Cover image of The Age of Ideas: Unlock Your Creative Potential

The Age of Ideas: Unlock Your Creative Potential

Ian Schrager, Marcus Aurelius, Supreme, Kith, Rick Rubin, Kanye West, SoulCycle, Sweetgreen, the Wu-Tang Clan, Danny Meyer, Tracy Chapman, Warren Buffett, Walt Disney, Jack’s Wife Freda, Starbucks, A24, Picasso, Banksy, In-N-Out Burger, Intel, Tom Brady, Mission Chinese, Nike, Masayoshi Takayama, Oprah, the Baal Shem Tov.What do they all have in common? They have discovered their purpose and unlocked their creative potential. We have been born into a time when the tools to make our dreams a reality are available and, for the most part, affordable. We have the freedom to manifest our truth, pursue our own path, and along the way discover our best selves. Whether as individuals or as part of a group, we can’t be held back by anything except lack of knowledge. The Age of Ideas provides that knowledge. It takes the listener on an incredible journey into a world of self-discovery, personal fulfillment, and modern entrepreneurship. The podcast starts by explaining how the world has shifted into this new paradigm and then outlines a step-by-step framework to turn your inner purpose and ideas into an empowered existence. Your ideas have more power than ever before, and when you understand how to manifest and share them, you will be on the road to making an impact in ways you never before imagined. Welcome to the Age of Ideas.

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Supreme, Art, & Commerce

The Chanel of downtown streetwear. —Business of Fashion When James Jebbia arrived in New York from London in 1983 he had, in his own words, “no training in anything and no loot.” He applied for a job at a Soho boutique called Parachute and, lucky for us, he was hired. Jebbia spent five years at the store learning about retail, but like most of us blessed with the entrepreneurial spirit, he eventually started to feel stuck and wanted to work for himself. So he began his own venture, a flea market on Wooster Street, with his then-girlfriend, Maryann. Around the same time, Jebbia began going back to London regularly. It was on these trips that he was inspired by the “cool and unusual things for young people” at smaller stores like Duffer of St. George and Bond. He recognized that no one was offering that type of thing in New York, so in 1989 he decided to open a shop, Union, featuring English brands that were hard to get in the U.S. He also carried an upstart brand from the West Coast, Stussy, that exploded in popularity and changed everything for Union. When Union got a shipment of Stussy it would sell out instantly, so Union basically transformed into almost a full-on Stussy shop. Through this success, Jebbia befriended the brand’s founder, Shawn Stussy, and they decided to open a Stussy-branded store on Prince Street in 1991. The store saw its own share of success, but soon after its opening, Shawn became disillusioned with the direction of his brand, resigned, and decided to sell his shares in the company. With the future of Stussy unclear, James Jebbia decided to break out on his own once again. He found a vacant storefront with cheap rent on Lafayette Street—then a neglected part of town— and decided to open a store selling what he referred to as “skater stuff.” He called the new store Supreme. Why did he open a skate store? Well, for years he’d been going to fashion industry trade shows like A.S.R. and Magic, and the only thing that excited him there was the skate stuff, which he described as “powerful and raw.” He didn’t know of any good skate shops left in the city, so he thought that could be a good direction. Jebbia was also personally into the skater graphic decks, tees, and sweats, so he decided to make that the center of his merchandising. What he didn’t know at the time was that the stuff he found so personally appealing would become his brand. While Jebbia may not have written a business plan or had grand aspirations, he did have a very clear vision for what he wanted his store to be: “It needed to be an authentic skate shop that hardcore skaters would appreciate, but just as importantly a shop that people who didn’t skate would be intrigued by. And that’s pretty much how it went down.” Jebbia knew what he didn’t know, and in this case he knew he wasn’t a skater, so his first and most important hire was Gio Estevez. It was Gio who hired most of the team at Supreme, and he brought in people he knew and trusted: his fellow skaters. Gio’s team legitimized Supreme, and from the first day the store was swarmed by the New York skate community, generating immediate and genuine authenticity. The store’s layout helped, with an open central space allowing skaters to enter on their boards. Sales started off slow, with Supreme acting more as a hang-out for skaters than a retail shop. Had Jebbia been shortsighted, he might have killed that vibe, but instead he embraced it because he knew having the skater community would lead to everyone else becom- ing customers as well. He was humble and smart enough to let his team and core group of skaters take center stage. This fostered the brand’s organic growth and enabled him to stay behind the scenes and focus on what he was best at: curating great product (or, as he says, finding “good stuff to sell”). 


