One of my students recently asked me how long it took me to overcome Imposter’s Syndrome, and I said, “It didn’t take me that long. Only about 13 years.”
When Dan Wieden hired me 17 years ago, I was terrified that I wouldn’t have what it takes to survive among all the creative giants. Every piece of work in my portfolio felt like it had come in moments of inspiration that I had no idea how to reproduce. I felt like a magician who didn’t know the secrets of his own tricks and each new assignment was like being pushed out onto the stage to pull another rabbit out of the hat, but I didn’t have a hat, didn’t know where the rabbit was, or whether it would be an eel or a shovel or a hamburger or nothing at all.
I thought the problem was that I just didn’t have enough raw talent to survive at a place like W+K. Lucky for me, I eventually learned that the world’s best creatives are rarely the most talented. So if it’s not raw talent, what is the single most important trait key trait of the world’s best creatives?
THE KEYS TO ADVERTISING SUCCESS, RESPECT, FUN, FAME, AND BEING ABLE TO AFFORD A USED LEXUS AND AN ABOVE-GROUND POOL (in reverse order):
12. GET AGENCIES FIGHTING OVER YOU. HOW?
11. WIN AWARDS/BLOW UP CULTURE/get noticed. HOW?
10. PRODUCE AMAZING WORK. HOW?
9. WORK ON GREAT BRIEFS UNDER GREAT CD’S WHO WILL SELL YOUR WORK OR DIE TRYING. HOW?
8. GET CD’S FIGHTING OVER YOU. HOW?
7. BE A RINGER--CONSISTENTLY PRESENT ASTONISHING WORK. HOW?
6. ATTRACT GREAT PARTNERS. HOW?
5. BE PROLIFIC.
4. BE PROLIFIC.
3. BE PROLIFIC.
2. BE PROLIFIC.
1. BE PROLIFIC.
I’ve repeatedly seen that the single most consistent characteristic of creative rockstars is being prolific. SO if being prolific is the key to success, why do we spend so much time procrastinating? Instead of concepting and trying to come up with more ideas, why do we clean our office, return Amazon packages, workout, respond to emails, check Instagram, try that important TikTok recipe, check Linkedin, 14 websites, and anything else we can possibly do to avoid doing the actual work?
We avoid the work because if we actually sit down and try our hardest to come up with great work, we run the risk of finding out that we don’t have what it takes. That would not only threaten our dreams of doing great work but our very identity as creative people. Subconsciously, we're trying to avoid a full-on existential crisis. So we procrastinate and give less than 100% so that if we fail, we can tell ourselves it’s because we didn’t try that hard.
Ironically, our fear of failure is what will ultimately cause it. Because fear is the enemy of the prolific. You can’t be terrified and prolific at the same time. So how do we overcome creative anxiety?
A big part of creative anxiety comes from being held responsible for something we don’t have direct control over the glorious arrival of a mind-blowing, totally original idea.
To demonstrate that we don’t have direct control over when a truly great idea will come, pull out a piece of paper and pen and set a timer for 10 minutes. Now summon every brain cell you have and force yourself to come up with an award-winning, original creative idea for a toothpaste brand that will go viral and win an Emmy. Nothing? Try squinting your eyes and grimacing to squeeze the idea loose from the folds of your brain—but hurry, because time is running out and everyone’s counting on you, and if you fail, you might get fired and default on your mortgage. Hurry!
The worst way to come up with a mind-blowing idea is trying to come up with a mind-blowing idea.
So stop trying to come up with great ideas. The pressure will either paralyze you or get you stuck in your head, which is the last place you’ll find a brilliant idea. Your conscious mind is a pretty boring and unoriginal place. For great ideas, you need to give your subconscious mind the stage, and you do that by thinking less and doing more.
One of the best ways to think less and do more is to focus on quantity instead of quality. The Beatles became the best band in the world by being the most prolific band in the world. Michael Jordan missed more game-winning shots than anyone because he took more shots than anyone. And the most successful creatives I’ve worked with have been the most prolific. If you focus on quantity, you’ll get quality for free. So I want you to try something this week. Focus 100% on quantity, not quality. Instead of trying to write a great headline, just write 100 headlines without thinking about whether they’re good or not. Don’t try to come up with a great Super Bowl spot, just set a goal to come up with 25 ideas before lunch. It doesn’t matter if they’re all terrible--just come up with 25. Find methods and practices that keep your mind focused on quantity, and you’ll generate more ideas in a day than most creatives do in a week. Notice I didn’t say “good ideas”.
By focusing on something you can control (quantity), instead of something you can’t control (quality), fear and loathing will be replaced by fun and fulfillment, and you will generate 10X more ideas.
And something magical will happen. As you’re pumping out ideas, you’ll periodically enter a state of flow where things feel effortless and your subconscious mind (the way more interesting part of your brain) takes over. That’s when things get really interesting. That’s where the good stuff is. You’ll occasionally have what feels like an out-of-body experience like you’re an observer watching with amazement as ideas from some unknown source fly out of your fingertips. Some of these ideas will surprise you so much that you’ll laugh out loud. It’s the opposite of trying. No fear. No anxiety. Pure joy. And when that happens, you’ll be amazed that you get paid to do this.
What past participants say about the program:
"Taking Jason’s Creative Megamachine class was the single greatest thing that I could have done for my career. Being a fresh junior copywriter, I’ve learned tricks and practices that have helped me to be a better creative and that will continue to help me as I master my craft.
A couple of weeks into the class, as I started to incorporate the things that Jason taught, an account lead that I was pitching ideas to at work said, “this is some of the most diverse range of thinking and ideas I’ve ever seen on a brief.” I fully attribute that complement to Jason and the things that he taught me in ASAP. "
Dallin Slavens, Copywriter at The Martin Agency
“The first day of A.S.A.P. felt like Michael Jordan of advertising was sitting in my corner, right next to me. And he is generously sharing the game's most valuable tips, tricks, secrets, and formulas that you cannot find anywhere else. It got better every week with the "Jason Talks to an Important Person" videos and Q/A sessions. Jason Bagley is a prolific mentor, and he wants me (and you) to be prolific creatives. Worth the price tag? Are you kidding?”
Moose (aka Mustafa Ulker) Freelance Copywriter
"If you’re nervous that ASAP isn’t worth the time or money, you’re right—it’s more than worth both. It’s that book you open expecting to find knowledge, but instead someone has hidden a grenade inside. Jason obliterates the myth that great creatives are rare geniuses, and shows you the tools anyone can use to achieve astonishing results. Part psychology and part craft, every egoless lesson is packed with simple, actionable ways to propel your career and ideas far beyond what you thought was possible. Plus, Jason won’t hang up until every question is answered. 6 out of 5 stars. Like Old Spice blew Terry Crews’ mind, ASAP will do that for you."
Kevin Lane, Creative Director at GSD&M
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