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Steal Like An Artist - Austin Kleon

In February, I'll be participating in the 27th session of the altMBA. Described on their site as "The altMBA is an intensive, 4-week online workshop designed by Seth Godin for high-performing individuals who want to level up and lead." (Bring it on!)


The welcome packet came with eight books (eight!) to read before the program started. All of these books are insightful, motivational, and practical. I'm quite glad they came and looking forward to the program even more. As I approach halfway through the eight, one of them I had to share as the parallels to all areas of life (especially NFL play designs and schemes, desk worker / office-type projects, and side projects, like blogs and analysis).


Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative


A short and beautifully put together book by a self-described "author who draws". The book is ten short chapters filled with quotes and pictures to go along with the writing. It easily can be read in a day, as it's less than 140 pages (and did I mention the pictures?).


The following are the ten items with commentary from me:


1. Steal Like an Artist

"Every artist gets asked the question, 'Where do you get your ideas?' The honest artist answers, 'I steal them.'" Immediately makes me think of how NFL play design and schemes, on both sides of the ball, is an evolution driven by stealing concepts and creating new schemes that has been going on since the game started.


To be clear, good theft includes honoring the originally work, studying hard, adding to it, and giving praise. Not plagiarism.


2. Don't Wait Until You Know Who You are to Get Started

"You're Ready. Start Making Stuff." Don't let the resistance stop you from adding your contribution to the world.


3. Write the Book You Want to Read

I want to read a book about Machine Learning using NFL data and can't find any. I also can not find a clean dataset to use within existing ML tutorials and classes (although nflsavant.com comes close). So I built that dataset after learning python and web scrapping (I now provide two versions of it to subscribers!) and now I'm going to write that book.


What book do you want?


4. Use Your Hands

Getting up to get your blood flowing also helps gets your creativity going. Although not from this book, I have heard: "Do more things that make you forget about your phone" a few times and this section supports that idea. In addition, a quote that is from this section, "Art that only comes from your head isn't any good." Get up and use your hands.


5. Side Projects and Hobbies are Important

Starting November 2018, my hobby became Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It is extremely difficult and a huge challenge, both mentally and physically, but also a lot of fun!


There are also many parallels to creative work, for example: BJJ helps me think of being relaxed and saving energy while in uncomfortable situations (for art, being able to relax in the face of unconstructive criticism), attacking not only for offense but as a defensive strategy (you will fight the resistance everyday), and consistent practice to improve (you need your reps).


6. The Secret: Do Good Work and Share It with People

If it is not out there in the world, how can it help the world and how can it truly get better?


This section contains a wonderful picture, The Life of A Project, which wrapped up exactly how I feel for nearly all projects and will now be embracing:




7. Geography is no Longer our Master

With the tools and gifts we have, you can design your own day. Whether in isolation, at a coffee shop, or on a 4-Hour Work Week type trip. New cultures, perspectives, and experiences will go a long way to improving your own thought process and your art.


8. Be Nice (The World is a Small Town)

Eventually, especially if they care, everybody finds out everything. Get in the habit of doing things and making decisions that you would be comfortable defending. If you know you will have to explain it to someone else, the chances you act like an immoral jerk go way down.


9. Be Boring (It's the Only Way to Get Work Done)

-Stay out of Debt

-Keep your Day Job

-Marry well

-Be consistent and do the work

Elaborating on 'Marry well', I believe it's biggest reason for long-term happiness and success. Without her, I'd be in a much darker place mentally, physically, professionally, and spiritually. I can trace each of those areas back to great personal growth that were directly or indirectly triggered by my wife. Everyday is another opportunity to thank her.


Not all relationships are healthy or you may be single, GOOD. Focus on improving yourself, on being a companion that supports, challenges, and loves unconditionally. You have all the love and wonderful events of a new relationship still ahead of you.


10. Creativity is Subtraction

"There are definite dangers in thinking you can do everything." Set limitations as a way to help force creativity. Writing an entire book is daunting, but the introduction is a bit easier. And if writing an introduction sounds scary, what if you had to write 1,000 words towards your book's introduction during your lunch break, with no email, music, conversations, or food allowed until you finished?


It doesn't have to be perfect (perfect doesn't existing). It just has to be your work, your art.


I'd bet that you have more then 1,000 words...




Good luck.



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