The Content Crossroads: Supernatural Success at the Intersection of Ideas

The Content Crossroads: Supernatural Success at the Intersection of Ideas

Reader Comments (154)

  1. Interesting article Brian!

    I think it is important to always look at ways others are doing what they are good at.

    Don’t focus on “what they are doing,” but rather “how are they doing it.”

    This allows me to find inspiration in the most random of places.

    Keep up your good work and you better get going on your own book soon!


  2. Giving the ole mind a 180 spin is always fun and productive. Try to explain why people behave a certain way around you… Try psychology explanations, try sociology explanations… You will be amazed! Good for mental exercises and for a better world ….

    Great post !

  3. Hey Brian,

    This post is one of the best lessons for getting ideas I’ve ever heard.

    Ironically, they did a story about the “supernatural” crossroads/guitar player story you mentioned in the popular TV show “Supernatural” last year.


  4. What an awesome article, Brian. Definitely a crossroads of ideas…great read, and great ideas for fostering creativity. Plus, anything involving Robert Johnson and dueling guitars can’t be half-bad! 🙂

  5. That was an absolutely superb read. A crossroads of good questions, historical research, examples well explained and unstoppable forward momentum in the writing. The clip from Crossroads was just the cherry on top.

  6. Kick Ass! I said it here before and I will say it again, muses and masters come from all kinds of places. One of your most relevant posts IMO, especially in an attention economy. There is a lot of time sucking stale air out there. You are a fresh breeze…and right on point. All best, Jan

  7. Wonderful article. And the Medici Effect is going on my amazon wish list right now.

    The funny thing is – I was telling someone today that i don’t really do memes, but I think this article has changed my mind.

  8. Man, when I read, “Come to the crossroads… In Florence,” I was groaning. “Oh man, not *another* damned conference I can’t go to!!”

    This was brilliant, and I love the story of the devil at the crossroads.

    I think in my case, I’m a guy who keeps thinking, “If he met the devil, so can I…” I’m always trying to figure out how to make that happen.

    Damned if I’ve gotten there yet!

  9. You couldn’t have chosen a better analogy, Brian. I’m always looking for that intersection of ideas. It becomes a game after a while to see how I can make two totally unrelated topics work.

    Now that I think about it, some of the blogs I enjoy most have a habit of doing that with their posts. It’s like reading an old O. Henry story where there’s a fantastic twist at the end.

    @James: Congrats, bro, you made the big time!

  10. Quite simply, that may be your best yet.

    When you get ready to travel, come on up to my lakeside retreat and we’ll grill some of that there Medici and I’ll let you listen whilst I talk 😉

  11. Yet another amazing piece of content Brian. This is quite possibly the best blog online today in terms of helpful, high-quality content? I think so.

  12. Excellent read.

    I really agree with what you have to say about being creative. I just wanted to suggest an addition into the ways of observing differently, which i find works best for me and is open for deliberation:

    Try Unique things
    Creative ideas are not just a mental exhibit; one way of having loads of them is to keep doing stuff even if you find that millions before you have already done that and don’t be discouraged by failures. Just keep doing stuff, hone your skills and you will innovate. You will come up with something brand new and sparkling. And this, of course, utilises the first five ways to an extent too.

    I just started my day with this excellent article, I am gonna think creative all day 😀

  13. Brian, I loved the storytelling you put into this post. The devil at the crossroads (perhaps related to the old practice of hanging pirates and criminals at crossroads?). The Medici in Italy (there’s a great drama we watched in my college class on the Renaissance btw, on the Medici; I can’t recall the name but if you find it, you’ll know it almost immediately and love it I’m sure). The guitar kid vs the Devil.

    On a related note, the Quebec ministry of education tried to do this with its reform of a few years back. They called it ‘transversal competencies’ and were expecting kids from grades 1+ to make these connections. The reform failed because you need a basic minimum of knowledge before you can spot connections like that and also because the new grading was gibberish [not to mention everyone passed]. In hindsight, if they’d pushed those ideas at the college level, it would have been brilliant.

    One last thing: I noticed you ended the excerpt at the end of a sentence. If you’ve seen this great post from jonathan fields, perhaps you might share why you did it that way as opposed to cutting the sentence midway?

  14. Damn! There’s that word meme again! Just today I blogged about how that word grates on my nerves. You, however, have softened it a little, and put into much better context, so thank you. This is a beautifully written piece.

  15. Hell yeah! Great article man. I think it is one of your best in my opinion. Much was put into this one and it shows. Thank you. I like your #2 “Leo did alright for himself, so maybe his advice is solid”, I dig the humor.

    Hmmm, trying to give a useful idea generating tip…I think EVERY serious blogger should carry a small pad/pen with them at all times (I do) because you never know when a kick ass idea will hit you for a post. You should always be ready both consciously and subconsciously.

