Lately, I’ve been trying to be less dependent on my phone for navigating around Amsterdam, my home for the past year. While I still can’t tell you exactly how to get to an address, I’ve noticed that when I get on my bike and start pedaling, familiar landmarks start to pop up and one turn at a time, the road reveals itself.
I was recently listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast interview with Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York, and in it, Brandon shared a similar story about his creative path.
Several years ago, Brandon was deep in an office job and found himself yearning to do something simply for the joy of it. He decided to start taking photos on the weekends and quickly became completely absorbed in it. He took thousands of photos and eventually realized that he liked his portraits of people the most. He started going to new cities and taking even more photos, particularly of strangers.
At a certain point, he decided to move to New York for the practical reason that there are just so many more people to photograph. If 10 people on the street say no when you ask to take their picture, there are 100 right behind them that might say yes.
One day, soon after he moved to the city, Brandon came across a women dressed all in green — green clothes, green hair, green shoes. He asked to take a photo of her, and in the process he casually asked, “So, do you do a different color every day?”
“No. I used to go through different stages, but then I found that I was happiest when I was green. So I’ve been green for 15 years."
Her response had an impact on Brandon — so much so that when he went to post the photo on social media, he decided to also share what she had told him. The response to that post was far more than he had ever received.
The green lady’s response had uncovered a new road.
Brandon realized that after months of asking strangers to take their photos, perhaps it wasn’t the photos themselves that were the most impactful. Perhaps it was the personal stories of the humans behind them.
The rest, of course, is history. Brandon’s Humans of New York Facebook page now has more than 18 million followers. He has produced an incredible documentary series and written a #1 New York Times bestselling book. Brandon has also used his platform to bring attention to worthwhile causes like public school education and pediatric cancer research, helping raise and donate over $2.5 million for charitable causes. His work touches millions of people each year.
What I love about this story of creative growth isn't the decisions that were made — but rather, Brandon’s journey of committing to one step at a time, only to have the next steps reveal themselves.
This month's Creativity Guide reminds us that sometimes, you just need to take that first step. The guide starts with a warm-up exercise to help you put pen to paper and simply start creating.
To the first step,
P.S. We have a new limited-edition Manifesto launching on Wednesday — here is a first look!
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