Shawn Gold– On Cannabis and Creativity

Shawn Gold | In episode 78 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits talks with one of the creative minds who left corporate success behind to carve out a space for himself in the cannabis industry. 

Marketing maven Shawn Gold has launched Pilgrim Soul, a company engineered to optimize human performance around cannabis and creative thinking. We talk about a workbook he published and the special cannabis blend he created to facilitate the process, the financial challenges of being ahead of the curve, psychedelics in the tech world, getting high with the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, what he thinks of Snoop Dogg’s weed and why you shouldn’t email your boss when you’re stoned.

Read Transcript


David: [00:00:00] 

Shawn Gold is founder and CEO of Pilgrim Soul, a mission-driven cannabis brand focused on optimizing human creative performance. But before he went off to his own creative thing, Shawn had established himself as a tech marketing maven at Weblogs, Myspace, TechStyle, among others before moving into the cannabis space as CMO of Lowell Herb Co. and consulting for MedMen and Charlotte’s Web. Along the way, he’s met people like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Mark Cuban, Jason Calacanis, and many more. He collects jokes, loves aphorisms, and has published a book – a creative thinking journal to be used specifically when you are high. Like his brand, its mission is to help people unlock their innate creativity through cannabis curriculum content and community. It’s all engineered to optimize human performance around creative thinking. Full disclosure, we’re old friends and go back to the early days of the NYC Silicon Alley tech scene. So any signs of over-familiarity are well earned. Welcome, Shawn.


Shawn: [00:01:26] 

David, I’ve been waiting to be on this podcast. Finally I’ve done something worthy of it.


David: [00:01:32] 

I know, right? You put out this book. It’s “Please Use This Journal While You are High” creative thinking journal is out and selling quite well I understand. When did you start to think about cannabis and creativity as a primary field of interest?


Shawn: [00:01:50] 

Well, I’d like to say that I had the idea to start this company when I was fifteen-years-old, but, it was a bit far-fetched. A cannabis company focused on creativity, I mean, who would think- I’ve been using cannabis for creativity for many decades, and some of the ad campaigns and things that I thought up were definitely inspired by, was a catalyst for, tons of ideas cannabis for me, is almost a second opinion and it’s truth serum, it’s a way to gain considerable empathy with my target audience and a much deeper focus. The long answer to that short question is, really decades and decades I’ve been thinking about it. When I was at Lowell Herb Company, I was thinking about putting together a special blend for creativity. And I got together with Willie Mack and Notorious B.I.G.’s son, CJ Wallace, they created this organization called Think BIG, and to promote them, we created this creative blend. I gave them seven different strains, an index high for creativity. So I’d smoke them and rank them. And they did, and we put togeth- we blended three different strains, put it out, gave a portion of the proceeds to the California Prison Arts Project. Sold like ten thousand packs in a week, and we only made ten thousand packs. So I really saw the product market fit there, and that’s when I decided to leave the company and start Pilgrim Soul.


David: [00:03:59] 

Before you started Pilgrim Soul and you were working in all these different areas, did you have to hide your cannabis consumption? Was it a stigma in those days, even though you’d, you know, everybody knew you’re a hard worker and you were able to do your job at the same time. But did you have to hide it for the most part?


Shawn: [00:04:20] 

Yes and no. People always thought I was high. People thought I was high all day at work, all the time. I mean, I was chief marketing officer of Myspace and I’ve had some pretty big jobs, and people would be like, “Aren’t you just like high all the time?” And the truth was I’m not high all the time. I never get high at work. I would get high like after work, sometimes I’d put all my ideas together, at like four o’clock I’d go to the gym, get high, put the decks in front of me on the elliptical machine, just sort of like factually meditating. So people just assume I’m high, unfortunately, even when I’m not. Must be something about my personality. It’s not something I promoted, especially when I was in more corporate jobs. The stigma was attached to me. If it’s a stigma at all.


David: [00:05:36] 

What about your co- executives, your cohorts at these places? Were they similarly also hiding it? In those worlds that you have travelled through, is it like some people do, some people don’t? Cause we all know the tech world, we’ve heard so much about microdosing and experimentation with psychedelics.People smoking.


