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

They talked about:

πŸ“– How stories influence thinking

πŸ” The value of exploring different genres

πŸ•°οΈ How history changes beliefs.

🌍 How broad taste can influence creativity

🎨 The unique approach to nonfiction storytelling

πŸš€ How he started blogging and made his first post

This is just one part of a longer conversation, and it's the second part. You can listen to the earlier episode here:

Part 1: πŸŽ™οΈThe Career of a Practical Creator with Lawrence Yeo (Episode 87)

πŸŽ™ Listen in your favourite podcast player

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🎧 Listen on Spotify:

πŸ“Ή Watch on Youtube:

πŸ‘€ Connect with Lawrence:

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

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

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

πŸ“„ Show notes:

00:00 | Intro

03:27 | Importance of balancing fiction and non-fiction in reading habits

06:56 | Timeless nature of storytelling

08:32 | The value of exploring different genres

13:23 | How culture and history shape beliefs

17:03 | How broad taste can influence creativity

22:41 | Traveling fuels creativity

26:11 | A unique approach to nonfiction storytelling

30:06 | How he started blogging and made his first post

32:21 | Embracing curiosity and uncertainty in creativity

πŸ—£ Mentioned in the show:

Khe Hy | https://theknowledge.io/khehy-1/

Dale Carnegie | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dale_Carnegie

J Dilla | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J_Dilla

Epic of Gilgamesh | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_of_Gilgamesh

Tim Urban | https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/life-weeks.html

Travel is No Cure for the Mind | https://moretothat.com/travel-is-no-cure-for-the-mind/

Lex Fridman | https://lexfridman.com/

Thinking in Stories | https://thinkinginstories.com/

The Labor of Inspiration | https://moretothat.com/the-labor-of-inspiration/

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

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

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

RenΓ© Girard | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RenΓ©_Girard

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

Naval Ravikant | https://theknowledge.io/ericjorgenson-3/

Full episode transcript below

πŸ‘¨πŸΎβ€πŸ’» 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.

🐣 Twitter: @Delikwu / @itstheknowledge

🌐 Website: https://www.davidelikwu.com

πŸ“½οΈ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/davidelikwu

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πŸ“œFull transcript:

[00:00:00] Lawrence Yeo: When you get comfortable with the fact that you don't know everything and that you can't know everything, that's what curiosity is to begin with.

what I find, the common mistake that writers make is that they focus too much on the takeaway. They go straight to, all right, you know, except when you have enough or just be present. These are the takeaways, the solutions, but people don't really care about the takeaways,

the more so that provokes your curiosity, instead of making you feel like, damn, why aren't there any answers? Like, I wish there were more concrete answers. The fact that they don't have answers are why we're all here, why we're all creating, why we're all putting our thoughts, ideas out into the world. that, I think that's something to be very grateful for.

[00:00:43] David Elikwu: This week, I'm sharing the second part of my conversation with Lawrence Yeo, who is an illustrator, a storyteller, a writer, and the creator of More To That, which is a very popular illustrated blog that I've been reading for years, along with tens of thousands of other people. So like I mentioned, this is the second part of our conversation.

You should definitely go back and listen to the first part. We had a really engaging conversation.

And in this part, you're going to hear us talking about how stories can influence our thinking. We talk about the value of exploring different genres, both in terms of fiction and nonfiction, and then different genres in music and other forms of art as well.

We talk about how history can change and shape our beliefs and how having a broad taste can influence your creativity. We also talk about lawrence's unique approach to non fiction storytelling and he talks about how he started his blog from the very first post and the journey that he's been on since then.

So this is a really interesting conversation for anyone interested in unlocking some of their creativity, Lawrence and I definitely riffed along many lines of storytelling, curiosity, creativity, how to navigate uncertainty and many more things.

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. We'll have links to a lot of the blog posts that we mentioned in the description or the show notes, if you're listening on audio, but Lawrence's website is moretothat.com and he has a course at thinkinginstories.com.

So 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.

[00:02:23] David Elikwu: And I'm really glad that you read a lot of fiction, this is a big thing for me, I read a ton of fiction, also a lot of non fiction, I mean, I primarily actually used to just write fiction and I still do now, but the non fiction has kind of taken precedence just because that's what people are reading.

