Unlock Your Creative Compass: Merging Mysticism, Marketing, and Making written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing
In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Will Cady, Reddit‘s Global Brand Ambassador and founding Head of Karma Lab – a team of best-in-class creative and strategic minds, backed by media, marketing and ad industry experience that make them uniquely positioned to guide and collaborate with brands as they find their home on Reddit and around internet culture. Will’s unique background combines mysticism, marketing, and making, creating a rich tapestry of insights for navigating the world of creativity. His latest book ‘Which way is North?‘ outlines seven directions, which help professionals divide their inner world into different experiences through meditation to convert anxiety into action.
Embark on a transformative journey through the seven directions, strategically open-ended questions designed to unlock creativity at the intersection of mysticism, marketing, and making. Will Cady shares insights on turning anxiety into a catalyst for innovation, the power of divergent thinking in strategic questions, and the integration of head and heart in the creative process. The episode explores the normalization of meditation and its potential to unlock human potential, offering a comprehensive roadmap for navigating the dynamic landscape of creativity and self-discovery. Tune in for practical tips and valuable insights into building a people-centric culture in the ever-evolving dynamics of work and creativity.
Questions I ask Will Cady:
[00:43] What is Reddit?
[01:22] Is it fair to say the company is best at ensuring conversations in community spaces stay in context?
[03:03] What does a global brand ambassador do?
[04:36] How does being a brand ambassador integrate with leading at Karma Lab?
[05:58] Explain how your book title ‘which way is north’ diverges from the common saying ‘find your true north’?
[07:28] Given the context of the book, did you feel any creative pressure in writing it?
[08:40] How do you suggest people use the book?
[12:12] To what degree did your background in music influence the creation of this book?
[14:26] Can you touch on the line your draw between mental health and creativity?
[16:51] Can you talk more about the necessity and normalization of meditation in entrepreneurship?
[18:33] Can you pick apart what you call the seven directions in the book?
[22:52] Where can people connect with you and find a copy of which way is north?
More About Will Cady:
- Get Will’s new book – Which Way Is North: A Creative Compass for Makers, Marketers, and Mystics
- Connect with Will on LinkedIn
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Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn
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John (00:08): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Will Cady. He is Reddit’s global brand ambassador and founding head of Reddit’s Karma Lab creative strategy team. And we’re going to talk about his recent book, which way is North, a creative compass for Makers, marketers, and mystics. So will welcome to the show.
Will (00:33): Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.
John (00:35): So let’s pretend you were at a cocktail party and there was a person there that somehow had never heard of Reddit, and they just came up and said, what’s Reddit? How do you tell people? What’s the quick version of what is Reddit?
Will (00:49): Yeah, the quickest way to say it is Reddit is where the best questions live, and it’s been that way for over 18 years now, just celebrated it’s 18th birthday. So it’s pretty foundational to the internet and what makes it different than the other places is the questions that people ask remain and you can see the conversations and communities that form around them. So when I say best questions, I mean like Reddit is literally famous for some of its questions like the ask me anything or is a hot dog a sandwich, for example?
John (01:21): Well, it’s also pretty famous for policing too, right? I mean, there are a lot of people that are very passionate community members that you better up your game if you’re going to go there and answer a question or ask a question. I mean, is that a fair assessment?
Will (01:37): It’s become famous for figuring out how to structure the way we connect and converse online into these community spaces that have clear rules. And the community construct is something that is, it’s a part of the internet past, but it’s also looking to be a part of the internet future.
John (01:56): And I guess policing is probably not the right word. I think they’re just passionate about staying on topic, for example, and the topic is in some better than, I mean, there’s some topics on there that are so micro that they’ve probably collected the 10 people that care about that thing on that subreddit.
Will (02:16): Sure, yeah. Well, the keyword is context and that’s become such an important word for business as well. And when you have a context and a conversation that everybody’s trying to have in that context, then there’s things that do and don’t belong in there. If I started droning onto you about my baseball card collection right now, you’d be like, that’s nice, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. Will we got to bring it back to the context that this conversation is supposed to be in. And that’s happening at the scale of millions upon millions on Reddit every day, people holding the context that they want to have a conversation in.
John (02:54): So my rookie Reggie Jackson card, you don’t want to hear about is that what saying
Will (02:59): Maybe do you want to pivot?
John (03:02): This is another dumb question, but I have to ask, what does a global brand ambassador do? Is there a job description of that?
