JG Notes: Keep Going by Austin Kleon

“Keep doing your verbs, whatever they may be.”

Austin Kleon in Keep Going

I had the pleasure of seeing Austin Kleon with Debbie Millman at SXSW a couple weeks ago and decided to purchase and read his latest book, Keep Going. (The talk was fantastic and we even received a drawing/signature from Austin beforehand – see photos below). Keep Going is perfectly timed and another great book that reminds us to do just that, even in today’s world filled with fear, anger, and disconnection.

Keep Going is filled with advice from a plethora of wise people who have faced the same problems we face today. Kleon reminds us to “[r]ead old books” because “[h]uman beings have been around for a long time, and almost every problem you have has probably been written about by some other human living hundreds if not thousands of years before you.” We are not alone and we don’t have to solve these challenging problems by ourselves. Kleon also gives practical advice in plain English to further distill abstract ideas and concepts. For example, Kleon recommends that we each make bliss station, or a sacred time/place when/where we can “disconnect from the world so that we can connect with ourselves.” Anyone can create and have a bliss station as he points out for even the busiest of people. Kleon also reminds us that because we never really ‘arrive’ even we we appear to be famous or successful, we need to establish a daily practice or routine that works for us. You need a daily routine because it “gives you freedom by protecting you from the ups and downs of life and helping you take advantage of your limited time, energy, and talent.” Kleon also reminds us that slogans like “move fast and break things” or “make your mark” created by the startup culture are not beneficial for humanity because they foster the idea that we need to vandalize the earth. Instead, Kleon writes, “what we need are fewer vandals and more cleanup crews. We need art that tidies. Art that mends. Art that repairs.” Now that’s a movement I can get behind: repair human connections, create value, and foster authentic growth in our world.

Kleon again proves that he is well read as he cites from an array of artists – musicians, authors, painters, activists, etc. – which is fascinating and inspiring by showing us how we, too, can see new patterns and draw better conclusions. I highly recommend reading Keep Going as you’re sure to take away a few gems. If you have the chance to catch him on book tour, I’d recommend that too. After reading the book, you may find yourself inspired to do whatever verb brings you joy and be reminded that authentic human connections begin with simple but transcendent art.