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Book Review: Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod

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Ignore Everybody is a book written by Hugh MacLeod. The full title of the book is actually Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity. At only 176 pages, this book could be considered light reading for those of us who consume books at an alarming rate, or it could be considered lots of knowledge highly compressed into few words.

Hugh MacLeod not only dispenses some very timeless and thoughtful advice on pursuing your passion, he shares many of his famous business card doodles throughout the book. Please be aware though, if you’re easily offended, ignore the cartoons because some of them slant towards the “not safe for work” side of humour.

In helping the reader work through expanding his or her creative process, Hugh also offers career advice — all in short, easy to digest chapters that are crammed with usable information. The best part about Ignore Everybody is that it’s not about coming up with the next greatest trend or fad; it’s about developing your ideas and seeing them through to fruition, which for me was the reason behind buying the book. I have loads of ideas, I’m very creative that way. However, I then tend to stagnate and research an idea or process to death. I am a Gemini; I am curious; and I will usually try to find out everything I can about something that piques my interest, until something else even shinier catches my attention.

It was my hope that by reading Ignore Everybody, I would find that secret key to unlocking the loop I find myself in and actually move an idea forward to launch. It’s not an easy process, and Hugh is honest about that, especially when you have doubters living in your circle of influence.

The author also looks at corporations and how they either kill or enhance the creative process among its employees. As a creative person working in an incredibly non-creative position for several years, I often find myself trying to find creative ways to make my job even remotely interesting or rewarding. What it comes down is the fact that while said job has paid the bills for many years, I have no passion for it, so, yes, I was hoping beyond hope that Hugh’s book would light up the garden path for me.

Judging from the number of mini post-it notes sticking out between the pages, I would say that Ignore Everybody offered me many points to visit, ponder upon and yes, research about until I hear the lock clicking open on my creative process. Probably one of the most-noted chapters in my copy of the book is “Everyone Has Their Own Mount Everest they put on this Earth to Climb” in which Hugh says that while you may be forgiven for never reaching the summit, you will never be forgiven if you don’t at least try.

Something else that Hugh makes perfectly clear is that creativity is not just art, or writing; it’s problems and goals — and how you approach them. He asks how you feel if you never attempt to climb your version of Mount Everest. I know how I’d feel, and while I want to reach the next level on that mountain, fear holds me back. Fear is like a kind of pain, and Hugh suggests accepting the pain so that it can’t hurt you. Besides, if I should manage to succeed, it will be one of the most amazing experiences ever. If I don’t succeed, I will still have come out ahead with knowledge gained. Knowledge that can be shared and expanded — something that appeals to my Gemini brain.

Another important take-away from the book is learning how to live with the odd-ball inspirational moments, how to save them, and how to make them work for you. Embrace those moments and put your whole self into what you’re doing. Hugh points out that if you do, you will find your true voice. Don’t and you won’t.

Don’t get me wrong — a lot of what Hugh MacLeod shares in Ignore Everybody is stuff I’ve heard or read before, but what makes it feel different isn’t the message itself, it’s in the delivery. Not everyone will like this book; if you do not have a sense of humour, you will not like this book. If you’ve never been able to point at your foibles and laugh at yourself, you will not like this book. If, however, you believe that humour can help to deliver a serious message, you will get much from Ignore Everybody.

Personally, I think that much of what is wrong with today’s world is due to people looking at it through an old lens. In Chapter 17, Hugh looks at the changing world and notes that the ability to visualize the world as it’s becoming will be paramount to your success. I could list a plethora of the advice Hugh discusses in his book, but I really feel that you should pick it up and check it out for yourself. In my opinion, it’s good value for the price and is a book that will probably become quite dog-eared as I turn back to it for further inspiration or just that virtual kick in the butt Hugh is so talented at delivering.

Through humour and the timely dispensation of truisms, Hugh MacLeod has developed a book that is fun to read and yet still makes you think and perhaps even believe in yourself and your projects a little bit more. Ignore Everybody is motivational without being sickeningly sweet or as overbearing as a drill sergeant. He gives you the impetus to create and forge a way forward while giving you a reason to smile with every turn of the page.

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