Sometimes you need to allow life to save you from getting what you want

BRANDON STANTON is the creator of the #1 New York Times best-selling books Humans of New York, Humans of New York: Stories, as well as the children’s book, Little Humans of New York. In 2013, he was named one of the “30 Under 30 People Changing the World” by Time magazine. Brandon has told stories from around the world in collaboration with the United Nations, and was invited to photograph President Obama in the Oval Office. His photography and storytelling blog, Humans of New York, is followed by more than 25 million people on several social media platforms. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia and lives in New York City.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
At the time I was fired from my trading job, I was convinced that I wanted to be a successful bond trader. Sometimes you need to allow life to save you from getting what you want.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Be very careful with the moral high ground. It helps to resolve conflict when you realize that everyone has different moral codes, and very few people intentionally make immoral decisions. Chase Jarvis once told me: “Everyone wants to see themselves as a good person.” No matter how egregious the crime, the criminal usually has a reason for viewing it as morally acceptable.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
The most baffling tendency I’ve found in media is the pressure to “follow what works.” My main motivation as an artist has always been to create something different. I think the most that any of us can achieve is to find a way to say something new. But this type of thinking is rarely rewarded when it’s time to publish. Newness is seen as a liability. Publishers want something that has been proven to work. This means that the best art will always be the riskiest.

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