Podcast 001: Introducing Sid Ceaser and Dave Seah

"The Podcast" After the umpteenth animated discussion about how to make this “creativity” thing work, my buddy Sid Ceaser and I decided to do a podcast. So this afternoon, we pointed microphones at each other and chewed the fat for about an hour, covering such topics as photographer Chase Jarvis and his inspiring creed on creativity, sharing, and sustaining, Lindsay Lohan’s sudden aging, and my brief history in professional game development. Sadly, our inaugural session was marred by mysterious digital noise intermittently spread throughout the recording; instead of doing the minimal edit that I hoped, I have strung together 20 minutes of the surviving material into one conversation that covers, loosely, creativity and business. The session kicks off with Sid’s story about photographing Ben Slavin, whom Sid met at the Strobist meetup, prior to Ben’s motorcycle ride to the tip of South America, and from there we get into a general discussion about:

  • How “being a part of it” is an important drive behind doing some of the creative things we do.
  • The balance between the need to do art versus the necessity of commercializing it.
  • Finding what you want to say and what you love to do, and having the guts to follow through.
  • Daring to find your niche and stick to it.

This is, we hope, the first in a series of podcasts. We don’t have a name yet, nor do we have a particular focus, but I imagine we’ll be spending a lot of time talking about the people we know who are inspiring us, and what we’re doing ourselves to continue to be “a part of it.” We’re making it up as we go along.

Enjoy! Comments and suggestions welcome.

NOTE 10/28/2009: The RSS feed for the main website (davidseah.com) is not iTunes compatible. If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, go to davidseah.com/podcast and subscribe using the RSS link there. The URL of the podcast RSS feed is davidseah.com/syndicated/podcast.


19 Comments

  1. Christopher 6 years ago

    Hehe, you guys look like Jedis.  The brownish clothes, the grimmy faces :-)  Episode One, huh?

  2. Erin Svov 6 years ago

    You both have great voices for it.

    Through Russia on motorbikes.  Interesting topic.  Then this guy Ben is doing it down USA.  I saw the link on Facebook and had put a marker for Houston as a shower, sleep, laundry break.  :-)

    I didn’t hear anything bad in the background.

    Shooting People!  I laughed out loud when Sid said that.  ROFL

    Freeze my ass off.  lol

    That was a funny art school story.  “Thoughtfully sharpened pencils”…. priceless.

    The end was funny as hell.  Glad you left that part in.

  3. Elise 6 years ago

    Nice, guys!  Love it!

  4. Clarence Chiang 6 years ago

    Is the podcast on iTunes ?

  5. Daniel Nicolas 6 years ago

    Sid’s brings up some really good points that I’ve never really considered.

    Thanks for doing this.  Hopefully more of these show up. =)

  6. Jeff L 6 years ago

    Nicely done, fellas. I think they should all end with that same line…“where’s the stop button? Is this it?” -> Dead air.

  7. Ashish 6 years ago

    cool!  I like that you are making it up as you go…

  8. Nollind Whachell 6 years ago

    Sid’s quote in the podcast:

    “It’s not hard to find what you should be doing…”

    Sorry for being so blunt but this comes off as a pretty rude and arrogant statement. Some people go through their entire lives without finding their passion, even though they may struggle with it on a daily basis.

    Even more so, everyone is different (i.e. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), so your passion will more often than not be completely different than my passion. In effect, your passion may provide an easier path to monetizing it than my passion. I mean look at what’s Dave said repeatedly before. His passion is about other people’s passion. I mean finding the right way to truly express yourself doing that and monetizing it is not “simple”.

    On top of that it takes a while to figure out exactly which approach or medium to take with regards to expressing yourself. Sid said himself he wasted a bunch of money on fancy equipment, only to find out that approach didn’t work or interest him. He got lucky in having gone down only one dead end. Some people go down numerous dead ends before they finally make it out and realize what they should be doing.

