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Joey Cofone

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Creativity is not magic

Do you have to suffer to build character? We get philosophical in part two of our conversation with Baronfig founder and author Joey Cofone. He and Chris continue their discussion about The Laws of Creativity and delve into the role failure—and sometimes delusion—plays in the story of success.

We like how Joey explains the concept of creativity: like a musical instrument, creativity is a practical trade that you can learn, develop, and improve over time.

Nov 2

Creativity is not magic

Do you have to suffer to build character? We get philosophical in part two of our conversation with Baronfig founder and author Joey Cofone.

How to learn from the naysayers.

Do you have to suffer to build character? We get philosophical in part two of our conversation with Baronfig founder and author Joey Cofone. He and Chris continue their discussion about The Laws of Creativity and delve into the role failure—and sometimes delusion—plays in the story of success.

We like how Joey explains the concept of creativity: like a musical instrument, creativity is a practical trade that you can learn, develop, and improve over time.

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Greg Gunn

Greg Gunn is an illustrator, animator and creative director in Los Angeles, CA. He loves helping passionate people communicate their big ideas in fun and exciting ways.

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How to learn from the naysayers.

Episode Transcript

Joey:

I recently did a workshop and afterwards the host sent me some responses from the feedback form, and it was all positive. And they said, "Well done, we're glad to have you." I responded to him and I said, "Hey, man, that's really cool, but do you mind sending me some of the negative ones? I'd love to learn what people may not have liked." It's the same reason, even if I disagree or maybe it's just not right for them, I still want to know, so that I can personally process that because there is a lot to learn from negative Nancies.

Chris:

I'm going to take it back a little bit, because we've talked about this before, but now I'm looking at this moment in your life through the lens of the book is that your mom passes away, you're 13 years old, and I don't wish this on anybody. We all should have two loving parents who give us unconditional love, who support us, who are our number one fans and tell us everything is possible. But, in a way, losing your mom and your primary caretaker there, is that you have no one else to depend on. This is me playing amateur psychoanalyst here. It's like, well, if you don't turn outward for validation, then you turn inward or you die, basically, because you need some form of love and we get it externally. But you gave yourself internally, you learn to love yourself and to just look at the world as like, you know what, I'm an independent person operating system, I don't need external inputs to tell me if I'm moving in the right direction. Is that fair or no?

Joey:

Yeah, that's really well said, too. Looking internally instead of externally for validation at a young age. Because I think for most of us, it does eventually flip and we learn that or we have to become that for our own kids and then it's sort of forced upon us in a different way. But for me, it was a forced experience to have to do that at a young age, and I'm grateful. I get often asked if I could go back and change things, would I? Aside from of course my mom not passing away and whatnot, for me, as a person, if we're talking about me, the things that challenged me, forced me to grow.

So, I became accidentally a confident dude at a young age, because if something happened, it was only me that was going to pull myself out of it. If something challenged me, it was really only me that was going to solve it. So, the self-sufficiency happened at a younger age than normal and at a more formative time than normal. A lot came from it. This book being one of them, I would not be doing what I do now if that didn't happen. Then the book therefore would not have been written or created and it's all connected.

Chris:

Yeah. I think about this, if your mom hadn't passed, I'm sure you're still Joey, but maybe not the Joey we know today, and maybe your timeline looks a little bit different, maybe you don't get to do all the things that you're doing at the age in which you've done it. I mean, you're still remarkably a young person. So, this whole very traumatic thing caused you to be more self-reliant, to become more resilient and to be able to self-validate, which is an incredible gift in a way. I often cite Game of Thrones like Brandon Stark, he doesn't become the three-eyed raven unless horrific things happen to him, his siblings and his family, right?

Joey:

Yeah, dude, I think we might have talked about this either on camera, recorded, or before after last time, when we were talking about kids and this suffering that brings upon wisdom, essentially, or perspective. When you have kids, that you want to give your kids, and you know this, you want to give your kids the greatest opportunities and you don't want them to suffer, but at the same time, it's the suffering that can really expand one's strength. How do you deal with that? How do you look at that having kids now and being five years into it from when we last spoke?

Chris:

Yeah, I'm unusual and I do want my kids to suffer. I really do. It's a fight that my wife and I, when I say fight is a disagreement, that my wife and I get in often, I'll give you some examples. Because I believe some of the hardships creates desire and nothing motivates you like having desire. When you have zero desires left in life, because everything is given to you, and then what do you work towards? How do you develop self-discipline?

One example is this. My son goes to a school not that far away, but it's not convenient for public transportation. When we were living on the West Side, he would take the train back and she would pick him up in Santa Monica, so her commute wasn't so bad. Now what he's doing is he's Ubering home. When I told her, "He could take a different train, it's just a different path." We live on the East Side now. She goes, "Well, it's not really worth it, it's just so much time." You know what? I don't have the greatest memories of riding the shame train as we referred to it, but those moments of being responsible, catching the bus when you needed to, paying attention, not falling asleep and being aware of your surroundings formed some part of me. I told her like, "It is good for him to ride public transportation," not to say I can solve a problem by throwing $20 at it by taking an Uber home.

