281 episodes

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

Love Your Work David Kadavy

    • Education
    • 4.8 • 191 Ratings

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

    Farm What You Forage

    Farm What You Forage

    Many people think our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived short and miserable lives. In fact, that’s what most anthropologists thought. Until the 1960s, when they looked more closely at how foragers got by.
    The way foragers “worked” can tell us a lot about the way we, as creators, work.
    Farming gets a lot of output with little effort No one can be exactly sure when a human first planted a seed to grow food, but this one act was one of the most revolutionary in human history – up there with the invention of fire, or the internet. The agricultural revolution meant humans no longer needed to roam around, searching for food.
    But, with the innovation of agriculture came some trade-offs. We had to wait for our crops to grow, so we had to stay in one place. But staying in one place didn’t work out-of-the-box everywhere. As anthropologist James Suzman points out in his book, Work: A Deep History, from the Stone Age to the Age of Robots, the first successful cities sprouted up in floodplains. These areas flooded regularly, and that refreshed the nutrients in the soil, which was a must for successful farming, as crop-rotation hadn’t yet been invented.
    Which brings us to another drawback of farming. Yes, farming gets you a lot of food with little effort, but eventually your once-fertile soil runs out of nutrients.
    Creative “farming” grows ideas into finished products As creatives, it’s useful for us to “farm.” Plant seeds of ideas. Give them water, sunlight, and fertile soil, and eventually you’ll have a crop of creative products to harvest.
    I talked in my book, Mind Management, Not Time Management, about “creative systems.” Cultivating ideas takes time. By working with the cycles of your energy to do short bursts of work, and letting incubation do the rest, you can always have creative products to ship. (I talked specifically about my creative system for Love Mondays newsletters on episode 260.)
    Creative farming is a great way to consistently turn ideas into finished products. But foraging is where you get the ideas in the first place.
    Foraging is more effective than you think In the 1960s, anthropologist Richard Borshay Lee lived with a hunter-gatherer tribe in the Kalahari desert. He carefully tracked what they spent time on, and what they got out of it. Lee found these tribes met all their needs for food in just fifteen hours work a week. They consumed well over the daily recommended intake of 2,000 calories, and they did it all without farming. They did it by foraging.
    Fifteen hours a week to get everything you need. That sounds appealing to many of us. Fifteen hours a week is ironically the number of hours economist John Maynard Keynes once predicted we in the industrial world would work. In 1930, in the midst of the Great Depression, Keynes had the guts to predict that by 2030, we would at least quadruple our productivity. As a result, he said, we would work only fifteen hours a week.
    But foraging doesn’t lead to progress We reached that quadruple-productivity mark way back in 1980. But we still work way more than fifteen hours a week. Why? We can make philosophical arguments about the hedonic treadmill, and how we buy too much junk. But one thing is for sure: We want to see “progress.”
    These hunter gatherer tribes, who have sadly been all but completely driven off their foraging land by the industrial world, did lead rich lives. They worked for what they needed, they had plenty of leisure time, and everything they did was deeply integrated with their families and communities. But they didn’t have running water, electricity, or modern medicine. Many lived as long as anyone in the civilized world – if they reached adulthood. But they had a high infant-mortality rate, which pushed down the average lifespan.
    They didn’t have what we consider “progress.” They didn’t wonder if their children would live in a world with human flight, space exploration, or the internet. Each genera

