time? Crumb time feels insignificant, and we think we need a controlled environment and a big block of time to do anything useful. You don’t have the time or mental bandwidth, it seems, to make substantial progress reading a book, or writing an article. So, we doomscroll on Twitter, blow off steam with a game such as Wordle, or do something pseudo-productive such as check email once again.
Productive uses of crumb time We just give away our crumb time, but we could turn it into something useful. Here are some things you could do with crumb time:
Review highlights in your Zettelkasten: My favorite use of crumb time is reviewing my highlights from a book. I export them to Markdown, and whenever I have a moment, I scroll through the highlights in a plain-text app on my phone. I bold any of the highlights that are extra interesting. When my crumb time is over, I mark my place and lock my phone. Learn about something: A crumb-time list is a key component of a system of curiosity management, which I talked about on episode 284. Keep a list of subjects you’d like to learn about, and when you have crumb time, read a Wikipedia page. (I’m not a fan of read-later apps, because the easier it is to save articles, the harder it is to read all of them). Brainstorm social media updates: Twitter is a great place to share ideas, a terrible place to have them. Brainstorm potential tweets in a text file, to polish and schedule later. How about doing nothing at all? Another valid use of your crumb time is simply doing nothing. But when you choose to do something, you may as well do something useful. Anything other than giving away crumb time is better than building that bad habit. The more you give away crumb time, the easier that becomes the default use of your crumb time.
Take a seven-day crumb-time challenge You don’t need to change your crumb time habits all at once, forever. Instead, try a seven-day crumb-time challenge. Here’s how:
Delete social media apps. You can do most things on Twitter or Instagram from desktop. Get them off your phone, to force yourself to make good use of crumb time. Block social media websites. Use the parental controls on your phone to block websites to which you give away your crumb time. For me that’s twitter.com and instagram.com. On the iPhone, use the “Limit Adult Websites” feature, and add whatever sites you want to the block list. (You can also add adult websites to the allowed sites if that’s your thing.) Set up crumb-time actions. If you have a Zettelkasten, you know what to do. If you don’t have one, for a quick-start you could export your highlights from your favorite book and have them available on your phone. Set up a list of things you’d like
Do you ever feel like you don’t have the time and energy to learn about everything you want to know? Is it hard to stay focused on reading one book, when there’s ten others you want to read? You need curiosity management.
Curiosity management is the management of your thirst to know things. In a world with unlimited access to information, and finite time and energy, it’s impossible to read every book, watch every documentary, or take every online course.
Unmanaged curiosity leads to “curiosity pressure” This leads to a feeling of “curiosity pressure.” Curiosity pressure is the feeling you’ll never learn all the things you want to learn.
When you’re under time pressure – curiosity pressure’s close cousin – and feel you don’t have enough time to do everything, your anxiety makes it hard to do one thing. When you’re under curiosity pressure and feel you can’t learn everything, your anxiety makes it hard to learn one thing.
A good curiosity-management system matches your level of curiosity with an appropriate level of engagement with the topic, given your available time and energy.
The downward spiral of poor retention, & feelings of inadequacy A day in the life of a curious mind looks like this:
Think of thing you want to learn about, such as the chemical processes behind making soap. Instantly go to Wikipedia. Follow every link and every footnote. Regain consciousness four hours later, with one-hundred tabs open, and no recollection of what you’ve consumed. Inexplicably, one of the tabs is about the Lorena Bobbitt scandal. Feel bad that you got nothing done, and didn’t learn much either. Surplus curiosity When you don’t satisfy your curiosity, despite doing the activities of investigation – such as reading or watching videos – you’re overcome with “surplus curiosity.” Surplus curiosity is a feeling you should always be investigating more topics.
The anxiety and inadequacy you feel from not satisfying your curiosity cause you to be curious about even more things. This drives a downward spiral: You feel bad for not knowing all you want to know, you want to know more things, but poorly managing your curiosity makes it impossible to satisfy your natural curiosities, much less your surplus curiosities.
The goal of curiosity management: Learn just enough, and remember it You’re not going to stop being curious. Your curiosity is a good thing. But if you can manage your curiosity, you can remember more of what you consume and reduce curiosity pressure. If you successfully reduce curiosity pressure, you’ll reduce the anxiety and feelings of inadequacy that actually drive some surplus curiosity.
The fundamental error: All-or-nothing curiosity The fundamental error most curious minds make is they want to learn everything about a topic the moment they become curious about it. Instead of spending five minutes perusing the Wikipedia page, they watch the four-hour documentary. Instead of reading the book summary, they try to read the whole book.
This drives the downward cycle: At some point, the media they’re engaged with calls for more time and energy than their actual curiosity for the topic merits. This causes fatigue and frustration. Yet there are still so many things they want to learn about, and feelings of anxiety and inadequacy flare up. The most immediate solution seems to be to read more, watch more, consume more – surplus curiosity. Yet little of it is absorbed, and the original curiosity that began the cycle is only vaguely satisfied.
The right engagement for the level of curiosity To engage appropriately with what you’re curious about, first assess the level of curiosity. There are three:
Compulsory curiosity is a feeling that you should know about this. Like, “What is this TikTok thing about?” Cursory curiosity is a feeling you’d like to know something about this topic. Like, “What is Marie Curie’s story?” Compulsive curiosity is a driving obs
David, host of the podcast, highlights all aspects of being productive, creative, insightfuland more in this can’t miss podcast! The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!
It’s definitely worth your time if you trying to stay informed.
At last a podcast that is not rambling, unprofessional and self-indulgent.