Lawrence's story in brief
- Lawrence grew up feeling abundant despite growing up poor, and always had a strong sense of curiosity and abundance.
- He pursued a career in finance but knew it wasn't his true passion, so he quit his job to pursue music but eventually became disillusioned with the industry's demands for external validation.
- He transitioned to writing blog posts on Medium, developing a unique writing style that combines philosophical and metaphorical writing with hand-drawn illustrations and graphs.
- He found that his writing reached more people than his music did, and he realised that his inner compass was about how creating art moved him forward as a person.
- Lawrence started his blog, More To That, without a specific strategy or intention to start a business, and it has since grown into a platform offering courses, consulting, and direct support.
- Money, creativity, fulfilment, and the idea of 'enough'
- Mindset, framing, and following your inner compass while embracing uncertainty
- The power of storytelling in navigating the nuances of the human condition
Recorded 16 September 2023
There's this nascent fear of someone asking you, 'what do you do?' I do so many things, but I guess I'm a writer, and then it's like, 'well, what kind of stuff do you write?' And then I'm just like, uh... I dunno how exactly to answer this, every time! So if anything, I would say that fear that you have of that particular question is actually a good thing.
The unique threads of everything that you pull together is going to result in some sort of mishmash that is so specific to you. And it's really hard to describe the end result to anybody, really.
If anything, your inability to answer that question is probably your greatest asset as a creator. I don't have any neat way of saying what I'm curious about or interested in. I think that it's something to be quite proud of. Something to lean into instead of push away.
You’re listening to the Still Curious podcast with me, Danu Poyner, the show where I meet people who insist on relating to the world with curiosity and care and talk to them about the red thread that runs through their life story and which ultimately empowers them to flourish as their unrepeatable selves.
The voice you just heard belongs to my guest today, Lawrence Yeo, a writer, illustrator, storyteller, and the creator of 'More To That', an illustrated long form blog that delves deeper into the things that make us who we are.
Lawrence creates stories that navigate the nuances of the human condition. I’m a long-time reader and admirer of his work as someone who consciously puts curiosity at the centre of what he does and who points people towards finding freedom and acceptance in pursuing the things they find meaningful, while emphasising the practical realities of pursuing a life of creativity, including money and mindset.
If you really had all the time and attention you wanted to dedicate to what you think you wanna dedicate your time to, is that actually going to be as blissful as you think it is?
So with my music, I quit my job to pursue it, thinking that I needed 40 hours in a week to do this. And then when I had 40 plus hours all available, I'm like, I don't wanna do this for that long. I actually don't want to make music for 40 hours a week.
Lawrence describes 'More to That' as a grand exercise in reframing - it’s about giving people different lenses to view familiar situations. This superpower to take any situation and view it through a different perspective is something Lawrence remembers having from an early age. He says that while he grew up poor, he never felt poor because he had the kind of family situation that made him feel he had everything he needed, and as a result, he always had a great sense of abundance.
Lawrence always knew he wanted to be a creator of some sort, but wasn’t sure how he was going to do go about it. He took five years to graduate college and was still an undeclared major in his senior year, eventually selecting international economics and landing a job in investment banking. He knew finance wasn’t what lights his fire, but he saw it at the time as a way to purchase his freedom and direct his attention to his creative pursuits, such as making music.
He then quit his job to pursue music, as you heard, but eventually found himself become disillusioned with the craft, not in terms of making the music itself, but the way the constant demands for external validation tied to a professional career in music was making him become a kind of person he didn’t want to be.
Back in finance, Lawrence still needed a creative outlet for his curiosity about the human mind, so he started his facility for writing with his childhood love of drawing.
This time he wasn’t focussed at all on external validation. He just wanted to find out if he was in love with this way of spending his time, so he took hundreds of hours creating a handful of pieces before publishing anything, without knowing if anyone would even read them.
In doing so, Lawrence realised that his inner compass was not about the number of views his art received but about how creating art moved him forward as a person. And the time spent calibrating that inner compass would make all the difference to how he approached building his new project, More To That.
When I started it, I already had that strong intention of 'I'm going to follow my inner compass.' I have to not only follow my own curiosity, but the way I'm gonna make this practical is not by adopting someone else's strategies and growth hacks and all that stuff, but I've got to really understand the craft of storytelling.
Not through what Joseph Campbell says about the hero's journey or to study plays and Shakespeare and stuff. No, no, no. I have to understand how storytelling works best in the context of how I view the world, and to calibrate that with my unique interests.
I want to do this for a long time. So understanding what makes me feel I could do it for a long time kind of organises the foundation of everything that I do here.
With his unique personal style that combines philosophical and metaphorical writing with hand-drawn illustrations and graphs, Lawrence quickly found that his writing reached more people than his music did.
Though he kicked off his More To That blog in March 2018 with no specific strategy or intention to start a business, his first piece, Travel Is No Cure For The Mind - the one that took 100 hours - proved immediately popular and has since been read over 1 million times.
Fast forward a few years and More To That now operates as a business in the creator economy, offering courses, consulting, and direct support, with the majority of revenue coming from his Thinking In Stories course (incidentally, since recording this conversation I have taken the course and it was both illuminating and delightful)
Lawrence attributes the success of More To That to the natural momentum generated by his practice of being intentional about following his curiosity without a grand plan, a spirit which he refers to as a kind of gratitude for the peculiar.
The moments you'll have the most nostalgia for are those which you could not have predicted. If having a life that overflows with nostalgia is one of the keys to a well lived life, then you want to put yourself in a position where serendipity could be a feature and not a liability in terms of what you're doing in your life.
I am certainly grateful for the natural momentum and sequence of events that has allowed me to bring you this rich and wide-ranging conversation with Lawrence. We discuss the practical realities of pursuing a life of creativity, including mindset and confidence and the complicated triangle of recognition, finances and fulfilment. We explore the importance of being understood by the right people, unpacking our beliefs and motivations, and recognising when we have enough.
All that and more awaits you on the other side of the music in my conversation with Lawrence Yeo on today’s episode of the Still Curious Podcast.
Links and resources
- Lawrence's website, More to That
- Lawrence's LinkedIn and Twitter/X
- The Arc of The Practical Creator
- Travel is No Cure for the Mind
- Money is the Megaphone of Identity
- The Many Worlds of Enough
- Creativity Starts Before Anything Is Made
- Full article on Lawrence's journey: 'Why this creator left the corporate world and became a storyteller'