Here's another example. The kids, they need technological devices to do what they do. I said, "He doesn't need the most expensive, largest iPad. There are people who can create so much more with far fewer resource," and is in fact the computer he's complaining about is 100 times more powerful than the computer we built this whole company on. She's always like, "Why do you think like that? Why don't you just buy them the biggest and the best? Because the money's not a problem." And there's something, maybe I'm defective in that way. I do want my kids to suffer. I do want them to long to have things and to have that drive. What's your perspective on that?

Joey:

I'm with you, man. 100%. I think, and I can say from experience that I have been in rooms with people who have gotten the best and who have the best opportunities and money's never been an object, never been a concern. I have unfortunately been let down by their ability to perform things that I've needed them to perform. People I've hired, people I've collaborated with, where I'm supposed to be equals. I don't know how to say this without sounding like an ass. It's like I can run circles around them and I don't want them, I don't want to, and I'm not even giving myself credit. It's just the things that happened to me were not my choice. Likewise, the things that their parents have decided to give them were really out of their control and this is the result.

Like when you go to the gym, you want make it extremely practical. If you go to the gym and lift a weight you can already lift, your muscle's not going to grow. But if you lift the weight that's hard and you suffer and you get sore and have some pain the next day, that is where you're growing. The metaphor holds with life experience. I'm on the verge of potentially having kids and I'm sure you know what I'm saying. We're working on that and that's entering the conversation now in my mid 30s, where, "Let's do this thing." And this is a big one for me is how do I have my kids suffer in a way where they're going to grow? Thank you for sharing that. I agree with you. You could play this for your wife. I agree.

Chris:

Honey, are you listening?

Joey:

It's hard, because at the same time you don't want your kids to not have the best. Chris, you have to really stress yourself I think to put that on them and let them go through that, because you do have the power to not... You have the power to make it easy and I'm sure there's so much love there for your children that you just want everything to be great. Anyway, I commend you, man, for saying that out loud and explaining that. I think that's something we all need to hear and hopefully, culturally, can start to adopt more of.

Chris:

Yeah. I want to share something also super personal with you, and it's an 18-year experiment, maybe longer, in that I'm a little emotionally distant from my children. I don't try to give them too much. I want them to suffer. Every time my son comes and asks me, "Dad, how do I do this thing?" I'm like, "Have you tried asking in Google that question first? Have you even tried?" I mean, there's no harm in you messing up. There's very few ways for you actually screw up in a way that can't be repaired or you could start over. So, I don't want to create this condition when they're constantly looking for someone to give them all the answers that they've no longer... They've lost the desire to try and to fail. I want to build failure into the normal dialogue.

We have exercises on admitting when we're wrong. We just go around in the car when we're driving, "Everybody tell us something that you screw it up in." Because that tells me you're trying something new. Now, some of the people in the car, I won't name names, they have a really hard time admitting that they're wrong and they just won't say anything. I'll say, "I'll tell you five things I'm stupid at, that I'm terrible at, that I totally screwed up," just to make that normal. I think it's the avoidance of making mistakes that creates this state of mind that moves you away from creativity and feeling fulfilled and happy.

Joey:

You reminded me of, in my research, I found that Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, which is one of the stories in the book, but I didn't write this particular thing, is that her dad, just like what you're saying, her dad would sit them around the dinner table every night and say, "What did we fail at today?" Never, "What did you succeed at?" It was always a discussion about what did you fail at? Although, she didn't say it, I assume that then it went to... It did two things. One, acceptance of failure. And two, I'm sure they talked about what did you learn from that? And Sara Blakely goes on to fail a bunch of times before she makes Spanx a billion dollar company. That thinking is instrumental.

Earlier on you asked me about the techniques and it is, I want to circle back briefly and say that if there were a technique to being able to be more creative, I think it would be allowing yourself to suffer more to understand that failure and trying again and learning, which is instrumental to creating are nothing that you should avoid. Failing is totally fine. Failure is directly proportional to success and so on.

Anyway, you made me think of that and I do feel strongly that it's probably why a book like this hasn't been written, Chris. When I first created a little pitch thing and I was like, "Let me go the traditional route." And I went to, thanks to some of the collaborators we've had, I went to an editor for one of the best selling books in the world and I told him, "Hey, I've got The Laws of Creativity." And he was like, "I love it." I said, "I'm going to teach people how to remember what they forgot." "I love it." And I said, "Yeah. There's 39 laws." And he said, "That's a terrible idea."

I said, "Well, what do you mean, man? What's going on?" He said, "It's got to be five or seven laws. That's it. People don't want 39." I said, "Well, that's why this book has never been written, because this is the type of thing that doesn't fit into seven laws. If someone tells you that, perhaps it's not as holistic as it could be," without crapping on anybody's books out there. Whereas, I'm trying to say, "Here's how you think, here's how you act and here's how you'd be great. Whatever the laws there were, which it ended up being 39, I observed them, I didn't create them, and this is what I can do."

At that point he said that, he's like, "I'm not your guy." I agreed. I said, "No, you're not. It just can't be done." It reminds me a bit of how you said earlier, someone who's naive and comes to a new area, in this case book writing. And I'm not all caught up on the marketing and the pizzazz of how a book needs to perfectly presented through five laws or seven laws, can write a book like this and say, "I've actually made something that no one has written, because I'm not following the conventional rules. Just like with the lasting machine.