Will (03:08): Yeah, the way that I approach it is with this speak, listen, build framework. So I’ve been at Reddit for over eight years now. I started expanding into Los Angeles. There was an experimental hire to see if there’s opportunity for Reddit as a business in la and of course there was. You’ve got so much going on down there and my role back then was really to tell our story and to share that and then listen to what people reflected back, like what stuck with people, what did they believe when we shared that story that Reddit actually is, and then bringing that back to the team and saying, here’s where the story is resonating. Let’s build against that common point. So a lot has happened in the eight years since I was just the one phone number in LA to call for Reddit and we’re a global business now, so I’m effectively doing that same thing at a different scale. This year alone, I’ve been to Amsterdam, I’ve been to Sydney, Australia, I’ve been to many different cities across the US and it’s bigger audiences, but it’s the same thing. Speak, tell the story, talk about community, talk about context, talk about where we’re going, and then listen to how people respond to it and then converse internally say, this is where the opportunities are because these are the stories that people are actually picking up that we’re putting down.
John (04:36): So the other part of your title I guess is founding Head of Karma Lab. So how do those two things, well, I guess you’re probably better describe what you do at Karma Lab, but then how do those two things kind of integrate?
Will (04:50): Karma Lab is Reddit’s internal creative strategy agency. So when I talk about those early days when me and a group of people were going out and we were telling the Reddit story and figuring out what people wanted from Reddit, when we were sharing that story, it started to build a little bit of a playbook for activation on the platform. If you are a business or a celebrity, we know the Ask Me anything, for example, that’s just one play in the playbook. And for those that don’t know and ask me anything is going to a community on Reddit. It could be the food sub Reddit, it could be the car subreddit. Again, the context for a conversation and having that conversation that’s relevant to what it is that you want to be talking about and the way that I have this book in the world and I want to talk about it. That’s one example of many different activation strategies for engaging with Reddit. Karma Lab is the creative strategy agency that is internal to Reddit that was built around that playbook that we started to develop and it was my privilege to be the leader and the founding that team.
John (05:57): So let’s talk about your book, shall we? One of the things that you and I were talking a little off air that there are some other books that are maybe sort of in this category that are structured much differently and I’ll just start with the title. There are a lot of books that encourage you to find true north, your true north and you start with which way is actually north. I think right off the bat, that’s a very different approach. There was supposed to be a question in that, but I really just wanted to hear if that resonates with you.
Will (06:27): There is a question in that. The question is the title. So one of my principles here is I believe in big questions. I believe in good questions. That’s what my time at Reddit has taught me is that questions are more powerful than answers because they are the beginning of a journey, not the end. So which way is north? It really describes the whole attitude of my voice in that book. I’m not telling anybody what their true north is. That’s not for me to say. What I am offering is a way to think about that. And so the book goes through a lot of other different questions that help people to unlock their creativity for themselves in their own language, in their own terms, identify their purpose, and it’s a formula that I’ve used over and over again with many different people and with businesses and it works. It’s the questions that make it work.
John (07:23): I want to get into the directions because obviously that’s the heart of the book, but I’m curious as an author, if you’re going to throw a book out there for makers, marketers and mystics, did you feel any creative pressure yourself to feel like, oh, I have to be extra creative in this writing?
Will (07:42): I did. I felt like I was betting on the de-stigmatization of the topic of mysticism as the years go on following the de-stigmatization of things like mental health and following the cultural response to uncovering the human elements that AI can’t reach. So where I felt the most pressure was how do I write this book in a way that is going to be relevant years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, and still be relevant for when it comes out in 2023?
John (08:28): The book is for when people pick it up and read it, a collection of essays, meditations, somewhat memoir, which is not a classic format necessarily, especially for a nonfiction book. How do you suggest people use this book?
Will (08:44): Best way to use it is to pick it up and give it a read through and then have an ongoing relationship with it, like an oracle in a way. Just open it up to any page and see what that first sentence has to say that pops into your vision. You could even start with that too, so you could buy the book and never read it front to back and just use it like that. And it’s really, it’s a book that’s written in the age of short form Hot Takes, right? Everything from Twitter slash x to all of these 120 character, whatever. I wrote it with a sense of prose, but also with a sense of at the beginning of some paragraphs, at the end of some paragraphs, I’ll condense big ideas into one pithy line because it’s meant to be a little bit of a fortune cookie in that way.
