Malcolm Gladwell’s Advice to Entrepreneurs: ‘Don’t Be One Thing’

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The author and podcaster believes entrepreneurs and creatives should think of themselves as ever-adaptable — open to opportunities wherever they come.

Malcolm Gladwell may have one of the strongest brands in media, but he never applies the word to himself. “I contradict myself a lot,” says the best-selling author and New Yorker staff writer, whose books include The Tipping Point and Blink. “How can I represent something as well-defined as a brand if I’m constantly changing my mind?” Instead, he counsels creatives to think of themselves as ever-adaptable — open to opportunities wherever they come. That’s why, for example, he got into podcasting. It was on a lark, but now, three seasons later, his show Revisionist History is a consistent chart-topper. (Each episode is about “the overlooked and misunderstood,” and is produced by the podcast company Panoply.) Here, he talks about his approach to productivity, his own evolution and why entrepreneurs need to balance ideas with execution.

You’ve said that you started your podcast while procrastinating writing your next book. Entrepreneurs may be heartened to know someone as prolific as you still procrastinates.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the value of time more and more. If you try to rush something creative, it will always fall short of expectations. And the longer you can create spaces for reflection, you can make your life so much better, and what you create so muc h better. So to me, procrastination is really just a chance to let whatever I’m working on breathe a little bit. 

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