    • 12 min
    The Void

    The Void

    There’s a story I think of every time I’m in the throes of a difficult project. It’s from the movie, Catch Me if You Can, about the infamous con artist, Frank Abignale, Jr. Frank’s Father, Frank Senior, tells him a story:
    Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he turned that cream into butter, and crawled out.
    You hear the story several times throughout the movie. It’s really the theme of the movie. When Frank Junior’s parents separate, he feels like the mouse drowning in cream. He runs away and poses as an airline pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer, forging paychecks and flying all over, like a little mouse, frantically and desperately moving his little legs, trying to find his place in the world.
    You face The Void at the beginning of a project Whenever I start a creative project, I feel like a mouse in a bucket of cream. Every time I move one of my little legs to try to get traction, it just keeps floating in space. But, I’ve found, if you keep moving fast enough and long enough, that cream turns into butter.
    I talked on episode 265 about how there are a lot of different sub-skills to the skill of shipping. One of those sub-skills is overcoming your fear of shipping. In other words, facing the Void.
    The Void is the empty space you need to fill for your project to become complete. The Void is a figurative place. It mostly lives in your mind. But it has literal representations, too, such as the blank page or the blank canvas.
    The Void is present at the beginning of a project, and that prevents many creators from even getting started. But the Void has other, less obvious, effects. The Void doesn’t just prevent you from starting a project. It also prevents you from finishing projects.
    The Void holds you back from shipping There are plenty of things to fear as you’re about to finish a project and ship. You fear criticism of your work. You fear later seeing something you want to fix, after it’s too late. As I talked about in episode 267, you face the Finisher’s Paradox: You learn throughout the project, and by the time you’re done, you can already do better.
    But as you prepare to ship, and you see your perfectionism taking over, or you get shiny object syndrome, if you look deep within yourself, you’ll probably find a fear of the Void. Even though you face the Void at the beginning of a project, your fear of the Void can hold you back in the end of a project.
    Being in the “butter” is comfortable The fear of the Void gets in the way of shipping for two reasons. One: being in the “butter” of a project is comfortable. When something nebulous starts to solidify, we also sometimes say it “gels.” In either case, where there was once empty space where you couldn’t get traction, you’re now enveloped in something solid. When you’re in the final stages of a project that has gelled it’s like being in a warm blanket on your couch, with a bowl of popcorn, watching Netflix.
    When you finish this project, you have to face the Void on the next Reason number two the Void gets in the way of shipping: When you finish the project, and start the next, you have to face the Void all over again. Deep down, you know after you let go of that first project, and start the second, you’ll feel, once again, as if you’re drowning.
    Is it perfectionism? Maybe it’s the Void. So what are you to do? Simply being aware of your fear of the Void is a good start. When you catch yourself, in the final stretch, second-guessing or catastrophizing, simply remind yourself that you’re trying to a-void the Void, and that will help you snap out of it. What looks like perfectionism may not be perfectionism. It may be fear of the Void.
    Another great way to overcome your fear of the Void is to make sure you never have to face it again. As I talked about in episode 261, we’re taught shiny object syn