Shawn: [00:06:04] 

It’s a very different world today than it, than it has been. Even five years ago, people were definitely more in the closet on their drug use. Michael Pollan’s book really opened things up and made it acceptable, and really opened up the world for microdosing. I hardly know anybody who’s not microdosing in the tech world, you know, forget microdosing but dosing dosing. It’s a real shortcut to big ideas. If your brain doesn’t work that way and you don’t have this engine, then you’re not necessarily gonna have big ideas, but it will certainly open the aperture for what you have. Some people will be like, “You know, I did acid and I didn’t discover the key to the universe.” Well, you know, maybe- Did you figure out how to, I don’t know, change the oil in your car? I mean, you know, there might be somewhat something else that comes- that helps different people. But some of the biggest thinkers I know are definitely using psilocybin and LSD to, go places that they haven’t been before.


David: [00:07:25] 

Well you know, in the tech field, Steve Jobs famously took LSD. It’s always been kind in the air. But recently it’s become a lot more prevalent. So why did you start with this book? I know you also have a website, which I think is really cool too. Because it really is about creativity and cannabis is part of the conversation, but it’s not entirely about cannabis.


You’re not talking about strains, you’re not talking about the actual product for the most part, from what I’ve seen. You’re establishing this whole other level of awareness and thinking with regard to cannabis. Unlike, you know, wellness, which is a subject people talk about in connection with CBD and THC. But that’s not your field. 


Shawn: [00:08:24] 

Right. Right. Traditionally there’s been recreational cannabis, which is to just get high and screw around, and there’s been medicinal. What I’ve been trying to do is create this purpose-driven recreational category where you get high to, as we said, optimize human creative performance. Probably don’t need to put the word human in there, just sounds better.. So the reason I created the journal, I’m working with some of the top cannabis scientists in the world in California, these guys, Abstrax Labs, in Irvine. We looked at hundreds of strains that index high for creativity based on survey data. We made 3D models of them, modeling the terpenes, the cannabinoids. We looked at secondary and tertiary states, like focus and energy and other areas. And then, we’ve created five different blends for four different states of creativity that we’re launching with for the cannabis brand that comes out this month. It’s creative reflection, creative imagination, creative awareness, and creative focus, which are def- definitely different types of creative thinking. We can get into those, what they are, later. You can smoke my creative imagination blend and still think about your ex-wife or your mortgage. There’s no guarantee that you’re gonna have a-


David: [00:09:52] 

Boo. [laughs] Yeah, that’s no fun.


Shawn: [00:09:54] 

Boo. Right? Headspace is really important. I like to say that the creative experience is thirty percent science, thirty percent placebo – in that you need to be in the right headspace and believe in the experience. And thirty percent curriculum. So the journals that I created are kind of guardrails on the experience, they help people ensure that they’re going to have a creative focused experience. And there’s four different sections of the journals that correspond with the four different creative blends, and there’s creative exercises that are fun and whimsical and really created for someone who’s high. Meaning, there’s not a lot of instructions. I really dumbed things down, made them really, inane and funny to think about, easy to accomplish. You know, instead of writing a poem, I ask you to write a horrible poem. Anybody can write a horrible poem. Instead of writing a great joke, I say, “You are one of the worst joke writers in the world, and you found a partner. You’re such a bad joke writer, you’re known for how bad your joke- They’re actually good, they’re so bad. And now you’ve found a partner. That partner writes the setup and you write the zinger.” So on the page, there’s a bunch of different setups for jokes and you have to write a bad punchline. Now if you’re terrible at jokes, which most people are, you can’t fail. [laughter] But if you’re great at jokes, then you can also be good. You know, you can write a great joke. So…


David: [00:11:33] 

Or write a great bad joke.