    All said and done, it’s not what you do, it’s what you express that’s important. In effect, if you can find something that lets you truly express yourself (your inner voice), then you should consider yourself extremely fortunate and lucky to have done so because it doesn’t happen everyday and it’s hardly “simple” (i.e. read “What Should I Do With My Life?” by Pro Bronson to see the frustrations people go through in their lives)

    One point I will definitely give Sid the credit for though, it does take courage and guts, not so much to find your passion, but to follow it. I’m not talking about doing something like photographic work. I’m talking about what you’re expressing and saying with your photographic work. That’s where the courage comes into play because it takes a lot of guts to take off the “mask” and express your true self.

    Having said that though, the amount of courage required to do something will vary from person to person as well because it really depends upon how much of yourself you have to express to follow your passion genuinely. For some people, it may not be a lot. For other people, they may have to bare their soul.

  9. James Murdoch 6 years ago

    sure Sid, our wishes are with you, we are always there to inspire you and cheer you both, keep it up, both of you are doing great job.

  10. Dave Seah 6 years ago

    Christopher: Nothing to see here, move along! :-)

    Erin: Thanks for the comments!!! Glad you liked it. Wish you could have been in the studio with us.

    Nollind: Just to put that statement in context for other comment readers, 18:00 is around where Sid’s statement is, but the entire conversation starts at 9:45. I’m following what you’re saying and agree that it’s been an ordeal, but I think there’s something to be said for realizing that you can find what’s under your nose, that which you’re already doing. Where we get into trouble is trying to make it conform to how we think everyone else will want to perceive our interests, and attempt to optimize our lives through a series of cagey strategic decisions that will withstand the unforgiving judgment of 20/20 hindsight. Perhaps this should be a future podcast topic!

  11. Sid Ceaser 6 years ago

    Nollind,

    I certainly didn’t intend to sound arrogant or rude.  Absolutely not.  In my experiences, and, ultimately, those are the only kind I can rightfully justify, I see lots of individuals around me spreading themselves thin.  In my observation it isn’t because they aren’t discovering that they really want to do, or lack of realization, but they do it because they can’t fathom the thought of letting money, and this would be any small amount, escape from them.  Because of this, they perhaps delve into something they are are not experienced with simply to get those funds. 

    I also think it really does have to do with getting over the fear that what you have to do has to be adopted and “welcomed” by becoming commercial.  I have that fear all the time; what can I do, and how can I do it so that a business will see it and want to market it.  Suddenly I’m not making something because I want to, but I’m making something that I think someone else will want to see.  If you really love building things out of legos, then keep doing it, and don’t worry about if it will generate income.  I think that was the point I was trying to make while I was blathering on during the podcast.

    I would rather be waiting tables part-time than photographing something that I didn’t find interesting, or something I’m not very experienced doing.  If I did that, I would be wasting my creativity and my time.  By waiting tables, I’m not getting into a “creative space” and using up valuable creativity and, ultimately, burning myself out doing work that I’m either disinterested in or lack the proper knowledge to do a good job doing.  If I did that, by the time I’m ready to tackle a project that interests me, I’d be already burnt out, unable to do what I really want to photograph, because I’m wasted valuable energy on something else.  If I keep myself out of that mind-space (by waiting tables), I’m conserving my creative fuels for the proper time.

    But I do apologize if you feel I was being arrogant or rude.  Its hard enough being an artist and always feeling that we have to justify what we do because we’re raised to think that such talents aren’t a good way of making a living (how many times has my parents told me to give it up and get a “real” job to live a “real” life?  Countless).

    I’m still figuring this all out as I go too.

    Cheers,
    Sid

  12. Nollind Whachell 6 years ago

    Sid: I think a lot of this, even our quest for what we are seeking so passionately, relates to perspective. Often times, as Dave said, we struggle to find something that is usually under our very noses but we just can’t see it from our vantage point in life. When we do find it, however, everything becomes clear and so simple, which is why I think you said what you said from your perspective because you’re at the summit looking down, while others may still be traversing upwards and “struggling with the climb”.

