Nordic Track Book Club Review: Ignore Everybody

Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity from Hugh MacLeod was a big surprise for me. I didn’t think I’d get much out of it, but I enjoyed it a lot.  MacLeod is the man behind GapingVoid and creator of those business card-size sketched toons so pervasive on the web. He shares a personal perspective on “success,” which I put in quotes because by the end of the book you may define real success differently than you did before reading the book. 5-out-of-5 [NordicTrack] Ski Stars.


p.1 The more original your idea the less good advice other people will be able to give you.

p.5 The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours.

p.7 The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.

p.9 Put the hours in. Doing anything worthwhile takes forever. 90% of what separates successful people and failed people is time, effort and stamina.

I get asked a lot, “Your business card format is pretty simple. Aren’t you worried about somebody ripping it off?” Standard answer: Only if they can draw more of them than me, better than me.

And unlike me, you won’t be doing it for the joy of it. You’ll be doing it for some self-loathing, ill-informed, lame-ass mercenary reason.

p.10 Keeping one foot in the “real world” makes everything far more manageable for me. The fact that I have another income means I don’t feel pressured to do something market-friendly. Instead I get to do whatever the hell I want. I get to do it for my own satisfaction.

p.20 Thanks to the Internet you can now build your own thing without having somebody else “discovering” you first. Which means when the big boys come along offering you deals, you’ll be in a much better position to get exactly what you want from the equation. Big offers are a good thing, but personal sovereignty matters a whole lot more over the long run.

p.30 The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs. One is the sexy creative kind. The second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task at hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended.

p.50 It’s your freedom that will get you to where you want to go.

p.57 The first rule of business, he said, chuckling at my naïveté, is never sell something you love. Otherwise you may as well be selling your children.

p.66 I think one of the main reasons I stayed in advertising for so many years is simply because “change that ad” ticks me off a lot less than “change that cartoon.” Though the compromises one has to make writing ads can often be tremendous, there’s only so much you have to take personally. It’s their product, it’s their money, so it’s easier to maintain healthy boundaries. With pure cartooning I have often found this to be impossible.

What crap you are willing to take and what crap you are not? What you are willing to relinquish control over and what you aren’t?

p.86 My cartooning MO was and still is to just have a normal life, be a regular schmoe with a terrific hobby on the side. It’s not exactly rocket science. This attitude seemed fairly alien to the art majors I met. Their chosen art form seemed more like a religion to them. It was serious. It was important. It was a big part of their identity.

p.103 You have to find your own schtick. A Picasso always looks like Picasso painted it. Hemingway always sounds like Hemingway. A Beethoven symphony always sounds like a Beethoven symphony. Part of being a master is learning how to sound like nobody else’s voice but your own.

That ah-ha moment. That moment where they finally find their true voice, once and for all. For me it was when I discovered drawing on the back of business cards.

p.132 Beware of turning hobbies into jobs. It sounds great, but there is a down side. The late British Billionaire James Goldsmith once quipped, “When a man marries his mistress he immediately creates a vacancy.”

“That’s why you should never turn your hobby into your job,” said one of my old friends. “Before this man had a job and a hobby, now suddenly he’s just got the job but no hobby anymore. A man needs both, you see? And now what does this man do who always had a hobby with his time?” My friend held up his glass. Answer, drink.

p.136 Savor obscurity while it lasts. Once you “make it” your work is never the same.


Article written by

A long time developer, I was an early adopter of Linux in the mid-90's for a few years until I entered corporate environments and worked with Microsoft technologies like ASP, then .NET. In 2008 I released Sueetie, an Online Community Platform built in .NET. In late 2012 I returned to my Linux roots and locked in on Java development. Much of my work is available on GitHub.