Chris:

I want to tie it to something that we talked about earlier that you talk about in the book, but a story that I heard someone share that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck came to Hollywood to become Hollywood stars and become prominent actors. They tried out for Dead Poets Society and they didn't get the role. Instead of thinking that they're terrible, that they're bad and that they should quit, they came to the conclusion that Hollywood is broken and the system doesn't work. With that concept, they just said, "We'll just need to write our own movie and make it a part of the contract. If you want to produce this script, then you have to cast us." That's how they did it. They didn't accept the no, and they didn't internalize one setback or failure as something that's a condition that they created, but that the world is messed up, not just them. I love that kind of delusional thinking, because it can lead to a lot of breakthroughs.

In a case when you're talking about this editor, who should have been the authority to say, "Joey, do not do this." You just came to the conclusion, "No, it's the right book. You're just the wrong person for it. I need to do it the way I believe to be true." I think what we need to do, as society, as parents, as leaders within an organization is to normalize failure. We have to take away the stigma of failure, because the opposite of failure... On the other side of failure is that we're going to take risk. We're going to be more curious. We're going to try things that we've never tried before. We're going to dare to do something that's not been done before, or at least done by us. That opens us up to true creativity.

I'm trying to figure out how a way to land a plane here. Joey, you've written a book, it's thick. You would not think that creative people would want to read a book this thick. But you've now explained why it's 400-plus pages and there are very few pictures, my friends, there are a couple illustrations that demonstrate key ideas. But I do want to say this, I'm saying this in a genuine way. It's really well-organized, it's well written, well-researched, and it's an easy read.

Some of the famous people that you've had commenting on the book, it holds true. I check in with myself like, "Do I believe these things?" I think of myself as a pretty creative person. There isn't a single thing in here that I've read, except for one, which I'm going to talk to you about in a second, where I'm like, "Ah, I don't know about that, Joey." Everything else is ringing true. Now, the thing I want to talk to you about, and maybe it's just semantics here, but you talk about boredom and why boredom is not good for creativity. Why don't you tell us what you think about that? And then I'm going to argue with you in a second.

Joey:

Yeah. That was the part that I was conflicted about as well, because I know that when I'm ruminating is when I can come up with my greatest ideas. What we have, a lot of the discussion these days is about how kids need to actually be okay with being bored and then entertain themselves. It isn't always reaching for the screen or the controller or the television or whatever it is, or your phone, to entertain yourself. I had to make a distinction. Hopefully, after I explain this, I believe I may have mentioned in the book, so I might need to do a better job.

Which is, to the outsider, boredom, and I'm going to introduce the second half, is stillness. They look the same. So, I am anti-boredom because a boredom is a judgment on the stillness. A boredom is saying that I am unhappy with my situation. I'm unhappy being in a moment of nothingness. And it's a negative interpretation. Whereas stillness I feel like is an objective description of what could appear as boredom, which is just to be still. So, actually stillness is something that I want people to experience and I want them to leverage and search out, which is the ability to sit down and appear bored, but actually be mentally active in their stillness.

Chris:

Okay. I like that explanation a lot better. Okay. We don't have to argue so much. Okay. All right. It wasn't a real argument.

Joey:

No, no, I understand.

Chris:

The chapter where I'm referring to, I think when you're doing something over and over again, and you're not stretching yourself, I think you're saying like, "Now you're going to be bored and that's not a good thing. It's anti-creative." Right?

Joey:

Right.

Chris:

I think that's a pretty accurate description. If you're not challenging yourself, if you're not growing, that does not make a creative person happy, in my opinion. But the stillness part is I think critical to being a creative. Something that I've said, which I also get people who will argue against me, I would say boredom is a precursor to creativity. Let me explain that. I believe we're talking the same language now. I find that when we're running in that creative rat race, when we're asked to turn on creativity on tap, on demand, as needed by client-mandated projects and deadlines, we can get stuck in this pattern of thinking, so we go back to our most reliable techniques and ways of thinking, so that we can get the job done.

I've always found it that when I'm on vacation, traveling with my family, when I leave all my work behind, after a day and a half of just detaching from work and everything and every stress that I have, I get bored really fast. I'm like, "What am I doing here? I'm just sitting here, stillness." I'm like, "I have to be in this moment." It's when I let go of all the other stuff, I have the clearest thinking and I feel the most fertile creative ideas come in this moment. I think what we have to do, as creative people, especially if you're asked to produce work on a regular schedule, is to build in moments of quietness, with stillness, where you're thinking about absolutely nothing, so that you allow all parts of your subconscious, unconscious brain to connect dots for you in ways that you didn't think possible. I'll turn it back over to you to see if we're in agreement or there's some disagreement here.

Joey:

Yeah, I'm 1,000% behind you. I like that you mentioned your subconscious mind. There's a portion of the book about that, and I called it float, which is the sister half of flow. Flow we all know is when you're in the moment and time drips away and you're connected to what you're doing. It turns out that people are only in flow about 5% of their day, which is I think roughly 24 minutes of the workday, something like that. What happens is, because it's a named thing, we tend to think, "Okay, this is one tool in our toolbox." There's not necessarily an antithesis, but there is something which is stepping away. So, stepping away from it, as opposed to being sucked into something, which I call float. It's like floating down the river versus flowing with the river.