    • 8 min
    The Finisher's Paradox

    The Finisher's Paradox

    When Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, he designed and built his own scaffolding. But, it only covered half of the ceiling. So he painted the first half of the ceiling, then removed the scaffolding. When he finally got to view his work from the floor, seventy feet below, it was as if he were seeing it with new eyes.
    After two years work, he didn’t like what he saw.
    Michelangelo faced what I call “The Finisher’s Paradox.” There’s a contradiction that happens when you try to ship your creative work: By the time you’re done, you can already do better. You learned in the process.
    Michelangelo learned on the job As I talked about in episode 262, Michelangelo “aimed left” when he started painting in the chapel. He had little experience as a painter, and even less experience in the wickedly-difficult “fresco” method. He knew the first panel he painted wouldn’t be his best. So, as art historian Ross King explained on episode 99, Michelangelo started in an inconspicuous part of the chapel. It was the last place the clergy entering the chapel would see, and the last place the Pope would look when sitting on the throne.
    Michelangelo did have at least one false start. A few weeks into painting the first panel, he wasn’t satisfied with his work. The salty sea air in Italy was staining the mixture of plaster he had chosen. There were probably also some things he wanted to change about his painting style.
    Once the plaster on a fresco dries, it’s literally set in stone. But, like stone, you can get rid of it if you destroy it. And that’s exactly what he did: Michelangelo chipped away three weeks of work and started over.
    If Michelangelo learned a thing or two in the first few weeks painting the Sistine Chapel, you can bet he learned even more painting the rest of the 12,000 square-foot fresco – which, in total, took him four years.
    Michelangelo faced the Finisher’s Paradox So after Michelangelo removed his scaffolding from the first half of the ceiling, he was faced with a dilemma: There was something he didn’t like about his work. Since, while painting on his scaffolding, he was very close to the work, the work looked very different from the floor. He realized the scenes he had painted were too complex. There were too many people on each panel, and, as a result, the people were too small. You couldn’t make out very well, from the floor, what was going on in the paintings on the ceiling.
    The dilemma then was that he was two years into the work. His patron, Pope Julius II, was a nasty man, known for going on tirades and beating people who disagreed with him – perhaps even worse. He’s gone down in history as “il papa terribile,” or “the terrible” Pope. He had probably even beaten Michelangelo by that point. Additionally, the project was taking a toll on Michelangelo. His back was killing him, from literally bending over backwards to paint the ceiling.
    So, would Michelangelo do as he did when he first started the project? Chip away all that work, put the scaffolding back up, then start over? Or, would he keep going and ship the work?
    Michelangelo was faced with the Finisher’s Paradox. He had learned a lot throughout the project, and he had learned even more by finally seeing his work from a distance. Would he fix what was wrong with his work, or would he just ship it as it was, flaws and all?
    The tale of two (Sistine Chapel) ceilings Since the Sistine Chapel ceiling has lived on as one of the greatest masterpieces in art, it’s surprising Michelangelo saw something wrong at all. It’s even more surprising that what he saw is still there in the final product.
    If you look closely at the Sistine Chapel ceiling today, you’ll notice something different about the two halves of the ceiling. On one side of the ceiling, the scenes are complex. There are lots of people, and the people are small. On the other side, the scenes are simpler. There are fewer people in ea

    • 9 min
    The Foundation Effect

    The Foundation Effect

    On October 10th, 1901 – 120 years ago, almost to the day – the grandstand was full at the horse track in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. But not to see horses. There was a parade of more than 100 of these new things called automobiles, and several other events, including races of automobiles with electric engines and with steam engines.
    But the main event was a race of gasoline automobiles. By the time the event took place, it didn’t look like it would be much of a race. There had originally been twenty-five contestants. Only three made it to the starting post, then just before the race, one broke down and had to withdraw.
    So there were just two cars, driven by the men who had built them. One was the country’s most famous car manufacturer. The other, was a local. A failed car manufacturer, named Henry Ford.
    At the time of this race, the most famous car-maker in America was Alexander Winton. He had made and sold hundreds of cars. He had gotten tons of press driving from Cleveland to New York.
    At the time of this race, Henry Ford was a failed car-maker. He had made and sold a handful of automobiles, but his first car company had failed.
    It was clear who was going to win this race: Moments prior, Alexander Winton had set the world record for the fastest mile traveled in an automobile, going around the dirt track in a little more than a minute and twelve seconds. Winton’s car was seventy horsepower. Ford’s was twenty-six. He had never taken it on a turn, and it didn’t have brakes.
    The race was supposed to be twenty-five laps, but just before the event, the organizers shortened it to ten. According to Richard Snow, author of I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford, they probably didn’t want to see the local loser lapped over and over. This race was more of a sprint.
    The Foundation Effect Has this ever happened to you? You pass by a construction site for months, and there’s nothing going on. There’s just a wall with a project logo, peppered with graffiti.
    Then one day, there’s a six-story building frame there. Now, each time you pass, it’s gotten taller.
    There was no visible progress for months, then there was rapid progress. You saw what I call “The Foundation Effect.”
    The Foundation Effect is the delay in your progress, as you build your foundation. You have false starts and failures, and it looks as if you’re going nowhere. But once you have your foundation built, you progress rapidly.
    Back to the races Henry Ford, the failed carmaker, won the sprint. But it wasn’t until much later he also won the marathon.
    Eight years after that race, Henry’s Ford Motor Company released a car that changed everything. It was durable enough to make it over rough country roads, lined with horse-drawn-wagon tracks. It was versatile enough farmers could use the engine to run a wheat thresher or move hay bales down a conveyer belt. It was twice as good as any car out there, at half the price.
    The first year, they sold 10,000. The second year, 20,000. A few years after that, they sold almost 200,000. By the time the “Model T” went out of production nearly twenty years after introduction, the Ford Motor Company had sold nearly 15 million. More than half of all cars in the world were Fords.
    Meanwhile, Alexander Winton’s company kept building custom cars, made-to-order. He just couldn’t compete with Ford’s Model T, and had to shut down. Despite having over 100 patents on automobile technology, few today have ever heard of Alexander Winton.
    You need a foundation How did Henry Ford create such an incredible car, that sold in such incredible quantities? He built a rock-solid foundation. Over and over, he rejected the mere illusion of progress to scrap everything and start over.
    As a creator, you may feel as if you’re getting nowhere. You’re starting projects, but not finishing them. The ones you do finish are failing. You’re throwing iterations in the fire, like Radclyffe Hall. From re