Shawn: [00:11:34] 

You could write a great bad joke. So there’s lots of mechanisms in there. We give you the exercise and then we tell you why it helps. Because sometimes these exercises are so ridiculous that you’re like, “How could that help me with creativity?” As an example, one of the exercises in the book is in the creative focus section. You are the coach of your kid’s peewee basketball team and you’re up ten points at the half. But you bet heavily against them. Write a half-time speech that allows your kids to lose with dignity while you trash your own. It’s kind of ridiculous, but what’s happening there, the mechanism is really manipulation through storytelling. You have to empathize with parents and the kids and society, and there’s all these things going on while you’re creating a manipulative narrative to achieve a certain goal. I couldn’t tell you why you’re doing this ridiculous thing, you know, in the paragraph. And then we give you, you know, examples inside the book, which are usually kind of funny. Like, “Go for three-point shots, go for five-point shots.” 


David: [00:12:55] 

It’s also a self-help book in that respect because you talk about people in business who may not use cannabis at all in some cases, or just not think of it or know how to use it creatively, cause they’re not artists who are painting and smoking or listening to music. There’s these ways traditionally that we know enhances the experience of listening to music, for example. I don’t know anyone who can say that it doesn’t enhance their experience in that respect. But then there’s somebody who might be uptight and someone who feels like he needs to do something more.


Shawn: [00:13:40] 

Yeah. Hundred percent. Artists, graphic designers, musicians are a very, very small percentage of the people I’m talking to. There’s a great Twyla Tharp quote, “Creativity is not just for artists, it’s for a salesperson looking for a new way to close a sale. It’s for a parent trying to open their kid up to new possibilities.” Right? There was a book that inspired me called Rise of the Creative Class, written by this guy Richard Florida, Carnegie Mellon professor when he wrote it in the year 2000. And he talks about the creative class in America are, scientists, educators, computer programmers, engineers, people who are paid to create and innovate is really like this prime thing. And he argues that we’ve gone from an industrial age to an information age to a creative age where our economy is really propelled forward by creativity and technology. So things like Tesla, you could argue, is mobile art and technology. Or Instagram is obviously self-expression and technology. Peloton would be, content and technology. That’s the primary group, and then there are people who are just creative problem solvers, like lawyers and finance people. People who look at things in a different way, and those are the people who certainly stand out in their job and have job security. It’s like, as an example, if you’re a lawyer- Let’s say you’re in the year 2020 with the future of AI and outsourcing and all these other things coming together, your job will probably be done by a computer or someone in Asia unless you’re a creative version of a lawyer.


David: [00:15:30] 

Yeah. So as the economy changes to this kind of knowledge- knowledge economy that’s not based on manufacturing, uh-


Shawn: [00:15:38] 



David: [00:15:38] 

I’m a fan of that Richard Florida book as well, and he was also arguing that that’s the future of the cities are gonna be the hubs that cater to that kind of creative sensibility. 


Shawn: [00:15:49] 



s!: [00:15:51] 

I’m not sure if that’s gonna hold up now, you know, given where we


Shawn: [00:15:55] 



David: [00:15:55] 

Something like that. Cause nobody quite knows where we’re gonna come out of all this. The idea being that the economy of the US is no longer dependent on manufacturing. We know that, we’ve been suffering for that.


Shawn: [00:16:14] 



David: [00:16:15] 

And now we need to come up with new ideas in order to do all these various things that are in front of us to do.


Shawn: [00:16:20] 

Riffing on what you just said about places and city- You know, places… for creativity. I’m going through the college application process with my son and, you know, he has access to all the information in the world. He’s an engineer. He’s applying to the top engineering schools in America. And, the kid has curiosity and drive, which are the base qualities for innovative creative people. And I’m not really worried about him being successful. Even if he doesn’t get into these schools, he just has those qualities in all the research I’ve done around creativity, being in those centers really helps.


 Anywhere you are, you have access to all the world’s information. But the thing about these centers of creativity is that they are important, we both moved to New York City, and the serendipity of that place and the conversations, there’s so much creativity that just came out of every day because creative people were there. As much as we’d like to think it is, information is not distributed evenly. It’s clumped, you know, kind of different geographic nodes. And some environments have a greater density of interaction that provide more excitement and greater effervescence around ideas. So MIT would probably be that for technology, New York City would be that for art – or at least it used to be. So it’s really interesting how environment, you know, been reading a lot, studying creativity, and environment really is important when it comes to creative stimulation and idea generation.


