156: Srinivas Rao – Creating For Your Audience of One


“When you expect nothing, everything comes to you.”

Welcome back to ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio) the podcast where we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. It’s my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level. I’m so glad you’re joining me on this journey.

Today’s guest is a creative entrepreneur who helps organizations and individuals increase productivity by expressing their creativity. 

His name is Srinivas, and he’s here today to teach you how to practice your creative art effectively. He believes that producing a high volume of work and being process-oriented are two of the fastest ways to accelerate your progress. 

Think about people who have risen to stardom — it isn’t just that one thing they did that put them in the spotlight, it was the years and years of practice and putting themselves out there that created that opportunity. 

“We don’t see any of these things because they’re so buried by stardom that you forget that, wait a minute, this person has created a large volume of work probably as an actor, been on thousands of auditions, potentially appeared in hundreds of films that you never see, until suddenly they have this one moment in the spotlight that catapults them. What people don’t see is that everything they had done up until that point was practice and preparation.” – Srinivas Rao

I loved the metaphor he used from author Neil Gaiman about creating a large volume of work: that basically it’s like putting lots of messages in bottles out to sea and eventually one comes back or washes up on the shore and reaches the person it was meant to reach. 

These are just a few of the many gold nuggets that Srinivas has to offer. We’re about to dive into a ton of knowledge taken from a decades-long career in creating content. Srinivas knows the systems and processes needed to be more creative, and today, he’s going to give us his top process hacks so you can focus on what you’re good at — creating. I know you’re not going to want to miss this, so let’s go!

Who Is Srinivas Rao?

Srinivas Rao is an Indian-American author, speaker, and entrepreneur who helps creatives become more productive and efficient in their work. His book, The Art of Being Unmistakable is a #1 Amazon bestseller that discusses how to stand out in a world flooded with talent and noise to be unmistakable. In order to do this, you must take risks and cross lines both personal and professional. ​​

(By the way, you can — and should — check out his books as well as his Unmistakable Creative podcast at his website here.)

Paradigm Shifts for Creatives

Creatives have always had to pivot when new technology has come into the spotlight, and today is no exception. An interesting paradigm shift is happening where artificial intelligence is being used to create things that originally only humans could create before. Resources that used to be in the hands of only huge corporations are quickly moving into the hands of the common person. AI is definitely speeding up the ability for people to do things, but according to Srinivas, creatives don’t have to fear that AI will take over completely. 

“It’s not going to replace humans, and it’s not magic. I think we’re headed into one of the most prolific periods in history for people who want to be creative. There’s never been a better time, which is ironic because we have tools that enable us to be more creative than we’ve ever been, but the very tools that have facilitated so much creativity have also inhibited it at the same time.” – Srinivas Rao

Another paradigm shift we discussed is the power distribution for media creators. Not long ago, only big radio stations or big broadcast networks had the power to disseminate information, but now anyone can use a platform to share information or have a podcast. It’s only a matter of time, according to Srinivas, that the playing field becomes completely level. 

The speed at which technology advances is truly remarkable. I can remember when I first started doing photography, I went from film to digital and then it turned from digital into social media, where the distribution of content shifted everything about photography.

It’s important to keep innovating and creating for yourself to make it through these paradigm shifts. Srinivas talks about that in his book, An Audience of One, that sometimes you just need to make art for yourself and no one else. With a culture full of influencers who are obsessed with their amount of followers, this is truly a revolutionary way of thinking. It’s time to really reflect on whether the metric of followers is what will give you satisfaction and success in your work. 

“What we’ve done is we’ve sacrificed the time in our lives with the people who matter most to us to become spectators in the lives of people we’ve never even met! That’s insane. A million people may download every podcast episode I put out, but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t have anybody to hang out with on a Friday night.” – Srinivas Rao

This isolation that people have experienced from our hyperconnected culture has had the opposite effect, ironically. And now that we have gone through a pandemic and isolation became very, very real, the hunger for real human connection has never been greater. What’s one of the best ways to create that connection? Authenticity. 

Intentional Creation and Consumption

In our discussion, Srinivas explained that the title of his book was pretty much accidental. He was riding on the coattails of his bestseller, The Art of Being Unmistakable, and his editor wanted him to do another book. 

“My editor, Vivian, sent the title ‘An Audience of One,’ and everyone was like, ‘Whoa, yeah, that’s a really counterintuitive message that we live in.’ I realized I did some of my best work when I based my creative work on pleasing myself and no one else. ” – Srinivas Rao

Much of that pleasure in creating has come from a sense of balance that Srinivas has constructed in his life. He had to control the balance of creating versus consuming in our high-consumption society. 

“One of the things I did that was the most beneficial to my mental health this year was quitting social media for 30 days. I’m probably going to be trying to go off for 60 to 90 days and see if I can make it through 60 days. If 30 days made my life this much better, I wonder what would happen if I did 60 and 90.” – Srinivas Rao

Srinivas realized that the most valuable thing that he does in life is to create, and social media was actually taking away from that. So now he focuses more on deliberate consumption. Most people don’t have deliberate consumption habits, but rather reactive consumption habits. Like, just clicking through whatever serves up in their newsfeed. 

“You’re going to get far more value out of consuming less, but being deliberate about what you consume, because the intensity of how you’re consuming will change as opposed to shifting your attention constantly from one thing to the next.” – Srinivas Rao

I see this as a benefit in my own life. I like doing social media fasts here and there. I have to be on there sometimes, but is it really doing a lot for me? As a creative person who needs to create, is this stifling my output and my unique ideas?  These are all great questions to ask yourself as you evaluate how much you are reactively consuming. 

Designing an Inspiring Environment

Being intentional about the world you create around you, can either keep you stuck or catapult you closer to your dreams. We really have more power than we give ourselves credit for. 

