April 19, 2022

Austin Kleon Shares Why You Should Steal Like An Artist If You Want To Be Creative

Austin Kleon Shares Why You Should Steal Like An Artist If You Want To Be Creative

Our guest is Austin Kleon, author of "Steal Like an Artist."


The Great Resignation may have you wondering what else you can do with your life. If you've been wanting to tap into your creative side - you'll definitely want to pick up: STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST!

2022 marks the 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY of this groundbreaking book. In 2012, bestselling author Austin Kleon brought us his manifesto on unlocking creativity. And in the ten years since, Kleon has become one of the most important voices in creativity and the book remains a must-read with more than a million copies in print worldwide!

In this episode, he shares 10 transformative principles that can change your life! He also discusses actionable steps that changed the face of self-help, teaching millions to find the space they need to unlock their imaginations and do the work. 

What We Discuss with Austin:

  • 10-year edition - what’s new in the book?
  • 10 transformative principles he wishes he could give to his 19-year-old-self. 
  • How can we embrace influence instead of running away from it?
  • Imposter syndrome is real, just show up every day.
  • How to practice productive procrastination by bouncing between projects.
  • Why geography is no longer our master.
  • How to build your online community.
  • Why you should always strive to be nice.
  • Why creativity is subtraction: Choose what you leave out.

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Healing Through Music: How to Return to Your True Self with Carrie Akre


[00:00:00] Zach: Do you consider yourself to be a creative person? 

[00:00:02] Jeremy: It's hard to say what creativity even is. Sure. Maybe you don't spend your nights toiling away with some paint and a brush working on the next great masterpiece, but that doesn't mean you're not creative.

[00:00:12] Zach: Our guest today wrote the book on creativity, literally austin Kleon is the author of steal. Like an artist we'll discuss the impact his book has had since it was released 10 years ago. And why he believes creativity is an important skill that anyone can develop. 

[00:00:26] This is the fit mess conversations with world-class experts in the fields of mental, physical, and emotional health. And this episode 

[00:00:34] Austin Kleon: You have to be okay with uncertainty and the unknown to get anywhere new.

[00:00:39] And that's when you tend to think, well, I really don't know what I'm doing here. And that's a good thing because if you did know what you were doing, you wouldn't be getting somewhere undiscovered.

[00:00:52] Now, here are your hosts, Zach and Jeremy. 

[00:00:54] Jeremy: Welcome to the fitness brought to you by athletic greens. Thank you for listening while you're doing whatever it is you're doing right now. I'm Jeremy and he's Zach, and we've been through all kinds of struggles ending up stronger because of them. And we'd like to help you do this.

[00:01:06] Zach: So if you're sick of your own shit and you're ready to make a change, you are in the right place. 

[00:01:11] Jeremy: Like we often say here, if you want to change, you need to change your thinking. And if you want to change your thinking, you need to change your actions. But all of that change requires some creativity, something you may not think you have much of, right.

[00:01:22] Zack.

[00:01:23] Zach: Exactly. I remember , growing up and like in my early twenties, like I didn't paint, I didn't do anything artistic. I didn't, well, I mean, like I play drums and things like that, but like nothing 

[00:01:35] Jeremy: well, though, now let's be honest, not 

[00:01:37] Zach: Exactly. No, nothing, nothing that I would consider artistic. , because I never did anything like artistic, I never considered myself to be creative at all.

[00:01:46] And it wasn't until I started working and, we'd be presented with a problem and I would come up with a solution for it. And to me, I was just like, well.

[00:01:54] I fixed the issue. No problem. And then somebody called me creative one day and that I like come up with creative solutions and it kind of blew my mind.

[00:02:03] Right. Holy shit, I'm creative, but in a very, very different way. I'm not artistic. If you ask me to sing everyone, like the orders for earplugs will go through the roof, but you know, like creativity, like I, I have that ability to think outside the box in certain arenas in my life, it's kind of weird. 

[00:02:23] Jeremy: Well, that's where a lot of the stuff that we talk about on this show. I mean, we're not usually on here promoting, Hey, pick up a guitar and be the next rock star or whatever. It's, it's more personal development stuff, but it does require a level of creativity to figure out when, in my schedule, do I have time for the gym?

