David speaks with Lawrence Yeo, a writer, illustrator, storyteller, and the creator of โ€œMore To Thatโ€, an illustrated long-form blog read by tens of thousands of people.

They talked about:

๐ŸŽจ Balancing practical work with creativity

๐Ÿ’ก Cultivating and pursuing passion

๐Ÿšซ Avoiding mimetic desires

๐Ÿ“ Writing good stories

๐Ÿ” How to discover new ideas

๐Ÿ‘ฅ Balancing personal taste with audience feedback

๐ŸŽ™ Listen in your favourite podcast player

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Podcast App smart link to listen, download, and subscribe to The Knowledge with David Elikwu. Click to listen! The Knowledge with David Elikwu by David Elikwu has 29 episodes listed in the Self-Improvement category. Podcast links by Plink.

๐ŸŽง Listen on Spotify:

๐Ÿ“น Watch on Youtube:

๐Ÿ‘ค Connect with Lawrence:

Twitter: @moretothat | https://twitter.com/moretothat

Website: More To That https://moretothat.com/

Course: Thinking In Stories: https://thinkinginstories.com/

๐Ÿ“„ Show notes:

00:00 | Intro

01:49 | Balancing practical work with creativity

08:09 | Cultivating and pursuing passion

17:10 | Avoiding mimetic desires

25:07 | Writing good stories

31:35 | How to discover new ideas

37:54 | Balancing personal taste with audience feedback

๐Ÿ—ฃ Mentioned in the show:

Mimesis | https://theknowledge.io/mimesis/

Luke Burgis | https://lukeburgis.com/about/

Wanting | https://amzn.to/3I8O2zD

Renรฉ Girard | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renรฉ_Girard

Charles Bukowski | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Bukowski

Naval Ravikant | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Ravikant

Full episode transcript below

๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿพโ€๐Ÿ’ป About David Elikwu:

David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist, and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.

๐Ÿฃ Twitter: @Delikwu / @itstheknowledge

๐ŸŒ Website: https://www.davidelikwu.com

๐Ÿ“ฝ๏ธ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/davidelikwu

๐Ÿ“ธ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/delikwu/

๐Ÿ•บ TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@delikwu

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Podcast: http://plnk.to/theknowledge

๐Ÿ“– Free Book: https://pro.theknowledge.io/frames

My Online Course

๐Ÿ–ฅ๏ธ Decision Hacker: http://www.decisionhacker.io/

Decision Hacker will help you hack your default patterns and become an intentional architect of your life. Youโ€™ll learn everything you need to transform your decisions, your habits, and your outcomes.

The Knowledge

๐Ÿ“ฉ Newsletter: https://theknowledge.io/

The Knowledge is a weekly newsletter for people who want to get more out of life. It's full of insights from psychology, philosophy, productivity, and business, all designed to make you more productive, creative, and decisive.

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๐Ÿ“œFull transcript:

[00:00:00] Lawrence Yeo: If you are working in a job that you don't really like, but they're, paying the bills, they're a patron of your art, but you're not doing anything with your spare time. So when you get back, you're just watching TV until you fall asleep and so forth in perpetuity. And the reality is that patron is not a patron. It's your career. That's the truth.

[00:00:21] David Elikwu: This week, I'm sharing part of my conversation with Lawrence Yeo. Now, Lawrence is an illustrator, a storyteller, and the creator of More To That, which is an illustrated long form blog read by tens of thousands of people, including me! I've been reading Lawrence's blog for years, it's awesome, I would highly recommend it.

So, in this part of our conversation, you're gonna hear Lawrence and I talking about being able to balance practical work with creativity. We talk about cultivating and pursuing passion. We talk about avoiding mimetic desires, writing good stories, the process of being able to discover new ideas.

And finally, we talk about being able to balance your personal taste with the feedback that you might get from your audience or from your employer.

So this is a really great episode from anyone that thinks of themselves as a creator or wants to create in some way and find a sustainable way to do that.

So you can get the full show notes the transcript and read my newsletter at theknowledge.Io And you can find Lawrence on Twitter @moretothat. His website is also more to that and he teaches an awesome course, about storytelling called Thinking in Stories and you can find that at thinkinginstories.com.

Now, if you love this episode, please do share it with a friend. And don't forget to leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts, because it helps us tremendously to find other listeners just like you.

[00:01:49] David Elikwu: We were talking about first of all the idea that I'm very tired at the moment and I've been tired this whole week I was trying to figure out why I was tired and I was looking at my sleep tracker and checking all my sleep data. Not because I do that maniacally but just because I have it and that's the reason I have the thing. Because I don't have to think about it day to day and if there's ever something up then I can look and I can see hey, you know, what's happened? What was I doing?

[00:02:13] David Elikwu: Like if I end up feeling tired usually day to day, I mean I don't always feel tired, but then I can go back and see, okay, what happened?

[00:02:20] David Elikwu: And so I've gone and looked and I've realized, okay, yeah, I only slept for about three hours or so on Sunday. And I never really realized half the time, the time I go to bed.

[00:02:28] David Elikwu: And so I was just unpacking this idea that, part of the reason my sleep hasn't been great is because I've been doing a lot of work, a mixture of work for myself on things for The Knowledge, so the podcast, the newsletter, but then also I still do a lot of work working with startups, so either like coaching and working with founders and CEOs or just doing facilitations and so I had a full day facilitation on Monday. And I also happened to work on a ebook over the weekend completely spontaneously and there was just a bunch of stuff that just popped up.