29 Mar 2020

Rank #1

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The Start of Something Big

“These were, by their résumés, very superior people. And I thought, gee, maybe there is something here, something more valuable than just being an employee. - Arthur Rock, venture capitalistOn a hot summer morning in San Francisco in 1957, eight of the most talented young scientists in America convened for a clandestine meeting at the Clift Hotel. They gathered over breakfast in the famed Redwood Room, a bastion of the city’s old guard. A nervous energy consumed the table, fueled by uncertainty, possibility, and fresh-brewed coffee. The eight worked on developing silicon semiconductors—a groundbreaking new technology—at Shockley Semiconductor outside of Palo Alto. The company’s founder, Nobel Prize–winning scientist William Shockley, was a brilliant but difficult manager: erratic, mistrustful, and impatient. He had even gone so far as to hire detectives to give his employees lie-detector tests, and these employees, experts in a field in which there were few, were frustrated and angry.After considering numerous options, the men decided they must defect. They planned to establish their own company under the leadership of MIT graduate Robert Noyce, a charming, personable twenty-nine-year-old electrical engineer from smalltown Iowa. Getting Noyce on board hadn’t been easy. He was the leader they needed, but he had a young family, and he needed to be persuaded to leave his guaranteed paycheck for something with no model—creating a new company in a new field based on nothing more than combined knowledge, faith, ideas, and passion.As Tom Wolfe would later write in Esquire:“In this business, it dawned on them, capital assets in the traditional sense of plant, equipment, and raw materials counted for next to nothing. The only plant you needed was a shed big enough for the worktables. The only equipment you needed was some kilns, goggles, microscopes, tweezers, and diamond cutters. The materials, silicon and germanium, came from dirt and coal. Brainpower was the entire franchise.”Brainpower was the entire franchise.....


14 Jan 2020

Rank #2

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And Then One Day Everything Changed...

THE AGE OF IDEAS A point in time when creativity becomes the primary driver of value creation and the last remaining sustainable competitive advantage. It is as if Freud supplied us the sick half of psychology, and we must now fill it out with the healthy half. —Abraham Maslow It’s fitting that Abraham Maslow, the man behind the concept of the hierarchy of needs, was born in Brooklyn, the city that has come to define the twenty-first-century brand for living a creative existence. Born in 1908 to immigrant Russian parents, Maslow was raised in a very different Brooklyn. His early years were marked by poverty, anti-Semitism, a toxic relationship with his parents, and a lack of self-confidence, but through a combination of extraordinary intelligence—he was reputed to have an IQ of 195—hard work, and the stability of a happy marriage, Maslow persevered and developed theories that expanded our understanding of the human experience. Prior to Maslow’s breakthroughs, psychology had focused on what was wrong with people—their neuroses, their mental illnesses. But after witnessing the atrocities of World War II, Maslow theorized that this conventional approach was limited. He created humanis- tic psychology—the study of unlocking human potential. Maslow’s work changed the course of psychology by concen- trating on how people could flourish by amplifying what was right about them rather than trying to modify and correct their psychic weaknesses. This cornerstone belief was reflected in his approach to therapy. He looked at people seeking help as clients instead of patients, and strove to establish warm human dynamics with them, not clinical, impersonal physician/patient relationships. With this emotional connection as a basis for action, Maslow then set about working with these clients to improve their lives. He believed every human has a powerful desire to realize his or her full potential. Maslow’s term for reaching that goal was self-ac- tualization, which he understood as “expressing one’s creativity, quest for spiritual enlightenment, pursuit of knowledge, and the desire to give to society” within daily life. If an individual is able to self-actualize, they become capable of having “peak experiences,” which he defined as “rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter.” Sounds pretty spectacular, right? But Maslow also stated that the basic needs of humans must be met before a person can achieve self-actualization and enjoy peak experiences. That means unless you have adequate food, shelter, warmth, security, and a sense of belonging, you’re unable to reach this higher consciousness. Not until the twentieth century had any significant portion of humanity had their basic needs met for a sustained period. 


