SXSW ’22: Jack Conte, CEO and Co-Founder of Patreon, Hates Advice

Photo via Brandon Carson/Flickr (CC-BY)

Jack Conte might seem like the perfect person to give you advice for building an online community. The CEO and co-founder of Patreon has attracted over 200,000 creators to the fan-to-creator subscription platform, and also helped attract viral success on YouTube for two bands, Pomplamoose and Scary Pockets.

But in fact, Conte passionately despises advice.

So much so, that at his SXSW panel titled “Creating in a Shit Storm” today, he told listeners to shout “Fuck you, Jack!” every time he stuck his finger in the air, cleared his throat, and gave advice. 

You should upload to social media everyday? Fuck you, Jack. You should be working on your personal brand? Fuck you, Jack. You should spend more time marketing your album? Fuck you, Jack

The audience probably told Jack to fuck-off about 15 times today. 

“I realize it’s probably a very poor strategic decision to totally undermine my credibility as a source of wisdom and authority in the first five minutes of SXSW talk,” Conte said at the panel, “But here’s a piece of advice about advice, fuck advice! It doesn’t work.”

Conte said that every person has different strengths, needs, and desires—so advice is completely useless: “Advice presupposes that there’s a clear path forward and I know it and you don’t… but you are the only person in the whole world who can figure out what is right for you right now.”

Despite this anti-advice mentality, Conte spent most of his hourlong speech giving it. He discussed the things he learned throughout his creative online career, and talked about how he learned to avoid burnout and overload. 

“Creators are walking an intricate tightrope while building full-time, full-fledged careers. Between generating steady streams of content, growing their fanbase, and navigating the ever-changing platform landscape, a lot rests on their shoulders,” Conte told the Daily Dot ahead of his panel. 

Conte continued, “For creators to truly thrive, and make a living in the creator economy, they need tools that give them the flexibility to grow their business and community on their terms, while getting fairly compensated for their craft.” 

Here’s some of the wisdom Conte shared on how to manage a creative career. 

  • Practice customized design—a.k.a., ask yourself a ton of questions and explore what really works for you. 
  • Find things that inspire you, and make it into a machine. Conte said that inspiration is a feeling that can be cultivated. It doesn’t have to just come naturally. (Conte said he watches this Ted Talk every time he needs to get pumped up.) 
  • Subtract what you don’t need in order to accomplish your goals. Cut out anything that isn’t serving you. 
  • Lastly, remember that you are not alone. 

Conte told the SXSW audience that humans are lonely right now because what we consume on the internet is misconstrued as reality: “Recording our lives turns us into actors, reading our lines to reflect our personal brands and strategically designing impressions of ourselves that we want other people to have.” 

But Conte urged his audience to remember that we are not actually alone. He ended his speech on an existential note: “When I leave this planet and enter darkness forever I want to know that at least I put my real self into the world… I want to know that whether the record light was blinking or not in my time on this planet I was who I was. And we are not alone.” 

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