[00:02:58] David Elikwu: And so why am I doing so much work? Why am I doing all of that? And there's two core reasons. One is because it's something I'm passionate about. It's something I care about and I actually love to do. But then secondly, I also have to pay the bills. And so there's this tension between those two things, sometimes.

[00:03:14] David Elikwu: Sometimes they coordinate and it's fun and you can do something you love and you can do something you enjoy. And it gets to pay the bills and some months are exactly like that. And then some months are okay, I need to do some extra stuff to pay all the bills and so I have to make it work.

[00:03:32] David Elikwu: So I wanted to get your thoughts on, how you feel about that balance or that tension sometimes between doing work simply because you love it and simply because this is your passion or your creativity, or even if it's your, your corporate work. And then doing things that are okay, I'm doing this so I can get paid and I'm doing this to pay the bills.

[00:03:48] Lawrence Yeo: Yeah, that's a great question. And this is the age old conundrum between creativity and practicality and how exactly you balance the two. Because I think with creativity, you are following your own innate interests. You're following your inner compass as I like to call it. And the reality is that there is no immediate reason for society to value that, right? To value kind of our own intrinsic interests and our motivations.

[00:04:16] Lawrence Yeo: So what you're trying to do is, kind of find ways to express that value to others. And if it's hard to do that in the creative realm or in the endeavor that you're talking about, where you're passionate about, then you find it in ways where there are more, the path is more clear.

[00:04:32] Lawrence Yeo: And this usually comes in the form of traditional employment. Or what have you where, a salary is kind of guaranteed even before you start your job. Very different from if you're just pursuing your own creative interest.

[00:04:44] Lawrence Yeo: So, the way I like to view it is, the domains don't have to be so separate. I think especially if you are starting out with a creative endeavor is that you can actually marry the two.

[00:04:55] Lawrence Yeo: And the way I like to view it is through a lens I call being a practical creator. And that essentially means that, you are going to understand that making money and all this stuff from your creative endeavor is something that takes a lot of time and also takes a degree of just figuring things out and experimentation. And the freedom that you require for that phase can be purchased almost, or you can get that from your place of employment or whatever acts as the more practical realm in your life.

[00:05:30] Lawrence Yeo: So the way I like to view that is that your job or what have you is a patron for your art. So in the same way that Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo had all these patrons, right. In the form of the Medici family and so forth that could be said that's all the same case for your job, right.

[00:05:50] Lawrence Yeo: Now, this is a reframing thing because if you could view them as patrons for your art, that means that you become much more tolerance. You're not just there every day thinking, Ah, I want to get this thing done. I hate this place so I can do my art. No, you actually are like, No, I know what exactly they're doing here and what I'm doing here. And I want to do the best I can here because I want to ensure that this patronage is possible. And you kind of have a sense of gratitude for that instead of hatred almost, right?

[00:06:20] Lawrence Yeo: Now, but the dynamic here is that you're essentially building up a nest egg or some trove of money that you can convert into freedom. I think that is also important because not only are you doing that, you also have to align your day to day actions to serve that objective and to serve that aim. So, if you are working in a job that you don't really like, but they're, you know, they're paying the bills, they're a patron of your art, but you're not doing anything with your spare time. So when you get back, you're just watching TV until you fall asleep and so forth in perpetuity. And the reality is that patron is not a patron. It's your career. That's the truth.

[00:07:00] Lawrence Yeo: So in order to circumvent that, what you need to do is to spend an hour or two each day on your creative work, right? Because that's what the patron is funding you for, that's what it's for, but you have to put in that action in order for that mindset to materialize. So you have to ensure that those things are there.

[00:07:19] Lawrence Yeo: And after a certain point, you can then make the decision to either make a leap where you go into something full time. And you could say goodbye to your patron. You serve me well in this phase of life. And now I either have enough where I can go to the next phase or I see a promising trajectory happening in my creative endeavor, where even though the money I'm making is not how much I would like saved up, but I feel like this is a good time for me to optimize for my attention being directed to the endeavor itself, then that's a time you could say bye as well.

[00:07:51] Lawrence Yeo: But keeping that all in perspective, you want to kind of understand the dynamics between practicality and creativity and that it's you know, there is a hard limit of money involved here that you have to factor in, and to do that well, you have to consider the balance between those two domains.

[00:08:09] David Elikwu: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I love the analogy. And I think this model of thinking of your job as your patron is incredibly strong, particularly because you hear all the time, I hear a lot of people ask, you know, should I quit my job and go all in on this thing? First of all, sometimes they've barely even got started doing this new thing that they're passionate about. And they're already thinking about quitting their job and all of that.

[00:08:30] David Elikwu: And actually, I think it could probably save a lot of people a lot of stress to just think of doing both. You don't have to suddenly go all in at the tip of a hat. You can wait and try it and use your job as a source of funds to allow you and enable you to do that thing and to test it and to see how it goes. And I think your journey was a bit like that.

[00:08:48] David Elikwu: My journey was certainly like that. I didn't use the word patron specifically, but I remember a number of years ago, I was looking at some other creators, other writers that were growing and, building their platforms. And I, you know, as I look into their backgrounds, I noticed that a few of them at some point had received maybe a grant or some fellowship or some money from some VC or something like that.

