Jason Richburg: The 5 things creative bartenders need to know

Jason Richburg Photo

The writer and strategy director at NYC’s Good F*cking Design Advice knows how to use words to inspire their followers. He gives us his top tips for generating creativity behind the bar.

Social media content creation is like the service industry, in that the audience must always come first. From our neutral type style, to our minimalist colour palette, the secret to GFDA’s creative success is to keep things as simple as possible and allow the end user to own the experience.  

My writing is so accessible because it’s thematic to the human condition. I write about love, aspiration, fear, beauty, failure, resiliency, and hope. Everyone feels these sensations, so our messages seem to come from within them. I edit my work severely until I’ve distilled a powerful but elemental idea. 

Our use of profanity means we’re not allowed to advertise or promote our work. We’ve never bought a follower or paid an influencer. Our content is all text. We never post videos and almost never show a human face or reply to comments. Yet, somehow, miraculously, our following grows by over 100k people a year and we gain thousands of email subscribers each week.  

Our book has sold over 20,000 copies and celebrities around the world display our work in their homes. We do everything the wrong way, and you shouldn’t listen to anything I say. 

So let me give you some advice. 

– Jason

The 5 things creative bartenders need to know

1. How to cultivate discipline.

When you’re focused, people who are unable or unwilling to strive for their own aspirations will see you as a reminder of what they loathe about themselves. They’ll exhaust your emotions, squander your time, and deplete your energy. Their drag will slow your progress, their weight will lower your trajectory.  

When you’re focused, people who are also working to better themselves will fall into alignment with you. They’ll share your momentum as you propel each other forward. When you’re focused, the difference between those twin forces will be painfully clear. But are you strong enough to endure that pain and choose the right one? 

How will you ever reach what’s beyond you while you cling to what’s beneath you? How can you see what’s ahead of you if you keep looking back at what’s behind you? 

2. How to make yourself uncomfortable.

Failure is never pleasant. One doesn’t grow by avoiding discomfort, but by becoming desensitized to it. Of all the conditions necessary for learning to occur, your willingness to fail repeatedly is the one you need the most but likely desire the least. It’s also the condition over which you have the most control. 

To confront fear. To shrug off disappointment. To grow from rejection. To be knocked on your ass and get back on your feet. Again. And again. And again. To strike the spark of knowledge in the darkness of ignorance. To feed the hungry fire of passion with exhausting commitment. To stand, at last, in the light of understanding, only to see the infinite dancing shadows of things that you may never grasp. To do with ease what you once thought impossible. To look back down upon the place you never thought you would reach. To see your dream from the other side. To contend. To struggle. To win. What part of that sounds easy? 

In service of others, in the pursuit of their entertainment and delight, the first barrier to success is the excruciating introduction to their dissatisfaction. It’s going to be difficult. Do it anyway.

3. That nothing matters and everything matters.

Mastery is courtship of the sublime. It takes significant effort to achieve effortless pleasure. The slightest missed detail can rip the observer out of the experience which you’ve engineered for their bliss.  

So, with long practice, exertion, and strained concentration, you must hold in close familiarity every aspect and nuance of your creation. It is not enough to know that it is good, but you must know why it is good to one, and displeasing to another; and what it is still lacking, and where variety may be introduced without disharmony. 

But the act of creation is turbulent and disruptive: much is lost, much is cut away. Be liberated by this truth: nothing is sacred. The moment you find yourself making compromises for any single element of your work, it has become a danger to the success of the whole. It will stick out. It will distract. It will blemish. You don’t need it.  

Labor over everything but be willing to discard anything. What you at first think is precious and beyond compromise, you will see, in time, with experience, as nothing more than flecks and chips of raw marble, from which your next masterpiece is waiting to be freed. 

 4. How to be impossible to ignore.

What makes you distinct isn’t your personal style, your technical skill, nor the ambiance in which you bathe yourself. It isn’t the rarity of your tastes, nor the precision of your attention to detail. It isn’t the ingenuity with which you transform the commonplace into the unexpected, nor the brilliance with which you blend the exotic into the everyday. It’s all of those things together in perfect proportion.  

Achieving that balance, knowing where to add and what to take away, is the difference between being enjoyable and being unforgettable. What entices? What tempts? What lures the senses? What provokes emotion? What ignites imagination? What you leave out. 

Be where they want to be, make them follow you. Draw them out. Don’t give them everything at once, allow them to anticipate what’s coming next. Make them crave. Challenge them to reach for their desires. Give them the reward of arriving at their destination. Make them meet you halfway. Establish the narrative, but let them tell the story. Let them search within a mystery of their own divining. Let them see what they want to see. Linger. Stay on their minds. 

Leave them wanting more, and they’ll always come back to get it. 

5. How to give yourself time.

If you want to be the best, start with being patient. Excellence is not a destination, it’s a process. It must coalesce. it must mature. It must ripen. The faster you try to go, the farther you will fall behind. It doesn’t yield to your will. Neither your worry, nor your desire, nor your wrath will cause it to accelerate. Your commitment compels it forward. Your sacrifice draws it out. Slowly. 

Eventually, the blessing of that slowness will be clear. For your commitment comes at a high cost, how will you recoup the loss? Your sacrifice is painful, what will be your balm? Time. Only time. 

You are human. You hurt. You tire. You need. Give yourself time. Time is the most valuable resource you have, give it to yourself generously. Bask in it. Luxuriate. You are the proper expenditure for which you have been so shrewdly saving your time. Time spent resting will make you stronger when the next challenge arises.  

Time spent in reflection will expand your understanding when the next lesson arrives. Time spent healing will make you less vulnerable to the next unforeseen strain. Time spent in the dark, quiet, imperceptible act of transformation is time you can’t afford to lose.