    • 12 min
    Shipping is a Skill

    Shipping is a Skill

    Leonardo da Vinci is easily the most-accomplished procrastinator who ever lived. He finished hardly any projects at all. He was great at many things, but he wasn’t great at shipping. The world would have been better off if Leonardo da Vinci had treated shipping as a skill.
    Far be it for me to criticize anything Leonardo da Vinci did. Despite his repeated failure to ship, he lives on today as one of the greatest geniuses who ever lived – enough so that I’m talking about him in a podcast 500 years after his death.
    What Leonardo da Vinci procrastinated on He foreshadowed the first law of motion, saying two-hundred years before Newton that, “Every movement tends to maintain itself.”
    He made a number of discoveries about the circulatory system: He was the first to notice the heart was the center of the blood system – not the liver. He described how an area of the aorta functioned, but since he never published his observations, it’s named after a different scientist, who re-discovered this area two-hundred years later. He correctly described how blood flow affects the opening and closing of heart valves – findings that were proven correct only recently – 450 years later.
    He wrote or planned to write treatises on topics including painting, anatomy, human flight, geology, and astronomy. Much of what he wrote would have broken new ground in these fields, and set them ahead a couple centuries – if only he had published it. Even his greatest masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, Leonardo never finished. His patron never got their painting, and Leonardo never got paid. It was still in his studio when he died, more than fifteen years after he had begun the painting.
    Okay, so some of Leonardo’s procrastination was iceberg-building Much of Leonardo’s failure to ship was a part of his creative process. It was the creative waste that made the underwater part of his iceberg – as I talked about in the past couple episodes. There could have been practical reasons he didn’t ship. Remember, once Leonardo delivered one of his paintings, it was gone forever. He couldn’t snap a photo of it for safe-keeping on the cloud. One reason he clung onto mostly-finished paintings was so he could refer to them, borrowing a trick he did painting a smile from one painting, and a trick he did to make it feel like the eyes are following you around the room from another painting.
    But it’s hard to say Leonardo couldn’t have been better at shipping, when you look at all he could have contributed if only he were. And if you want to be a great creator, it makes sense to ship. Most of us would rather have our genius recognized in our lifetime, rather than marveled at hundreds of years later for what it would have contributed.
    Shipping is a skill Shipping is a skill. The act of having a vision, planning to achieve that vision, and executing on that vision is a skill you should cultivate, just as you would practice a programming language, writing, or macramé. Treat shipping as a skill, and you’ll finish more projects. Shipped projects have a better chance of having an impact on the world.
    The sub-skills of shipping Shipping is a sub-skill of creative work. But the act of shipping itself has its own sub-skills. It’s hard to see what you’re missing out on by not treating shipping as a skill, unless you look closely at the sub-skills of shipping.
    Here are the sub-skills of shipping:
    Vision: Can you visualize the outcome you’d like to have? Planning: Can you imagine the steps you need to follow to make this vision a reality? Resourcefulness: Can you assess what resources you have that can help you achieve this vision, find what resources you don’t have, and use all those resources wisely? Adaptability: Can you adapt your plan when some part, inevitably, doesn’t go as planned? Overcoming Perfectionism: Your final product won’t be a perfect execution of your vision. Can you overcome perfectionism and ship anyway? Fear of Sh