[00:09:08] David Elikwu: And I was like, Oh, it would be so great if I could just get, you know, 20k or 100k that falls into my lap that I could use and it will allow me to do this work. And I think that was definitely the switch that needed to flip, where one day I just realized, Oh, well, I mean, I have a job and actually, technically what if I just gave myself that 20K?

[00:09:28] David Elikwu: Obviously it's not all going to drop into my lap at once, it's going to be amortized over a number of months. But I think the other thing that that enabled me to do is also to start thinking of my work in a more professional sense, because if I had been given 20K to invest and I was going to be getting a proportion of that monthly for however many months. How would I invest it? You know, how would I use that money? What would I do?

[00:09:51] David Elikwu: And so being able to think about that was also quite freeing in that sense as well because it allowed me to start thinking Okay, you know if I wasn't just doing this as a tinkering thing on the weekends and in the early mornings or the late evenings. If I was taking this seriously, how would I approach this work that I was doing?

[00:10:06] David Elikwu: And I think you mentioned before about, when you were doing music, there's an interesting sensation of, okay, before you go full time doing the thing, you imagine, oh, you know, I'm managing to do all of this and I only have eight hours. If I had 40 hours a week to, to do this thing, you know, how much more could I do? How amazing could it be? And obviously there's that gap between what you think you know, and what you actually know, because suddenly it can turn out that when you do have all that freedom and you do have all that time, maybe you don't love it so much.

[00:10:33] David Elikwu: But I'm also interested in, there's another side of it. Okay, going back to my situation, for example, I remember when leaving my job was still just a twinkle in the back of my eye and I had been toying with the idea, but I hadn't actually decided to make the leap. And funnily enough, at the time I was teaching a course on career development and career stuff.

[00:10:49] David Elikwu: And I remember as I was teaching some of this stuff to the students on that course, I was also thinking about it for myself in terms of, you know, whether or not I would stay at my job. And there was also a moment where it clicked that there is inherent asymmetry at that point for me at least, in leaving my job. Because staying in the job was a linear outcome and I know how much I'm going to get paid every month and I know exactly how things are going to be month after month after month. Every month is pretty much the same. You might have a step up every year or every few years. But apart from that, is a, it's a linear track.

[00:11:21] David Elikwu: Whereas there is some potential asymmetry and going out for yourself and doing your own thing where actually you could have an exponential outcome and things could go far more upwards than they would if you just stayed on a linear track. However, when you have asymmetry, you also have variance. So not only can it go wildly up and it could be double what the linear outcome would be for one month. It could also be the same in reverse and it could also be down one month. And so it can go up and down and you get this tremendous variance.

[00:11:49] David Elikwu: So I'm interested for you as you were thinking of making this decision twice to leave finance, how you thought about the impact of that potential variance where you're trading up a sure thing of, okay, I know this is stable. I know my patron is always going to be there every single month for okay, some months I might be able to support myself, but some months my, my, my personal patron may not be there and I have to figure things out. So how do you think about the tension that that creates?

[00:12:15] Lawrence Yeo: Yeah, there, I mean, there is an inherent asymmetry just in the two. I think one way I like to view it is that for any kind of gainful employment, sometimes you could put in just 50% of the effort and get paid 100% of your expectations. Whereas with your own endeavor, you put in 150% effort and then get paid you know, 50% are way less than your expectations. But then at the same time, the other side is true where you're right, like you could get paid a lot more and they could scale over time. And I think that's the promise of that is why we have entrepreneurship and all that stuff too.

[00:12:50] Lawrence Yeo: I think in my case, leaving a job to do what I feel like is much more aligned with my inner compass. Yet, you know, like the money element was just as a mechanism for downside protection and basically it. It wasn't like I went into doing more to that, for example, or even to do music because of the promise that I would get paid so much more or the goal that I would. To me, it was all just about, I just feel like this is where I am directionally aligned with my values and my interests, my curiosities. And it almost seemed kind of ridiculous at a certain point that I'm not spending more time doing that.

[00:13:28] Lawrence Yeo: And I think what happens with that framing is that you understand money is important still, but you also diminish how much of it exactly you need in your day to day life. So I have this concept I like to call the fulfillment surplus, where when you are doing something that you find inherently fulfilling, you usually start off making a lot less, if not just zero. But then the gap, so what is fulfilled, right, between what you once had and you have now is kind of the fulfillment surplus, like that kind of makes up for it up to a certain extent, right? So you have to make a certain amount for that fulfillment surplus to kick in, because if you are constantly worried about money, then you will not find as much fulfillment in what you once thought was so fulfilling.

[00:14:10] Lawrence Yeo: So there are certain base needs that need to be hit. But they don't need to be as high as it was in the past and interesting things start happening when you kind of start to make money or so forth, doing what you love and so forth, where then you kind of get into the comparison game and that's a whole nother conversation.

[00:14:28] Lawrence Yeo: What I've found for me and what money ultimately was for me was just the ability to convert it into what I call freedom in attention for my creative endeavors. So with music, so that was my first leap, when I left my finance to do music, that was more so just me feeling like, well, I just want a bunch of time to make music. Like it felt very clear to me that that's what I wanted. I wanted 40 hours a week to make music.