    “I would rather be waiting tables part-time than photographing something that I didn’t find interesting, or something I’m not very experienced doing.”

    Totally agree with you, as this relates directly to my passion which is somewhat similar to Dave’s. In effect, I’m passionate about helping people to discover who they genuinely are (i.e. their true passion) and helping them truly express themselves online in an authentic way.

    What I’ve found though is that for this to work, it requires a genuine connection, not only with me, but with their customers. Yet most companies today don’t seem to be that interested in being genuine (probably because it requires a lot of courage to do so). So instead they just want to be stereotypical or homogeneous like other business. Thus in their desire to want to stand out, they makes themselves like everyone else, and disappear within the crowd.

    Anyways, I’m getting so frustrated by this that I’ve decided to stop searching for clients and start looking at doing my own projects. In effect, creating something that makes people start “feeling” and recognizing their inner genuine self again, as well as gives them the courage to set that true self free.

    Dave: I could be totally wrong on this but I keep seeing all of this amazing stuff from you, yet no focus or direction to unleash it. For example, your ability to express and visualize things in your Top of the Cliff diagram is amazing. Even your Scooter illustration work from way back really impressed me. If you could direct that creative “visual” talent towards helping people discover their true passions then I think you’d achieve your own passion. Again not sure doing what exactly.

    Hmmm, not sure if this relates to you in any way but I, myself, want to look at potentially creating a series of very simple iconic images or diagrams that create a very deep and emotional connection with people, thus giving them hope, belief, and courage to pursue their passions.

  13. CricketB 6 years ago

    I hear you about not “contaminating” your passion.

    One of my passions is storytelling. Not the type you’re talking about, just telling stories to an attentive audience, for the sake of the story.

    At first, I argued mightily against going pro. As an amateur, it’s easier to turn down gigs because I want down time, and it’s okay if it isn’t always a great performance. It will nicely stay in hobby hours, not become a job I have to do. Also, most authors don’t worry about rights.

    Then I spent four hours telling one day. They offered to pay—they paid one of the other tellers—but I hadn’t arranged for telling rights, so couldn’t accept any money. That would have paid for gas and guild fees for the next year.

    I still tell my old unpayable repertoire, but I rarely work on a new story before getting telling rights. I’m also contacting the rights owners of my old stories. It seems to work as a middle ground. I still haven’t told for pay, but at least I have the option.

    All this brings us to the story of Frederick, by Leo Lionni. The book is well worth the time to find and enjoy (and to tell). It’s a nice contrast to Ant and Grasshopper.

  14. Al Pratt 6 years ago

    Highly insightful podcast; i’d be interested in hearing what the other 40 minutes sounded like.

    Keep up the awesome work.

  15. Nollind Whachell 6 years ago

    Hmm, got a followup question for you two. Would you define “work” as “how we express ourselves”? I mean to me, creativity equals expression.

    Hmm, or more accurately work is how we “try” to express ourselves (our “real” selves), since many people don’t find work that let’s them express their true self.

    Why I’m wondering this is that I’ve been doing some more research lately and it steered me back to Sid’s site and then to his portfolio in particular. In viewing Sid’s work, it seems very apparent to me that it’s not only what we do that’s important but how we do it.

    For example, Sid said he wouldn’t photograph weddings. It just isn’t something he’s interested in doing. Yet even when he is photographing something he does enjoy, how he photographs the subject seems critically important as well. I mean in looking at his work, a lot of it has a really “genuine” feeling to it. It’s like you’re seeing the real person (i.e. their soul or personality) versus some mask or facade (i.e. staged, fake shot). With this in mind, I’m wondering how Sid would feel if someone approached him and asked him to do a shot that truly didn’t represent the person in a genuine light? Would he still do it, even though it made him feel unnatural inside?

    Again this relates to the desire to express our true selves at every chance we get because it feels the most natural to us (i.e. things just “flow” and “feel” right, even though at times we can’t explain why).