[00:02:38] When do I have time to come up with a meal plan? When do I have time to meditate? Like you've got to, you've got to manage a lot of stuff and you have to get creative to fit that stuff in for me, I had an opposite experience as you were. I feel like as a, as a young person, I was more creative.

[00:02:51] I was in and out of bands. I was really into drawing and different stuff. And then I got into a job that just was absolutely soul sucking and it also suck the creativity out of me. I remember being at my desk, trying to work on creative projects and feeling like, oh my God, that part of my brain is broken.

[00:03:10] I can't even access it anymore. Like that the tank is empty. There are no. I cannot access creativity anymore because I've been so forced into this box of this is how we do things. And there is no variation, so it can work both ways, but creativity is definitely something that, that is developed and you have to work on it to, to be good at it 

[00:03:31] Zach: you're absolutely right though. For my level of creativity, like when I'm at work or if I'm solving, , like a home problem, like you don't have to fix something. Like, it just comes naturally to me because I've been doing it for 20 years of like, here's a problem. How do we solve this? My mind just goes to every single possible solution and it's, , it's a very creative process and actually I really enjoy it now.

[00:03:54] But even at work, , somebody will bring a problem to. And I'll be like, Well, how would you know, like through coaching, right? I'm not telling them how to fix it. That's not my creativity. Now I just ask them questions and it's up to them to come up with the solution. and it really does amaze me sometimes like how own creative people can be in problem solving , And then that just takes me to the next level of, okay.

[00:04:16] Now I need to help them understand that they can be creative. They can think outside of the box, it doesn't, their OCD. Doesn't have to define what the solution is to this particular problem. And it's kind of cool watching people like develop that muscle. 'cause it's just like the creativity is there.

[00:04:35] It's you just have to learn how to let go a little bit and let your mind go and get curious, like we talked about.

[00:04:41] Jeremy: But, you know, it takes creativity to take care of yourself and to fuel your body properly. One way you can do that is with athletic greens.

[00:04:48] I started taking athletic greens because Zach told me to, for months, he shared why it was so helpful for him while I was swallowing three fistfuls of vitamins, three times a day.

[00:04:57] I have to tell you, I noticed a difference on day one. I felt better and didn't have that 4:00 PM energy crash that I thought was normal.

[00:05:03] Now I've been on it for several weeks and I love it. It's packed with 75 high quality vitamins minerals, whole food sourced, superfoods, and. And it works with any diet plan and it tastes great for less than three bucks a day. You're investing in your health for a lot less than your cabinet, full of vitamins or your daily coffee habit.

[00:05:21] So reclaim your health and arm your immune system. Now with convenient daily nutrition 

[00:05:25] To make it easy. Athletic greens is going to give you a free one-year supply of immune supporting vitamin D and five free travel packs with your first purchase. Those are so. All you have to do is visit athletic greens.com forward slash fit mess again, that is athletic greens.com forward slash fitness. To take ownership over your health and pick up the ultimate daily nutritional insurance.

[00:05:45] You'll also find that link on our website, the fitness.com. 

[00:05:49] Zach: All right. Let's jump into this interview. Our guest today is Austin Kleon. For the last 10 years, people have been taking The creative advice outlined in his famous book steal like an artist. Now there's a new edition available celebrating its decade on bookstore shelves.

[00:06:03] Our conversation begins with what's new in this edition of the 

[00:06:06] INTE, 

[00:06:06] Austin Kleon: it's fancier, , just like I am I'm fancier than it used to be. No, I'm just kidding. Um, it's it's uh, it's the first time in hardcover. , it has really cool new end papers that are from my sketchbooks and papers are the inside paper. On the covers of a book, , it's got a new fancy bookmarklet and then the content that's different, you know, it's such a beloved book at this point.

[00:06:31] I don't really feel like it belongs to me as much as it belongs to other people and readers. So the solution I came up with to, to update it really is to add an afterword in the back. I kind of 10 years looking back and I think a big part of the success of the book is it's got this kind of fast punky energy.

[00:06:52] It kind of, I always felt like I wanted it to be like a Ramones album or some classic punk rock record. And, , in some ways, even if you flip the book around, it's got like a track list, it almost looks like a CD or something, so, or binal. I didn't want to put an introduction in there cause I didn't want to like break the energy of the book.