[00:14:55] Lawrence Yeo: And what I didn't consider though, was that when I actually had those 40 hours a week to make music, I didn't want to do it that much after all. So that's the other thing to consider is, what you think you want has to be tested, right? We think we all want certain things, but a lot of that time is either conditioning or what you've seen other people do, and you haven't tested it in the arena of your own life. And that is ultimately what bridges the gap between knowledge and understanding. So, in my case, I didn't bridge that gap well enough until I was actually in it and I was like, okay, wow, now I have to make beats for 40, it was like, I have to do this and I feel bad if I'm not doing it. And then at the same time I found myself being more directionally misaligned with music and, you know, like the kind of circles I was running in and like what I felt like I had to do to make it a career and chase and chase and chase. And it was clear to me at that point that this wasn't for me. Now, I will always love music, but I didn't want to be a musician, professionally.

[00:15:55] Lawrence Yeo: So went back into finance, kind of recalibrated because I knew that that could be my patron again.

[00:16:00] Lawrence Yeo: So what I was basically doing there is, I understood that there's other things that I'm trying to look for and other avenues of exploration. But my patron was going to be there to kind of help support me with that. And whatever I do next, I want to feel like I understand what I'm getting into instead of just knowing that this is the desire that I have. And that was another approach I took with more to that.

[00:17:10] David Elikwu: Okay, sure, that makes a lot of sense. Does the compass always feel clear?

[00:17:15] David Elikwu: You mentioned this idea of the inner compass, and actually some of what you were just saying now reminds me of this concept of Mimesis, Luke Burgess has a great book called Wanting where he talks about mimesis, based on Renรฉ Girard, and just this idea that sometimes, we base our desires when we see them modeled on others. And so there are some things that we can think of as passions or as desires or things we want to pursue, but they are based on the things that we see modeled.

[00:17:39] David Elikwu: And just like you were explaining about how, when you're trying to get into music, you can very quickly find yourself, you're doing the things that other people are doing, and there is this actual misalignment internally that you then realize where, Hey, I'm, I'm doing this because this is how apparently these things are done, but actually that doesn't really align super well with me.

[00:17:59] David Elikwu: And I think even that internal clarity that you had there, a lot of people don't necessarily have that when sometimes, for example, there is a new hot thing and it could be NFTs or it could be AI, or it could be, you know, whatever it is getting into finance, getting into, I think it's dropshipping or, you know, whatever the thing is that can shape people's careers at the same time, right.

[00:18:18] David Elikwu: Even me being in law, you being in finance previously, that can be something that when you're around university age and you're thinking, what should I do? You know, that's something you can see very clearly modelled. Oh, hey, wait, you just follow this path. You just take this job, you do this, you do that. And that's exactly what it is.

[00:18:34] David Elikwu: And even for me, it was only until, I think I'd been at the, my main firm for about five years or so. And then I just, I looked ahead of me and I was just like, ah, is that actually what I want? Like when I came into this firm, that's exactly what I thought that I wanted. And the more time I've spent here. And I look ahead, I realize that's not actually what I want.

[00:18:51] David Elikwu: So yeah, I'd love to know how you think about escaping that mimetic trap and actually being able to differentiate between what you identify as, okay, these are deep core desires, these are things I actually want to pursue. Like as a child, you mentioned you were interested in drawing, you're interested in writing. You already had some of the seeds of that there. And similarly, okay, you enjoy doing music, but then, what happens when your initial interest in music then becomes a mimetic thing where, okay, it started off as this is my own intrinsic interest, and now it's becoming me doing the things that other people are doing, because this is what I'm seeing modelled.

[00:19:25] Lawrence Yeo: Yeah, I think the way I like to envision is like a spectrum of intrinsic motivation on one side and external validation on the other side. And we were just, I think a lot of times we're just kind of like continuously oscillating, but everything starts on the intrinsic end. Even if you may not know what exactly caused that, right.

[00:19:45] Lawrence Yeo: One of the core tenants of my work is self examination and to encourage people, to kind of look deeper into themselves, to figure out what's going on, because the reality is almost, and this is one thing that it just blows my mind still when I think about it is that, almost everything of consequence is the result of happenstance. So your parents, the culture you were raised in, your genes, and the things that you're innately curious about, you didn't have any say over that. It just kind of happened, right? And yet the belief is that we know who we are. And that I think that nothing is further than the truth, right? Like if you haven't done the work to really examine yourself, we just follow whatever inroads have already been built, we just follow the path of our conditioning and so forth And I think, one of the beautiful virtues about creativity is that, it really gives you space to figure out who you are, through just expression and I think, we're all trying to find our mediums of expression.

[00:20:51] Lawrence Yeo: I think that's the thing too is like, people say that, Oh, I'm not creative. And what they're really saying is, I don't know what my medium is to express myself. Cause we all express ourselves in some format, whether it's through text messages or just through speaking with others. And, you know, it's all about what medium do you want to choose where you feel like if you adopt that medium, you're a creative person, right? And when you feel like you found a medium that works for you then, it's almost second nature to believe that you are a creative person, right?

[00:21:19] Lawrence Yeo: And I think where you could start to go astray with that is when you start thinking about okay, well now, how do I provide value to others, right? Like with what I'm doing. Because there is a point in someone's creative life where it's like, okay. Well, yeah, this is great. My curiosity is here, but I have to sustain myself, I have to find a way where I can make this practical. And I think here though is, the balance is that you want to be open to people's advice and what people have done but discounted according to your values.