(09:38): When do you open up a page? So that’s one way to use it and another way to use it is to really dive deep into it. I did write every sentence with a lot of intention. I did create every exercise and meditation with a lot of intention and a lot of people have reflected back to me that they’re taking this book very slow and that they’re really digging into what each page has to offer, and they’re experiencing very powerful positive transformations because of that. So it’s designed to meet people where you’re at whatever your level of comfort is. This book is designed to meet you there.
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(11:22): Now, this offer is limited to new active campaign customers only. So what are you waiting for? Fuel your growth, boost revenue and save precious time by upgrading to active campaign. Today I want to get into the questions you called ’em the seven directions, because you’re right, I can see where people would take a long time because they might just not be able to answer number two for a long time when they got there, right? Yeah, we’ll get to that because people don’t know what I’m talking about, but I want to back up a little bit. I didn’t read in your bio but on air, but I know you have a background in music as a musician, and I’m wondering what role in the classic sense, you don’t practice music today, but I’m wondering what role that background played in the writing of this book, in the nature of which in songwriting, every line has to be so intentional in a short song, right? So I’m wondering what to the degree you understand that role or that background played in the creation of this work?
Will (12:21): Here’s the thing, I’m trying to be a voice that represents the rebalancing of the humanities in our education and our investment because during my upbringing, and when I say we, I mean America. We rightfully invested in STEM because science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, they build what we need in order to create our future. But we divested from the humanities in that process. We made humanities, arts and music and understanding different cultures. We made that pay the price for this investment. That wasn’t the path that I went on. It wasn’t the path that I was originally going to be on. I wanted to be an astronaut. I went to space camp and I was like a math whizz, but then somebody put a guitar in my hand and it was over and I went into art. The truth of my career as it’s born out is that my greatest skills that I’ve had to offer have come from my education in the humanities.
(13:24): And while technology is able to build the future that we want, it’s the humanities that help us choose it. I think we all feel right now, we haven’t chosen the future that we want. There is a crisis of humanity. So my musicianship, yeah, just a bass player, but also not just a bass player because through the base I learned so much about the human experience that can’t be put into words, that can’t be put into technology, that can’t be calculated, that can’t be engineered. It’s not about this domain of explanation and logic. It’s about the domain of experience and intuition. So music really is the backbone of this entire book, and if I as a musician can put forward a perspective that helps people to think about the importance of prioritizing humanities again, then I believe that others that come from similar backgrounds and creativity, we’ll be able to do the same.
John (14:24): One of the other important threads, you already mentioned mental health, but there’s a line in there where you talk about transforming anxiety into creativity. So talk a little bit about the role of anxiety in makers, marketers, and mystics. Is there an elevated sense of anxiety if you consider yourself a creator?
Will (14:46): Relate to this? I haven’t really shared this perspective before, but maybe the core experience, there’s a lot of core experiences where this came from, and I recount them in the book, but this is not in the book. Learning how to take a solo in a improvisational jam session, especially as a bass player when that’s normally what you do. I mean, you want to talk about turning anxiety into creativity. Everybody’s watching you, and then all of a sudden the light is on you. You got to say something interesting. That is the current that I learned to play with that I have put into this book. It also comes from some of my experience on the mystical side. There’s a scene that recounts a sit that I had with a zen master that talks about fear. There’s a lot of other different stories and exercises in the book like that. But what I feel is that, well, it’s not even a feeling, it’s a fact. I mean, we’re in a anxiety pandemic right now. The amount of anxiety that everybody is suffering through is enormous. And my submission into the conversation is basically, Hey, y’all know about art therapy, about this idea of taking what you have on the inside and getting it out. Here’s a formula for doing that. And it’s not really just about feelings. It’s actually an engine for inspiration, for innovation, for driving purpose in your life and your business. It’s really a reframe.
John (16:14): You talked about, I don’t think you used the word normalize, but meditation is still one of those things that I think increasingly, I have been practicing probably for 30 years, and it was very out there from a western standpoint. Even then it’s come into business conversations now, I think particularly as people talk about MINDBODY spirit for entrepreneurs, a lot of this book is about, I mean, you’ve even called these questions meditations and going into meditation to consider them. Is that something that’s just, if you’re going to call yourself a mystic or a maker, are you just going to accept that or do you still find some resistance in just the concept of meditation and how people think about it?