11 Feb 2020

Rank #3

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Ian Schrager & the Value of Creativity

Making the spirit soar and making somebody sort of lift off the ground and fly is about creating magic. People ask me about magic and what it is; it’s very difficult for me to say. If I knew I would write a book and sell the book. And that magic, that very elusive kind of thing, is what I try to create at these hotels. —Ian Schrager As we pulled up to the porte cochère, I remember being thrilled. The entrance to the Delano had a magnitude and energy I’d rarely, if ever, experienced before. The valets were all perfectly dressed in crisp white outfits, the people getting out of their cars were beau- tifully put together, and the architecture was the perfect combina- tion of classic Art Deco and clean modern lines. While the arrival alone was magnificent, it wasn’t until I entered the lobby that I was swept away: fifty-foot ceilings, a straight-shot visual hundreds of feet from the entrance to the rear orchard, and charming vignettes of whimsical seating and social areas throughout. The beauty was unmistakable, and the energy was so real you could almost drink it. Every step I took built on the drama of the experience. By the time I exited the lobby and stepped into the orchard, I felt changed, as if my appreciation for what the imagination could manifest had been heightened. I didn’t say a word for ten minutes after I walked outside. I just smiled, completely satisfied by what I had just consumed. While the experience was powerful, as in many meaningful moments, I wasn’t fully aware of how this night would affect me. I definitely wasn’t aware I would end up spending over a decade of my life involved in different ways with this company, crafting new ideas, creating even more magical experiences. What I did know, without a doubt, was that I had tasted fully realized creative poten- tial. And once I knew it existed, how could I live without realizing my own? So I began my research at the source: Ian Schrager, the iconoclastic creator of Delano. Schrager, like Maslow, was born in Brooklyn to a working-class family. Unlike Maslow, he had a close relationship with his parents, especially with his father, Louis, who instilled in him a strong value system. After spending his youth in East Flatbush, he headed off to Syracuse University in 1964. That’s where he met Steve Rubell, another Brooklyn product, who would become his lifelong friend and business partner. An outgoing, flamboyant character, Steve was a couple of years older than Ian, but the two meshed perfectly. As Ian tells it, “We were dating the same girl, and from the way we went about competing for her, we came to respect and like each other. And the friendship just got closer and closer and closer. I would say that from the end of 1964 until Steve died in 1989 I spoke to him every single day.” After they graduated, Ian went on to practice real estate law, and Steve started a chain of steakhouses and became Ian’s first client. It was about this time that Ian and Steve started going to clubs together, and they were astonished and inspired by what they saw. For the first time they were exposed to the mixing of different groups of people, the breaking down of social barriers—and the willingness of people to stand in line for the chance to spend their money. This was when Ian began to sense his desire to create. After a couple of months of going out and throwing a few parties of their own, Ian and Steve decided to open their own disco—in Queens, a borough of New York City known more for slicked-back hair and slice shops than for chic parties and celebrities. 


20 Mar 2020

Rank #4

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Practical Magic Part #2: Building Your Product & Embracing Uncertainty with Wu Tang, Seth Godin, & Francis Mallman