[00:07:10] So we did, we stuck an afterward in the back and that's me looking at the past 10 years and trying to think about how the world has changed and how the world hasn't changed and , and how the message of the book still resonates.

[00:07:25] Zach: Thanks. I want to ask you about creativity cause , I've got a storied history with creativity. I never considered myself. Ever, because I didn't, , write music, I didn't draw pictures. Like I didn't do things that were, , art and I never considered myself creative. And then it dawned on me at work one day that like, I come up with creative solutions, you know, for work.

[00:07:48] Like, so I'd love to hear you talk about what creative is, what it isn't, because I know I struggled for a long time, not knowing that I was actually creative.

[00:07:57] Austin Kleon: Yeah. I mean, I have a pretty broad definition of it, and I think a lot of it comes from my background. I mean, I grew up in a very small town outside of a small town in the middle of the cornfield. And so a lot of the creativity I witnessed as a young person was a very kind of homespun Korean creativity.

[00:08:16] Like I watching my mom bake and watching her. So, , watching my dad. You know, build a barn, you know? Um, so it was that kind of, you know, I was surrounded with a lot of stuff that at the time I might not have considered great of either, but, now that I have the hindsight, it's like, I think of creativity is just literally taking what's in front of you and everyone else and turning it into something new, something that's useful or novel, or that pushes the world forward in the sense, um, And, and in that sense, it's a very broad.

[00:08:54] Definition. So broad, in fact that I think pretty much everybody in any kind of job there or any kind of life there's there's space for more creativity in it. And I think that's what the, you know, that's what it's still like an artist tries to do, is it tries to broaden people's idea of. Creative work is and give permission to people who don't feel like they're quote unquote creative, , to harness, their creative energies.

[00:09:20] Cause I think everybody has a, you know, I think all children have it , and I think all adults have the potential to, to reconnect with it.

[00:09:27] Jeremy: What you mentioned here, and obviously in the book, the idea of taking what's in front of you and making something new from it. I think a lot of people that. Either, maybe it define themselves as a creative or not. I think there is a tendency to feel like you're not creative because you're just taking someone else's inspiration, right?

[00:09:44] Like, oh, I'm not creative. I'm just taking this thing that I read and I'm turning it into something else. But that's how we've evolved as human beings. Right. Isn't that the very nature of grief.

[00:09:53] Austin Kleon: It's funny because. one of the things that happened in parallel with the book is my wife was pregnant with our first kiddo. When the book came out and said, The book turning 10 means that I have a kid that's about to turn 10. And it's funny, when I look back at the book the other day, I was like, oh, there's a lot about genealogy in here.

[00:10:12] There's actually a, there's a bit about the genealogy of ideas. And if you think about how we got here as people it's because people, , combined their DNA together and grew this whole new thing, you know, and, and, and that. That's true of ideas. And that's true of art too, is that you take the DNA of the stuff that's come before and you smash it together and it mutates, and it turns into something new, and it happens in nature too. I, I do think of it that way. And I think that this kind of. This is kind of the way people thought about this stuff for years and years and years, I think it was really the romantic era that kind of gave us the image of the genius.

[00:10:55] You know, the lone individual who, who was like the superhuman that was above everyone else who just kind of pulled things out of the air, whether it was from the muse or from God or whatever. But I think the great thing about many of the people we consider geniuses is that when you dig into their biographies, they are surrounded with rich, rich networks of people.

[00:11:19] They were connected to an ideas they were connected to and they were stealing and filching and borrowing from all sorts of sources, you know? And, and, I think that's the great thing about when you're trying to become. A creative person or you're trying to do creative work.

[00:11:35] The more you're a student of the form of what you're doing. And the more you kind of dig in to these stories, the more empowering they should be for you, you know? Cause you realize that all this work really was made by humans. Right? Ordinary all humans in a sense sensor ordinary. So, um, yeah, everything builds on what came before.

[00:11:56] You know, it's an ancient idea. They were saying it nature in Egypt 4,000 years ago. So.