So, but I also love, I know you're friends with Khe actually, Khe Hy, and I remember a conversation I was having with him. I mean, he's been on the podcast, but this was separate. And just the fact that he listens to UK rap, like he actually has a very wide music taste. I think you do as well, but that's one thing that I love.

Like the fact that, you know, people that are unafraid to expand their horizons and not just thinking within a very narrow domain. Like I hear some people that say, okay, I'm only going to read nonfiction and I get it. Like maybe you're successful and fine that works for you, but okay, I can give you a good example of how.

I think when you read fiction, just like what you were saying, some of it is below the surface. These things that you can learn and take in, especially if you have a sense of curiosity that can help you whatever else you're writing or do whatever else you're doing.

So the post that came to mind as an example where there was one piece of inspiration that came for it from fiction and then one from non fiction. So I was reading an old Sherlock Holmes book and one thing, so I'll tell you about the post first. I don't think I've actually published it yet, I haven't finished working on it. But the idea is that there's a lot of things that inform the way that we view the world that are based on kind of something that you mentioned, this idea that we are dropped into the world at a particular point in time. And so a lot of our beliefs kind of coalesce around the beliefs of that period. And it's so interesting how, if you were born at a different point in time, this might seem like common sense, but if you were born at a different point in time, some of the things that you believe to be true at the world would be fundamentally different.

And I don't just mean your beliefs about like, racism or, you know, whether women should vote or something like that, but I mean, okay, two examples. One, in this Sherlock Holmes book, the author was writing, and very much in passing, they mentioned Santa Claus, and they said, You know, his green cloak and I was like, hold on, hold on your Santa Claus is wearing green. My Santa Claus does not wear green. And again, it's one of these like underlying facts that you believe is true about the world that, you know, Santa Claus wears red. But to the author, Santa Claus wears green. And he's just assuming Santa Claus wears green. Why wouldn't he be wearing, like, it's not something he needed to expand on. It was just in passing like, of course, Santa Claus is wearing green.

And then similarly, there was a book I was reading. I think it might be, how to win friends and influence people, the book by Dale Carnegie. And in that book, again, very much in passing, so this is now non fiction, but it's not a point he's making, but very much in passing, he just says something about how, oh, you know, like our parents or our grandparents, they used to get on one knee and propose to people. And of course, we're never going to do that, that's like such an antiquated thing.

And again, it's hilarious because that's what we do now. And you know, it's interesting how some of these things skip generations or just whatever time period you're in, you just assume, oh, this is normal. But for them, they were looking at that and being like, Oh, this is antiquated and suddenly that's what we do again.

And so again, like if I wasn't reading both fiction and non fiction in that kind of way, at least with that kind of inquisitive spirit, you probably wouldn't be able to connect those dots and say, huh, it's very interesting that in a lot of these worlds, people just say the things they believe to be true but just by virtue of being born at a different time. Those things are no longer true for you. And how much does that change the way that you see the world? Do you get what I mean? So things like that, I think are really interesting.

[00:05:51] Lawrence Yeo: It's totally like and I think you have to be open to exploring all those different worlds in order to see some of these unifying truths right like seeing that we are all a byproduct of the culture we're raised in or the time period that we're in.

And what's especially interesting too, is that I also read a lot of science fiction and science fiction is set in an imagined future, right? But the imagined future is also a product of the current culture you're in, right? Like, if you read like older sci fi and the kind of future they were predicting, it'll look very different from the future we're predicting now. And that makes sense because it's all an extension of what you only know now.

And I forgot who had this sentiment where there's this, it might be a certain psychologist, but it kind of talking about how, whenever people have talked about the anatomy of the body, for example, it's always been in relation to the technology of the time. So it's like, like the heart has a pump and then, like, now we kind of look into the mind as, like, for example, simulation theory because we're in the computer era. So, there's always this connection of thinking about our world in relation to the technological culture that we're a part of, right?