David: [00:19:16] 

I wonder if anyone has done any studies yet on the cities that have legalized and seen if there’s any results, of more creativity, quote unquote. You know, how you measure that is a whole question. Is there evidence that Colorado is doing a lot more creative work than before it was legal?


Shawn: [00:19:45] 

Well evidence suggests that unusual and beautiful surroundings, you know, help us see- [laughter]- help us see situations more holistically and from novel points of view. How spending time in a beautiful, natural setting, that how you spend the time in that setting also matters. If you’re observing, that’s great. But walking around and exercising, and, having a simple activity while your subconscious mind can be stimulated is also really important for the, creative process.


David: [00:20:24] 

Yeah, totally. Taking a walk is one of the most stimulating, activities anyone can do to just sort of let your mind roam and see where it goes. Taking a walk and smoking a joint, even better.


Shawn: [00:20:43] 

[laughter] Even better. 


David: [00:20:46] 

We can all agree. 


Shawn: [00:20:48] 

There’s also research that homes that are rich in meaningful symbols, make it easier for the occupants to understand who they are and then really understanding that this sign helps you generate more productive ideas. That book, The Artist’s Way, is pretty much all about, really, understanding who you are to, extend outward from that and be more productive with creativity. There’s a lot of different aspects of creativity, and stimulating that


David: [00:21:32] 

When you were going around telling your story of what you wanted to do with your world of acquaintances, friends, family, partially to raise money, I’m sure.


Shawn: [00:21:47] 



David: [00:21:47] 

And also just to tell them what you were up to. So what kind of reaction did you get? Was it “What are- are you kidding?”


Shawn: [00:21:54] 

It’s interesting you say that, cause when I was raising money, for the most part, it was difficult because I was talking to finance people. I went into some meetings – even at MedMen, you know, they had a fund and I pitched the idea to their finance guys, who were running the fund, and they’re like, “You know, I really don’t think there’s enough people buying cannabis for creativity.” And I said, “You guys are a hundred percent wrong. But let me just ask you a question. Did you ask any of your buyers this question?” The store buyers. Because if they said that, I would have been shocked. They did not. This was their own opinion. There were a couple different groups of finance people who just didn’t get it, didn’t understand it, They were potentially even looking at people who might go into a dispensary and say, “Do you have anything for creativity?” That’s slightly relevant. What, you know, you can’t ask for- You can’t walk into a dispensary and see things that help you with creativity right now. They’re innately there and a budtender may take you through strains that index high for creativity. But it’s almost like you can’t ask for an iPhone before it’s available to buy. So there’s a bunch of people, I believe, with this particular brand that are gonna go in and say, “Oh my god. I can tap into creative, you know, awareness, creative reflection, creative performance. This journal can help me do that.” They can’t necessarily imagine a product that doesn’t exist. So that’s one aspect of it. 


There was this one particular investor, a guy named Eric Lindberg who was at a company called Lion Capital, and they bought brands, like Jimmy Choo and John Varvatos, and AllSaints and Kettle chips. I talked to him about the idea. In thirty seconds, he was like, “I’m in.” Put a hundred K in, I mean, it was the most obvious thing he had ever heard. So if you get it, you know, you get it. And then, um, you know, so it took me like- Well we had this cannabis recession that happened in the middle of raising money, which is very analogous to the 1999 and 2000 Internet collapse. And then we had Covid. So took me about eighteen months to raise a million dollars to start this brand. I had spent a lot of the money along the way. In Covid it was difficult to launch a cannabis brand. So I launched the journals first and, in the last four months, I’ve sold about two million dollars worth of journals. Which was way beyond. I expected this to be a break-even proposition that would help promote the cannabis brand. And it’s really taken on a life of its own. And without a question, it showed product market fit – not only in California but across the USA. Over twenty thousand people have shared my advertisements and so many people that are coming back, talking about their experience with the product. It’s really a very charming and delightful experience. I took it seriously in creating the journal. I borrowed content from IDEO and, you know, this book called Thinkertoys, which is a classic. Gamestorming. Some of the classic ideation, brainstorming, creativity resources and I, again, put them together and made it much more whimsical. But I did not think in any way that people would take this journal as serious, you know, as they have been. And it’s been pretty amazing.


