rick rubin and huberman converse

Rick Rubin: How to Access Your Creativity | Huberman Lab Podcast 107

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Key Takeaways

  • Creativity is closer to magic than it is to science 
  • Strictly adhering to “how things are supposed to be done” undermines the creative process 
  • Understand how you feel in the face of other voices without second-guessing yourself
  • Know how you feel, and own your feelings 
  • The most important part of the creative process is having the ability to stay present in the work 
  • The creative process: “I am doing me, and I am showing you who I am, and you can like it or not but either way, this is still how I see it.” 
  • The artist’s superpower is to accept that he does not know anything 
  • Any external information that undermines the clarity of that connection is probably bad for the art 
  • The physical world is constrained by the laws of physics, but the imagination is unconstrained; the work sits somewhere between these two 
  • Rick has a sense of anxiety when he starts a new project because he knows that whatever is going to happen is completely out of his control 
  • “Our whole lives are reacting to things, making up a story of what we think may have happened without realizing that’s what we’re doing, and then living the rest of our lives as if that thing that we made up really happened. And we never know.”Rick Rubin
  • Challenge your assumption that the way you work is the best way, simply because it is the way that you have done it before 
  • Do not get comfortable with thinking you know how it works just because you get the outcome that you want 
  • The world gives you creative clues all the time if you are paying attention; the universe is on the same team as creativity 

Intro 

  • Rick Rubin (@RickRubin) is one of the most renowned music producers of all time. He has worked with a wide range of artists, including the Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, JayZ, Adele, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Neil Young, and many more. He is also the author of a new book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being.  
  • In this conversation, Rick Rubin and Andrew Huberman discuss how to access your creativity, finding inspiration, self-doubt, anxiety, meditation, distractions, music, scientific knowledge, public opinion, and so much more   
  • Check out these Podcast Notes from Rick Rubin’s appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience 
  • Host: Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab

Creativity & Ideas, Cloud Analogy 

  • Creativity is like your dreams: a series of abstract images that may not make sense to you, and you may forget it, but sometimes the concepts come back to you if you write it down 
  • The creative process consists of making things and looking for feelings that arise within yourself, such as enthusiasm, excitement, curiosity, etc. 
  • You follow the energy in your body when you want to know more about an idea that arises  
  • The creative process is not an intellectual process; it is a different thing that is difficult to define  

Language & Creativity, Kids

  • Language is insufficient to drill down on creativity 
  • Creativity is closer to magic than it is to science 
  • Kids are more open than adults because they have no baggage or belief system that skews their perspective
  • Kids just pay attention to what is, and if we pay attention to what is, then the purity of our creative process increases
  • Strictly adhering to “how things are supposed to be done” undermines the creative process 

Feelings & Creative Ideas

  • A new idea is a combination of existing ideas presented in a new way
  • Rick Rubin experiences a surge of energy when he is on the cusp of a creative breakthrough 
  • The first time he experienced this surge was when he heard The Beatles at the age of three 

Rules, Choices & Art; Personal Taste & Other’s Opinions 

  • The rules of art serve as scaffolding to be chipped away as need be 
  • Rules are sometimes helpful, and sometimes they are not 
  • Sometimes, having an infinite amount of choices does not lead to better work 
  • Self-restricting your creative palette can force you to solve problems in a different way
  • The most important skill-set to develop as an artist is to understand how you feel in the face of other voices without second-guessing yourself, according to Rick Rubin 
  • Know how you feel, and own your feelings 
    • This does not mean your way is “right” for someone else
  • Rick chose to be an artist so he could share how he sees it
  • Undermining how you feel for a commercial interest defeats the entire purpose of being an artist 
  • The creative process: “I am doing me, and I am showing you who I am, and you can like it or not but either way, this is still how I see it.” 