These things are not domain independent and I think, the more disciplines you kind of peer into and are interested in, the more of these commonalities you see. And that's actually just as an aside, why I was, I feel like I was so into hip hop and rap, because especially as a musician, as a beat maker, it's like a lot of it's sampled. And so I learned about other genres of music through hip hop.

And one of my favorite beat makers is J Dilla. What Dilla would, he just sampled anything, everything, electronic music, soul music, rock, just all kinds of stuff. And like, just even through him alone, you're able to see so many different musical disciplines.

I think like, you can also do that with reading, right? Like you can see that, yes, the obvious thing is to just read about what you're interested in from like a practical standpoint. So in my case, that'd be, I don't know, reading a lot of philosophy or psychology, but you'll find elements of that in other disciplines. And if you could see that, that also just makes you a better storyteller too, because you're able to combine everything together, right? It's really the combination element that makes a good story that kind of yields great creative things and so forth.

But also more importantly, that whatever you're reading doesn't have to have a concrete function. And I think this is also why I say that like rest is when you don't tie it to anything you produce, that's when you really feel like you're resting. So if you are a, let's say a finance writer and in your spare time, you're reading about the markets and like all this stuff that may not feel like rest because you're reading something that directly ties into what you may write about.

But if you are reading, I don't know, like a short story on a dystopian universe or something like that, that has nothing to do with what you write about. Then it could actually feel kind of restful, even if the topic is intense, but it could feel like rest because what you're reading has nothing to do with what you're going to produce. And so not only do you feel rest from that activity, but in an interesting way, kind of underneath the hood, it could also help to inform what you do stylistically, but you're not really thinking about that function.

[00:09:20] David Elikwu: I'd love to hear a bit more about how you teach the course on storytelling and, you know, what you think of as the fundamental principles of storytelling and how you think about that, particularly because, so to connect these two dots of thinking about sources, so we were just talking about, okay, there are some things that depending on when you're born at different times in history, that can shape the way that you think of the world in slightly different ways, but the inverse is also true.

And I remember quite recently, I read the Epic of Gilgamesh for the first time. It's something I'd heard people mention once or twice and you just think, what is this thing? So I went and I found a copy and I read it. And it's so interesting that this is one of the oldest stories that we have. And I was writing a novel, I'm still working on it now. And the story beats are almost exactly the same and I'd never come across this story, but it's crazy how one of the oldest human stories that we have that's influenced so many things still resonates to the extent that I am writing using an element of that formula without even knowing it.

And of course, I'm sure there's plenty of other stories that in the same way, like map out some of the same story beats, like the hero does this, then the hero does that, and then this happens, then that happens.

And so there's this idea that like human stories throughout time, there are tons of similarities and we know how to structure stories even inherently, even if you haven't necessarily taken the time to study you know, story craft and how to do all of these things.

So I'd love to know maybe your thoughts on that. And then also how you think about, particularly because you write these, they're not all like Tim Urban length posts but some of them are quite long and quite deep. So I'd love to know, yeah, how you think about crafting some of those stories as well.

[00:10:55] Lawrence Yeo: Yeah. So storytelling, I don't approach it with the lens of like hero's journeys or three act structures and stuff like that. I think especially because I focus on nonfiction storytelling.

And what I found is that there's often a disconnect, you teach people these storytelling techniques and a lot of times they kind of shake their head. Like, well, hero's journey like I'm just, I'm just trying to like write about how to get fit or something like that or, or what have you, right. I'm not trying to build this entire journey, so I don't see how it fits. Same thing with three act structures and teaching beats and stuff like that.

So I made Thinking in Stories, my storytelling course, because it was kind of meant to fill in a little bit of that gap where it's like, how do I make this craft much more accessible and also much more applicable to something like usually a nonfiction storyteller, that's kind of what I was thinking about and most people that take the course focus in that realm.

And I kind of really distilled it all down to a few principles, and I think the first thing is that, what is a theme, right? I think that's the first thing, and people have very complicated ways to describe what a theme is, but the way I see it is that, a theme is a story's problem and its takeaway. That's it, that's what a theme is.