We've all had this experience, where you are hopping in the shower and that is when all the ideas come. Or when you're on vacation, and you're like, "Now I'm done." And that's when the ideas start pouring, in stillness and leveraging float. I found in my life, man, I am guilty of not stepping away enough. There was a period of three years I didn't take one vacation day. I mean, I'm doing this 10 years now, and I don't think I've done a two-week vacation ever.

But an interesting thing happened earlier this summer in July, I think it was, early July. I got COVID for the first time. I was forced to stay home for three weeks and it was during a one-week vacation. I had already sort of cleared my plate and I just continued, because it was an intense COVID. I went to the hospital briefly and all that good stuff, totally fine. But I took it seriously and I ended up having three weeks of no work for the first time in 10 years.

Chris, after trying to solve some of the questions that I've been asking myself about Baronfig for several years now, and failing. In those three weeks, I created a completely new vision of Baronfig and what I wanted it to be, that I could not do for years before. I didn't get any new information, I had merely the space finally provided for that to happen. It was a good lesson. I'm glad I put it in the book. This is certainly a reason. Clearly, you've experienced it too on vacation. Do you try now to take a certain number of vacations to leverage this?

Chris:

You just sound like a lot younger version of myself, who's just accomplished more than the time which you've been on earth. I believe the first five years in which I started Blind, our service design company, I didn't take a single vacation or holiday, I just worked. When I couldn't work, I worked some more. People are like, "Well, how do you work all the time?" Well, you constantly work on yourself. You read books and you're just thinking about work and how to make work better. There was no opportunity, because I created zero opportunities. It led me to one of my darkest periods at the end of those five years, I was completely burnt out, predictably.

I really, really found my true inner confidence when I took a three-month sabbatical, because at this point I was really questioning if I had anything left to give the creative community and my team. It was in those three months that I just completely unplugged from work. It just so happened to coincide with a teaching opportunity. I was teaching, discovering myself, learning how to communicate to other people, how to inspire, motivate them, how to critique work that I really discovered who I was. That's I think the bedrock of who I am today in that very critical period.

To answer your question though, the lines of work and vacation and play have really blurred. I'm really trying to live that life, where I'm only doing the things that give me tremendous joy. Like this conversation, someone would say, "Well, Chris, this is work. You're working on your podcast." But I don't think so. I don't look at it like that. I look at it like, I get to talk to really interesting people, reconnect with friends and pick their brain. In many cases, I look at it like I'm getting a free coaching session right now. So, this isn't work. My wife might describe it as work, but this is not work for me. The lines are very blurry.

I just literally got back from a trip from the Philippines where I was there for eight days, three of which I spent on the beach doing nothing and that was "work." Because I was doing some public speaking and helping to evangelize the ideas and the techniques that we've learned to spread it across the entire world. So, I've been able to integrate that. Does that answer your question, Joey?

Joey:

Yeah, absolutely. I feel like now I'm getting a coaching session, because there's more that I want to do. I look up to what you've done and who you are and I don't listen to a lot of podcasts, but yours is one of them. I respect what you've managed to accomplish is amazing, the way you carry yourself, the people you speak to, how you speak. I feel lucky to be on the other end of the call chatting with you. I am grateful, extremely. As far as breaks go, I am learning now that I went back basically to Baronfig, to the team, and I was like, "I am taking three weeks off twice a year now."

Chris:

Nice.

Joey:

"Because this is what we get from it. We need to do this again." The team, I came back and I filled two whiteboards with all sorts of crap. We had one whiteboard, I picked up everyone, I was like, "We're going to the other one, so I'm not erasing this, you guys need to digest." Then we go to the other whiteboard and I fill up this whole whiteboard and I was like, "All right, questions." We had a whole day's worth of refining these things and it came from the space. And I have not given myself space, and I have felt burnt out. It's not a burnt out like I can't keep working, because I can and you probably felt the same. It's just where's the thrill? Where's the excitement and the joy? That's the part that had started to dissipate.

If I'm creating a thing that I'm working for, I might as well have that stuff, otherwise, I'll get rid of all the other responsibilities and just go work somewhere. To reorient and bring the joy back is critical and I'm glad you resonate, too. It's nice to know that. It's nice to know that it is, I mean, of course, I write it, it's a law. The law of separation and stillness is a real thing.

Chris:

Yeah. Okay. Somebody had remarked something about my aura, my energy that they said to me, "Chris, I really feel how enthusiastic and passionate that this is not just words that come out of your mouth, you really live and breathe what it is you're trying to tell people to do." People will also say like, "How do you not grow old?" I'm 50 years old like, "If you want to feel young, to look young, you need to be in alignment with the things that make you happy." Our highest pursuit and life should not be around money, it should be around joy and doing more of it. The reward for you in alignment to that joy is to live a life with sometimes the comfort of money and things. But it's not the goal, it's the result of.

