Scott Ginsberg

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In this episode, my guest is Scott Ginsberg, a world record holder for wearing a nametag 24/7! He is also a prolific writer, musician, filmmaker, software developer and all-round approachable guy. Originally from St. Louis, Scott now lives in New York with his wife. In this episode, Scott shares all about his interesting creative projects, and his very unusual method of idea curation.

What you will learn about in this episode

• Why Scott wears a nametag 24/7
• Where he finds and generates ideas
• Scott’s various creative projects
• How Scott decides what to work on
• The unusual system he uses to keep track of ideas
• Scott’s favourite creative tools and resources

Why Scott wears a nametag 24/7

It started as a goofy, fun thing to do one night in college, but the real answer is that Scott was lonely and disconnected and needed a way to make new friends. By wearing the nametag, immediately people were super friendly, saying hello, starting conversations. Something in the little sticker changed the dynamic and communication, which was fun and different, exciting and unexpected. And for the first time, Scott felt seen on a deeper level as a person. Because it was so powerful, he made a vow with himself to keep it on indefinitely, and has been wearing it ever since. That was 17 years ago!

As a writer, Scott knew he was going to write a book about it, and he began documenting it as a social experiment. It was fun, and it only accidentally became the thing he built his business around. When the book came out, it was a short run of books that he kept in his apartment. He met a guy on a bus—because of the nametag—who passed along Scott’s information to a friend who was an editor at a paper. The local paper ran the story the day the book came out, and it went viral before viral was viral. Scott ended up on USA Today and CNN, and ‘rode that wave’ for as long as he could. At the time he was selling furniture, but eventually he began working part time at the Ritz Carlton at night, writing during the day. Then he worked full time for himself for about 12 years, but also worked at a couple of different marketing agencies and with startups. These days, Scott thinks of himself as a dual citizen. He works full time at a startup, and that allows him to be his own patron for the art projects he wants to make.

Where Scott finds and generates ideas

Scott says he finds ideas everywhere. Reading is one of the big ways he gets inspiration, but he “inhales” everything. Whether it’s music, reading, listening to other people’s conversations or noticing the world, he sucks it all in, writes everything down and has a very organized content management system on his computers so his ideas are always available to him wherever he is in the world.

YouTube videos of Scott’s writing process,

It was fun, it was neat. ScreenFlow is one of many screen video capturing things and I figured out how to hack screen flow where I’d take a screen grab of me writing, sit down and start writing for 4 – 5 hours, and not even think about the fact that it was recording. Then go back and hack it by speeding it up like 1000% and then doing a screen flow of the screen flow, and then when it was done it was a 4 – 5 hour block of writing condensed down to 5 minutes. You could really see my brain in 3D form on a screen and it was so interesting. You see a lot of patterns in the way personally I approach the creative process. Did 6 or 7 as a fun experiment. That way, if somebody said ‘what do you do all day?’ you can watch this video.

The brain is a bad neighborhood

Scott thinks on paper and believes a lot of people spend too much time thinking inside their head and that that’s really dangerous. His yoga teacher has a saying that the brain is a bad neighborhood and you should stay out of it. Scott says, “thinking is really great, but think with your fingers, think on paper, think on the dry erase board, think on sticky notes.” He advises that you don’t just sit there and mull stuff over because ideas should not stay in your head. The whole point of the David Allen Getting Things Done system, which Scott applies a lot, is that everything needs to get out of your head. Get it down on paper, get it in a system, get it in Evernote or whatever you use, but don’t leave it up there.

The joy of creating

For Scott, the joy and value and meaning came from coming up with the idea of creating it and now sharing it with the world. Once his work is out in the world, his job is done and whether or not anyone likes it or whether or not people see it, that’s pedestrian to him. He only cares that he made it and that he’s proud of it.

Scott’s current projects: an animated folk rock opera

Scott’s latest film is an animated folk-rock operacalled Head Up Heart Higher, composed and written by him and animated by Devika Joglekar. It’s a 46 minute cartoon, the music is folk rock and the opera part is actually something inspired by R Kelly’s Rap Opera Trapped in the Closet. Scott took 11 songs that he’d written from October 2015 to April 2016, which was a very challenging period in his career, and the songs told the story. So he wrote a screen play, found an animator and told the story through a cartoon. It’s on YouTube, you can find it here

Other projects

The film making thing started a few years ago. The first movie Scott made was a concert documentary called The Tunnel of Love. He then did another film a couple of years ago and now has done the animated one. The animation is beautiful. He likes to experiment with stuff to earn the right to call himself something new. Having made 3 feature length films now he can legitimately call himself a filmmaker, which is exciting.

Another example of doing something completely different is when Scott converted the intellectual property of some of the books he’d written into software programs. HE didn’t design the software or code it, but found a great developer and they built single serving software applications that Scott can personally use as he’s is making things. The first one was called Sentence Junkie which is a list of over 30,000 of Scott’s ideas. It’s essentially a search engine that facilitates his own creative process. He also created Question Junkie and Opportunity Junkie. All the software is public domain and Scott’s not worried about people using them. He says, “by the time people use it, I’ll already have another thousand thoughts, so go ahead.”

Another project Scott is working on is a new book about Hot yoga. He is part of a strong yoga community in Brooklyn, and has been practicing yoga for 10 years. It has become a transformative part of his life in general but is great for creativity too. The book is a daily devotional, like most of his books, but unlike his other 35 books this one is the first one with a major publisher. So that’s another new thing he’s never tried before, and the book is due out late 2017.

How Scott decides what to work on

Scott says he works on ‘everything’. He says it’s ok to do lots of things, and not pick just one lane or be one thing. Currently he has 8 projects, some of which are much more time consuming than others. He works for a startup called Air Help, which is an air passenger rights company. That’s the most time consuming project, but he’s also working on a couple of books, some new music, and the yoga studio where he is a member, volunteer and employee. He does all those projects, but not necessarily every day. Some are only once a week. What’s important to Scott is having an inventory of projects that are meaningful to him so that he can look at the list and say ‘what do I need to work on, what am I feeling now?’

Scott believes it’s existential insurance. When you’re having a freak out or bored or uninspired, it’s important to have lots of different projects available to you without any pressure. It reduces the opportunity for you to be disappointed and be derailed. Most of Scott’s projects don’t require scheduled time. He trusts that things come in when they do and he will work on them as they go.

The unusual system Scott uses to keep track of ideas

Scott has a process and a system that he uses to keep track of idea that is partly based on David Allen’s advice about capturing ideas. Every morning, Scott will go through his list of notes in his Kindle Notebook and transcribe it. He believes in reading, taking notes, transcribing and storing notes. He will read his notes, then rewrite them into documents, and each idea gets its own Word document on the computer. This helps with searching.

If he gets 13 great ideas from a book, one document includes all of them for that book. However, he also has each idea as its own document stored in a larger inventory of documents of everything he’s ever taken notes on for anything. They’re in the warehouse. Then, later he can search through the inventory, see notes from that book and either quote the author or use it as inspiration. They’re all backed up on Google Drive and through Scott’s software. Most of the word documents are one sentence and he will never ever open them. But, in the Finder file, when he searches for them, they’re easy to find and read.

Scott’s favourite creative tools and resources

He likes to use the InVision design app for building private inspiration boards.
Fiction authors he enjoys include James Patterson and Lee Child.
Non-fiction authors Scott recommends are Seth Godin and Eric Maisel. He also recommends Seth Godin’s courses.

Where to find Scott

Scott doesn’t use social media that much, but suggests you go to your favourite search engine and type in the word nametag! Otherwise, his website is or you can check out his YouTube channel or the
Sentence Junkie software