And what I find, the common mistake that writers make is that they focus too much on the takeaway. So they go straight to, all right, you know, except when you have enough or just be present and like these are the takeaways, the solutions, but people don't really care about the takeaways, right?

Like there's a reason why twitter posts are not evergreen. Like they don't have a high shelf life, whereas other pieces really do. And the best stories I found is that they focus really on framing the problem very well. They take the problem and they really put it on center stage and then get the reader to care about the problem as much as they do. So there's a lot of different ways to do that, but this technique I call problem framing is super, super important to draw the reader in to get them invested in it. So don't focus too much on the takeaway, spend most of your time framing the problem.

And I think if you do that very well, then what happens is that the reader kind of comes to take away themselves.

And I think this finds its way through, for example, film, where some of the best films don't have clean cut endings, right? Like that's why people love independent films, for example, and people are kind of getting tired of Marvel movies and stuff like that, right? Like you want to feel like there was some agency there, okay, I could kind of come across the conclusion myself and it also encourages discussion. I think that's what happens when you do a good job framing the problem and kind of acting as a guide through your story. But not to plop them down at the end, the beacon at the finish line and say, all right, this is what you walk away with.

So how do you frame the problem? I mean, that's a big part of what I teach in the course and different methods. But there's a reason why I use visuals and I use graphs, spectrums. These are all great ways to show the problem at hand. And if you take a look at some of my longer stories, a lot of it is, just a lot problem framing and using personal anecdotes or other sources to build the scaffolding of that problem. And as a result, the reader could say, aha, I have now seen the problem with so much clarity that I had this kind of insight I could take away with me because in the end, that's what a good story does is that it leaves the reader with a particular insight, a particular aha moment, and that's really it.

A lot of times people don't remember the actual words, the sentences. They just remember the particular insight that they took away. Like they read the title and they're like, Oh yeah, I remember that from that story, and that's pretty much what it is. Like travel is no cure for the mind is my most, probably my most popular piece. And the main, main thing, the insight of, yeah, travel is no cure for them. It's in the title, but if you read the story, I'm walking the person through the problem, I'm showing a character saying, Hey, this is you and this character leaves his job because he wants to go travel and then sees that. Well, travel is not as great as I thought it was. And then how the answer is everything around me, what I have in my immediate vicinity, that is where the beauty resides. But if I just say that, it won't resonate, it would just fall flat. So I have to build a narrative around that and take the reader through the realization, the aha moment themselves. So by the time they're done with the story, they feel like, oh, wow, I just went through that and I felt what exactly Lawrence was trying to communicate through this story.

So that's kind of the higher level there. And then there's, of course, a lot of nuance that I go into the curriculum itself.

[00:15:44] David Elikwu: Yeah, wasn't that also one of your first posts as well?

[00:15:47] Lawrence Yeo: Yeah, it was, it was my first more that post.

Well a lot of people don't know is that I actually made three posts of similar length even before I hit publish at all. And, so just to give you an idea, Travel is No Cure for the Mind took me, 80 to a hundred hours around there. Um, and so did the other two posts.

So collectively I spent like 250 to 300 hours on something that I didn't even know people would read yet. And a part of that is because, I think I mentioned it in this, this recording we're doing now about how with my music, I wanted to first know that this writing thing would be something that I just like inherently. Like if I had all this time to do it, would I enjoy it really? Or is it just something that I feel like I should like? Because this is something that is, that sounds promising for me to express myself. So while I was still working in my job, funding me, I don't think about money for the time being. I'm just spending time creating this big posts. Spending hours and hours and hours. I have no readership, I don't know if it's going to hit. More than I had zero followers before or zero subscribers before I hit publish. But I just want to know what it's like, do I like spending all this time drawing stuff with these characters? All this time writing, thinking about it.

And I found, wow, yeah, this is intrinsically moving for me and I enjoy doing this. So it was a nice little on ramp for me to test the hypothesis that this is something that I want to spend a lot of time doing.

And when I understood that the answer to that was yes, then it was like, okay, cool. I'm going to publish. I don't know how it's going to do, and I chose Travel is No Cure for the Mind to be my first piece, but it just so happened that it resonated a lot.

