Reference Rich

by Ben Perreira

When I was in high school a great surf magazine called Water came out. It was beautiful, semi-glossy and full of insightful editorial work. Its ads looked like editorial work at the demand of the magazine’s publishers. Today we would call it “native advertising.” In those days it was simply an unleashed dog gleefully wagging its tail.

At the time I was considering becoming a surf journalist and reached out to the editor, Steve Zeldin, about how I could hone my craft. His work was far and above what anyone else what doing at the time. His advice, among other things, was to “keep your references rich.”

This idea is not without peers when it comes to creative development, which is a term I use to describe the process of undertaking any endeavor that is uncharted (and which is essentially anything we do that is worthwhile).

I wrote about a similar concept a couple years ago when I recalled an undergrad professor telling the class about a “stimulus collage.”

In Buddhism there is the instructive construct of Indira’s Net. The net is imagined to be expansive, perhaps infinite, with diamonds hanging from every rope intersection. Because each diamond contains many angles, it is purported that every diamond contains the light (knowledge) of every other diamond.

This is not unlike the Network Effect, most commonly used to evaluate the usefulness or reach of an internet property, positing that its value is equal to the square of the number of nodes in the network.

And then there’s Jeff Bezos. His success has afforded him the supreme luxury of being able to see the world from a bird’s eye view. An engineer wrote about presenting to the Amazon CEO, “Jeff Bezos has all these incredibly intelligent, experienced domain experts surrounding him at huge meetings, and on a daily basis he thinks of shit that they never saw coming.”

So keep your references rich. And think of shit no one ever saw coming.