30 Days Of Genius Blog: Brandon Stanton (Humans Of New York)

Quite possibly one of the best “follow your dream stories” I have ever heard. Humans Of New York creator Brandon Stanton lays out the framework for dreaming wide awake. He may be one of the most selfless artists I have ever come across. He is nothing, the art, and its connection to the audience, is everything. How refreshing is that?

I have taken his interview on 30 Days of Genius with Chase Jarvis, extracted the information, and used it to answer common questions by readers just like you, who are looking to take their lives to the next level, or at least a different level than the one they are on.

Please enjoy.

Following My Passion Should Be Easy, Right? Because I Love It?

Absolutely not!

In fact, that is the most common misconception I hear. If you are truly passionate about what you are doing it should be extremely hard. Why? Because whatever that “thing” is, you should be doing it all the time. Do not use following your dreams as an excuse to not work. Please. There are so many people out there that do just enough to be able to tell themselves and the people they are close with that they are following their dream, living their passion. Generally, those people are doing a little here, a little there, and getting very little to nothing done.

When I moved to New York, all I did was take pictures. All day, every day. I lived and breathed photography. Why? Because when you follow your passion, you need to completely immerse yourself in to it. It is a sacrifice you need to make in order to make something of your passion. I lived in an apartment with three strangers, in a room that barely fit a mattress, and I loved it. I was never there, so it didn’t matter. I was out and about, taking photos, refining my craft, and making sure I was better when I got home than when I left in the morning.

I never planned on having art that connected with tens of millions of people. If I did, I would never have been able to create Humans Of New York. I wanted to take photographs, and make enough money to be able to take photographs. That’s it. Get better every single day. Produce 4 pieces of content every single day. That’s it.

Forcing myself to create so much, 365 days a year, put me in a situation where I had to bust my ass. Those four pieces of content were not going to create themselves. If I didn’t work, I wasn’t producing, or getting better, or really following my passion.

If you are not working with passion, then you are not likely working on your passion.

In the world of art, that passion, or lack thereof, comes through in the work. It amazes me that on Facebook, basically a medium of stories from millions and millions of people, HONY stands out. I think that is because it is real. There is no bs, no ulterior motive. I tell stories of real people, their real lives, with a caring and attention to detail that they deserve, and people are drawn to it. Without that passion, both for putting in the work and caring about it, I truly believe it wouldn’t connect in the same way.

What Should My Goals Be?

I am assuming that you want to follow your passion because you think it will bring you happiness. I agree that it will make you happy, as long as it truly is your passion, but what that happiness is, is different for everyone. There is no one version of happiness.

My goal was to make enough money to keep doing what I loved.

I, personally, think that is a healthy way to start. That way, you are focused on the craft, the process, and the work. Pressure yourself to work hard, and keep growing. Like I said, come home better than when you left. Each day has the goal of being better than the day before.

Do not pin your values on external measures. I understand that there has to be a certain level of paying attention to money, but if you are not making enough, use that as a challenge to get better at your craft. Be so good they can’t ignore you. Keep pushing. Be competitive with yourself. Not hard on yourself, competitive. Make yourself work every day, all day, in order to get better. It is the one thing you can control. Put in the time, value your work, and constantly get better.

Working with passion, every day, pushing yourself to be better and better every day, will allow you to experiment, and take some risks. When you try something new and different, look back and see if it worked or not. If it did, keep it, if it didn’t, either refine it or trash it. That is the benefit of working with the intensity you are going to work, it is a constant evolution.

Think of it this way: if you get 1% better every day you work, and you only work once a week, that’s only a 52% increase a year. If you work every day, you are able to condense a year’s worth of growth in to a little over a month and a half.

50% better every month and a half?!?! Think about that!!!

What If I’m Scared?

You should be.

It’s a scary thing to do.

How many people truly follow their passion? They talk about it, but rarely do it.

We are paralyzed by the need to make something great, which keeps us from doing anything at all. Having the daily goals made my “goals” small, attainable, but difficult. Don’t think about the final product, the end game. Think about today, tomorrow, and maybe next week. That’s it. It is a growth process. Have you seen the movie Big, with Tom Hanks? What happens when you jump from 13 to 30? You skip all the growth, all the lessons, the skills, then you are just some 30 year old goofball. That’s what happens when you try to go to big too fast. Focus on the craft, the day to day, and bust your ass. Things come from that. Always.

Be better when you go to sleep than when you woke up. Goal accomplished.


“It is such a blessing to be the first one bored with your own work.”

“Work without a motive.”

“The more I disappear, the more my work becomes.”

Brandon Stanton Links

Humans Of New York

Chase Jarvis Links


Creative Live

iTunes Podcast Page

Joey Links