The takeaway from that is that, you can't control the outcomes, right? You publish something, and it either generates nothing, which probably is, it's like indifference is I think worse than like negative criticism in the beginning, right?

Because I think indifference it's just you don't hear anything, you don't know if anyone cares. And on the flip side you have like a lot of people that may resonate with it. And all those outcomes you can't control, what I think what you can control is like the quality of what you produce, and like the cadence in which you want to publish it, but also just like, what you feel about doing it intrinsically? Does it move you? Do you feel like you could do this for a while?

And I think that's the thing to figure out before you jump into yeah, I want to make this my thing, because so and so makes it look all sexy and so forth, it's like, no, you got to figure out yourself if you really want to do that. And you have to test that by actually investing a lot of time to do it, and the best time to do it is, when you don't have to think about money, when you have a day job to help give you that space to think.

[00:19:17] David Elikwu: Part of the reason I wanted to clarify that is because obviously, when is your first post? I think there's two things. One is, you probably don't know in advance that it's going to take you a hundred hours or more. I mean, even with the other two that you didn't publish at the time and you chose this as the first one, you might not know at the outset that this is how long it's going to take. But then also, when you first start, particularly if it's your first one that you've shared, you also might not know intuitively, or I guess the point is perhaps it is intuitive, you might not know, you haven't tested that, okay, this is exactly the process to write an incredible banger that everyone's going to love and it's going to last for however long, because this is going to be an excellent post.

So I'd love to know, like, what was the core idea? What was the starting point of, okay, Did you already have fully fleshed out? This is the full idea or did it start with some corn nugget that kind of got built out and then, you're adding the drawings and you're adding some other parts and then it builds out to 100 hours

[00:20:15] Lawrence Yeo: Yeah, I didn't know it would take that long to begin with like, I was just basing it off of my own personal experience traveling, I spent six months abroad in Hong Kong and you know, like I just noticed certain patterns that would arise when it came to traveling. And the pieces, it's not an anti travel post, it's just more of a encouragement to readers to appreciate their immediate surroundings and to find that, that really is the answer a lot of the time.

And I just had this general idea. So let's briefly break it down using the method I described. So we have the problem and take away. So the problem is that, travel doesn't bring us the happiness we thought it would. So that was the problem that I wanted to communicate.

And the takeaway is to appreciate what you have now, that's basically it. The entire story is just those two points. And my whole thing was, okay, how do I not make this sound trite, right? So in this case, I think this was one of the pieces where I actually started with a lot of the illustrations. And I was just thinking about, all right, how do I, if I'm going to put the reader at the center of the story, and that's also another conscious choice to make is like, when do you want to say you throughout the story, you, you, you versus imagine Sam, because there's actually a reason to choose between the perspective.

So I knew that I was going to put you at the center because I wanted the reader to viscerally feel the journey I'm guiding them through. Now, how can I make them understand, even if they've never left their home before to feel like what it's like to go travel somewhere, thinking that it's the answer? And then being there noticing it's not and then returning. So I thought about like, Oh, what are some analogies, right? Like to describe the mundaneness of day to day life, which makes someone want to travel and burst out. So I thought, Huh, you could feel a little trapped and then, Oh, a box, a box. So then I thought of this thing called the box of daily experience, which people cycle between.

So I'm thinking of ways where I could describe something like the routineness of life. But in a way that could stick and stay in the reader's mind. So a lot of people still think about that box and then breaking out of that box.

I think drawing everything just took a lot of time because I had sketches and then I just actually was trying to draw it. So it looks presentable in a sense. With this, it was like, I actually did a lot of the writing by hand for, for this piece. And that's one thing that I also encourage people.

You don't have to write all your posts by hand, but like have some sort of practice where you write with your hand. So for me now, it's just journaling. I journal every day with by hand. It's just a nice way to, it's a tangible way to see what you think. And for this piece, I don't know what compelled me to write this out by hand, but I did. And that process took a while.