    Hmm, just had another thought. Is it important for us to relay our passions fully? Or is it fine if we just “cultivate” them subtly within our work (i.e. Evil Plans!)? For example, Sid doesn’t blatantly say he will only photograph people in a genuine light but it’s seem evident to me he strives to that in his work. So he doesn’t relay it up front but if the client is persistent in going against this natural flow for him, Sid might possibly just pass on them and refer them to someone else.

    Why I’m bringing this up though is because of the “courage” thing again. If you work your passionate “plans” subtly within your work, you don’t have to be as daring and courageous “upfront” because it’s all done “behind the scenes”, unaware to your clientele, but very much aware to you. Thus they get what they want (i.e. great creative work) and you get what you want (i.e. true expression of your passionate self).

  16. Gary Constantine 6 years ago

    Love the podcast!  I also appreciate that you guys took some of your free time to share some of your insights, experiences, opinions, etc. 

    What occurs to me quite a bit as I wade though many of comments on Dave’s insightful blogs, is that most people simply forget what life simply involves, and that is; life is difficult, and complex (to quote M.Scott Peck).  There are no short cuts period.

    Nollind’s comments simply frustrate me, and I’ll remind him that he is completely wrong when he said above “I keep seeing all of this amazing stuff from you (Dave), yet no focus or direction to unleash it”.  Well then what is Dave’s site/blog all about?  Its all been unleashed, and he continues to do so, and so I’d challenge, where exactly is your unleashed passion Nollind?

    Dave is one of the most productive, creative, and giving individuals I have come across both in industry and personally.  I’ve yet to meet anyone who comes close in opening up and measuring up in such a way that challenges each of us to pause for lengthy moments to take inventory about who we are and where we are going.  Its one thing to converse with another on these subjects, but its another thing entirely to take the immense amount of time/energy to create this place/space.

    I care about people, but I care equally about the use of time, and much of it is so completely wasted.  There are no shortcuts in life, so if we are to either find a passion or pursue one, you have to put the work in to find it, sort through a ton of options/paths, making mistakes all the time, refining all the time, all while keeping everything in perspective.  Everyone has passionate pursuits, and often not just one, and IF you work hard enough at it (and “not if your’re lucky”) you’ll get to pursue and “practice” each passion in your lifetime. 

    So, other than just “courage”, and “work”, and making “mistakes”, most importantly; it takes sheer “tenacity” to struggle through this journey, real staying power, the right attitude, all while networking all the time, trying and failing, plus keeping healthy enough in dozens of ways just to sustain the energy needed to “pursue”.  Its NOT easy, not everyone can do it to be honest, and thats why the majority of the population chooses to commute in daily to their miserable dead end cubicle jobs, complaining about it daily, yet doing almost nothing about it, daily.

    So rather than endlessing musing on about these subjects, or armchair quarterbacking what its all about, or who isn’t doing what, or should be, I’d rather see folks effectively just managing their journey’s, whittling away daily at purposeful tasks that will get you to a point where you can actually choose which particular passion you are going to work on (for now), maybe get to the others later on.

    There are tradeoffs though to pursuing your passion, I know that since I live it daily here too, its not like you get to practice your passion and then its “nirvana”.  Yes I get to do what I want, but I also have to do a ton of things (responsiblility) that I don’t like to do; maintenance, cleaning, reorganizing, admin work galore, yard work, and doing that “work” long after traditional working hours are over, all while others get to do family things, go to events, socialize more, etc. 

    So, don’t let anyone kid you, going after what you want is also a choice, with real consequences, and balancing between all of those things is often far trickier than just finding/pursuing a passion.

    I could short circuit many of these conversations here, but if you want to either find or go after a passion, go for it, and work at it, manage it, and accept that there are tradeoffs, and remember that not everyone can hack it full time, thats just the way it is.  So if its too much for who you are maybe, say just pursue your passion as a hobby, and there is nothing wrong with that either. So if you don’t pursue your passion now, at least go earn a ton of money now so you can at least do so someday.