The ultimate step in your manifesting process is to take your brand and turn it into a product and your storefront(s).Your product is a good, idea, method, information, or service created as a result of a process that serves a need or satisfies a want. It has a combination of tangible and intangible attributes (benefits, features, functions, uses) that a seller offers a buyer for purchase.Your storefront is your website, app, or presence on a platform such as eBay, Amazon, etsy, or iTunes, where you can sell your goods, services, or content.Now is when you take your defined idea and start turning it into something real and sharable. For instance, if you want to start a T-shirt company, this is the stage where you have your T-shirts designed, find a manufacturer, and put them up for sale on your storefront, i.e. your website. We will get into how to share in the next section, Strategic Sharing, but before you share your idea you have to make it real.Will your product be perfect at first? No. Will it fly off your website on day one? Probably not. The manifesting process is iterative. In the Age of Ideas you bring something to market, test it, analyze the response, and continuously refine. It is an ongoing feedback loop—share, listen, refine. The difference is that today the feedback loop is much shorter and more accurate: the everyday entrepreneur has access to data analytics platforms they can use on their websites to help them identify opportunities and mistakes and make changes to their products and platform almost instantly. It used to be that if you designed the store wrong you were screwed, but today you can test five homepages on your website and optimize performance in real time. Make some T-shirts, send an email or share them with people you trust, and get their reactions. Or build a website and have people try it out, see what journey they take and analyze where they drop off. The more interactions you have, the closer you will get to something that works—we call “something that works” a product-market fit.The key to successfully manifesting is perseverance. Most people quit when the feedback is not good or things get difficult. Those who succeed are the ones who can overcome pain; they get past it by realizing it is not a statement about their self-worth. They continue to believe in themselves and their ideas and trust that, whatever mistakes they make, they will figure it out.The ProductWhile some businesses may require physical locations, such as retail shops, offices, or factories, the majority of businesses today are housed virtually. Whether you are manufacturing a product or providing a service, in the modern market products should be tested in the virtual marketplace prior to existing in the experiential marketplace. For example, if you wanted to make a new hot sauce, you could produce a small quantity and offer it for sale to both retailers and wholesalers on your website. After you gauge the market demand, you can then decide the best secondary methods of distribution. This was not possible prior to the Age of Ideas.The same strategy can apply to professional service providers and freelancers, from artists to writers to accountants. Why do you need a physical office when you can put your service online, generate leads, and start by taking meetings at a co-working space or even a coffee shop? Even if your product is an experiential or retail-based business, you can still test it with a pop-up or mobile shop prior to going all in on a retail location. Ali Webb and her partners started Dry Bar, a hair salon focusing on blow-drying hair, with a mobile blow-dry truck. The demand for the service was off the charts, so after a lot of strategic consideration they opened their first retail location. Now they have over seventy Dry Bar locations.


10 Aug 2020

Rank #5

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Practical Magic Part #1: 4 Steps to Manifesting Your Idea (Step 1 & 2)

Practical MagicKeeping our bedrock principles of manifesting in mind, now let’s get into some practical information, starting with a step-by-step look at how to manifest your ideas.Step #1: Define Your ConceptThe first step when manifesting an idea is to marry the emotional and practical elements of your idea into a defined concept. If you’ve worked through the process in Parts 2 and 3, you know your purpose and have a clear, concise statement of that purpose—one that should be entirely emotional. Now you need to connect that emotional purpose with a practical application.As an example, let’s look back at Ikea. Their purpose is to “create a better everyday life” for many, but their concept is to “support this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.” While the two are related, they are quite different. One is a feeling, and the other is an offering.Purpose Statement = EmotionalConcept Description = PracticalTo define your concept, write down two to three simple, clear sentences describing what you are trying to create. The best way to do that is to write down everything in your mind without overthinking or letting the monkey-mind limit or confuse you. You know your purpose; just let the concept that comes from that purpose flow.Write Concept Description BelowOnce you have done this, refine your concept description by considering the following questions:1. Is this aligned with my purpose statement?2. If not, how can I align it with my purpose?3. Is this my highest and best challenge right now?4. How can I set this up in a way where I can meet my short-term and long-term needs while making it a reality?Let’s look at an example. Say you wanted to open a fried-chicken restaurant. Well, the first question would be: What makes your fried-chicken shop different from other such shops? We call this your unique value proposition, or UVP. For our purposes, let’s use the following features as the ones creating your chicken shop’s UVP:1. We only serve chicken fingers.2. We have 20 homemade sauces.3. We use organic farm-raised chickens.4. We only do takeout and delivery, no in-store dining.5. We employ former foster children for all non-managerial positions.With this in mind, your concept description would be as follows:We are opening a casual, quick-service chicken restaurant specializing in organic chicken fingers served with our one-of-a-kind homemade sauces. The restaurant will focus on takeout/pick-up and delivery business. Our service staff will be made up of former foster children, 18-24 years of age, in order to provide them the necessary skills to succeed both personally and professionally and give back to the community.