I think what's great about this, the first couple of posts was that it was just all experimentation. And the great thing about building ideas on top of one another is that like, you gain confidence in what you're doing. And at the same time there's doubt. So they kind of feed off of one another where the confidence says, Oh yeah, this is good. And then the doubt says, wait, but there's another way you could do a little bit better. And then like you start, they kind of like go hand in hand. And then next thing you know, I just want to put more time into it. And when I hit publish, I didn't think it was done, done. Like that's the thing too, is that it's never going to feel a hundred percent, right? Like you said, some of the great works of art were unfinished pieces, and a big part of it is like knowing what it feels to be good enough for you, to also know that good enough is not shitty work. It's stuff that you feel like it's still deserving of someone's attention, but it's okay to let it go, right?

And I think even with that I could have kept working on it, but I was like, you know what? It feels good. I didn't even think about the hours, which is why I roughly give that estimate, I just knew it took a long ass time. But by the time it was done, it wasn't like, oh wow, I spent this much time. So it needs to be a banger. It's just like, nah, this was the piece that I made, given the time that I had and given what I wanted out of it, which was just me figuring out if I like this style of writing and drawing, and it got a great response.

I feel like my time in music was so helpful because it really helped me kind of detach a lot of the external validation stuff from the intrinsic stuff. Because I think if that weren't the case, then I would be like, maybe I got to write about travel. Like, maybe I'm a travel guy and, you know, like, kind of keep that boat going. But I knew that now this was just at this point in time what I wanted to write about. I have so many other things I'm interested in, and I'm just going to do that.

So that has kind of guided me throughout really. And like along the way, what's great is that like, I've picked up so many different audiences and different like sectors really, right. Like now there's a lot of people, there's a lot of finance people that read my stuff cause I started writing about money in 2020. And it's just something that I wanted to write about, it's not like I had an aim for it. It's just something that I thought was interesting because it reveals so much about human nature. And next thing you know, it's a, there's a lot of finance people that read my stuff. Like that's the cool thing too is there's people that love creativity, people that want to understand money, people that like have interest in understanding anxiety. Cause I've written about that at in two really big posts, people that want to think just like philosophy, there's all kinds of things and I think that's all downstream from my interests.

You don't have to niche into one thing. I think that there's something beautiful about having so many interests and then writing about whatever you're curious about, because if you do that well enough and you do that for yourself and you care about it, then I think that there's a gravitational pull towards that.

[00:25:53] David Elikwu: Funnily enough one of the last things you were saying about travel just made me think about. Well, two things. One is that first of all, there's probably, I should share that post with more people because there's some people I know that definitely still need to read that, that first post. But then also, and I don't know exactly what the point is of this revelation, but I was just thinking about my own experience with traveling and it's interesting that for me.

Especially now, and I think it has been the case for a little while, travel feels a lot more like the question than the answer. And I think a big reason for that is because I do street photography. So in my newsletter I also include some of my photos that I just take around. But that is part of the reason that I love to travel is just to, okay, probably when I first started travelling by myself I think probably one of the first trips I did alone was moving to China.

So that was a big, you know, you're suddenly in a very different place, it's not a holiday, I was going to work. I was working at a law firm there and yeah, that whole time I didn't really get to do much touristy stuff or holiday stuff, but I did get to experience a lot of life and what life is like somewhere very different but in many ways, not very different at all actually, it's very similar to, I'm originally from Nigeria. And so you just see a lot of the confluences of like, okay, people across the world, very different, but also very similar. And that's I think, I developed this fascination for people and people in different places.

And so then when I traveled and I get to just experience like the different facets of how different people live and I think about, again, because I read fiction or you know, nonfiction, perhaps a little bit, but then when you travel to some other places, you kind of connect some more dots like, I was traveling in the Balkans a few years ago, and you just see from how people look as in you know, like their physiogamy and facial features and stuff, you kind of see where different people come from and how different cultures evolved and a lot of that stuff becomes interesting.

So anyway, that's an aside, but it's also interesting how I think when you're, it's not necessarily the purpose of travel changes, but when in some ways it kind of becomes a means to an end because I'm also going there to do like creative things and it becomes part of the, the creative process as well, how that flipped for me that sense of, okay, I'm going because of the destination like the destination is the thing, it's the object to that's actually just the journey and the destination is the experience of, you have to find it for yourself, especially when you do something like photography. You can't just land and there's a perfect picture. Like, I'm not just going to the museum. I have to see the people and I have to see what they're doing, and the story materialises from that. And it's from watching what people do and how people do things, and you have to go to places where local people are, because you're not going to see anything otherwise.

