Humans of New York Creator Brandon Stanton: ‘Following Your Passion Requires More Discipline Than Passion’
The photographer and best-selling author on pressure, burnout, and his role as a storyteller.
When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Brandon Stanton: It’s a cliché: Stumble toward the kitchen for caffeine.
TG: What gives you energy?
BS: Movement toward a goal.
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
BS: Following your passion requires more discipline than passion.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
BS: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. During the first year of Humans of New York, I was sustained by the idea that progress is not linear, and that even if you’ve seen no results so far, drastic success can come suddenly if you keep making small improvements.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
BS: It sleeps on the bed stand next to me.
TG: How do you deal with email?
BS: Not very well. It seems unnatural to be always available — especially when you’re trying to be creative. I feel like the expectation of an immediate response means that we can no longer choose whether or not to be accessible. Not responding is seen as an aggressive act.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day. What do you do with it?
BS: I can’t say I’ve yet reached the point of regimentation where the discovery of 15 minutes is a big deal. Though 15 minutes happens to be the length of my afternoon nap.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
BS: For years I put a lot of pressure on myself to post on HONY several times a day — even as the material became longer and more time-consuming to produce. Eventually I reached a point where I had to release myself from that obligation.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed, and how did you overcome it?
BS: There have been a few times that I’ve tried to strong-arm a happy ending to a particularly tragic story that I’ve shared on Humans of New York. My inability to force a positive outcome has caused me to reflect on my role as a storyteller and acknowledge my limited ability to impact the stories themselves.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
BS: “Don’t wait for perfect.” Not even sure who said it. I think I saw it on someone’s Facebook profile.