[00:21:52] Lawrence Yeo: And what I mean by that is that, the beauty of knowledge and the fact that people before you have done something is that you can learn from them, right? Is that there's so many different people that have done all these different things. And the internet is a gold mine to understand what exactly the paths were. But, because everyone is different, and everyone has different perceptions, and just different everything, you can't just take advice wholesale, or else you will feel like a shell of yourself. There will be a moment where you feel misaligned, and there will be that tension within you where you're just like, Wait, wait, why? Why am I all of a sudden just doing what this other, I'm being a parrot, right? And I think there's all a point in which we recognize that.

[00:22:34] Lawrence Yeo: The key is to be aware of those moments, because that's you telling yourself that, Hey, there's something that this other person is doing that just doesn't really work for who I am. Yeah, it could work for the outcomes, but it won't work long term, given that I know this is not the person that I am.

[00:22:53] Lawrence Yeo: You know, when that misalignment happens like, the question then becomes, well, what does it mean for you to stay kind of true to your inner compass and to understand that alignment is really important for you, yet still make it work. And what I found is that you can do that. Like, I think people have a gravitation towards, I know like authenticity is kind of thrown around loosely, but I think I would reframe that as people that, but you could just kind of see that they embody themselves, that they're intelligent, they've learned from others, but they've internalized those lessons in the arena of their own life. And when people do that, you feel just feel this natural gravitation towards those people.

[00:23:36] Lawrence Yeo: And what I believe is that people that have strong inner compasses attract those that also have strong inner compasses. And then those people will also teach other people how to kind of calibrate their intuition and so forth, but it's definitely a process. It's not something that just happens. And I think what's been beautiful is just like writing has just helped me so much with that process, more so than music ever did.

[00:24:01] Lawrence Yeo: I think music is a great vehicle to express your emotion and your mood and so forth, especially with my, the way I was doing it because I wasn't singing, I was making beats. So, it was really useful to let the things that was happening within my heart out. But writing was what really helped me delve deeper into the crevices of my mind and to understand and explore my past experiences, how they work and, and reframe them to fit my present narrative so that in the future, there is kind of a brighter horizon that awaits.

[00:24:34] Lawrence Yeo: And that's what really writing has done for me and is really why I encourage it for people that don't consider themselves writers, just writing about yourself, journaling or whatever, will reveal so much about yourself and the things that have, kind of crafted your behaviors and your ways of thinking in a way that I think is unpreparalleled with any other art form.

[00:24:55] Lawrence Yeo: So those are a couple of ways I think about kind of staying true to your inner compass, while also being open to the lessons that you can learn from history and from the people that you respect.

[00:25:07] David Elikwu: Yeah, you shared so many great things. I think just to touch on the very last thing, and then I'll go back to something else you mentioned, just the thing about writing, I would echo everything that you said. I think it's tremendously important for people to try because, there's a few reasons.

[00:25:20] David Elikwu: One, I think in the process of writing, you know, people say a lot writing leads to clear thinking the clearer that you want to be able to think that's the clearer you're going to need to be able to write and vice versa. So if you can write clearly, you can think clearly and the other way around as well.

[00:25:35] David Elikwu: But also again, this may actually just be a lesson I was thinking about today is how sometimes writing authentically, just from your heart, can be so much better than trying to write well. And just like what you were saying there's a lot of people that may start from the position where they think Oh, i'm not that great a writer and I can't necessarily write well.

[00:25:54] David Elikwu: And I found a post today, so i've got a newsletter going out tomorrow and I don't always write for each newsletter. I just write all the time and so every time I need to write a newsletter that has to go out then I just go figure out, I just go find some old notes or something that i've written before. And so I was going back through all these notes trying to find something that was pretty much almost done so that I could just polish it up and send it out. And I found this post from I think last summer and it was so good and I could just tell just from reading it, what I say it's so good I mean, you know, this is my personal thought. But when I say so good, I mean just so strong, there was a strength to it, there was a authenticity and I remember writing it and it's because I was just walking across this bridge and I started with a like a core nugget of a thought and I just wrote stuff. And I think it was on my phone, just as I was walking, I was just writing my actual thoughts and it wasn't something that I sat down and I thought about and I tried to polish and I tried to sound smart and I tried to sound, you know, erudite and I tried to bring in all these quotes or super interesting stuff, it was just very frank, and I think there is an incredible power to that.

[00:26:58] David Elikwu: And so even if you're not aiming to write some big blog or have a platform, this act of writing either for yourself or for others that starts with this sense of introspection and you just speaking the things that you feel and the things that you feel strongly about because I think that's also important in writing as well. It's this combination of taste and judgment and conviction. And when you can write with that sense of conviction and build a story around it that makes writing resonate really well, at least in my experience.

[00:27:26] Lawrence Yeo: Yeah, and I think I would add to that because you touched on some interesting threads there that, not all writing is storytelling, right? So I think there's a difference here. And you could even see that with the way that I publish. So on my site, I have an area called reflections. And then I have like my archive of stories. My reflections are more so kind of what you were referring to, where I just write whatever I feel like writing about. So a lot of time I'll just set a timer for like two hours or something. I'll just write out, today I'm going to talk about the problem of envy and then I just go. And then whatever is done is done.