Changing Perspective & Creativity 

  • People often do not know what they like; they like what people in their landscape also like, according to Dr. Andrew Huberman 
  • Coming up with a story with the purpose of pleasing someone else is a skill set, but it is more of a commercial endeavor than an artistic endeavor 
  • Artists create something new that others may have already known, but did not know that they knew it 
  • The truth in a comedian’s joke is what makes it funny
  • Comedians say the truth in a way that has never been said before
  • The artist’s superpower is to accept that he does not know anything 

Scientific Knowledge; Opinion & Art  

  • Information from others can be helpful; do not instinctually react away from information  
  • The only thing that we can control is how we relate to the thing that we make 
  • Any external information that undermines the clarity of that connection is probably bad for the art 
  • The only things that Rick Rubin has made are things that he liked or things he felt were missing – from the perspective of a fan 
  • “It was always in the service of: ‘I love this thing. I want something like this. No one else is making one. I have to make one.’”Rick Rubin on his motivation to create  

Finishing Projects; The Source & Nature 

  • It is difficult to finish a project because theoretically, you could continue to experiment with it and make changes in perpetuity 
  • Use whatever it is the next project is going to be as motivation to finish whatever it is you are working on now 
  • Use other projects as an impetus to finish your current project
  • “The Source” is the organizing principle of everything 
  • Every natural phenomenon, new design, and machine are outgrowth of The Source
  • The physical world is constrained by the laws of physics, but the imagination is unconstrained; the work sits somewhere between these two  

Perception Filters, Contrast & Novelty 

  • It is thrilling to see something from a new perspective 
  • We are confronted with the mystery of the world when we change our perspective 

Music & Identity, Evolving Tastes 

  • Music is part of the definition of how we see ourselves, which is why it can be defined when consumed at earlier ages
  • Your creative pursuit should be true to what interests you 

Focus, Disengaging & Subconscious; Anxiety 

  • There are no outside distractions when Rick Rubin decides to focus on a project, whether it be for 20 minutes or five hours 
  • He does his best to not think about the project when steps away from it 
  • He does not engage with the process when he steps away from it for the day 
  • Optimally, when he steps away from Project A, he has Project B to be fully focused on 
  • Rick Rubin believes that his subconscious continues to work through the process even when he is not directly focused on it
  • To stew over a problem is not to solve a problem, according to Rick Rubin 
  • Rick has a sense of anxiety when he starts a new project because he knows that whatever is going to happen is completely out of his control 
  • Something, whether interesting or not, will appear, and then he will follow that wherever it goes
  • He has a lot of anxiety until something appears that he can follow 
  • Show up and be ready for the “something” to appear 

Collaboration, Art & Rigorous Work 

  • Rick rarely observes the chaotic parts of artists; they tend not to show that side of them to Rick  
  • Comedians tend to be much more serious about what they do than what you see on stage 

Process & “Cloud”; Perception & Storytelling 

  • When creating, Rick is in the metaphorical cloud while also being aware of what could go wrong on the technical side 
  • When something good is happening, be sure not to lose it 
  • Do not break any flow once it is happening 
  • Once something begins to happen, sit back and watch 
  • “Our whole lives are reacting to things, making up a story of what we think may have happened without realizing that’s what we’re doing, and then living the rest of our lives as if that thing that we made up really happened. And we never know.”Rick Rubin 
  • We are the storytelling species, paraphrasing Salman Rushdie 
  • Our memories are entirely confabulated based on already deficient symbol and perceptual representation  
  • “It’s all lies. Back to nature, the only truth.”Rick Rubin on the media machine 

Limited Resolution, Considering the Inverse

  • Our resolution is so low on everything that we are grasping at straws; we really have no idea what is happening 
  • There is great power in knowing that we do not know anything 
  • “If you think you know what is going on, chances are, you are being deceived.” – Rick Rubin
    • Not because someone is deceiving you, but because they are telling you what they see, and they do not ultimately know either
  • The fact that everything around us is made up is why pro wrestling is closer to reality than anything else that we can watch 
  • Pro wrestling is real, and the world is fake 
  • Consider that the inverse is true at all times 

Wrestling, Energy & Reality; Dopamine 

  • Rick enjoys the playfulness that wrestling maintains, and watching it helps him relax 
  • We expect the unexpected all the time in wrestling 
  • Wrestling has the energy of a sport, but without the competition; the wrestlers are working together to put on the best show possible
  • Pro wrestling is more like a ballet than a sporting event 
  • Pro-wrestling is honest at what it is in a world where seemingly nothing is honest at what it is
    • Not because people are lying, but because we can only begin to understand the data of the world to a certain degree