[00:12:02] Zach: Yeah. So on, on top of that building though, , if you're the person who is, , taking it to the next level, , there can be some imposter syndrome in there too. I'm doing something new, something nobody's ever done before, , can you talk a little bit about that and how, I mean, I assume that that can block some people from moving forward with their creativity.

[00:12:21] Austin Kleon: Yeah. And you actually made the connection that, that I don't think people tend to make with imposter syndrome, but you, you are a went there because I think a lot of times when people feel like imposters it's because they're venturing into unknown territory. You have to be okay with uncertainty and the unknown to get anywhere new.

[00:12:42] And that's when you tend to think, well, I really don't know what I'm doing here. And that's a good thing because if you did know what you were doing, you wouldn't be getting somewhere undiscovered. You know, and so I like that you already put that together in saying that that there's imposter syndrome that comes with coming up with something new, but I I'm a big, I think that really, it just, it, it takes a lot of self-delusion.

[00:13:09] In creative work, you know, I mean, you really have to kind of trick yourself into thinking that you, you know, have any right to do any of this stuff, you know? , and people talk about my books in terms of permission a lot, and that word has always. It's kinda itchy on me because I'm like, I don't know how to teach teacher handing out bathroom passes.

[00:13:30] Like I don't permission, like, uh, you know, you don't permission, but then I was at this art show by this artist named Nita catcher, Dorian, and I was looking at her work. It was just so funny and freeing, and I thought, God, I just want to go home and make things. And I thought, oh, this is it. This is the permission.

[00:13:48] People talk about, like, Nina's giving me permission to like go home and, keep the humor in my work. Don't try to be too serious that you can make serious art. That still has a sense of humor. You know, I felt very, like I was permitted by her work and I think that the permission slip. That we get in a sense is the work that we're drawn to, you know?

[00:14:10] That's why I always liked about punk rock is, is that, the best punk rock when you listen to it or you see a band on stage. Well, I could do that if I had the guts, you know, and the re and I could pick up a guitar and try this there, Bernard Sumner, the lead singer of new order and the guitar player, joy division, you know, he's said, we went to see the sex pistols and Manchester, and they were terrible.

[00:14:36] And I wanted to get up and be terrible with them, you know? And that's it. We're brought to the, they were brought to our gifts through the gifts of others, you

[00:14:45] Jeremy: yeah, but a bit of a tangent, but, uh, I know you wrote about, , picking up the guitar 10 years ago. How have your last 10 years with the guitar?

[00:14:52] Austin Kleon: Um, well, you know, the guitar is kind of my second love. My first love is the piano. That's, that's the instrument I was sorta trained on. That's what I was drawn to in the beginning. And that's actually the instrument. That's the richest for me. , I think a lot of it comes from it's a weird when I try to explain this to people, a piano is a more visual instrument than the guitar in the sense that when you sit down at the keyboard, All the notes are right in front of you.

[00:15:21] You just have to press them. And at the right velocity, in the right order, when you look at your guitar, it's sort of the same, except that like, you know, you can't just put your fingers down, you gotta like, you know, you got to shape the chords, right? Yeah. This strong, differently. There's a whole, it's a total different thing.

[00:15:38] And I actually. Uh, this is a tangent, but I actually prefer four string guitars because I always thought it was crazy that there were six strings on a guitar and you only have really four fingers and a thumb to, to manipulate. So I actually have a, tenor ukulele, which is my favorite guitar.

[00:15:55] Um, and I like it because any finger you move, it becomes a new chord. And I think that's part of the creative. Yeah. People ask me all the time. What kind of pen do you use? What kind of notebook do you use? Like what are your tools? And I do think that's kind of borrowed the creative life is, is finding the instruments, , that appealed to you.

[00:16:17] And that, you know, the, sometimes people say the instrument chooses the player rather than the other way around, you know? So there's the tangent for you.

[00:16:27] Zach: That's awesome. I can tell you, my instrument is a whiteboard personally.