[00:28:02] Lawrence Yeo: So, with stories though, they're much more, I'm thinking about how I'm going to present certain ideas, I think what's helped, what I found to be a healthy balance is to have both of them. Because in the beginning, I would just focus on stories. And what happened is that like, I just think so much about like, Oh, does this concept make sense? If someone were to come across it and well, I got to use these characters and everything like that. And I still do that to this day, but I don't exclusively do that anymore because that is more of a form of presentation, right. With reflections and kind of what you were talking about where you're not thinking about what other people have said you're just writing whatever you want to write that's writing to figure out what you think and not writing to present, right. So you're kind of thinking about, okay what do I think about this idea I don't know because writing will help me figure it out but you're doing it for yourself.

[00:28:51] Lawrence Yeo: Now you may still publish it because it's not a journal because that's also the difference too because if you're purely writing for yourself It's just a journal entry and you could sound like a madman and it doesn't matter, right? But even if you're writing for yourself You're also, you're writing for yourself in a way where you want to make it coherent, right? Where even when you look back at it, you're like, okay There was some coherence there where chances are you probably don't look at your journal much at all like maybe here and there but you're not reading it or like this carefully thought through thing.

[00:29:21] Lawrence Yeo: So I think reflections are kind of in the midpoint of that where you're not carefully thinking through everything because you're figuring out what you think about something, but you're at least writing about it to, you're writing to also make it coherent. And then the other side is storytelling where you've thought through this already quite a bit. And now you're thinking about like, all right, how do I frame the idea? So people care about the problem that I'm talking about.

[00:29:42] Lawrence Yeo: And that's another avenue of kind of creativity and writing, but not, like I said, not all writing is storytelling. You kind of want to oscillate between all the domains. Like writing has different functions. I think to have a healthy writing practice, you want to kind of dive into the different functions and not just stay in one area for too long. Otherwise it could start feeling like a little bit of a drab. And also like, if you just write reflections where you're just like, all right, whatever comes out, comes out, I let it go. Then you're not putting enough weight on how much better your work could be if you invested more time with the ideas, right.

[00:30:20] Lawrence Yeo: And that's what stories are, stories have that, and chances are stories will contain a lot of what you've written about in these reflections. And that's, you know, like, this is kind of the, the way I say it is that write for yourself. But do it so well that people pay attention. And I think like, that's what stories help to do. It's like, it still comes from your inner compass, but like, you just really understand storytelling, you know how are you going to do it better so that people look at it and they're like, damn, this guy put a lot of work into this.

[00:30:49] Lawrence Yeo: And that's what I kind of knew from the beginning too, was that like, if I knew I wanted to kind of really focus on my inner compass and I don't want to chase the trends and all that stuff and like, go follow a social media guru and all that stuff.

[00:31:03] Lawrence Yeo: I knew I needed to get good at storytelling. I knew I needed to understand storytelling well and really experiment with it. Because if I do that well, then what I put on the blog has a greater capacity where someone looks at it, they're like, whoa, okay, this is not just a blog post he did in an hour. This one probably took like a hundred hours. Then if someone has that feeling, they'll share it with somebody else, right?

[00:31:26] Lawrence Yeo: And that is one of the ways I was talking about where you can kind of calibrate your inner compass and also have that be a way to draw in people as well.

[00:31:35] David Elikwu: Yeah, what you were talking about earlier is exactly how I was feeling and it's funny because as I was going through all these old notes. There were some of those ideas that technically were much better ideas than this one that I ended up coming across.

[00:31:48] David Elikwu: They're better ideas, but because they can feel so bulky and they feel like okay I have to really get into the weeds. All I had was you know, just a handful of notes or some bullet points or just a few sentences, because it takes a bit longer to flesh out the idea. So I'd love to know a bit more about how you construct your stories and some of your longer pieces?

[00:32:05] David Elikwu: But before that, I'm interested in just going off something you mentioned. How you find the balance between craft and play? And you know, we can take this all the way back to even something we talked about slightly earlier, which was your drawing, right? Drawing as a child, your drawing your writing and it can be very tempting to want to professionalize that and to turn your play into craft and to think okay, how can I get better? How can I optimize this? How can I, you know, you go from hey I'm just drawing as a sense of expression and because I find this fun and because I like it to, I want this to be good, I want this to be great. And so I'm learning all these lessons and tutorials and I'm gonna make it look like this and suddenly you're copying not intentionally, but you know, you're learning from other artists and, and your work then can go off in a particular direction versus perhaps staying true to what it would have been if you kept it within the, the play area.

[00:32:55] David Elikwu: And so even as you were talking about this idea of the dichotomy between, okay, there are some things that are just reflections and I'm just going to write whatever is on my mind and something that I'm thinking about right now versus I'm gonna sit down and I'm gonna craft this thing and I'm gonna work on it. And there's a lot of thought and forethought that goes into the emotions that I'm trying to evoke and how I'm trying to tell this story. So, how do you think about the balance between those two things?

[00:33:18] Lawrence Yeo: Yeah, I feel like they're quite intricately married, at least in my case. I think with play, you know, like I think it's worth delving into that word a little bit like what exactly is play as an adult. I could see that clearly with my daughter who is three and you know, like what exactly play is and I should just come up to me like hey, do you want to play? Can you play with me? And to me, that just means, Oh, I spent time with her. And then like, we're doing like some world building with stuffed animals and so forth. And she's basically just focused on what's in front of her and that to her feels playful, right?

