Three Pieces…

[Some pieces I wrote for the Gapingvoid newsletter, to be published in the very near future.]


Lately I’ve been following the work of Cheap Trick a lot, that great 1980s garage band from Rockford,Illinois. Like many people my age,  I was really into them when I was fourteen.

Cheap Trick had a few hits 35 years ago, sold a few million records for a year or two, but never quite hit the big time, like their 80’s peers, Foreigner, Van Halen, Journey or Styx. And they sure as hell weren’t The Rolling Stones or The Beatles.

And yet, here they are, still going strong, still touring, still on the road, still getting the crowds in.

Three things they’ve got going for them:

  1. Their lead guitarist, Rick Nielsen, though not a household name like Keith Richards or Jimi Hendrix, plays some of the best rock guitar around. He’s just a joy to watch on stage, and he’s respected by some of the top names in the industry.
  2. They are REALLY good live. I mean, seriously good. They just know how to light up a room, in a way you don’t hear on the records, in a way most band simply don’t ever get close to. Like Kid Rock said, “Every band thinks they’re great live, until they see Cheap Trick”.
  3. They’ve been playing 300 gigs a year for over three decades. That’s ten thousand shows. They’re ALWAYS on the road. That’s what they do. I’ve no idea how that might screw up their family lives or their relationships, but they have mastered the art of “Just Turning Up”.

Part of the time, being successful is not just a matter of being incredibly talented or incredibly lucky. More often however l, it’s just a stubborn, blue-collar willingness to turn up 300 times a year, to never give up, to keep on going, regardless. Cheap Trick is a great embodiment of this, so let their example inspire you.


So here’s the rub: You want to have a life worth living, you want to be something worth being.

But at the same time, you’re nothing special. You’re not famous, you’re not rich, you’re not one of the beautiful people, you didn’t graduate first in your class at Harvard, you’re not the CEO, you don’t have Brian Eno producing your record. You’re just a shmoe like everyone else.

What then?

What then, is that you go out and buy a copy of Tom Peter’s lovely new book, “The Excellence Dividend”.

Tom has a really big idea: That “Excellence” has more to do with mindset than social position or personal circumstance. Ergo, “Excellence” can be implemented right here, right now, by anyone, anywhere, be they the CEO or the person in the mailroom, without asking anyone’s permission beforehand, without anyone having to make a big song and dance number about it.

You just wait for the lightswitch to go off inside your brain, and then you go do it. No secret handshake, no secret recipes. Just grit and determination. It’s that simple.

Good luck to you.


Ah. So you spend the first two decades of your life being told that you’re special, that the future belongs to you.

Then, SPLAT! You hit the real world and realize JUST how low on the totem pole you are.

For many, it comes as crushing blow. “Where’s my trophy, dammit?”

But for a lucky few, it comes as a moment of joyous, amazing liberation.

Because now you don’t have to pretend anymore. Because all that’s left is for you is do , is to find something genuinely useful for other people, or face starvation.

Nothing like having a fire lit under your bottom to make you feel truly alive, right?  



#hughcards Coffee Table Book: A brief but important letter to the hardcore “1,000 True Fans”of @hughcards & Hugh MacLeod

[Please subscribe to this new Hughcards Coffee Table Book Newsletter]

Hi Everybody,

If you saw my Facebook post the other day, you will know that I’m going to be self-publishing my first big, coffee table book of “Hughcards”.

I don’t have a lot of info at the moment. What I do know is that it won’t be cheap, but it will be good.

For one thing, there is no inexpensive way to make a high-end coffee table book. Secondly, the downsides of making it too expensive far outweigh the downsides of making it cheap and cutting corners. Quality matters.

So we’re talking about limited edition hardback of a thousand, high quality paper, dust jacket, individually signed and numbered, all that high-end stuff.

I’ll probably be raising the money through something like Kickstarer or GoFundme.

[NB This project is produced independently of Gapingvoid, but not without their blessing.]

But before I unleash it on the world, I need to build a critical mass of people interested in supporting the project. My “1,000 True Fans“, as it were. I am hoping people reading this will be exactly that. I hope you will subscribe to this new Hughcards Coffee Table Book Newsletter and help get this project off the ground, Thanks.


Lots of Love,

Hugh MacLeod

Newsletter Copy

[Some copy I wrote for the Gapingvoid Newsletter, which will be hitting the wires in the next few days. Keep an eye out:]


When I first drew this drawing, I didn’t think much of it. To be honest, my mind was something else at the time.

But the next morning I gave it another look at BAM! Wow, that’s some heavy stuff.

Twitter, Facebook, Medium, LinkedIn etc are awash with self-impressed founder-entrepreneur types who LOVE talking about the glories of sacrifice (“Last week, while I was getting up for my 4.30am CrossFit workout before eating a paleo breakfast and catching a 15-hour flight to China for my 6.00 a.m. meeting with my Shanghai hedge fund investors and writing 40 pages of content for my social pages yak yak yak….”).

Whereas, anyone who has read the Bible or The Iliad or studied history or lived through an actual war, will know that REAL sacrifice is something far more painful and hard and terrifying.

While you still breathe, you will learn some incredible lessons along the way. Just don’t expect the big ones to be easy, pain-free or lacking ambiguity. That is all.


The bad news is, you’re not long for this world. You’re close to drawing your final breath.

The good news is, while you were here you had an amazing time of things. What a trip! What an amazing adventure!

The latter being the case (and I sincerely hope it is), what else is there to say, really, but “Thank You”?



It’s not that marketing people are stupid or evil.

It’s just that, at least in big business, marketing is often the first to get the blame when things go wrong, and the last to get the credit when things go right.

This is why the average CMO tenure at a Fortune 500 company is 18 months. It’s as if marketers are expected to play against a loaded deck and still win.

And yet, the back of our minds, we know that what often separates a million dollar company and a billion dollar company is the marketing (Hello, Apple! Hello, Virgin AIrways!). That what often separates an important mass movement and an obscure political rant is the marketing. We know it matters, yet we treat it with eye-rolling contempt.

Sounds ambiguous, right? That’s because the human condition IS ambiguous, and that’s what marketing is all about.

The numbers can tell you only so much (and they often do), but eventually it’s just you, God and the human condition remaining. So good luck with that.

“This is what I do.”


Back when I started drawing the Hughcards in late 1997, I distinctly remember saying to myself, there’s no way on God’s Earth these little things will ever go anywhere, let alone make any money (which was part of the charm, by the way).

Well, I was wrong on the first point, right on the second. I never monetized the actual Hughcards themselves, but drawing them led to the creation of Gapingvoid, the main day job. And all that made a ton of business and got a ton of exposure over the years, not to mention, made a lot of good people happy.

There’s this guy being on interviewed on YouTube about why the hell he doesn’t quit wing suit base jumping before it kills him eventually, which it probably will (The sport is by far the most dangerous in the world- it kills approximately one out of ten people who practice it, and at the elite level, it’s closer to fifty percent). And the guy says defiantly, “Because this is what I do.”

I was never one of those defiant “This is what I do” kinda artists; I never got mystical-holier-than-thou about the profession, however “This is what I do” is what kinda ended up happening.

In the beginning, it was just a hobby for after work at the coffee shop. Some people brought their laptops, their books to read, or their chessboards. I brought my drawing pens. No big deal.

But I kept at it. And then the Internet came along. And then the business model in its wake (which I’d give Laura Viberti Aceto and Jason Korman most of the credit for- I may do the drawings, but they do the real work of turning it into a business). The rest is history.

And so this is what I do. For better of worse…