David: [00:26:25] 

Yeah. Congratulations. Are you interested in celebrities, endorsements of your products? Like an Einstein or an Elon Musk brand? Something that would connect the brain to the product?


Shawn: [00:26:41] 

I’m working on one with a famous comedian. I forget if I’m allowed to talk about it or not. I think there’s probably some kind of NDA in there. Let’s just assume, cause he’s famous. But I just signed a deal yesterday to do the next journal as a collaboration. And we’ll get into his thought process and where he gets his creativity from. And it’ll be more like creative thinking, funny thinking. I haven’t really just nailed exactly what the content will be. It’ll be another version of the particular book I have, but it’ll be tapping into this guys very unique mind. You would know him in a second. 


David: [00:27:31] 



Shawn: [00:27:32] 

In the cannabis space, celebrity brands have traditionally not done well. People don’t think that the celebrity has anything to do with the product. And there’s some other inherent issues. Like Snoop’s brand, it’s a cool brand but eighty percent of sale- of cannabis sales in California are black market. So do you think that Snoop’s fans are part of the twenty percent that buys legal cannabis or part of the eighty percent that buys black market cannabis. It might be a collectible that someone buys once or twice, but they’re just gonna go for affordable high quality weed ongoing, let’s say. You know, I’m not optimist-


David: [00:28:27] 

But a newbie, let’s say somebody who doesn’t really know, or hasn’t had a chance to try everything.


Shawn: [00:28:35] 



David: [00:28:35] 

Walks into a store and goes, “Oh, Snoop’s brand. Yeah that’s probably good, let’s try that.”


Shawn: [00:28:40] 

That may be true. That may be true. For sure.


David: [00:28:41] 

Martha Stewart. You know, “Oh, Martha. Yeah, I know her. It’s probably good.”


Shawn: [00:28:45] 

If Snoop said, “I smoke this strain.” I would be interested. Again, it’s more about the belief that the celebrity has anything to do with the cultivation or the product, are they really just lending their name? It would seem as an example, The Grateful Dead would be a great license for cannabis. Probably a better license for bongs and things like that, but you gotta imagine, Grateful Dead fans have been smoking weed for forty years, and they know what they like, they know what they smoke. They’re not gonna take the leap that Bob Weir is now creating, growing something in his backyard and they’re gonna buy it. They might buy it to put it on their shelf, but I don’t think it would be their regular purchase. I got high with Bob Weir, about a year ago, and he was smoking a Dosist pen and he was smoking [laughter] the sleep brand something really, really mellow. He’s like, “I just- I can’t-” we were talking about LSD too, and he’s like, “Yeah, I did that in the ’60s and I really haven’t done it much since. I did enough for a lifetime.”


David: [00:30:03] 

I believe him. [laughter] Do you think there’s any connection between tech and cannabis and creativity? That there’s a link from- from one to the other? And not just in the experience or in the types of people who are involved in that world, but also in terms of the feeding frenzy. You mentioned the bubble that burst on cannabis, 


Shawn: [00:30:33] 

The cannabis bubble burst in December 2019. 


David: [00:30:39] 

  1. So now we feel like, well, maybe it’s coming back. There seems to be a lot of interest in it once again because of the potential of it becoming at least accepted nationally.


Shawn: [00:30:53] 

Yeah. Like the Internet bubble of 1999. Adoption of, digital products was up and to the right, and even when the stock market crashed, that didn’t change. It kept going up and to the right. Same thing with cannabis. It wasn’t really the users of cannabis that they curtailed. It was the valuations. What happened, and again, the perfect analogy almost, these cannabis companies were emerging, there was no real performance indicators, people were just investing in the hope that they would be worth a lot because who’s- who’s not gonna wanna smoke legal cannabis if they’re already smoking cannabis. 


