Mike Posner on Making Art, Embracing Growth, and Walking Across America – The Rich Roll Podcast

Check out the Rich Roll Podcast Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • “If there’s any scent on the trail, you gotta go”
    • When you’re chasing a dream, and any opportunity presents itself that might bring that dream closer to a reality – follow the scent
  • “Sometimes failure in the moment is not really a failure, it’s a step on the path to success”
  • It’s cliche, but success and money won’t make you any happier
  • “You can’t have what’s next until you’re okay with what’s here now”
  • A lesson learned from Avicii’s passing:
    • “Anytime someone close to us goes, the first thing it does is reminds us that we’re next. His death reframed my life in that I know the time is now. We all have a list of things that we want to do when we’re done doing what we have to do, but you can’t wait. I know one day I will be dead and before that day, I need to live my life. I can’t wait till tomorrow or next week. This is it.”
  • Advice for creatives:
    • Create the art, but don’t worry about how it’s perceived
    • “What gets in the way the of your creative muse is when you start worrying about what other people will think…even one extra person is too many. All I can do is create the stuff that I want to be created…the stuff I want to exist. It’s a beautiful job – you get to tailor-make beautiful things to your exact preferences and no one else can do it, except you.”

Books Mentioned

  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
    • One of the themes in this book that all of these ideas are kind of floating around in your head and as an artist, your job is to finely tune your radar/antenna, so that you can pull them down and nurture those ideas
      • Related to this – Mike tries to always be “listening” to the song ideas that come to him, and will often keep a pen/pad by his bed to write down whatever pops in his head
  • Big Sean, whom Mike met and became friends with at age 18, recommended he read The Alchemist and Ask and It is Given
    • This was around the time when they were both 24, and Sean had begun riding his first wave of success – he credited these two books for changing his mindset about life and propelling his career
  • Rich recommends Jedidiah Jenkins’ book – To Shake the Sleeping Self
  • Mike was a fan of The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
    • A concept from the book – “Ninja Shows”: This is where an artist tweets out a location a few hours before an unplanned free concert
      • Mike has done a few of these, one of them at the Grand Canyon

Intro

Create the Art, But Don’t Worry About How it’s Perceived

  • “I really try not to pay attention as much to the reaction to the art. For me, the reward is in the making of the song in the first place.”

An Important Lesson

  • Just be truthful – 100% of the time
    • It takes too much energy and mental bandwidth to decide you’re going to share X, but withhold Y
    • On the subject of full honesty – this is where the lyric – “too tired to be famous too vain to be unknown” – comes from in Mike’s song “Stuck in the Middle”

The Beginnings

  • Mike really blew up after “Cooler Than Me” came out – he made the song while he was still at Duke University
    • The song became a hit on campus, and was often played at frat parties, but – “I didn’t go to the parties because I was too busy making music in my dorm”

Sometimes You Need to Get a Little Creative to Make Things Happen

  • After Mike made “Cooler Than Me”, he uploaded the song to iTunes U, a place where professors typically posted their lectures online – making the song available for free
    • This was important, because this was around the time when Spotify wasn’t really popular, and no one paid for music
    • So this move largely accounted for the song’s original popularity 

“If there’s any scent on the trail, you gotta go”

  • When you’re chasing a dream, and any opportunity presents itself that might bring that dream closer to a reality – follow the scent
  • If you’re a fan of hip hop/rap music, you absolutely need to listen to the story of how this motto led Mike to meet Kanye West and Jay-Z 

“Sometimes the failure in the moment is not really a failure, it’s a step on the path to success”

  • When Big Sean first played Kanye West “Who Knows”, his song featuring Mike Posner, Kanye told Mike he wasn’t a fan
    • But Mike didn’t let this get to him –  “All I wanted to do was make music. I didn’t want to quit.”
    • Eventually, Kanye and Mike met again, and although Kanye didn’t remember meeting Mike for the first time, he told Mike he was a fan of his music
      • With this full circle moment, Mike knew he had done well

If You’re Not Happy Before You’re Successful, Success Won’t Change Anything

  • “Success didn’t change my life. It didn’t make me any happier. It didn’t make me any more comfortable in my own skin, and it didn’t clear up any of the insecurities I had with myself.”
    • “It’s a shared delusion that’s an epidemic in our culture. ‘If I can just get this…this status, this thing, or this job, or this relationship, or this amount of money in my bank account then that’s gonna solve my problems and I can relax.'” – Rich
      • It’s not true!!
    • Jim Carry has said – “I wish everyone could be famous so they could realize like it’s not the solution to what ails us or what we’re truly looking for”

