Ignore Hugh MacLeod

When I was at university, one of the topics that fascinated me was that of long-term business cycles. I was held in thrall by the theories of people like Kitchin, Juglar and Kondratieff. Particularly Kondratieff, whose Halley’s Comet-like long business cycles mystified and haunted me.

In turn, that passion for Kondratieff led to my spending some time reading the works of Joseph Schumpeter; I was introduced to the concept of creative destruction and, almost as a corollary, to the essays of Ronald Coase and his views on transaction costs. All of which really formed the foundation of my views on the theory of the firm, a lifelong passion of mine.

Many years later, it was with that perspective that I read Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma, and found similar themes playing out: the impossibility and yet the inevitability of creative destruction in the face of the established, the status quo.The idea wasn’t new, but the treatment was.

Some time before Schumpeter, Albert Einstein is reputed to have said “If at first an idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it”. A fine sentiment, serving to encourage many entering, with trepidation, their personal infernos of creativity, striving not to abandon hope.

This notion of creativity as lonely and transient absurdity is at the heart of Hugh MacLeod’s latest book, Ignore Everybody, due out later this week.

It’s a punchy, concise book, containing 40 simple lessons, expertly articulated and deftly illustrated by Hugh’s trademark back-of-business-card cartoons. I’m loath to quote too much from it, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But here are some tasters:

“`Of course it was stupid. Of course it was not commercial. Of course it wasn’t going to go anywhere. Of course it was a complete waste of time. But in retrospect, it was this built-in futility that gave it its edge.”

“Your business card format is very simple. Aren’t you worried about somebody ripping it off?” “Only if they can draw more of them than me, better than me”.

“Your wee voice doesn’t want you to sell something. Your wee voice wants you to make something. Your wee voice doesn’t give a damn about publishers, venture capitalists or Hollywood producers. Go ahead and make something.”

There are a host of other gems: the warning that corporations attract “nonautonomous thinkers” who wander around in infinite loops of what-do-you-think, Baldrick-like in their lack of originality, their family brain cell paucity; the futility of trying to stand out in a crowd, the preference to avoid crowds altogether, evoking memories of Yogi Berra’s “Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded”.

And the powerful, powerful exhortation towards the end: “There is no silver bullet. There is only the love God gave you”.

Hooked? It’s a great little book, covering a lot of ground in a short space, applicable to a whole slew of professions: artist, writer, software developer, filmmaker, photographer….. and cubicle warrior. As long as there’s a creative urge in you, there’s good advice to be found in the book. A lovely little read, easy to absorb all the way through in a single sitting, yet suitable for delving into for little tidbits later.

So go ahead and buy the book, it’s due out Thursday.

And ignore Hugh Macleod. At your peril.

[Disclosure: I’ve known Hugh for a long time, I’m delighted to count him as a friend, and I am completely unashamed at giving the book such a glowing review. The book deserves it. Hugh deserves it.]

7 thoughts on “Ignore Hugh MacLeod”

  1. Amen to that. And instead of reading it at one sitting I plan to read it one (small) chapter at a time.

  2. Great! I preordered the book and am super-excited.

    I’ve been wondering more about what I feel is a global lateral thinking defecit. It’s a great time for innovation, but I call it a defecit because I think we the world’s citizens need lateral thinking skills (and thinking skills in general) more than ever.

    From what I’ve seen (in myself and others) one limiting factor is social conception, and more importantly, implicit social conceptions that we internalize. Implicitly (perhaps because of EvPsych explainable reasons) we may not feel we have the “right” to try something new, try something new, unless it’s already consistent with internal and external expectations.

    It’s sad: many times, in our own minds, we are not even free to dream over the vast array of possibilities!

    I guess this is where seeming absurdity comes in. Seeming absurd undertakings are not necessarily driven by profit or popularity, and are thus insulated from the implicit assumptions attached to them. A daily dose of absurdity, in some sense, can act as the supplement for our lateral thinking deficiency. And as time goes on, it stands to demolish assumed and untrue contradictions, and challenge our notions of what is possible.

    I’d never head of Clayton Christensen; thanks for introducing him to me.

  3. Good book review, JP. Effective in that I shall definitely buy a copy now. Thanks for all the links.

    I had been hoping that your first ‘post-self-imposed exile’ blog post would be Four Pillars, but shall continue to wait patiently.

  4. Thanks JP, the post title was a great trigger and I’m pleased to learn about Hugh’s latest endeavour first via your blog.

    I can recall Hugh’s timing on the ‘London scene’ was exceptional and he has proved to be a great ally to many trying to forge their way in the new economy.

    No doubt you’ve also read Innovator’s Solution by now though I’d like to suggest another book you might enjoy:

    I confess I’ve not read it myself yet though am familiar with the subject matter having attended a workshop with Peter and George Por that helped catalyse Peter’s journey towards this book.

    I’d be keen to learn your opinion of it in due course, fingers crossed you’ll thank me ;-)

  5. This is an absolutely beautiful post. Back in April, in Post No. 111, entitled “Been There; Done That,” and in a subsequent Post, No. 115, “Have We Learned Anything from Star Trek,” we spoke of the same subject matter.

    We should always recognize that being cautious, and risk – adverse, has its negative features.

    Great point.

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