Will (16:55): It is being normalized. Meditation. It’s really moved a long way. And if you’ve been meditating 30 years, then you may or may not agree with the sentiment I want to share here, but there is so much more to go than the first steps that our popular culture is currently on. And isn’t that an incredibly exciting premise that we as a modern culture, as a working culture are just beginning to bring meditation into the workplace? But it’s an infinite game that keeps going, and your human potential expands with every step that you take. So imagine what’s ahead for you, listener. If you’re just beginning meditation right now, it keeps going. And as it keeps going, you keep going. You become more creative, you become more purpose driven, you become more aware, you become more calm, you become activated. Whatever that descriptor is, it’s further down that road.
(17:56): At the beginning of writing this book, and I talk about this in the opening, the identity as a mystic felt like a bit of an embarrassment to my identity as a marketer and vice versa. But they’ve integrated. They’re all coming together into this one identity. So I do think that my hope is that this book will stand the test of time, but my hope is that the subtitle will be non-essential within a couple of years because I’m pointing to three different things that are coming together right now. And I hope that in five years people will be like, oh, that’s just a creator.
John (18:33): Yeah. So let’s talk about what you call the seven directions. And maybe I’ll just let you run with it because I don’t want to pick which one is your favorite direction, but I’ll throw out their example. Question number one, what is in front of you? And I mean on the surface, that’s a lot from a question standpoint. I’m curious, however you want to talk about the seven directions, because I think the questions are all so insightful and so deep, but they seem so simple.
Will (19:02): I refer to them as strategically open questions, and that comes from the merging between my, well all three of the maker, the marketer, and the mystical background. So as a maker, as a creative, you have something that’s called divergent thinking. How many different things can you do with this pen and all these different ideas that you come up with, all these different ways to interpret something. So this question is designed to be up for interpretation. As a marketer, it’s similar because I have participated in countless brainstorms, I have led countless brainstorms, and there’s a way to set the table to billiard break into a conversation. And it’s a strategically open question that does that. And then as a mystic, a lot of the esoteric systems, a Jewish esotericism, for example, Kabbalah is extremely pronounced in how it stretches your brain to hold multiple different ideas at once.
(20:08): And so this idea that is being put in front of you is what is in front of you. And so that could mean many different things. The maker, the creative, knows how to really just expand into a bunch of different ways to play with that. In the same way that you can come up with dozens of different things to do with a pen, the marketer knows how to apply to be directional to that, to make it actually valuable. What are we going to do with this idea of what’s in front of, this is my future. Okay, well here’s where I think the market is going, right? Or what have you. And then for the mystic, it’s the ability to sit in the discomfort of allowing what’s in front of you to be something completely unexpected. And so when I lead meditations or the two places I do this the most, utilizing these questions is leading meditations or advising businesses.
(21:08): When I’m leading meditations, I just let it hang and I walk people through a visualization process so that they can be surprised by what’s in front of them. For business advising, I just let them journal. And it’s interesting how sometimes what comes up is their personal hopes and fears more so than their business. And so then it’s like, well, okay, so that’s what we’re really dealing with here. And then you work through that. And then to your point, you ask, which is my favorite? It’s meant to be different every day, every time you ask. And you might feel a little bit more of an attraction to one question over the other, or you might interpret one question differently from one day to the next. What’s in front of you on one day could be about your future, what’s in front of you the next day? It could be about what is literally in front of you, the book that you hold in your hands, or it’s this item that’s on your desk and you’re like, I’m noticing my glasses now. I never really paid attention. Is that a story that I’m telling myself about clarifying my vision? I’m not wearing my glasses enough. Why don’t I wear those more? And it’s just, it’s making sense of your head chatter through the lens of these questions,
John (22:23): And we ultimately end up at what’s in your heart, which could be a good place to start too. But maybe it takes a lot of work to get there, doesn’t it?
Will (22:31): It’s a great place to start. Most of us, myself included, have a hard time getting there. The modern experience keeps us in our heads. So maybe I just wrote this book for myself.
John (22:45): Well, those are the best books. Those are the best products that people create. Well, will, it was a pleasure having you stop by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. Is there a place you’d invite people to connect with you or obviously to pick up a copy of which way is North?
Will (23:00): Yeah, pick up a copy at your local indie bookstore. Support your indie bookstore, and you can find me at will katy cady.com. I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Instagram. Will Cady, you know where to find me. Happy to chat.
John (23:15): Awesome. Well, again, thanks for taking a few moments out of your day to stop by, and hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.
Will (23:22): Likewise. Thanks for having me.
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