25 Jul 2020

Rank #6

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Building Your Wave with Ferran Adria

I was 18 when I first started working at a restaurant. I was a dishwasher. I only got the job because I wanted to go to Ibiza for vacation, and washing dishes was the only job I could find.—Chef Ferran AdriàWhen I was a young man I wanted to be a chef. Food always fascinated me. I loved to taste it, I loved to cook it, and I loved—well, before the rise of food porn, I loved to read about food, talk about food, and watch people prepare it. When other kids were watching The Price Is Right on days home sick from school, I watched The Frugal Gourmet, Yan Can Cook, and shows featuring Julia Child, TV’s cooking matriarch. Combine this passion with an over-encouraging mother and an Italian grandmother who made a mean Sunday gravy, and you have all the makings of a future chef. I followed my passion diligently, even at a young age, constantly experimenting and honing my craft. Then, opportunity knocked: close friends of my mother were friendly with Wolfgang Puck (thank you, Ron and Nancy), and encouraged me to write to him to apply for a culinary stage my junior year of high school. I followed her advice, and a few months later, during summer break, I headed to Los Angeles to work in the kitchen at Wolfgang’s original restaurant, Spago, on the Sunset Strip. After a couple of bumps in the road (including not knowing that chefs brought their own knives to work), I hit my stride and began the daily grind that is working in a professional kitchen.The backbone of modern kitchens is formed by immigrants (many illegal), who are highly skilled cooks but willing to work for the wages that give restaurants the possibility of making a profit, and young culinary students willing to work for next to nothing to learn their craft. I spent months chopping fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices, occasionally worked on meats or fish, and, when I was lucky, got to prepare a staff meal. The experience was magical. I still remember the smells, the tastes, and even the first time I ever got drunk—with the staff—and spent the next morning in the bathroom throwing up when I wasn’t chopping jalapeños while the staff cheered me on. I rubbed my bloodshot eyes with the same hands I used to chop the jalapeños—and let’s just say it was a painful mistake I never made again.After a couple of months, just as I was getting the hang of it, I had to leave. School was starting, I had a girlfriend back in New York, and it was my senior year of high school. I remember returning and being really stoked about cooking, but I was also no longer in the kitchen. While Wolfgang wrote me a college recommendation and I got accepted to Cornell, I also got back into the regular life of a teenager. And the further I drifted from the energy of that kitchen, the more I convinced myself I would be wasting my talents as a chef. Why should I be a manual laborer when I could use my Ivy League degree to become a wealthy businessman? Most chefs made an hourly wage, and I would probably have to spend many years struggling. So I abandoned my dream and pursued the business side of hospitality. While the decision worked out well for me professionally, I can say without question that not pursuing a career in the kitchen is a decision I continue to regret.While in general I don’t believe in regret, I keep it alive in my consciousness in this case as a reminder that I made a decision for the wrong reasons. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my short-term comfort to pursue the purest form of my purpose. I didn’t recognize or accept that I couldn’t start at the top; my ego got in the way, as it does for many of us. If Mark Zuckerberg can start Facebook and be the CEO, isn’t anything less a failure? After all, that’s what the media sells us. We’ve discussed the error in this kind of thinking, but at the time, I was blissfully unaware of it, and it cost me—maybe not financially, but in many other ways.