    • 13 min
    Creative Waste

    Creative Waste

    When Vincent van Gogh began his career as an artist, he had already failed at everything else. He even got fired from his own family’s business in the process.
    Not seeing any alternative, he completely immersed himself in art. In one two-week period, he created 120 drawings.
    But exactly none of those drawings are famous today.
    What feels like waste is not waste Last week, I talked about the Iceberg Principle – the idea that any masterpiece you see is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s far more knowledge and experience beneath the surface, giving that masterpiece confidence and grace.
    But as you’re adding layer after layer to your iceberg, it doesn’t feel like that’s what you’re doing. It feels like you’re wasting your energy. But you’re not.
    After Van Gogh’s frenzied first couple weeks seriously pursuing art, he settled in to a more conservative pace. Instead of 120 drawings in two weeks, he was instead shooting to make just twenty a week. He figured that’s how many he’d have to make to end up with one good piece each week.
    “Waste” takes many forms What feels like “waste” can take many forms:
    Failed projects: You made something, and nobody likes it. Off on timing: Nobody like it yet, but some day someone will. Unfinished projects: You started, got a little ways, and maybe Shiny Object Syndrome took over. For whatever reason, you didn’t finish. Research and Preparation: You don’t always know what you’re trying to learn, but all sorts of tinkering may seem like a waste. Creative waste is part of the creative game Sometimes what feels like “waste,” makes it directly into a current or future project, thus making it clearly not waste. But even the stuff that never becomes a part of your body of work is part of the creative game.
    I talked in episode 256 about the Barbell Strategy. To succeed in creative work, put most of your efforts toward “sure bets” that protect your downside and keep you in the game. With the rest of your time and energy, play “wildcards,” that have a chance of big upside.
    Creative work happens in Extremistan, not Mediocristan. Success won’t be a steady climb up-and-to-the-right. Instead, it will look more like a poorly-shaved porcupine. Long periods of time where it doesn’t seem like much is happening, punctuated by big spikes that level up your career one at a time.
    Yes, you’re showing up every day and putting in the work, but all that is a series of small bets. You hope for one or two or a few to turn into positive Black Swans. Projects that take off, and take on a life of their own.
    In the course of playing this strategy, you can’t tell what will be wasted, and what will not. You have to trust that “waste” is part of the process.
    Projects will fail, projects will go unfinished, and iterations will burn in the fire. That doesn’t make you a procrastinator or a dilettante – that makes you a creator.
    Waste in Van Gogh’s first masterpiece Vincent van Gogh’s first masterpiece was full of waste. He did not just a sketch, but a small study, a medium study, and a print he could give out to test his idea. This was all before working on the final canvas. And that had many iterations, and four coats of varnish. He left it in his friend’s studio to prevent himself from “spoiling it.” Then he still came back and worked on it some more.
    All that waste was on top of the years of work he did leading up to the project. The painting was about peasants, and he wandered around living like a peasant himself, begging people to model for him. And, there was the twenty drawings a week he had done.
    And those 120 drawings he did in a two-week period? We don’t even know what they look like, because he destroyed them.
    Once this first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters, was done, it must have felt like a waste to Vincent. Everyone hated it. He got in a fight with his brother about it, and he completely cut off a friend who attacked it, vicio

    • 9 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
191 Ratings

191 Ratings

Mariann!! ,

Love it!

It’s definitely worth your time if you trying to stay informed.

timonanda ,

At last!

At last a podcast that is not rambling, unprofessional and self-indulgent.

sydicj utrkdkvividd ,

NOPE! Can’t do it.

Dude needs to learn how to pronounce the word “wolf”. It has an L in it! I can only imagine how he pronounces “roof”.

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