[00:33:55] Lawrence Yeo: I think for us, where the play element starts to break down is we're thinking like you're saying, like, okay, well, where's this going, right? There's always this thing like, okay, where is this going? I could be playing with this. I could be drawing things, but where is this going?

[00:34:10] Lawrence Yeo: You mentioned that we're professionalized when you start thinking about, okay, where is this going? You're basically trying to professionalize it. And you're trying to imbue with some practicality. What I found though, is that your play is your craft in the sense that, if you are able to import what you're doing there that feels playful, and then to connect it with other things that you also find playful, the next thing you know, you have your own craft, you have your own style. And it doesn't mean that the topics have to be playful.

[00:34:43] Lawrence Yeo: I write about some serious stuff, like the actual, right. What I write about, I write about, you know, like the finiteness of life, our relationship with money and so forth. But I think the drawings helped make it playful and some of that playfulness also finds its way into the writing as well. And I think it's, because it's kind of the marriage of those two things that gives it its own style. And then when you have your own style, I think that's when it feels the most playful because you feel like you're doing your own thing. And your own thing is usually like an amalgamation of everything that you've picked up, everything you've learned. And you've made it your own, right?

[00:35:20] Lawrence Yeo: That's one of my favorite Charles Bukowski quotes. And now I would encourage people to watch his video on style. And he just talks about how style is a dangerous thing and how it could basically convert anything that's mundane into something amazing and playful.

[00:35:35] Lawrence Yeo: Whatever you're doing, understand that the reason why you're doing, especially as a creative endeavor, it's like you're not doing it because it's so practical. Like if you were really optimizing for practicality, this is not what you'd be spending a lot of your time doing. Trust me, there's way easier ways to do it, you know, you want corporate law, finance, right? If that's what you want, then do that. What you're here for is like, you're really here because there's the play element involved, but like also because, doing this makes you feel a certain element of joy that you don't get when you're just focused on what do you get out of it, right? What's my return on time? And I think that's the other thing too to consider is that like, a lot of time as your creative endeavor grows or as it becomes more of a career, you start using terms like that again that you didn't really use in the beginning, right? It's like, Oh, I spent two hours on this post today, that equals X this many dollars. Oh no, I could be doing something else or, ahh, getting on this podcast, that's X amount of dollars per like, that's not what you were doing this for.

[00:36:43] Lawrence Yeo: And I feel like the less you could kind of decouple or the more you could decouple yourself from that sentiment and to kind of resist the temptation of going back to that, the more playful it will seem, right. Where every conversation you're kind of looking for the, you're, you're excited about the tangents. For example, this chat we're having all I knew is I'm talking to David today. I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, we're just going to be here and talk about whatever comes up. And like that in itself is a source of play, right? Like we might not be like giddy and stuff like that throughout, but there's still a play here because we're doing things that are aligned with our agency. We're here because we both want to be here. And I think that's the same thing. It's like, everything feels playful when you know you want to be there fully and be engaged in there fully.

[00:37:29] Lawrence Yeo: And I think that's what children remind us of, right? Whenever they're playing, they're just there fully and that's exactly where they want to be.

[00:37:36] Lawrence Yeo: And I think what's cool is that if you have that mindset for long enough, it is your craft and that craft becomes very viable too, because we have an inherent attachment to play, and we love seeing people do that and to do it in a way that resonates, and that's what creativity and art is.

[00:37:54] David Elikwu: Yeah, you said a lot of great things and it's given me so many thoughts. I think the one that is top of my mind is this idea that, I wonder if feedback, in a sense, can be the corrupting force, and sometimes feedback comes in the form of money. Sometimes it comes in the form of advice, sometimes it comes in the form of an audience and people wanting to see what you've written.

[00:38:17] David Elikwu: Because when I think about, like, writing is something I've always loved. I love to do it and I just mentioned, for example, on the weekend, I wrote this ebook thing. I wasn't even planning to write that. The idea came to me while I was walking and I just, I started doing it and I did it Friday, I did it Saturday, I did it Sunday and I wrote all of this stuff and it just flowed and, and it felt like play.

[00:38:38] David Elikwu: And Naval Ravikant, has this great quote that he says, do the things that feel like play to you, that feel like work to others. And I think that's a, a great quote and it encapsulates a lot of what you were saying. But I think it can be hard because when you also want to get better at the craft, it can create this tension, especially when you introduce the feedback element where. Okay, there were some things that come to me so easily when I write and there were some ideas that I have and it's just so easy to write about it because everything just floats and it just makes sense and you can one shot the entire post and boom it's there, it's good like it feels like it resonates deeply. But then sometimes you have a good idea but then because you're anticipating the feedback you're anticipating, oh, I want this to be good. I want this to feel worthwhile, you're now anticipating the external audience that might be receiving this thing, then I have to think about this more. Okay, I can't finish this post now, I'm going to need some extra analogies, I need to, maybe in your case, do some extra drawings, or I need a different way to visualize this piece, or I need a different way to work on this, or, you know, that can kind of become a creative blocker in a sense where it just adds some extra friction to things coming out smoothly.