Wrestling, Style & Performance 

  • Even though it is scripted and pre-determined, pro-wrestling is alive with charisma and storytelling
  • Rick loves pro-wrestling because something interesting and unexpected is always happening

Resetting Energy & Nature; Nostalgia 

  • Rick is not attached to anything in the past, whether that be New York City or a beach in Hawaii 
  • His optics are only present and forward 
  • Nostalgia is not in Rick Rubin’s brain 

Sleep, Waking Up & Sunlight, Capturing Ideas 

  • Rick wakes up slowly in the morning; he likes to not engage with too much, too soon
  • He typically falls asleep listening to a lecture or to someone speaking in an effort to not get caught in his own thoughts 
  • He wakes up and tries to get in the sun as soon as he can
  • After waking up and spending an hour or so in the sun, he will go for a 60-90 minute walk on the beach 
  • He will mostly be alone on these walks, listening to a podcast, lecture, or audiobook

Creative Work Phases; Structures & Deadlines

  • There are four phases to Rick Rubin’s creative process: seed collecting, experimentation, crafting, and completion 
  • “Seed collecting” is the first phase, which is identifying anything that interests Rick 
  • “Experimentation” is the next phase where he sees what the seeds want to do
    • This is the stage-setting phase  
  • “Crafting” is the third phase where he makes adjustments and combinations to what has sprouted 
  • “Completion” is the final stage where final edits are made 
  • These phases do not have strict boundaries and he commonly moves back and forth between them 
  • He used to think that setting deadlines was bad, but not anymore 
  • Rick recommends setting internal deadlines to help you finish the project, but does not recommend setting external deadlines 

Self-Doubt & Performance 

  • Self-doubt exists in each of us        
  • Self-doubt is a check on yourself; it can either be really helpful, or it can undermine you 
  • Self-doubt can serve as a balancing tool in our lives 
  • You can doubt your way to a great work 
  • You can have all the confidence in the world and still wonder if improvements can be made to something that you are creating 

Predictability & Surprise, Authenticity 

  • Rick aims to create real moments in the studio that do not sound perfect, but that sound like something really happened at that moment 

Past Experiences, Other’s Opinions 

  • Challenge your assumption that the way you work is the best way, simply because it is the way that you have done it before 
  • When something works, it is easy to be fooled into believing that that is the right way to do it
  • It is not necessarily the right way; instead, it is a way that happened to work at that time 
  • Consider that the advice a person gives you is based on their experiences, not yours
    • Maybe they are giving you good advice, but maybe the advice is good for them, and not for you
  • It is hard enough to figure out what is right for ourselves, let alone what is right for others 
  • Do not get comfortable with thinking you know how it works just because you get the outcome that you want 

Public Opinion & Science: Light, Acupuncture & Nutrition

  • Nutrition was once considered an after-thought by the public, who thought the medicines you took were more important than the food you ate 
  • If someone has an idea, try it; if it does not work, that is okay, try another idea 
  • Rick Rubin is an empiricist  
  • “Whatever works” is best 
  • Rick has tried “very fringey” things; the more unrealistic it seems, the more interesting it is to him because it feels like someone does not want him to know about it

“Look for Clues”, Belief Effects 

  • The world gives you creative clues all the time if you are paying attention
  • Pay attention and you will see and hear things that spark creativity 
  • The universe is on the same team as creativity 
  • “What we believe has power. If we believe we could make something great, the chances of us making something great are better than if we don’t believe we can.” Rick Rubin  

Attention, Emotion, & Art 

  • The most important part of the creative process is having the ability to stay present in the work 
  • Strictly from the creative perspective, the ability to focus is more important than whether or not you are happy (to a point) 
  • It is a problem if your unhappiness gets in the way of the connection with how the work makes you feel

Mantra Meditation, Awareness Meditation 

  • Mantra meditation is a single-focus exercise that focuses you on the breath or a mantra instead of your self-talk
  • Awareness meditation is being with whatever is in the present moment 
  • You do not “think” in meditation 
  • Rick Rubin started meditating at the age of 14
  • He has mostly done transcendental meditation throughout his life
  • Meditation is one of the first things that he does each day 
  • There are many meditation-like practices too, such as a walk on the beach
  • There is no right or wrong way to meditate; learn a technique, show up and do it, and if it works, then it works
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Notes By Stan Rizzo

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