    By the way Steve Vai, no words. (great artist) And if anybody is down in new york, check out some great blues tunes at a place I like to go to called TERRA BLUES on Bleeker Street in Greenwhich Village. Cool joint.

    Thanks again.

  16. I enjoyed this Brian, and it helps to join some of the dots in my “Teaching Sells” learning too.

    One question though which I hesitate to put to the copyblogger but… there are at least three big ideas here which could easily have worked as resource-rich posts on their own. Was there a particular reason behind working them into one bigger article like this?


  17. @ Joanna – Power of three, perhaps?

    @ Joseph – Ha, I do that, too. I have papers and pen in my coat pocket, my car’s glove compartment and at my computer desk. Plus I have a whiteboard in the kitchen and one on my office wall (can we say, Jamie gets distracted easily?)

    @ Gab – The Quebec Ministry of Education is a joke and uses our children as guinea pigs. There have been so many changes that I can’t keep up, and I hope they settle everything before my toddler hits kindergarten. I know my teen sure as hell suffered thanks to some incompetency.

    @ Ryan – S’okay, man. I was born way before ’86 and still have to ask Harry stuff like, “Who’s Steve Vai?”

    @ Brian – Thank you. Seriously.

  18. This is yet another post of yours, Brian, that I’ll keep in a special folder I use for inspiration. As I’m leaving for Mexico in the morning, I will be looking – and listening – for the crossroads…with fresh eyes and an open mind.

  19. Was there a particular reason behind working them into one bigger article like this?

    Hi Joanna… I had to show how the different ideas related to one another for the article to work. After all, if I asked you earlier what Robert Johnson, the Medici family, Richard Dawkins and Ralph Macchio had in common, you’d likely say “Absolutely nothing.” 🙂

  20. When I was getting my MFA, we used different terms, reframing for changing perspectives, etc, but you are right on target. And a reminder from a new venue is excellent.
    Thanks, this is important.

  21. It’s kind of buried in this article, but it’s worth repeating:

    “Don’t hang out with people who reflect your existing beliefs, hang out with people who challenge you.”

    Often we only find out what we truly believe in by reacting to others’ thoughts on a subject. We either change our minds or realize the depth of our own convictions. Either way, very little is learned by hanging out with people who always agree with you.

    And the Vai clip is awesome. He’s one of my creative heroes.

  22. Excellent article. I read it earlier today at work and made a mental note to come back and comment. I find the travel portion of your article to be very good. I’ve always drawn from some of my experiences in other places. Places outside my normal comfort zone.

    I also enjoyed the Robert Johnson reference. I’ve always found that legend fascinating.

  23. Brian,

    You have written many articles that I have read but this one is one of your very best. It’s no wonder you are where you are. I learned something from reading this… which is something that never really happens to me. Plus as a guitar player I love that scene from Crossroads! I would have seen that 100 times!

  24. Your post brought me to a crossroad, Brian.

    And why it did that was not because of the ‘meme’ stuff which is expected on a blog. But the guitar story. And the Medici reference.

    As an advertising copywriter working for one of the most creative agencies worldwide, I face the pressure to come up with ideas on demand. Stuff that has never been done before.

    The best way I have felt to go around looking for ideas that have not been explored before is to go to places my likes, copywriters and art directors have not gone before looking for an idea.

    Call it a crossroad, call it crosspollination. But it’s Media Arts. But it is really the point you have very eloquently made in this post. That, to do what we haven’t done before, we have to go where we haven’t gone before.

    Thanks for showing us the intersection, Brian.


  25. Oops, I meant ‘Call it Media Arts’ not ‘But it’s Media Arts’. Expected elements in unexpected combinations is another way people describe creativity.

    Once again, thanks fot this post. It is inspiring!

  26. Thanks for sharing these really good ideas. I think at the same point, the internet has already brought a lot of talent together, and much faster as before. That is why we continue to see a lot of good ideas from different sources all over the world today instead of one geographical mecca for technological advances.

  27. Great post, Brian. I think a lot of people hit a road block when it comes to getting down to the crossroads. The road block is their own self-confidence. “I mean hey, how can ‘I’ compete with Brian Clark when it comes to blogging?”

    Years ago I learned a technique to train your mind to always look at things in multiple perspectives (and get you down to the crossroads).

    Every time I wanted to do something but my mind told me it’s already been done or told me don’t even try because . . . – I’d write that down. Then next to it I’d write two reasons why I can do it.

    I’d do this all the time and you know what? After a while I no longer needed to write anything down. I trained my mind to instantly look at the problem in a positive and often times creative way.

    PS As a guitar guy myself, I love that movie and can never find it in any of the video stores.

  28. James – that’s a perfect way to approach it, I like that! The problem is, once I hit on a great idea the ideas just keep flowing and flowing and the hardest part is formating it in a way that bloggers will actually read it.