23 Jun 2020

Rank #7

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Discovering Your Purpose w Ikea, Shane Smith of Vice Media, & Chad Campbell of Bandido Coffee

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.- Lao TzuAs Rick Rubin demonstrates and the Creator’s Formula explains, to discover your purpose and unlock your creative potential, you must connect to your inner self. But Western culture prefers the world you can see and touch: to “be somebody,” you have to look good and have a lot of money. This is an unhelpful message, because your purpose—the factor that has the most impact on your fulfillment—is completely internal. Generally, when someone is unhappy or lacking meaningful sustenance in their life or business, it’s because their internal self isn’t in harmony with their external self. For example, they love to paint or work with their hands, but spend all day working in an office on finance. While this may be an oversimplification, it’s precisely this type of dissonance that causes energy blocks that manifest in people as depression, anxiety, and frustration, and in organizations as poor performance, low engagement, and weak sales. Bottom line, and to quote our friend Mr. West, we “worry ’bout the wrong things, the wrong things.”In simplest terms, you won’t be able to unlock your creative potential, achieve sustainable success, or even be fundamentally happy unless you align your internal and external worlds—unless you’re true to yourself. Therefore, to begin the journey of discovering your purpose, you must focus on what matters to you internally, not externally. And the first step in this process is to eliminate obstacles that prevent you from hearing the signal above the noise. These obstacles include things such as commercial concerns, financial motivations, comparing yourself to someone else, and other manifestations of ego. Think of the little devils sitting on characters’ shoulders in cartoons—that is the exact function of these obstacles, confusing you by telling you the superficial or selfish thing to do. Your goal is to eliminate those voices and learn to concentrate instead on that small voice in the back of your head expressing your true desires and work to slowly build up its presence in your inner narrative. You must encourage your soul-level wants and needs to bubble up to the surface and take center stage.Let’s return for a moment to Rick Rubin and his process with artists.According to Rubin, “One of the main things I always try to do is to create an environment where the artist feels pretty comfortable being naked—that kind of a safety zone where their guard is completely let down and they can truly be themselves and feel open to exposing themselves. It’s very powerful when people do that, when people really open up.” And that’s exactly what you must do to discover your purpose. Create a safety zone for yourself where you can shut off the world for a moment and ask yourself the important questions, exploring what really matters, without any concern for the implications of those thoughts or decisions. Because if you don’t access what exists deep inside you, as Lao Tzu says, you may end up where you are heading without knowing if it’s really where you want to go.


12 May 2020

Rank #8

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Discovered, Not Manufactured: Rick Rubin & Kanye West

People are so different. It’s almost like you need to go through the process, discover and unlock what it is that makes that band that band. And a lot of times they don’t know it.—Rick Rubin, music producerIn early 2013, Kanye West asked legendary producer and Def Jam Recordings cofounder Rick Rubin to help complete his new album, Yeezus. With only days to meet West’s deadline and a rough cut of sixteen unfocused and unfinished tracks, the task appeared nearly impossible. West couldn’t seem to create the sound he’d imagined, and his process bordered on perfectionism. Though he was certain it would come to him, he had no idea how or when. He needed something, or in this case someone, who could reveal his vision.When Rick Rubin showed up, the album’s rough cut ran nearly three and a half hours. In the studio, the two began deconstructing the tracks, unveiling the “edgy and minimal and hard” sound West had been searching for. The duo worked for sixteen days, fifteen hours a day, with no time off. With just two days left, five songs still needed vocals, and two or three of them still needed lyrics. In a final flurry of remarkable creative collaboration, West and Rubin finished those songs and the album in one two-hour session. The final cut of the album featured ten songs for a total length of forty minutes— less than 20 percent of the original three and a half hours of music. Rubin had broken down West’s compositions to their simplest form, leaving only the essence of his ideas, and the results were epic.When Yeezus was released, it debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and eventually went platinum. Yeezus was the most critically acclaimed album of 2013, appearing on sixty-one Metacritic top ten lists and named #1 on eighteen of them. Critics commended its brash direction. When asked about their collaboration, Kanye said, “Well, I didn’t reduce it. Rick Rubin reduced it. He’s a reducer, not a producer.”Rick RubinRick Rubin grew up in Lido Beach, New York, not far from JFK Airport. His father, Michael, was a shoe wholesaler, and his mother, Linda, a housewife. In 1982, during his senior year of high school, he founded Def Jam Recordings and formed a punk-rock band called Hose. Using his high school’s equipment, he recorded a Hose track that would eventually become Def Jam’s first release. Hose played punk clubs in New York City, the Midwest, and California, but broke up as Rubin’s interests shifted more toward hip-hop. In 1994, Rubin and DJ Jazzy Jay of Universal Zulu Nation coproduced Rubin’s first hiphop single, “It’s Yours,” for the rapper T La Rock. As the song started getting played in clubs and on the radio, Rubin’s music found a fan in Russell Simmons, who was making a name for himself as an artist manager and concert promoter. Rubin convinced Simmons to join him at Def Jam, and the pair was soon holed up in Rubin’s New York University dorm room, sifting through demos of aspiring rappers in between Rubin’s classes on philosophy and film.In late 1984, Def Jam scored its first hit with LL Cool J’s song “I Need a Beat,” selling over 100,000 copies. The rapper’s first album, Radio, would be the first Rubin “reduced,” and it would go platinum. Next would be the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill. It would go ten times platinum, selling over ten million copies, cementing Def Jam’s reputation.