Shawn: [00:32:11] 

The cannabis bubble is very similar to the Internet 1999 bubble. The user adoption has not changed. The user adoption is up and to the right in both cases. Cannabis users have consumed more and more cannabis ongoing- It was really the valuations of the cannabis companies that were an issue. People investing in those companies, there were no KPIs, key performance indicators, and they just hoped that they would be worth a lot. They were investing, and the stock just kept going up. Once they started to actually operate, things became pretty obvious, that these companies weren’t gonna be worth their valuation for ten years. So everything dropped off a cliff, which was good. That has to happen. There was a reset. Things normalized. Great for me, launching a cannabis company, because now a lot of the bravado has gone out. Some of these overpriced companies were over-extended, they’ve fallen out of the market. Less competition, shelf space is easier. So it’s a better marketplace now because of what happened in 2019. And the Internet space was enabled by all that bravado and investing, all that fiber was laid and all these companies started, and all this technology was developed. And so even though tons of people lost tons of money when it all was said and done this platform and foundation was there for lots of other companies to build on. And companies like Google launched after the Internet crashed and so many other great companies have emerged since 1999.


David: [00:34:04] 

I was looking at your LinkedIn page, believe it or not, and I’m glad I did. Because there’s a video there from 2004 of you in a panel talking, what is it? Alternate identities or…?


Shawn: [00:34:23] 

Internet personas.


David: [00:34:25] 

Internet personas. And you are sitting there with Mark Zuckerberg and this woman from Second Life, and, uh, Reid Hastings from LinkedIn.


Shawn: [00:34:33] 

Reid Hoffman.


David: [00:34:34] 

Reid Hoffman. I’m sorry.


Shawn: [00:34:35] 



David: [00:34:35] 

Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn. And you were at Myspace at that time, and it’s such a great throwback to look at right now. Because everyone was so optimistic and idealistic about the future of social media, and how beneficial it was gonna be for the world. Given where we are today and everybody complaining about all those very things that everybody was so optimistic about, how do you feel? Does that have anything to do with your change of direction from tech to something that’s a little bit more, making people’s lives better, let’s say? Cannabis opposed to technology?


Shawn: [00:35:16] 

Yeah. Well first of all, I look at that video – and it’s very depressing. I’m like, “Which of these two people that are billionaires and two are not?” [laughter] And if you listen to it, that was my area, Internet personas and cultural anthropology. I sound like the most informed on the panel, if I remember correctly. But, clearly that wasn’t the long game for success on the Internet. So going back to the question-


David: [00:35:55] 

So the question is, how do you feel today about what’s happened with social media, and where did it go wrong? And, you know, someone like Zuckerberg was very naïve at that panel,

Shawn: [00:36:09] 



David: [00:36:09] 

Who was happy that a hundred people were in a group.


Shawn: [00:36:13] 

I always like to do things that haven’t been done before. If they have been done before, then there’s a lot of process, systems structured around it, and there’s people who are a lot better at that kind of stuff than me. I’m really good at imagining things that haven’t been done before and empathizing with a potential customer, and putting something together. I worked with Jason in the beginning of blogs, trying to figure out the blog publishing space, how we integrate advertising in that in a way that adds value to the community. As far as detracting, it was really in social media with Myspace. But all those things were about the democratization of information or empowerment of the individual. They were about helping people and creating a better world. You know, some of those things have gone wrong. You know, the democratization of information now is all about manipulation of information and fake news. Obviously you can’t put that genie back in the bottle.


David: [00:37:19] 

It’s interesting how ignorant, I don’t know if ignorant is the right word, naïve is maybe a better word. The people who were the founders and I think this is even true with Apple, with the iPhone, and apps, and, each of the developments as they went along they weren’t really thought of in advance. As the product was developing these other things were started. And I’m sure nobody believed that apps would be this huge thing today. That everyone would have an app and it would be operating on apps, and that the phone would be the primary place to connect with all of that. The founders of this technology have no idea, really, how it’s gonna go at the time when they’re creating it. They have a very narrow idea, and then it takes over somehow.