[00:39:46] David Elikwu: Whereas if you were just, if I was just writing that piece for myself, maybe I wouldn't, it wouldn't end up being a long post. Maybe I'd take it in a slightly different direction. Maybe it would never actually be as technically good as it could end up being, but I could do it now. But then maybe there's nothing wrong with something taking a long time to do, you know, you think of Leonardo da Vinci, you think of the Mona Lisa is technically unfinished, right? And we think of it as one of the, one of the greatest pieces of art. There's loads of pieces of art like that, that technically, or at least we think of as great, but to the artist, they thought, oh, this is never finished. This is not done. This is not craft. It's not good yet.

[00:40:21] David Elikwu: And yeah, so I think that's also this, this interesting tension as well, where when we think of what we want to present in the end there's this measure of goodness and the quality is different from what we think of when we're just doing something for ourselves and we're just playing and we're just having fun and doing something that comes naturally.

[00:40:40] David Elikwu: And some of it maybe also links to what you were mentioning before with trying different mediums like at one point you were making music, you've done the drawing, you've done the writing and some different things resonate in different ways. And I'm sure there are some musicians that maybe they are composers and how it feels to them to compose a really amazing piece that you hear and maybe evoke some feelings is exactly the way that you feel when you're writing. But it might not be vice versa, like you might not feel exactly like that when you're making beats versus when someone else is writing.

[00:41:11] Lawrence Yeo: Yeah, the way I see it is that, you know, when you're working on something or you're creating something, I think the ultimate form of feedback is your own kind of self checking mechanisms, right? And that is informed by your taste. What's really important as a creator or an artist is that your taste is also indicative of what you believe to be great quality stuff. So that way you don't have to rely on an external audience for feedback.

[00:41:38] Lawrence Yeo: Now, I'm not saying that feedback is not important in many ways. It really helps with the process but no amount of feedback is going to bring out the most salient or authentic expression of self. I think that ultimately comes from a constant conversation you have from your abilities and your taste, really, it's like this constant dialogue between the two. So, in the case where you were like, yeah, you wrote something real quick and it just flowed out effortlessly. And then you look at it and you're like, okay, well, I could have spent more time doing it. Now, the question I have here is, well, why did you say that, right? Why did you say that you could spend more time doing it, right? Like what, what's behind that impulse and chances are it has something to do with your taste, right? It's your taste being like, well, based upon the things that I like, or the things that I've enjoyed, it's like, I think it could be fleshed out a little bit more, right? But this is a great start, but it could use a little bit more work.

[00:42:37] Lawrence Yeo: If you have that, then the great thing about that kind of internal feedback is that you also feel more compelled to take action upon it. Whereas if you got an email from a reader saying like, Hey, David, this part here, like, I think you could instead use this analogy, you'll be like, cool, but I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to just like, put that in there because you gave me that feedback. So, yes, that's something to consider like, okay, that was a good point, but to actually do something about, you know, a certain form of feedback, like the best one is your own what you say about it.

[00:43:12] Lawrence Yeo: And that's also why I tell people, after you read, after you're done with the piece, like try reading it out loud, because when you read it out loud, what happens is you also have a much higher sensitivity to what may be boring, what may be confusing, what may feel like you're rambling. And then that will help you identify the red flags. And then you're like, okay, I got to change that part. And when you feel that yourself, you feel way more compelled to change it than if someone, a reader told you that's what they think, right? And it's not even just a reader, let's say even a person you admire greatly read your work and said, Yeah, I feel like this could use some change. Yeah, that's good feedback, but I still don't think you'll rush to do it, right? Like, you still feel like, no, but these are my thoughts, this is how I want to express myself. The question here is, well, okay, how do you keep your taste elevated? How do you make sure that you still have a high bar for quality? And this is where the consumption piece comes in, right? It's like you want to ensure that you are taking in information that just isn't junk. And also it feels like you have a better idea of what resonates, right? Because it resonates with yourself.

[00:44:19] Lawrence Yeo: And this is also why I read a lot of stuff that have nothing to do with what I write about. So I read a ton of fiction, I read a lot of fiction. Do I have any plans to write fiction? Not really. But the reason why I read it is because like, fiction has much more, it leaves much more open to beauty. Where you read it and you're like, Oh, damn, that was beautiful. You don't really get similar reaction reading a lot of nonfiction, especially like self help and stuff like that. It's much more functional in many ways. But fiction gives me that element of beauty. And like, that's something that I feel like is very cool. I'm like, Oh, if my writing could have elegance, then like, that's great. But do I take tactics from fiction and use? Not really. It's just that what it does for my taste also gives me a kind of a better standard for how I Approach my own writing as well.

[00:45:09] Lawrence Yeo: What's great is that a lot of this stuff happens underneath the hood. Like you don't have to take out a pen and write out your rules for writing and like what you learned from reading this, it just kind of happens underneath the hood and then it finds its way through the act of writing or the act of expression, whatever it may be, it will find its way there. And that's why consumption and creativity are so closely interrelated and they feed off of one another. But if you have that feedback loop tight where you're kind of refining your taste and then you're continue to put stuff out into the world and you're kind of cycling through that, then you don't really even think so much about what people will think about your work. And you have your own bar that you've set. And the more refined that could be, the more you could just go off of what you feel like works and what doesn't. And that I think that's where you get the best work a lot of time and the most authentic stuff.

[00:46:02] David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time. 

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