3 May 2020

Rank #9

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Creators Formula Part #2: Walt Disney & Restaurateur Michael Bonadies

There’s really no secret about our approach. We keep moving forward—opening up new doors and doing new things—because we’re curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We’re always exploring and experimenting. At WED, we call it Imagineering—the blending of creative imagination with technical know-how.—Walt DisneyLillian Disney could sense something big brewing in early 1952. It was one of those times, she would say, when “Walt’s imagination was going to take off and go into the wild blue yonder and everything will explode.” Walt began liquidating long-held family assets, borrowing against his life insurance policy, selling properties, and even selling the rights to his own name. Walt Disney was planning something new—he was planning to kick down the walls dividing his movies and real life.When Disney’s children were very young, he’d tried to take them to places where their imaginations could run wild. But every carnival or fair seemed to be dirty, poorly run, and filled with vice. Walt wanted to create a place where people could take their family and forget the concerns of the everyday world—a place beautiful, safe, and filled with endless wonder. So at about the same time that he had started selling assets and conserving his capital, he pulled aside one of his art directors and had him begin working on concept sketches for a new kind of amusement park. The sketches started to illustrate the vision he had in his head, a utopian world where guests would enter a fairytale world.Ever since his early days as a Kansas City artist and animator, Walt had a unique belief in the power of his thoughts. As time went on, he became expert at manifesting his dreams into physical forms, often creating the necessary technology as he went. But nothing prepared him for the challenge of manifesting Disneyland—taking the imaginary world of his movies and making it literally concrete. Disneyland would transport visitors into a captivating three-dimensional story, a sprawling material incarnation of a wonderland that began as a vision, then lived on screens.Disney knew little about the experiential side of entertainment; his expertise and success was in storytelling through the mediums of animation, film, and television. To make his dream world a reality, Disney chose some of the studio’s most talented individuals, took a small building on the Disney lot, and formed a new company, WED Enterprises—an acronym for Walter Elias Disney. This interdisciplinary dream team would be tasked with creating the design, development, and construction of Disneyland—not only doing something that none of them had done before, but that no one had done before. They represented an extraordinary group of storytellers, engineers, animators, contractors, directors, writers, artists, set designers, lighting designers, sound engineers, and many others. WED employees would interpret the Disney stories by building beautiful sets and giving them the interactivity and resilience to wow thousands of guests daily.The plans for the 160-acre site called for 5,000 cubic yards of concrete and a million square feet of asphalt. The designs included a replica of an 1800s main street, manmade riverbeds for steamboats and jungle cruises, a mile of railroad tracks, and a full-scale Bavarian castle. Walt was at the construction site pushing the WED team every day, giving his attention to every detail, every blade of grass, every leaf on every tree. As former Disney executive vice president and Imagineer Marty Sklar remembers, “The thing we worked so hard to avoid is letting people out of the story with discordant details…. Even the trash cans in the park are for that particular story or theme.” The attention to detail and level of execution were extraordinary. 


26 Apr 2020

Rank #10