“You can’t have what’s next until you’re okay with what’s here now”

  • After the success of “Cooler than Me” in 2010, Mike kind of fell to the side
    • Much of the industry regarded him as a one-hit-wonder, and it wasn’t until he made total peace with this, in a public way, with the creation of his next hit song – “I Took a Pill in Ibizia” in 2015, that everything started to shift again
      • Read the lyrics – he’s making peace with his downfall:
        • I’m just a singer who already blew his shot, I get along with old-timers ’cause my name’s a reminder of a pop song people forgot

What also helped Mike turn things around? – Daily Affirmations

  • “You get what you think about” 
    • Mike forced himself to believe that no matter what, his success was coming and his career wasn’t over
  • To help facilitate this belief, he’d often go on walks reciting certain mantras in his head, or journal/write the same sentence down over and over again
    • Mike doesn’t specify exactly what the affirmations were, but you get the idea

A Lesson Mike Learned From Ram Dass

  • “You’re walking around all day and you’re choosing and categorizing what to love and what not to love. All day you’re doing that. It’s too much work, just love everything.”

More on Brainwashing Yourself with Affirmations

  • Mike made a recording of himself saying the following affirmation, which he tries to listen to each night before bed:
    • “I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I had to live my whole life to get right here. The past is not a real thing, it exists only in my head and it really has no bearing on me right now. What’s moving my life forward is my mood and my vibration in this moment and that’s it. I’m here and I’m supposed to be here. I’m a good person and I’m happy and I’m loving.”

The Impact of Avicci’s Death and Mike’s Plan to Walk Across America in 2019

  • On Avicii’s death:
    • “Anytime someone close to us goes, the first thing it does is reminds us that we’re next. His death reframed my life in that I know the time is now. We all have a list of things that we want to do when we’re done doing what we have to do, but you can’t wait. I know one day I will be dead and before that day, I need to live my life. I can’t wait till tomorrow or next week. This is it.”
  • Mike has always wanted to walk across America and in 2019, he’s going to make it happen – despite missing out on millions of dollars in income he could be making touring/promoting his new album
    • “It’s MY life. I can’t do what everyone else thinks I’m supposed to do.”
    • Here’s his planned route (he hasn’t started yet as he’s getting over a leg injury, but plans to start soon)
    • Why make the walk? – Mike doesn’t really know, but he’s following a gut instinct and it’s something he’s always wanted to do
      • “I’m tired of listening to all these great podcasts that you and others do, and reading these books about all these great individuals and not doing those things myself”
      • “I’m not walking to show people who I am. I’m walking to find out who I’ll become.”
      • “The deeper the human, the deeper the songs”
        • Mike hopes to use this opportunity to truly learn about himself, and at the end of it, translate those learnings into new music
  • Some practicalities
    • Anyone can join on the journey, but Mike plans to be walking 20+ miles per day
    • He’ll have an RV driving ahead of him so he can bring along a guitar, keyboard, and other music essentials
    • Mike is planning quite a few pop-up concerts along the

Advice For Creatives

  • “Being an artist is a really simple job – your job is to create the art that you want to be in the world, the art that you want to exist”
  • “What gets in the way the of your creative muse is when you start worrying about what other people will think…even one extra person is too many. All I can do is create the stuff that I want to be created…the stuff I want to exist. It’s a beautiful job – you get to tailor-make beautiful things to your exact preferences and no one else can do it, except you.”
  • “Just make what you want to be made -that’s it. Just do what you want to be done in your life – that’s it. It’s your life, it’s your creation, go get it. No one else can do it for you. If you don’t do that thing, it just won’t happen. If you don’t write that song, that song won’t get written. No one else could do it for you.”
  • Share your gift with humanity

Random

  • Mike is a fan of cold stress
    • “Cold water is like 20 coffees to me”

These notes were edited by RoRoPa Editing Services

Bookmark

FREE! THE TOP 10 PODCASTS OF 2018, AND WHAT WE LEARNED

You'll also get our weekly newsletter with the takeaways from our curated list of top podcasts. Unsubscribe anytime.