Shawn: [00:38:12] 

Totally. Well, you know, ready, fire, aim is certainly the strategy in, tech and, really, entrepreneurialism. Zuckerberg was laser focused on the efficient distribution of information. In the end that was the right strategy, his lack of empathy caused him a lot of issues along the way, over and over, his lack of empathy created issues. Again, they went back, they put controls into things and they fixed them. But, it’s hard to see that far in the future and see what’s going to happen with the technology. Being in this analog space, writing- putting out a book, a journal that you actually write in, as opposed to even an app that you write in is refreshing. And I think it’s also important for the creative process. We have to get off our computers, PCs, smart phones, I think the analog aspect of the creative process is really important and very different. I personally cannot create as, I wouldn’t say efficiently, but as productively if I’m stuck to my iPhone. One, it’s just too distracting. There’s too many other things that are gonna pop in my mind or pop in my face. So sitting with a journal and my mind and some cannabis is, you know, a pretty linear experience where my mind can kind of wander, on its own within itself, as opposed to being directed by some device. The charming aspect of the analog experience is refreshing and important for Pilgrim Soul.


David: [00:40:18] 

So would you say the first step to creativity is to put away your phone?


Shawn: [00:40:23] 

It’s an important step in the process. Coming up with breakthrough ideas, it’s important to be an expert in some kind of domain, and then it’s also helpful to have diverse learning. Most ideas, as we all know, come from the edges of the domain, come from when you put two previously existing ideas together in a new way. In all my creative process, I rarely use cannabis when I’m in a research phase. 


And so the importance of smart phones and computers in the creative process is really the absorption of information. You need to be an expert in something to be able to come up with ideas. You need to go deep inside a problem so you can iterate on that problem. But you also need to have diverse knowledge and bring ideas from different domains into that knowledge base to really create new ideas. So the computer and access to digital information is important, but when it comes to idea generation it’s also very important to get away from those devices, sit down with a pen and paper, listen to music or whatever helps you get into your flow state. Go on a walk and factually meditate on what’s inside your mind. And that’s been my process for years. You have Einstein talking about that, Steve Jobs talking about that, Charles Dickens, there’s so many creative geniuses throughout history who have used unfocused experiences to generate ideas subconsciously in some sense.


David: [00:43:02] 

Could you think of an idea, your best idea you ever had while you were smoking?


Shawn: [00:43:09] 

I’m trying to think. I come up with a lot of taglines for companies while I’m high. It’s really factually meditating. Like there was a company called E-Universe that even- that incubated Myspace, that, I came up with a tagline which was. “Contagious Entertainment.” It was all this viral content. We were like the first to really popularize these- This is 19- 2000. Before video on the Internet, we had these dancing hamster-type content with GIF animations and MIDI files, and they would scroll, and you’d share them. And viral was a very bad word back then. People didn’t like that word. Like viruses it was related to, not like, you know, viral content. So I was trying to think of the tagline for this, content, which was spiritual and funny and contagious. So I put together something like, “Contagious for laughter.” Contagious as a substitute for viral. Entertainment. Anyway, the listeners to your podcast may not think it’s so genius, but- [laughs]


David: [00:44:32] 

It’s brilliant, man. That’s the thing, when you smoke and you always think your ideas are brilliant. The next day you wake up and go, “What?” [laughs]


Shawn: [00:44:41] 

That’s actually a really good point. Like using cannabis for creativity does not mean that all your ideas will be excellent. But it’s better to have ten bad ideas and maybe one good one, than it is to have no ideas or maybe two highly inhibited ideas. The important thing is to not email your boss while you’re stoned and letting him know that this is a genius idea.


David: [00:45:06] 

Yeah. Alright. Well thank you for that, bit of advice there at the end for our listeners. Thank you very much, Shawn Gold, and good luck with Pilgrim Soul.


Shawn: [00:45:19] 

David, thank you so much for having me. Hopefully we got some infotainment. 


David: [00:45:23] 

Yeah, it’ll be great. It’ll be contagious, man.


Shawn: [00:45:26] 

[laughs] I gotta think of a better- I’m gonna come back on with a better- one of my better creative ideas.


David: [00:45:31] 

Okay. Next time.


Shawn: [00:45:34] 

Alright. Thank you.


David: [00:45:34] 

Take care, man.





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