Srinivas is passionate about creating an environment that is reflective of who you want to become. This is the home you live in, the way you dress, the people you surround yourself with, and the language you use. He even suggested moving to a new location if your current home is flat-out uninspiring. 

“Environments produce energy, so does your environment give you the energy that you want? If you hate where you live, it’s going to be hard to do your best work.” – Srinivas Rao 

Another way that Srinivas creates the world he wants around him is to get laser-focused on the most important things he does for work. He narrowed it down to three main things: to write, to speak, and to produce. 

In order to keep these main things the main things, he had to create processes and systems around him that would help him to not waste time on things that were sucking his energy and honestly, things he could outsource. He has a virtual assistant to whom he hands off all the day-to-day administrative work so he can focus on what he’s good at. 

He’s even gone so far as not to do things like building a bookshelf because that is not the best use of his time or energy. Instead, he hires someone to put it together, and that to him is money well spent. Money will never beat out time. 

“It’s figuring out the part that makes you valuable and the part that makes you useless in the process. Take one thing you do and dissect it up into its parts bit by bit, then figure out what you do best.” – Srinivas Rao

For example, Srinivas is really good at writing blog posts, and it’s where he can give the most value to his audience, but scheduling it, formatting it, and finding pictures with it is not a valuable use for his time, so he outsources those bits. 

Finally, Srinivas encourages fellow creatives to not be too hard on themselves when they aren’t successful right away. Like we discussed in the beginning, many times it takes years of practice and patience to get that one big break, that one opportunity that changes everything and opens the door to more. He talks about that in his latest book, The Scenic Route, that maybe you aren’t the screw-up that you think you are because it’s taken 10 years of exploring to figure out what you really want to devote your life to. In those years, you had an incredible amount of self-development and character building that will bring depth to your work that you could never have done without the test of time. In the book, he discusses what he calls “experiments with his own success” on his own terms. 

In short, don’t try to be on anyone else’s timeline but your own. There is value in the journey, not just the destination. 

What Does the Phrase “Live Inspiration” Mean to You?

At the end of all of my interviews, I like to ask my guests this question. Here is how Srinivas answered:

“To me, ‘live inspiration’ is to act on whatever impulses you have to express your creativity or to express whatever it is that you desire to express. And, you know, …  I think everything that I do is driven by a combination of curiosity and this just impulse to do this. Like I have this pathological need to make things.” – Srinivas Rao

The passion for making things is just how Srinivas was wired. Are you the same? Can you not stop creating even if your life depended on it? I’m the same way. We have incredible gifts to share with the world, we just need to learn how to harness and develop them so we can have a greater impact. 

The Formula for Creative Alchemy

Srinivas has so much wisdom to share, and I think that he’s given us a perfect formula for Creative Alchemy.

So ask yourself: what is my passion? Where does my creative heart lie? For me, it’s in my photography, it’s in my hats, and it’s in this podcast. But where is it for you?

Now ask yourself: What am I good at? What are my talents? What creative skills do I already have? What skills do I need to develop?

Sometimes we can be really good at something and not passionate about it, and eventually, the work drains you because you can’t emotionally attach to it. I’m here to tell you it is possible to create a career out of something you love. You’ll have to work really hard at it, but it’s 100% possible. I’m living it, and working in my sweet spot. 

From there, it’s taking the opportunities as they come, no matter how infrequent. All it takes is one “yes” sometimes to propel you into success. 

Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

With that being said, I define Creative Alchemy as using the process of creativity to create a lens through which to perform alchemy. These principles not only apply to artists and creatives in their own creative processes, but to anyone who wants to create an extraordinary life in color for themselves. I’ve found that 80% of creating is alchemizing the thoughts, emotions, and other inner blocks that keep you from putting the pen to the paper. 

Thank you so much for joining me today, guys! I loved this episode so much — I’m proud to call Srinivas a good friend, and I’m grateful for every opportunity to talk to him and learn from him.

If you loved this episode, make sure to connect with Srinivas on social media. He’s on Instagram, and you can check out all of his amazing books there! And, of course, you can find Srinivas and his resources on his website here.

By the way, don’t forget to check out my website too. There, you can find a quick ten-question quiz designed and get some of my best free content to help you out on your creative journey.

Thank you so much for joining me today, guys. I hope you enjoyed this episode — if you did, please screenshot it and post it to Instagram and tag me, @nickonken and Srinivas @. And if you’ve got time, leave me a review on Apple podcasts. I’d love to hear your feedback.

I’ll catch you guys next time — now go out and be powerfully creative! 

Nick Onken

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And please leave me a Rating and Review!


“When it comes to creative work, the only thing you control is your effort.”

Some things we learn in this podcast:

  • How Srinivas’s career in podcasting started in the blogging world [4:07]
  • Why success is predicated on making large volumes of unremarkable work [5:58]
  • The importance of focusing on the process instead of the outcome in growing as an artist [8:48]
  • The acceleration of technology and what that means for the future of the creative [11:28]
  • How to manage the paradigm shifts in your industry as a creative [19:14]
  • What inspired Srinivas’s new book [26:29]
  • The most valuable thing an aspiring author can do [32:45]
  • How Srinivas changed from being a spiritual skeptic, especially in the creative process [34:13]
  • Why expectation kills the creative process [38:51]
  • What has been most beneficial for helping Srinivas let go of expectation over the last year [43:39]
  • Why Srinivas believes people should value their time more highly [50:35]
  • The systems that Srinivas has in place to make his work better, easier, and more efficient [52:04]
  • What’s next for Srinivas [56:53]

Links Mentioned:

Connect with Srinivas Rao on Unmistakable Creative | Twitter

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