[00:16:30] Austin Kleon: got one of those over . Here too. You know, we could spend, we could spin the camera around and look at that. , yeah. I'm like everyone else in Austin, I'm sort of a failed musician or a musician on the side, you

[00:16:42] know, that's what I, I would actually like to be,

[00:16:45] Jeremy: Oh, in my head, my albums have sold like crazy. It's it's the learning, the chords parts. That's the challenge. Uh, but, but speaking of the instrument, a piece of the advice that you have is to not write what you know, but to write what you like, which seems con uh, in contrast with what we always hear is write what, you know, because that's the thing that you're going to be able to write the most about.

[00:17:05] So what do you mean.

[00:17:06] Austin Kleon: Well, when I was younger, you know, I would read that I think maybe that's Hemingway or whoever it is I would read, you know, you need to write what, you know, you need to write true to your experience. And I was thinking, well, I don't have that. I'm 19 or, you know, I don't know anything, you know?

[00:17:22] And so I always felt like the better advice was to write the kind of thing that you like to read. , and so, you know, you start out like, okay, he loves Elmore Leonard. Then you write stories that sound like Elmore Leonard at first. Oh. But then you start getting into joy Williams. You're like, well, what would the combination of joy Williams and Elmore Leonard be like?

[00:17:41] And then you try to write those weird stories and eventually you add enough author. That you love, and you kind of find your own voice through this weird mishmash mix up of voices and something of your own emerges. And, and I always felt like that was a much more productive way of thinking about it is that if there's you think about it as the back and forth, you do a lot of reading.

[00:18:07] And then when there's a gap in the bookshelf that doesn't have the book that you want to read, that's the book that you write.

[00:18:15] Zach: .

[00:18:15] Nice. So. And I wanted to ask you about that. I just, I feel like I just naturally fit into his be boring.

[00:18:24] Austin Kleon: Yes. Yes. Um, so, you know, we have our images of, and again, this comes from the romantics, the idea of the moody genius, um, yeah. You know, corrals thing and, and drinking and drugging and, and being wild. , but , when you really look at artists who have. A real longevity to their work and an actual career.

[00:18:50] There comes a point where they have to work. They work all the time. They just work. That's the thing that kind of unites them. It's, it's, it's all about the work and. Part of the thing about doing creative work is that you have to say no to certain exciting things in the world so that you can say yes to yourself and to do your work.

[00:19:08] Um, boost style flow. Baer said it very well. He said you have to be orderly and, , Normal and your everyday life so that you could be violent and original in your work, you know? And I think there's a spectrum for everyone. I think he does. Some people work on, on different wavelengths when it comes to that.

[00:19:26] But for me, it's always been about, there's going to be a lot of things that you have to say no to, in order to say yes to the work.

[00:19:34] Jeremy: I want to combine three points that I think creates a question that pretty much any podcast or faces. And it's the idea of enjoying obscurity, uh, putting your work online and, uh, building your online community. I mean that, in a nutshell, that is a podcast or I'm obscure my works online. I'm trying to build a community.

[00:19:54] Even if you're a writer, somebody who is trying to just trying to break through, what advice would you have to you before you wrote this book or to that person who has that podcast? That's like, how do you build that community? Where do you find them and how do you get them interested in what you have.

[00:20:10] Austin Kleon: Well, you know, unfortunately, you know, I, I've been very interested in you, tubing, you tubing something. I don't really understand. And there was a reader of show, your work, , named Alia doll, , who has a very, very loyal following on YouTube. And he reached out to me. He said, you know, show your work changed my life.

[00:20:29] The reason I have a million people on YouTube was like, it's cause I read this book and I did what you told me to do. And I thought, well, if it worked for you, why hasn't it worked for me? I don't have a million, you know, uh, viewers on YouTube, but like one of the things that Ali talks about is that the first 50 videos you make or whatever it is on YouTube, that's you just figuring out how to make a video.

[00:20:54] You know, and then the next hundred and 50 videos are you slowly amassing an audience, you know? And he does presentations and I've watched these cause I'm just so fascinated. You know, he says most of the people's problems is they just. Do it long enough, they don't stick around long enough to watch those bits and pieces of effort over time stack up.

[00:21:19] And so the way I usually tell people, when they're thinking about an audience is I'm like we'll do something and do it consistently do it at a frequency. So tell yourself I'm going to make a video every week. And it's going to be about this general topic and I'm going to show up every week and I'm going to do this thing and I'm going to do it for two years.