So yeah, that's, that's been an interesting journey for me, which is slightly different.

But one thing I wanted to ask you about is, you mentioned, I guess this idea of curiosity, and I think I've heard you mentioned before that curiosity is something like being grateful for uncertainty and being uncomfortable with the unknown and really grappling with the gap between the things that you know, and the things that you don't know.

And I think for a lot of people, that is also what can be scary about it, right. And that's part of the reason why I think a lot of people can think they're not creative is because you have to sit and think, and sometimes you have to wait for things to come to you. And maybe this is connecting the dots between what I was saying about photography as well, where a big part of the creativity is kind of manifesting things from the void and kind of plucking something out of nowhere in a sense. At least that's how I think of it. So yeah, I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on that.

[00:29:22] Lawrence Yeo: I feel like the greatest asset for any creator or artist is to get comfortable with uncertainty and to like you mentioned, it's like, I view it as being grateful for uncertainty instead of fearing it. I think fearing it is our default state and very, very closely tied to our fear of death. But I think that when you get comfortable with the fact that you don't know everything and that you can't know everything, that's what curiosity is to begin with.

I feel like curiosity is just looking out and being like, thank goodness I don't know everything. Because if I did, there's nothing for me to be curious about. And that could only arise from looking at the, whether it's your own life or whatever you're working on now and being like, I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know what's going to come out of it. And because of that, there is like this challenge that's imbued within it.

We value stability up to a point. And I think stability is the kind of ultimate commitment to certainty. But we generally feel kind of perturbed if that's all that defines our lives, right. As you can see by people that don't want to leave their work or things that are, where is this very certain there's a very predictable cadence. We kind of seek uncertainty, in a sense, and we seek a manageable amount of it. And like, I think risk tolerance, of course, plays a big role in how you view uncertainty. But for me, it's more about the fact that I look out and I'm like, there's just so much to know, not from a knowledge perspective, but there's just so much to experience. I find a lot of inspiration in the mundane, just things that people may just kind of gloss over, because a lot of time that stuff, it really like triggers a lot of like thoughts and it just makes me think like, huh, why is, why is that a certain way? Why does the water look that way when the light is shining on it? This is a kind of thought I have while swimming sometimes. And you know, like these kinds of things just make me feel like, huh, I'm kind of, I could go and chat GPT it and stuff like that, but I kind of liked the fact that there's agency in me figuring it out.

If you feel like figuring things out is something that ignites you and you feel challenged by it in the best of ways, then curiosity is your greatest asset. And I really do think that curiosity is one of the gateways to happiness and contentment. The fact that you have something to wonder about, the fact that you have something to discuss and try to figure out and that you don't have the answers. I think that's what great storytelling is also, the great storytelling is, it's about you ask the question very well, it's not about getting to the answer. The most important questions in life have generally been asked and this kind of makes me think also about this Zuckerberg interview I heard on the Lex Friedman podcast, where he was like, I think all the technological problems will be sorted out. And he's like, the ones that will be left remaining are the philosophical ones. What do we do with all this stuff? And that's because these questions are age old. Philosophical questions are age old, ethics, epistemology, all these things to figure out, like, these are all things that have lasted throughout human history, and that will continue to. But the reason why we never tire of them, and why they will always remain relevant, is because there are no clear answers. And I think that the more so that provokes your curiosity, instead of making you feel like, damn, why aren't there any answers? Like, I wish there were more concrete answers. The fact that they don't have answers are why we're all here, why we're all creating, why we're all putting our thoughts, ideas out into the world. And that, I think that's something to be very grateful for.

So, like I say, the question is often far more important than the answer, and creativity is more in the habit of getting comfortable with the fact that you have continuous inquiries and defined inquiries where people might not find them.