    Keep in real perspective human “beings” have been trouncing around here “being” for about a quarter million years, then all of a sudden on the past millisecond on that timeline we became human “doings” running around all concerned that we’re somehow not having fulfilling purposeful meaningful lives, when much of the time we already are, but yet we forget that alot. Much of what we feel is how we think.  Be thankful if you are first healthy, and then keep things in perspective. 

    Good luck out there, keep planning your work and working your plan!

  17. Dave Seah 6 years ago

    Wow, this is a fruitful thread! I’m taking notes on things to talk about in the next podcast.

    Nollind: You have been following my creative struggle for longer than almost any of my readers, so I value your perspective greatly. You’re on the money regarding the “amazing stuff” and “direction” (Gary’s generous observation is appreciated tho). I find it difficult to see that my stuff is “amazing” at all. I’m way too close to it. I guess the compromise I’ve made is NOT to pick a direction, but to cast out as much of what I make and think to the world and see which way the wind blows me. One thing I do want to avoid, though, is making ‘helping others’ the primary focus of my calling. I do like helping others—it’s affirming and feels good—but I don’t want to make that the focus of my work. Being “helpful” might be a more nuanced description, as it implies a lack of total commitment. I like having my alone time and my own projects, and because of that I have to admit to myself that I’m not all that driven by pure compassion. That is not to say I lack compassion; it’s admitting that I have my boundaries.

    As for work = expression, the matter of transparency and alignment of work with personal values…that’s interesting. I think you’re saying that one is aware of personal values and the underlying principles that govern them, this can applied to focusing one’s work? I think this topic deserves a whole post to itself, but I like the way you’re going here.

    For myself, I find it difficult to work against my principles and values. I choose not to. This is a counter-intuitive approach to maximizing one’s business potential, but if you think of it as a niche approach, it makes sense. It’s an approach, I think, that only certain personality types would take.

  18. Nollind Whachell 6 years ago

    Gary: If you think I’m “dissing” Dave, you’re way off base. A lot of what you said I absolutely agree with. What I think you’re missing is the struggle that Dave has been going through for years (similar to myself) in finding a way to express his passion in a way that can be monetized. All you need to do is read back through his blog to see what I mean. I actually did this about a month ago, going back a few years through his posts to recap on what I remembered reading. Sure enough, the “patterns” that I thought were there, were there. Even more so, I was surprised by information that I hadn’t noticed before.

    “Well then what is Dave’s site/blog all about? “

    It’s about Dave being beautifully genuine. It shows us his true character and we admire him all the more for it. He takes us along on his journey of discovery, revealing the ups and downs of his struggle to express his passion truthfully and in a way that can support him.

    ”…so I’d challenge, where exactly is your unleashed passion Nollind?”

    My passion is very close to Dave’s, as mentioned in my earlier comment. It’s helping others to express their passions. Here’s an example. I see a musician who is extremely gifted and genuine. He has found his passion and can express himself clearly in his music, yet he doesn’t know how to express himself clearly in his online presence. That’s where I come in. I help him so that his genuine character is represented truthfully in his website. It’s no different than Sid’s work with photography. He has the ability to show the genuine side to people. That’s what I aim for in my work.

    Note the struggle isn’t so much in finding your passion, as in finding the right “medium” to express yourself and your passion truthfully. That’s what I’ve been realizing lately, in that I don’t think Web design is the right medium for expressing my passion. It’s close but it feels like something’s missing. It’s the same reason why I think Dave’s ability to create forms, illustrations, and diagrams is great but it seems like like something is missing (i.e. the “right” focus that aligns everything up). It’s like looking at a bunch of puzzle pieces or seeing the components of a story before they are put together in the “right way”.

    “Dave is one of the most productive, creative, and giving individuals I have come across both in industry and personally.”

    Couldn’t agree more. If anything, Dave’s fortitude, endurance, and persistence in sticking it out through his struggles is pretty much legendary in my books. How he does it, I have no idea.