    By the way, does anyone know if the devil has a 30-day money back guarantee? 😉

  29. Hey everyone, get this bit of trivia I just discovered when looking for the name of the classical composition that Macchio plays for the win. From Internet Movie Database:

    “The updated classical piece at the climax of the film is largely based on Niccolo Paganini’s Caprice #5. Paganini, as the pervading myth has it, sold his soul to the devil for his musical skills. Steve Vai, as ‘Jack Butler’, replicates Paganini’s legendary rolling eyes, long unkempt hair and gaunt stature.”

    Paganini is considered the most talented violinist who ever lived, and he was Italian. Another intersection.

    Switch out the violin for the fiddle, and you’ve got The Devil Went Down to Georgia. OK, I’ll stop now. 🙂

  30. @James…keeps your skill set honed, don’t cha think? I love that this post has gotten such a good response. Really. Vitality, can’t beat that. This will ripple, echo, and resonate.
    @ Brian …way to go, B. and BTW. Very excited about the announcements re: Teaching Sells. from the audio last week. Yay, oh yay. Good stuff!
    All best, Jan

  31. “By attracting talented souls from so many different fields and cultures, the Medicis caused these varied artists and scientists to come in contact with one another, trade ideas, and discover the intersections that allowed for giant leaps in creativity and innovation.”

    Swap the Internet for the Medicis and you have the Crossroads.

    (Can’t get this post out of my head. There’s something there that I can’t put my finger on… yet.)

  32. I *knew* there was something. It’s been nagging at me like a stone in my shoe.

    Well, I haven’t had much coffee yet and it isn’t quite 6.30am, but I’ll toss out some thoughts.

    Let’s see.. the Medicis were powerful. They were rich, and everyone though they ruled the land. So everyone came to camp out, party, talk to each other… what they found was that being together in one place exploded their creativity.

    Not the Medicis. The Medicis sat back and watched it all happen. The Medicis just provided the grass for the lawn party.

    The Internet lets any of us travel to Florence, Italy (Thank god. Can’t someone hold conferences in Canada?) and we can all converge at the Medicis – or, shall I say, whichever A-lister blog we believe to be rich, powerful and influential.

    We have a garden party on the blog lawn. The A-lister, like the Medicis, sits back and watches as we converse and talk, sharing and stimulating creativity.

    But anyone can be a Medici. Anyone can have a lawn party. Anyone can call people from all walks of life together to collaborate in a think tank of creativity.

    All the Medici had was some good real estate and the people’s perception. It was the people themselves who created the Renaissance.

    (M’I getting warm?)

  33. Toss in Gutenberg’s little invention in the early Renaissance+ technologies from Asia( paper and wood block printing). Mix those with an increase in literacy among the middle classes and students…
    And you have a viral spread of the vitality brought forth in Florence.
    Gatekeepers like the Church and State formally held all the goodies….after, not so much.
    What the Medici’s had was enormous power, wealth, a few pope’s in the family and lots of influence. Catalysts and commissioning agents par excellence.
    We have them now…they are called hedge fund traders. But we have wordpress…. 🙂

  34. Thanks, Brian. It’s when I find great articles like yours that I thank God for being able to read and understand the English language (I’m Italian and live in Italy)! This article in particular is a great piece of advice: it made me think a lot and hopefully it’ll make me act accordingly from now on. I’ve read somewhere among the comments your post sparkled that you’re going to write a book, I really hope you do, and I’ll be glad to get and read it voraciously! 🙂

  35. interesting article.. I’m gonna bookmark this one. I’m learning a lot… I mean.. A LOT! for this website.

    Keep on writing!

    Btw, I have subscribed to your RSS feeds 😀

  36. Brilliant!
    I only recently read Steven Kings almost-autobiography, “on Writing” and the opinions you’re expressing are almost exactly his views with regards writing novels.

    I love that you believe content writing can, and indeed should, be quality writign, skillfuly constructed and expressed.

    Great Stuff!

  37. Brian,

    I especially like the “free your mind” part of this article.

    The mind is an extremely powerful device. We waste most of what we can do with it.

    Joseph Ratliff

  38. And I thought the devil and crossroad guitar skills leap originated with the Coen brothers. Who knew?

  39. Ik heb een aantal tuinbroeken in de kast liggen, vind ze gewoon erg lekker zitten. (en nee, ik draag ze niet alleen met carnaval 😉 )

    Voor de mensen die niet weten waar ze ze moeten halen, ik haal ze zelf altijd bij Bestex. Je moet maar even op hun site kijken: Lekker makkelijk online bestellen.