You wrote briefly about Socrates who his teachings, his lessons have echoed on for thousands of years now. I didn't know this about him, but you had said in your research that he served in the war, he served in the military, and going out into the world probably formed a lot of his thinking and his ideas, because other than that, he never thought of himself as particularly smart or philosophical.

When you are able to take a break, Joey, and you go out into the world, I think you're doing what Socrates was exposed to, in that you introduce randomness in foreign concepts and ways of thinking that challenge your existing thinking. I'm in the Philippines, and this could not be planned. Literally the speaker right before me, his name is Prim, he does a lot of work with NGOs and trying to help impoverished communities. He referenced somebody else, which I don't remember who said this, but he said, "People always say, 'Follow your heart, follow your passion.' If you listen to that, it won't betray you." But he said, "People have a hard time figuring out, well, what am I passionate about?" He said that if you scramble the letters of passion like an anagram, it's I pass on, what is it that you want to pass on to future generations? That really hit me super hard.

I live my passion, because I know exactly what I'm doing today is quite literally the things I want to pass on to my children and to the young, creative person out there, who was told that it's not okay to be a creative person, who was told like, "You'll never make it in this world." Who've potentially lost the spark, their creative spark, because they've been hit with financial setbacks or the company's not moving in the direction that they want to. That's what I'm trying to pass on. That's why I'm so excited to talk to creative entrepreneurs, who go a different path, who forged their own success in their own way. I want to champion and share those stories, because we need more evidence of this being true. We're told by every other corner in our life that this is not possible. I'm here to tell you, it is definitely possible and that's why I really cherish these kinds of conversations, Joey.

Joey:

Now, I have to say to you, it sounds like I'm talking to myself, because that it, man, it is the fight for the ability to prove that it is a possibility, that creativity is a career in and of itself to express it, that is your primary craft, that is the thing that you bring to whatever it is you do. It's certainly a lifestyle that is not subjugated or less probable or any of those things. To me, I look at creativity, I look at creating things like an accountant would look at accounting or basketball or plumbing or whatever it is. It is a craft that you learn and it is practical in its principles, and that is why I wrote the book, The Laws of Creativity, because it's not magic.

But besides you, me and a handful of people, most creatives who are at a certain level try to make it seem like what they do is a bit mystical. There's a utility to that, because it's cool. Then, well, I got to go to the mystic to get the oracle to get my prophecy or something, and to learn, because the wisdom, I can't possibly have.

But what I think is really happening, Chris, is let's take music as an example. Music is a practice, it's a craft. Back in the day, my best friend's a drummer, and I am fully aware of more music stuff than I ever thought I would be. One thing I found fascinating is that, back in the day, in jazz, most incredible musicians of the time could not read music, they just played. They did not know necessarily why the notes sounded well, or sometimes even what notes they're playing, and certainly not concepts like assonance and dissonance and all this stuff that now is part and parcel with learning music. They just felt it.

As a result, it was magic at the time, and it did feel mysterious. Now, music has been studied and debunked and it's just like people can pretty much explain exactly why and how a certain piece can do some interesting stuff that may be unexpected, whereas musicians couldn't then. I think creativity is in a similar spot, where we're at a place now where a lot of creatives are where the musicians were 50 years ago, where it is a magic, they don't necessarily have the words for it, they don't necessarily have believed that it is a reproducible thing, that just has principles that can be studied like anyone.

I wrote this book specifically to contribute to debunking that, which then contributes to what you said, which is we need people to understand that it's just a viable profession like anybody else, you can do it, and we're here to help or we're here to say that it is actually what you've learned about creativity is not true. I'm with you 100.

Greg:

Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back.

Welcome back to our conversation.

It feels like one giant freaking love fest, where I'm reading your book and just thinking, "Is Joey writing my thoughts right now?" And we're just having similar thoughts. Okay, I have one more question for you. The question I have for you is this, are you an introvert or an extrovert? Because I want to ask you a question that you wrote about in the book.

Joey:

Okay. I just discovered a third option. I never knew this existed. My wife played a podcast in the car, an ambivert. Have you heard of this?

Chris:

Yes, I am an ambivert, so yes.

Joey:

Okay.

Chris:

Just tell me what you thought you were, and why you're in kind of in the middle now.

Joey:

I thought I was an introverted extrovert, but I think I'm an ambivert. Oh sorry [inaudible 00:37:11].

Chris:

You gave that answer in the most confusing way possible.

Joey:

I'm sorry.

Chris:

Introverted extrovert, but an ambivert. You basically chose every option, Joey.

Joey:

I'm all of the above. Okay. If I was forced with the gun to my head, I would say I present as an extrovert. If I had to go, I'd go extrovert.

Chris:

Okay, not many people know that there's an ambivert, there's a middle option that we exhibit characteristics from both. I mean, I lead with this, I tell people I'm a loud introvert, and they're like, "You cannot be an introvert, Chris." Yes, because my energy goes away being around people. But it's odd that now I'm energized by being around people. I'm like, "How did that happen? Is it possible? Can one change your state?" I don't think you can change that, but maybe it was because when I was being tested, it wasn't like I was a zero on the extrovert and 100 on the introvert, it was probably like 60-40 introversion-extroversion. So, there's some weird blend there.