    “So rather than endlessing musing on about these subjects, or armchair quarterbacking what its all about, or who isn’t doing what, or should be, I’d rather see folks effectively just managing their journey’s, whittling away daily at purposeful tasks that will get you to a point where you can actually choose which particular passion you are going to work on (for now), maybe get to the others later on.”

    This is where I’m going to disagree with you. The beauty of the Web is it’s ability to let us to collaborate and share our experiences. That’s exactly why you are here reading Dave’s journal. That’s why I’m here as well. Yet I’m taking it a step further by relaying things in my life that I think relate to Dave’s and hopefully that might “spark” a realization for both of us. Often times it’s doesn’t but don’t you think it’s worth it, to try to reach out and connect with someone? To be honest, lately I see more and more people not talking or listening at all which is sad. It’s seems everything is very superficial and no one wants to engage in a two way conversation about deep and meaningful things. By two way, I mean people talking back and forth in response to each other like we are now. This happens very little on the Web today. Everyones talking (commenting) but very rarely to each other.

    “So, don’t let anyone kid you, going after what you want is also a choice, with real consequences, and balancing between all of those things is often far trickier than just finding/pursuing a passion.”

    Agreed. Finding your passion, while still difficult, has been the easier part for me. Finding the right medium to express that passion truthfully and genuinely in a way that can be monetized is the hard part. That’s why I think it’s amazing that Sid was so lucky at finding a medium (photography) that could let him express his passion in a genuine way.

  19. Nollind Whachell 6 years ago

    Dave: “I find it difficult to see that my stuff is “amazing” at all. I’m way too close to it.”

    I feel the same way. I’m extremely critical of my own work. But you’re right. It’s because we’re so close to it. We need the ability to put ourselves in the third person more to get the different perspective on things. It’s why I can see things so clearly for my clients, yet have difficulty seeing things clearly for myself.

    “I guess the compromise I’ve made is NOT to pick a direction, but to cast out as much of what I make and think to the world and see which way the wind blows me.”

    Same here. I’ve done a ton of different creative stuff over my life, such as writing stories, drawing artwork, and composing music. The problem as Sid mentioned though is that you just end up “dabbling” in things and don’t really seriously sink your teeth into them (at least to the point that you can make money off them). For example, lately I’ve been visiting The Art Department blog and have been inspired by what I’ve seen. That’s the same sort of inspiration I want to give other people. Therefore it’s got me thinking about drawing again, even if only as a means to sate my desire to express myself.

    “I do like helping others—it’s affirming and feels good—but I don’t want to make that the focus of my work.”

    I think I know what you mean. I want to inspire people on a larger scale than just one on one with a web client. Thus doing my own work for myself (my own creative projects) might let me inspire many people at once.

    “I think you’re saying that one is aware of personal values and the underlying principles that govern them, this can applied to focusing one’s work?”

    What I’m saying is that if you know of your personal values and underlying life principles, is it really necessary to broadcast this publicly? Why not just “cultivate” your work with these values and principles but do it secretly behind the scenes. Guess what I’m saying is that in communicating your values and principles, you often times can confuse people, especially if they can’t relate to them. In effect, marketing and storytelling is about relating and forming a connection. If I can’t relate to you, more often than not, I’m not going to hire you or start a relationship. That’s often why when people meet for the first time, they talk about superficial stuff (to relate and connect) and then, over time, they get into deeper issues that reveal who they truly are and what they care about. So they initially talk to relate and then they talk to show their uniqueness.

    “For myself, I find it difficult to work against my principles and values.”

    Same here. My problem though is that being genuine is one of my core principles. Thus I find it very hard to work within the corporate world which lacks so much authenticity to it. I need to find something that lets me be genuine in my work and work with genuine people (or just work alone I guess but I miss the face to face interaction that an office environment brings).

A message from Dave:

I really believe we all benefit when we share our own perspectives on common experiences. It would be great if you added your own anecdotes and comments, even if you don't necessarily agree with the premise of the post; that's just good conversation in my book. The house rules are "treat each other with kindness and respect" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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