Over the years, I’ve noticed patterns in the way successful people and companies operate.

I took those patterns and applied them to the way I build my own career and life, and to the way I help my collaborators do the things they want to do.

More recently, I realized that if I wrote these patterns down into a little guidebook, my teammates could dogear and refer to these concepts whenever they wanted to.

So here are the first 10 ideas, observations, and quotes that might help you as they’ve helped me and the people I work with – musicians and filmmakers alike.


1. Fresh, but familiar.

Audiences want something familiar, but dressed up in a fresh way.

Walt Disney did it with stories in the public domain, Hollywood does it with book adaptations and sequels, the composers of the old world wrote their symphonies inspired by poems and real-world sculptures.

2. Aggregate to innovate.

An interesting method of innovation can come from taking two (or more) seemingly unrelated things and combining them. Even the most basic knowledge in the fundamentals of different fields will allow epiphanies.

George Lucas did it with Star Wars (classic Western genre + The Hidden Fortress, among other things); Steve Jobs did it with Apple (minimalism, calligraphy, and tech); and pop music does it all the time. It’s pop culture’s engine for progress.

3. Do a lot of work…

“Do a lot of work. It’s only by going through a large volume of work that you’re actually gonna catch up and close that gap, and the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.” — Ira Glass on Storytelling.

4. Regularly evaluate your situation.

Regularly evaluating your situation will help you innovate, get you out of trouble, and allow you to not get left behind. (And reevaluate whenever your situation starts to feel too comfortable.)

5. Change is good.

The only thing that’s permanent is change. Change takes courage, strategy, action, and patience, but accepting this idea is what’s going to keep our art, lives, and careers fresh.

6. Be intentional and make decisions.

Decisions will be made in your life whether you’re making them or not. Life’s gonna happen, so it’s better to be intentional with your choices so things happen for you rather than to you.

7. Google it.

If you have a question about something—if you want to learn anything at all—ask Google before you ask anyone else (e.g. a subject matter professional, your boss, your colleague, etc.).

Learn as much as you can by doing the work yourself, and don’t rely on others to do the work of explaining something to you when an answer is just a quick search away.

8. Make it easy for them.

Do the work before you’re asked to do it, propose a potential solution to a problem they don’t even know they have, present the proof that you’re the person for the job. Make it as easy as possible for them to trust you, hire you, and say “yes” to you.

9. People are the most important thing.

The best long-term business decisions we can make will always be “people first” decisions rather than “money/recognition first” decisions.

10. Help as many people as you can.

Helping others will naturally yield great results for our own careers and reputations. Maybe not immediately, and maybe not from the people that we’re directly helping…

But at some point – call it good karma, the universe, God, or the inherent human need to reciprocate good deeds – good things tend to come back around to those that do good things.