Now, here's the question for you, Joey. You write that extroverts tend to ask external questions, questions about the world, whereas introverts ask internal questions trying to discover themselves and what they think. There's pros and cons to both. Neither are good or bad, it's just what part do you use when and where. I found that to be super fascinating, because I'm thinking about a friend of mine who is an extrovert and the kinds of questions that she asks, and the kinds of questions that she wants to know about seeming like I have the answers to. Tell me a little bit more about this theory about external and internal questions and how we align. Of course, there's no blanket statement that everybody's always want or the other.

Joey:

Right. Yeah. I mean, we all employ these. It's generally what's your tendency and what are you more comfortable with? There's external and internal questions. External questions are when you ask things about the world and you borrow expertise from everything and everyone and you use that to learn and then you apply it to new things. I had some examples, what's the burning point of olive oil? These are really obvious examples. When did the first human tell a lie? A little bit more interesting. Well, where does plutonium come from? These are all things that you're asking about the world.

Then we have the opposite. It's the internal questions that things that you ask about yourself to better understand yourself, which also allows you to better understand others and your relationships with them. This one is probably you and I ask often, which is what truly challenges me? Or when do I give up and when do I persevere? What happens is when you have a tendency to one or the other, you have a tendency to have a strength and a weakness.

So, someone could be very knowledgeable at the world and not knowledgeable at themselves, in knowing themselves and, therefore, have a lot of trouble with interpersonal relationships and communicating and all sorts of things that stem from who we are as a person. But they might be really good at their job. These are the people who are more traditionally successful. Then you have the internal questioner who really does know themselves, is very sound, and doesn't necessarily have to come off as someone who is bombastic or super knowledgeable, per se. But they have a connectedness that's admirable, that's almost tangible. For these people, they're less traditionally successful, this type of thinking is less marketable and commercial. It's probably why our society has a lot of psychological challenges that it faces. We do not make this psychological health important enough and internal questioning is related to that.

Those are the two. When I write about a lot of these dichotomies, the book is filled with them. I'm really hoping that I can really give an awareness and a clear differentiation between things, because I think just being aware of things allows you to grow from them. It allows you to be set on your own path. There's that thing, I think it's called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. You hear something once and then you hear it everywhere. It's because it's entered your consciousness. My goal in a lot of things that I'm presenting is, can I put them in your consciousness, so that you can then distill them into principles and ideas that are useful to you and applicable?

Chris:

Okay. My wife and I, we're almost exactly the opposite on so many different things. Astrologically, we're the opposite. I'm a Capricorn with a rising Sagittarius moon sign, if that means anything to anybody, means nothing to me. And she's a Sagittarius with a rising Capricorn sign. She likes hot foods, I like cold foods. She's an extrovert and I'm an introvert. She would ask me these kind of questions, because she's really interested in philosophy and religion. She was like, "How do you know these things? You've not read any of these things, you don't pursue these things." I don't have great answers for her except for to say, "When I was growing up, I'm a very introverted person. I'm socially awkward. I don't like being around people. I don't look to call up any friends and check in on them because that's not my thing." You're just like, "I'm a city boy." I'm just like an alone boy. I just prefer to be alone. Right?

Joey:

Yeah.

Chris:

For much of my childhood existence, it was the bane of what I was doing, because it was like, "You're so weird, we don't want to talk to you." It would feel very lonely. But later on, I started to realize something that those internal questions I was asking myself all the time gave me great clarity in how I think. Then I started to compare notes with like, "How do you think?" And drawing insights from that. It's quite interesting to me, because the book, The Laws of Creativity, is full of stories that I don't find natural for me to ask about. Because when I got to that part in the book where you talk about the extroverted and the introverted nature of the questions that we ask, it seems to me like you've gone and lived your life to go and discovered, find stories asking a lot of these external questions like, "Who thought of these ideas? Where did this go? Who invented this? And why..." That kind of pursuit, reading biographies, I assume, collecting all this stuff to be able to write your book 10 years later.

I don't usually ask those questions. My questions are mostly internal. Then at some point I look for external proof if I'm the only crazy person who thinks about this. In your book, you're citing NASA, statistics, and research, and data, that feels very much like an extroverted pursuit. But then you're bringing it back to say, "Well, let me uncover and unravel some of the limiting beliefs, the myths that we have around our mindset around creativity." Maybe we're both just truly ambiverts, you skew a little bit more extrovert or maybe a lot more, I skew a bit more on the introversion side. Any thoughts on that, Joey?

Joey:

Well, I will say you don't come off as introvert. You come off as I think... Naturally someone's going to assume someone who hosts a podcast probably extroverted in some sense, or comfortable enough. I like that you said you're a loud introvert or extroverted introvert. I think I said I'm an introverted extrovert. So, we are in that 60-40, which is I think where we probably exist somewhere in there, we're the inverse 60-40. But it is interesting that you mentioned philosophy for a moment there. I wanted to dig in a little deeper. Your wife said that religion and philosophy is something she's really into and she kind of brought this to you. What is your perspective since being with your wife? Has it changed? Is there a different appreciation? What it came from that? And if it's nothing, that's totally fine, too.

Chris:

I feel like this question could set me up for a fight later today if my wife were to listen to the podcast. I'm going to tread lightly here. Okay?

