BJ Novak of The Office was interviewed on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast. I couldn't place Novak's character, but my daughter who's watched every episode on Netflix a dozen times over recognized his voice his voice immediately. (I'm sure Novak will be happy to know his writing has impressed young adults. Thank you BJ - my daughter now desires an office job more than anything.)
Novak begins by sharing life experiences he'd had prior to his writing and starring in The Office. I started feeling put off as I listened to two Ivy League School attendees talking about intelligent comedianism.
What? I finally decide to put my funny stamp on the world and now I have to be intelligent about it too? How am I ever going to achieve comedic status without being Ivy League smart? And no way am I gonna do clean country comedy.
Luckily I pressed through and Novak started becoming more relate-able to my world. Ferriss asked him to share his best tip for other creatives listening and what he said released me from years of feeling like a loser and moving forward in my creative process.
Novak said he keeps two lists. One for ideas and one for execution and stipulated that he never, ever mixes the two lists.
Finally validation for years of my unused ideas that have never been executed. I always felt like such a loser for not going into the execution phase with most of my ideas.
Before hearing Tim's podcast I had been overwhelmed with voices from my past and present saying, "Whatever happened to that thing you said you were gonna do?"
"Ummm - yeah that thing, still on the list!".
I have lists. Lists upon lists of ideas. Ideas that I have yet to accomplish or even start. Friends have worn tired of my 'great idea' conversations. I've had people in my life (far from Ivy League attendees) tell me to pick something and do it. To stick with one idea all the way through and see it to the end. They are sick of hearing it. This brings me to lesson one - get new friends?
They meant well and their advice has some validity but overall it's not good advice for my style of personality.
At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, May 1997, Steve Jobs gave a definition about focus that relates precisely to lists. He said, "People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things."
I shared BJ's tip with my daughter who is a budding expressive creative type like her mom. She loved it - but then she loves The Office so it didn't take much.
Lists are ok. They are the stuff of creativity and if you never get to one idea on a list it's ok.