How Rick Rubin's new book puts you in the picture

It’s a good bet that plenty of agency and consultancy slide decks will be featuring quotes from 'The Creative Act' - the new book by legendary music producer Rick Rubin. But there are two things about the book they probably won’t include…

Unlike most ‘self help’ books - especially those written by famous people - he ignores aspirational stardust. He even ignores himself. Despite having more stories than most of us would rack up in 10 lifetimes, there are very few juicy Rick Rubin anecdotes. Why?

First is his goal of making the work timeless. If the examples are about him and his life, they’re attached to him - and they may not mean anything in 10, 50 or 100 years. Removing his life gives the book more life.

Most interesting though is Rick Rubin’s second reason for refusing to use star power.

One of his goals is invite the reader in to participate. For example, if he paints a picture of a problem and solution and you can understand the mechanics of how it all works, you can probably envisage yourself solving it. You put yourself in the frame.

But if he shares puts a famous person in there - say Jay-Z - you don’t picture yourself solving the problem. You picture Jay-Z. You think how great Jay-Z is, and unwittingly remove yourself from the picture completely.

When we hear a story about someone famous - an entrepreneur, hip hop mogul, or whoever - something shifts. There’s a rush of excitement at the sensationalist tale, but we take ourselves out of the picture.

So, this doesn't fit on a nicely designed slide, but I think it's interesting. Rick Rubin's taken things inside out: removing the sensationalist stories and replacing them with sensations the reader can choose. You can put yourself in the picture, and match the concepts to your own story - instead of someone’s else.

All of which might just give the book a long and storied life.

P.S. I may have well just told a sensationalist story about someone famous. Guess I'm not at Rick's level just yet.

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