Joey:

Yeah.

Chris:

Joey, you're trying to get me divorced here?

Joey:

Got busted.

Chris:

Yeah. My wife has a collection of books that I would probably never touch, but I'm fascinated by the names on the books. What she'll do is she'll say, "Honey, I can't believe it, but this person thinks exactly like you." I'm like, "You had to read a whole book to find out what I already told you years ago?" I really do appreciate that she's a curious person, that she's going to find things and introduce names and concepts that I've thought about, have told her, have told other people, but they phrased it better or they're better known for something. It's very validating for me to hear these concepts. Sometimes infuriating for me like, "Oh, you can't be a prophet in your own land, but you won't believe anything I say until you read it from a stranger. Then all of a sudden it's like gospel to you." That is kind of frustrating for me. But I enjoy the dynamic that we have, because it's a push and pull relationship always. Then in those uncomfortable moments, I think I learn so much.

Joey:

A related question, how are you, and be honest here, it's a tough one.

Chris:

Stop telling lies, Chris.

Joey:

How good are you at getting advice?

Chris:

Getting advice?

Joey:

Yes, receiving advice. Because you just mentioned a prophet in your own land. But what about if you're in another prophet's land? Are you able to receive the advice?

Chris:

I think so. I'll tell you why I can answer that question this way. Well, first, I had a business coach for 13 years. I met with him every single week. He changed a lot of the ways that I thought. I really believe in this expression like, "Hold opinions loosely," or something. What is it? "Have strong opinions, but hold them loosely."

Joey:

Yeah.

Chris:

So, I have this thing and this is I think the scientific principle, which is pursuit of truth above all else. To consider myself a critical thinker, I have ideas, but I need to be critical of my own ideas. So, when I meet someone, whether they're accredited, whether they're experienced or not, whether they're young or old, doesn't matter to me. If they offer me a different idea, I fight internally, "Don't shut that idea down, because it's foreign to what you believe in and it's an antithesis. Entertain the idea, have the idea do combat in your mind, and see which one wins." Then if I feel like that's a superior idea, I just throw out 35 years of attachment to an old idea. In that way, I think I can grow the fastest and learn the most by becoming detached to my past.

Joey:

Oh, I love that. Having combat in your mind is a really cool picture. You're essentially able to learn from other people's lessons if you can do this and you feel like you're good at that?

Chris:

I think so, yes.

Joey:

I think that is a rare trait, because there are, like you said, prophet in your own land, a cool phrase I'd never heard before. But there are so many people out there who have to, first, even if they hear the advice, they have to still go and make sure... They learn the hard way is the phrase.

Chris:

Yeah.

Joey:

I think that people say about advice, "Those who need it, don't take it. Those who take it, don't need it." It's sort of a bummer that that's the case. But I was asked earlier in a podcast, I think it was like, "What is something that you attributed success to?" I stopped them and I said, "Well, first of all, I still have 20 years to screw this up, because I'm only 35. But second of all, I think it's taking advice and running with it and not needing to learn the hard way." You said it exactly how I said it, which is, it's, "I am able to go so much faster because I'm learning your lesson rather than relearning the lesson." I appreciate that. I don't even know why I brought that up, but I felt like we were going in that direction.

Chris:

Well, I'm going to nerd out with you a little bit, and I'm going to take it to the extreme. When you say, "Can you take advice from other people?" I take advice from trolls, people who have no good intent for me at all. The way that I do that is, because this question comes up. If you're a public figure, if you create content on a regular basis, you're bound to attract lots of people who support you and a couple people who can't stand you. What I do is, when they leave a really negative comment, I filter out all the personal opinion and the judgment and I just really look at it like, "Is there a learning lesson here for me?"

When someone says, "This is a dumb video." "Okay, do you have a problem with it?" 'I just hate the way you blabber on about this, da, da, da." And they go on and on and they just rip you a new one. What I interpret from that is this style of communication doesn't work for you. If I want to reach people like you, I have to find a different way. So, perhaps part of the video, the problem is, it's taking us too long to get to the point. So, I'm going to try other content to see if that works for you or not.

Joey:

Well said.

Chris:

So, even in that way, negative feedback can actually be a great teacher. The opposite is, everybody loves your stuff. I don't know what to learn when everybody loves my stuff. It's just confirmation bias. It's good. It feels good. But it doesn't really teach me anything.

Joey:

I recently did a live workshop or whatever, it's called For Thinking Processes. Afterwards, the host sent me some responses from the feedback form and it was all positive. They said, "Well done, we're glad to have you." I responded to him and I said, "Hey, man, that's really cool, but do you mind sending me some of the negative ones? I'd love to learn what people may not have liked." And it's the same reason, even if I disagree or maybe it's just not right for them, I still want to know, so that I can personally process that, because there is a lot to learn from negative Nancies.

Chris:

Yeah. I have a way of thinking that I try and teach my boys, it's too difficult to try and get my wife to think this way. But whenever something bad happens, I ask them to reframe it in a positive way. What is another way of looking at this situation that is something that's a gift for us, not something that is designed to hurt us. How is this a gift? When your teacher makes you take a physical test, how many pull ups or chin ups that you can do, and you do less than what you think you should be able to, and you feel embarrassed, and you feel terrible about that, you feel humiliated. What is a possible lesson? How can we learn from this? How is this a gift? Maybe the gift is, it's telling us that we need to take our physical health more seriously and integrate exercise as part of our daily habit.