[00:21:43] And I'm going to make myself do it, and I'm gonna see where I am at the end of the two years. Right. , I felt that way about my newsletter. Like my newsletter when steal, like an artist came out 10 years ago, didn't exist. Well, now there's a hundred thousand people who read the newsletter every week and.

[00:21:59] It, it's not like I just got a hundred thousand followers, you know, I wouldn't show your work came out in 2014. I think I had like 3,500 people on the newsletter, you know? So it was like, every year I add about 10,000 people.

[00:22:15] Jeremy: Yeah.

[00:22:16] Austin Kleon: And it's incredible, but it's, it's just that slow build of sending one out every week and coming up with new stuff and, you know, just doing it over and over again, and really concentrating on the word.

[00:22:30] Making the word good. Seeing what people like adjusting as necessary and being true to what you want to see in the world. You know? Cause I think that's the really important thing. You know, a lot of people, they try to make what they think the world wants. The problem is that you're going to only come up with people who want that thing and you don't really want an audience that wants things that you don't want to give them, you know?

[00:22:56] And, and that's. I have felt blessed in my career. And that I always felt like if I just stuck to what was truly an honestly interesting to me that the right people would show up. And so far that I've been lucky and they have, 

[00:23:16] yeah.

[00:23:17] Zach: That's awesome. I, I I've seen something similar in that, , if you go into something like scratching your own name, And you, you, you succeed in it. The people will show up for it, right. Something similar.

[00:23:30] Austin Kleon: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, and, and another thing is, there's a great Kim Gordon, the bass player and singer for Sonic youth, you know, she says people will pay to watch other people believe in themselves, that's such a great thing too, is to, to give yourself that permission to be yourself and to be interested in what you're truly interested in and communicate that interest to others in a way that's natural to you in a way that, you know, only you could do it.

[00:24:04] That's when I think people show up, , and sometimes you might not have the right format, like I'm not sure that YouTube would be the right format for me. Newsletters, for example, they are a great format for me. Now, the thing I think people just don't get, especially younger people is just how freaking long everything takes.

[00:24:20] Because if you look at my bio, it's like, oh, well you started blogging in 2005. Well, okay. That's 17 years ago. Okay. But then. What they don't know is there in high school? I had a website that I was trying to, you know what I mean? They, that I was learning how to do websites when I was 15. And so, you know, there's this whole, you know, there's a great apocryphal.

[00:24:44] Can't be true story of Picasso, but this lady sees him in a park and you've heard this story. It's like the lady seasonal crisis. Oh, Picasso doodle me something. And he whipped a napkin and writes on. And then gives it to her and she's a wonderful, you know, and he says, that's, that's, you know, that's $50,000 or whatever.

[00:25:02] She's what's, it just took you five seconds to doodle this. And he says, Madam, it's taken me my whole life. You know, that, that story is totally bogus. That never happened to Picasso when it does speak to something, which is, we don't see everything that led up to this point.  , .

[00:25:19] When you're admiring people, because that is how we're brought to things. We want to do certain kinds of work because we see people doing that work. You just don't see everything that's gone into a

[00:25:29] Jeremy: I love the way you described watching someone be a self-confident I've, I've always sort of wrestled with why I even go to a concert or go to a lecture or have one of my favorite writers or something. And I, and I'll think to myself, I'm going to spend money to watch five guys play their guitars. Like, why am I spending so much money?

[00:25:47] But there's something about seeing them. It's almost inhuman to watch someone who just shines, who, whatever that thing is, is in them just explodes out into an arena of a hundred thousand people or whatever, like

[00:26:01] Austin Kleon: I, 

[00:26:01] Jeremy: that is such a unique experience.

[00:26:03] Austin Kleon: I can tell you exactly who changed my life. That way. There is a woman named, Linda Berry and she's a cartoonist and she's written several beautiful books about art and creativity. , not to mention. For decade five decade long career as a cartoonist. , but I watched her read one night. , my friend Dan Shaun invited me to Oberlin college to watch her read.

[00:26:28] He was head of the creative writing program and I spent one hour watching this woman, read her work and talk to people. And I thought, I truly feel that I've read. Most of my career off the fumes of that, of, of being in touch with whatever magic or energy that she exudes. And, and what you just said is, is a lot of how I feel about creative work now is that it's really about the transmission of energy.

