Evil Plans by Hugh MacLeod

Hugh MacLeod of gapingvoid fame, advises readers in a book, how to “do what you love”.

Like his cartoons, his delivery is pithy, razor-sharp and easy to digest. His points are mostly original and backed by personal experience, mainly referencing gapingvoid-related endeavors. No wishy-washy truisms that have been repeated to death. The ones that are not entirely original make you nod in agreement and wonder why you never thought to document it – like all good advice.

I’m trying to decide if it’s a little self-aggrandizing but given that he really has bashed this path to success, there’s no harm in a little trumpet-blowing. I wasn’t so sure about “unifying work and love” because I’m more inclined to agree with his other theory, “sex and cash” in Ignore Everybody (his previous book). It’s legit to a certain point. I think you can marry what you love with what you do to a point where you’re mostly happy to go to work and driven to create magic there. But some part of it will always be work. Then again, he’s the one who has succeeded there. Plus, I might be just weird like that; the moment I need to do something for reasons other than the whimsical desire to do it, I start hating it.

Because his points are so honest and original, there are too many of them I want to keep in my pocket and read everyday. Some of his gems:

1. The market for something to believe in is infinite
(Quote is actually Seth Godin’s) Consumers can’t “drink more bottled water than they already do, buy more wine, wear more than one pair of shoes at a time” but belief in humanity and human potential is a bottomless pit. Sell consumers the bigger idea, the spirituality of your brand. Don’t force your puny marketing message, your product benefits down their throat. Sell them the spirituality that comes from your belief system.

That’s the reason there’s a Susan Boyle or Paul Potts in every reality TV.

2. Fill in the narrative gaps
“Have a story. Make sure it’s a damn good one.” is basically an anecdote of his successful film director friend who conjured a story out of thin air and leveraged that to build his success. This story made me smile and secured my belief in his book – practical advice, every single one.

The universal relevance of storytelling is not a new concept. Telling people made up stories to get ahead is not new. And MacLeod had the balls to say it as it is.

3. Create snowballs
“Random acts of traction” is his phrase for little things you put out there to let accumulate mass from other people’s contributions and conversations. You never can predict what they become.

4. Embrace Crofting
His term for an emerging concept of work that is not just your job scope, but a little of everything on the side. I completely agree that we all need to evolve with this to stay relevant. Dipping our hands in many metaphorical cookie jars is important if only to initiate us into alien fields and make it easier for us to stay connected. Actually, more importantly, I think it’s about the blurring of lines – like how a little calligraphy knowledge makes the difference in computer-making. My version of this would be: Have your thing, the one you do really well, best in the world even. And then have these few other things you do a little of.

5. Don’t worry if you don’t know absolutely everything before starting out
If you know too much, you’ll never start. This one resonates with me and I’m sure, with every college student out there. There’s always another journal you need to read before starting to write your essay but the more you read, the less you feel you know.

My personal mantra is “Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” (Lao-tzu). The first step is a bitch but take it anyway.

(Completed May 7, 2012)

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