[00:33:17] David Elikwu: I think one of the last questions I might ask you is, is there anything that you do in particular to cultivate your curiosity? For me, for example, and I think funnily enough, as I think about it now, it's going to sound like the answer for me is probably walking because all the stories that I've told about me writing stuff has started with me on a walk somewhere. But yeah, I'll give you another walking story.

So I was going to the gym and the gym is one stop away on the train. I could just walk, I think I checked on the map and It would be like 12 minutes to go to the train station, take the train one stop and walk to the gym. But I decided to walk the entire way instead. And if you walk at about 45 minutes or so, and as I was walking, I think on this day, it had rained slightly earlier in the day and the sun was just coming out, but it wasn't like a hot or warm day, but at least the sun was now in the sky visible. And as I was walking, I think I passed this fence and I noticed something and I had to like double back on myself and walk backwards and I was like, I'm pretty sure I saw something like some, some smoke or some weird thing, but I couldn't see it from like just any angle. So I had to like walk backwards and then walk again. And then as I walked past, I saw, it looked like smoke rising from this fence, but you could only see it from a particular angle. And I was like, at first I was like, is this on fire or what's happening? And then as I looked closer, then I realized that essentially what was happening is, because it had rained earlier, so I pieced it together, because it had rained earlier, this fence must have gotten soaked, because it's a wooden fence. And so now that the sun's out, the water vapor is evaporating from the fence. But again, it was this thing where I couldn't have seen this incredible phenomena by any other means of transport, if I was on a bike, or I was jogging, or I was driving, or I was on a train, I would never get to experience this little magic moment that makes me ask this question about, what's happening? Why does this, you know, this little physics problem? Why is this happening? How does this work like that? Like it's only by taking the very slowest means of transport that you get to notice this tiny little thing that makes you ask this interesting question.

So I'd love know you, is there anything that you do to help you come up with, I mean, maybe not help, but that engages you in different ways that makes you think of some of these tough problems.

[00:35:32] Lawrence Yeo: Walking is huge too. Yeah, just walking around block and doing it without headphones. You're just walking and kind of letting your thoughts wander. There's no function behind it, you're just going, I think a lot of this stuff is kind of detached from function and like what it's meant to serve. It's just very serendipitous in nature. So things that are imbued with serendipity tend to be great sources and the less you look for them, the more you get. I mean, of course, conversation is huge. I mean, you have this podcast that you have a lot of things to draw upon where you get to hear people's stories and hear people's thoughts on various topics. And that will help you to inform certain things that you're curious about or delve deeper into other things. So yeah, when I have chats with people that also inspires me, and it's not even just like with new people, it's also just like, with conversations I have people that I've known for a long time.

So yeah, in the evening, just talking with my wife about random stuff, we both hold like creativity to be such a virtue. So, you know, like there's various times we were just talking about it and different things pop up.

And I think for me, a lot of it is like, there, there is inspiration that comes, one, like serendipity and also two from just like the act of creation itself. So even if you don't feel like you have any idea in particular to build something off of, just like trying to do it anyway, like that also acts as a source of inspiration. A lot of times, like one piece I write opens up so many doors to other things. Because there's so many tangents I want to go on and I'm like, Ooh, let's just save that for later. You kind of want to combine both of them, like I have this framework of there's a fairy and there's a labor and they kind of work together, the fairy kind of sprinkles dust and you kind of wait for it and then the labor is like, you get there at a particular time and then you clock in and clock out and stuff like that. I think both of them have a function for creativity and it's kind of like oscillating between the two. And combining them, that helps you to kind of not just stay inspired, but find the challenge worthwhile.

And yeah, for people that are curious, that piece is called The Labor of Inspiration, so you could read more of my thoughts on there about that.

It's a long post, so I'll save you the time here.

[00:37:41] David Elikwu: To end, I would also highly recommend everyone listening to this to check out a lot of your work. There was a post that just came to my mind that you wrote. I think it's something like, reality isn't weird, you are? Something along those lines. I think that also a great post and you've written a ton of other great ones, so we'll put links, all the links in the description as well.

[00:38:00] Lawrence Yeo: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it. It was great chatting with you.

[00:38:04] 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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