[00:26:58] And I think that's why I like books is that you package all this energy. It's like, it's almost like a. Lump of coal or compressing a diamond or something. There's a geology to it where there's extreme pressure. You're, you're putting all this energy into the solid object and it's, it's in there, but it's like dormant, you know, it's in there and it's.

[00:27:21] Do anything like this, but once the rear does this and starts turning the pages, then that energy is unlocked. And I think it's true of many art forms. You know, it's like the, the Ramones record on the shelf doesn't do anything, but then I put the needle on it. It explodes. 

[00:27:40] No. 

[00:27:41] Zach: I want to ask you about, , in the bio that we have for you, it mentioned, , principles that you wished you had had when you were 19 years old. So I really just want to ask you straight up, like, what are the, what's the one or two things that you really wish you could go back and tell your 19 year old self.

[00:27:57] Austin Kleon: I've always been inspired by George Saunders, the writer, I look up to him in a lot of ways. And you know, his graduation speech that he gave was, uh, most of the failures in his life, your regrets were failures of kindness, um, situations in which he could have been kinder. And I think that that.

[00:28:15] My most haunting memories and regrets of my life or times when I wasn't as kind as I could have been. I wish actually one thing I thought about changing in the book is number eight is be nice. The world is a small town. I almost changed it to be kind the world is a small town, because I think there's a difference between being nice, which is very Midwestern.

[00:28:40] I'm from 

[00:28:41] Jeremy: Yeah. 

[00:28:42] Austin Kleon: and there's being kind, which is different. , but I, I would say because. You know that I would, I would make a distinction to him between niceness and kindness. , and I think that would be the most important, but really, uh, you know, the really funny thing about 10 years. And when you look back, you know, I've been a parent for almost 10 years now, too.

[00:29:03] And, and one of the things, you know, is that you really can't tell anyone anything

[00:29:08] Jeremy: Yeah. Yeah, that's very

[00:29:10] Austin Kleon: that, you know, you can give them the words, but they'll w the words will only ring true through experience. Yeah.

[00:29:17] Jeremy: And on that subject, you know, one of the things that, , is kind of the benchmark for us here is trying to help people with , whatever mindset they're trying to get into to lose weight, write the book, whatever the thing is that they're holding themselves back. How would you encourage someone who maybe has that creative project or they've that guitar has been sitting on the shelf for 10 years or whatever the thing is, what do they need to do to get over that hurdle of one day?

[00:29:40] I'm gonna, and then just actually starting.

[00:29:44] Austin Kleon: What I sometimes I'm like, what is working? What is one thing that you can do every day? And it takes nothing out of you, you know? And how can you change? So, for example, like, it's very interesting with fitness. I mean, I'm not the most fit guy. I've

[00:30:00] Jeremy: Neither are 

[00:30:01] we don't worry 

[00:30:01] Austin Kleon: you know, I've noticed like with pushups, it's like, well, if you just do one push-up a day and you add one, you know, eventually you could do a hundred pushups.

[00:30:13] It's just not, it's not. Rocket science. You just, you just do, you do pushups every day and you just add each day and eventually you could do a hundred pushups. It's not that much different for drawing or playing the piano or whatever it is. Once you get the mechanics of what it's like to practice and like put in the effort every day, that transfers to many, many different things.

[00:30:39] So like I just took up biking. I just bought a new bike three weeks ago and. Because I've done lots of different things and I know how crummy I was going to be at first. And I just had no ego in it whatsoever. And I found a neighbor down the street who has been biking for decades and has decades on me and can still whip my ass every time we go out.

[00:31:04] But like I found someone who could take me, I found kind of a bike mentor, you know, and, and I know even after three. The improvements. Incredible, but I still know how bad I am and I, I know this one hill, I'm like every time I go up and I'm like dying up this hill and I'm like, there's one day. I'm going to beat this hill, but it's going to take weeks and weeks and weeks, you know, and I just, I that's, what I like about staying alive, you know, is that, that experience of what it's like to be crummy and to slowly get better at something that transfers to multiple places.