  40. I’m excited by the image of intersection. It captures the essence of creativity and innovation. Life is so short and we want to do so much that I’ve taken it as a core principle to try to make every new undertaking accomplish at least two things at once and usually these two things come from different realms of my life. For me, it is a fundamental survival strategy and I usually use the word “combining”. But “intersection” is much better. In the tiny world of therapeutic boarding schools, The Family Foundation School is unique. We use search and rescue dogs to help us find students who run away. There is a related dog training program for the search and rescue dogs from local volunteer teams including the one I belong to. I am preparing a presentation for the National Association the Therapeutic Schools and Programs this January on our dog program. I can now write about the intersection of the therapeutic and administrative functions of the school and the many benefits that have accrued from it. Thanks for enhancing the way I think about what I do.

  41. I am both a writer and a cartoonist. I tend to concentrate my commentary on finance, but my cartoons are way the hell out there. I sometimes fear that I will run out of ideas for my cartoons. After reading this piece, I know longer harbor this fear. (The cartoons drive traffic on my site, especially my cartoon caption contest – but I need fresh ideas all the time.) Opening my mind, traveling more and becoming a better listener will serve me, and my audience, very well. Thank you.

  42. >Dawkin’s insight about the way ideas spread sprang from the intersection of genetics, social psychology, and cognitive science.

    Without getting too “woo woo” I think that ideas are electric impulses that reach critical mass – especially when cross-pollinated across multiple people who share an enthusiasm for learning.

    I’ve witnessed it and I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of “a ha” moments that arise seemingly spontaneously. It’s exhilarating to be around ppl who are seekers.

    Great post! Thx for sharing. Best, M.

  43. Thanks Brian. That video was another well-spent ten minutes 54 seconds of my precious time.

    And what a coincidence! I was listening to Jeff Beck seconds earlier; and in the car this morning to Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band!

    (If you haven’t listened to the Captain’s ‘Safe as Milk’ album (especially ‘Electricity’ and ‘Autumns Child’, go to Amazon NOW. You won’t regret it.)

  44. Great article!
    I agree with Leonardo da Vinci in observing at least three perspectives. However, I believe there are at least four perspectives to observe. For example: Draw a circle on piece of paper. There are four main points. Point to the bottom of the circle and picture yourself standing there. You are still limited in your view. To get a complete picture, you would need to stand (position) yourself at all four points to make a complete connection. I use a circle because the earth is round, people refer to the circle of life, and a circle will roll (flow) much longer and better than a square or triangle. I have found by finding a circle within an organization it helps with identifying problems, finding solutions, managing internal and external forces and strategizing for future growth.

  45. When I am lost for words I always come back to your blog for words of wisdom and inspiration.

    What inspired me today?

    [quote]Seriously, sometimes the key to “supernatural” content success is to simply read lots of books and watch lots of movies.[/quote]

    Thanks for the inspiration – I am off to immerse myself in what hopefully turns out to be a masterpiece

  46. Too bad writers can write whatever they want and get away with it. Especially considering the erosion that can come with time. A guy by the name of Robert Palmer (writer) wrote that Robert Johnson sold his soul at the crossroads when in actuality it was Tommy Johnson. Tommy was much less known and it would not have made for the best story apparently. Nice blog though.

  47. Thats not to say of course that Robert didnt do the same. Its just not proven or fact. Tommy and Robert were friends so I suppose itss quite possible Robert did the same. Who knows. Check out youtube and punch in bob dylan sold his soul…youll see an interview where Dylan says he made a deal with the Chief..Whatever that could mean…;^)

  48. A lot of take aways here, between this article and the more recent Rockstar Guide to Getting more Traffic. These are good reads for us content providers but also for our non copy staff. Even if writing isn’t their function in the organization the ability to spot a good story to pass on is something important to instill in employees. It creates a more cohesive environment. We even have our developers read these articles at our Drug Help Blog to keep them on the lookout for the makings of a good story.

  49. Simply brilliant! I couldn’t agree more that the creative process is not something you can do. You have to open up to all possibilities and then it shows up all on its own. I’ve just added that Crossroads movie to my streaming Netflix list. Love it. Love it. Love it.

  50. Hey Brian,
    What an amazing article. Who would have ever thought I would be reading
    about the Medici Family on copyblogger. Being a art major, I studied
    the great influence this family not only had over art, but politics, and religion.
    They commissioned Michelangelo and Di Vinci countless times.

    Your first suggestion is powerful. Socrates was famous for always asking “Why”
    which made him on of the great philosophers.

    If I were to add anything it would be, we are all unique and have
    an individual voice that will speak to people like no other. So I
    believe it is our responsibility to communicate our ideas

    Thanks again for the inspiration, which means “God Breathed”
    Jeff Faldalen

  51. An amazing article and a good inspiration. I guess we all have to become great learners and learn from success stories in order to become successful our selves

  52. What you are saying is interesting indeed. I agree that if you let people to look and understand the connections between different disciplines and cultures lead to a great number of fantastic ideas.Oftenly, I try to think and see things from other perspectives, it’s really helping.

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