Joey:

Love that.

Chris:

So, what we want to do is reframe it. So, it's constantly reframing things. He's gotten so good at it, we play the insult game. I try to insult him and he deflects it like Teflon, nothing sticks to this little boy. He's incredible. Just a little personal story here. We're hiking and we're walking up and he's like huffing and puffing and I'm like, "Boy, you are a young person. You are less than half my age. I'm 50. You're 16. You should be able to run past here, go down and see me run back up. How is that you're more out of shape than I am?" Then he's like, "Dad, but you're wrong about this one thing." We debated about it and it turned out he was wrong yet again. I said to him, "Do you ever think to yourself, 'Why do I disagree with dad?' Because you're always wrong. Your record is not 50-50. Your record is zero and 533."

I just want to put him in his place, savage brutality, finish kill. I'm thinking, "There's nothing else this boy can say back to me." You know what he said to me? He goes, "Dad, I only need to be right one time and then you'll be wrong." I'm like, "I raise you well, boy." You can't even hear and process that he's wrong all the time. He's still looking for the one time in which he's right. I've been doing this with him since he was old enough to understand words. So, I'm like, "Okay, my job is done. I can die now. Things are going to be all right with this kid."

Joey:

I love that. Wow. Yeah. I hope I can be as good a dad as you sound. I mean that. Definitely have some good habits, man. That's awesome.

Chris:

Well, checking with my kids, they're like, "Eh, Joey, it's not quite like that. Dad likes to cherry-pick the best of what he brings." But yes.

Joey:

Yeah.

Chris:

Okay, it's time for us to wrap up. I've been talking to Joey Cofone. He's the founder and CEO of Baronfig, an award-winning graphic designer and entrepreneur. His work has been featured in Fast Company, Bloomberg, New York Magazine and so many more. He was even named New Visual Artist and Wunderkind designer by Print Magazine. We've been talking about his upcoming book, The Laws of Creativity: Unlock Your Originality and Awaken Your Creative Genius. Here are some things that people have said about him, from people you might have heard of. Debbie Millman says, "A comprehensive, witty and accurate deconstruction of creativity and how to grow something from nothing. The Laws of Creativity would change the way you think about creating and living." That's high praise from Debbie Millman. From Chip Kidd, "After 35-plus years of designing, I confirm these laws hold true. The Laws of Creativity contains a valuable set of tools for creatives and non-creatives alike." Joey, it's been a pleasure talking to you. How do people get a hold of this book and when does it drop?

Joey:

It's coming out October 18th. You can snag a pre-order or grab yours at, go to joeycofone.com/book and there's all sorts of ways of getting it. If you want to check out what we're up to at Baronfig, go to baronfig.com. Finally, last but not least, if you want to connect, say hello, show me what you're doing and creating, follow me on Instagram, reach out on Twitter, both of them @joeycofone.

Chris:

Excellent, Joey.

Joey:

I really appreciate it. Thank you so much. I meant everything I said about the respect that I have for what you do.

Chris:

Thank you.

Joey:

It's an inspiration. Thank you for you doing you. Maybe one day we'll do something together, whatever, see how the paths cross. But regardless, just very cool to see we have an alignment there, and it's cool to see how what we're doing has manifested in different ways for it. That's really neat.

Chris:

Thank you. I really appreciate that. I think the world needs more people like you. If I may include myself in that list. Doing what we do so that there are more examples of us not only talking about creative careers, but also saying, "You know what? It's not magic. It's not magic. Anybody and everybody can do this." One thing I wanted to say to you before we split here is Sir Ken Robinson, rest in peace. He talked about this in his TED talk about how we don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it.

One of my students had asked me this question, not a student, somebody in the audience said, "Chris, can anybody be taught to be creative?" Threw me for a loop for a second. My knee-jerk answer is, "Of course, because it's a formula and anybody can learn a formula." I said something different. I said, "No." They're like a little bit shocked. I said, "Because you don't need to be taught to be creative. You need just to relearn it." You talk about it. You just need to rediscover it. That's all it is.

Joey:

You're really on point, man, because also with the Daniel Priestley episode, I could tell you had thought so much about what he had written, you're just really well explored. I don't know how to say that in a good way, but you're paying attention and you're doing some things really well. Chris, it has been a pleasure, man. Thank you. I'm Joey Cofone and you are listening to The Futur.

Greg Gunn:

Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app and get a new insightful episode from us every week. The Futur Podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to Anthony Barro for editing and mixing this episode, and thank you to Adam Sanborne for our intro music.

If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor by rating and reviewing our show on Apple Podcasts. It'll help us grow the show and make future episodes that much better. Have a question for Chris or me, head over to thefutur.com/heychris, and ask away. We read every submission and we just might answer yours in a later episode. If you'd like to support the show and invest in yourself while you're at it, visit thefutur.com. You'll find video courses, digital products, and a bunch of helpful resources about design and creative business. Thanks again for listening, and we'll see you next time.

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