[00:31:44] And so. When people are thinking about taking on a creative endeavor, think less of it as like magic and think more of it like doing pushups or something that you've, there has been a time in your life where you didn't know how to do something and you learned it and you got to somewhere else to think of it the same way, you know?

[00:32:04] And just, and, and, and that's all there really is to it. I think

[00:32:08] Jeremy: I, I far prefer the being alive to the alternative. I, it's so 

[00:32:11] Austin Kleon: it beats, beats, yeah. Being upright. Beets beets a lot. Yes.

[00:32:18] Jeremy: uh, man, I have a million more questions and, and wish we had hours, but we don't. Uh, where can we learn more about you and find the book and all the things.

[00:32:25] Austin Kleon: Oh, I'm the same place I've been for 20 years now. I met Austin kleon.com and that's where you can find all the books and the newsletter and everything else in between.

[00:32:35] Jeremy: Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time. This is a lot of fun. We really appreciate your time.

[00:32:39] Austin Kleon: Thanks. Y'all uh, I had a lot of fun and thanks for having me.

[00:32:42] Jeremy: 

[00:32:42] our thanks to Austin Kleon, author of steal, like an artist. You can find links to him and his work in the show notes for this episode@thefitness.com.

[00:32:50] And Zach, I hope you were paying attention because as we just learned anyone and everyone can be creative, it's a skill like any other that can be developed where you paying attention during that part.

[00:32:59] Zach: I'm sorry, what I've been working on. I've been working on developing my listening skills there. They're not great right now. No really I was listening, but like anything else that's really worth doing, you've got to practice and it takes time to, , get the mechanics of the activity and get it down. , I know for me being creative is not something that like felt natural to me. So now when I'm actually being creative or when I know I have to be creative, it still feels a little bit weird, but I get a little bit better every time I practice. , and this applies everywhere. Like it's not just art. It applies to fitness, professional growth, parenting carpentry. You're trying to figure it out on YouTube and believe it or not, even if you're going to try an underwater basket. It applies there because surprisingly that's really fucking hard to do. 

[00:33:45] Jeremy: More than anything with all these skills, that's probably going to take you longer than you think. And it's definitely gonna take you longer than you wish it would to see the results. So it's just that, that age old idea of don't quit on Tuesday because you don't know what's going to happen on Wednesday.

[00:34:00] Anything that's worth pursuing, it's gonna take time. It's gonna take effort and you just have to be patient and wait for the results to come when the time is right.

[00:34:07] Zach: I know it's going to happen on Wednesday. It's in my calendar. 

[00:34:09] Jeremy: Oh, well, that's handy. You gotta, you gotta keep track of these things. You know, you don't want to 

[00:34:13] Zach: I've got a, I've got an, I've got a 12, 15 appointment. This is be creative. 

[00:34:16] Jeremy: creative 12, 15. What does that look like? What, what tools do you use to get creative at 1215 on Wednesday?

[00:34:22] Zach: Usually it involves going to the pantry, opening it up and like eating Sesame sticks or something like that. 

[00:34:28] Jeremy: , you got to work on that creativity. 

[00:34:30] Zach: I know, I love it. 

[00:34:32] Jeremy: All right. Don't let the conversation about creativity and then all things self-development. And they're join us in our Facebook group, where you and fellow fitness listeners can connect for monthly challenges, accountability to reach your goals , and find a supportive community.

[00:34:44] That link is also at our website, the fitness.com, where we will be back next week with a brand new episode. Thanks for listening. 


AUSTIN KLEON Profile Photo



AUSTIN KLEON is the New York Times bestselling author of
STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative ~10TH ANNIVERSARY GIFT EDITION, and the original Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work!, The Steal Like an Artist Journal: A Notebook for Creative Kleptomaniacs, and Keep Going. His work has been translated into over twenty languages and featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS NewsHour, and in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. New York magazine called his work “brilliant,” the Atlantic called him “positively one of the most interesting people on the Internet,” and the New Yorker said his poems “resurrect the newspaper when everybody else is declaring it dead.” He speaks about creativity in the digital age for organizations such as Pixar, Google, SXSW, TEDx, and the Economist. In previous lives, he worked as a librarian, a web designer, and an advertising copywriter. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and sons.