Creation in reverse

Laurence McCahill
The Happy Startup School
4 min readAug 25, 2022


In his fascinating book How Music Works, David Byrne (best known as the front man of the band Talking Heads) has a powerful message.

That creativity isn’t simply something that emerges from within us. But that is unconsciously & instinctively influenced by the environment we find ourselves in.

He argues that every genre of music — from African drumming circles, religious hymns, improv jazz, hip hop or rock n roll — wouldn’t have been created at all had it not been for the context it was created within.

Drumming sounds great outdoors.
Gothic churches reward long notes.
Intricate jams thrive in smoky clubs.

And this isn’t just exclusive to humans.

Birds of the same species have been found to have different calls if they are on the forest floor rather than higher up.

So it turns out, creativity is as adaptive as anything else — and genius seems to appear when a thing is perfectly suited to its context.

When the right thing is in the right place, we are moved.

Timing is everything.

What I wish I knew before I started out in business

  1. Some people are radiators, others are drains. Be conscious of where you devote most of your precious time.
  2. Writing builds clarity and connection like nothing else. Master it.
  3. You don’t need to pretend you know it all. You don’t, so ask for help.
  4. There are no rules in business. So don’t follow other people’s definition of success. Optimise for your own happiness.
  5. It takes 10 years to build a great company. Take your time, enjoy the ride.
  6. Most people aren’t your customers, so stop trying to appeal to everyone. Your job is to find the people you want to serve.
  7. You’re a leader, so don’t underestimate the impact you can have on others. The world needs you and your ideas.
  8. Perfection is the enemy of done, so get going. An idea that never ships has zero chance of success.
  9. Nothing fails 100%. Even projects that didn’t work can teach you something. So don’t fear failure, it’s never that binary.
  10. Don’t be a lone wolf. Business is hard, and entrepreneurship is a lonely road. Seek like minds and eat, hike, have fun together.
  11. When you’re on purpose there is no competition, only collaboration. So stop comparing yourself to others (and feeling worse). You have something unique — you.
  12. Collaborations bring energy. Work with people that light you up.
  13. Create time for serendipity and embrace randomness. Do the opposite of everyone else.
  14. When you’re knee deep in a problem and feel stuck, walk away. Come back with fresh eyes.
  15. Stop putting others on a pedestal. Inspiration porn is a disease. Remember this: nobody knows what they’re doing. So create more and consume less.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

What do you do effortlessly that other people find difficult?

I found designing websites a breeze, so I teamed up with Carlos Saba to start a digital agency which we ran for 10 years.

These days I teach those skills to others.

I’ve realised bringing ideas to life is a superpower of mine, and have devoted the last decade to our work at The Happy Startup School, where we create spaces to help people get clear on ideas that are calling them.

And then help them to make it happen.

The chances are you have a gift that others would love to learn from.

You take it for granted.
You assume everyone knows it.
But they don’t.

Those years or even decades of knowledge and experience you’ve accrued are worth something. And where there’s value, there’s money and impact to be made.

So don’t throw out all that wisdom for something new, harness what you have.

It might be a podcast or a book.
An online course.
Or gathering like minds in a community.

We’ve seen all of these things be born from our 100 Vision 20/20 alumni over the last 2.5 years. If you’d like to monetise your knowledge, play with some new ideas and find a more effortless way to build your business, myself and my fellow course leads Carlos and Lana are here to help. Tap into our 60+ years of collective experience building products, businesses and communities.

You’re a creative leader at heart.
You’re purpose-driven.
And you have something to say.

We’re here to help you step onto the path of your excite strategy.

Tribe 6 starts on 26th September and we already have a great group forming (we cap it at 20) — register your interest here.

Through our work over the years I’ve realised that learning and growth happens best in community.

As Bruce Daisley says in his new book Fortitude:

The secret to building resilience is collectivism, not individualism.

Have a great week.

Laurence McCahill

ps. It’s still not too late to join us at our annual Summercamp next month in the UK, along with 150 likeminded founders, leaders and changemakers — learn more and register your interest at



Laurence McCahill
The Happy Startup School

Designer, coach, entrepreneur. Co-founder The Happy Startup School.